Jerry Sandusky: Child sex abuse trial tentatively set for May 14

The judge presiding over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case set a tentative trial date for May 14

The judge presiding over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case set a tentative trial date of May 14 and said he will rule quickly on several pending issues raised in a pretrial hearing on Friday.

Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach accused of sexual contact with 10 boys over a 15-year period, briefly spoke at the proceeding, saying a jury from within Centre County (where he lives) would be no more biased than one from outside the county. The prosecution is seeking a jury from outside, arguing that it would minimize the effects of publicity in the case.

Already the case and the surrounding onslaught of publicity have led to the firing of Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the school president. Paterno died Jan. 22 at age 85. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November, just days after his dismissal.

Judge John Cleland did not immediately rule on the jury-composition issue. Nor did he rule on Sandusky's request to modify the conditions of his bail so that he could visit with his grandchildren and meet with his lawyer on the case.

In televised remarks after the hearing, Sandusky told reporters that he misses his 11 grandchildren and would like them to visit his home and to be able to electronically communicate with them.

"I have a wife who came home after visiting with grandchildren or who's sitting there when grandchildren call on my birthday, and they ask to talk to me, and she has to tell them that they can't. I'm sensitive to that," he said.

"Or when she comes home from visiting with grandchildren and tells me that one of them said that 'the only thing I want for my birthday is to be able to see Papa,' I'm sensitive to that," he said.

The prosecution also wants to change the terms of Sandusky's bail, but to further limit the 68-year-old’s activities.

Anthony Sassano, a state investigator, testified that neighbors and personnel at a nearby school were worried that Sandusky's occasional presence on the back deck of his College Park home had disrupted activities at the school.

After posting $250,000 in bail, Sandusky has been under house arrest and is subject to electronic monitoring.

"House arrest is not meant to be a house party," Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Jonelle Eshbach wrote in the state's papers. "In order to allay the genuine fears of the community, defendant should be confined to his house."

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Photo: Jerry Sandusky pauses while speaking to the media at the Centre County Courthouse after a pretrial hearing on Friday. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press


Stormy Pacific rescue: 3 saved after sailing accident off Hawaii

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The ocean voyage was fit only for the hardy: no on-deck swimming pools; no movies at night; no meals fit for the delicate epicure.

It was just two Canadian men and a 9-year-old boy on a 39-foot sailboat, traveling from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, across the Pacific Ocean through what turned out to be stormy weather -- and an agonizing, but ultimately successful, rescue from a capsized and disabled vessel.

“It was scary. I thought we were going to die,” the boy, West James, told the Associated Press on Thursday in Hawaii. West, his father Bradley, 32, and uncle, Mitchell James, 29, were rescued this week from their drifting boat about 340 miles from Oahu. The sailboat had been disabled by storms.

“There were waves crashing all over the place. We had no engine. We had no sail,” Bradley James, of Edmonton, Canada, told the news agency. He said the boat had a leaky exhaust, a broken water pipe, an overheating engine and a snapped mast, which made sailing to land impossible.

The trio sought help by satellite phone, and the Coast Guard redirected a commercial ship, the Horizon Reliance, from about 150 miles away. The 900-foot ship maneuvered into position, but two waves -- 25 to 30 feet, Bradley James estimated -- forced the big ship's bow onto the sailboat.

“It just crushed it,” he said. The sailboat sank, leaving the Canadian trio in the water, wearing life jackets and headlamps. The ship rescued Mitch James within half an hour, but Brad and his son had drifted away.

Horizon Reliance Capt. James Kelleher eventually solved the difficult nautical problem of steering his ship through the steep waves and fierce winds of 50 knots toward the father and son. They were rescued about an hour later; all arrived in Honolulu by Thursday morning.

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Photo: Horizon Reliance crew member Ahmed Baabbad, left, pats West James on the head in Honolulu. The boy was part of a Canadian family rescued from a capsized boat in the Pacific Ocean. Credit: Marco Garcia / Associated Press

 


No Child Left Behind: Obama administration grants 10 waivers

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The Obama administration has given 10 states a waiver from the federal law known as No Child Left Behind -- once a bipartisan hope to raise education standards, but now generally regarded as too cumbersome and draconian.

The White House announced the first round of waivers for 10 states Thursday morning. The administration had said that it would grant the waivers because efforts to revise the 10-year-old law have become bogged down in Congress even though members of both political parties agree that the law has problems and is in need of major changes.

“After waiting far too long for Congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility,” President Obama said in a statement released with the announcement.

“Today, we’re giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them. Because if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”

Obama is scheduled to make a formal announcement later Thursday and will call on Congress to go back to work on revising the law, which was designed to get students up to standards in reading and mathematics by 2014. States sought the waivers because they have been unable to meet the goal and could face sanctions from the federal government for the failure.

The first states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, the White House said. The administration said it is continuing to work with New Mexico, the only state not to receive a waiver in this first round.

Twenty-eight other states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have said they would seek a waiver.

No Child Left Behind was a bipartisan effort pushed during the Bush administration to build a degree of accountability into education by stressing standardized testing. If schools fail to show progress, they face sanctions.

Educators complained that the law forced classes to become laboratories for drills designed to improve test scores, rather than teach. Some politicians complained that the law created too large a role for the federal government in education issues, generally a local concern.

In Thursday’s announcement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that current law drives down standards, weakens accountability, causes narrowing of the curriculum and labels too many schools as failing. Moreover, the law mandates unworkable remedies at the federal level instead of allowing local educators to make spending decisions.

“Rather than dictating educational decisions from Washington, we want state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students,” Duncan stated.

The administration is not abandoning standards, however, the White House said.

“To get flexibility from NCLB, states must adopt and have a plan to implement college and career-ready standards. They must also create comprehensive systems of teacher and principal development, evaluation and support that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback,” according to the administration.

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Photo: President Obama, center, greets members of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness last month while Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from left, looks over documents. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Bloomberg


U.S. military meals redux: More fruit and vegetables, less fat

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The diet revolution has a new front. The U.S. military -- revising its nutrition standards for the first time in two decades -- will soon be serving more fruit and less fat.

Pentagon officials will officially announce the program Thursday afternoon when First Lady Michelle Obama visits Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. The military has already launched a pilot program there to improve the nutrition of its food.

Obama's visit is part of a three-day tour marking the second anniversary of her “Let’s Move” program, designed to improve the health of children through better diet and exercise.

The military's efforts to improve nutrition go beyond the efforts focused on children and the next generation’s health.

“The Department of Defense considers obesity not only a national problem, but a national security issue,” Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told reporters in a conference call earlier this week. “About a quarter of entry-level candidates are too overweight to actually either enter the military or sustain themselves through the first enlistment.”

As famed French leader Napoleon Bonaparte learned to his chagrin, an army does indeed march on its stomach, an aphorism sometimes also attributed to Frederick the Great. In any case, generations of war novels and movies have portrayed the fuel needed to move the U.S. military machine as little better than swill.

But it has been expensive fuel, indeed.

The Defense Department says it spends an estimated $4.5 billion a year on food services, and $1.1 billion a year on medical care to cope with obesity-related issues. The new campaign will increase the offerings of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in general, while cutting back on fats. Military dependents can expect to have to make healthier choices in base schools and snack bars.

The changes mirror those that nutritionists are seeking in society.

Most experts agree that the United States has dietary problems, too many obese people who eat too much and move around too little -- much to the detriment of the civilian health care system.

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Photo: Military researchers in 2007 experiment with foods for future Meals, Ready to Eat, hoping to make the food more palatable. Credit: Pete Souza / Chicago Tribune
 

 


Jerry Sandusky: Bail and jury issues on agenda in sex-abuse case

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, left,  with his lawyer.
The child sex-abuse case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky returns to  court  Friday, with jury composition among the issues on the agenda.

In pretrial motions filed this week, the defense is seeking to modify the bail requirements for Sandusky, and the prosecution is seeking a jury from outside the county. Lawyers on both sides were not immediately available to comment.

Sandusky is accused of abusing boys over a 15-year-period, which he has repeatedly denied. The charges and ensuing scandal led to a major shakeup at Penn State, where some of the incidents were alleged to have taken place. The late football coach Joe Paterno was fired during the scandal, as was the school president.

According to reports of the filings, the state is seeking to create a jury pool from people outside the county, a move designed to protect their case from a tidal wave of pretrial publicity. That publicity could conceivably taint the pool of deciders.

The defense opposes bringing in out-of-towners, saying that those potential jurors also probably have seen, heard or clicked on the flood of stories. The defense suggests that a trial delay might be a better cure for the problems associated with pretrial publicity.

Sandusky’s response on having residents comprise his jury comes as the prosecution argues that the 68-year-old former coach should be ordered to stay inside his house. Neighbors and teachers at a nearby elementary school have said he has been standing outside and watching children at play.

Since posting $250,000 in bail, Sandusky has been under house arrest and electronic monitoring at his him in College Park, Penn. The defense is asking the court to allow Sandusky to have supervised visits with friends and grandchildren and to allow him to travel to meet with his lawyer and investigators.

“House arrest is not meant to be a house party,” Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Jonelle Eshbach wrote in the state’s papers. “In order to allay the genuine fears of the community, defendant should be confined to his house.”

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Photo: Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, left, walks with his attorney Joe Amendola, right, in December as he leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa. Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press


Indiana stage collapse: Company, fair commission, union are fined

 

After an investigation of last summer’s deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, Indiana workplace officials have cited the company that built the stage, the state commission that runs the fair,  and the union that worked at the site for a variety of shortcomings.

The report was prepared by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Indiana Department of Labor, which released the report Wednesday.

The agency levied fines against all three entities for their roles in the Aug. 13 collapse of the outdoor stage during a powerful storm. The country duo Sugarland was performing when the stage went down, killing seven people and injuring 58.

The largest fine was levied against the company in charge of building the stage. Mid-America Sound Corp. was given three violations for acting with “indifference” by failing to provide appropriate supervision and by failing to develop a risk assessment plan. The total fine was $63,000.

“The evidence demonstrated that the Mid-America Sound Corp. was aware of the appropriate requirements and demonstrated a plain indifference to complying with those requirements,” Labor Commissioner Lori Torres told reporters during a telephone news conference.

Mid-America did not immediately respond to a telephone call for comment.

The State Fair Commission, the state body that runs the fair, was fined $6,300.

“The State Fair Commission failed to have conducted an adequate life safety evaluation and plan prior to the event,” Torres said. “The commission simply did not establish and maintain conditions of work for its employees that were reasonably safe and free from recognized hazards.”

Also cited was Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Theatrical Payroll Services Inc., which was fined $11,500. Torres said the union “clearly acted as an employer” at the site -- a contention with which the union disagreed and said it would appeal.

“We aren’t the employer,” John F. Baldwin, the business representative of Local 30, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “We were acting under their supervision,” he said of the state agency. “They supervise us through one of their sub-contractors.”

Baldwin said nine of his members were among the injured and two remain in serious condition and unable to return to work. Stagehand Nathan Byrd was among those killed during the accident.

The state OSHA cited the union for failing to consider soil conditions when placing cable anchor points for the grandstand stage. The OSHA report investigated workplace violations but was not aimed at determining what caused the collapse.

State officials have hired two out-of-state companies to review the accident and the state's emergency response. Those reports are pending.

Torres said among the problems was that fair officials didn't have an adequate plan for evacuating the area as the severe storm approached.

“Plan or no plan, the wind blew over the stage structure,” she said. “It was their duty to evacuate in a timely” manner.

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Video: Sugarland pays tribute to stage collapse victims.


Hold the bread? CDC warns of excessive sodium in U.S. diets

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About nine of every 10 Americans eat more salt than is recommended, and Public Enemy No. 1 is bread -- not junk food, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a sneaky ingredient, ending up in many food products that don’t sport the distinctive tang of a potato chip. But just because the sodium intake per slice of bread or roll may be lower than a serving of potato chips doesn't mean that the salt isn’t piling up. Americans love to chomp down on bread -- and they frequently indulge.

“Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a prepared statement. “These diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $273 billion in health care costs.”

According to the CDC, the average person consumes about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, well above the current daily guideline of about 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon of salt. People 51 and older are urged to eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium; the same ceiling applies to people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, and to African Americans.

The salt poured at the table is rarely the culprit in sending Americans past the threshold, because eaters can easily control intake in that setting. It is the hidden salt found in many processed foods, or in meals eaten outside the home, that help push Americans over the limits.

Just 10 types of food are responsible for more than 40% of people’s sodium intake, the CDC noted. Leading the pack are bread and rolls, followed by luncheon meat such as deli ham or turkey.

Pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes and meat dishes such as meatloaf round out the list; snacks such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn are at the bottom of the 10 worst list, according to the federal agency.

The amount of sodium in each food can vary depending on the style or brand. A slice of white bread can range from 80 to 230 milligrams of sodium. One ounce of potato chips ranges from 50 to 200 milligrams of sodium.

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Photo: Nearly all Americans consume more sodium than they should, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bread and sandwich meats are two leading sources of sodium in U.S. diets; chips are less of a problem than you might think. Credit: Wilfredo Lee, J Pat Carter/Associated Press

 


Komen exec who backed Planned Parenthood cutoff quits cancer group

   
Karen Handel, the vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, has quit her post at the breast cancer charity; her move comes on the heels of the group's reversal of its decision to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.

In her letter of resignation, Handel, a conservative Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Georgia governor in 2010, said she had supported ending the funding of about $700,000. The charity ultimately decided to continue the grants after the cutoff sparked a nationwide furor fueled by social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Handel's resignation was first reported by the Associated Press.

Komen, known for raising money through events such as races and walks, said last week that it had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings and education programs because a conservative congressman had announced an investigation of the organization, which provides abortions as part of its services.

Komen’s action sparked a political outcry, with Democrats and liberals saying the move was part of a broad campaign against Planned Parenthood for its position on abortions. Handel was singled out for criticism because of her conservative political views.

Handel denied politics played a role in the initial funding cutoff.

“Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.”

Handel called the uproar a “challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer.

“However, Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization,” she wrote. “I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization.”

Nancy B. Brinker, Komen founder and chief executive, released this statement:

"Today I accepted the resignation of Karen Handel, who has served as Senior Vice President for Policy since April 2011. I have known Karen for many years, and we both share a common commitment to our organization's lifelong mission, which must always remain our sole focus. I wish her the best in future endeavors."

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Not just M.I.A.: Super Bowl political ad using Asian woman decried

  

It wasn’t just rapper M.I.A. who got into hot water for her actions during the Super Bowl. Republican senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra stirred the pot with a political ad that featured an Asian woman speaking broken English, sparking immediate protests from Democrats and civil rights groups.

During the halftime show, M.I.A. made an obscene gesture, extending her middle finger. Both the NFL and NBC, which broadcast the show, have apologized for the offense.  

Hoekstra's campaign ad was broadcast only in Michigan, where the former congressman and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate is seeking the GOP nomination to run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat seeking her third term. Hoekstra, a conservative, is seen as ahead in the three-way primary battle for his party's nod.

The 30-second ad, filmed in California, begins with the sound of a gong accompanying the Asian woman as she rides her bicycle on a path lined by rice paddies. She stops pedaling, smiles into the camera, then breaks into broken English.

“Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spends so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow,” she says.

Hoekstra then appears in front of fire. “I think this race is between Debbie Spenditnow and Pete Spenditnot,” he says, stressing his position.

Even though it was a broadcast locally, the ad drew immediate condemnation, including from the nonpartisan Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan, which said it was “deeply disappointed” by the ad, which, the group said, "plays on harmful stereotypes of Asians speaking broken English and has stereotypical Chinese music playing in the background.

"It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful and negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment,” the group said. 

Democrats also were quick to condemn the ad, which is scheduled to run on local cable for the next two weeks.

State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, decried the ad and the website www.debbiespenditnow.com, which uses several Chinese cultural symbols to attack Stabenow.

“Pete Hoekstra’s ad and marketing ploy is not only offensive, but a blatant attempt to demonize Asian culture,” Yee said in a prepared statement. “Using stereotypes in an attempt to win votes is ignorant and bigoted, and has no place in our discourse for public office.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer also lambasted the ad in a statement emailed to reporters:

“Politicians like Hoekstra run shameful, deceitful ads like these when they cannot defend their own records,” he said.

In a conference call Monday morning, Hoekstra defended the ad.

“We knew we were taking an aggressive approach on this. But this is a time where the people in Michigan and across the country are fed up with the spending, and we wanted to capture that frustration that they had with Washington, D.C.,” he said. “This ad … hits Debbie smack dab between the eyes on the issue where she is vulnerable with the voters of Michigan, and that is spending.”

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NYPD investigation of Muslims: Civil rights groups ask for probe

   

The New York Police Department found itself under increasing pressure on Friday over how it has investigated Muslims as part of its anti-terrorism probes, with angry civil rights groups asking the state attorney general to look into the matter.

In a letter to state Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman, about 32 civil rights groups called for an investigation of allegations that the department uses religion as the sole criteria in deciding surveillance of Shiite mosques. The attorney general’s office did not immediately return repeated telephone calls for comment.

The Associated Press was the first to report on a May 2006 confidential intelligence document that recommended the department focus anti-terrorism intelligence operations on Shiite mosques. The news agency also reported on the city’s surveillance operations, which monitored and built databases about usual activities in Muslim neighborhoods.

The agency’s investigative report led to a call in October by several state senators for an investigation by the attorney general.

“The report details far-reaching operations by the NYPD that include surveillance of hundreds of mosques, businesses, nonprofits and individuals by using undercover officers known as ‘rakers,’ without evidence of any criminality or wrongdoing,” said the lawmakers, who mainly represent heavily Muslim areas in Brooklyn. “The department created files tracking daily life in bookstores, restaurants, barber shops and gyms as a part of a human mapping program."

“I am greatly troubled that the NYPD seeks to criminalize an entire faith tradition,” Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker said in a prepared statement. “The message seems to be if you are Muslim, you are guilty until proven innocent. New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the nation. We face serious security challenges; unfortunately this approach by the department may not only violate the law but also focuses resources on law-abiding citizens rather than targeting those who seek to do us harm.”

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have repeatedly insisted that the department does not target Shiite Muslims as a religious group but does follow what it considers to be legitimate investigative leads.

The dispute over surveillance follows other complaints from the Muslim community, particularly over a film, “The Third Jihad,” that was shown at police training sessions. Kelly appears in the movie, which  Muslims consider offensive.

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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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