Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Police had searched for the baby since Monday, when her mother, Darlene Haynes, was found dead in the closet of her Worcester apartment.
Officers received tips from women who became suspicious of Julie A. Corey, a friend of Haynes who turned up with a newborn girl at the time that Haynes went missing.
Police said Corey told friends she delivered a baby sometime between July 23 and July 24 at an undisclosed Massachusetts hospital, CNN affiliate WHDH reported.
Police learned that Corey had moved to New Hampshire with a boyfriend. Police later found Corey and the baby Wednesday afternoon in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
The baby was in fairly good health and was taken to a hospital, Worcester police said.
Corey, 35, was arrested and charged with being a fugitive from justice.
Police discovered Haynes' body Monday, after neighbors complained about a stench.
Haynes, 23, was found in the closet of a bedroom, wrapped in bedding. Police think she had been dead for several days. She was last seen on July 23, and Corey was one of the last people to see her, authorities said.
A friend of Haynes told CNN affiliate WHDH that she received a text message from Haynes at 11:20 p.m. Thursday that said she was having wine coolers with a friend at her apartment.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I was thinking of her today and decided to paste the article and hope I hear developments regarding the court trial.
STAMFORD, Conn. — A perfect storm of alcohol, drugs, anger and loneliness ended in tragedy early Sunday when a young man savagely stabbed and slashed to death his ex-girlfriend after a wild, all-night party and then dumped her body in a hotel hallway.
Juan Botello, 20, of Stamford, confessed Sunday to the murder of Layla Banks, 21, of Greenwich, who had ended a romantic relationship with him a week earlier. In an eight-page confession made after he turned himself into police, Botello described dragging the victim from the lobby of the Stamford Sheraton Hotel, where they both had attended a party, to an isolated service hallway where he repeatedly stabbed her in the head and neck in a jealous, alcohol-fueled rage.
The suspect, who police said is cooperating fully, also led police Monday afternoon to the murder weapon, a six-blade folding knife police recovered behind a Stamford liquor store, one of several locations Botello said he believed he may have discarded the weapon.
According to police, Botello and Banks had met a little over a year ago after Botello was released from jail after serving a nine-month sentence for a 2005 stabbing in Stamford. The two were part of the same social group and had many friends in common, but when the relationship turned romantic, and whether the victim or her family were aware of Botello's criminal past, remained unclear Monday. Banks broke off the relationship a week ago.
On Saturday night, the two bumped into each other at a party at the Stamford Sheraton Hotel attended by about 60-100 young people in their late teens and early twenties, most of whom consumed "tremendous" amounts of alcohol and may have been also using drugs, police said.
"This was a hard-partying crowd," Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said.
In his statement, Botello told police that, after the break-up, he had repeatedly tried to contact Banks by computer and cell phone. The victim, police said, had responded to some of his calls, but had made it clear that she she was not interested in reviving the relationship. Botello told police that when he first saw Banks, who had gone to the party with a female friend, she greeted him and kissed him on the cheek. Botello told police that after he began drinking he confronted Banks, and the two argued. The pair had several confrontations during the night, repeatedly arguing and separating, police said.
Botello told police that he became angry and jealous when he saw Banks interacting with other young men.
"In his own words, he said he had anger management issues exacerbated by alcohol," Conklin said.
When Banks left the party around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Botello told police he followed her downstairs from the third floor of the hotel. When they reached the lobby, he grabbed her by the wrist, dragged her into an isolated service hallway, and stabbed her with the knife he was carrying.
"He was very fond of knives," Conklin said. "He carried knives 24-7," he said.
Botello then fled the hotel through an emergency exit, making his way one mile to the home of friend with whom he had been staying, living in the basement for the past two months. He stole a car from the residence and continued to flee, but then returned to Stamford, turned himself into police and confessed.
Banks' body was discovered in the hallway by hotel employees just after 6 a.m. Sunday.
Juan Diego Botello Garcia is being held on $1.025 million bond and has been assigned a public defender.
Layla Banks was a 2004 graduate of Trinity Catholic High School and was attending Norwalk Community College. She worked as a receptionist at a Greenwich yacht club.
The police described Botello as a "very nomadic individual" who bounced from residence to residence and had been living in the basement of a friend's home for the past two months, and who befriended and became involved with Banks after his release from jail and return to Stamford. Since his arrest, no family members of Botello's have contacted authorities, police said.
In interviews with the Stamford Advocate, friends of the couple painted conflicting pictures of the pair.
Botello's friend Josh Akerson, 18, in whose basement he had been living, described him as "basically a good guy," and called Banks "the most amazing person."
But a friend of Banks, Alison Rossi, told the Advocate that she had urged Banks to end the relationship with Botello.
The role that alcohol played in the horrific assault is also being investigated. Police stressed that most of the people who attended the party had drank excessive amounts of alcohol, that many were under-age and that there was evidence of drug use as well. The four people who were found still in the hotel room after police responded to the murder were so intoxicated, they could not be interviewed, authorities said.
Conklin said other individuals may face charges in relation to the party itself, but that no one else will be charged in relation to the murder.
"There is still alot of work to be done in this investigation," Conklin said.
The victim's mother, Florence Banks, told the Greenwich Times Saturday that her daughter did not like big parties.
Two men fishing in the Passaic River on Sunday afternoon in Clifton, found a girl's body in a bag at the shoreline. An investigation led authorities to the grave of a girl who was buried in Stamford in 2007.
Authorities exhumed the grave and found an empty coffin.
Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin would not release the child's identity today but said authorities believe she was properly buried. The child died of a pre-existing medical condition, he said, declining to elaborate.
Police do not consider the girl's family suspects and said they appeared shocked to hear that their child's body was not in the grave, Conklin said.
"The Stamford Police Department's heartfelt condolences go to the family, who are reliving the grief of the loss of their child," he said.
The grave appeared undisturbed, but the coffin was damaged, an indication that the theft wasn't recent, he said.
"We're saying someone took the body out," Conklin said.
He said police have no suspects and no clear motive. The body was in "remarkably good" condition, he said, and police were looking for any signs that it might have been used in a ritual.
"We have speculation and theories as to why this took place, but at this point it is only speculation and theories," Conklin said.
Officers found Darlene Haynes dead after neighbors complained about a stench coming from her Worcester apartment.
The 23-year-old was found in the closet of a bedroom, wrapped in bedding, according to authorities. She was last seen on Thursday, police said.
Haynes had been dead for several days, police said. During an autopsy, police learned that a fetus had been removed from the woman's body.
Police say the missing infant could survive, but would need immediate medical attention.
A friend of Haynes told CNN affiliate WHDH that she had received a text message from Haynes at 11:20 p.m. Thursday that said she was having wine coolers with a friend at her apartment. That was the last she heard from her.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Annette Merar, 65, was reported missing from her Van Nuys home Friday, according to Officer Karen Rayner of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Merar is 5 feet 2 inches and 160 pounds and is diabetic, according to family members who say the missing woman may exhibit "possible confusion."
In a 2004 message on the Fairfax High School class of 1961 Web site, Merar said she had been living in Valley Glen near Van Nuys and that she was a retired teacher with a son named Damien.
After graduating from Fairfax High, which Spector also attended, Merar went into the music business and became the front singer for "Spector's Three." She married Spector in February 1963 and he named a record company after her, Annette Records.
The marriage ended when Spector began seeing Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett, one of the Ronettes. The two were married in 1968 and divorced six years later.
Spector, 69, married Rachelle Short, 29, in September 2006, while he was under arrest for the murder of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson.
Clarkson was found shot to death in his Alhambra mansion in February 2003.
His first trial ended in a hung verdict, but in April, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the case
Spector, known for his "Wall of Sound" technique, is currently serving a sentence of 19 years to life in prison.
Anyone with information on Merar's whereabouts was asked to call the LAPD Van Nuys station at (818) 374-9500.
On July 9, West Metro Task Force members and deputies spent more than 24 hours clearing a marijuana growing operation near Cheesman Reservoir. Over 5,100 marijuana plants were collected, weighing nearly 2,000 pounds.
They said the marijuana had an estimated street value of $2.5 million.
Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, said the operation stretched over three-fourths of a mile and had an elaborate irrigation system. Kelley said each of the plants had an individual drip line that was attached to a sprinkler pipe for irrigation.
Colorado Air National Guard Black Hawk helicopters were used to lift bundles of marijuana out of the forest to a road where the plants could be loaded into vehicles for removal.
Jefferson County deputies were alerted after a rancher on horseback stumbled across the marijuana field while looking for stray cattle. Investigators were unable to find anyone in the area but found a shack containing food, clothing, sleeping bags, and cooking utensils.
Anyone with information about this crime is urged to contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 303-271-5612.
sfgate.com — An Amtrak commuter train struck and killed two pedestrians in separate incidents in Berkeley and Oakland Friday afternoon, according to train officials and the Alameda County Coroner's office.
Kristopher Griffin was arraigned in Taunton District Court on a charge of murder hours after police responding to his Chilson Avenue home found Kaitlynn Griffin dead in the basement.
Police say the 35-year-old Griffin slit the throat of his daughter.
Prosecutors allege Griffin confessed to killing her and said that God had told him to do it. Police officers who arrested the suspect found him covered in blood and walking barefoot not far from the girl's home.
An officer asked Griffin if he had hurt anyone "and the defendant responded, saying 'yes, she's gone. I had to save her, I killed my little girl," prosecutor Cynthia Brackett told the court.
Police say Griffin had a backpack on at the time of his arrest and the bag had a knife.
Griffin had left a note in a mobile home where he had been staying after breaking up with the victim's mother, saying "forgiveness for sending Katy to heaven," police said.
The suspect has a history of mental illness and recently broke up with the girl's mother, who was planning to leave the state with her.
A judge ordered Griffin held without bail and undergo psychological evaluation.
The Bristol District Attorney's office did not immediately return calls seeking additional information. It was not immediately clear whether Griffin has legal representation.
At 3:40 p.m. on July 18, 1984, Huberty carried a long-barreled Uzi semiautomatic rifle, a pump-action shotgun and a handgun into a McDonald's in San Ysidro, an enclave of San Diego, California.
Witnesses said the unemployed welder and security guard started shooting immediately, and kept on shooting for 77 minutes until a police sniper on a nearby rooftop ended the siege with a bullet through Huberty's heart.
When the carnage ended, Huberty and 21 victims -- including grandmothers, an infant, children on bicycles and teenage McDonald's employees -- lay dead inside and outside the restaurant. Nineteen others were wounded.
San Diego police Capt. Miguel Rosario, a patrol officer back then, was the first cop on the scene, believing he was responding to a single accidental shooting.
Carrying a standard-issue .38-caliber revolver with six bullets, the Marine Corps veteran was in for the fight of his life against a much-better-armed opponent.
"Talk about feeling inadequate," Rosario said. "He's got an Uzi, I've got a .38, and I'm thinking it's a robbery gone bad and his buddies are going to encircle me."
Rosario would later play a key role in beefing up officers' weaponry and training to stop violent criminals.
When Rosario arrived at the McDonald's, he saw people hiding behind cars in the lot. He didn't know what was going on, but "I got that little sick feeling in the pit of my stomach," he said.
He looked up to see a man -- Huberty -- open a side door of the restaurant, the Uzi across his chest. The two men eyed each other, and then Huberty moved aggressively. The SWAT-trained officer ducked behind a parked pickup truck, "and he started opening up on me," Rosario said.
He was badly outgunned and knew it. Worse, he believed he had more than one adversary.
"I wouldn't have minded taking him on one-on-one," Rosario said in his transplanted South Bronx accent. "But if he had buddies in there and they had shoulder arms, I would have been in a world of hurt."
Huberty fired about 30 armor-piercing rounds at the officer, who could hear them striking metal posts and skipping off the asphalt.
From behind the truck, Rosario radioed in a Code 10 -- "send SWAT" -- and seconds later a Code 11 -- "send everybody."
San Diego's SWAT team then consisted of patrol officers with extra training who carried their special equipment in their squad cars, Rosario said.
Huberty retreated inside as other police units arrived. Rosario ran back to his car to retrieve his Ruger Mini-14 military-style rifle. Two patrol officers fired shotguns to cover Rosario while he took up position. But he couldn't get a clear shot.
Reporter Monica Zech had a bird's-eye view of the scene. She was giving traffic reports from a small airplane for local TV and radio stations.
"I looked down and could see that there was people ducking for cover, and there was a fire truck there with everybody behind it," she recalled. She saw two boys lying on the ground, tangled in their bicycles after being shot by Huberty, and people hiding behind the low walls of the restaurant's playground.
Circling at 3,000 feet, Zech alerted authorities to close nearby Interstate 5 and the Tijuana border crossing a few blocks away because drivers were heading straight into the line of fire.
The bright sunshine and the eatery's smoked windows made it hard for police to see inside, but eventually Chuck Foster, a police sniper on the post office roof next door, got a clear view of Huberty near the counter. Foster dropped him with a single shot through a glass door.
The battle was over, but the lessons were just beginning.
Police clearly needed more firepower and a new strategy, Rosario said.
"The time had come where you had to have a full-time, committed and dedicated, highly trained, well-equipped team ... that were committed to shooting, being in shape and being able to respond rapidly anywhere in the city," he said.
"We didn't have what we have now," Rosario said. "We have a special response team -- hostage rescue -- very elite, well-trained. It's an elite team within SWAT. We have access to helicopters now and all of that kind of stuff. We didn't have none of that back then."
After San Ysidro, the department created a dedicated unit that trains continuously and uses much more formidable weapons and tactics.
"We became pretty much special forces specialists, if you will," he said.
Police departments nationwide soon realized their own need for tactical specialists.
The San Ysidro massacre seemed to introduce a "cluster" of mass shootings in the '80s and early '90s, said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University professor and author of six books on mass murder. These included post office rampages in Oklahoma, New Jersey and Michigan, and culminated with the Luby's restaurant slaughter in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, in which 23 people were killed.
Michael T. Rayburn, an independent police firearms trainer in Saratoga Springs, New York, said the San Ysidro incident and others -- including gangland battles of the 1920s and more recent episodes like the infamous North Hollywood bank shootout in 1997 and the Columbine school massacre in 1999 -- force police to keep developing new weapons and tactics.
"As police officers, we don't have wind tunnels or expensive laboratories. We've learned, unfortunately, out on the street, and we pay for it in blood and sometimes our lives," he said.
After the McDonald's massacre, other cities sought advice from San Diego on how to develop tactical teams. Now, such elite units are part of most larger departments across the country.
Another change after San Ysidro is how departments handle officers who have been involved in traumatic incidents. For the first time, San Diego debriefed all involved officers and provided professional counseling for those who needed it. Now, it is common practice.
"We saw the benefit and the need for that," Rosario said, though in 1984 he blew off steam in Las Vegas for two days in lieu of counseling.
Many departments still fall short, but awareness of the need for psychological services is much greater now than in the '80s, said Lynn Winstead Mabe, a police counselor and consultant in Grapevine, Texas.
"I truly think they're beginning to care about the psyche of their people," she said.
Harper, 63, is accused of molesting two girls, ages 3 and 8, in his neighborhood in Hernando, Mississippi, more than a decade ago, the FBI said.
The FBI said it received a telephone tip in June at the Denver office regarding Harper, and brought a SWAT team and a hostage negotiation team to apprehend him in rural Wyoming on Thursday.
He surrendered without incident, the FBI said, and later admitted his identity to agents.
Harper was living in a 1979 truck with a camper top in the southern portion of Washakie County's Big Horn Mountains, the FBI said.
He is believed to have lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place and earning a living by doing odd jobs and herding sheep, the FBI said in a statement.
He was indicted in April 1994 with conspiracy to commit sexual battery, fondling a child and sexual battery.
He failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing and a state warrant was issued for his arrest in October 1994. He was later charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, a federal offense. The FBI added him to its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list last year.
Before living in Mississippi, Harper had been a ranch hand, working with cattle and sheep in Montana and Wyoming, the FBI said in its release on Harper last year. He has also worked as a truck driver, the agency said.
According to the FBI, Harper subscribed to "sovereign citizen" ideology and claimed to be a member of the Montana Freemen, a group that rejected the authority of the U.S. government. The group became famous for an 81-day standoff with federal agents in Montana in 1996.
But after the arrest and conviction of many of its members, the group essentially disintegrated, according to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"As far as I know," they don't exist, he said. "Most of them went to prison and there was nothing left."
A family acquaintance called and told them to click on an Internet site. There on the screen were photographs of their 20-year-old son -- the boy with the movie-star looks -- shot through the head thousands of miles away in Somalia."He must have been somewhat disillusioned and indoctrinated, because he didn't have any clue about Somalia at all," his mother said, fighting back tears and barely able to speak about her eldest son.
Jamal Bana had been missing for months from his Minneapolis home. His family is still grappling with the circumstances surrounding his death in a land they had fled -- an African nation wracked by chaos and violence.
The FBI said Bana's death is part of a sweeping federal investigation into a recruiting effort in the United States by a Somali terrorist group called Al-Shabaab, which has ties to al Qaeda. More than a dozen young men of Somali descent have disappeared from the Minneapolis area in recent months. At least three, including Bana, have ended up dead in Somalia, community leaders say.
Bana was the kind of son a modest immigrant family pins its hopes on. He was the eldest of seven and studying engineering at local colleges. But last fall, his family said, he disappeared without any warning. A few days later, the phone rang. All that could be heard was a quick sentence. "I'm in Somalia," his mother quoted him as saying. He then hung up.
Communication from then on was scarce. In calls or text messages, the family said, Bana was guarded, as though someone was watching or listening to him.
On July 11, the family received the call telling them to look on the Internet. Bana's father broke down in tears when he saw the photos. One image was a close-up of his son's face, a bullet wound on one side of his head. Another showed the body being carried through the streets of Mogadishu on a stretcher.
His parents said they believe their son was brainwashed and recruited to fight in the civil war between Somalia's unstable transitional government and Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab remains entrenched in northeast Somalia and in sections south of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, after fighting that has uprooted more than 200,000 people since early May, according to the United Nations.
The question immigrants in the United States want answered is: How have their youth ended up so far away?
One of the missing youth, Shirwa Ahmed, 27, blew up himself and 29 others last fall in Somalia in what is believed to be the first suicide bombing carried out by a naturalized U.S. citizen. Ahmed had traveled from Minneapolis. The attack raised red flags throughout the U.S. intelligence community and sparked an investigation by the FBI.
Just weeks ago, community activist Abdirizak Bihi lost his 17-year-old nephew, Burhan Hassan, in Somalia. Asked if his nephew had been kidnapped from Minneapolis, Bihi said, "They kidnap them in the sense of mental kidnapping, not physically. But they play a male role of mentor."
Bihi and community leader Omar Jamal said they hold one place at least loosely responsible: the Abubakar as-Saddique Islamic Center, the largest mosque in Minneapolis.
"All these kids missing, they all have one thing in common: They all participated in youth programs in that mosque," said Jamal.
Jamal and Bihi said leaders of the mosque, at the very least, allowed people to come around their facility and recruit young men to fight in Somalia -- a charge the head imam denies. CNN was not allowed inside the mosque, but was granted an interview with the imam at a different location.
"This is the baseless accusation really," said Sheikh Abdirahman Sheikh Omar Ahmed. "The mosque -- the mission of the mosque -- is to worship. And people come to worship and go. We don't have any control over what comes through everybody's mind or ideology."
Sheikh Ahmed said at least two of the young men who died in Somalia did worship at his mosque. But he said no recruiters came around the mosque to pull them away, and said his mosque does not support Al-Shabaab. He added that he has encouraged local families to keep their young sons from going to Somalia.
Federal authorities recently made their first arrests in the case, charging two Minnesota men, Salah Osman Ahmed and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, with one count each of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people overseas, according to the indictment.
CNN could not reach Salah Osman Ahmed's attorney for comment. Published reports indicate he planned to plead not guilty. Isse has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal authorities, officials said. In court papers obtained by CNN, Isse's attorney said, "Mr. Isse will not be the last defendant indicted."
A local attorney involved in the case said at least seven Somali-Americans have been questioned by a grand jury. An FBI official said the bureau cannot rule out the possibility that some of the young men involved could be trained to carry out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Meanwhile, CNN has learned more about how Shirwa Ahmed and Burhan Hassan made their way overseas. A travel agent in Minneapolis, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two men paid about $1,800 in cash for tickets to Nairobi, Kenya, or to Dubai, U.A.E. The travel agent said he thinks the two men then made their way to Mogadishu from those cities on a Somali carrier.
For Bana's family, it's all too much to bear. Omar Boley is a close friend who grew up in the same tribe as Bana's family. He said Bana's mother is having difficulty coping with everything that has happened in recent months.
"She doesn't want to hear the story again," he said. "She told me, 'Whenever I see someone talking about my son, I feel bad. I can't sleep. I feel sick. So this happened, nothing I can do. We pray for him.' That's what she said, and that's what I believe."
Authorities in September charged Alamo, the 74-year-old founder and leader of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, and raided his 15-acre compound near Texarkana, Arkansas.
Jurors reached the verdict after more than eight hours of deliberations. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Between March 1994 and October 2005, Alamo transported five girls younger than 18 across state lines for sex, according to the indictment.
The criminal complaint included accounts from three of the girls, two of whom were 17 when the complaint was filed last year and one who was 14. All three said Alamo sexually abused them.
Alamo, whose real name is Bernie Hoffman, had denied all wrongdoing. In a phone interview last year with CNN, he called the accusations a hoax.
"They're just trying to make our church look evil ... by saying I'm a pornographer. Saying that I rape little children. ... I love children. I don't abuse them. Never have. Never will."
Asked why authorities were searching the property, Alamo compared himself to Christ.
"Why were they after Jesus," he asked. "It's the same reason. Jesus is living within me."
Alamo also has compounds in Oklahoma and New Jersey.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is anti-Catholic and a cult.
The report, obtained by CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom, was written by noted pathologist Dr. Michael Baden. He conducted a third autopsy on the body of Kathleen Savio at the request of Savio's family in November 2007.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook, Illinois, police sergeant, pleaded not guilty May 22 to a charge of first-degree murder in Savio's 2004 death.
The initial autopsy report concluded that she died as the result of an accidental drowning.
Savio was found in the bathtub in her home with a bloody gash on the back of her head; at the time she and Peterson were going through a bitter divorce.
But investigators took another look at the case after Peterson was named as a suspect in the October 28, 2007, disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Savio's body was exhumed on November 13, 2007, and state pathologist Dr. Larry Blum performed a second autopsy. Three days later, Baden conducted another autopsy on behalf of Savio's family.
Baden's report cited Blum's findings of a 1-inch blunt-force laceration on the back of her head, five scraping abrasions and six blunt-force black-and-blue bruises on her extremities, abdomen and buttock.
Baden also noted that even though the body was partially decomposed, "bruises and contusions caused by blunt force injuries shortly before death" were still visible on the right breast, the upper right thigh and the abdomen.
The severity of those injuries, Baden said in his report, indicated a struggle. See a timeline of the case »
"It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the drowning of Ms. Savio ... should be properly classified as a homicide," the pathologist concluded.
The Will County, Illinois, prosecutor announced in February 2008 that the findings of the second autopsy, conducted by Blum, provided the basis to classify the case as a homicide.
Peterson has denied any wrongdoing in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, who was 23 when she was last seen.
The former police sergeant remains in jail, awaiting trial on the first-degree murder charge in Savio's death.
In this nine-block district of Oakland, California, called Oaksterdam, Lee is a celebrity.
Oaksterdam is Lee's brainchild, a small pocket of urban renewal built on a thriving trade in medical marijuana. The district's name comes from a marriage of Oakland and Amsterdam, a city in the Netherlands renowned for its easy attitude toward sex and drugs.
Lee is the founder of Oaksterdam University, which he describes as a trade school that specializes in all things marijuana: how to grow it, how to market it, how to consume it. The school, which has a curriculum, classes and teachers, claims 3,500 graduates.
Lee also owns a medical marijuana dispensary, a coffee house, a large indoor marijuana plantation, and a museum/store devoted to the cause of legalizing marijuana.
"I really see this as following the history of alcohol. The way prohibition was repealed there," Lee says, adding that he believes he is close to achieving his mission.
Lee is organizing a petition drive to place a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in 2010, and he thinks the measure stands a good chance of being approved by voters.
A recent California Field Poll showed that more than half the people in the state, where marijuana for medical use was approved more than a decade ago, would approve of decriminalizing pot.
The state's faltering economy is one reason why. If legalized, marijuana could become California's No. 1 cash crop. It could bring in an estimated $1 billion a year in state taxes.
Democratic State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is spearheading a cannabis legalization bill in the California Assembly. He believes the state's need to increase tax revenues will work in his bill's favor.
"I think it's a seductive part of the equation," he says.
Ammiano says there are a number of ways legalized pot could be marketed, "It could be a Walgreens, it could be a hospital, a medical marijuana facility, whatever could be convenient. Adequate enforcement of the rules. Nobody under 21. No driving under the influence."
Even California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says legalizing marijuana deserves serious consideration.
"I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana," Schwarzenegger says.
But Ammiano says selling a legalized marijuana bill to his fellow legislators remains a delicate matter.
"If we held the vote in the hallway, we'd have it done," Ammiano says. "But people are necessarily cautious. They are up for re-election."
And that is why Lee believes voters will approve a marijuana initiative long before the state Assembly acts. Sitting under grow lights in a warehouse filled with hundreds of marijuana plants, Lee sums it up this way: "For some people cannabis is like a religion. As passionate as some people are about their religions and freedom to think what they want and to worship as they want."
But all of that is baloney to Paul Chabot. He is president of the Coalition for a Drug Free California. He says voters should not be fooled by promises of big bucks flowing to the state from marijuana taxes.
"It's their way of sort of desensitizing our communities, our state and our nation to a drug problem that we clearly need to put our foot down on, and say, 'No more. Enough is enough.' "
Chabot points out that California's medical marijuana law has been poorly regulated, and he expects more of the same if marijuana becomes legalized for everyone.
But a substantial number of Californians seem to believe that no amount of enforcement is going to make pot go away -- and that it's time for the state to begin taking a cut of the action.
Retiring Army Col. Henry Moak served it up himself -- at his own ceremony.
Moak had saved the cake since 1973, when he got it while serving in Vietnam, and had long-standing plans to open it upon his retirement.
Pound cake served in a can was standard fare in military C rations back then. Moak said it was his favorite, and he could not get enough of it.
"I would eat it any chance I could get, but not all of the meals came with pound cake," he said before opening it.
In front of friends and family who attended his retirement ceremony Friday at the Pentagon, Moak eagerly opened the can.
Answering the question of whether the anticipation was the same now as back then, Moak said, "Yes, even more!"
"I won't eat it if it's black and moldy," he told onlookers.
"You can hear the pop of the air coming out," he said referring to the vacuum seal on the can.
To most people's surprise, the opened can revealed a still-edible yellow cake. The ceremonial sword used to cut Moak's real retirement cake was also used to dig into the can and cut out the cake.
Moak took a bite and put up his thumb, "It's good, it's still kind of moist," he declared.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Jul 21 1925
John Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school. The jury fines him $100.
Jul 21 1972
In Milwaukee, George Carlin is arrested for obscenity and disorderly conduct for performing his "Seven Dirty Words" routine in front of a group of wheelchair-bound children. He is released after posting $150 bail.
Monday, July 20, 2009
It saddens me to learn that the great Frank McCourt, one of my favorite writers, passed away yesterday at the age of 78.Timesonline article:
"Frank McCourt, the Irish-American author best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes that chronicled his impoverished upbringing, has died in New York. He was 78.
The bestselling author died from a metastatic melanoma, according to an executive of Scribner, McCourt’s publisher.
A schoolteacher who came to writing late in life, McCourt won acclaim with his poignant, extraordinarily bleak picture of a childhood growing up in the slums of the Irish city Limerick.
Angela's Ashes brought McCourt a 1997 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and other honours. Millions of copies of the book were sold worldwide and it was adapted into a 1999 movie starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle. "
McCourt turned to his life in the United States for subsequent books, Tis and Teacher Man.
Born in New York City, he was the eldest of seven children born to Irish immigrant parents.
Angela's Ashes was an unsparing memoir that captured a feckless, drunkard father with a gift for story-telling. When not drunk, his father was absent, turning his back on a family so poor, McCourt wrote, that they were reduced to burning the furniture in their rented hovel to keep warm.
Already struggling when the Great Depression hit, the family moved back to Limerick, where they slipped ever deeper into poverty in the 1930s.
Three of McCourt's siblings died of diseases worsened by hunger and the squalor of their surroundings. McCourt himself almost died of typhoid fever as a child.
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all," McCourt wrote. "It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."
In Angela's Ashes, he wrote of hunger, a home flooded with rainwater and the grinding humiliation of seeking handouts from charities in the hardscrabble Irish city.
But his vivid prose captured the speech and quirks of a gallery of relatives, leavening a truly harrowing childhood with compassion and humour.
After leaving school at 13, McCourt supported his mother and brothers and sisters with occasional jobs and petty crime.
At 19, he returned to the United States, finding work at a New York hotel. He subsequently trained as a schoolteacher, only later becoming a published writer.
His brother, Malachy McCourt, is an actor and author who has appeared in numerous film, television and theatre productions.