November 15, 2012
By FRAZIER MOORE Associated Press
A man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy has recanted his story.
In a quick turnabout, the man on Tuesday November 13 described his sexual relationship with Clash as adult and consensual.
Clash responded with a statement of his own, saying he is “relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.” He had no further comment.
The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement through the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm Andreozzi & Associates.
Sesame Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street” in New York, soon followed by saying, "We are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."
The whirlwind episode began Monday morning, when Sesame Workshop startled the world by announcing that Clash had taken a leave of absence from “Sesame Street” in the wake of allegations that he had had a relationship with a 16-year-old.
Clash, a 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, swiftly denied the charges of his accuser, who is in his early 20s. In that statement Clash acknowledged that he is gay but said the relationship had been between two consenting adults.
Though it remained unclear where the relationship took place, sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21.
Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash. Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.
Clash said on Monday he would take a break from Sesame Workshop “to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”
Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated on Tuesday when he might return to the show, on which he has performed as Elmo since 1984.
Elmo had previously been a marginal character, but Clash, supplying the fuzzy red puppet with a high-pitched voice and a carefree, child-like personality, launched the character into major stardom. Elmo soon rivaled Big Bird as the face of “Sesame Street.”
Though usually behind the scenes, Clash meanwhile achieved his own measure of fame. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and he was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one primetime Emmy.
November 08, 2012
By Brian W. Carter,
Sentinel Staff Writer
It was a night of ups-and-downs as President Obama ultimately defeated the competition in Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. State and local officials also fought for districts and senate seats while propositions and measures were weighed. Some floated to the top while others sank to the bottom.
(As of press time, these were the official results)
U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein ahead with 70 percent of the vote
U.S. Representatives and their new districts:
-U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, 43rd District
-U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, 37th District, ahead with 86 percent of the vote
-Senator Roderick Wright, 35th District, ahead with 77 percent of the vote
-Senator Carol Liu, 25th District, ahead with 59 percent of the vote
-Assemblymember Chris Holden, 41st District, ahead with 56 percent of the vote
-Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, 54th District, ahead with 83 percent of the vote
-Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, 59th District, ahead with 54 percent of the vote
-Assemblymember Steve Bradford, 62nd District, ahead with 73 percent of the vote
-Assemblymember Isadore Hall, 64th District remains the U.S. State Representative
The propositions and measures won and lost as votes will change the flow of economy and affect our local school districts. Many of the props passed brought an end to unfavorable laws and mandates that have menaced underserved communities:
-Prop. 30 won with 57 percent of the vote
-Prop. 31 did not pass calling for a change on how the state budget is spent
-Prop. 32 did not pass with 61 percent not in favor of changing union initiatives
-Prop. 33 is a no with 54 percent not in favor auto insurance companies offering questionable discounts
-Prop. 34 is a no with 52 percent in favor of keeping the death penalty
-Prop. 35 wins with a big 81 percent of the vote for harsher penalties for human trafficking
-Prop. 36 also wins with a huge lead of 72 percent sending “the three strikes law” to the dugout
-Prop. 37 loses to 51 percent in favor of not having mandatory labeling of food
-Prop. 38 does not pass with 68 percent not in favor of a general state tax increase
-Prop. 40 wins with a yes of 67 percent in favor of redistricting
November 08, 2012
By GREG RISLING
The California man behind an anti-Muslim film that roiled the Middle East was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison for violating his probation stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction by lying about his identity.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder immediately sentenced Mark Basseley Youssef after he admitted to four of the eight alleged violations, including obtaining a fraudulent California driver's license. Prosecutors agreed to drop the other four allegations under an agreement with Youssef’s attorneys, which also included more probation.
None of the violations had to do with the content of “Innocence of Muslims,” a film that depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale argued Youseff's lies about his identity have caused harm to others, including the film’s cast and crew. The movie sparked violence in the Middle East, killing dozens.
“They had no idea he was a recently released felon,” Dugdale said. “Had they known that, they might have had second thoughts” about being part of the film.
Youssef’s attorney Steven Seiden said his client admits to being the film’s scriptwriter but had no other involvement except what he described as being a “cultural adviser.”
Youssef, 55, was arrested in late September, just weeks after he went into hiding when the deadly violence erupted in the Middle East.
Enraged Muslims had demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with a Pakistani cabinet minister even offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.
Federal authorities initially sought a two-year sentence for Youssef but settled on a one-year term after negotiating a deal with Youssef’s attorneys. Prosecutors said they wouldn’t pursue new charges against Yousseff — namely making false statements — and would drop the remaining four probation-violation allegations leveled against him. But Youssef was placed on four years’ probation and must be truthful about his identity and his future finances.
Seiden asked that his client be placed under home confinement, but Snyder denied that request. Youssef will spend his time behind bars at a Southern California prison.
Youssef served most of his 21-month prison sentence for using more than a dozen aliases and opening about 60 bank accounts to conduct a check fraud scheme, prosecutors said.
After he was released from prison, Youssef was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
Federal authorities have said they believe Youssef is responsible for the film, but they haven’t said whether he was the person who posted it online. He also wasn’t supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer.
At least three names have been associated with Youssef since the film trailer surfaced — Sam Bacile, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Youssef. Bacile was the name attached to the YouTube account that posted the video.
“This is a defendant who has engaged in a long pattern of deception,” Dugdale said. “His dishonesty goes back years.”
Court documents show Youssef legally changed his name from Nakoula in 2002, though when he was tried, he identified himself as Nakoula. He wanted the name change because he believed Nakoula sounded like a girl’s name, according to court documents.
After the hearing, Seiden told reporters he had a message to relay from his client.
“The one thing he wanted me to tell all of you is President Obama may have gotten Osama bin Laden, but he didn’t kill the ideology,” Seiden said.
Asked what that meant, Seiden said, “I didn’t ask him, and I don’t know.”
November 08, 2012
By NANCY BENAC and
One day after his surprisingly comfortable re-election, a triumphant President Barack Obama headed back to the White House and divided government on Wednesday with little time left for a compromise with Republicans to avert spending cuts and tax increases that threaten a new recession.
The president also is looking ahead to top-level personnel changes in a second term, involving three powerful Cabinet portfolios at a minimum.
Republicans headed into a season of potentially painful reflection after retaining control of the House but losing the presidency and falling deeper into the Senate minority. One major topic: the changing face of America.
“We’ve got to deal with the issue of immigration through good policy. What is the right policy if we want economic growth in America as it relates to immigration?” said former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour. Obama drew support from about 70 percent of all Hispanics, far outpacing Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
There was little time to celebrate for the winners, with a postelection session of Congress scheduled to convene November 13. By common agreement, the main order of business is the search for a compromise to keep the economy from falling off a so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The White House said Obama had made postelection phone calls to congressional leaders and reiterated a commitment to bipartisan steps to “reduce our deficit in a balanced way, cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses and create jobs.”
“The president said he believed that the American people sent a message in yesterday’s election that leaders in both parties need to put aside their partisan interests and work with common purpose to put the interests of the American people and the American economy first,” the statement said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that any solution should include higher taxes on “the richest of the rich.” That was in keeping with Obama’s election platform, which calls for the expiration of tax cuts on income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
Reid said he spoke with Republican House Speaker John Boehner as well as Obama on election night as the election results became known, and he declared that “of course” a compromise was possible on the overall issue.
“I’m not going to draw a line in the sand. He’s not going to draw a line in the sand, I don’t believe,” Reid said of Boehner.
The speaker set a conference call with his Republican rank and file for mid-afternoon.
He said in pre-election interviews he would not agree to raise taxes on small business owners, a formulation Republicans often use in opposing the president’s position on the issue.
Barring legislation by year’s end, taxes are on course to rise by more than $500 billion in 2013, and spending is to be cut by an additional $130 billion or so, totals that would increase over a decade. The blend is designed to rein in the federal debt, but officials in both parties warn it poses a grave threat to an economic recovery that has been halting at best.
Obama and congressional leaders in both parties say they want an alternative, but serious compromise talks were non-existent during the fierce campaign season.
That ended November 6 in an election in which more than 119 million votes were cast, mostly without controversy despite dire predictions of politically charged recounts and lawsuits while the presidency hung in the balance.
Obama won the popular vote narrowly, the electoral vote comfortably, and the battleground states where the campaign was principally waged in a landslide.
The president carried seven of the nine states where he, Romney and their allies spent nearly $1 billion on television commercials, winning Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado and Virginia.
The Republican challenger won North Carolina, and Florida remained too close to call
Obama also turned back late moves by Republicans in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.
Hispanics account for a larger share of the population than the national average in Nevada and Colorado, two of the closely contested battleground states. The president’s outsized majority among Hispanics — in the range of 70 percent according to Election Day interviews with voters — helped him against a challenger who called earlier in the year for self-deportation of illegal immigrants.
Other factors in crucial states:
— In Ohio, roughly 60 percent of all voters said they favored the Obama administration's auto bailout, and the president captured nearly three quarters of their votes, according to the survey, conducted for The Associated Press and a group of television networks. He stressed the rescue operation throughout the campaign. Romney opposed it, and in late campaign commercials suggested it had contributed to the loss of U.S. jobs overseas.
— In Virginia, the black vote was roughly half again as big in percentage terms as nationally, also an aid to Obama.
Changes are in store for the victorious administration. The election past, three members of Obama’s Cabinet have announced plans to leave their posts: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other changes would not be unusual in the second administration of any president.
As for Congress, Democrats improbably gained seats in re-establishing their Senate majority. Their final margin hinged on a decision by independent Sen.-elect Angus King of Vermont, who has not yet said which party he will affiliate with.
The election was the second in a row in which Republicans lost potentially winnable races after nominating candidates who articulated views that voters evidently judged as too extreme. Two years ago, tea party-backed insurgents were defeated in Nevada, Colorado and Delaware. This year, senior Republicans watched in disbelief as Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana flamed out after making incendiary comments about rape.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said his party has “a period of reflection and recalibration ahead.” In a statement issued before the extent of GOP losses was known, he added, “While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.”
There were 13 House races that remained too close to call, leaving the final size of the Republicans’ majority in doubt. They won at least 232 seats and led for two more, a trend that would translate to a net loss of 8 from the current lineup.
In defeat, Democrats pointed to races where they turned tea party-backed conservatives out of power as evidence they had stemmed a tide.
November 08, 2012
Sacramento, CA – African American election night victories in races for the California State Assembly resulted in a net gain of one and increased the California Legislative Black Caucus to nine members.
The Caucus has never had more than nine members since its founding in 1967, and is particularly proud of the election of representatives in districts where African Americans are not in the majority.
“I want to congratulate the newly elected African American legislators for breaking new ground and increasing our strength and collective voice in the California Legislature,” said Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., Chair of the Black Caucus. “The Caucus was instrumental in helping achieve these victories and we are gratified.”
The newly elected African Americans to the State Assembly are:
Cheryl Brown, 47th District
Chris Holden, 41st District
Reggie Jones-Sawyer, 59th District
Shirley Weber, 79th District
“Without the commitment and tireless support of Senator Price and the California Legislative Black Caucus, these electoral victories would not have been possible,” said Brown.
Weber is the first African American ever elected to a state office from San Diego County. Also, Los Angeles County elected its first ever African American female District Attorney, Jackie Lacey.
“I think these election results are particularly important because they underscore the fact that African Americans can win elections in districts that are not traditionally represented by African Americans,” said Senator Price. “Good elected representation has no color and we are proud to be a part of that progress both socially and politically.”