November 15, 2012
By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Panetta stripped Gen. William “Kip” Ward of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star lieutenant general despite arguments from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff against the demotion. Ward also has been ordered to repay the government $82,000.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss a personnel matter.
The demotion comes as retired Army Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director because of an extramarital affair and Marine Gen. John Allen is being investigated for potentially improper communications with a woman.
According to the official, Panetta reviewed the Ward matter and concluded that the wrongdoing found by the Defense Department Inspector General, in a report released earlier this year, demanded accountability.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for Ward said the general “has never been motivated by personal gain and fulfilled each and every mission assigned to him and served his country and the men and women assigned to his commands with distinction.”
The spokesman, Chris Garrett, added that, “While General Ward is not perfect he has always been guided by his faith in God and the belief that there is no greater honor as a patriot than to lead those who choose to serve our nation in the armed forces.”
Retiring as a three-star will cost Ward about $30,000 a year in retirement pay — giving him close to $208,802 a year rather than the $236,650 he would get as a four-star.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Panetta to allow Ward, the former head of U.S. Africa Command, to retire at his full four-star general rank, according to defense officials. Other military leaders had noted that the demotion would cost Ward a lot of money.
The inspector general’s report found that Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite. The report detailed lengthy stays at lavish hotels for Ward, his wife and his staff members, and the use of five-vehicle motorcades when he traveled to Washington.
It also said Ward and his wife, Joyce, accepted dinner and Broadway show tickets from a government contractor during a trip in which he went backstage to meet actor Denzel Washington. The couple and several staff members also spent two nights at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Other charges were that Ward often extended his overseas trips — particularly those to the U.S. — for personal reasons, resulting in “exponential” increases in costs.
Although the report included responses from Ward to a number of the allegations, investigators often found records and statements that contradicted his explanations. At one point, Ward defended the Bermuda layover, saying that it came up on short notice, which is why his security team had to stay there longer. The report found records showing that the layover had been planned for at least four days in advance.
A common theme running through the report was Ward’s insistence that his wife travel with him at government cost, even though it was often not authorized and she performed few official duties. It said he also routinely stayed in high-priced suites in luxury hotels rather than in standard rooms or less expensive locales.
The allegations, coming after a 17-month investigation, have delayed Ward's planned April 2011 retirement. And they were an embarrassing end note to his career, since he had claimed a place in history as the military’s first commander of Africa Command.
Panetta’s options regarding Ward were limited by complex laws and military guidelines. He had only one real choice: allow Ward to retire as a four-star or demote him and force him to retire as a three-star lieutenant general.
In order for Ward to be demoted to two-star rank, investigators would have to conclude that he also had problems before moving to Africa Command, and officials said that does not appear to be the case.
The investigation dragged on for so long that that Ward was temporarily dropped to two-star general status. Under military guidelines, if a full general is not serving in a four-star command or office for more than 60 days, he or she is automatically reduced to two-star rank. Ward would not be able to recoup any back pay for the time at the two-star rank, even though he is being retired at the three-star level.
Major general, or two-star, is the highest rank to which an officer can be promoted by regular military action. Becoming a three-star — lieutenant general — or a four-star general requires a presidential nomination and confirmation by Congress. It, therefore, is not considered permanent and lasts only as long as the person is serving in a job of that rank.
That technical demotion is not uncommon as generals move from job to job and unexpected delays occur. It would not have affected Ward's ability to retire as a four-star, if he had been cleared of the charges.
November 15, 2012
By LAWT News Service
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean C. Logan announced the following updated semifinal results as of today, November 13, 2012.
The update includes 172,052 ballots processed since the last update. This count consists of only Vote by Mail ballots. For vote totals on specific contests, please visit lavote.net. This brings the updated estimate to approximately 521,710 to be counted.
Please remember that these results are subject to change throughout the canvass period. The next official update is scheduled for Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1 p.m. All results and updates will be posted online at lavote.net as they become available.
The mission of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is to serve Los Angeles County by providing essential records management and election services in a fair, accessible and transparent manner. For more information, visit www.lavote.net.
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 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 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.