LOS ANGELES, California — (DMN) – A second teacher removed from the same school at which Mark Berndt — the man charged with lewd acts against 23 students — worked for more than 30 years has been arrested and booked on suspicion of fonding two girls in a classroom. The teacher, identified as Martin Bernard Springer, will be terminated for inappropriate contact and touching of students, according to Superintendent John Deasy. The 49-year-old Alhambra man was booked on suspicion of lewd acts on a child. Bond was set at $2 million.
The case against Springer will be presented to the District Attorney for consideration of felony charges of lewd acts upon a child. The allegations involve two 7-year-old girls were were allegedly fondled in a classroom during the past three years, according to authorities. Child-abuse investigators were informed by the district late Thursday night, according to the sheriff’s department. An attorney representing a student at Miramonte Elementary School said Friday children were pulled from after-school programs and other teachers’ classes to take part in “tasting games” at the center of lewd conduct charges against fired teacher Mark Berndt.
In these games, children were photographed while blindfolded and asked to taste a liquid that police now believe to be the semen Berndt, who was arrested Monday. Attorney Brian E. Claypool said his client was 9 when her photograph was taken by Berndt, although she was not his student. Claypool said Berndt had two ways of getting children who weren’t in his class to participate in his games — by having them sent to his class during the school day or having them go to his class after school. “The potential pool of victims is beyond the classroom,” Claypool said in a news conference outside the South L.A. campus where Berndt worked for three decades until he was removed last year when district officials learned of the allegations.
District officials have confirmed that not all the students have been identified and that they were not all current students of Berndt. L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said there’s no doubt some of the alleged victims were participants in an after-school program. He said he did not know if some students had been pulled out of other classes during the school day. Berndt is in custody with his bail set at $23 million. He was arrested Monday, about a year after the school district officials removed him from class after seeing some of the photos. In multiple interviews with the media Friday, Claypool accused the district of negligence, asserting that other teachers and staff must have known something about what was going on.
The LOS ANGELES TIMES contributed to this report.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – A Southwest Houston man fatally shot himself after a standoff with police Friday, authorities said. The man, a suspect in the stabbing of a 4-year-old girl, led police on a 30-minute chase before holding SWAT officers at bay at his home in the 7900 block of Airport near Brookvalley, police said. At about 12:15 p.m., SWAT officers breached the door and entered the home, said Houston Police Departmentspokeswoman Jodi Silva. When they went inside, they found the man dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The standoff began about 10 a.m., when the man barricaded himself inside his home. The man and the girl’s mother apparently got into an argument at a home at 6345 Cattails sometime after 9 a.m., Silva said. The girl was with them during the altercation and was cut on the throat. Police did not say how the man was related to the girl or what sparked the argument with her mother. The child was taken to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospitalwith serious injuries to her throat, Silva said. She is expected to survive.
After the stabbing, the man drove toward his home at 7957 W. Airport. Police tried to stop the car just before 10 a.m., Silva said, but the man refused to stop. He pulled into his garage, got out of the car with a gun, and barricaded himself in the house, she said. A short time later, police heard a single gunshot. When they went into the home, officers found him dead on the floor in a back room. Neighbors in the complex of townhomes reacted with dismay. Quedia Daniels, whose home is near the dead man’s, said she’s lived in the area about a year, but the violence is reason enough to find a new place to live. “I’m terrified,” she said. “I’m ready to move now.” Anthony Batiste, a maintenance man at the property, said the man and his girlfriend moved in two days ago and had an argument on Thursday. When he heard about the day’s tragedy, Batiste expressed regret. “What happened right here, it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Are Kentucky prosecutors simply putting on their “game faces” as they approach a high profile murder case involving a missing college student or do they really have key evidence to blast a case, that so far, is based on a confession and forensics, wide open? Earlier today, there was what could be a bit if grandstanding in a Louisville, Kentucky courtroom involving Andrew Compton who went missing in the fall of 2010 and has never been found. Authorities in Louisville have charged Gregory O’Bryan with Compton’s murder in a somewhat bizarre case that relies on O’Bryan’s confession to police and DNA. Compton’s body has never been found.
Today at a pre-trial conference O’Bryan and his attorneys met with the prosecution to discuss DNA evidence in the case and to set a trial date. The prosecution said they had evidence they were sending to the state police crime lab that would be put at the front of the line to be analyzed. What they were testing came as a complete surprise to the defense. “We are sending out six additional items to be tested that were collected exhibits: three pieces which we expect is some type of flesh collected from the landfill and four unidentified fluids,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Van De Rostyne.
The fluids mentioned were found in O’Bryan’s apartment, Van De Rostyne said. “Just this three pieces of flesh at the landfill thing came as a surprise to us because this is the first we’ve heard of it about that,” defense attorney Michael Ferraracchio said. Both will be sent to the state crime lab Friday or Monday where they will be put to the front of the line to be tested. “It came as a surprise and we’d like them to provide us with some documentation as to when it was found, how it was found, where it was found and so on,” Ferraracchio said. Ferraracchio said if the evidence is a positive match to O’Bryan, it could change the entire case.
The prosecution said it’s just trying to give a family peace. “The most important thing from our prospective is to return Andrew to his family. It’s important to them. It’s important to us. It’s important to everybody,” Van De Rostyne said. Despite the surprise to the defense, the judge said everything was on track and set a preliminary trial date of Nov. 2. Once the trial begins, it’s expected to take at least two weeks.Attorneys said picking a jury will take a week and the trial will take about the same amount of time.
There are just a couple of potential problems with this “discovery.” Sources close to the investigation knew about the “remains” last spring and have indicated that a forensics expert who looked at pictures of the evidence is convinced it is swine flesh, possibly from a hog roast. In and of itself, this is certainly not a reason to not test the evidence which will determine whether the remains are human but taking into consideration that the lead prosecutor, Tom Van De Rostyne, is a candidate for District Attorney, it makes me wonder the true motivation for testing these remains. If the D.A. really wants to find Andrew Compton and return him to his family, it would seem he has a pretty powerful chip on the table since he is seeking the death penalty. Andrew’s family and friends deserve closure and Andrew deserves justice not grandstanding and politics which, unfortunately, is what this looks like.
Police searched a Medora, Indiana landfill for Andrew Compton during the fall of 2010.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — (DMN/WLKY) – Prosecutors in the case involving a missing college student revealed that they are testing remains that could prove significant in a high profile murder case. Experts are testing pieces of flesh found in a landfill where police had been looking for the body of a missing Carmel, Indiana college student. The lead prosecutor in the murder case of Gregory O’Bryan, who’s accused of killing Andrew Compton, 18, a student at Sullivan University in Louisville, Ky., in 2010, said the remains were found in a Medora, Ind., landfill shortly after Compton disappeared, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
O’Bryan said Compton died during sex and he placed the teen’s body in a Highlands Dumpster. Police spent a week searching for Compton’s body at a southern Indiana landfill. In court today, O’Bryan and his attorneys met with the prosecution to discuss DNA evidence in the case and to set a trial date. The prosecution said they had evidence they were sending to the state police crime lab that would be put at the front of the line to be analyzed. What they were testing came as a complete surprise to the defense. “We are sending out six additional items to be tested that were collected exhibits: three pieces which we expect is some type of flesh collected from the landfill and four unidentified fluids,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Van De Rostyne.
The fluids mentioned were found in O’Bryan’s apartment, Van De Rostyne said. “Just this three pieces of flesh at the landfill thing came as a surprise to us because this is the first we’ve heard of it about that,” defense attorney Michael Ferraracchio said. Both will be sent to the state crime lab Friday or Monday where they will be put to the front of the line to be tested. Despite the surprise to the defense, the judge said everything was on track and set a preliminary trial date of Nov. 2.
WRTV Indianapolis contributed to this report.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN/CNN) – Let’s just come out and say what a lot of people are thinking this Super Bowl weekend: Indianapolis? Really? Hard-core fans who blow wads of cash every season to get their championship tickets punched want to know: Has the NFL reached a point when this iconic face-off between our national gladiators can be hosted by any team city? Even a cold-weather, landlocked, midsize burg surrounded by corn and guided by a mysterious force called “Hoosier Hospitality”? Because, sorry sports fans, let’s be real: This ain’t New Orleans, Miami or Southern California — or any of the sunshiny February playgrounds that have dominated location choices for 45 years.
This is smack in the heart of “flyover country,” where many fans of the New England Patriots and New York Giants have never before dared to venture. You can picture them trying to locate the home of the Indianapolis Colts on a map, saying, “It’s in one of those ‘I’ states, like Iowa, Idaho or Illinois.” There’s no need to mince words. Indy natives have heard it all before: “Nap-town,” “India-no-place.” “Hoosiers,” as Indiana residents call themselves, are used to being underestimated, and they often take advantage of the benefits of low expectations. (Full disclosure: The author is an Indiana native, but, like many of his kind, he is unable to explain the origin of the word “Hoosier.”)
After decades of strategizing, planning and selling the city to NFL team owners, Indy says it’s ready to host Super Bowl XLVI. “It’s the pinnacle,” said former Mayor Bill Hudnut, who started the campaign rolling in the early ’80s. Without a doubt, preparations have transformed the town’s look and feel. The community has poured hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and corporate coin to build new hotels, spruce up landscaping and resurface miles of streets. As a result, a sea of Patriots blue, Giants blue and Colts blue has been flowing through the downtown area — now dubbed Super Bowl Village. More than 300,000 have walked through the neighborhood in the past week, officials said.Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy told WRTVthat the city is putting “its best foot forward.” The fans are “going to be pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Restaurants, hotels and the village all surround Lucas Oil Stadium — creating a compact, walkable Super Bowl district that veterans say is unique to almost all previous venues except perhaps New Orleans. “I think the setup here is fantastic,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told WRTV. Streets have been renamed Raiders Road, Chiefs Avenue — one for each NFL squad. “Mike Epps and Snoop Dogg are coming in tonight!” a fan shouted to a friend wearing a Giants jersey. Buildings are draped with majestic, gigantic multistory banners, and the street signs are adorned with the ubiquitous face of Madonna, the Super Bowl halftime headliner
Decades of strategizing, pitching and planning culminate this weekend as Indianapolis finally gets a chance to host an NFL Super Bowl. Take a walk through the city’s Super Bowl Village.
“Oh no, here we go,” say local skeptics — eyes rolling. “This is the part where the media elite play that tired parlor game that comes up every time Indiana takes the national stage.” Does Indianapolis have to prove anything by hosting the game? Is this about some kind of cornfed inferiority complex that Hoosiers have been trying to shake for decades? “We’re not about that,” said Dianna Boyce of Indianapolis’ Super Bowl host committee. “We let our actions speak louder than our words.” It’s all a little shocking for those who remember what this neighborhood was like 30 years ago. There wasn’t much here.
For workers at the old brick-walled Hurst’s HamBeens building on McCarty Street — a stone’s throw from the stadium — there were no bars or nightspots for hanging out after quittin’ time. “You could count the number of restaurants on one hand,” Boyce said. “You just didn’t come downtown to have fun back then.” In the old days, Indianapolis meant the “brickyard” — the Indianapolis 500, said Tom Griswold, longtime co-host of the Indy-based syndicated radio program “The Bob & Tom Show,” “But after the arrival of Peyton Manning, now they say ‘the Indianapolis Colts.’ ” The image of Manning’s face looms large on a building-size Papa John’s banner in Super Bowl Village.
Fourteen years after Manning joined the Colts, Americans are indeed talking about the $90 million quarterback. Specifically, they’re talking about his neck. Manning’s recovery from neck surgery — perhaps the most talked about neck in the history of sports — threatens to overshadow Sunday’s game, which will feature Manning’s brother Eli as quarterback for the Giants. Most people know the injury forced Peyton Manning to sit out the Colts’ entire season, resulting in two wins and 14 losses — a stinking record after 2010′s 10-6 season.
Now the Colts face an epic decision about whether to pay Manning a $26 million bonusto stay on the team or to cut him loose as a free agent. Indianapolis had its own epic decision to make in the early ’80s. At the time, the city had no NFL team. Yet Hudnut, then the mayor, greenlit construction of a $77 million-domed football stadium. Indy was putting out bait to lure the NFL. “Stones of steel,” said a fan who recalled the story while walking through Super Bowl Village on Tuesday. “It took guts.”
Before the stadium was finished, the Colts had agreed to move from Baltimore to Indy, triggering a generation of hatred among the Maryland city’s fans over the “theft” of their storied franchise. It was a major step toward using sports to crank up Indy’s status and economic standing. Soon the city was hosting NCAA basketball’s Final Four and the NBA All-Star Game. “Gradually in the ’80s and ’90s people who knew the city regarded Indianapolis as quite a town — even though people who didn’t know Indy still thought of it as a brickyard and a cornfield,” Hudnut said.
Billing itself as one of the nation’s largest, the Indiana Convention Center is connected to much of the downtown area through a series of skywalks.
Fast-forward to Sunday when perhaps more than 112 million people will watch the NFL world championship “taking place in little old Indianapolis,” said Griswold, the radio host. Mission accomplished. The hosting seems to be going well so far — thanks in part to unusually warm temperatures in the low 50s at a time when it’s usually a few degrees above freezing. “We’re loving it. I had to get out here in the village and see everybody!” Boyce said. “Outstanding” was how Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne described the weather for WRTV. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves,” Wayne said, a year after a freak cold snap put a damper on events surrounding the Dallas Super Bowl. “I haven’t heard one bad complaint.”
Indy is the first “cold-weather” host city since Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1992. In 1982, Detroit opened the door to cold-weather Super Bowl hosting. The game returned to the Motor City 24 years later. New York is scheduled for 2014. “Our plan was to eventually get into the rotation for future Super Bowls,” Hudnut said. “Let’s get through the first one, first,” the NFL’s Goodell told WRTV,”I think the hospitality and the way they have done this will reflect very well on Indianapolis going forward.”
A 109-year-old Indy legend, St. Elmo Steak House hosted both Super Bowl teams this past week. Its signature jumbo shrimp cocktail boasts “hotter than hot” sauce.
Talk of the town
The village — a $12 million, three-block, “family-friendly festival” with shops and restaurants — has been built not just for Sunday, but for the future. “After the fans have long gone, other people are going to be able to come in and use this space for decades,” Boyce said. Meantime, Boyce said she expects Indy to demonstrate the spirit of “Hoosier Hospitality.” “We’re a friendly folk,” she said. “People say hi to you when you walk down the street. It’s all the time, not just when the Super Bowl is here.” What’s getting the most attention? The zip line is the talk of the town.
For $10, you can climb the zip line’s 95-foot tower, attach yourself to a metal cable and fly 80 feet above the crowd to another tower 650 feet down the street. “It’s the new version of the bungee jump,” one woman said. Fans reported the wait last Sunday for the zip line was seven hours. That’s almost as long as TV’s Super Bowl pregame show.
Monument Circle is where Indianapolis got its nickname, the Circle City. It includes Hilbert Circle Theatre, at right, where TV host Jimmy Fallon has been taping NBC’s “Late Night.”
But not everyone in Indianapolis is awaiting the big game. Justin Baranowski, 33, a homeless man from California, said, “Starting at the end of last week the police started pushing us away from certain areas that we’re allowed to be in,” including the Super Bowl Village. Authorities insist officers aren’t cracking down because of the game, but they said police are working with private organizations to help get the homeless into shelters. “We’re not moving anyone against their will,” said Marc Lotter, spokesman for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. The city is sharing its Super Bowl gravy with needy segments of the community. A neighborhood without a grocery store now has a food cooperative thanks to private and NFL funds, Boyce said. Another area received a 20,000-square-foot community youth center, including a gym, classrooms and weekly programs such as cooking, fitness and finance.
Hosting this game is “a step of a higher level than we’ve ever taken before,” Hudnut said. “We had to prove that we could be major league.” So what’s next for Indy? A Democratic or Republican national convention may not be out of the question, he said. And what about Sunday? “The best sign of success will be that the city doesn’t become the story,” Griswold said. “The story needs to be about the game. I honestly think the best report would be people saying that ‘the game was great and — oh yeah by the way Indianapolis was really nice. I had a really good time.’ “
NFL commissioner says Indy is ‘viable candidate’ for another Super Bowl
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised Indianapolis this morning and said the city is a viable candidate to host another Super Bowl. “Sure it is,” Goodell said at a news conference. “We’re here and they’re doing a fantastic job. “We’ve got a weekend still to go and a game to put on. I know everybody in Indianapolis is focused on the future. But we want to make sure this week turns out to be what everyone has worked so hard for. “I believe it’s going to be a great week. I believe the community here could not have done a better job of organizing this week’s events or embracing this. I think it’s great Indianapolis is on the global stage.”
The INDIANAPOLIS STAR contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM, Israel — (DMN/CNN) – Israeli leaders on Thursday delivered one of the bluntest warnings to date of possible airstrikes against Iranian nuclear sites, adding to the anxiety in Western capitals that a surprise attack by Israel could spark a broader military conflict in the Middle East. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at a security forum attended by some of Israel’s top intelligence and military leaders, declared that time was running out for stopping Iran’s nuclear advance, as the country’s uranium facilities disappear into newly constructed mountain bunkers. “Whoever says ‘later’ may find that later is too late,” Barak said. He switched from Hebrew to English for the last phrase: “later is too late.”
The language reflected a deepening rift between Israeli and U.S. officials over the urgency of stopping Iran’s nuclear program, which Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts say could soon put nuclear weapons within the reach of Iran’s rulers. Although accepting the gravity of the Iranian threat, U.S. officials fear being blindsided by an Israeli strike that could have widespread economic and security implications and might only delay, not end, Iran’s nuclear pursuits.
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, right, walks with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Barak said that time is running out for stopping Iran’s nuclear advance, as the country’s uranium facilities disappear into newly constructed mountain bunkers.
In a series of private meetings with Israeli counterparts in recent weeks, Western officials have counseled patience, saying recent economic sanctions and a new European oil embargo are pummeling Iran’s economyand could soon force the country’s leaders to abandon the nuclear program. Yet Israelis are increasingly signaling that they may act unilaterally if there is no breakthrough in the coming months, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials. “The Obama administration is concerned that Israel could attack Iranian nuclear facilities this year, having given Washington little or no warning,” said Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official who specialized in Iran policy during the Clinton administration and recently returned from meetings with Israeli officials. He said Israel “has refused to assure Washington that prior notice would be provided.”
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is one of several administration officials to express concern publicly that Israel is positioning itself for a surprise attack. Last month, the administration dispatched the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to the Israeli capital for high-level discussions about the possibility of a unilateral Israeli strike. “Israel has indicated they’re considering this, and we have indicated our concerns,” Panetta told reporters Thursday after a NATO meeting in Brussels. Panetta declined to comment on published reports that he thinks the Israelis could carry out a strike this spring, possibly as early as April.
Although the Obama administration has not ruled out U.S. military action against Iran, White House officials are worried that a unilateral strike could shatter the broad international coalition assembled in the past three years to confront Iran over its nuclear program, which Iranian leaders have consistently said is for peaceful purposes. U.S. officials fear that an attack by Israel could trigger Iranian retaliation not only against the Jewish state but also against American interests around the world. A prolonged conflict could disrupt oil shipments, drive up energy prices and devastate fragile Western economies, U.S. officials say.
Administration officials have hinted that the United States might not intervene militarily in a hostile exchange between Israel and Iran unless the conflict began to threaten U.S. forces or Israeli population centers. In an interview last month on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Panetta said that in the event of an Israeli strike, U.S. military officials’ primary concern would be “to protect our forces.” British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Cleggalso expressed concern Thursday that Israel was moving closer to a decision on a potentially destabilizing military strike. “Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands,” Clegg told the House magazine, a weekly British political journal.
Clegg, whose government recently imposed new sanctions against Iran’s central bank, said Britain was convinced that “ there are very tough things we can do which are not military steps in order to place pressure on Iran.” At Thursday’s Israeli security conference, in the resort city of Herzliya, Barak and other Israeli officials pointed to recent moves by Iran to begin enriching uranium at a second plant, located in a bunker built into a mountain near the city of Qom. Once that facility is complete, deterring Iran will be far more difficult, they say. “The dividing line may pass not where the Iranians decide to break out of the nonproliferation treaty and move toward a nuclear device or weapon, but at the place . . . that would make the physical strike impractical,” Barak said.
He rejected criticism that Israeli leaders had failed to consider the full implications of military action. “There is no basis for the claim that this subject. . . was not discussed with appropriate breadth and depth,” he said. “The assessment of many experts around the world, not only here, is that the result of avoiding action will certainly be a nuclear Iran, and dealing with a nuclear Iran will be more complicated, more dangerous and more costly in lives and money than stopping it,” he said. Speaking at the same conference, the chief of military intelligence, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said Iran already has enough fissile material to build four nuclear weapons and could do so within a year if Iranian leaders give the order. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has adopted a course of gradually gathering the components necessary for nuclear weapons while deferring a decision on whether to build and test a bomb.
Although there have been no indications in Israel that a military strike is imminent, Israeli officials have conveyed a sense of urgency, suggesting that a window of opportunity for a military strike is closing. Barak, in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, urged that diplomatic efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear program “be conducted intensively and urgently” and that tougher sanctions target Iran’s financial system and central bank, as well as its oil exports. Israeli officials warn that beyond posing an existential threat to Israel, Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon could trigger a regional nuclear arms race in the volatile Middle East and alter Israel’s strategic position in the region.
Iran’s leader: War would be detrimental to U.S.
The supreme leader of Iran issued a blunt warning Friday that war would be detrimental to the United States — and that Iran is ready to help anyone who confronts “cancerous” Israel. “You see every now and then in this way they say that all options are on the table. That means even the option of war,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during Friday prayers in Tehran. “This is how they make these threats against us. “Well, these kinds of threats are detrimental to the U.S.,” he said. “The war itself will be 10 times as detrimental to the U.S.” Khamenei’s rhetoric is hardly new. But the timing of his comments could prove critical with nuclear talks around the corner.
Tensions between Iran and world powers have been ratcheted up in the aftermath of an alarming nuclear watchdog agency report in November that said Tehran was likely developing nuclear weapons. The standoff grew more serious this week with renewed fears of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran to take out its suspected nuclear weapons program. Khamenei said Iran will support any nation or group that stands up against Israel. “The Zionist regime is really the cancerous tumor of this region and it needs to be removed and will be removed,” Khamenei said to a cheering crowd. He said Iran doesn’t interfere in other nations but has aided militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah in conflicts with Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. His comments came after stern comments Friday from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “Today, unlike in the past, there is a broad global understanding that it is crucial to stop Iran becoming nuclearized and that no options should be taken off the table,” he said.
Barak said allowing Iran to continue on its path will be far more complex and dangerous in blood and money than cutting it off now. “Those who say in English, ‘later,’ may find later is too late,” he said. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he feared Israel could attack Iran sometime this spring in an effort to destroy its suspected nuclear weapons program, according to a senior administration official. The official declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information. The United States and its allies have warned that Iran is trying to make a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes.
A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center said the United States needs to put more teeth into its threat to use military power against Iran. The Washington think tank recommended in its report that Washington should undertake visible, credible military preparations to go along with more intense sanctions and diplomatic efforts. The military activities could include naval deployments, military exercises and positioning supplies in the region. To stop Iran’s nuclear clock, the report said, the United States “needs to make clear that Iran faces a choice: it can either abandon its nuclear program through a negotiated arrangement or have its program destroyed militarily, by the United States.” The report also said the United States should give credibility to the Israeli military threat against Iran by selling Israel two to three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and 200 GRU-31 bunker-buster munitions.
Former Sen. Chuck Robb, who co-chaired the task force that wrote the report, said the group advocates neither war nor a military strike at the moment, but believes the United States will only be effective if it takes credible steps to let Iran know it is serious. Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Panetta “has made it clear that he is comfortable with the military capabilities we have and operate in the region.” However, Kirby said, “the U.S. military must and will be ready to provide the president options should those options be desirable.” Khamenei blamed Western powers for Iran’s troubles, starting with the brutal eight-year war Iran fought with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s and continuing with the latest round of punishing international sanctions. “So far we have overcome all these challenges and none of them managed to bring (Iran) to its knees,” Khamenei said. “We have stood firm and strongly treaded our course.”
Iran ‘trying to attack Israeli targets in retaliation for scientists’ deaths’
Iranian agents are attempting to attack Israeli targets around the world in retaliation for covert operations, including the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, the head of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency, has warned. “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not that Israel took out the nuclear scientists. A major, serious country like Iran cannot let this go on. They want to deter Israel and extract a price so that decision-makers in Israel think twice before they order an attack on an Iranian scientist,” Yoram Cohen said in a lecture reported in Haaretz.
Three attempted attacks were thwarted at the last minute in the past year, in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Thailand, he said. Four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the past two years in what Iran – and many others in the international community – believe are operations by the Israeli secret services, or its proxy agents, as part of a covert war. Israel usually maintains a code of silence on activities by its security agencies, Shin Bet and the Mossad. But the president, Shimon Peres, said “to the best of my knowledge” the country was not involved in the most recent assassination, less than a month ago.
Cohen’s warning of retaliatory attacks came amid mounting speculation Israel is moving closer to launching a unilateral military strike against Iran. The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, declined to deny claims in a column in the Washington Post that said he believed Israel would launch an attack in April, May or June this year. And Israel’s defence secretary, Ehud Barak, told a security conference that the window for action would close when Iran reached an “immunity zone” with its enrichment activities moved deep underground beyond the reach of air bombardment. “Those who say ‘later’ may find that later is too late,” he said.
Britain’s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, this week voiced fears Israel could take unilateral military action against Iran. “Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands,” he told the House magazine. The Shin Bet chief also said Iran was building closer ties with Islamic Jihad in Gaza following its rift with Hamas over the Syrian uprising. However, relations between Hamas and Tehran may be repaired when Ismail Haniyeh, the de facto prime minister of Gaza, visits the Iranian capital in the coming days. During his invitation-only lecture in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Cohen said the security agency was concerned about extremist religious settlers in the West Bank who “have decided to take the road of terror … [lashing] out at Arabs and [their] sacred symbols”. This week, several rightwing activists from West Bank settlements were elected to the central committee of the Likud party, which is led by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. One, Meir Bartler, 27, considered a leader of the “hilltop youth”, is under house arrest, according to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv.
The JERUSALEM POST, THE WASHINGTON POST and THE GUARDIAN contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — (DMN/CBS News) – Employers went on a hiring spree in January and drove down the unemployment rate for a fifth straight month to 8.3 percent, its lowest point in nearly three years. The result pointed to a resurgent job market, and it sent stock futures surging. The Dow Jones industrial average futures, which were flat before the report, jumped 95 points. The economy created 243,000 net jobs in January, the most in nine months, and the unemployment rate fell two ticks.
Employers have added an average of 201,000 jobs a month in the past three months. That’s 50,000 more jobs per month than the economy averaged in each month last year. The Labor Department’s January jobs report was filled with other encouraging data and revisions. Hiring was widespread across many high-paying industries. Pay increased. And the economy added 200,000 more jobs in 2011 than first thought. The unemployment is nearly a percentage point lower than over the summer, when feared a recession was imminent. The last time the unemployment rate has dropped for five straight months was in late 1994.
Lower unemployment is a positive a sign for President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes. Still, he’s likely to face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any post-war president. The unemployment rate fell even as more people began looking for work. But a much larger number said they found work. More jobs and higher incomes should help consumers boost spending and increase economic growth. Job gains in November and December were revised upward to show that an additional 60,000 jobs were created in those two months.
The government also issued its annual revisions to jobs data going back five years. They showed that hiring was stronger over the past two years than previously thought. The economy added about 1.82 million jobs last year, nearly twice as many as in 2010. Even with the gains, the job market faces a long way back to full health. The nation has about 5.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in late 2007. Last month, manufacturers added 50,000 jobs, the most in a year. Even the beleaguered construction sector added 21,000 jobs, its second month of strong gains. That has likely been aided by unseasonably warm weather this winter.
Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and hotels, added 44,000 jobs. Retailers added nearly 11,000. And professional and business services, which encompasses higher paying jobs in accounting, architecture and engineering, gained 70,000, the most in 10 months. There are still 12.8 million people out of work, though that is the fewest since the recession ended. An additional 11 million are either working part-time but would prefer full-time work, or have stopped searching for jobs. When all those groups are combined, nearly 24 million are considered “underemployed. The so-called “underemployment” rate ticked down in January to 15.1 percent, from 15.2 percent.
Several reports signaled this week that the economy is improving gradually. Manufacturers expanded at the fastest pace in seven months in January, a private survey showed. And fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said. The four-week average of applications fell to its second-lowest level since June 2008. The drop shows that companies are cutting fewer jobs, which usually leads to more hiring. Americans spent more at big chain retail stores last month compared with a year earlier. And automakers began 2012 with a strong sales gain in January. Healthier auto sales can boost a range of companies, from steel makers to parts suppliers to shippers.
The economy expanded at a 2.8 percent annual pace in the October-December quarter, a full percentage point higher than in the previous quarter. Even so, economists expect slower growth this year. Much of the fourth quarter’s expansion was due to companies ordering more goods to restock their warehouses. Restocking is likely to slow in the first three months of this year. That would drag on growth. Europe’s financial crisis could also slow demand for U.S. goods. And average wages failed to keep up with inflation last year. That leaves consumers with less spending power, which can hamper growth.