AUSTIN, Texas — (DMN) – The Texas Department of Public Safety has raised safety concerns and advised students on spring break to avoid Mexico. DPS Director Steven McCraw says Mexican drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas. The U.S. government is also warning Americans to stay out of much of Mexico because of rising drug-cartel violence — and tells travelers to one of Mexico’s most popular beach destinations to stay close to their hotels.
A newly expanded travel warning from the State Department says that U.S. travelers should avoid four entire states, as well as large areas of ten others, most in the north and west of the country. The most popular destination affected by the warning is Acapulco, where the State Department urged Americans not to travel more than two blocks inland from the boulevard that runs along the popular beaches. “We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention,” says the warning.
A warning issued last April listed 10 states as areas to avoid, but the State Department said the expanded warning, and stronger language, are a response to a rising level of drug-related violence that has claimed American victims, with crimes including “homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.” According to the State Department, the number of U.S. citizens reported murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011. The death toll, coupled with the rising number of kidnappings and disappearances in the country, led the Department to take a stronger stance.
In its warning, the U.S. instructs travelers to “defer non-essential travel” to the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas, as well as parts or most of Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan and Nayarit. “While any loss of life is regrettable,” said Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, “figures from both U.S. and Mexican officials clearly show that resort areas and tourist destinations do not generally see the levels of violence experienced in some areas of the border.” “As the same Travel Alert states, millions of Americans travel to Mexico every year for tourism and about 150,000 cross south of the border every single day,” said Alday in a statement. “Mexico continues to be the number one foreign tourist destination for U.S. travelers, and home to the largest U.S. expat community in the world, with around 1 million Americans living permanently in Mexico.”
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — (DMN) – The National Weather Service forecast office in Louisville has released some preliminary information regarding the March 2 Tornado Outbreak over the Ohio River Valley:
Southern Indiana Long Track EF-4
Begin Time: 2:50 PM EST
End Time: 3:39 PM EST
EF Scale: EF-4
Wind Speed: 175 mph
Begin Point: South side of Fredericksburg in Washington County, Indiana
End Point: 4 miles north-northwest of Bedford along Highway 2870 in Trimble County, Kentucky
Path Length: 49 miles
Path Width: 0.4 mile
Washington County, IN Segment
Begin Time: 2:50 PM EST
End Time: 3:08 PM EST
EF Scale: EF-4
Wind Speed: 170 mph maximum
Begin Point: South side of Fredericksburg
End Point: Washington County-Clark County line just east of
S. Flatwood Road
Path Length: 18.8 miles across Washington County
Path Width: 0.4 mile (width of damage)
The National Weather Service in conjunction with Washington County
Emergency Management conducted a detailed tornado damage survey on
Saturday, March 3. Below are the results.
The tornado first touched down on the south side of Fredericksburg
just south of U.S. 150 where several trees were snapped off. In this
area, winds were estimated to be 90 mph (EF1) with a damage width of
30 yards along the south fork of the Blue Lick River.
Additional tree damage was observed as the tornado moved east-
northeast across farmland. Near the intersection of Horners Chapel
Road and Fredericksburg Road, a high tension metal power structure
was toppled along with numerous trees uprooted and snapped. Here,
damage was estimated as EF2 with 130 mph winds. Along Palmyra Road
near Strickland Road, several trees were snapped with EF1 damage
50-100 yards wide and estimated winds of 100-110 mph. High tension
wires were down and trees snapped along West End Road just north of
Shanks Hill Road.
The tornado then traveled over a ridge and intensified as it hit
State Route 135 at Dutch Creek Road. Here, large chunks of 3-inch
thick asphalt from an approximately 4-by-4-yard section of roadway
was blown 10 to 30 yards into the adjacent grass next to the road.
Just east of Route 135, tremendous tree damage was observed. At this
location, the tornado was estimated to be of EF3 strength with 150
mph winds. The width of the damage path also began to widen,
increasing to 200 yards.
Tree and structural damage was widespread northeast of Route 135 as
the tornado crossed Trainer Lane and then State Road 335 to Robbs
Lane. The width of observable damage increased to one-quarter to
one-third of a mile. Countless trees were snapped and uprooted. The
degree of damage suggested a mix of EF2 and EF3 damage in this area,
with estimated winds of 120-150 mph.
The tornado crossed U.S. 60 just south of New Pekin. Immediately
east of the highway, tremendous structural damage was observed. A
well-constructed and large factory building (Airgo Industries) was
cleared to its foundation slab with numerous anchoring bolts bent in
the direction of the storm. Debris from this building was observed
one-half to three-quarters of a mile downwind. Large power poles
were snapped. Another metal out building on the right periphery of
the damage path had sheeting pulled off the back of the building
apparently from the force of the inbound winds into the tornado.
This was the area where 5 people were tragically killed in a mobile
home. In this location just east of U.S. 60, damage suggested an
EF4 tornado with 170 mph estimated winds, and a width of observed
damage from 0.3-0.4 mile.
Damage continued to the east along and south of Hurst Road in
extreme southeast Washington County. The tornado crossed into
extreme northwest Clark County along and near Daisy Hill Road. In
this area, a well-constructed one-story brick house at the top of a
small ridge was completely destroyed with no walls standing. People
onsite reported that cows were missing and could not be located.
They also stated that the tornado looked like a black wall as it
approached. A heavy trailer cab was blown from this house to another
demolished brick home about one-quarter mile away. Damage here
suggested EF4 damage with 170 mph winds.
As the tornado re-entered Washington County near the intersection of
Daisy Hill Road and Williams Knob Road, widespread damage occurred.
This included a home which was totally leveled as well as a couple
of anchored down double wide trailers. A car was destroyed and
tossed about 100 yards in the direction of storm motion from its
origin at the home. At one of the destroyed trailers, a Dodge Ram
pickup truck was tossed onto its side and destroyed in the opposite
direction from the car (i.e., on the left side of the tornado
track). Here, EF3-EF4 damage was estimated with winds of 150-170
mph. There were also snapped trees and structural damage along
Whiskey Run Road. The width of the observed damage straddling the
Washington-Clark County line was estimated to be one-third to
one-half mile wide, although the width of the most concentrated
damage was narrower. The last observed damage in Washington County
was near S. Flatwood Road in a wooded area before the tornado
entered Clark County.
Across Washington County, particularly east of U.S. 135, thousands
of trees were uprooted and snapped.
Clark & Scott Counties, IN Segment
Begin Time: 3:09 PM EST
End Time: 3:26 PM EST
EF Scale: EF-4
Wind Speed: 175 mph maximum
Begin Point: Washington County-Clark County line just east of
S. Flatwood Road
End Point: Near Clark-Scott-Jefferson County line just north of
State Highway 362
Path Length: 17.0 miles across Clark County
Path Width: 0.4 mile maximum (width of damage)
Fatalities: 2 (1 in Clark County, 1 in Scott County)
The National Weather Service in conjunction with Clark County
Emergency Management conducted an exhaustive tornado damage survey
on Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4. Below are the results.
The tornado continued east-northeast in far northwest Clark County
on Dan Gray Road where the twister leveled many well-built homes and
caused extensive tree damage. The tornado here was rated EF4 with
estimated wind speeds of 170 mph and a damage width of one-third
The tornado moved into far southeast Washington County before
reappearing in Clark County. In Clark, the damage width narrowed to
one-quarter mile as the tornado crossed Pixley Knob Road and
decreased in intensity to EF2 with wind speeds of 115-120 mph.
Farther east, the tornado intensified again as it destroyed two
double wide homes on Speith Road. One family residence on the west
side of the road was severely damage reflecting EF3 damage with 150
The tornado crossed Interstate 65 damaging several vehicles and
semis, and closing the interstate for several hours. Several people
were trapped in these vehicles, but were later rescued.
The tornado continued to strengthen just east of Exit 19 of
Interstate 65 in a heavily industrialized area. Here, buildings
containing several businesses were severely damaged. A home was
destroyed on the east side of North Fraucke Road. The violent
tornado also seriously damaged several homes on the north side of
State Highway 160. Here, there was evidence of multi-vortex
structure with EF4 damage and 175 mph estimated winds.
The tornado then struck the south buildings of the Henryville middle
and high school complex, with severe damage and 170 mph winds (EF4).
The middle school experienced the worst damage. The cafeteria was
completely destroyed. Two school buses were ripped off their
There was also extensive structural damage on the east side of
Henryville on North Front Street and Pennsylvania Street. A high
tension tower and other homes were damaged on Pine Drive. Incredible
tree damage also occurred just west of Pine Drive as the tornado
traveled up a ridge. In this region, the tornado was an EF3 with 150
On Brownstown Road, many homes were severely damaged especially on
the north side of the tornado track with estimated speeds of 150 mph
(EF3). Farther east, there was massive deforestation on the east
side of a ridge just west of and along Henryville Otisco Road.
Several more homes were severely damaged along this road. One of
these homes reflected EF4 damage and 170 mph winds.
The tornado rapidly narrowed to a rope-like structure and ended as
an EF1 with 90-95 mph winds and an 80 yard wide path. This occurred
near the intersection of Blackberry Trail and State Highway 3.
Simultaneously, a new cyclic tornado vortex rapidly formed from the
same supercell near Mahan Road and Old State Road 3 immediately
southwest of the first tornado. The second tornado began as an EF1
and damaged a church and a few trees. The vortex quickly intensified
to EF3 strength as it crossed the south portion of the town of
Marysville, severely damaging several homes.
East of Marysville, another cyclic vortex from the parent storm
formed just southwest of the intersection of Nabb New Washington
Road and Nabb Marysville Road. This vortex intensified and merged
with the primary circulation. The tornado severely damaged or
destroyed several houses and double wide mobile homes around the
intersection of Nabb New Washington and Nabb Marysville. Debris from
the double wides were tossed around a mile downwind. The tornado was
rated EF3 here with 150 mph winds, and a damage width of one-third
A Civil Air Patrol flight on Sunday, March 4 revealed extensive
ground scouring in farmers` fields east of Marysville all the way to
the Jefferson-Scott County line. This scouring was evidence of a
multi-vortex tornado, which was confirmed by multiple videos and
The tornado continued north of Barnes Road damaging several clusters
of trees in open country. The tornado intensified east of the
intersection of Kettle Bottom and State Highway 362.
In Scott County, immediately north of Highway 362 and east of
Concord Road, three homes were severely damaged while five double
wide mobile homes were completely destroyed. Here, the tornado was
an EF4 with 170 mph winds. Just south of 362 in Clark County, two
additional homes and power polls were damaged greatly. From there,
the tornado crossed into Jefferson County, Indiana.
A close-up of the track through Henryville. Note the evidence of multiple vortices developing to the south of the main tornado and wrapping into the larger circulation. The school campus is just northwest of the intersection of Ferguson St. and IN 160.
Jefferson County, IN Segment
Begin Time: 3:26 PM EST
End Time: 3:34 PM EST
EF Scale: EF-4
Wind Speed: 175 mph maximum
Begin Point: Immediately north of the 3 county intersection of
Clark, Scott, and Jefferson Counties
End Point: Ohio River near Lee Bottom
Path Length: 7.3 miles across Jefferson County
Path Width: One-third mile maximum (diameter of damage)
The tornado traveled from Clark County, Indiana across extreme
southeast Scott County and into far southern Jefferson County.
Damage was observed along and just north of State Highway 362 near
the 3-county line. This included several mobile homes totally
destroyed, several framed houses heavily damaged, tremendous tree
damage, and power poles snapped and shredded. The observed damage
width was one-third of a mile with estimated winds of 170 mph (EF4).
The tornado traveled east-northeast snapping trees and power poles
on County Road 850, and did its most significant damage at the
intersection of Jackson Road, State Highway 62, and Swan Road about
2 miles south of the town of Chelsea.
In this area, several well-build brick homes were destroyed. The
homes had anchor bolts attached to steel plates and a concrete
foundation. One house was lifted and slid 65 yards off its
foundation while mostly still intact. Another home was completely
demolished and thrown downwind several hundred yards, within which
there were 3 fatalities. The garage of this house was destroyed with
one vehicle thrown 30 yards and another tossed 75 yards. A piece of
farm equipment was thrown 200 yards as well. A third well-built
brick home had its roof completely lifted and thrown over 300 yards
downwind. Also, an above ground pool half filled with water was
missing. Wind speeds in the area were estimated at 170-175 mph (EF4)
with a damage width of one-quarter mile.
The tornado tracked to the north of Paynesville and south of Lee
Bottom extensively damaging forests in southern Jefferson County
before crossing the Ohio River into Trimble County, Kentucky. The
damage width narrowed in this area to only a couple hundred yards.
Trimble County, KY Segment
Begin Time: 3:35 PM EST
End Time: 3:39 PM EST
Begin Point: Ohio River, SW of Trout
End Point: 3 NW of Bedford along highway 2870
EF Scale: EF-1 in Trimble County
Wind Speed: 105-110 MPH
Path Length: 4.8 miles
Path Width: 200 yards max
The National Weather Service in conjunction with Trimble County
Emergency Management conducted an extensive tornado survey in
Trimble County. The tornado crossed the Ohio River from Jefferson
County Indiana and narrowed to about 200 yards wide; however, we are
hopeful to receive an aerial survey to refine this later this week.
The tornado damaged a home on Rogers Road as well as two barns. The
barns were overturned and several trees were knocked down and/or
twisted. This is consistent with high-end EF-1 damage of 105-110 mph
The tornado then went through a heavily wooded area near the
intersection of Hwy 625 and Hwy 1838 where one more barn was damaged
along with a garage roof with shingle damage. Three single-wide
mobile homes near the intersection of Joyce Mill and Highway 625
(Corn Creek Rd) were destroyed along with extensive tree damage
and downed power lines and poles. This is consistent with high-end
EF-1 damage of 100-105 mph with a path width of 75 yards.
No evidence of damage was observed until Rawlett Lane, where some
trees were snapped or downed. There could have been damage in
between; however, the survey team was unable to access this area.
The tornado once again struck two homes and a single-wide mobile
home on New Hope Ridge Road about two miles west of Hwy 421 on Hwy
2870. This is consistent with low-end EF-1 damage of 90 mph with a
path width of 50 yards.
Clark County, IN EF-1
Click Here for a Tornado Track Map
Begin Time: 3:30 PM EST
End Time: 3:36 PM EST
Begin Point: 6 WSW Henryville
End Point: 0.5 E Henryville
Wind Speed: Maximum 110 mph
Photographs taken during a Civil Air Patrol flight corroborate
interviews with residents along the damage path indicate that there
were intermittent touchdowns of a weaker tornado with the second
supercell to pass over the area Friday afternoon.
The second storm, which pummeled the recently devastated area with
hail up to the size of softballs, followed nearly the same path as
the first supercell. At least three locations along the path of this
storm support the occurrence of a tornado of EF-1 intensity, with
maximum winds approaching 110 mph, an intermittent path length of
6.5 miles, and a damage path width of 60 yards.
The first observed damage was near Round Knob in the Clark State
Forest. Damage was again observed along and west of Speith Road, 1/4
of a mile north of Henryville-Blue Lick Road just southwest of
Henryville. Finally, the tornado lifted after doing damage from the
south side of Henryville near Robyn Avenue to the east side of
Henryville at the intersection of Highway 60 and Haddox Road.
Click Here for a Tornado Track Map
Begin Time: 3:38 PM EST
End Time: 3:53 PM EST
Begin Point: 4.5 Miles South Southwest of Hawesville.
End Point: 9.5 miles East of Cloverport.
EF Scale: EF-2
Wind Speed: Maximum 120 MPH
Path Length: 17.4 miles (intermittent touchdowns)
Path Width: Maximum 200 yds
The path of the previously surveyed Breckinridge county tornado has
been extended westward. Additional aerial photos were matched
perfectly with radar signatures to determine that the initial start
point of the tornado occurred 4.5 miles south southwest of
Hawesville in Hancock county along route 2181. Vinyl siding was
ripped off of a home and small outbuildings were damaged. The
tornado continued east across route 69 toward Cloverport
intermittently touching down and doing damage to small outbuildings.
4 miles west of Cloverport, additional minor damage was done to a
group of homes along 2169. Minor damage to buildings occurred just
on the western outskirts of Cloverport, then the tornado lifted over
the town, touching down again less than a mile east of the
community, where numerous hardwood trees were observed to be
uprooted from aerial photos. All of the damage was consistent with
EF-0 wind speeds between 70 and 80 mph.
The National Weather Service would like to thank volunteer general
aviation pilots Mark Powers and Josh Kieffer for flying the damage
path in N16NA and Austin Lassell for aerial photography. The pilots
are associated with the Kentuckiana Volunteer Aviators.
Tornado track continues at residence on New Bethel Cloverport Rd.
where 2 structures were destroyed. This damage is consistent with an
EF-2 tornado and 110 to 115 mph winds.
Tornado continues east to near B Flood road with additional
structural damage consistent with EF-1 damage and 90 mph wind.
Tree damage continues along path with additional EF-2 damage
occurring at 2 chicken farms where a 200 yd long chicken barn was
destroyed and hundreds of chickens were killed and/or lost
consistent with EF-2 damage and 120 mph wind. An additional smaller
chicken coop also sustained damage at the end of Silas Miller Road
consistent with EF-1 damage.
The end of the path was surveyed east at Hwy 259 where another metal
structure was damaged and several trees where downed. This damage
was consistent with EF-1 damage and 90 mph winds.
Trimble County Tornadoes (besides the long-track EF4 listed earlier)
Click Here for a Tornado Track Map
Trimble County Tornado #2
Begin Time: 3:38 PM EST
End Time: 3:39 PM EST
Begin Point: Near Ohio River, SW of Trout on Rogers Road
End Point: 5 miles NW of Bedford
EF Scale: EF-2
Wind Speed: 115
Path Length: 1.7 miles
Path Width: 100 yards max
A second tornado formed south of the main supercell tornado that had
moved out of Jefferson County, Indiana. This small tornado totally
destroyed a barn on Rogers Road and extensively damaged another.
This tornado damaged a lot of rugged forested area before
intersecting with the path of the first tornado just a few minutes
earlier near Corn Creek and Joyce Mill roads. During the last
quarter mile of the track, it hit both the valley and ridgetop
before lifting. The tornado was rated low-end EF-2 during the very
beginning of the track and ending as a low end EF-1 of 90 mph. The
width was between 75-100 yards.
Trimble County Tornado #3
Begin Time: 3:41 PM EST
End Time: 3:48 PM EST
Begin Point: 5 S of Milton
End Point: Just east of Monitor on Trimble Carroll County line
EF Scale: EF-3
Wind Speed: 140 mph
Path Length: 3.4 miles
Path Width: 75 yards wide max
The tornado touched down about 5 miles SSE of Milton,
just west of the Milton volunteer fire station number 2 on Highway
421. This is just NE of the intersection of Hwy 2870 and 421. The
tornado touched down at approximately 3:38 PM EST, and the initial
damage included snapped and twisted trees just west of Hwy 421.
The tornado rapidly increased in intensity as it moved to the east,
directly striking the Milton volunteer fire station number 2. The
fire station was heavily damaged, with the collapse of rigid frames.
A 4000 pound trailer (concession trailer) was moved 30 yards, while
a Ford pickup truck was moved 60 yards. The tornado was 60 yards
wide with wind speeds of 140 mph, indicative of EF-3 strength. The
tornado tracked to the east with extensive damage of trees along Hwy
1226. The tornado weakened to an EF-1 at 871 Palmyra Rd. and at 2130
Palmyra Rd. and narrowed to about 50 yards. Witnesses describe this
as a very narrow, skipping tornado. Pictures confirm this.
Witnesses saw one vortex coming down from the apparent wall cloud
and quickly lifting before a new vortex came down nearby. On Culls
Ridge Road, the tornado strengthened to an EF-3 once again with 140
mph winds. It damaged two homes with many exterior walls partially
collapsing. The most significant damage here was an electrical
transmission line which collapsed a metal truss tower and snapped
several power poles in a path width of 70 yards. The tornado
weakened from there to an EF-1 tornado, damaging trees as it crossed
into Carroll County with wind speeds in far eastern Trimble County
of 85-90 mph.
Southern Trimble County EF-1
Date: Mar 02 2012
Begin Time: 4:01 PM EST
End Time: 4:04 PM EST
EF Scale: EF-1
Wind Speed: 95-100 Mph
Begin Point: 4.5 SSE Bedford
End Point: 5.5 ESE Bedford
Path Length: 2.7 Miles
Path Width: 100 Yards
The National Weather Service in conjunction with Trimble County
Emergency Management confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down on
Willard Wilson Road in southern Trimble county at 401 PM EST. At
this location, the tornado destroyed 30 by 60 foot old barn and a
single wide home. Along with the destroyed homes, one large Oak tree
was downed along with several other smaller trees. Further down on
Willard Wilson road, another 30 by 50 foot barn was collapsed and a
400 pound 4-wheeler was moved 30 feet. Shingle damage occurred to a
home in this location. The tornado moved east-northeast to Hi-Grove
Hill Road where the strongest (100 mph) winds occurred. There was a
very concentrated area of trees snapped, along with a gutter ripped
off a house and power line down. Finally, the tornado traveled to
Carmon Creek Road where several hardwoods were snapped along with
power lines down. This area is just northwest of the US 421 and I-71
junction near the Trimble/Henry county line.
An aerial survey is also being conducted over the path to determine
if the tornado tracked further east into Henry county.
Meade County EF-0
Click Here for a Tornado Track Map
Begin Time: 4:02 PM EST
End Time: 4:03 PM EST
Begin Point: 1 SW Guston
End Point: 1 S Guston
EF Scale: EF-0
Wind Speed: Estimated 75 MPH
Path Length: 3/4 mile
Path Width: 30 yards
The National Weather Service in conjunction with Meade county
Emergency Management has determined that an EF-0 tornado with
maximum wind speeds of 75 mph briefly touched down just east of the
Breckinridge/Meade county line in Meade county. The tornado was
photographed from Ekron, looking southwestward. Aerial photos of
damage were also taken by volunteer general aviation pilots Mark
Powers and Josh Kieffer and aerial photographer Austin Lassell in
aircraft N16NA. The pilots were associated with the Kentuckiana
Volunteer Aviators. Both the aerial photos and picture of the
tornado relayed by the emergency manager were matched up with a
radar signature indicating rotation. The tornado touched down near
the Hill Grove and Guston area on the south side of U.S. 60, blowing
a porch off the side of a house. A sign was also blown down at a
business along U.S. 60.
Simpson/Warren Counties EF-1 & Straight Line Wind Damage
Click Here for a Straight Line Wind/Tornado Track Map
Straight Line Wind Damage
Begin Time: 4:48 PM EST
End Time: 5:05 PM EST
Begin Point: 4 NNW Franklin
End Point: 2 SE Alvaton
Wind Speed: 80-90 mph
Begin Time: 5:05 PM EST
End Time: 5:07 PM EST
Begin Point: 2 SE Alvaton
End Point: 2 E Alvaton
EF Scale: EF-1
Wind Speed: 95 mph
Path Length: 2 miles
Path Width: 60 yards
Straight line wind damage along and north of the super cell moving
through Simpson County uprooting shallow-rooted hardwood and
softwood trees and destroying a tool shed on Evans Rd. As it moved
into Warren county it damaged barn roofs and produced golf ball size
hail which penetrated siding on numerous vinyl sided houses. As it
reached 961 east of Alvaton in Warren county, it spawned an EF1
tornado with winds estimated at 95 mph destroying a barn and tool
South Central Kentucky Hail Damage
A NWS storm survey team went out to Barren, Metcalfe, Green,
Adair, and Russell counties on Saturday. No tornado damage was
found, but that area did suffer extensive large hail damage. Several
pine trees were down within the hail path, but no sustained tornado
damage was found. Several people reported seeing a funnel cloud,
including Russell county emergency management personnel, who chased
the funnel cloud out to Highway 80 toward Pulaski county. The most
significant hail damage was found near and in Columbia in Adair
county. Along one stretch of roadway from the Metcalfe/Adair county
line to the city of Columbia, not one vehicle was found that did not
have its windshield damaged. In the city of Columbia, one house had
hail break through the roof, whereas a Wal-Mart store had 160
The NWS contributed this report.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – R. Allen Stanford, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas, was convicted Tuesday, in Houston, on all but one of the 14 counts he faced for allegedly bilking investors out of more than $7 billion in massive Ponzi schemes he operated for 20 years. Jurors reached their verdicts against Stanford during their fourth day of deliberations, finding him guilty on all charges except a single count of wire fraud.
Stanford, who was once considered one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., looked down when the verdict was read. His mother and daughters, who were in the federal courtroom in Houston, hugged one another, and one of the daughters started crying. Prosecutors called Stanford a con artist who lined his pockets with investors’ money to fund a string of failed businesses, pay for a lavish lifestyle that included yachts and private jets, and bribe regulators to help him hide his scheme. Stanford’s attorneys told jurors the financier was a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals.
Stanford, 61, who’s been jailed since his indictment in 2009, will remain incarcerated until he is sentenced. He faces up to 20 years for the most serious charges against him, but the once high-flying businessman could spend longer than that behind bars if U.S. District Judge David Hittner orders the sentences to be served consecutively instead of concurrently. With Stanford’s conviction, a shorter, civil trial will be held with the same jury on prosecutors’ efforts to seize funds from more than 30 bank accounts held by the financier or his companies around the world, including in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada. The civil trial could take as little as a day.
Stanford was once considered one of the wealthiest people in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. But he had court-appointed attorneys after his assets were seized. During the more than six-week trial, prosecutors methodically presented evidence, including testimony from ex-employees as well as emails and financial statements, they said showed Stanford orchestrated a 20-year scheme that bilked billions from investors through the sale of certificates of deposit, or CDs, from his bank on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua.
They said Stanford, whose financial empire was headquartered in Houston, lied to depositors from more than 100 countries by telling them their funds were being safely invested in stocks, bonds and other securities instead of being funneled into his businesses and personal accounts. The prosecution’s star witness – James M. Davis, the former chief financial officer for Stanford’s various companies – told jurors he and Stanford worked together to falsify bank records, annual reports and other documents in order to conceal the fraud.
Stanford had wanted to testify and jurors were told he would do so, but his attorneys apparently convinced him not to take the witness stand. Stanford’s attorneys told jurors the financier was trying to consolidate his businesses to pay back investors when authorities seized his companies. Stanford’s attorneys highlighted his work to build up Antigua’s economy as well as his philanthropic efforts on the island. Stanford, the largest private employer on the island nation, was widely known as “Sir Allen” after being knighted by Antigua’s government.
The financier’s attorneys accused Davis of being behind the fraud and of lying so he could get a reduced sentence. Davis pleaded guilty to three fraud and conspiracy charges in 2009 as part of a deal he made with prosecutors. Three other indicted former executives of Stanford’s companies are to be tried in September. A former Antiguan financial regulator accused of accepting bribes from Stanford was also indicted and he awaits extradition to the U.S. The financier’s trial was delayed after he was declared incompetent in January 2011 due to an anti-anxiety drug addiction he developed in jail and he underwent treatment. He was also evaluated for any long-term effects from being injured in a September 2009 jail fight. Stanford was declared fit for trial in December. Stanford and the former executives are also fighting a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed in Dallas that makes similar allegations.
Super Tuesday doesn’t feel much like anything super as far as I am concerned. It feels more like a milestone along a dreaded path to the G.O.P. Presidential nomination. I am not alone. Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush and a CNN contributor opines that: Marco Rubio. Chris Christie. Mitch Daniels. Paul Ryan. Say those names and Republican hearts beat faster. Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich. Say those names and Republicans faithfully and accurately say we can beat President Obama, but something feels missing, even as late in the primary season as Super Tuesday.
We are not alone. Barbara Bush told about 300 people attending the conference hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Centerthat the current campaign is the worst she’s seen. “I hate the fact that people think compromise is a dirty word. It is not a dirty word,” she said. Right on, Mrs. Bush, I couldn’t agree more! Many of us, a lot of us, are fatigued from a campaign that actually started before Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009. It has been relentless and non-stop noise from the extreme right that has marginalized the President as a “communist,” “socialist,” “Kenyan,” “drug-dealer,” and worse. I am sick of it. I am sick and tired of the Republican party.
Fleischer suggests, and I agree, that the fact of Republican life today is that the party was fundamentally transformed by the tea party movement in 2010. The party’s base is driven by a reform it now, anti-spending movement, while its presidential candidates served their terms in office prior to the tea party era and their records don’t match up perfectly with the direction of the party. The reason former Sen. Santorum supported earmarks in Congress is because when he served, virtually everyone supported earmarks.
The reason Gov. Romney passed Romneycare as governor of Massachusetts in 2006 was because many Republicans viewed health care reform, mandates and all, as a way to inoculate against Democratic charges that Republicans didn’t care about people who lacked health insurance. It wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that the tea party burst on the scene in response to President Obama’s expensive and unworkable health care “reform” legislation. Today, grass-roots Republicans want to drink a bottle of 2010 small-government wine, but our candidates were bottled in another era, before the tea party’s ideas took root. Throughout American history, every era presents its own set of problems and answers, which over time yield to a new set of problems and answers.
The 2000s were marked by terrorism and a bipartisan desire to fight it. Deficits then were not the issue they are now. No one in either party objected to war in Afghanistan because it might cost too much or last too long. We were attacked and our nation demanded a military response. No one objected to spending tens of billions of dollars to rebuild New York City or the Pentagon. The war in Iraq began with significant bipartisan support. The 2001 tax cuts were passed with bipartisan support, especially in the Senate. Almost all elected officials wanted seniors to receive prescription drug coverage and the only difference between the parties was over how much it would cost. (Former President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D plan was far less expensive than the one proposed by then-candidate Barack Obama. Neither Bush nor Obama suggested how to pay for it.)
The 1990s were marked by a dot.com boom that resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue pouring into the treasury. In an era of divided government, the nation enjoyed surpluses and tax cuts. The boom went bust in March 2000. The 1980s were time for a military build-up and a fight against communism. The 1970s were highlighted by Vietnam and inflation, while the 1960s were known for the civil rights movement, the Great Society and dramatic social change. In each of these eras, as some of the issues were addressed, the solutions created new problems for the next generation to deal with.
Flash forward to the present. The tea party movement and its passion arose in response to trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see and out of a sense that Washington is in need of dire fiscal reform. In 2010, the public turned against President Obama and the Democrats who ran Congress after a massive stimulus that didn’t work, and hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on cash for clunkers, homebuyer tax credits and multiple bailouts (by both Presidents Bush and Obama). A massively expensive new health care entitlement was the straw that broke the taxpayers’ back. Our debt is a record-high $15 trillion. This is the political and economic environment today.
Rubio, Christie, Daniels and Ryan represent the new vintage of Republicans whose focus is on fundamental reform of how government spends money, but those bottles remain on the shelf. Republicans this cycle are thirsty for a taste of something new and different. That’s why Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and even the new Newt each had a chance to win, but their candidacies fell short. Reflecting the new direction of the party, the candidates who remain have put new labels on themselves, even if their contents aren’t pure as many in the party want them to be. In November, however, voters will face a different choice.
The time is near for Republicans to stop focusing on our differences, and instead focus on winning. On this Fleischer and I disagree. The time is past for Republicans to stop tearing each other apart. That needed to happen before the Florida primary. Voters in ten states participate in primaries and caucuses today for contests that will award more delegates in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination than all the previous contests combined. And while no candidate is expected to deliver a knockout blow, the outcome will dramatically reshape the contours of the race. That’s nice but it’s probably too late. Republicans will head to the convention in Tampa trying to appear united after a bruising and bitter nominating process that will little more than social issues and name calling. The extremists on the far right will never settle on Romney. Moderates and those of us in the center loathe Santorum and Ron Paul’s supporters will stay at home unless he is the nominee.
The reality is that with the economy on the rebound and the President’s approval ratings inching up, the race is still President Obama’s to lose and he shows no signs of allowing that to happen.