Archive for April 20, 2012
Three more secret service agents have resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal that emerged last week, the agency said in a news release Friday. In addition, CBS News is reporting that one other employee of the Secret Service has been implicated and is now under investigation, bringing the total of agents to 12. That agent has been placed on administrative leave. One of the agents previously under investigation has been cleared of serious wrongdoing but will face administrative action.
The service of the agents range from three to 12 years with the Secret Service. Friday’s developments would make six Secret Service employees forced out of the agency. Two supervisors and another employee were forced out earlier this week. The agency released a statement that read: “At this point, five employees continue to be on administrative leave and their security clearances remain suspended pending the outcome of this investigation.”
A source close to the investigation said Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan — who briefed President Obama on the investigation Friday, according to White House officials — has ordered a “comprehensive” investigation of everything that happened during the trip. That includes interviews with every Secret Service member on site, hotel staff and alleged prostitutes, the source said. In addition, the source confirmed that Secret Service agents were staying at a second hotel on the trip — identified as a Hilton in Cartagena — which presumably will be included in the expanded probe.
The controversy has embarrassed the nearly 150-year-old agency that protects the president and other top officials and investigates criminal activity. It also raised questions about a possible security breach immediately preceding Obama’s visit, though House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King has said that “from everything we know, nothing was compromised.” Two of the Secret Service employees whose departures were previously announced — identified as David Chaney and Greg Stokes, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend — were supervisors.
In a photo posted on his public Facebook page in January 2009, Chaney is seen standing behind Sarah Palin, wearing dark glasses and what appears be a wedding ring. Under the photo, Chaney posted a comment that said, “I was really checking her out, if you know what I mean?” That remark drew a strong response Thursday night from Palin, who was a vice presidential candidate when the photo was taken. “This agent who was kind of ridiculous there in posting pictures and comments about checking someone out,” Palin said on Fox News. “Check this out, bodyguard. You’re fired! And I hope his wife sends him to the doghouse.” Chaney, a son of a Secret Service agent, has been employed with the agency since 1987, according to his posting on Reunion.com. The posting notes that he is married, has an adopted son and his assignments included a stint protecting former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Stokes supervised the canine training unit at the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center outside Washington, according to PetLife Radio and a career development posting on the University of Maryland’s website. Attorney Lawrence Berger — general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents Secret Service agents and others — said he is not representing all of the agents involved in the Colombia story, but he does have several other clients in the group in addition to Chaney and Stokes.
He would not comment on specifics of the investigation, but complained about leaks that publicly identified Chaney and Stokes and gave details of what allegedly happened in Colombia. “The concern I have is about illegal leaks coming from apparently rogue elements within the Secret Service of privacy-protected information,” Berger said. “It is distorting the review of what happened.” All the employees are accused of bringing prostitutes to Cartagena’s Hotel El Caribe ahead of last week’s visit by Obama. They’d arrived earlier that morning as a part of the “jump team” that flies in on military transport planes with vehicles in the president’s motorcade, said Townsend.
According to sources, the alleged prostitutes — the youngest of whom were in their early 20s — signed in at the hotel, where Secret Service members apparently stayed, flashing their local ID cards. One of these women allegedly was later involved in a dispute about how much she was to be paid for the night, which brought the entire incident to light and sparked controversy in the United States and Colombia. Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told CNN on Thursday that the incident was due entirely to “a lack of ethics (on the part of) the Secret Service of the United States.”
Members of the U.S. Congress offered similarly biting remarks. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the allegations “disgusting,” while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described the agents’ alleged actions as “either really stupid or a total lack of common sense.” The U.S. military is investigating six members of its elite Army Special Forces, or Green Berets, officials said. The Green Berets’ failure to make curfew the night of the incident involving the Secret Service agents led the military to start its investigation, a U.S. official told CNN. All the military personnel are being investigated for heavy drinking and use of prostitutes while in Colombia as part of the support team for Obama’s visit, the official said. They are not likely to redeploy until the matter is resolved, other military officials said.
The military investigation could end with no action, administrative action such as a letter of reprimand or a recommendation to proceed with criminal charges, officials said. While soliciting prostitution is in most cases legal for adults in Colombia, military law bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct “prejudicial to good order and discipline.” It is also considered a breach of the Secret Service’s conduct code, government sources said.
Cincinnati, Ohio this evening.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) URGENT – A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the Houston area as a fast-moving cold front races through the region Friday. The front is likely to arrive sometime Friday evening, bringing a chance of wide-spread showers and thunderstorms as the fast-moving system pushes through to the coast, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters said most areas may see between about a quarter of an inch and a half of an inch of rainfall. The severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for much of southeast Texas, including Harris and surrounding counties, through 8 p.m. Friday. Some of the storms could pack high winds and hail, forecasters added.
KTRK-TV is reporting that power is already out to more than 50,000 people and winds have been reported at 50 mph. Former Houston Mayor Bill White says on Facebook: Whoa, just working away on the 32nd floor of a downtown office building in Houston. With rains driven by high winds, the building is swaying back and forth. We might not have earthquakes, but …. Help friends without power tonight. Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Brazoria, Fort Bend, Harris, Liberty and Montgomery County until 4:15pm.
BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
346 PM CDT FRI APR 20 2012
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN LEAGUE CITY HAS ISSUED A
* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
BRAZORIA COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS...
FORT BEND COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS...
EXTREME NORTHEASTERN MATAGORDA COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS...
EXTREME EAST CENTRAL WHARTON COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS...
* UNTIL 415 PM CDT
* AT 343 PM CDT...DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM
CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS
STORM WAS LOCATED 11 MILES SOUTH OF MISSOURI CITY...OR 11 MILES
SOUTH OF FIRST COLONY...AND MOVING EAST AT 55 MPH.
* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
ANGLETON...WEST COLUMBIA...DANBURY...HOLIDAY LAKES...IOWA COLONY...
BONNEY AND THOMPSONS.
IF YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS STORM...PREPARE IMMEDIATELY FOR
LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS. PEOPLE OUTSIDE SHOULD MOVE TO A
SHELTER...PREFERABLY INSIDE A STRONG BUILDING AND AWAY FROM
NEW YORK, New York — (DMN) – Police and FBI agents equipped with jackhammers entered the basement of a building in New York City on Friday morning, starting the second day of the most extensive search to date for the remains of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy whose disappearance more than 30 years ago focused national attention on the problem of missing children. Before the work began, Con Edison crews turned off utilities in the area where the search was being conducted. A law enforcement official at the scene said the goal was to remove an entire floor in the basement.
Officials said they would dig for five days, a much more extensive effort than was made 12 years ago, when detectives searched the basement of an apartment where the primary suspect, Jose A. Ramos, a former mental patient who was serving time for molesting a boy in Pennsylvania, lived when Etan disappeared. The new search focused on a basement area that had been used as a workshop by a carpenter and handyman from Etan’s building. Investigators are working on the theory that the handyman, Othniel Miller, killed the boy and buried him there, one law enforcement official said.
Authorities are cautiously optimistic the search will succeed. Sources tell CBS News cadaver dogs had indicated the presence of human remains during a search there several days ago. The day before Etan vanished, he came home with a dollar from Othniel Miller, now 76, a neighborhood handyman who used to pay Etan when he helped with small chores. Miller had a workshop in the basement now being searched. Just after Etan disappeared, a new concrete floor was put down.
In recent days, according to the law enforcement official, Mr. Miller was interviewed by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and when the possibility was raised that the boy had been buried in the basement, he blurted out, “What if the body was moved?” the official said. Investigators from the Police Department and the F.B.I. spent much of Thursday dismantling shelving in the basement, in a seven-story building less than a block from where Etan lived with his parents, Stanley and Julie Patz (rhymes with plates). The walls were to be checked for traces of blood, and the concrete floor was to be excavated. “I think that there is guarded optimism that they’re going to find something,” an official said.
Etan’s disappearance on May 25, 1979, drew national attention to child safety, ushered in a generation of parents who became afraid to send their kids out alone and helped fuel a movement to publicize missing children’s cases. President Ronald Reagan declared the day of the boy’s disappearance National Missing Children’s Day. “The story really resonated and touched millions of moms and dads,” said Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, which helped push the national milk carton campaign with Etan’s image. And Etan’s image on milk cartons, the missing boy shown with thick blond locks and goofy grin, caught the public’s imagination like no other. “Etan’s photo became almost iconic,” Allen said.
While Etan’s face was among the first to appear on thousands of cartons across the country, the practice began with local dairies in the Midwest. “What it did was raise the level of awareness,” said Noreen Gosch, whose missing son, Johnny, was among the first to have his face appear on a milk carton. “It didn’t necessarily bring us tips or leads we could actually use.” Her son, who disappeared on his newspaper route in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1982, has never been found. His image appeared on milk cartons probably in 1983, Gosch said. The milk carton campaigns faded away beginning in the late 1980s after pediatricians, including Dr. Benjamin Spock, criticized the images for inducing unwarranted fear in children as they ate breakfast.
Etan’s parents, Stanley and Julie Patz, became outspoken advocates for missing children. For years, they refused to change their phone number, in the hope that Etan was alive somewhere, and might call. They never moved, although they obtained a court order in 2001 declaring the boy dead. Stanley Patz didn’t respond to phone calls and email messages Thursday. A man who answered the buzzer at the family’s apartment said they wouldn’t be speaking to the media.
No one has ever been prosecuted for Etan’s disappearance, but Stanley Patz sued an incarcerated drifter and admitted child-molester, Jose Ramos, who had been dating Etan’s baby sitter around the time he disappeared. Ramos, who is not the carpenter whose workspace was being searched, denied killing the child, but in 2004 a Manhattan civil judge ruled him to be responsible for the death, largely due to his refusal to contest the case. Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison in Pennsylvania in November, when he finishes serving most of a 20-year-sentence for abusing an 8-year-old boy. His pending freedom is one of the factors that has given new urgency to the case.
The search signaled a revival of a case that changed the rhythms and routines of a generation, and that Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in 2010 he would reopen. In the wake of headlines and a widespread search, many parents stopped letting children go to the school bus stop by themselves. Etan, a first grader who was wearing sneakers and an Eastern Airlines pilot’s cap, had pleaded with his parents that he was old enough to make the trip alone. He disappeared on the first day he was allowed to do so. The basement being searched — at 127B Prince Street, at the corner of Wooster Street — had also been used by the SoHo Playgroup, a parent-led space for preschool children. A woman who had participated in the group as a child said she believed Etan was a member of the playgroup.
The basement is along the route Etan was to have followed that morning in May 1979. Somewhere between his parents’ loft at 113 Prince Street and the bus stop, on West Broadway, he disappeared. Since then, the timeline of the case has been filled with despair. In the days after he vanished, parents tacked up posters in SoHo, and later his photograph was printed on milk cartons in hopes of jarring memories and generating leads. On Thursday, officials cordoned off the corner, stretching a blue tarpaulin between the basement entrance and the back of one of the police vans. Onlookers took pictures as investigators milled beneath signs for boutiques like Lucky Brand, WiNK and Fred Perry, which now occupy the corner.
The stores and tourists threw into dramatic relief just how different SoHo is today than at the time of the boy’s disappearance, when it was gritty and largely empty, with many of the former light-manufacturing buildings now occupied by artists. It was almost as though those taking pictures were witnessing a dig into a distant epoch, one that felt far further in the past than 33 years. In fact, the corner at the time had been home to the cooperative restaurant Food, one of the only places to eat in a neighborhood now jammed with expensive dining options. The current search is largely being conducted by an F.B.I. evidence recovery team as part of a joint investigation by agents from the bureau and the Police Department’s missing persons and cold case squads. Archaeologists from the medical examiner’s office were also on hand.
Three law enforcement officials said that investigators had brought a cadaver-sniffing dog to the basement within the last few weeks and that the dog had indicated the possibility of remains. F.B.I. agents were seen escorting Mr. Miller to his apartment in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon; a law enforcement official said investigators had tried to elicit information from him. A grandson of Mr. Miller’s, Tony Miller, on Friday dismissed any suggestion that his grandfather might be a suspect in Etan’s death. “I don’t think he could have done anything like this,” Mr. Miller, 33, said in an interview outside his grandfather’s house. “That’s not in his character. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s always been a good, hard-working man. He helped to straighten me out and guide me when I was a kid.”
Mr. Miller, a trucker who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said that the first time he heard about the Patz case was from watching television news on Thursday. “He never told me about it,” Mr. Miller said of his grandfather. Asked how his grandfather was responding to the renewed police attention and to the extensive news media presence outside his home, Mr. Miller said: “He’s taking this real hard. He had a stroke, he’s diabetic, he’s not in good condition. This is really hard for him.” Efforts to reach Mr. Miller were unsuccessful. More than a decade ago, Mr. Miller invited the police to come in and examine the basement, suggesting that they could tear up the floor if they wanted, but that they would have to pay to replace it, a person involved in the inquiry at the time said. Because Mr. Miller was not a suspect, they did not take him up on his offer, the person said. Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the police, said investigators would tear apart the 13-by-62-foot space, removing drywall and searching the cinder-block walls underneath. He also said they would break through the concrete floor.
When Etan vanished, the police assigned 30 officers and 5 detectives to the case and began what a deputy inspector called a “floor-by-floor, wall-by-wall, rooftop-by-rooftop, backyard-by-backyard search.” They also called in helicopters and bloodhounds. Within a week, the police contingent had grown to 300 officers and detectives. They were handling 500 calls a day from people who said they had seen Etan or had ideas about how to crack the case. But nothing panned out, and two months after he disappeared, the missing persons squad said it had been the longest search for a missing child in New York in decades.
In 2000, the police searched the basement of the building at 234 East Fourth Street on the Lower East Side where Mr. Ramos was living when Etan disappeared. Investigators carted out an old coal-fired furnace along with barrels of ash and dirt from the basement floor. Mr. Ramos was said to have admitted that he was with Etan the day he vanished, but denied abducting and killing him.
CBS News, The New York Times and the New York Post contributed to this report.
Social media has changed the way we gather news. I can assure you, first hand, that one of the first places I look for information about those making headlines is their Facebook page. I am not alone. The social media giant is quoted and acknowledged more often than any other platform. Why? People are apt to do, say and post just about anything on Facebook. As the Secret Service scandal widens…enter Facebook. Three agents already have left the service, including a man who joked on Facebook that he checked out former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin while on assignment during the 2008 campaign.
The controversy has embarrassed the nearly 150-year-old agency that protects the president and investigates criminal activity, and raised questions of a possible security breach immediately proceeding President Barack Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, for last week’s Summit of the Americas. Another concern is that the alleged heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes could be part of the culture of agents prided for their dedication and discipline. Two Secret Service supervisors no longer with the agency in the wake of the incident were identified as David Chaney and Greg Stokes, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend on Thursday.
In a photo posted on his public Facebook page in January 2009, Chaney is seen standing behind Palin, wearing dark glasses and what appears be a wedding ring. Under the photo, Chaney posted a comment that said, “I was really checking her out, if you know what I mean?” That drew a strong response from Palin on Thursday night. “This agent who was kind of ridiculous there in posting pictures and comments about checking someone out,” Palin said on Fox News. “Check this out, bodyguard. You’re fired! And I hope his wife sends him to the doghouse.” Chaney and Stokes are among the 11 Secret Service employees that the agency has linked to the scandal so far. Eight are on administrative leave, and another also has left the agency.
Further resignations, presumably by some of the eight agency workers on leave, could occur Friday, said Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Chaney, a son of a Secret Service agent, has been employed with the agency since 1987, according to his posting on Reunion.com. The posting notes that he is married, has an adopted son and his assignments included a stint protecting former Vice President Dick Cheney. Stokes supervised the canine training unit at the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center outside Washington, according to PetLife Radio and a career development posting on the University of Maryland’s website.
Attorney Lawrence Berger told CNN that he is representing Chaney and Stokes but declined further comment. Berger is general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a union that includes the Secret Service, among other agencies. Authorities outside Chaney’s home in Ashburn, Virginia, said he was unwilling to speak to reporters Thursday night. According to the Secret Service, one of the agents involved in the Colombia incident is a supervisor being allowed to retire, and another supervisor is being forced out, while a third agent resigned. The supervisor being forced out plans to fight his ouster, a U.S. official said on condition of not being identified. However, it was not immediately clear if that is Chaney or Stokes.
The eight other agency members allegedly involved in the scandal are on administrative leave and have had their security clearances suspended, according to the Secret Service. In addition, 10 U.S. military personnel are also being investigated in a separate probe for their possible participation. All the employees are accused of bringing prostitutes to Cartagena’s Hotel El Caribe ahead of last week’s visit by Obama, who was there to attend the Pan-American summit. According to sources, the alleged prostitutes — the youngest of whom were in their early 20s — had all signed in at the hotel, where the Secret Service members apparently stayed, flashing their local ID cards.
One of these women allegedly was later involved in a dispute about how much she was to be paid for the night, which brought the entire incident to light and sparked controversy in the United States and Colombia. According Townsend, the Secret Service agents were part of the “jump team” that flies in on military transport planes with the presidential limousine and other vehicles to be used in the president’s motorcade. They arrived the morning of the incident, raising questions about whether the activity was planned.
Despite concerns that contact with Colombian nationals could have led to security breaches regarding Obama’s activities in the South American nation, King said that “from everything we know, nothing was compromised.” Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told CNN on Thursday that the incident was due entirely to “a lack of ethics (on the part of) the Secret Service of the United States.” Members of the U.S. Congress offered similarly biting remarks. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called the allegations “disgusting,” while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described the agents’ alleged actions as “either really stupid or a total lack of common sense.”
The military investigation involves five members of America’s elite Army Special Forces, or Green Berets, plus two people from the Navy, two from the Marines and one from the Air Force, officials said. The Green Berets’ failure to make curfew the night of the incident involving the Secret Service agents led the military to start its investigation, a U.S. official told CNN. All the military personnel are being investigated for heavy drinking and use of prostitutes while in Colombia as part of the support team for Obama’s visit, the official said. They are not likely to redeploy until the matter is resolved, other military officials said, though no formal order bars their deployment.
The military investigation could end with no action, administrative action such as a letter of reprimand or a recommendation to proceed with criminal charges, officials said. While soliciting prostitution is in most cases legal for adults in Colombia, it is considered a breach of the Secret Service’s conduct code, government sources said. Military law also bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct “prejudicial to good order and discipline.” Law enforcement officials say that criminals frequently boast about their exploits on Facebook making prosecution much easier. People are quick to post things that used to be talked about in hushed circles, one social media user said. Now, people will do and say almost anything being the keyboard where they feel a degree of anonymity. Facebook is not anonymous…at all.
It’s important to remember that not everything in North Korea is at it seems. The North heralded the launch of a satellite into earth’s orbit when the reality was that it could barely get a rocket off of the ground. We also know that while the North trumpets it’s “progressive” society, the reality is that North Koreans are starving under a regime that put’s it’s military before everything else. The recent rocket launch and birthday celebration for the founder of the Marxist State gave journalists a closer look inside North Korea.
After weeks of military analysts examining the latest North Korean rocket before and after its failed launch, the focus now has turned to a truck. It’s not just any truck. It’s known as a “transporter, erector, launcher,” TEL for short, and is designed to move a long-range missile into place, stand it upright and launch it from just about anywhere in North Korea. The truck was spotted in a military parade in Pyongyang last weekend with what experts say is a new long-range rocket on board.
The United Nations is investigating if the TEL came from China in violation of U.N. resolutions, a U.S. official tells CNN. The U.N. Security Council committee that monitors implementation of the sanctions on North Korea is investigating, the official said. The investigation was first reported by Jane’s Defense Weekly. Asked about the TEL during a hearing Thursday of the House Armed Services committee, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that.”
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees. “There is no question that there is a long history in the past of Chinese and North Korea cooperation on missile technology.” But he cautioned that “until you can absolutely confirm that the system was made in China and is a violation of the missile technology regime, that does not mean that because something came out of China it’s a violation of any of China’s agreements.” Charles Vick, a missile analyst for GlobalSecurity.org, points out the truck may not have been made in China. “It may be an offshoot derivation that the Koreans built themselves, but basically it’s the same design,” he said. Or China may have sold the truck to North Korea in the years before the sanctions were in place. “That is not clear, how it arrived there, but it’s a commercially available tractor truck,” Vick said.
As for the rocket/missile the truck was carrying. Few experts are willing to say what was seen in the parade was real, “I think you create parade missiles for public display that don’t have all the external equipment that’s on them versus the real flight vehicles.” Vick is convinced that the rocket, if there’s a real version, would be an adaptation of old Soviet technology, not a new version of it’s Taepodong-2. “This is a new design, a much more compact design.” Cordesman said there is much we don’t know about the rocket. “There are times when none of us really know since we can’t look inside the skin,” he said. “None of us have the faintest idea. First we don’t know if it’s real, (and) if it is real you need to talk about reliability or the guidance system.”
On that point even Panetta, who used to be CIA director, agrees: “I have to tell you we need, frankly, to get better intelligence as to exactly what those capabilities are, exactly, you know, what’s real and what’s not real here, in order to determine exactly what that threat represents.” But North Korea’s recent failed launch demonstrated that it has made little progress in developing long-range missiles, according to the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly told a congressional committee earlier this week, “Our experience has been you need a lot of testing and flight testing in order to validate and have reliance in the capability. They do not, and it’s been evident every time they test. And their progress has not been made apparent in this latest flight test.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in on North Korea. I find her brutal honesty refreshing at the State Department. It was Clinton who told Pakistan, to their face, to either get on board fighting terrorists or quit taking our money. She really doesn’t pull a lot of punches so her comments on the new Korean regime were interesting. Reuters is reporting that Secretary Clinton offered some hope on Wednesday that North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, may yet change course despite the reclusive Communist state’s recent rocket launch and the threat of a new nuclear test.
In an interview with CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Clinton said it was too early to tell what to make of the surprise remarks to soldiers on Sunday by the youngest son of the late Kim Jong-il, who saw North Koreafall into deep poverty and developed a nuclear weapons program during his 17-year rule. Without elaborating, Clinton said Jong-un’s speech was analyzed as “some of the old – same old stuff” and “some possible new approach”. “We really are waiting and watching to see whether he can be the kind of leader that the North Korean people need. “If he just follows in the footsteps of his father, we don’t expect much other than the kind of provocative behavior and the deep failure of the political and economic elite to take care of their own people,” Clinton said. “But he is someone who has lived outside of North Korea, apparently, from what we know. We believe that he may have some hope that the conditions in North Korea can change. But again we’re going to watch and wait,” she said.
Jong-un is in his late 20s. North Korea said on Wednesday it was ready to retaliate in the face of international condemnation of last week’s failed rocket launch, increasing the likelihood it will push ahead with a third nuclear test. The United States and others said the launch was a test for a long range missile, while North Korea has insisted it was meant to put a satellite into orbit. Clinton did not rule out talking directly to the North Koreans in her interview with Wolf Blitzer which, if nothing else, leaves the door slightly ajar for some type of engagement.
Tempe, Arizona based U.S. Airways has filed paperwork to begin the process of a takeover of American Airlines, which is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to the SEC, “Form 8-K is the: ‘current report’ companies must file with the SEC to announce major events that shareholders should know about. Workers for three American Airlines unions have agreed to support a potential merger with US Airways Group, according to a US Air document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. The unions represent 55,000 pilots, stewards and transport workers, US Air said in the filing. But the airline also pointed out that a deal has not gone through yet.
American Airlines has said it wishes to emerge from bankruptcy as a standalone carrier. American Airlines parent AMR, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29, 2011, is trying to slash its annual labor costs by $1.25 billion and emerge from court supervision. Next week, the struggling airline will try to convince a bankruptcy judge to let it void existing union contracts and impose new ones to secure those spending cuts.
A letter to employees by US Airways CEO Doug Parker reads in part:
Today, we filed a statement (a form called an 8-K) with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing that we have signed agreements with the three unions that represent nearly 55,000 American Airlines employees. These unions are the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents all of American Airlines’ mechanics and fleet service employees. Shortly after our disclosure, these three unions issued a public statement announcing their support of a US Airways-American Airlines merger and that they have agreed to terms that would govern collective bargaining agreements for their members at the merged airline. I want to explain to you why we have done this and what it means.
First of all, today’s news does not mean we have agreed to merge with American Airlines. It only means we have reached agreements with these three unions on what their collective bargaining agreements would look like after a merger, and that they would like to work with us to make a merger a reality. To get to an actual merger, many more things must happen including gaining the support of AMR’s creditors, its management team and its Board of Directors. But this is obviously an important first step along that path and we are hopeful we can all work together to make this happen.
A joint statement issued Friday by The Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) read in part: “A merger between American Airlines and US Airways is the best strategy and fastest option to complete the restructuring of American Airlines, enabling it to exit the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process…” According to the labor group statement, the merger “provides the best path for all constituencies, including employees of both American Airlines and US Airways.”
US Airways stock dipped more than 2% on the news. American Airlines, which is owned by AMR, could use some help. The airline went into bankruptcy last year. In February, the carrier announced that it was cutting 13,000 jobs. On Thursday, American Airlines reported dismal results for the first quarter: a net loss of $1.7 billion. That’s more than quadruple its losses of $405 million from the year-ago quarter, before the carrier filed for bankruptcy last Nov. 29. The airline blamed reorganization costs, including $1 billion stemming from the rejection of aircraft leases, and also a 17% spike in fuel prices.
The last big airline merger was the formation of United Continental Holdings (UAL, Fortune 500), a $3.2 billion all-stock deal that was finalized on Oct. 1, 2010. Other prominent U.S. competitors include Delta Air Lines (DAL, Fortune 500), Southwest Airlines (LUV, Fortune 500) and JetBlue Airways (JBLU).
CBS News and CNN contributed to this report.
Phoenix, Arizona this morning.