Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama to Seek New Assault Weapons Ban

Previous Ban Expired in 2004 During the Bush Administration

The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.

Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.

"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." Holder said at a news conference on the arrest of more than 700 people in a drug enforcement crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S.

Mexican government officials have complained that the availability of sophisticated guns from the United States have emboldened drug traffickers to fight over access routes into the U.S.

A State Department travel warning issued Feb. 20, 2009, reflected government concerns about the violence.

"Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades," the warning said. "Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico, but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez."

At the news conference today, Holder described his discussions with his Mexican counterpart about the recent spike in violence.

"I met yesterday with Attorney General Medina Mora of Mexico, and we discussed the unprecedented levels of violence his country is facing because of their enforcement efforts," he said.

Holder declined to offer any time frame for the reimplementation of the assault weapons ban, however.

"It's something, as I said, that the president talked about during the campaign," he said. "There are obviously a number of things that are -- that have been taking up a substantial amount of his time, and so, I'm not sure exactly what the sequencing will be."

In a brief interview with ABC News, Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, said, "I think there are a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill cringing at Eric Holder's comments right now."

During his confirmation hearing, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee about other gun control measures the Obama administration may consider.

"I think closing the gun show loophole, the banning of cop-killer bullets and I also think that making the assault weapons ban permanent, would be something that would be permitted under Heller," Holder said, referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Washington, D.C. v. Heller, which asserted the Second Amendment as an individual's right to own a weapon.

The Assault Weapons Ban signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 banned 19 types of semi-automatic military-style guns and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds.

"A semi-automatic is a quintessential self-defense firearm owned by American citizens in this country," LaPierre said. "I think it is clearly covered under Heller and it's clearly, I think, protected by the Constitution."


Calorie-Burning Fat? Studies Say You Have It

For more than 30 years, scientists have been intrigued by brown fat, a cell that acts like a furnace, consuming calories and generating heat. Rodents, unable to shiver effectively to keep warm, use brown fat instead. So do human infants, who do not shiver very well. But it was generally believed that humans lose brown fat after infancy, no longer needing it once the shivering response kicks in.

That belief, three groups of researchers report, is wrong.

Their papers, appearing Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, indicate that nearly every adult has little blobs of brown fat that can burn huge numbers of calories when activated by the cold, as when sitting in a chilly room that is between 61 and 66 degrees.

Thinner people appeared to have more brown fat than heavier people; younger people more than older people; people with lower glucose levels, presumably reflecting higher metabolic rates, had more than those whose metabolisms were more sluggish; and women had more than men. People taking beta blockers for high blood pressure or other medical indications had less active brown fat.

“The thing about brown fat is that it takes a very small amount to burn a lot of energy,” said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, head of the section on obesity and hormone action at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

The fat really is brown, researchers say, because it is filled with mitochondria, the tiny energy factories of cells. Mitochondria contain iron, giving the tissue a reddish brown color.

The hope is that scientists may find safe ways to turn on peoples’ brown fat, allowing them to lose weight by burning more calories. But researchers caution that while mice lose weight if they activate brown fat, it is not clear that people would shed pounds — they might unwittingly eat more, for example. The data on global patterns of obesity are not good enough to say whether living in a cold climate makes people thinner.

The best evidence for the effects of brown fat is from earlier studies in mice, said Leslie P. Kozak, a professor of molecular genetics at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University.

Recently, Dr. Kozak put mice predisposed to obesity in a cold room, 41 degrees, for a week. The animals activated their brown fat. As a result, they lost 14 percent of their weight, which constituted 47 percent of their body fat, while eating a high-fat diet with two and a half times more calories than they had consumed at room temperature.

“That’s just by going out in the cold, without any drug treatment,” Dr. Kozak said. But, he cautioned, mice, small animals with a comparatively huge surface area, are easily chilled. “Put the mouse in the cold,” he added, “and it becomes a heat producing machine.”

Jan Nedergaard of the University of Stockholm did the opposite of Dr. Kozak. He and Barbara Cannon, also at the University of Stockholm, studied mice that were genetically engineered so their brown fat could not burn calories. The animals became fat.

“Until very recently, we would have said that it is doubtful that differences in brown fat really could contribute to obesity,” Dr. Nedergaard said. Now, he said he had changed his mind, at least for mice.

The key to finding brown fat in humans was PET-CT scans. The PET scans pinpoint areas where cells are actively burning glucose and the CT scans identify it as fat. Because brown fat rapidly burns glucose to produce heat, it lights up in PET scans. In two of the three studies, investigators also studied samples of brown fat that were removed from a few subjects, confirming that the cells had a protein, UCP-1, that is unique to brown fat.

Brown fat in adult humans was in an unexpected place. Infants have it mostly as a sheet of cells covering their backs. Rodents have it mostly between their shoulder blades, just down from the neck. But in adult humans, it showed up in the upper back, on the side of the neck, in the dip between the collarbone and shoulder, and along the spine.

That may be one reason it was missed for so long, Dr. Kahn said.

“There was an interest in looking at humans 20 or 25 years ago with different scanning techniques, but people were always looking between the shoulder blades,” he said. And since there is so little brown fat — just a few grams of tissue — it can be hard to find, Dr. Kahn added.

His study, one of the three published Thursday, involved 1,972 people who had had PET-CT scans for a variety of reasons. The scans showed brown fat in 7.5 percent of the women and 3 percent of the men — an underestimate, Dr. Kahn says, because the people had not activated brown fat by getting cold.

Dr. Kahn and his colleagues also examined surgical samples taken from the necks of two patients. They concluded that what looked like brown fat in their scans was indeed brown fat.

A second study, led by Wouter D. van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, involved 24 healthy young men. Ten were lean, the rest overweight or obese.

The scans showed no brown fat when the men had been in a room that was a comfortable temperature. But after they were in a chilly room for two hours, scans showed brown fat in all but one, an obese man.

A third study, led by Dr. Sven Enerb├Ąck of the University of Goteborg in Sweden, involved five healthy adults. Each had two scans — one after being in a room at a comfortable temperature, the other after being in a chilly room for two hours. The investigators saw brown fat in their chilled subjects. Three participants allowed the researchers to remove some white fat and some brown fat to demonstrate that what looked like brown fat in the scans really was that elusive substance.

The studies, investigators say, should stimulate research on safe ways to activate brown fat. It is known to be activated not only by cold but also by catecholamines, hormones that are part of the fight or flight response. That is why beta blockers, which block catecholamines, can suppress brown fat activation.

Epinephrine, or adrenaline, and ephedra, an herbal supplement containing epinephrine, can stimulate brown fat, said Dr. Rudolph Leibel, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at the Columbia University Medical Center. But the drugs have too many side effects to be used for weight loss, he said, adding that while caffeine can bolster ephedra’s effects, it is easy to eat your way out of a brown fat effect.

Brown fat, Dr. Leibel said, “fits the fantasy — I eat what I want and burn it off.” That, however, is still a fantasy, he added.

If a drug that stimulates brown fat could be developed, said Dr. Claude Bouchard of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, it would be the first obesity drug to affect energy expenditure rather than appetite.

Then there is the notion of simply hanging out in a cold room.

“We’re thinking of opening a frosty spa,” Dr. Kozak said jokingly.

ShamWow: But Wait, There's More...

ShamWow: But Wait, There's More...
Crime scene pics document TV pitchman's brutal encounter with hooker
APRIL 8--In what we promise will be the final installment of the ShamWow Chronicles, on the following pages you will find a selection of police evidence photos memorializing the recent bloody battle between TV pitchman Vince Shlomi and a Miami hooker. As you've likely heard, the ShamWow chieftain, 44, paid Sasha Harris $1000 for "straight sex," which was to occur in Shlomi's $750-a-night room at the lavish Setai hotel. But things went sideways when, according to an account Shlomi gave cops, he kissed the 26-year-old Harris, who responded by biting his tongue and not letting go. Shlomi then punched Harris several times until she released his tongue. He then went to the hotel's lobby, where security called cops. A Miami Beach Police Department Crime Scene unit also arrived at the Setai to photograph the aftermath of the February 7 brawl, which left blood on the hotel room's walls, floor, door, phone, bed, and towels. Cops were also dispatched to the Mount Sinai Medical Center to photograph Shlomi and Harris, who were being treated for their injuries (both were handcuffed to hospital beds since they had been arrested for felony battery). Prosecutors subsequently decided not to pursue charges against either combatant.


98 Shots Fired in New York Rampage
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) -- The man who gunned down 13 people at an upstate New York immigration center fired 98 shots from two handguns in a little more than a minute, police said Wednesday.
Ballistics reports showed Jiverly Wong fired 87 times from a 9mm Beretta and 11 times from a .45-caliber handgun.
Police said almost all 13 victims died instantly. Four others were wounded but survived. Wong killed himself as police were rushing to the scene. He was found with a satchel containing several full ammunition clips.
Cops: NC Man Kills Woman, Deputy, Dies in Shootout 4-8/09
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A man killed his girlfriend and later started a shootout in the woods with sheriff's deputies that killed a lawman and left the gunman dead, investigators said Wednesday.
Craven County sheriff's Capt. Joe Heckman said suspect Clarence Douglas Phillips, 43, died at a nearby hospital from gunshot wounds sustained during the shootout in neighboring Lenoir County. He said deputies found Phillips' girlfriend, 49-year-old Cynthia Tillett Knighten, dead in her Craven County home.
Video Shows Fla. Woman Aiming Gun at Son's Head 4-4/09
CASSELBERRY, Fla. (AP) -- A central Florida woman who fatally shot her son then killed herself at a shooting range wrote in suicide notes to her boyfriend that she was trying to save her son.
''I'm so sorry,'' Marie Moore wrote several times. ''I had to send my son to heaven and myself to Hell.''
She signed two of the notes ''Failed Queen.''
Authorities said Wednesday they still had no motive for the murder-suicide that shocked fellow customers and employees at the Shoot Straight range in Casselberry, about 10 miles north of Orlando, on Sunday.
Man Charged With Buying Guns Used in Ind. Ambush 2-29/09
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A 22-year-old man has been charged with buying two guns for a convicted felon who used them to shoot two Indiana police officers.
A federal grand jury indicted Vincent D. Windell of New Albany on Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Windell bought a .45-caliber handgun and a .38-caliber revolver for 37-year-old Robert Datillo of Clarksville in December.
Motive Sought in Deadly Attack at Calif. Retreat 4-7/09
TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) -- Investigators are trying to determine why a 72-year-old man opened fire at a remote Korean Christian retreat, killing a woman and wounding three other people before being disarmed during a struggle with some of his victims, authorities said Wednesday.
Urinating dog triggered argument resulting in 3 officers' deaths 4-4/09
(CNN) -- Three Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officers were shot to death while responding to a 911 call of a domestic argument triggered by a urinating dog, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
The officers were the first department fatalities since 1995, according to the department.
Police said following the shootings Saturday that Richard Poplawski, 22, would be charged with three counts of homicide, aggravated assault and other charges. Poplawski, who was shot in the leg during a four-hour standoff with police, was hospitalized at an undisclosed location, police said.
Details of the incident were included in the police complaint seeking an arrest warrant for Poplawski. The complaint says Margaret Poplawski called 911 about 7 a.m. Saturday to report that her son was "giving her a hard time."She told police she awoke to discover that "the dog had urinated on the floor," and awakened her son "to confront him about it."
The two had an argument, and Margaret Poplawski told her son she was calling police to remove him from her home, according to the complaint. When officers Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo III arrived, she opened the door and let them in.
"Mrs. Poplawski reported that as the officers entered approximately 10 feet into the residence, she heard gunshots, turned and saw her son about six feet away with a long rifle in his hands, at which point she fled downstairs after asking him, 'What the hell have you done?'" the complaint said.
5 children found slain in Washington state, police say 4-4/09
Five children found shot to death in a home in Orting, Washington, Saturday
Father apparently killed self later in nearby King County, sheriff's spokesman say
Police believe the children, ages 7 to 16, were killed by their father
Five children were found shot to death in a home near Tacoma, Washington, Saturday afternoon, police said.
Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told CNN that the children, ages 7 to 16, were killed by their father, who apparently committed suicide later in nearby King County.
The children -- four girls and one boy
Binghamton struggles to understand why gunman killed 13
Police: Gunman 'lying in wait' killed 3 officers
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A gunman wearing a bulletproof vest and "lying in wait" opened fire on officers responding to a domestic disturbance call Saturday, killing three of them and turning a quiet Pittsburgh street into a battlefield, police said.
Police Chief Nate Harper said the motive for the shooting isn't clear, but friends said the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.
Richard Poplawski, 23, met officers at the doorway and shot two of them in the head immediately, Harper said. An officer who tried to help the two also was killed.
Poplawski, armed with an assault rifle and two other guns, then held police at bay for four hours as the fallen officers were left bleeding nearby, their colleagues unable to reach them, according to police and witnesses. More than 100 rounds were fired by the elite police teams and Poplawski, Harper said.
The three slain officers were Eric Kelly, 41, Stephen Mayhle, 29, and Paul Sciullo III, 37. Kelly had been on the force for 14 years, Mayhle and Sciullo for two years each. Another officer, Timothy McManaway, was shot in the hand and a fifth broke his leg on a fence.
Poplawski had gunshot wounds in his legs but was otherwise unharmed because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, Harper said. He was charged with three counts of homicide, aggravated assault and a weapons violation.
The shooting occurred just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot in Oakland, California, in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The officers were the first Pittsburgh city officers to die in the line of duty in 18 years.

Oakland Seeking Answers in Police Killings 3-29/09
Oakland, Calif. — A day after four police officers were shot down in a rampage, the public and city officials struggled to understand how a routine traffic stop turned into one of the bloodiest days for police officers in California history.
“If we had a motive, we’d know why,” said Jeff Thomason, a spokesman for the Oakland Police Department. “And we want to know why.”
Mr. Thomason had no additional details about the investigations into the shootings on Saturday, which ended with the deaths of three officers: Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40; Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43; and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35.
A fourth officer who was wounded in the shootout, John Hege, 41, was declared brain dead just before noon on Sunday at Highland Hospital, Mr. Thomason said. Officer Hege was being kept on life support as a potential organ donor.
Police officials identified the man who shot the four officers as Lovelle Mixon, a 26-year-old parolee. He was fatally shot by other officers.
The shootings, which spanned several hours and two blocks in the city’s east side, were the deadliest in the history of the Oakland police.

10 KILLED in ALABAMA 3-10-09
A 28-year-old man in Alabama killed 10 people, including his own mother, before taking his own life. MARCH 10, 2009
A few days later in Miami, a man shot and killed five people, including his estranged wife and himself.

A mass murder in a small North Carolina town turned into a modern morality play as facts emerged this week.

Authorities have determined that drug trafficking was behind the slaughter of four members of a Conover family March 12.

The tragedy shows that delving into a dirty, illegal business can have unintended, deadly consequences.

While Brian Tzeo has not been charged with any crime, the Catawba County Sheriff's Office says he admitted his role in a drug-smuggling ring, receiving opium mailed from Thailand. Tzeo wasn't home when authorities say an associate, Chiew Chan Saevang, went to his house to steal opium and killed Tzeo's wife and three children.

Events took another bizarre turn Wednesday. Saevang and his girlfriend, Yer Yang, also an alleged member of the drug ring, crashed their car in Utah during a pursuit and died by murder-suicide, the Washington County, Utah, Sheriff's Office said.

Theirs were the fifth and sixth deaths in this horrific affair. Neighbors of the Tzeo family and members of the area's Southeast Asian immigrant communities expressed shock, both at the crime itself and at the alleged drug connection. Tzeo and his wife came to the United States from Laos in the 1980s.
Suspect in four Alabama slayings found dead
Man suspected of killing four relatives, including estranged wife
Bodies of slain were found Tuesday morning in a northwestern Alabama home
(CNN) -- A man suspected in the shooting deaths of four people, including his estranged wife and daughter, in northwest Alabama was found dead in an apparent suicide, police said.
Kevin Lee Garner's body was found about 200 yards behind his home in Morgan County, Alabama, said Travis Clemmons, chief investigator for the sheriff's office in neighboring Lauderdale County. He was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Clemmons said.
Garner was a suspect in the deaths of Tammy Garner, 40, his estranged wife; Chelsea Garner, 16, his daughter; Karen Beaty, his sister; and his nephew, who Clemmons identified only as Robert, saying he did not know his last name.
The four were found dead Tuesday morning in a home in Greenhill, Alabama.

CNBC's CRAMER 'a buffoon'

Economist Nouriel Roubini Lashes Out at CNBC Host
TORONTO (AP) -- CNBC's Jim Cramer has another feud on his hands.

Just weeks after ''The Daily Show'' host Jon Stewart took Cramer to task for trying to turn finance reporting into a ''game,'' famous bear economist Nouriel Roubini criticized Cramer on Tuesday for predicting bull markets.

''Cramer is a buffoon,'' said Roubini, a New York University economics professor often called Dr. Doom. ''He was one of those who called six times in a row for this bear market rally to be a bull market rally and he got it wrong. And after all this mess and Jon Stewart he should just shut up because he has no shame.''

Cramer, the host of CNBC's ''Mad Money'' show, recently wrote in a blog that Roubini is ''intoxicated'' with his own ''prescience and vision'' and said Roubini should realize that things are better since the stock market's recent bottom in early March.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index has rallied 17 percent since then.

Roubini said in 2006 that the worst recession in four decades was on its way. He has attracted attention for his gloomy -- and accurate -- predictions of the U.S. financial market meltdown.

Roubini said the latest surge is just another bear market rally following the pattern of other rallies after the government intervened. He expects the market will test the previous low because of worse-than-expected macroeconomic news, disappointing earnings and because banks will fail after the stress tests come out.

''Once people get the reality check, than it's going to get ugly again,'' Roubini said.

Roubini said Cramer should keep quiet.

''He's not a credible analyst. Every time it was a bear market rally he said it was the beginning of a bull and he got it wrong,'' Roubini said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Asked Wednesday if he thinks the market will touch the low again, Cramer said on CNBC: ''We'll we got that guy Nouriel Roubini and he attacked me today, which I regard a great badge of honor. As all my attackers, I always welcome you on ''Mad Money.'' I think we are not going to see that level again.''

Cramer said if the Dow Jones industrial average goes below 7,000 and the S&P hits 650, buyers will come in because there would be a ferocious rally and investors couldn't afford to miss another.

Cramer has previously conceded he made some wrong calls, like most people watching the market. But he went on ''Today'' last October telling people that if they needed money in the next five years, take it out of the stock market. Anyone who heeded that advice saved money, he said.

Roubini said he supports Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's plan to remove toxic assets from the banks. Cramer recently wrote that Roubini and Nobel laureate New York Times columnist Paul Krugman are both on ''the nationalization jihad.''

''He keeps insulting me personally and saying a bunch of lies,'' Roubini said. ''He doesn't even know I was supporting it so he says lies.''

Roubini made the comments before appearing with bank analyst Meredith Whitney and Canadian bears Ian Gordon and Eric Sprott at a Toronto event titled ''A Night with the Bears.'' They all correctly predicted the current financial meltdown.

Whitney, among the most bearish of bank analysts, said that some of the 19 banks undergoing government stress tests may not pass.

''I think the big banks will get through and some of the smaller banks may not,'' Whitney said in an interview with The AP.

Gordon, author of The Long Wave Analyst newsletters, told the event's audience of 1,500 that he expects the Dow Jones industrial average to plummet to 1,000 based on the idea that economic events repeat themselves in regular sequence every 60 years or so.

Sprott, a Canadian hedge fund owner, told the predominantly business crowd that systemic risk remains and that investors should buy gold.