Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two Brothers Are Suspected Members of Zeta Drug Cartel, Mexican Prosecutor Says

Mexicans Name Suspects in Pirate Attack on American Couple

Mexican officials have reportedly identified two men they say are suspects in a pirate attack nine days ago on a Texas couple Jet Skiing on a border lake in which the husband was killed.
Mexican officials have not released photographs of the two men, but identified them as Pedro Saldiva Farrias, 27, and his brother, Jose Manuel Saldiva Farrias, Juan Carlos Ballesteros, an investigator with the attorney general's office of the Mexican state of Tamaulpas told ABC affiliate KRGV-TV in McAllen, Texas.
Both were said to be suspected members of the Zeta drug cartel from Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, near the abandoned town where David and Tiffany Hartley were sightseeing before they were ambushed, according to Ballesteros.
Early on in the case, Mexican police had questioned Tiffany Hartley's account of the incident on Sept. 30, saying they could find neither her husband's body, nor his Jet Ski, after she said she had to abandon him on Falcon Lake as the marauding pirates approached. An eyewitness come forward late last week, claiming that he saw Tiffany Hartley fleeing in panic to the American side of the lake.
"I saw the Jet Ski come around an island," the witness told "Good Morning America" on Thursay. "There was something wrong actually. The way I saw her come around it looked like something terribly wrong happened. I mean, she was jittery, frantic. ... She was crying, sobbing."
As a safety precaution, the witness spoke in shadow and with voice alteration to avoid identification because he said he feared for his life.
What the witness did not see -- what apparently no one but the alleged victims and attackers saw -- was what exactly happened on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Mexico.
Tiffany Hartley said she and her husband took Jet Skis to the Mexican side of the lake to take pictures of a small church when suddenly a band of Mexican pirates opened fire on them with assault rifles.
In a heartwrenching 911 call, Hartley tells the dispatcher that her husband has been shot in the head and that she is too weak to pull his body up onto her Jet Ski. She was forced to abandon him there.
Tiffany Hartley returned for the first time Wednesday to the location where she said her husband was killed last week.
"It was hard, just remembering everything about us going in to go take pictures and enjoying the sunny day and enjoying the nice weather," Tiffany Hartley, wife of missing David Hartley, told "Good Morning America" today, just hours after returning from the emotional trip.
Surrounded by a flotilla of police and politicians, Tiffany Hartley looked somber as she gazed at the water -- the last place she saw her husband alive.
In the days since the alleged attack, Hartley has defended herself from those who question the credibility of her story.
"It's hard to believe that they don't believe me, but it is a story that most people don't understand that pirates would be on a lake, that the cartel[s] are taking over Mexico. It's a story that people don't understand unless they're on that border."
U.S. officials said they're prohibited from entering Mexican waters to search for his body. In addition to President Obama, David Hartley's mother, Pam Hartley, has issued a public plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking for aid in bringing her son's body home.
"He needs to come home and we're begging the Mexican government, the governor of Texas, President Obama," the man's mother, Pam Hartley, told "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
"To Hillary -- mother to mother -- help me bring my son home, please," she said, crying. "She's a mother, she would know."

Couple Disregarded Warnings About Danger

David Hartley was a history buff. Tiffany Hartley, 29, said she and her husband dismissed warnings about crossing into the Mexican side of the lake so they could take pictures of a historic church. She said it had been some months since they had heard reports of pirates being on the lake.
According to Hartley, while they were making their way back to the U.S. border, the couple was approached by three boats of fully armed pirates, she said.
"David and I were racing back to the U.S., and they started shooting," she told "Good Morning America." "I looked back, and I saw that David had been shot, and I turned around to go get him."

Under Attacks, Woman Had to Leave Injured Husband Behind

Hartley said she tried as hard as she could to pull her husband onto her own Jet Ski to take him to safety, "but he's a lot bigger than me.
"You can't imagine how awful it was not being able to help him," she said.
Knowing her own life was in jeopardy, Hartley said she was forced to abandon her husband. She took her Jet Ski at top speed back to the U.S. shore and placed a panicked 911 call.
U.S. authorities have searched Falcon Lake on the American side, to no avail.
The state of Texas had warned boaters and fisherman as long ago as April to stay away from the Mexican side of the lake. Since then, the drug wars along the border have gotten more violent and there have been reports of more pirate encounters.

Lake Has Become Pirate's Haven

Falcon Lake, part of the Rio Grande situated directly on the Texas-Mexico border, has recently become a haven for the pirates, and there have been at least five reported run-ins with pirates on the lake this year, although this is the first reported death.
"The one thing I dreaded on Falcon Lake has happened," Texas' Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said days after the attack on the Hartleys. "The lake is not secure, the border is not secure because the incident that I dreaded the most has, in fact, happened. We cannot go to Mexico, we cannot recover that body, we cannot conduct an investigation, we have to tell the family we can't do anything about it."
ABC News' Kevin Dolak and Sarah Netter, as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For second year in a row, no increase expected in Social Security payments

No Social Security COLA Expected for 2011

As if voters don't have enough to be angry about this election year, the government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits.

It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.
"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
"It's not the congressional Democrats' fault, but that's the way politics works," Biggs said. "A lot of people will feel hostile about it."

The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011.

The projection will be made official on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases inflation estimates for September. The timing couldn't be worse for Democrats as they approach an election in which they are in danger of losing their House majority, and possibly their Senate majority as well.
This past Friday, the same bureau delivered another painful blow to Democrats: The U.S. lost 95,000 jobs in September and unemployment remained stubbornly stuck at 9.6 percent.

Democrats have been working hard to make Social Security an election-year issue, running political ads and holding press conferences to accuse Republicans of plotting to privatize the national retirement program.
This week's announcement about Social Security benefits raises more immediate concerns for older Americans whose savings and home values still haven't recovered from the financial collapse: Many haven't had a raise since January 2009, and they won't be getting one until at least January 2012.
"While people aren't getting COLAs they certainly feel like they're falling further and further behind, particularly in this economy," said David Certner, AARP's legislative policy director. "People are very reliant on Social Security as a major portion of their income and, quite frankly, they have counted on the COLA over the years."
Social Security was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. A third relied on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.

A little more than 58.7 million people receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. The average Social Security benefit is about $1,072 a month.
Social Security recipients got a one-time bonus payment of $250 in the spring of 2009 as part of the government's massive economic recovery package. President Barack Obama lobbied for another one last fall when it became clear seniors wouldn't get an increase in monthly benefit payments in 2010.
Congress took up the issue, but a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders died when 12 Democrats and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joined Senate Republicans to block it. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to support the second bonus payment.
Sanders, I-Vt., said he expects older voters to be angry when they learn there will be no increase for the second straight year.

"I do think there's going to be political fallout," Sanders said. "Many seniors who are spending a lot of money on health care and prescription drugs really are going to find it hard to believe that there has been no inflationary costs to their purchasing needs."
Federal law requires the Social Security Administration to base annual payment increases on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, which measures inflation. Officials compare inflation in the third quarter of each year the months of July, August and September with the same months in the previous year.
If inflation increases from year to year, Social Security recipients automatically get higher payments, starting in January. If inflation is negative, the payments stay unchanged.
Social Security payments increased by 5.8 percent in 2009, the largest increase in 27 years, after energy prices spiked in 2008.

But energy prices quickly dropped. For example, average gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008. But by January 2009, they had fallen below $2. Today, the national average is roughly $2.70 a gallon.
As a result, Social Security recipients got an increase in 2009 that was far larger than actual inflation. However, they won't get another increase until inflation exceeds the level measured in 2008. The Social Security trustees project that will happen next year, resulting in a small increase in benefits for 2012.
Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter said the agency has no leeway to increase payments if the inflation measurement doesn't call for it.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, has introduced a new bill to provide $250 payments to seniors, if there is no increase in Social Security. Maybe, he said, there will be more of an appetite in Congress to pass it after lawmakers hear from voters in November.
"Costs of living are inevitably going up, regardless of what that formula says," Pomeroy said. "Seniors in particular have items such as uncovered drug costs, medical costs, utility increases, and they're on fixed incomes."
The Associated Press

Facebook co-founders give $170K to pro-pot measure

SAN FRANCISCO — California's ballot measure to legalize marijuana has a new friend: Facebook co-founder Sean Parker has given $100,000 to back the proposal.
Parker's donation was reported in Proposition 19 campaign finance filings this week.
And he's not the first big Proposition 19 donor with ties to the social networking site. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has made two donations totalling $70,000, including a $50,000 contribution last month.
Neither Parker nor Moskovitz are still with Palo Alto-based Facebook, but both still have ownership stakes. Recent estimates put the value of the privately held company as high as $33.7 billion.
"What's interesting here is that (Parker) is a member of the generation that really gets it," said Stephen Gutwillig, a spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, the main beneficiary of Parker's contribution. "We think he's pivotal to the future of drug policy reform in the country."
The 30-year-old served as Facebook's first president and helped transform the company from dorm-room project to big business. Parker and Moskovitz have become household names since the recent release of "The Social Network." The film chronicling the contentious origins of Facebook was No. 1 at the box office last week.
Pop musician and actor Justin Timberlake plays Parker in the movie, which portrays him as a hotshot who convinces Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to push out his friend from the burgeoning company.
In a recent Vanity Fair profile, the media-shy entrepreneur is described as a computer-programming prodigy with an uncanny knack for anticipating online trends and a penchant for designer clothes and partying.
At age 19, Parker helped develop Napster, the music-sharing software that turned the recording industry upside-down. He is now a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Parker did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
About $1.5 million of the $2.4 million raised so far in support of Proposition 19 has come from the measure's main sponsor, Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee. The only other six-figure donation not from Lee came from adult entertainment entrepreneur Phil Harvey, who gave $100,000.
Parker's donation came shortly after the Yes on 19 campaign committee reported having meager cash on hand heading into the final weeks before the election. The money from Parker and Harvey went to a separate committee to fund the Drug Policy Alliance's work on behalf of the measure.
Much of the money will go toward a get-out-the-vote campaign targeting young voters and voters of color, Gutwillig said.
Facebook recently came under fire from some marijuana advocates who claimed it was turning away advertising on the site in support of Proposition 19. Facebook said in a statement that company policy prohibits images of drugs, drug paraphernalia or tobacco in paid advertising but that ballot measure supporters were still free to advertise using different images.

Likely N Korea heir Kim Jong-un appears with father

Click to play

Chris Hogg: "Kim Jong-il knows that he needs to get the military on side if he is to secure the succession" for Kim Jong-un
State television in North Korea has for the first time showed live pictures of leader Kim Jong-il with his son and presumed heir, Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-il's youngest son accompanied him to a huge military parade in the capital to mark the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party.
Kim Jong-un is thought to be in line to succeed his father as leader of the highly secretive state.
He was suddenly promoted to senior leadership roles last month.

Kim Jong-un, dressed in a dark blue civilian suit, sat next to his father on a viewing platform at Kim Il-sung Plaza as tanks with rocket-propelled grenades and long-range missiles rolled by.

The missiles carried the slogan of the Korean People's Army: "Defeat the US military. US soldiers are the Korean People's Army's enemy."
Thousands of troops goose-stepped around the plaza, which was decorated with banners and flags.
Ordinary citizens were waving plastic bouquets.
Officials say the anniversary celebrations will be biggest of their kind in the nation's history.
Third generation
On Saturday, father and son had appeared at a festival in the capital.
Members of the international media were also invited in to witness the event.

The military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung Square was an extraordinary event.

North Korea is perhaps the world's most secretive country. Few foreigners are allowed to visit - and even fewer journalists.
But suddenly two days ago the North Korean government decided to allow the world's media to visit Pyongyang.
Officials did not say why, but that became clear almost immediately.
At a performance of the Arirang Games on Saturday evening at a stadium in Pyongyang, journalists saw leader Kim Jong-il turn up to watch the event with his son, Kim Jong-un. The crowd was ecstatic.
It was the first time the two Kims appeared together at such an important event and in front of the world's media.
They stood together again at the massive military parade held in Pyongyang on Sunday morning.
Many believe this confirms that the man North Koreans have started to call the 'young general' will be the next leader of their country.
As a spotlight shone on the two men, the massive crowd at the Arirang gymnastics and dance festival rose to their feet and burst into applause.
Last month, the Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un was made a four-star general and given senior positions in the government and the Workers' Party, at a rare party conference.
Analysts say this means he is in line to succeed his father, who took over the leadership of North Korea in 1997 after his father, Kim Il-sung, died. However, the title of President has been assigned "eternally" to Kim Il-sung.
Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be about 27 years old,.
He would take the Kim dynasty rule over the nation of 24 million into the third generation.
"The future of our country is rosy and bright because Kim Jong-un was elected vice chairman of the military commission of the Workers' Party," said a government official.
"We have a proverb in Korean that great teachers produce great students and great parents produce great children," the official added.
Kim Jong-il is thought to be in poor health and is widely believed to have suffered a stroke two years ago.
The 68-year-old, dressed in his customary khaki tunic suit, stood for over an hour during the parade and waved to the crowds, but he limped noticeably and reached to the balcony for support.
North Korea is locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear weapons programme and is struggling to revive its crumbling economy.

DOES AD Make you want to vote for someone?

DEMOCARTIC NATIONL COMMITTE features Rove and Gillespie in an ad beginning a weeklong run on national cable tomorrow or Tuesday, with what an official calls "a decent buy":

"Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie: They're Bush cronies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: They're shills for big business. And they're stealing our democracy. Spending millions from secret donors to elect Republicans to do their bidding in Congress. It appears they've even taken secret foreign money to influence our elections. It's incredible: Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money. Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce: Stop stealing our democracy. The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."        YouTube tells Playbook: "The New York Times ... completely refuted the charge that the Chamber was funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. ... My group, the Republican State Leadership Committee [focusing on down-ballot races], discloses its donors, all 85,000 of them, all American. Those who benefited from $400 million in outside money in 2008 to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors, have to come to terms with the fact that the playing field will be more even this year."

--From a Chamber statement on "foreign money": "AmChams are independent organizations, ... and they do not fund U.S. Chamber political programs. Collectively, AmChams pay nominal dues to the Chamber - approximately $100,000 total across all 115 AmChams. Under our budgeting system, the nominal funds received from AmChams and business councils are used to support our international programs. ... No foreign money is used to fund political activities."

--Think Progress graphic, "How The Chamber Gets Its Foreign Money" 

VALERIE JARRETT's remarks to last night's Human Rights Campaign dinner, full text

SECRETARY GEITHNER in "Outlook," on Republican congressional leaders and TARP: "They deserve more credit for the courage they showed than they seem willing to accept now."