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#News - New Orleans & South Louisiana

#News - New Orleans & South Louisiana

West St. John advances to the 1A finals after beating Logansport

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 09:43 PM PST

Lakeshore beats Rayne in the 4A semifinal

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 09:31 PM PST

Karr defeats Easton and is headed back to the Superdome

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 09:30 PM PST

Hahnville beats Acadiana in OT to punch their ticket to the Superdome

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 09:28 PM PST

Russia investigation ‘wearing’ on White House, despite spin

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 08:41 PM PST

01 DEC 17 23:17 ET

(CNN) — President Donald Trump, who was already incensed by the idea that his accomplishments weren’t getting the credit they deserve, grew more worried on Friday after news broke that Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser and longtime campaign aide, pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI.

“I think that Russia investigation is wearing on all of us, the President most of all,” said a source close to Trump. “But I think he is more concerned about the state of his accomplishments and this presidency.”

Flynn’s plea is the closest that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign’s possible connection to Russian meddling in the 2016 election has come to the Oval Office. It was a dramatic step for an investigation that has infuriated Trump since its creation. Flynn spent countless hours briefing the businessman-turned-politician during the 2016 campaign and was Trump’s top national security aide.

How it unfolded

Trump was briefed on Flynn’s plea deal on Friday morning, a senior White House official told CNN. The president, the source said, had anticipated Flynn would get swept up into Mueller’s investigation for weeks.

Externally, Trump’s top aides and surrogates were trying to spin the news as a positive step for Trump that signals Mueller’s investigation could soon be wrapping up. A senior White House official said Friday that the president is feeling “no anxiety” about the situation.

Another source close to the White House described the President and his team as in denial on the Russia investigation. They are “totally in a bubble.”

This source said the White House should be taking the Flynn news much more seriously. “This is like a red alert,” the source said.

But the source said White House officials said the President expects to be cleared by Mueller’s team before much longer.

“They think he’s going to be exonerated very soon,” the source added.

In more reflective moments, though, Trump confidants acknowledge that the President is bothered by the Flynn news, particularly because he is worried that another deluge of stories about Russia could overshadow his achievements.

“Every single one of us has come to expect this, including the President,” a source close to Trump said of the Flynn news. “The worry is this could cool down what is otherwise a pretty strong march towards the economic growth we need.”

The source acknowledged that Flynn’s plea — along with indictments of former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and another plea by former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos in October — “damage Trump’s ability to get things done.”

A manifestation of this frustration: As Trump’s White House aides devised a communication strategy for Flynn’s plea, Republicans in the Senate said they had the votes to pass the Trump-backed tax plan, an achievement the Trump White House has longed for.

Even as aides swore all was well within the White House, Trump was noticeably kept at arms-length for much of the day. When Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of Libya stepped out of his car, the at-times loquacious Trump ignored shouted questions. And a previously planned photo-op with Trump and al-Sarraj was abruptly canceled as reporters waited outside the Oval Office.

Clearest sign yet

Mueller’s court filings are the clearest sign yet of potential coordination between Flynn and a top Trump advisers regarding contact with Russian officials. CNN reported on Friday that Jared Kushner — Trump’ son-in-law and top adviser — was the “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” who directed Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador and other countries on an upcoming UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements.

The probe is now zeroing in on Trump’s inner circle, making it harder for the Trump administration to distance itself from the action. When Manafort and Gates were indicted, multiple Trump sources told CNN the indictments had nothing to do with the White House because the duo never worked for Trump as president.

That isn’t the case for Flynn, who was Trump’s top national security aide for less than a month before he was fired for lying to the Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump, according to multiple sources, considered Flynn a friend, enjoyed his company on the campaign trail and in the White House and believed that the retired United States Army Lieutenant General was an honorable person.

That means even though he canned his longtime aide under pressure in February, Friday’s news was likely still difficult to take. Trump said earlier this year that Flynn was a “wonderful man” who has been “treated unfairly.”

The President “feels sorry for Flynn,” a senior White House official said, because he “likes” the former national security adviser. The official add that Trump is “thinking about Flynn and his family” during this time.

One source close to the Trump added that the White House was balancing the fact that “the President was close to Flynn and spent a great deal of time with him” and “the truisms that General Flynn created his own problems here.”

As for a presidential pardon for Flynn, the senior White House official said that was “absolutely not under consideration.”

While Trump was bothered by Flynn’s guilty plea, aides close to Pence feel vindicated because the former national security adviser was fired for lying to Pence in the first place.

What Flynn admitted Friday is “what we have known all along,” a source told CNN. Flynn, the source said, lied to the vice president and he lied on the same matter to federal authorities.

™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Author: Trump made ‘p-word’ comment in 2000

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 07:54 PM PST

According to a golf writer, then-citizen Donald Trump in 2000 reportedly offered a vulgar commentary on a woman passing by, and did so with little regard for who might overhear.

Writer Michael Corcoran told CNN’s Erin Burnett during a Friday interview that Trump made the remark to him during a 36-hour visit to Mar-a-Lago 17 years ago,

“We just finished playing golf, and we were sitting around on the outdoor patio area, eating area, at the golf club,” said Corcoran, who was in Florida working on a profile on Trump. “An attractive young woman walked by and he sort of … sighed and said, ‘There’s, you know, there’s just nothing in the world like first-rate p-word.'”

In his aired interview, Corcoran paused before saying “p-word,” indicating he was sanitizing what he says Trump actually said.

According to Corcoran, there was no secrecy about the remark, and it could have easily been heard by any number of people in the general vicinity.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on Corcoran’s remarks, which were first reported by The Daily Beast.

Having already spent more than a day with the real estate mogul — a visit in which “vulgarity was flowing pretty freely,” Corcoran told Burnett — Corcoran said he was not taken aback by Trump’s remark. However, the exact quote did not make his article — at least not in its published form.

Burnett noted how Trump’s remarks were edited before being published as “There is nothing in the world like first-class talent.”

“They literally kept the quotes around it though, but that’s not what he said,” Burnett declared. “That was just a false thing that somebody put it in there.”

Corocran confirmed the alteration for Burnett, noting his disapproval.

“It changed the context of it and everything,” he said.

As part of Corcoran’s time with Trump, he flew on the businessman’s private plane, and joined him on the golf course. The article Corcoran was assigned was for the now-defunct Maximum Golf magazine and the experience left him with a clear picture of the man who’d later go on to become President of the United States.

“He struck me then, and still does, as just this sort of massively insecure braggart who will say whatever pops into his head to try to make himself feel good and make himself seem cool,” Corcoran told Burnett.


Tom Hanks: Full support for Hollywood sexual abuse victims

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 05:35 PM PST

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Tom Hanks gave his take on sexual harassment in Hollywood, noting simply that “it’s everywhere,” and adding that he hopes “repercussions land exactly as they should.”

Hollywood has always been a breeding ground for bad behavior, the veteran actor told CNN’s David Axelrod on CNN’s “The Axe Files,” airing Saturday at 7pm ET.

“In a lot of ways we all left town and joined the circus, and the circus is glamorous in a lot of ways. And there is camaraderie and there is sex and there’s attraction and there’s boyfriends and girlfriends and there’s flirting and that’s always been part of … there’s on-set affairs,” Hanks said.

But recent revelations — which have seen many high-profile Hollywood players, from Harvey Weinstein to Louis CK to Kevin Spacey, accused of sexual harassment and assault — go “much farther beyond that,” he emphasized

“It ends up being a swaying of influence and it becomes part of the marketplace,” Hanks told Axelrod.

Hanks said that he fully supports victims sharing their stories.

“When it is inherent in the workforce that you join, that you have to succumb to a degree of sexual harassment in order to keep your job, when that happens, the only thing you can say is, number one, I hope the victims come out and tell all sorts of stories, everything, tell the truth about what goes on. And that the repercussions land exactly as they should,” he said.

Asked by Axelrod if he was surprised by some of the revelations in recent weeks, Hanks said that he had “absolutely” been shocked by the “overtness” of many of the stories that have emerged. But as for the alleged perpetrators, one name in particular hadn’t surprised him at all, he said.

“Am I surprised by some of the personalities involved? Not Harvey,” he said, referring to movie titan Harvey Weinstein, who currently stands accused of sexual harassment or assault by more than 40 women.

“He had a way of doing business … that would not make you surprised to have him be one of those kind of guys that does that in the workplace,” Hanks told Axelrod.

Hanks had no sympathy for any other men who had stepped over the line. But he did have a clear message for them.

“There’s a time and place for decorum and ethics — and you blew it,” he said.

JPSO sergeant honored for rescuing hit-and-run victim from canal

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 03:35 PM PST

METAIRIE, La. -- A sergeant with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office didn't think twice this week before jumping into a canal near Grace King High School to rescue a 79-year-old woman whose vehicle had plunged into the water.

Sgt. Billy Matranga was honored today with the Distinguished Service Award for saving the woman after a hit-and-run crash sent her into the canal.

Matranga was on duty at Grace King High School Wednesday afternoon when he heard a loud noise, followed by a large splash from the drainage canal nearby.

He saw a vehicle partially submerged in the water with the driver, a 79-year-old woman, trapped inside.

Sergeant Matranga ran to the driver's aid, entering into the canal still in full gear. He climbed onto the vehicle and smashed through the windshield, but the vehicle started listing to one side. Fearing the vehicle would flip, he went to the other side and was able to enter the vehicle through a broken window on the passenger side.

He made contact with the victim of the crash, a 79-year-old female, and quickly checked her for injuries. She was conscious but stunned, and he decided to get her out of the vehicle before the conditions worsened.

He was able to pull her to safety through the passenger side of the vehicle and pass her to others who stopped to help.

"Sergeant Matranga's actions were in keeping with the highest standards of professionalism and concern for the citizens of Jefferson Parish. His response likely prevented the victim from any further harm, and was done without thought for his own safety," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said.

‘No chance of survival’ for crew of Argentine submarine, navy official says

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 03:31 PM PST

There is “no chance of survival” for the 44 crew members aboard the missing Argentine submarine, a navy official said Friday, one day after his agency called off its rescue operation and shifted focus to recovering the wayward vessel.

“Given … the amount of time that has passed, the extreme and adverse conditions that I have been discussing, we have inferred that there is no chance of survival,” spokesman Enrique Balbi said.

Still, the search for the ARA San Juan, he said, remains an “active one” more than two weeks after it disappeared off Argentina’s coast.

“We are using all means at our disposal, both national and foreign, in the search,” Balbi said. “This will obviously be key in order to conduct our investigation.”

Balbi had been circumspect Thursday about the crew’s fate when he announced the end of the rescue mission, though he noted that the navy had allowed nearly double the amount of time it would have been possible for the crew to stay alive if the submarine remained submerged. Officials earlier had said the submarine had enough air to last seven to 10 days.

His announcement Thursday shocked and angered submariners’ relatives, including some who fainted or needed medical attention upon hearing the news, Susana Alvarez, a friend of one of the missing officers, told state-run news agency Télam.

“We feel that they are still alive,” one woman told CNN affiliate Todo Noticias at that time. “Please do not suspend the rescue.”

Other loved ones said finding the submarine would afford a measure of closure.

“We already have resigned ourselves that they could be dead because of all the time that has gone,” another woman told Todo Noticias. “We have to see that as a possibility.”

Added Alvarez: “We want to see the bodies because we need to grieve.”

The ARA San Juan disappeared November 15 off Argentina’s coast, about midway on its journey from Usuaia in the country’s south and its northern port of Mar del Plata. The search centered on an area roughly 900 kilometers (559 miles) off the Argentine coast.

At the height of the search, 28 ships and nine airplanes from 11 nations — including the United States and United Kingdom — scoured the sea, backed by more than 4,000 people. The search area extended more than 480 square kilometers (185 square miles) and was roughly 900 kilometers (559 miles) from the Argentine coast.

Balbi on Thursday recounted the few clues gleaned so far about the submarine’s fate.

“Information was received from two sources of international organizations that report an anomaly and acoustics in the vicinity of the last known position of the San Juan submarine and later confirmed with an event consistent with an explosion,” he said.

Officials this week laid out the most detailed timeline yet of the latest communication with the submarine:

November 15, 12:30 a.m.: The sub’s captain calls his land-based commander by satellite phone, saying that seawater has entered the vessel’s “snorkel,” a tube that reaches the surface to refresh the vessel’s air and recharge the batteries. He says the water caused a short-circuit in the battery system in the vessel’s bow and the beginnings of a fire, or smoke. The smoke was put out and the short-circuited system was isolated.

The captain indicates that the battery- and diesel-powered sub would continue traveling with its stern batteries.

6 a.m.: The captain types the same message and relays it to base electronically, as is protocol following a phone conversation.

7:30 a.m.: The captain calls base again, this time to say that the vessel is traveling, submerged, as planned, without any personnel problems.

10:31 a.m.: A sound consistent with an explosion is detected in the ocean, near the sub’s last known location.

There was no evidence of any attack and no more information on the cause of the noise, Balbi said last week.

When it became clear the submarine had met with trouble, relatives of those on board gathered outside the Mar del Plata navy base, where many of the submariners were based.

For weeks, they’ve been pushing for answers, relying on updates from the Argentine navy for a glimmer of hope that their relatives may have survived.

Local school children attached messages to the fence around the base, praying for those on board, as the entire country waited for news.

Word of the possible explosion at the time angered relatives, who accused the military of refusing to admit the submariners were dead.

Maria Itatí Leguizamón, the wife of one of the crew members, told CNN en Espanol that she assumed those on board had not survived.

“They did not tell us that they are dead, but this is a logical assumption,” she said. “These (expletive) knew it. They did not give an explanation. They said that.”

Sources: Kushner was the ‘very senior’ transition member mentioned in court filing

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 03:08 PM PST

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Jared Kushner is the “very senior member” of President Donald Trump’s transition team who directed incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador to the United States and other countries about a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The court filings from Flynn’s plea hearing Friday say a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team asked Flynn to contact officials from UN Security Council countries, including Russia, to learn where each country stood on the vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity and “to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.”

An attorney for Kushner did not respond to a request for comment.

A person familiar with the transition’s effort on the UN vote said it was well-known and a collaborative effort by various transition officials, including Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Flynn and Kushner, adding that none of them “ordered” or “directed” the others and all were working towards the same goal of standing by Israel.

The court documents provide the clearest picture yet of coordination between Flynn and other Trump advisers in contacting Russian officials to influence international policy.

In court, prosecutors detailed calls Flynn had made in late December 2016 to the senior Trump transition team at Mar-a-Lago to discuss conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

The document also says Flynn falsely said he did not ask Kislyak to delay the vote on the UN Security Council resolution.

Flynn faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines, though the judge Friday morning stressed he could impose a harsher or lighter sentence.

Flynn’s plea agreement stipulates that he will cooperate with federal, state or local investigators in any way that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office might need, according to a document filed in court Friday. He could also be required to participate in covert law enforcement operations, such as wearing a wire, if asked or to share details of his past dealings with the Trump transition team and administration.

Kushner met earlier this month with Mueller’s team as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

“Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so,” Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s lawyer, told CNN on Wednesday.

The conversation lasted less than 90 minutes, one person familiar with the meeting said, adding that Mueller’s team asked Kushner to clear up some questions he was asked by lawmakers and details that emerged through media reports. One source said the nature of the conversation was principally to make sure Kushner doesn’t have information that exonerates Flynn.

Home surveillance video shows Amazon contractor pooping in gutter

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 01:48 PM PST

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Surveillance video appears to show a delivery driver contracted by Amazon defecating in a gutter in front of a South Sacramento home.

Nemy Bautista said it happened around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Bautista got home to find what he thought was dog poop and checked his home surveillance to see if he could find the dog's owner. Instead, Bautista says a woman driving a U-Haul van, delivering packages for Amazon, did the deed.

Bautista told KTXL he contacted Amazon and a representative came to his home around 8:30 that evening. He said the Amazon representative was unprepared to clean up the mess and had to borrow a bag.

Amazon ultimately apologized to Bautista and offered him a gift card. He added Amazon told him the driver "has been dealt with" but was unsure what that meant.

"It's definitely disturbing if you think about kids on the street and stuff," neighbor Raiza said. "Everyone's got kids."

Bautista said he's concerned about the customers who came after him.

McDonald’s manager to get $110,000 for helping catch Tampa suspect

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 01:43 PM PST

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A McDonald’s manager who gave police a loaded gun that led to the arrest of a suspect in a series of killings in Tampa will receive a $110,000 reward.

Delonda Walker’s tip led to Tuesday’s arrest of a man who police said killed four seemingly unconnected people in October and November in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood. The killings terrified residents, and police swarmed the area for weeks amid an intense search for the killer.

Police and victims’ families have praised Walker, the manager of a McDonald’s in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, but there were questions over what the size of her reward would be.

But those questions were put to rest Friday.

Walker has already received about half of the $110,000 reward, according to Christina Barker, an assistant to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Police said Howell Donaldson III, an employee at the same McDonald’s, had put a firearm in a food bag and gave it to Walker for safekeeping on Tuesday. At about 2:40 p.m., Walker gave the firearm to a police officer in the fast-food restaurant, who then called for backup and detained Donaldson.

She also told police that Donaldson had expressed his intention to leave the state, according to a criminal affidavit.

That firearm was used in all four of the fatal shootings in Seminole Heights, according to the criminal affidavit. Donaldson admitted that the gun belonged to him, leading to his arrest, the affidavit said.

Donaldson is accused of killing Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton. He faces four counts of first-degree murder.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the gun was a big break in the case that led to the arrest.

“We’ve had other guns, but we knew this was the one,” he said Wednesday.

Dugan added that the employee who came forward did the right thing.

“The person who called us — I cannot thank them enough for standing up and doing the right thing and saying, ‘This doesn’t seem right, why does this person have a gun in a bag?’ ”

‘She’s a hero to all of us’

In a statement to CNN affiliate WFTS, Walker said she was “overwhelmed and surprised” by the events leading to Donaldson’s arrest.

“At this time, I am speaking exclusively with police and am appreciative that they were nearby and quickly acted upon the information I discovered and shared with the police officer,” she said. “I am also appreciative of the outpouring of support from the community. My thoughts are focused on the victims and their families and out of respect for them and the active investigation, please direct inquiries to the Tampa Police Department.”

Monica Hoffa’s family told WFTS that Walker was a hero for helping solve the case.

“She took all of that worry that was out there away, and she made us all whole again,” said Kenny Hoffa, Monica’s father.

“She’s a hero to all of us and our family. She’s part of our family now.”

A number of groups had offered rewards for anyone who provided tips that led to the suspect’s arrest.

The $110,000 reward comes from several of these organizations, including $50,000 from the FBI, $20,000 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and $10,000 from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay initially said Walker was not eligible to receive its $5,000 reward money because she did not actually call the tip line, although the group later put out a statement saying the money would be paid out, according to WFTS.

However, local businessman Richard Gonzmart personally delivered a $9,000 check to her Thursday, making good on his promise to contribute to the reward.

Chicago police tout 14% homicide drop, and concede there’s more to do

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:59 PM PST

Chicago police Friday touted a 14% drop in homicides so far this year compared with an exceptionally bloody 2016, saying staffing investments and other strategies are reducing the kinds of violence that left some neighborhoods in despair.

Still, the number of killings in the nation’s third-largest city in 2017 remains higher than in almost any other year of the past decade — and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said his officers know there’s more to do.

“I would say … we’re making progress. … But it’s going to take time to root out everything we need to do,” Johnson told reporters Friday outside a church on the city’s southwest side.

More than 620 people have been killed in the city so far in 2017, the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago police say that’s a 14% decline from this point last year — a year that ended with 786 homicides.

Johnson also highlighted the following stats for the year’s first 11 months as evidence the Windy City is making strides:

• 703 fewer shootings, a 21% decline from this point in 2016;

• 798 fewer shooting victims, a 20% decline.

But while the number of killings may be down this year from last, this year’s 624 homicides already total well above most yearly tallies in Chicago for the past decade.

“It’s important to keep in mind these numbers aren’t a spike of the football by any means,” but an indication progress is being made, Johnson said.

Still, Johnson and community activists acknowledged that current crime levels still sow fear in neighborhoods.

“It’s great there’s a slight decrease from last year, but let’s not forget that last year was the worst in 20 years,” Father Michael Pfleger, pastor at Saint Sabina Church and an activist on Chicago’s South Side, told CNN. “Let’s not use the barometer of last year. Let’s look over the last three or four years. Hell, anything should look good next to last year.”

Chicago also has been a frequent target of criticism for President Donald Trump, who has talked and tweeted about rampant crime and the failure to fight gun violence there.

“It’s worse than some of the places that we read about in the Middle East,” Trump said in February.

Crime-fighting investments made

The 786 homicides in 2016 represented a spike of more than 60% over 2015. It was the largest single-year homicide increase in 25 years among the five most populous US cities, according to the Justice Department.

Between 2007 and 2015, the number of yearly homicides in Chicago hovered between 400 and just about 500.

Johnson said certain investments, including technology, have helped police tackle crime this year.

That includes putting “strategic decision support centers” in neighborhoods that have struggled with violence, he said.

Those centers use predictive crime software that helps police commanders decide where to deploy officers. They also provide “additional cameras, gunshot detection systems, and mobile phones to officers in the field who receive real-time notifications and intelligence data at their fingertips,” Chicago police say on their website.

The department also is in the midst of a hiring spree that will see the roster grow by 1,000 officers, Johnson said.

In June, the police department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a new task force aimed at decreasing the spread of illegal guns throughout Chicago.

The task force includes an additional 20 ATF agents, as well as 12 Chicago police officers, two Illinois state troopers, six intelligence analysts and state and federal prosecutors.

Rooting out police corruption

The police department has been plagued in recent years by corruption scandals, and a Justice Department investigation in 2016 found that it unconstitutionally engaged in a pattern of excessive force and had severely insufficient training and accountability procedures.

“If we take the route of just the new technology and do not equally push the human connection, I believe we’ll hit a dead end sooner or later,” Pfleger said. “You have to have relationship building in the community.”

Indeed, mistrust in the police has been a major factor in the city’s soaring crime rate, University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman said.

“The biggest thing that they can do now would be improving accountability, transparency and honesty and do the kinds of things necessary to build trust,” he said, though he noted that police cannot solve every problem that contributes to crime.

“The biggest things that I’ve seen in my work that drive violence in Chicago are the absence of hope, opportunity, jobs and the lack of police accountability,” Futterman added. “Jobs, hope and opportunity are not within the control of the police department.”

Neighbors’ lax gun laws cited

Though Chicago has a reputation as a murder haven, it hasn’t had the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rate. In 2015, 13 large cities — population 250,000 or more — had higher murder rates (murders per 100,000 people). That didn’t include a host of midsized cities with more murders per 100,000 residents.

Also, cities such as Atlanta; Washington; Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri, all had higher violent crime rates in 2015.

But Chicago’s murder rate has been higher than that of the country’s two larger cities, Los Angeles and New York. Johnson was asked whether Chicago’s reputation as a violent place bothered him.

“It’s frustrating, because when you look at the crime in Chicago, we have our challenges. We have our gun violence,” he said. “Chicago is so big that we get a lot of attention because New York and L.A., quite frankly, are seeing bigger reductions than we are.”

Lax gun laws in surrounding states also put Chicago at a disadvantage, compared with New York and Los Angeles, Johnson said.

“We’re sitting between Wisconsin and Indiana, who have very lax gun laws, so the illegal flow of guns coming into this city is a lot larger than theirs,” he said. “That just means we have more illegal guns on our streets.”

Geraldo Rivera apologizes to Bette Midler after groping allegation

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:56 PM PST

Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera apologized on Friday to Bette Midler after she accused him earlier this week of drugging and groping her in the 1970s.

“Although I recall the time @BetteMidler has alluded to much differently than she, that does not change the fact that she has a right to speak out & demand an apology from me, for in the very least, publically [sic] embarrassing her all those years ago,” Rivera wrote on Twitter. “Bette, I apologize.”

Midler has not publicly responded to Rivera’s apology. A representative for her did not return a request for comment from CNN.

The incident between Rivera and Midler was thrown into the public spotlight this week after Rivera posted a string of controversial tweets about sexual harassment in the workplace. Following the firing of “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, Rivera tweeted that “news is a flirty business” and the “current epidemic” of sexual harassment allegations might be “criminalizing courtship.”

After Fox News said it was “troubled” by the tweets, Rivera apologized for his comments.

But Rivera’s tweets prompted Twitter users to dredge up an old interview of Midler speaking with Barbara Walters. In the clip, Midler said she was assaulted by Rivera during an interview in 1970s.

“This was when [Rivera] was very sort of hot,” Midler told Walters in the decades-old interview. “And he and his producer left the crew in the other room, they pushed me into my bathroom. They broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose and proceeded to grope me.”

“Grope you?” Walters asked.

“Grope me,” Midler said. “I did not offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera.”

After Twitter users resurfaced the clip, Midler herself tweeted it on Wednesday, saying she felt as if the video was “a gift from the universe.”

“Geraldo may have apologized for his tweets supporting Matt Lauer, but he has yet to apologize for this,” she added, ending the tweet with the “#MeToo” hashtag.

Rivera also apologized on Friday for “Exposing Myself,” a book he wrote decades ago that chronicled his sex life. Passages from it also resurfaced this week after his comments following Lauer’s firing. Rivera said he was “embarrassed” by the book and “deeply regretted its distasteful & disrespectful tone.”

Report on Charlottesville rally faults police over planning, failure to protect public

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:54 PM PST

An independent review of the circumstances surrounding an August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to a woman’s death found police were unprepared and failed to protect the public.

The August 12 “Unite the Right” rally was a gathering of white nationalists and other far-right groups that culminated in the death of Heather Heyer when a man drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters.

The rally was originally planned as a protest over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Former US Attorney Timothy Heaphy released the results of his investigation in a 220-page report Friday, detailing failures by the city and law enforcement to prepare adequately for the rally, which led to a breakdown in communication and an inability to protect participants.

But Heaphy said at a press conference Friday that his investigation “never found evidence of misconduct … or anything but the best of intentions” on the part of local and state police.

Charlottesville hired Heaphy’s law firm to review how the city handled the protest. Heaphy is set to present his findings to the City Council on Monday evening.

In remarks following the press conference, Police Chief Al S. Thomas Jr. said he was “committed to implementing the recommendations” made in the report.

“We are a community divided, we are still a community in crisis,” Thomas said. “It’s not a time for finger-pointing; it’s a time to come together.”

The report cited evidence from officials who said that the police chief told officers to let the two sides fight, to make it easier to declare an “unlawful assembly” and provide a basis for it. The report said Thomas did not remember making that statement.

Kevin Martingayle, an attorney representing the chief, said after the press conference the report’s assertion that Thomas said, “Let them fight,” is inaccurate.

Failure to prepare

Charlottesville officials failed to prepare adequately for the August event, the report said, by not providing specialized training for police on the ground. Some officers, Heaphy said, didn’t even know how to use the riot gear that they’d been issued that day in case the rally became violent.

Charlottesville should have consulted with other cities and communities where similar gatherings had occurred and taken their advice, Heaphy said.

“Some of those cities actually reached out,” he said, pointing to Portland, Oregon, where right-wing protesters and left-wing demonstrators clashed in June.

Still, none of the shared information became part of the Charlottesville police’s plan, Heaphy said. He called the decision not to implement the intelligence a “tremendous failure.”

“The fact that there was no effort to talk with those other places and gather lessons learned was a missed opportunity,” the former federal prosecutor said. “There was a sense of, ‘We got this.’ ”

Local and state police didn’t consult with each other and develop an operational plan ahead of the rally, Heaphy said, and the result was a lack of unified command. With different agencies on the ground, there needed to be coordination, Heaphy said, and without it, joint efforts were “horribly inefficient.”

Communication failures

Inadequate communication was another misstep, the investigation found.

Central to this breakdown was confusion over whether the event would take place in Emancipation Park, where it was originally planned, or move elsewhere. The rally ultimately stayed at that park, but the uncertainty forced police to “plan for different contingencies.”

As a result, it was unclear where crowds would gather, and police were spread thin and ineffectively placed to respond to the battling groups, Heaphy said.

Another issue was how long it took for an “unlawful assembly” to be declared, the investigation found. From the time it was requested — about 10:50 that morning, Heaphy said — it took 40 minutes for police to get prepared and declare an unlawful assembly.

Failure to protect the public

The third failure was law enforcement’s inability to protect the public, Heaphy said.

“The most tragic manifestation of the failure to protect public safety after the event was declared unlawful was the death of Heather Heyer,” the report said.

In the immediate aftermath, both rallygoers and counterprotesters said that police had not done enough, and in some cases, intentionally stood by.

Heaphy’s investigation found that Charlottesville police officers had been ordered to intervene only in violent altercations between participants if there was a possibility of serious injury or death. “Short of that, they were not going to intervene,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to the investigation, Virginia State Police had been told its responsibility was to protect Emancipation Park, and not to disperse violent participants or make arrests because of concerns for those officers’ safety.

In interviews with line officers, Heaphy said, he was told they believed “they were prevented from doing their job.”

“In sum, this was a poorly conceived plan that was not flexible enough to not accommodate changing conditions,” Heaphy said at the press conference. “Good intentions, gone awry. Failure to communicate, failure to protect, all a product of the failure to prepare.”

Several days after the rally, at a contentious press conference, President Donald Trump prompted a political firestorm when he said “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville.

NBC News source says Matt Lauer will not receive a payout

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:52 PM PST

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Matt Lauer’s contract called for him to be paid tens of millions of dollars. But NBC doesn’t expect to pay it.

Lauer “will not be paid past his last day of work,” a senior NBC source told CNNMoney on Friday.

Questions have been swirling about the possibility because the New York Post published a story on Thursday that said Lauer’s lawyers have been angling to get him a payout.

New York Post’s headline: “Lauer’s lawyers trying to get him $30M payout after firing.”

The $30 million figure was predicated on the fact that Lauer was paid about $20 million a year to co-host the “Today” show — an extraordinary sum of money that reflects how profitable the morning show is.

The sprawling “Today” show franchise makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in ad sales.

Lauer’s contract was believed to expire in late 2018. However, the New York Post indicated that it extended through the first half of 2019, leading to the $30 million figure.

The senior NBC News source did not dispute that Lauer’s attorneys might hatch a plan to get him paid. But the source said the network will not agree to any payout.

Television news contracts typically include a morals clause, giving a network some flexibility to fire a high-priced anchor for cause.

These sorts of issues sometimes end up in arbitration or court, but are usually settled privately.

Two people close to Lauer expressed doubt that he would play hardball with his former network. Given reports about his yearly salary over the past decade, he has likely already been paid well in excess of $100 million during his time at NBC. He has multiple properties and investments.

Earlier this week, a source said that Lauer was accepting of NBC’s decision to terminate his contract, and expressed remorse when NBC News chairman Andy Lack called him with the news on Tuesday night.

In a statement on Thursday, Lauer said he was “truly sorry” for the pain he has caused.

Three women are known to have filed formal complaints with NBC this week about Lauer’s alleged wrongdoing. The first harassment complaint, made on Monday night, triggered an internal investigation and Tuesday night’s firing decision.

After his termination was announced on Wednesday, two other accusers reached out to the network.

In a memo on Friday, Lack said NBCUniversal would conduct a review of what happened and would strengthen its internal processes so that staffers feel safe coming forward with allegations of misconduct.

Paying Lauer a huge amount of money on the way out the door would arguably send a contrary message.

21st Century Fox was widely criticized for paying former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes when he resigned under pressure amid a sexual harassment scandal last year. The criticism resumed when Bill O’Reilly reportedly received about $25 million, a severance payment amounting to one year of his four-year contract, when he left Fox earlier this year.

Amazon delivery driver defecates on a street in Sacramento

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:09 PM PST

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SOUTH SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – A South Sacramento homeowner, Nemy Bautista, captured the moment on camera showing a delivery driver pooping in a gutter on the street Tuesday afternoon.

Bautista posted the video to his Facebook and wrote, “Amazon.com Why is your driver squatting in-front of my house? Let me give you a hint… he/she is not tying their shows. I have it on video!”

The contracted Amazon delivery driver was fired, and an Amazon spokesperson said: “this does not reflect the high standards we have for delivery service providers.”

The Amazon spokesperson added the delivery service provider cleaned up the customer’s driveway immediately after the report was made, and the homeowner was also given a gift card for his trouble.


Clinton and Sanders campaign managers call tax reform a ‘golden opportunity’ for Dems to win ‘every demographic’

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:06 PM PST

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President Donald Trump’s tax reform push has handed Democrats a “golden opportunity” to get past the party’s internal divisions that have raged since last year’s election, Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ campaign managers argue in a joint memo they’re set to release Friday.

Robby Mook and Jeff Weaver say in the memo that the tax effort is “already resoundingly unpopular across just about every demographic,” including the rural and suburban voters who flocked to Trump last year and the Democratic base voters who sat out the election.

That has given Democrats a way to avoid having to decide which of those groups to pour money and organizing efforts into winning back in the 2018 midterm elections, they write.

“It is quite a feat for Republicans to have designed a bill that could alienate Obama-Trump voters, Romney-Clinton voters and base Democrats all at the same time, but the tax plan achieves exactly this trifecta,” Mook and Weaver write in the memo.

“Should the legislation reach President Trump’s desk, the issue has the potential to doom Republican lawmakers who vote for it. If Democrats properly seize this issue, they can potentially win over most every swath of the electorate critical to next year’s midterm elections.”

The memo comes with Senate Republicans poised to approve their tax bill on a narrow, party-line vote.

Congressional Republicans have cast the bill’s passage as crucial to delivering a tangible legislative victory to the base that handed them the House, Senate and White House in last year’s elections.

But Democrats — including Mook, now a CNN political commentator, and Weaver, who became something of a political odd couple near the end of the party’s combative primary last year — see in it an opportunity to make an economic argument that could help heal the rifts over which voters the party most needs to court, at the expense of others, that have lingered since Clinton’s loss to Trump.

Mook and Weaver argue in their memo that the bill helps corporations and wealthy Americans and includes protections for special interests that are anathema to voters who bought into Trump’s “anti-‘swamp’ rhetoric.”

They point to the GOP’s move to ditch the state and local tax deduction as one that will hike taxes on suburban households in states like New York, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — all of which have competitive House races in 2018.

The proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual coverage mandate, which is included in the Senate bill, is likely to increase insurance premiums, they say.

“The Republican tax plan is the rare piece of legislation that manages to provide something for nearly everyone to hate,” Mook and Weaver say in the memo.

The tax bill becomes more unpopular as voters are exposed to messages about what it would do, the memo says, citing polling from the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.

“The tax proposal is the best opportunity yet for Democrats to convince voters that Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are looking out for their wealthy donors, and not working-class Americans,” Mook and Weaver write.

“The widespread opposition to the Republicans’ plan should reassure Democrats that they ought not engage in some false choice between different groups of voter targets,” they write. “Our party should compete everywhere, and seek to win over voters of all ages, education backgrounds and income levels by using the tax fight to illustrate the two parties’ vastly different priorities. If Democrats seize this opportunity, congressional Republicans who support the tax plan will definitely be doing so at their own political peril.”

Sorry, cat lovers, there’s scientific proof that dogs are smarter

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 12:03 PM PST

You know that age-old debate about whether dogs are smarter than cats? Well, science now has a definitive answer. It’s dogs.

That’s the conclusion of an international team of researchers, who found that dogs possess twice the number of neurons than cats. Neurons are cells that process information. And so, the more neurons an animal has, the better its information processing capability, these scientists say.

The study was conducted by researchers from six universities in the US, Brazil, Denmark and South Africa. It’s been accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

The research was done in the lab of Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University.

Until recently, scientists interested in comparing intelligence across species were limited to using brain size as an indicator.

“In 2005, my lab developed a very simple, fast and inexpensive method to count cells in brains and brain parts,” Herculano-Houzel said.

What the researchers did is take brain matter and essentially turn it into soup. This freed up the cell nuclei and allowed the scientists to count them directly under a microscope.

This is what they found when they looked at cats’ and dogs’ cerebral cortex, the information-processing part of the brain: A cat’s cerebral cortex has 250 million neurons. A 15-pound mixed-breed dog’s has 429 million.

When they looked at a 64-pound golden retriever, the count was even higher: 627 million neurons.

“It is fair to say, then, that dogs have about twice as many neurons as cats in their cerebral cortex,” she said. “And this implies that dogs have more cognitive capabilities than cats.”

And there you have it. Now, it’s just a matter of who breaks the news to Garfield.

Flynn case: What we learned in court and from filings

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 11:59 AM PST

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Federal prosecutors revealed in court Friday that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had been in touch with senior Trump transition officials several times about his calls with the Russian ambassador, and at least one of the Trump advisers asked him to influence Russia’s foreign policy.

The topics Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador about included Russia’s reaction to US sanctions and Russia’s vote on a UN Security Council resolution about Israeli settlements.

Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to investigators about these conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. The details revealed at Flynn’s plea agreement hearing and in his criminal statement of offense provide the clearest picture yet of coordination between Flynn and other Trump advisers in their contact with Russian officials.

In late December of last year, Flynn called senior Trump transition team members at Mar-a-Lago in Florida three times to discuss conversations he was having with Kislyak about sanctions the US placed on Russia and the Russian response to them. The prosecutors’ filing did not name the transition officials.

A December 29 call between Flynn and Trump advisers discussed the potential impact on the “incoming administration’s foreign policy goals,” according to a court filing Friday.

Flynn then called Kislyak to ask that Russia not respond too harshly to US sanctions. He told a Trump transition official about that call. Russia responded by choosing not to retaliate for the sanctions.

The bulk of the back-and-forth calls described in court papers, from Flynn to the Russian ambassador and to Trump advisers, happened while the advisers were at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Flynn and a Trump adviser “discussed that the members of the presidential transition team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation” the filing said.

His third call to the Trump team about Russia happened days later and included multiple senior Trump advisers. Flynn described to them how Russia would not retaliate for the sanctions following team Trump’s request.

According the prosecutors’ statement, Flynn communicated with Kislyak and a “very senior” Trump official about another foreign policy matter about a week before the sanctions discussions. He connected with the Russian ambassador after a senior Trump transition official asked him to attempt to influence the positions of foreign governments on a UN Security Council resolution about Israeli settlements.

A “very senior member” of Trump’s transition told Flynn on December 22 to contact officials from Russia and other foreign governments about how they would vote and “to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution,” the statement of offense said. Flynn then asked Kislyak to vote against or delay the resolution, the legal filing said. This time, the Russians said they wouldn’t do as Trump’s transition team wanted.

The federal prosecutors spoke with Flynn four days after Trump’s presidential inauguration.

Court documents from prosecutors on Friday also revealed how Flynn obscured his foreign lobbying for Turkey when he registered the work with the Justice Department in March. His guilty plea did not include any counts related to these false statements.

Inside the courtroom

At 11:12 a.m. ET, almost 40 minutes into his first court appearance Friday, Flynn officially pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. The hearing lasted about 45 minutes total. For most of it, Flynn stood before Judge Rudolph Contreras. His attorneys, Robert Kelner and Steven Anthony, flanked him. As the judge discussed how his sentence could be harsher than five years’ imprisonment, Kelner put his hand on Flynn’s back.

Flynn wore a dark blue suit and striped tie with no military regalia and was accompanied by his wife, Lori Andrade.

During the hearing, Flynn acknowledged that he understood he was giving up his rights to a grand jury indictment, a jury trial and the ability to plead not guilty. He said little other than yes and no to the judge. When asked how he pleaded, Flynn only said, “Guilty, your honor.”

Flynn faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines, though the judge Friday morning stressed he could impose a harsher or lighter sentence.

“I do not know what sentence I will impose on this case,” Contreras said.

The attorneys have a status report on Flynn on February 1, 2018, and a sentence hearing later.

Until his sentencing, Flynn will check in with the court by phone once a week. He did not have to post bail.

The judge also could impose on him up to a $250,000 fine plus other fees and interest.

Flynn appeared before Contreras in courtroom 14 at the federal courthouse in Washington.

Federal prosecutors Brandon Van Grack and Zainab Ahmad from Robert Mueller’s special counsel office appeared in court.