Friday, March 23, 2012

Gun advocate to Cenk: ‘If you jump on top of me. count on it, I’m gonna shoot you’ (Part 1) 

Cenk interviews Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, who says that George Zimmerman’s self-defense claim in the Trayvon Martin shooting has reportedly been corroborated by one witness.
“Martin passed from becoming a victim to becoming an aggressor,” Pratty says.
Cenk says, “Even if those are the facts of the case, that’s nuts,” and Pratt answers, “If you jump on top of me, and you start beating the tar out of me, and I can get my hand on my gun — count on it, I’m gonna shoot you.” (Part 1 of 2.)

Gun advocate to Cenk: ‘Martin should have run away’ (Part 2) 

Cenk interviews Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, about the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Pratt contends that Zimmerman was attacked by Martin and acted in self-defense.
“[Martin] should have run away,” Pratt says. “He had his stalker on the ground. Once Martin had neutralized the threat, that’s when he should have taken off to get out of there. He doubled down, and he started to really beat the tar out of the guy.”
Cenk says, “Funny how the kid with no gun is the one who, in your mind, gave up all his rights. But Zimmerman, the freak stalker who called the police 49 times on black males, called this guy a coon, chased him down with a gun — he has all the rights in the world.” (Part 2 of 2)

Second anniversary of 'Obamacare'

Jewel Samad/Getty Images
Celebrating the passage of the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010.
Today marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, President Obama's sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system that just three years ago sparked divisiveness and outrage throughout the country.

The White House has been pretty quiet on the "Obamacare" benchmark – unusually quiet considering that overhauling the health care system was supposed to be one of the president's signature pieces of legislation.
The president even held a primetime address on the issue before Congress in the fall of 2009.  As the Supreme Court prepares to take up the issue of health care early next week, it seems that  this controversial, hot button issue is about to come front and center once again in the middle of a presidential election.

Obama's health care plan has been divisive since it was first brought up for debate at the beginning of the Obama presidency.  During the summer of 2009, several members of Congress returned to their districts to hold town hall meetings on the legislation only to find angry constituents shouting at them during the open forums. Longtime Senators Claire McCaskill and Arlen Specter were caught in shouting matches with the people they represented, often involving personal attacks with one person shouting "we don't trust you" at McCaskill. Some believe that this outrage stemmed primarily from the Obama administration's failure to properly sell health care reform to the American people.

Despite this level of public outrage, the Democratic-controlled House and Democratic controlled Senate were able to pass the health care bill, but the issue itself never died. As we entered the GOP presidential primary season almost every candidate has had something negative to say about "Obamacare." The current frontrunner (and probable GOP nominee) Mitt Romney has openly criticized the president's health care bill and has vowed to repeal it, if elected.

The only problem for Mitt Romney is that while he was Governor of Massachusetts he passed his own state-wide healthcare law that some have seen as the model for the president's bill. Not only that, but the former governor of Massachusetts has repeatedly flip-flopped his position on the federal mandate, a key provision to the affordable care act.

Despite the White House being quiet on the issue, Twitter has seen the bill’s anniversary trending throughout the day. The #ILikeObamacare topic has seen a range of comments from those for, against and indifferent to the law — with tweets ranging from sincere support for the legislation to sarcastic anger against it.

All of this just days before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments against the law in a three day, six hour debate — the longest in decades. The sessions begin this Monday and close on Wednesday, focusing primarily on whether or not Congress has the constitutional authority to mandate people to purchase insurance.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Surrounded by Democratic senators and representatives, President Obama remarked at the time, "I'm signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days." The ceremony was a momentous occasion which brought him standing ovations from members of his party. Today, two years later, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had to defend and duck questions regarding health care.  After a member of the White House press corps asked Carney if health care had become a political liability Carney simply said, "no."

3 plead guilty to hate crimes in Miss. murder

March 23, 2012 2:43 AM

Deryl Dedmon, 19, charged with capital murder in the June 2011 death of 47-year-old James Craig Anderson in Jackson, reads a letter to Anderson's family after pleading guilty to murder and committing a hate crime, March 21, 2012 in Hinds County Circuit Court. (AP)

(AP) JACKSON, Miss. - Three white men involved in the beating and fatal rundown of a black man in Mississippi pleaded guilty Thursday to federal hate crimes and admitted to a months-long pattern of brutal harassment against blacks a day after one of them pleaded guilty in state court to a murder charge.
Dylan Butler, 20; Deryl Dedmon, 19; and John Aaron Rice, 19; entered the pleas in federal court to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and to committing a hate crime. Authorities said the investigation continues and there could be more arrests.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves set sentencing for June 8 and ordered all three to be held in custody. The three are from the town of Brandon, a Jackson suburb, and were accused of going to the majority-black capital city on numerous occasions to harass or assault black people.

Prosecutor Sheldon Beer read the allegations against the three, saying they harassed or assaulted black people who they thought were homeless or intoxicated. Victims were chosen because they thought they would not tell police, authorities said.

The harassment began in April 2011, culminating in the death of James Craig Anderson, a 47-year-old car plant worker, on June 26.

Each was charged with the same two crimes. They face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to life on the hate crime charge.

Butler and Rice were accused of driving around Jackson and throwing beer bottles at people before meeting up with Dedmon the night Anderson was run over. Sheldon said there were other occasions when one or all of the defendants threw beer bottles and used a slingshot to shoot marbles at black people. In addition, Dedmon and Rice were accused of beating at least two other black men on different occasions.
Several people wept in court during the hearing.

None of the defendants made statements during the hearing, speaking only briefly to answer questions from Reeves.

The victim's family had no comment.

Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division, said: "This is really a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerable African Americans in Jackson and attacking them without provocation simply because of the color of their skin."
"On a number of occasions they drove around Jackson looking for African Americans to assault," Perez said during a news conference after the hearing. "Jackson is a wonderful community, however, for these defendants they referred to Jackson as `Jafrica.' African Americans in Jackson were subhuman to them."
In entering his guilty plea to the state charges on Wednesday, Dedmon admitted he and a group of white teens were partying in Puckett, a small town outside Jackson, when he suggested they find a black man to harass. They found Anderson before dawn outside a hotel.

Dedmon, 19, received two life sentences on those charges.

On the night of the killing, Rice and Butler and others stalled Anderson until Dedmon arrived, according to allegations read in court. When Dedmon arrived, Rice punched Anderson and knocked him down. Dedmon straddled the man and beat him.

The case received widespread attention after a video of Anderson's death was obtained by news organizations.

The video, taken by a hotel surveillance camera, shows Rice and Butler and others in a white Jeep Cherokee leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, Dedmon's green Ford F-250 backs up and then lunges forward. Anderson's shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb. Police said Dedmon was driving the truck and later bragged that he ran over Anderson, using a racial slur to describe him. Two teenage girls were with him in the truck.
"The actions of these defendants who have pled guilty today in this court do not represent the values of Mississippi in 2012. This is an absolute tragedy, and what this family has had to go through as a result of the actions of these young men is inexcusable," U.S. Attorney John Dowdy said.

Dan McMullen, special FBI agent in charge of Mississippi, said the agency is still investigating, but he declined to give details because the investigation is ongoing.

Dedmon was initially indicted on state charges for capital murder, which in Mississippi carries a sentence of death or life in prison without parole, but District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said prosecutors couldn't have gotten a conviction. For capital murder, there must be an underlying offense, which had been robbery. Smith said the investigation revealed that the group did not take Anderson's wallet, as investigators first believed.

During the state court hearing Wednesday, Dedmon asked the victim's family for forgiveness."

"As I stand before you today, I am a changed man. I am a godly man. God has showed me to see no colors. God showed me that we are all made in the image of God so we are all based on the same thing," he said. "I do not ask y'all to forget, but I do ask y'all to forgive."

Rice is charged by the state with simple assault in the case. Rice has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Rewriting the end of a hate crime trial


In the latest Rewrite, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell explained the remarkable end of a hate crime investigation in Mississippi. The sister of a black man viciously murdered by a white man asks the court to spare the life of her brother's murderer.

March 21, 2012 5:51 PM

Miss. teen pleads guilty in rundown hate crime

Deryl Dedmon in Hinds County Circuit Court, in Jackson, Miss. on March 21, 2012. (AP Photo)

(AP) JACKSON, Miss. - A white Mississippi teenager has pleaded guilty to murder and committing a hate crime for running over a black man with his pickup truck, killing him.

Deryl Dedmon was sentenced to two life sentences for killing 49-year-old James Craig Anderson in Jackson in June.

Dedmon, 19, apologized to Anderson's family. "I do not ask y'all to forget, but I do ask y'all to forgive," he said in court just before he was sentenced by Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr.

As members of his family and the victim's relatives wiped away tears, Demon said God has taught him not to see race and he is a changed man.

Seven white teens were partying in the early morning hours June 26 when Dedmon suggested they find a black man to harass, authorities said. Anderson was beaten before Dedmon ran over him, authorities said.
Another teenager, John Aaron Rice, is charged with simple assault in the case. Authorities said he left the scene before Anderson was killed. Rice has pleaded not guilty and is free on a $5,000 bond.

The case received widespread attention after a video of Anderson's death was obtained by news organizations, including The Associated Press.

The video, taken by a hotel surveillance camera, shows a white Jeep Cherokee in which Rice was allegedly a passenger leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, a Ford truck backs up and then lunges forward. Anderson's shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb. Police said Dedmon was driving the truck and later bragged that he ran over Anderson, using a racial slur to describe him.

Dedmon was indicted for capital murder, which in Mississippi carries a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.

Anderson's family had asked prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty, saying they oppose capital punishment. Anderson's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the seven teens, including two young girls who were allegedly in the truck with Dedmon.

The killing of a black teen has drawn national attention and scrutiny.

Q&A: Florida neighborhood watch killing

  • What happened?
  • Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., with George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who was patrolling the neighborhood. Martin, seen in this family photo, was unarmed and walking to the home of his father's fiance from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.

    (AP Photo/ Martin family photo)
  • What is Zimmerman's side of the story?
  • George Zimmerman, seen in this booking photo, has not spoken publicly. He told police that he spotted Martin as he was patrolling his neighborhood on a rainy evening and called 911 to report a suspicious person. In the 911 recordings, a dispatcher is heard telling Zimmerman not to follow Martin. However Zimmerman ignored that advice and got out of the car to go after Martin.

    Zimmerman told police he killed Martin in self-defense.

    (AP Photo/Orange County Jail via Miami Herald)
  • What does race have to do with it?
  • Martin was black, and Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic. Martin's father has said he was attacked because he was black. Zimmerman's family says he is not a racist.

    In the photo, angry community members hold a rally to demand that Zimmerman be charged.

    (AP Photo/Florida Today, Craig Rubadoux)
  • What is the audio that many are talking about?
  • After spotting Martin, Zimmerman called 911 and talked to a dispatcher, who tells him not to go after Martin. Parts of the audio are hard to understand. Zimmerman uses some expletives, and some people claim to hear him using a racial slur while following Martin. Others do not hear him saying that.

  • Has Zimmerman been arrested?
  • Police have not arrested Zimmerman. Florida has a "Stand Your Ground" law, which was passed in 2005 and allows a potential crime victim who is "in fear of great bodily injury" to use deadly force in public places. The case has been turned over to prosecutors for review.

    Under the old law, people could use deadly force in self-defense only if they had tried to run away or otherwise avoid the danger. Under the new law, there is no duty to retreat. However, some legal experts question whether the law even applies because Zimmerman went against advice of a 911 dispatcher and got out of his car to engage with Martin.

    The photo shows fliers about the new law that were distributed after it was passed in 2005.

    (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
  • What has been the national reaction?
  • There has been a growing national outcry for Zimmerman to be arrested. An online petition urging local authorities to prosecute Zimmerman has drawn more than 500,000 signatures at website

    Rallies have been held in different places in Florida and in New York City.

    Civil rights activist Al Sharpton has visited with Sanford city leaders and attended a town hall meeting.

    In the photo, community members demanding justice for Martin hold a rally.

    (AP Photo/Florida Today, Craig Rubadoux)
  • What has been the fallout?
  • Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down, saying that he had become a distraction. "As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child. I'm also aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," Lee said Thursday.

    Protests have also gone beyond the Florida community, to other cities in the state and New York City.

    In the photo, Lee is shown speaking to the media.

    (AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)
  • How has President Barack Obama responded?
  • Obama has responded in unusually personal terms. On Friday, he vowed to get to the bottom of what happened and said: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."

    In the photo, Obama answers a reporter's question about the case.

    (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
  • What's next?
  • The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the case.

    The department said it would send officials to Sanford to address building tension and meet with community leaders.

    "The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," the agency said in a statement.

    (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Stand your ground

    At the center of the growing controversy on the decision by police not to arrest the shooter is a Florida law on self-defense and violent confrontations. The sections in bold below highlight the language most pertinent to this case:

    776.012 Use of force in defense of person.

    A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
    (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony
    ; or
    (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013. (see below)

    776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

    (1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
    (a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person's will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
    (b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
    (2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
    (a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
    (b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
    (c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
    (d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
    (3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
    (4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person's dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
    (5) As used in this section, the term:
    (a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
    (b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
    (c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.

Tyler Clementi's parents: Jury got it right

March 23, 2012 6:01 PM

Tyler Clementi's parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi.
Tyler Clementi's parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi. (CBS)

(AP) TRENTON, N.J. — The parents of a Rutgers student who committed suicide days after his roommate used a webcam to see him kissing another man said Friday that a jury got it right last week by convicting their son's roommate of hate crimes and other offenses.

"They reached their decision based on the facts shown by the evidence," Tyler Clementi's father, Joseph Clementi, said in a written statement. "At the conclusion of the trial, the defense's explanation of what happened was simply not believable."

Meanwhile, the other man in the live streaming video — identified in court only by the initials M.B. — said the roommate, Dharun Ravi, deserves prison time for his actions.

"If the judge simply gave him probation, he would feel that this case escaped justice," Richard Pompelio, a victims' rights lawyer representing M.B., told The Record of Bergen County.

The statements were the first public reactions to the verdict from the Clementi family and M.B. They came as Ravi granted his first interviews nearly a week after he was convicted on all 15 criminal counts he faced, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime. The jury found that Ravi knowingly and purposefully intimidated Clementi because of his sexual orientation and that Clementi believed he was being targeted out of bias.

Rutgers student convicted of hate crime
A jury in New Jersey decided it was a hate crime when Rutgers University student Dharum Ravi used a webcam to watch a sexual encounter by his gay roommate, who later committed suicide. Erin Moriarty reports on the landmark conviction.

Ravi could face up to 10 years in prison when he's sentenced on May 21.

In recent interviews, Ravi, now 20, said that he acted inappropriately by using a webcam to see what was happening in his room when Tyler Clementi asked to have privacy for himself and M.B. But he said it was not out of hate toward gays.

He also said that he has come to believe that Clementi's suicide in September 2010 off the George Washington Bridge wasn't caused by the webcam viewing a few days earlier.

"The more and more I found out, it would be kind of obnoxious of me to think that I could have this profound effect on him," Ravi told ABC News' "20/20" in an interview scheduled to air Friday. "After all this time and reading his conversations and how and what he was doing before, I really don't think he cared at all. I feel like I was an insignificant part to his life. That's giving me comfort now."

Tyler Clementi

Clementi's family has launched a foundation in Tyler's memory to promote responsible use of technology and acceptance of people with differences — especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"We have learned that LGBT teens, especially, suffer pain, embarrassment and ridicule which is made worse by improper use of electronic media," Clementi's mother, Jane, said in the statement.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not

Mother of NYC activist Rev. Al Sharpton dies

March 22, 2012 7:23 AM

NEW YORK — The 87-year-old mother of the Rev. Al Sharpton has died.

His spokeswoman says Ada Sharpton passed away early Thursday morning in Dothan, Ala., following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Rachel Noerdlinger says Sharpton will fly to Alabama to make arrangements for his mother's funeral after attending a rally Thursday evening in Sanford, Fla., for Trayvon Martin.

Martin is a black teenager who was shot to death by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in Florida. His parents attended a march for their son in New York City on Wednesday evening.

Noerdlinger says Sharpton learned of his mother's death while boarding the flight to Florida Thursday morning. He heads the National Action Network, a civil rights organization based in New York City.

Senate passes small business investment bill

Legislation to help startup companies raise capital by reducing some federal regulations has easily passed the Senate despite warnings from some Democrats that less government oversight would mean more abuse and scams.

President Barack Obama supports the measure, which stands to be one of few bipartisan bills to pass Congress during this politically contentious election year.

Democrats pushed through an amendment designed to increase investor protections, so the legislation will still require either another House vote or House-Senate negotiations. The House passed the measure two weeks ago on a 390-23 vote. All 26 negative votes in the Senate came from Democrats.

The legislation combines six smaller bills that change Securities and Exchange Commission rules so small businesses can attract investors and go public with less red tape and cost.

Insider trading ban sent to White House

The Senate on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a scaled-down bill to explicitly ban members of Congress, the president and thousands of other federal workers from profiting from nonpublic information learned on the job.

Obama has said he would sign the bill.

In an unusual move, the legislation passed unanimously without a vote on the measure itself. Passage was automatically triggered by a procedural motion that was approved on a 96-3 vote. The lawmakers who voted no were Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Charles Grassley of Iowa.

The bill would give the public a more frequent look at financial transactions of government officials. A driving force has been Congress' focus on its own dismal approval ratings, which ranged from 12 to 19 percent in polls over the last several weeks.

Public reports would be posted online either 30 days after the individual was notified of a transaction in his or her account or 45 days after the transaction. The House currently posts disclosure information on the Internet, but the Senate still requires people seeking the data to appear personally in a Senate office building.
Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly have approved separate versions of the STOCK Act, which stands for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge. A segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" in November said that members of Congress were profiting from inside information, giving new impetus to legislation that had languished for years.

Lacking enough votes, Majority Leader Harry Reid abandoned the Senate's own, stronger bill and decided to accept the House legislation, which stripped out two key provisions from the bill that originally passed the Senate.

One was designed to strengthen criminal laws in public corruption cases, including restoration of tools used by prosecutors that were limited by a Supreme Court ruling.

The second, which was more controversial, would have required registration and public reports — similar to those filed by lobbyists — by anyone selling inside information learned from members of Congress and their staffs.

Opponents of regulating so-called political intelligence operatives substituted a study to learn more about individuals and firms collecting and selling information.

Federal officials, including members of Congress, are not excluded from federal laws prohibiting insider trading. But there is little public information showing that members of Congress have been investigated.
Recently, it was learned the Office of Congressional Ethics was looking at the trading activities of Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. In the two months surrounding the 2008 financial collapse and subsequent $700 billion economic bailout passed by Congress, Bachus made more than three dozen trades. The OCE is an independent ethics office of the House, run by a board outside of Congress.

Bachus, now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee but then the panel's senior Republican under a Democratic chairman, participated in closed briefings on the crisis by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. He's denied using inside information, and subsequent records show he incurred a net loss of $19,490.

Bachus has denied any wrongdoing.

The bill has a number of additional provisions, including one major exemption. The frequent reporting will not include transactions in widely held investment funds that are publicly traded, have diversified assets and are not controlled by the covered government official.

The bill also adds stronger ethical and legal provisions.

It would deny federal retirement benefits to the president, vice president or an elected official of a state or local government convicted of certain felonies. It also would prohibit senior executives of mortgage giants Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac from receiving bonuses while the companies are under government control. And it would expand the definition of public corruption crimes and increase maximum penalties.
It also requires officials to disclose the mortgages on their primary residences, a provision that has been exempt from reporting requirements.

'Muamba was in effect dead for 78 minutes despite 5 heart shocks'1

(CNN) -- Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba did not respond to 15 defibrillator shocks and was in effect dead for 78 minutes before his heart started beating again, doctors who treated him have revealed.

The 23-year-old has improved significantly since suffering a cardiac arrest during an English FA Cup match last Saturday but is still in intensive care with his condition described as serious.

Muamba is responding appropriately to questions though, speaking in both French and English, and has been joking with some of his many visitors.

Bolton's club doctor, Jonathan Tobin, spoke for the first time on Wednesday, talking reporters through the severity of Muamba's collapse and the frantic efforts made to save his life.

Tobin said he and the other paramedics who rushed onto the field treated Muamba for a total of 48 minutes on the pitch and en route to London's Chest Hospital, but it took a further 30 minutes to restart the midfielders heart.

Sports stars with heart problems
Sports stars with heart problems

Muamba's cardiac arrest preventable?  

Athletes screened for heart problems

Muamba 'In effect dead for 78 minutes'

"In effect he was dead in that time," Dr. Tobin said. "Fabrice was in a type of cardiac arrest where the heart is showing lots of electrical activity but no muscular activity.

"It's something that often responds to drugs and shocks. Now heaven knows why, but Fabrice had, in total, 15 shocks. He had a further 12 shocks in the ambulance."

Muamba's plight stunned players and supporters as the Congo-born star dropped to the floor with no-one near him just before halftime in the match.

And Tobin explained the exasperation he felt as he sprinted onto the turf with the other medics on hand at the stadium, to try to save Muamba's life with 40,000 people looking on.

"I can't begin to explain the pressure that was there," he said. "This isn't somebody that's gone down in the street or been brought into accident and emergency.

"This is somebody that I know, I know his family. This is somebody I consider a friend. This is somebody I joke with on a daily basis. As I was running onto the pitch I was thinking 'Oh my God, it's Fabrice'."

The desperate effort to save Muamba was assisted by an off-duty cardiologist, who was in the stadium watching the game as a fan and was allowed onto the pitch.

Dr. Andrew Deaner suggested Muamba be transferred to the London Chest Hospital, where he works, and administered vital drugs to the player in the ambulance.

He says the fact Muamba is responding appropriately to questions and is able to make jokes within five days of suffering such major heart trauma is nothing short of astonishing.

"If you're going to use the term miraculous, I guess it could be used here," he said. Deaner also revealed he had been in to see Muamba a few hours after he woke up.

"I whispered into his ear 'What's your name?'," he explained. When Muamba said his name Deaner continued: "I said 'I understand you're a very good footballer'. And he said 'I try.'

"He's made a remarkable recovery so far. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. As things stand, I think his life is not in danger at this time. His neurological function is looking very good but it is early days."

Meanwhile, Bolton will be back in action on Saturday after Muamba's family gave their blessing for the club to face rivals Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League. Bolton's proposed league match with Aston Villa, scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed.

"I can't begin to explain the pressure that was there. This is somebody that I know, I know his family. This is somebody I consider a friend."
Jonathan Tobin, Bolton club doctor, on treating Muamba on the pitch

"We spoke together with the players as a group this morning and I talked with Fabrice's family last night," Bolton manager Owen Coyle told the club's website.

"Fabrice's father Marcel and his fiancée Shauna were keen that we fulfill our fixtures. Once the players knew this, there was no doubt in our minds that we would play the matches."

The FA Cup quarterfinal with Tottenham that was abandoned in the wake of Muamba's collapse, will be replayed on March 27 at White Hart Lane.

Obama defends his policy on oil pipeline

By Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Brianna Keilar, CNN
updated 5:35 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) -- President Barack Obama took on critics of his energy policies Thursday, saying in carefully coordinated speeches that they weren't paying attention to increased oil production at home and were misleading the public about the cause of rising gas prices.
"Anyone who says that we're somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn't paying attention," Obama said in Cushing, Oklahoma, on the second day of a four-state tour to tout his policies.
"And anyone who says that just drilling more will bring gas prices down just isn't playing it straight," the president continued. " We are drilling more. We are producing more. But the fact is, producing more oil at home isn't enough to bring gas prices down overnight."
In Cushing and a later speech at The Ohio State University, Obama repeated his call for a diversified policy that increases production of traditional energy sources such as oil and natural gas while increasing investment in alternative sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen power to compete in growing global clean energy markets.
In particular, he rejected Republican claims that U.S. oil reserves alone offer a solution to higher gas prices and long-term supplies.
"Even if we drilled every little bit of this great country of ours, we'd still have to buy enough from the rest of the world to meet our needs," Obama said in Cushing.
He added that "the price of oil is set by the global market, and that means every time tensions rise in the Middle East, so will gas prices at home." In particular, Obama said, rising tension involving Iran was causing the current spike in global oil prices.
At Ohio State, Obama emphasized to a cheering student crowd that since he took office in 2009, "America's dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year."
"Even as the economy was growing, we've made progress in reducing the amount of oil we have to import because we're being smarter, we're doing things better," the president said.

The whirlwind trip over two days followed weeks of criticism of his approach to gas price increases by Republicans on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail.
"He has an energy policy that is very simple," Rick Santorum said of the president during a campaign stop Monday in Illinois. "You can sum it up in two letters, N-O. He is against everything that will create economic incentives to drill."
Newt Gingrich has made reducing prices at the pump a central promise of his campaign, telling voters at a recent event in Birmingham, Alabama, that "an American president who believed in energy and an American president who believed in science and technology would drive the price of gasoline below $2."
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl sounded a similar refrain after a Republican caucus meeting in early March, agreeing with the president's all-of-the-above approach, but adding, "We need it in action, not just words."
A focus of Republican attacks has been the delay in administration approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada's tar sands production in northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Keystone pipeline: Separating rhetoric from reality

 The Obama administration supports extending the existing Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to  the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Last year, the administration put off a decision until 2013 after protests by environmentalists concerned about high carbon emissions from tar sands oil production and objections by Nebraska officials to a route near a vital aquifer.
Republicans in Congress, accusing Obama of avoiding the issue until after the November election, tried to speed the process by tacking a measure requiring an immediate decision to the temporary payroll tax cut bill last December.
The Obama administration then rejected the pipeline permit in January, saying an alternate route from Nebraska had yet to be decided. Since then, Republicans have persisted in attacking Obama for rejecting the permit.
The president announced Thursday in Cushing that he was using his executive authority to order federal agencies to expedite the approval process for large-scale infrastructure projects like oil pipelines. More specifically, he ordered the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline running from Cushing to the Gulf to be placed at the top of the list.
"We're making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority," Obama said to cheers, later adding that "as long as I'm president, we're going to keep encouraging oil development and infrastructure and we're going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people. We don't have to choose between one or the other. We can do both."
Many private companies -- including TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the Keystone XL project -- are working to build pipelines that relieve the bottleneck of oil in Cushing, a major hub for crude oil storage and trade.
While federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior have some involvement in the approval process for the domestic portion of the pipeline, the federal government has relatively little control when compared to the absolute say it holds over the portion that crosses the international border with Canada.
The ultimate decision-making authority for the pipeline's domestic route lies mainly with the states it crosses, prompting Republicans to question whether the president can actually claim any credit for speeding the project along.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday that Obama was claiming credit he didn't deserve on the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline while continuing to prevent construction on the northern leg from Canada.
"It's already gotten its approvals and this idea that the president is going to expedite this will have no impact on the construction of this pipeline," Boehner said of the Cushing-Gulf Coast portion. "The president has continued to block development of oil and gas reserves, big reserves, on federal lands. And he can go out and make all the noise that he wants, but the facts are there."

Poll: Majority say build Keystone pipeline
Protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House on August 30, 2011.

On Wednesday, Obama kicked off his energy tour with stops in Boulder City, Nevada, and Maljamar, New Mexico, to focus on work on alternative energy sources.
The visit to Boulder City was designed to tout the success of solar technology at the largest photovoltaic solar facility in the nation. Photovoltaic solar panels create energy directly from sunlight without the need for any water or moving parts.
Obama acknowledged the high prices at the pump, but used the problem as a reason to abandon federal "subsidies" to oil and gas companies.
"We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we've got American resources, we are tapping into them," the president said. "But they don't need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $120 a barrel, $125 a barrel. They don't need additional incentives. They're doing fine."
What the president calls subsidies, the petroleum industry calls the same tax breaks afforded those in many other industries.
The push to end what Obama deems to be preferential treatment to a petroleum industry that's never been more profitable was central to his two-day tour, but the president also used the trip to push back against those who call federal aid to the renewable energy industry a waste of money.
"Some of these folks want to dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars," Obama said in Boulder City. "In fact, they make jokes about it. One member of Congress who shall remain unnamed called these jobs 'phony' -- called them phony jobs. I mean, think about that mindset, that attitude that says because something is new, it must not be real. If these guys were around when Columbus set sail, they'd be charter members of the Flat Earth Society."
With nearly a million solar panels spread across 450 acres, Copper Mountain 1 in Boulder City provides power for roughly 17,000 homes, but employs just 10 full-time employees.
The solar plant's owner, Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, is in the process of building a second facility nearby that's set to more than triple the output of Copper Mountain 1.
Construction of the second facility -- Copper Mountain 2 -- has created 175 temporary jobs but, according to Sempra's own projections, the final solar plant will result in just five full-time positions.

Police give guidelines for neighborhood watch groups

Posted: Mar 21, 2012 6:53 PM EDT Updated: Mar 21, 2012 6:53 PM EDT 

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

By Jonathan Hardison

The Trayvon Martin case is raising new questions about the role of neighborhood watch programs.
What are local police departments telling neighborhood watch officers about what they can and can't do?
Edith Bodenheimer calls herself the neighborhood gossip, and in her Vestavia Hills neighborhood that talent for talking comes in handy as neighborhood watch captain.
"We keep an eye on each other in this neighborhood," Bodenheimer said. "We know each other. I've had people call me if they're upset about something. But if there's a real problem, we call the police."
"This right here, that's your best weapon," Detective Michael Mangina of the Irondale Police.
Irondale police give their neighborhood watch officers strict instructions on what to look for and how to react, and it starts with protecting yourself first.
"We tell them make sure you get a good description of clothing, make sure you get a good description of vehicles, tag numbers, direction of travel and that sort of thing," Mangina said. "They can do all that from the safety of their front porch."
"You just keep an eye out for each other," Boedenheimer said. "The idea that you would confront somebody-again, that's just not what you do. You call the police."
Now neighbors like Edith are worried the Florida shooting incident will give the whole idea of neighborhood watch a black eye.
"He's definitetly gonna make the program look bad," Mangina said. "But hopefully, most everybody will understand that this was a guy acting like Batman and Robin, and they'll know not to act that way."
"I think you've got one screwed up person who did something really bad," Bodenheimer said. "But by and large the neighborhood watches I've dealt with here, it's the neighbors getting together to do something."
Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Neighborhood Watch Manual

House votes to repeal key 'Obamacare' provision

The House voted Thursday to repeal a central provision of the 2010 health care overhaul, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

The vote was 223 to 181, with seven Democrats voting with most Republicans to abolish IPAB. Ten Republicans voted against the effort to kill IPAB.

The board’s job is to propose cost-saving changes to Medicare if per capita spending on that program exceeds a target, the national income growth rate, plus 1 percent. The IPAB changes would automatically take effect unless Congress blocked them or enacted its own cost-saving measures.

The House vote took place only four days before the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of other provision of the 2010 law.

Thursday’s vote will have little more than a symbolic election-year effect since if the Senate were to vote on IPAB, Democrats have enough votes to keep it alive.

And the board, which is supposed to have 15 members with expertise in medical care and economics, still exists only on paper: President Obama has not yet nominated anyone to serve on it. Its members are subject to Senate confirmation.

But the White House has issued a veto threat against the House bill, saying it would dismantle IPAB “even before it has a chance to work. The bill would eliminate an important safeguard that… will help reduce the rate of Medicare cost growth responsibly while protecting Medicare beneficiaries….”

The 2010 Affordable Care Act which created the board, says IPAB can’t ration care, restrict benefits, increase the premiums Medicare recipients must pay, or alter the eligibility for Medicare. But it can limit or change payments to doctors, hospitals, hospices, and other providers.

After the vote, the chief proponent of IPAB, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D- W.V., issued a statement denouncing the move to abolish it.

“Today’s House vote is a good example of what happens when special interests win – seniors lose,” he said. “The Independent Payment Advisory Board was created to protect Medicare for seniors – by improving the quality of Medicare services and by extending the life of Medicare for years to come."

In House debate Wednesday, Rep. Sander Levin, D- Mich., defended IPAB, saying, “For conservatives who talk about the importance of cost containment, they want to repeal an act that has within it not only the seeds of cost containment, but the instrumentalities of it. In fact, they’re beginning to work well enough. That’s why CBO (Congressional Budget Office) says that it’s going to be 10 years before IPAB is triggered.”

But Rep. Dan Lungren, R- Calif., said, “The idea that 15 unelected individuals on the Independent Payment Advisory Board have been empowered by the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ration health care for seniors—and that’s for all seniors— is as Orwellian as these titles crafted by the previous Congress to divert attention from what’s really being done here.”

He said that IPAB “raises the most serious ethical concerns about respect for the dignity of our seniors. This is the unfortunate consequence of a world view which favors the notion of bureaucratic expertise and efficiency as a solution to the challenges facing our health care system today.”

The House bill also included a provision to impose a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and to limit the contingency fees lawyers can charge in medical malpractice cases.

Estimate of IPAB repeal is a head-scratcher

Which has been done by the House already
By: Matt DoBias
March 13, 2012 11:47 PM EDT
The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that repealing IPAB would cost $3.1 billion has people on the Hill scratching their heads even more than they usually do on a CBO health spending score.
On one hand, CBO is looking at Medicare spending trends and seeing signs that growth is truly slowing. Not a recession-linked short-term blip, but a trend. And that means the Independent Payment Advisory Board — which was designed as a backstop to curb spending if needed — probably won’t have to recommend payment changes until at least 2022.
Yet at the same time CBO is saying IPAB won’t really have anything to do for a decade, it’s also saying that repealing IPAB would cost $3.1 billion. Deciphered, it means CBO is saying Medicare spending would be $3.1 billion above the level it would need to be to avert triggering IPAB recommendations to bring it down.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) confessed to being confused as to how something that is not projected to save money until a decade from now could actually cost money before that. Roe sponsored the IPAB bill that, until late last week, had been enjoying relatively smooth sailing in the House, including bipartisan voice votes in two committees.
But the $3 billion meant the Republicans have to come up with an offset to Roe’s bill — and the one they have identified, a cap on noneconomic malpractice awards — alienated most Democratic supporters of IPAB repeal, erasing the rare note of bipartisanship in an effort to undo a piece of the Affordable Care Act still favored by the White House
But the $3 billion was CBO’s way of hedging its bets — of evaluating “what if” scenarios that could mean the 15-member IPAB would have to act before 2022, explained Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“If it’s highly uncertain, CBO can say, ‘Oh well, there’s a pretty good chance that some year our estimate will turn out low and there’s a very high chance that IPAB will be triggered,’” Van de Water said. “Based on their estimate and the uncertainty surrounding their projections, this is what they think repealing IPAB will cost.”
The CBO score isn’t a coin toss; its methodology is consistent with past IPAB scores. But it seemed that way to Republicans — and some Democrats — on Capitol Hill last week, who didn’t want to have to come up with an offset.
“I could see why people on the Hill would be befuddled by this,” said Jim Capretta, a policy analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Capretta said the CBO’s math is solid, as is its use of “probability estimates” — although like other conservatives, he has broader skepticism over how the CBO has tackled its cost estimates for the ACA, which created the IPAB.
“I think it certainly provides a small, additional speed bump, but in the scheme of things, $3.1 billion is minor in the context of Obamacare, and it’s minor in the context of the budget,” Capretta said. “People emphasize these cost estimates far too much in the legislative process. CBO doesn’t really know.”
Democrats also expressed confusion over the IPAB score but said the larger point is that CBO’s report validates that the health care law is helping to tame Medicare growth. And some note that CBO in the past had been more cautious about changing payment incentives and congressional willingness to stick to provider cuts. In the past, CBO had put potential IPAB savings at $15 billion.
“One only has to look at the ACA — which extended [Medicare] solvency, slowed spending growth, lowered beneficiary costs, improved benefits, modernized our delivery system and created new fraud-fighting tools — to see we’ve done a damn good job,” Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said the other day.
“They weren’t giving us enough credit for our actual payment reductions and delivery system reforms,” the aide, who spoke on background, said. “I think that’s what [the most recent score] bears out.”

CBO: Exploding debt under Obama

By: David Rogers

March 16, 2012 11:29 AM EDT

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that President Barack Obama’s tax and spending policies will yield $6.4 trillion in deficits over the next decade, more than double the shortfall in CBO’s own fiscal baseline — even after taking credit for reduced war costs.
House Republicans, slated to unveil their own plan next week, are sure to seize on the numbers, yet the mountain of data gives reason for both parties to pause going into what’s expected to be a major fiscal crisis after the November elections.

The GOP has been quick to fault Obama for excess spending. But more than three-quarters of the $3.5 trillion in added red ink can be explained by what is still a rich diet of tax breaks continued by the president — but not under the CBO’s baseline.
(See also: CBO's estimate of repealing IPAB is a head-scratcher)
Indeed, in the case of discretionary appropriations, CBO scores the president as coming in about $4 billion under the $1.047 trillion target set by the Budget Control Act last summer. And within these confines, the biggest discrepancy is that his budget is $2 billion over the caps for security programs at the expense of domestic priorities.

Administration officials Friday took heart that CBO credited Obama’s plan with bringing future deficits down to 3 percent of GDP. In fact, the $6.4 trillion cumulative 10-year shortfall shown by CBO is under the $6.7 trillion forecast by the White House in its own documents in February. And measured against a rough proxy for current policy, the report lends at least partial support to the White House claim of up to $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

“CBO found that by 2016 deficits as a share of the economy would be below 3 percent – a key milestone of fiscal sustainability,” said Jeff Zients, director of the Office of Management and Budget. “It found that after implementing the president’s budget, debt held by the public will decrease and then stabilize as a share of the economy, also a key indicator of improving fiscal health.”

But all these deficit reduction numbers come with some important caveats regarding how to treat hundreds of billions in war savings as well as automatic spending cuts due to take effect in January. And even if Obama were to get his way on all fronts, the outlook remains grim.

The federal debt held by the public would still nearly double again from $10.1 trillion at the end of 2011 to $18.8 trillion at the end of 2022. For the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, CBO is now projecting a shortfall of $1.3 trillion. In fiscal 2013, the deficit will still hover near the $1 trillion mark — about $977 billion. And while it will fall to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2017, it then begins to grow again to 3 percent of GDP by 2022.

To be sure, CBO’s baseline isn’t perfect as a standard against which to measure fiscal decisions.

The nonpartisan office is bound by rules that require it to assume that all of the Bush-era tax cuts will end in December, for example. At the same time, it must build-in spending assumptions that major health programs like Medicare and Medicaid continue to grow unchecked.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is determined to bend this spending curve and shows every sign of wanting to renew his call next week for historic, long-range changes in both healthcare programs. At the same time, Republican presidential candidates are demanding still greater tax cuts than even former President George W. Bush envisioned and this complicates any hope of producing substantial deficit reduction.

For example, CBO estimates that Obama’s budget will cut revenues by $2.35 trillion below its baseline, but that assumes he also gets about $1 trillion in tax increases that many in the GOP oppose. Not counted in these totals is another $366 billion in refundable tax credits, which CBO scores as outlays on a separate table.

Altogether, in fact, the disparities between the CBO baseline and Obama’s budget on the spending side are much smaller. The administration appears to benefit from several technical assumptions used in the scoring, and CBO gives Obama $810 billion in credit for savings attributed to pulling troops out of Iraq and future reductions in Afghanistan.

At the same time the president is “charged” $979 billion for his budget’s assumption that across-the-board cuts can be forestalled in January. But even with this, the real added spending in his budget has more to do with interest on the mounting debt than any new initiative.

“Today’s analysis serves as a disappointing reminder of this administration’s broken promises and failed leadership when it comes to averting the most predictable economic crisis in our history,” Ryan said in response to the CBO numbers. “When it comes to our generation’s greatest challenges, the President refuses to take accountability or demonstrate much-needed leadership.”

Obama: 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon'

showing 1 of 3 photos
Obama Neighborhood Watch Death
President Barack Obama answers a reporter's question about the death of Trayvon Martin, Friday, March 23, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/ Haraz N. Ghanbari)

WASHINGTON — Urging Americans to "do some soul searching," President Barack Obama injected himself into the emotional debate over the fatal shooting of a teenager in Florida, turning the racially charged case into a personal matter for the nation's first black president.
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said Friday.
Obama's words also catapulted the death in Florida of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, already the focus of major national attention, into the presidential campaign. Three Republicans seeking Obama's job all used the word "tragedy" to describe the shooting, as the president did.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said at the White House.
Obama said the parents of Martin, who was shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, have a right to expect "that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."
Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who said he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic. The shooting has stoked debate over race as well as other issues. Obama did not mention Zimmerman in his comments.
Republican presidential candidates quickly weighed in after Obama spoke.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called the shooting a "horrible case." Referring to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight, Santorum said: "Stand your ground is not doing what this man did."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigning in Louisiana, said the shooting was a "terrible tragedy, unnecessary, uncalled for, and inexplicable at this point."
Romney said it was "entirely appropriate for the district attorney to be looking into this and to have called a grand jury and to find out what the facts are. We hope that justice is done in this case."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia also called it a tragedy and credited local authorities for empaneling a grand jury. "There's a point in there where there ought to be some kind of signal that's pretty clear that this is a guy who'd found a hobby that's very dangerous," Gingrich said of Zimmerman.
Florida is a large and diverse state that plays an influential role in presidential elections — it was a deciding factor in the 2000 election following a lengthy recount. The Orlando area in central Florida is particularly important, acting as a bellwether for statewide elections.
The case resonates with many black Americans, a key voting group during Obama's 2008 election, who see it as an example of bias toward blacks. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified. Of Sanford's 53,000 residents, 57 percent are white and 30 percent are black.
Obama directed his message to Martin's parents, saying, "I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans take this with the seriousness that it deserves, and we're going to get to the bottom of what happened."
He said that "every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together, federal state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
The White House had said earlier in the week that it was "not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter" though offering sympathies for Martin's family. But that changed when Obama answered a shouted question following a Rose Garden ceremony to announce the president's choice to lead the World Bank.
Obama cautioned before speaking that he must "be careful so we're not impairing any investigation." But he said he was glad the Justice Department was investigating and that Florida officials had formed the task force.
"I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how did something like this happen, and that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident," Obama said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said later that the president "had thought about" the case and "was prepared to answer that question when he got it."
Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, thanked Obama for his support, saying in a statement the president's words "touched us deeply and made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious, too?"
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in an interview that Obama "spoke from the heart of a parent and the experience of a parent of color, but also from the pulpit of our national leader. And we needed to hear all of those things in this moment."
Obama, early in his term, also spoke out after the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard University professor, by a white police sergeant in Cambridge, Mass.
Gates was arrested in his home after the police sergeant arrived to investigate a possible burglary. The charges were dropped, but Obama said the police had "acted stupidly." The president said later he should have expressed his concerns with different language and invited both Gates and Sgt. James Crowley to the White House for a chat and a beer.
The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation into Martin's death, and a grand jury is considering whether to charge Zimmerman. Martin's parents, civil rights activists and others who have reacted to the case say they won't be satisfied until Zimmerman is arrested.
Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers Martin looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight, and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.
Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle.
Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down temporarily this week to try to cool the building anger that his department had not arrested Zimmerman. Hours later, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case in hopes of "toning down the rhetoric" surrounding it.

Kvetch A Sketch

Some advice for Mitt Romney on how to live down his reputation.

Let's be grouchy. The White House is ripe to be taken, and Republicans seem stalled, weirdly becalmed. Their great primary struggle has imparted no feeling of dynamism, of forward motion, of a clash that yields clarity. When you think of the debates the past six months, you see a line of seals barking, Ahrk ahrk!
Mitt Romney is most frustrating. He always keeps you from celebrating him. Every time you want to—he sweeps Illinois, he gives a good acceptance speech—he gives you reasons not to. He should take to hiding out after victory.
He wins Jeb Bush's endorsement, he's flying high, and he immediately follows it with a full-body pander to George W. Bush and the first Wall Street bailout, which Republicans on the ground, many Democrats and independents, too, view with increasing distaste. Then his press guy does Etch A Sketch.

David Gothard

That last comment was unfortunate in two ways. One is that it reminded a lot of people—well, me—of how then-Sen. Barack Obama, in 2008, was widely viewed as a blank slate, an empty canvas on which people painted their hopes and yearnings. He knew it; he admitted it was part of his mystique. So he was a kind of Etch A Sketch too, only he let the voters turn the knobs. The other is that it illustrated with a disheartening vividness the essential Romney problem, which has never gone away after all this time: that he's making it up as he goes along, that he'll be one thing today and another tomorrow.
Actually, the vibration he's lately giving off is worse than that. He acts like a guy who can be captured. The world is full of mischief, full of groups, tongs, clubs and cabals, and this one says you have to back a certain fiscal plan, that one an environmental approach, and this one says you've got to go to war. And they are almost never thinking of America Overall, they are always thinking of their issue, their thing, and telling themselves—and you—that doing it their way will be better for America, overall. And if they think you have a soft, chewy center, every day of your presidency will be a bloody struggle to capture the Mitt.
Presidents have to have a sophisticated sense of others' agendas and know the implications of those agendas. They have to be able to imagine overall impact.
Does Mr. Romney have such sophistication? Another way of asking is to note a small but telling aspect of his public speaking style. There is something strangely uninfected there. He says very different things in the same tone. "Pass the mustard!" "This means war!" "Flowers are pretty!" "Don't tread on me!" It's all the same tone, the same level of import and engagement. Which it would be if you're sort of . . . well, if you see issues as entities to deploy as opposed to think about and weigh.
Are we too grouchy? Mr. Romney will, after all, be the Republican nominee. That at least became clear this week. How about a little possibly helpful advice?
Hmmm. Some short-term advice to all the candidates:
Get cable TV out of your head. All the campaigns are obsessed with and driven crazy by what the cable universe is saying. Ignore it. What you are having is a conversation with America. You are not having a conversation with MSNBC. You are not negotiating a relationship with the anchors of Fox News.
Their constant clamor gives you a distorted sense of reality. Their critiques leave you too high or low. You know who let cable in his head? President Obama, in the first years of his presidency. It's in Jodi Kantor's book. Do you need more proof of how cable can leave you confused, lost and ineffective?
Stop talking about political process. Every reporter in America wants to reveal the shallowness of your concerns. Why do you help them? Why do you answer their dreary, droning questions about what demographic you appeal to most, what part of the country you'll do best in, how much money you're raising, how you'll win over Hispanics?
They ask you these questions because they want you to be what they are: people for whom politics is all about manipulation. You are running for president. You're supposed to talk about things that matter and address big questions.
Every Republican candidate has been answering these questions for a year now. Stop it. Learn to say, "I have a well-paid idiot who answers some of those questions for me. Would you like to discuss welfare policy?" After the first 10 times it will work.
For Mr. Romney in particular:
Suit up and get serious. Now that everyone knows you'll be the nominee, get off the goofball express. Cheesy grits, jeans, singing, being compulsively pleasant, calling your opponents lightweights—enough.
Use the next few months to get back to basics. Why do you want to be president again? Is the answer, "Because I'm a great fellow and it's the top job"? Dig down deep for a better reason!
Here's something Americans intuit about motivations in presidential politics. When a candidate is on a mission to rescue the country, they can tell. When it's about the nation and not him, they can tell. When he has a general philosophy of government and politics, they will listen, and give a fair hearing.

More Peggy Noonan

But when a candidate says, not blatantly but between the lines, "I want to be president because I'm an extraordinary and superior human and want you to see me that way too," well, that sort of subliminally gives a lot of people the creeps. They will see you as ego-driven, not purpose-driven. They may elect you anyway, but this year especially they won't.
Mr. Romney seems stuck in "I am extraordinary." But Mr. Obama does, too. He's proof that it's not enough.
It is not fatal that Mr. Romney has been tagged as Etch A Sketchy. Almost all of 2012 will come down to plans and policy, to which path seems likely to get us out of the muck. The American people are in a post-heroic presidential period. They just want to hire somebody to come in and fix some essential problems.
Mr. Romney should feel optimistic.
If the issue is our national economic life, the GOP will very likely win. If the subset of that issue is freedom and personal liberty, the GOP will win with meaning.
The Obama campaign knows this. That's why they'll do anything to throw Republicans off those subjects. Two weeks ago it was contraception, next week it will be another social question. They used to scorn Republicans for using wedge issues, but now their entire strategy is a tribute to the political hacks they hated. And if any Republicans were sad that contraception actually came up as the subject of public debate, they were not as sad as Democratic strategists, who were hoping to save it for September.
If the economy significantly rebounds between now and November, will that leave Mr. Romney without an issue? No. First of all, magic is not about to occur. But more important, if unemployment plummeted to 6%, the American people would think, "Nothing personal, but this didn't happen because of Obama, it happened in spite of him."
No one thinks he's got a good hand on the economy. No one, not even his supporters.