Friday, March 30, 2012

And the winning Mega Millions numbers for the huge jackpot are ...

In the hopes of striking it rich, people across the country are scooping up Mega Millions tickets. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
The winning numbers for the largest lottery jackpot in world history -- a Mega Millions prize that hit $640 million -- were 46, 23, 38, 4, 2; mega ball was 23, lottery officials said late Friday.
It will be early Saturday morning before lottery officials verify whether there are any winning tickets, according to the Mega Millions website. Lottery officials in the 42 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands, that sell Mega Millions tickets must report in.

In most participating states, tickets were on sale Friday until 10:45 p.m. EST, lottery officials said. The drawing was held in Atlanta at 11 p.m. EST.
The Mega Millions jackpot hit $640 million Friday, according to lottery officials. That's a cash payout of $462 million for a single winning ticket or the full amount taken over 26 years, according to theMega Millions web site. If there are multiple winning tickets, the winnings will be split equally among the lucky customers.
Hopeful future millionaires formed long lines at stores.
Odds of winning the entire jackpot are 175 million to one, said Margaret DeFrancisco, president and chief executive of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.
If no one wins on Friday night, the jackpot will grow to $975 million. If there's no winner, lottery officials are considering moving the next drawing after Friday to Times Square in New York City as the anticipation and jackpot build, DeFrancisco said.
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.

Obama: Tough new sanctions against Iran won't hurt oil supplies

WASHINGTON -- The White House said Friday that the United States would implement tough new sanctions aimed at squeezing Iran's oil exports after President Barack Obama determined there is enough crude on world markets to take the step without harming U.S. allies.
Obama's move allows the U.S. to go forward with sanctions on foreign banks that continue to purchase oil from Iran. The sanctions aim to further isolate Iran's central bank, which processes nearly all of the Islamic Republic's oil purchases, from the global economy.

U.S. officials hope ratcheting up economic pressure will both push Iran to abandon its disputed nuclear program and convince Israel to give sanctions time to take hold before pursuing a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The U.S. and allies believe that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that.
Under a sweeping defense bill Obama signed at the end of December, he had until Friday to determine if there was enough oil supply on the world market to allow countries to cut their oil purchases from Iran.The decision was announced in a statement Friday.
The president said he based his determination on global economic conditions, the level of spare oil capacity and increased production by some countries, among other factors. He said he would keep monitoring the global market closely to ensure it can handle a reduction of oil purchases from Iran.
The law requires the president to determine every six months whether petroleum prices are low enough and production ample enough to apply the sanctions, The New York Times said. It also allows the president to waive sanctions if they threaten national security or if gas prices increase.
The national average price of gasoline rose about half a cent to $3.93 per gallon on Friday, only about a nickel less than last year's high of $3.98 a gallon, reached in May. Analysts think pump prices will top $4 a gallon nationally within the next couple of weeks, perhaps sooner. Then they could start to fall.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service has said the average pump price could climb as high as $4.25 per gallon next month, which would top the all-time record of $4.11 per gallon set in 2008. He expects the national average to hit about $4.05 per gallon by mid-April. Whether it goes any higher, or retreats, after that is unclear, he said.
U.S. officials have sought assurances that pushing countries to stop buying from Iran would not cause a further spike in prices.
That's particularly important for Obama in an election year that has seen an increasing focus on gas prices.
The congressionally mandated sanctions target foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank — barring them from operating in the U.S. to buy or sell Iranian oil. The penalties are to take effect at the end of June, around the same time Europe's embargo on Iranian oil kicks in.
Countries can still avoid the sanctions if they take steps to significantly reduce their imports before then.
Many of the countries that buy oil from Iran are U.S. allies, including several European Union nations, Japan, South Korea and India. In order to provide flexibility to countries friendly to the U.S., the sanctions bill allows the U.S. to grant waivers to nations that significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian oil.
Even before Friday's decision, the State Department announced that it would grant waivers to 10 European Union countries and Japan because of steps they have already taken to cut back on Iranian oil. An E.U. oil embargo, approved in January, is set to take effect in July.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who co-authored the sanctions legislation with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, said he welcomed Obama's support in targeting Iran's Central Bank. Menendez's office says he was also notified of the decision earlier Friday
"Today, we put on notice all nations that continue to import petroleum or petroleum products from Iran that they have three months to significantly reduce those purchases or risk the imposition of severe sanctions on their financial institutions," Menendez said in a statement.

House approves Republican deficit-cutting plan


Republicans pushed an election-year, $3.5 trillion budget through the House on Thursday that relies on biting spending cuts and a revamping of Medicare to curb massive federal deficits, drawing a sharp contrast with how President Barack Obama and Democrats would tackle the nation's fiscal problems.

Alex Wong / Getty Images
House Speaker John Boehner arrives for a news briefing on the GOP's budget proposal March 29 on Capitol Hill.
House passage came on a near party-line, 228-191 vote. With its doom guaranteed in the Democratic-run Senate, the House measure was essentially a political stage on which Republicans showed voters how they would run Washington if they win control in the November elections — and Democrats fired back by doing the same.

The GOP plan features sharper deficit reduction and starkly less government than Democrats want. It would block Obama's proposal to boost taxes on the wealthy and would instead lower income tax rates while erasing many unspecified tax breaks. Obama's budget would raise taxes on families making above $250,000 and on oil and gas companies, add funds for roads and schools and cull modest savings from domestic programs.
"We think America is on the wrong track," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the spending plan's chief author and a rising party star who is sometimes mentioned as a vice presidential prospect. "We think the president is bringing us to a debt crisis and a welfare state in decline."
Democrats accused the GOP of writing a plan that would end the age-old guarantee that Medicare would cover most of seniors' medical bills and would slash transportation, research and other programs far too deeply, even as the measure would protect the rich from Obama's proposed tax hikes.
"The more people know about that budget, the more people know it hurts them in their lives," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Congress' budget is a nonbinding road map that suggests tax and spending changes lawmakers should make in separate, later legislation. A House-Senate stalemate over the fiscal blueprint would have scant practical impact as Congress tackles what little budget work it is expected to address before the November elections.
Final approval in the House came after lawmakers swatted down a slew of alternatives over the past two days, including a package by the most conservative Republicans that featured even sharper spending cuts and deeper deficit reduction than Ryan's leadership-backed plan.
The conservative plan claimed to turn this year's $1.2 trillion federal deficit into a balanced budget in five years. Most analysts consider that unachievable because few lawmakers would vote for the package's proposed cuts.
None of the competing budgets by Ryan, Obama or House Democrats claim to balance the budget within the next decade.
Underlining the growing influence of tea party and other conservative Republicans, a clear majority of GOP lawmakers voted for the conservatives' plan. It was defeated because virtually every Democrat voted against it.
Republicans forced a vote on Obama's budget and it was rejected 414-0, with Democrats worried that a "yes" vote would provide fodder for campaign ads accusing them of backing anything voters might dislike in the president's plan.
Also rejected was a compromise mix of tax increases and spending cuts offered by moderates of both parties and modeled on recommendations issued by Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission. It got only 38 votes.
The GOP package would slice everything from food stamps to transportation. It envisions collapsing the current six income tax rates into just two, with a top rate of 25 percent compared with today's 35 percent. It would also eliminate unspecified tax breaks.
"Our team actually went and made the tough choices, made the tough choices to preserve freedom in America and to deal with our fiscal nightmare," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Democrats said they, too, were eager to stanch deficits that now exceed $1 trillion annually. But they said it needed to be done in a more balanced way, with rich and poor alike sharing the load.
"The Republican budget kicks the middle class in the stomach," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.
The House GOP budget would cut spending by $5.3 trillion more over the next decade than Obama's would — out of more than $40 trillion that would still be spent during that period. It envisions repeal of the president's health care overhaul and sets a course for deep reductions for highway and rail projects, research and aid to college students and farmers while easing planned defense cuts.
It also would cut taxes by $2 trillion more than the president's plan over that time, leaving Republicans seeking about $3.3 trillion in deeper deficit reduction than Obama.
Drawing the most political heat was Ryan's plan for Medicare, the $500 billion-a-year health insurance program for older Americans that all sides agree is growing so fast its future financing is shaky. Both parties know that seniors vote in high numbers and care passionately about the program.
Republicans would leave the plan alone for retirees and those near retirement, letting the government continue paying much of their doctors' and hospital bills.
For younger people, Medicare would be reshaped into a voucher-like system in which the government would subsidize people's health care costs. Republicans say that would drive down federal costs by giving seniors a menu of options that compete with each other. Democrats say government payments won't keep up with the rapid inflation of medical costs, leaving many beneficiaries struggling to afford the care they need.
Republicans would turn Medicaid, the nearly $300 billion-a-year federal-state health insurance program for the poor, into a grant that states could use as they wish. They also would trim its growth by $800 billion over the next decade, out of spending during that time that is expected to exceed $4 trillion.

House passes bill to keep highway aid flowing

The House passed a stopgap three-month bill Thursday to keep federal highway and transit aid flowing and avoid a widespread shutdown of construction projects. The move pushes congressional action on a long-term overhaul of transportation programs deeper into an already fractious election year.
The action came on a mostly party-line vote of 266 to 158 after Republicans and Democrats traded verbal jabs over how best to prevent economic disruption.
That sent the bill to the Senate, which must pass the same measure by Saturday, when the government's authority to spend money on transportation programs and levy federal fuel taxes expires. The House planned to begin a two-week recess later Thursday, leaving senators with few other options.
Without action, Democrats estimate that as many as 1.8 million construction-related jobs would be at risk just as states are gearing up for the spring and summer construction season. The government could also lose about $110 million a day in uncollected gas and diesel taxes.
The last long-term transportation law expired in 2009, but programs have been limping along under a series of short-term extensions. Congress has been struggling since even before that to find the money to maintain the nation's aging roads, bridges and transit systems, as well accommodate future population growth. Two blue-ribbon federal commissions have predicted that without dramatic increases in transportation spending, the nation will face nightmarish congestion in coming decades.
The vote capped an on-again, off-again struggle by House GOP leaders to pass their own five-year transportation plan. They were forced to abandon plans to bring the bill to the floor last month because of divisions in their own ranks. Opting instead for a short-term extension, they repeatedly canceled votes on first a three-month and then a two-month extension this week before deciding to put the three-month bill to a vote on Thursday.
Democrats chided Republicans for being unable to marshal votes to pass their own long-term plan while refusing to permit a vote on a $109 billon Senate plan supported by all the chamber's Democrats and about half the Republicans.
"Give us that vote. What are you afraid of? You afraid it might pass?" Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, asked during House debate on the extension. "We have an alternative — pass the Senate bill."
House and Senate Democrats and the Obama administration have kept up a daily drumbeat over the past two weeks urging Republicans to pass the Senate bill.
"As soon as the House gets back to work, they should do their part and pass that bill in similarly bipartisan fashion," the White House said in a statement after the House vote.
But House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., pointed out that Democrats weren't even able to get committee approval of a long-term transportation bill when they controlled the House prior to the 2010 election, opting instead for a series of short-term extensions.
"We are here to pass a responsible extension so that people across America can go to work, so that we can finish a long-term extension bill," Mica said.
Last fall, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pitched a long-term transportation plan tied to expanded offshore oil drilling and other domestic energy production as the centerpiece of a GOP jobs agenda. But the bill has instead become one of Republicans' biggest legislative headaches.
The five-year bill crafted by Republicans was unacceptable to tea-party conservatives, who say it should be paid for entirely by user fees such as federal gas and diesel taxes, even though revenue from those taxes isn't enough to cover current transportation spending. Conservatives also would like to see the federal transportation role dramatically reduced, with states picking up those responsibilities. Moderate Republicans from suburban districts don't want transportation spending cut and have complained about the bill's treatment of transit programs.
Boehner has been unable to make up defections in his party's ranks with Democratic votes. Democrats say the measure penalizes union workers, as well as undermining environmental and safety protections. If Boehner were to tweak the bill enough to pick up Democratic votes, he risks losing even more Republicans.
House Republicans face the same problem with the Senate bill. If brought to a vote, the Senate bill would likely pass the House — but with more Democratic than Republican votes, said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Transportation Center, a transportation think tank.
That would undermine Boehner's support among House Republicans in an already difficult election year in which GOP control of the House may be in danger, he said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., co-author of the Senate bill, said Democrats would try to attach the Senate bill to the House-passed extension Thursday afternoon. If they are successful, that would require further action by the House.
Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a moderate Democrat, said she was fed up with repeated extensions and planned to vote against the House bill.

Paul Ryan Endorses On Fox & Friends:

‘I Think We Need To Coalesce As Conservatives Around Mitt Romney’

“We vote on Tuesday here in Wisconsin; lots of my friends are asking me who we should vote for,” said Ryan. “I have two criteria I am using to make my decision to vote in our primary Tuesday: Who is the best person to be president, who will make the best president? And who has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama? And, in my opinion, Mitt Romney is clearly that person.”
“I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles, the courage and the integrity to do what it takes to get American back on track,” Ryan continued.
Ryan said that the ongoing GOP primary has been good for the candidates, but believes it is time for the party to come together ahead of a tough general election. “That’s why I think we need to coalesce as conservatives around Mitt Romney and focus on the big task at hand, which is defeating Barack Obama in the fall,” he said.
Ryan said that he contacted former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum but had not had the chance to speak with him yet.
Romney is one of several high-profile Republicans that came out in support of Ryan’s proposed budget this year, in stark contrast to a similar budget proposal last year which Republicans treated with much more caution. “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan,” Romney said Thursday. “I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.”
Ryan is one of a handful of Republicans regularly mentioned as potential vice presidential picks. Ryan’s embrace of Romney days before the critical and competitive Wisconsin Republican primary may make Budget Committee chairman an even more attractive prospect for the vice presidency.
Watch the video below via Fox News Channel:

A Mother’s Grace and Grieving

Miami Gardens, Fla.  

“They called him Slimm.”
That is what Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, told me people called her son because he was so thin.
I talked with her Saturday in a restaurant near her home, four weeks to the day after George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., shot Trayvon in the chest and killed him. Trayvon was unarmed, carrying nothing more than candy and a drink.
Ms. Fulton brought her own mother with her, Trayvon’s grandmother, and we talked for nearly an hour over iced tea and lukewarm coffee.
His mother lights up when she shows me pictures of Trayvon on her phone, even managing an occasional smile that lifts the shadow of grief and brightens her face. He was a gangly boy, all arms and legs but little weight, nearly six feet three inches tall but only 140 pounds and with the cherubic face of a boy years younger.
She grows distant when she talks about her loss, occasionally, seemingly involuntarily, wrapping her hands gently around her mother’s arm and resting her head on her mother’s shoulder like a young girl in need of comfort. The sorrow seems to come in waves.
She and her mother paint a portrait of an all-American boy, one anyone would be proud to call his or her own. He liked sports — playing and watching — and going to the mall with his friends. The meal his mother made that he liked most was hamburgers and French fries. “And brownies,” his grandmother chimed in, “with lots of nuts.”
He was a smart boy who had taken advanced English and math classes, and he planned to go to college.
He was a hard worker who earned extra money by painting houses, and washing cars and working in the concession of the Pee Wee football league on the weekends. He also baby-sat for his younger cousins, two adorable little girls ages 3 and 7, whom the family called the bunnies, and when he watched the girls he baked them cookies.
The only fight his mother could ever recall his having was with his own brother when Trayvon was about 4 and the brother was 8. They were fighting for her attention, and it wasn’t even a real fight. “They were wrestling. It was so funny,” she said with a smile.
This hardly fits the profile of a menacing teen who would attack a grown man unprovoked, but that is exactly what Zimmerman contends.
Zimmerman’s statement, as related by police, says he was following the boy but “he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.”
Trayvon’s personal account of who initiated the physical encounter is forever lost to the grave, but the initiation is likely to be the central question in the case.
To believe Zimmerman’s scenario, you have to believe that Trayvon, an unarmed boy, a boy so thin that people called him Slimm, a boy whose mother said that he had not had a fight since he was a preschooler, chose that night and that man to attack. You have to believe that Trayvon chose to attack a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds and who, according to the Sanford police, was wearing his gun in a holster. You have to believe that Trayvon chose to attack even though he was less than a hundred yards from the safety of the home where he was staying.
This is possible, but hardly sounds plausible.
The key is to determine who was standing his ground and defending himself: the boy with the candy or the man with the gun. Who was winning the fight is a secondary question.
That said, we’ll have to wait for details of the investigation to be revealed to know for sure. But while we wait, it is important to not let Trayvon the person be lost to Trayvon the symbol. He was a real boy with a real family that really loved him.
And now he is gone from his mother forever, only able to stare out at her as a shining face on a cellphone. She has no home videos of Trayvon. She doesn’t even have voicemail messages from him saved. The only way that she could now hear Trayvon’s voice would be to call his phone and listen to his answering message, but she dare not do it. “If I hear his voice, I think I’m going to scream.”
Every night she says she dreams of him. Every morning she says she thinks he’s going to walk through the door and say, “Mom, I’m here. You were dreaming. It’s not true. I’m not dead. I’m here,” and give her a hug and a kiss.
And the bunnies — they still don’t understand where he is. They’re still asking for Trayvon, the cousin who came over and baked them cookies.
I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at

Some comments:
    • Russell Grayson
    • Palm Beach, FL, USA
    The thing that's different about Trayvon's murder--that shows me a different America than the one I grew up in--is that EVERY parent sees in Trayvon their own child. That Zimmerman saw a black face as a weapon turns the stomachs of millions as a hallmark of a more repugnant time in our history--yet one that lingers in the shadows with nauseating effect when it now surfaces.

    Wannabe cops are amongst the most dangerous of our citizens: hypervigilant yentas who could never get past the psych screenings that still manage to fail in filtering out some of the damaged folks that carry guns. This is an ugly murder. Uglier because it is clearly the result of hatred and fear gone wild...and condoned by the pimps of fear on the extreme right. That anyone would try to justify this by extrapolating their own fears onto that cretinous blob, Zimmerman, says much more about whom THEY ARE, than who Trayvon was, or Zimmerman is. Hate kills, people. It's a cancer that eats your soul. We need to let the sunlight of truth burn off the fog of KKK rationalizing that's attempting to distract from the facts: an unarmed child was stalked and murdered like an animal by someone unfit to call himself a man. That this "man" was given a pass by the local cops is a shame and embarrassment for every thinking, feeling citizen. We need to take our outrage and turn it into a teaching moment. Leave our kids alone: they come in every color and size. They are our only hope for a tomorrow without Zimmermans.
    • Winemaster2
    • GA
    Mr. Blow tells a story with a caution, however far more accurate information is available to the facts on Wikipeda with links and references. The simplest of the question is Zimmerman was pursuing this 17 year old lad because he was black. Him wearing a hood has relevance because it was raining. There is no law that one should not wear a hood. Zimmerman was prejudiced. He used a racial slur when talking to the dispatcher. Who told him to stay put and do no pursue. Zimmerman with his overzealous history was known to go door to door and warning people of blacks that did not belong in their neighborhood.

    As a wanna be cop he was obsessed looking for suspects to add up his tally of doing a job and impressing the Sanford Police. Experts and politicians who wrote this absurd stand your ground hog wash, contend that it does not apply to Zimmerman and his self defense. The Sanford police from the Chief down with prior history racial of indifference are negligent if not covering this up a murder. The detective who interviewed Zimmerman has prior history racial prejudice in other cases, that were not pursued. The investigation by the FBI is going to open up a whole can or worms that Sanford FL would wish that it never heard of Trayvon Martin.

    His Mother's grace is for the loss of her son is comparable to any mother's and father's endearing. The only yahoo's like Newt can call President Obama 's sentiment a disgrace because , his kind are pure simple bigots and racists.
    • Robert Coane
    • Orange County, NY
    From a former colleague of yours at the Times, Mr. Blow, Bob Herbert: "There is nothing more American than brutal violence. The country was built on it, revels in it and shows every evidence of clinging to it with the crazed, destructive strength of an obsessive lover." *

    For more on this subject go to today's Paul Krugman op-ed, Lobbyists, Guns and Money.

    * An American Obsession
    Published: February 2, 2006
    • Melvyn Polatchek
    • New Jersey
    Black families across America have the fear that their young male children can be killed with impunity. It is widely forgotten that Martin Luther King rose to prominence at the same time Malcolm X, H.Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael were demanding a far more confrontational program for dealing with racial inequity. Now, after the Trayvon shooting, there is a new Black Panther party that is said to have raised 10,000 dollars for the capure of the shooter, Zimmerman. White America must not wait for the rise of another MLK to deter an understandable violent rage. We have to change this terrible environment now. I don't want my African-American neigbors and friends to live in fear. I don't want my grandchildren continuing to grow up in a world where their friends may be killed without a thought.

    Melvyn Polatchek
    • Alan Harbater
    • Ft. Lauderdale
    The wheels of justice are grinding exceedingly slow and NOT particularly fine.
    Why are we hearing nothing of the forensic evidence in this case? Are the Sanford police even smart enough to carry on a professional investigation? If they have just taken the word of Zimmerman and not fully scoped out the crime scene by now doing so would be a rather futile exercise. Which is why higher bodies of law inforcement such as the FBI should have gotten involved weeks ago. What's more, I understand the FEDS are are merely pursuing a civil rights violation, meaning they have NO INTEREST in the forensics.
    This situation has been genuinely mucked up from day one! It's doubtful justice will ever be served here.
    • Patricia
    • Pasadena, CA
    It's time people realized that young black men cannot escape the War on Drugs -- not even by NOT doing drugs.

    The War on Drugs is a race war by proxy. This is happening in spite of all the non-racist people who blindly support this policy with their Utopian good intentions.

    You can see that in my town of Pasadena, where blacks are arrested for marijuana at twelve times the rate of whites, despite marijuana use rates being about equal.

    That represents a systematic pattern across America and no amount of "dialogue over racial profiling" over the last 20 years has done a single thing to change it.

    Zimmerman chased Martin down with a loaded gun because Zimmerman thought the young man was "on drugs."

    Zimmerman thought he had a right to chase Martin down with a loaded gun because that is what our drug police do every single day -- they chase down young black men suspected of being "on drugs" while carrying loaded guns.

    Nobody wants to mention drug policy here, probably because of the stigma attached to the topic, and the desire to separate Martin from any taint from the other young black men who get chased down by men with loaded guns because they really are carrying drugs.

    But as long as our drug policy involves police officers chasing down young black men while carrying loaded guns, I don't see how life is going to change for the young black men in this country.

    Even the ones who don't do drugs are going to fit that racial profile and end up in danger.
    • JMK
    • Wash DC
    Where is the public outrage for the victims of black on black violence that take the lives of hundreds black youth each year? Why doesn't the Charles Blow and other media cover those stories in such depth and why doesn't the Black Panther movement offer $10K to find those suspects, dead or alive? It seems the point of the publicity is to inflame emotions because the shooter has a hispanic-white background.
    • Angela
    • Brussels, Belgium
    At least someone in the media is saying that we have to wait until all the facts are in. It seems that Zimmerman was paranoid and trigger happy to say the least, and an armed racist looking to kill at worst. Every day some new tidbit of information is released that reminds us to slow down and get the facts straight. Today we learned that most of Zimmerman's calls -including the night of the shooting- were not to 911 but to the non emergency number of the police department often answered by a 911 dispatcher, and that Zimmerman was elected, and not a "self appointed" neighborhood watch captain as so often reported in the media. Like everyone else, I, too, am anxious for justice for this young man and his bereaved family. The memory of the Duke University lacrosse rape case reminds me, "Whoa, slow down. Let's get it absolutely and positively right this time."
    • Chris
    • Memphis
    Tragedy. Mr. Zimmerman has the appearance of guilt of something ranging from manslaughter to murder from what has been available to me. By the way, where was all the media outrage, the race baiters, and President Obama when two black teens allegedly doused a white kid with gasoline and set him on fire mainly for being white? Oh, I guess the Prez didn't get involved because there wasn't enough media coverage and because the victim didn't look enough like him.
    • cnh
    • Detroit MI
    This is a nice tribute to Trayvon, Mr. Blow. I'm sure he did some nice things and was loved by his mother.

    This begs the question of what he was doing at the time of the encounter. Even though you claim he was a peaceful kid,l there might have been motivation for him to fight and try to escape if he expected punishment.

    But this is conjecture, like your reasoning and your attempts to gin up sympathy for the plight of a black kid.

    If Trayvon had killed Zimmerman would we be reading your op-ed about how much his grieving mother loved him? Only you know if you would have written such an op-ed.

    Of one thing I am being as guilty as you, and that is being involved in trying Zimmerman in the court of public opinion without having the facts of the matter.

    • SR
    • Dallas, Texas
    Only the facts count:

    -Tray was not armed.
    -There were no indications that he had committed a crime.
    -There were no reports to the police of vandalism, break-ins or anything else from that neighborhood, that night.
    -Neanderthal Man, Cromagnon Man, Zimmer Man or what ever else you want to call him, pursued Tray despite the police telling him not to.
    -Zimmer Man was armed with a modern high power, easy to use, weapon.
    -To my knowledge, Tray had no history of violence.

    Zimmer Man needs to be stuffed, laminated and put into the Museum of Legislative Mistakes. Which hopefully, Mr. Blow will conjure up enough support to start.
    • JulieMac
    • California
    A front page story that should remain until justice is served. Using tactics to divert the truth or overtly mananging Mr. Zimmerman's PR only repulse this country's decency.
    • judithod
    • St. Paul, MN
    So, Charles, are you going to write a column about every young person who is killed, whether black, white, pink, yellow, or green? Or are you only going to write about those deemed politically correct by Obama, Jackson, and Sharpton?
    • Wormboy
    • Chapel Hill, NC
    Whether Mr. Martin chose to attack is immaterial. He was being stalked by a man intending to do him harm.The irony of this whole thing is that the "Stand Your Ground" law, as spectacularly stupid and perverse as it is, protects Mr. Martin and not Mr. Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the one initiating aggression and arguably intending to commit a felony. Zimmerman can try to hide behind the fact that he was just "protecting his neighborhood," but the simple fact is that he, a very large man in his prime, was aggressively pursuing a child much smaller and younger, as well as unarmed. Additionally, Martin was a legitimate citizen of the neighborhood.

    So how could Mr. Martin possibly be the aggressor here? Even if he did attack Mr. Zimmerman, doing so was simply unarmed self-protection against his lethally armed stalker.

    People nation-wide are shuddering at the travesty of this case. In it we find echoes of the xenophobia and macho posturing that led to the death of Yoshihiro Hattori, an innocent Japanese student murdered in Louisiana in 1992. Rodney Peairs, the murderer in that case, also hid behind a specious self-defense argument, and also got away scot-free. When do we start to hold gun-waving paranoiacs personally responsible for their actions? If you kill somebody who has actually entered your home, then you can argue self-defense. But a beefy man stalking and killing a scrawny neighborhood boy, out in the street? What is happening to America? God save us from ourselves.
    • Alexandra Brockton
    • Boca Raton, Florida

    Zimmerman called "911" many times in the past. Local law enforcement decided to treat him as a harmless "wannabe cop" who didn't need to be controlled and let him continue on.....unofficially patrolling.....and never bothered to ascertain whether he was riding around with a gun and would use it.

    The "stand your ground law" was never intended to protect someone who drove around in his car, looking for anyone he deemed suspicious, and then followed someone in his car and then left his car to follow, chase or confront that person.

    When I went to law school, 20 years' ago, my first shock was all of the "spring-gun" cases, and learning that the law was that, if I woke up in the middle of the night and someone was at the foot of my bed, in my apartment, having broken in, that, even if I had a weapon that I could reach, I could not just shoot....but, instead, had to know whether the intruder was threatening deadly force and tell the intruder to leave... and do nothing if it appeared that he was leaving/retreating. Really? I'm alone, and some guy is standing over my bed, and I'm supposed to say "Leave" and hope that he does?

    I didn't know about the "stand your ground" law until 2 weeks' ago. I don't have a gun. But, I'm glad that I know about that law now.

    The "stand your ground" law is not the problem. The problem is that it is being interpreted incorrectly and used to protect aggressors who do not deserve to be legally protected.
    • Phillip
    • Laguna Hills, CA.
    The tragedy of this story is overwhelming. Trayvon Martin is a victim of Florida's nonsensical gun law that smacks of a latter day Wild West. What is also evident is the American media's racial double standard [Yes, NY Times included] in covering this horribly sad story. Since Mr Zimmerman happens to be Hispanic there is no mention--from the media--of his ethnicity possibly playing a part in the incident [nor should there be!]. However, if Mr Zimmerman were a Caucasian boy there would be outrage from all media quarters of possible racist undercurrents to the confrontation. Indeed, there would be a march on Washington just about now. In this regard, the media double standard on "race" is glaringly obvious and, in my view, calls out for greater discussion.
    • migflyboy
    • osaka
    I was interested to learn that the victim was 6 ft 3. So what? Ever been a young guy on an unsupervised playground? When push comes to shove, size matters. That's why firearms were invented in the first place.

    Also, was he a resident or guest of the "gated community" where he was killed? If not, did he hop a fence to take a shortcut (sometimes referred to as "trespassing")? Details, please.

    At the moment no one (other than the shooter) knows what escalated the confrontation, only the very sad result. While we're waiting to find out, perhaps the NYT might like to investigate a recent incident in my home town. No firearms involved, thank you, just a 65 yo geezer who reportedly contributed quite a bit to society before being beaten to death by an 18 yo gang-banger. This was also a tragedy, no? Maybe Mr. Motta never got "the talk" (e.g. avoid angry young black men) from his parents. I know, not PC, but....
    • John
    • Philadelphia
    It's high time that reasonable Americans of every stripe coalesce and call out the NRA and its radical sympathizers for what they are. They have blood on their hands in Trayvon's murder, and certainly in the disintegration of American society. BTW< I write this as a former NRA member who has a healthy respect for firearms and believes in the appropriate application of the Second Amendment.The lobbying for unfettered open-carry laws in every state, the demonizing of everyone who wants a little caution built into firearms design (can you say "trigger locks"?), and the incessant cloaking in "Second Amendment rights" according tho their interpretation have simple got to stop. The NRA should go back to its roots in responsible firearms ownership and safety. Whatever happened to the NRA of my youth????
    • lfrancis18
    • San Francisco
    At least the murderers in the Emmitt Till case were arrested and charged. Sure, they were found not guilty, but nevertheless there was a kangaroo court and jury of their "peers" that rendered a decision.
    Today black people in the south cannot even get lip service.....
    • 4Heavenssake
    • Westchestuh
    When Z called 911, the police officer told him to stay in his car. The police would come and investigate. Now where does "Stand Your Ground" suggest that Z should have gotten out of his car with a gun and chased the young man. Stand your ground means STAYING WHERE YOU ARE and defending yourself if necessary. Z did none of that. He chased the kid on foot and killed him for no legitimate reason whatsoever.
    • Eric
    • NY
    Based on what I've read and heard, it is hard to imagine a scenario in whch Zimmerman is not guilty of a crime. He followed - stalked? - Martin, didn't wait for the cops. He had a gun. He had a car. He instigated the confrontation. Hopefully he will be arrested, prosecuted, found guilty, and spend many years behind bars.

    Hopefully also there will be some rethinking of the horrendous "stand your ground" laws many states have enacted. They enable unstable "watchdogs" like Zimmerman - and many others - a license to kill.
    • plb
    • Connecticut
    Just one more reason to emigrate from the USA.
    • Julia
    • NY,NY
    Why can't Mr. Blow and others wait until all the facts are laid out before we pass judgement.
    • Lauren
    • Atlanta
    NYT Pick
    Let's stop and think about what we are saying here. Are we saying that George Zimmerman was in the wrong because Trayvon was a good kid?

    Why does it matter whether Trayvon was a good kid or a hardened criminal or anything in between?

    No one should get targeted and murdered by a vigilante just for walking down the street, period.
    • Liliana
    • Sottsdale
    Did anyone remember that if Mr Zimmermann lands in jail, ethier for life or just waiting for his death penalty tax payers will have to shed thair dollars to maintaln him room and board, TV and in jail gym privileges in jail for as long as his appeal lawyers keep his case going in the courts?

US officials: Bales to undergo psychological examination

U.S. military officials tell NBC News the Army is preparing to conduct a psychological examination on Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians.
The officials say the exam, officially called a "706 Board," is considered routine in serious cases such as Bales's, who is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder that could be punishable with the death penalty. The board would include a team of psychiatrists, officials said.

According to one military official, given the "serious nature of the charges," the Army wants its "best team" on the examination board.
Bales' attorney claims 'information blackout' from government
Army and Pentagon officials deny rumors coming out of Seattle that Bales will be brought to Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. for the examination.
According to the officials, given the security concerns and logistics it's likely Bales would remain at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the board doctors would go to him. That said, the officials add that no final decision has been made in that regard.

Stocks surge to best quarterly gain since 2009; investors ponder outlook

© Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters / REUTERS
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Wall Street closed out its strongest quarter in nearly three years Friday, leaving investors wondering if the market can continue to deliver strong gains in the weeks and months ahead.
The first three months of 2012 were stellar for stock investors. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a popular market benchmark, closed the quarter with a gain of 12 percent. That’s its strongest quarterly performance since the third quarter of 2009 and the market’s best start to any year since 1998.
The leading sector of the past three months is technology, which is up 22 percent over the past three months. The utilities sector, which includes companies that deliver utilities such as gas and power, was the worst performing sector, down 3 percent since the beginning of the year. (Click here to see the stock market’s winners and losers in the first quarter.)
For investors the question is can the market continue to move higher. Jim Paulsen, Wells Capital Management’s chief investment strategist, reckons it can, but he expects to see a market correction at some point in the future, although he notes that the timing is “hard to call.”
Ahead of that possibility, he counsels investors to take some profits and reallocate investments to stocks that have trailed in the market’s rally.
Still, Paulsen expects the market to continue to move higher. Catalysts for the continued advance in stock prices include a strengthening U.S. economy and efforts overseas to stimulate economic growth. As the market moves higher, more investors will enter the market, Paulsen added.
“I sense a feeling that people think they might be missing out a little bit,” he told CNBC Friday. “I think what’s doing that is getting to all time record highs in these markets.”
One caveat for the market’s advance is the rising price of gasoline, Paulsen said.
“If it stays where it is, we will be OK, but if it goes much higher it will be much more problematic,” he said.
Richard Peterson, director of Global Markets Intelligence at S&P Capital IQ, points to one statistic that suggests continued gains in stocks:
Since 1960, there have only been seven occasions when the market has seen back-to-back double-digit quarterly gains, including the past two quarters. The prior six times this happened another quarter of gains ensued on five occasions. The sixth time saw the market hurt by the oil shocks of 1975.
Still, Peterson says investors should be cautious at this point.
The S&P 500 has doubled in value since hitting a recent low of 676.53 on March 9, 2009, so investors should be realistic now, he said, adding that “as long as the Fed keeps interest rates low, investors will continue to ride that train.”
“I think there’s an argument that the Fed has played an important role in the market rally,” Peterson said. Interest rates are at record lows, forcing fixed income investors into equities.
Other investors are very sanguine about the market. Wharton professor and WisdomTree Investments senior advisor Jeremy Siegel said earlier this week that the Dow could see 15,000 or 17,000 by 2013.
With valuations attractively low, Siegel called the current the market “one of the cheapest stock markets I've seen.”
"Dividend-paying stocks, value stocks, the entire market is very attractive," he told CNBC.