Clem’s Chronicles: Sotomayor Hearings/Grisly Florida Murders/Obama Health Care

By Clem Lane

Jul 13, 2009 9:18pm

Happy Monday folks-here's what's doin' tonight…….

SOTOMAYOR HEARINGS-Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor was up in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today for the first day of her confirmation hearings. In her prepared remarks, Ms. Sotomayor addressed critics by saying “Senators have asked me about my philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law.” Sotomayor spoke after listening for hours as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee praised her as a pioneer well qualified for the high court and Republicans questioned her impartiality and accused Obama of adhering to a double standard in selecting her. Her confirmation is all but assured with the solid Democratic majority in the Senate. Republican Lindsay Graham seemed to say as much when he told Ms. Sotomayor “unless you have a complete meltdown you are going to get confirmed…and I don’t think you will (have a meltdown)”. The hearing was not without drama-Jan Crawford-Greenburg, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted that “unlike any Supreme Court hearing I remember, this one was disrupted by four anti-abortion protesters who were arrested by Capitol police. Here’s the irony: One of them, Norma Jane McCorvey, was the anonymous ‘Jane Roe’ in the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade.” Sotomayor will answer questions Tuesday when the hearing continues. 

BILLINGS MURDERS-Authorities now say as many as 8 people may have been involved in the grisly murders of Bud and Melanie Billings, the Florida couple known for adopting children with developmental disabilities.Steve Osunsami reporting for WORLD NEWS says that police “released a second video showing two more men entering the home just before the killings. The sheriff says they were dressed in black like ninjas and entered through an unlocked door on the north side of the house.” This video is in addition to one released last week that showed a different group of intruders breaking in through a different entrance to the house. “It’s now clear” Osunsami said, “police are looking for a crew.” What of the couple’s children? Osunsami: “when the couple was murdered…nine of their children were home, many of them have severe disabilities. Police now believe that three of the children may have seen the killers up close.” Several folks have already been arrested- day laborer Wayne Coldiron, 41, turned himself in on Sunday, and Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr., 35, was arrested the same day in a neighboring county. They were charged with murder and home invasion. Osunsami adds that “56-year-old Leonard Gonzalez Sr., the accused getaway driver in the first video, made his first court appearance by video today.” Motive appears to be robbery, but Sheriff David Morgan was quoted in Osunsami’s piece saying “It will be a very long time before we know the truth of why this family was selected.” Meanwhile the Billings children are with relatives. Osunsami notes that “their parents left behind a plan to make sure the children are kept in good care. The family says it will make that happen.”

OBAMA/HEALTH CARE-Health care. Reforming health care may not be on the top of the “to-do” list for some politicos, but President Obama reminded Congress of his desire for change. Obama: “I just want to put everybody on notice because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone. We are going to get this done.” Strong words but Jake Tapper, reporting for WORLD NEWS, notes the problems ahead for the President. Tapper: “Republicans and moderate Democrats have been increasingly expressing concern about the price tag of a trillion dollars over a decade. Liberals worry the President might abandon his proposal for a government-run plan to compete with private insurers to drive costs down.” And those concerns by politicians of almost every stripe, Tapper notes, may force the White House to live with a longer time-frame than the one the President envisioned. Back on May 14th, the President said “I’m confident that both the House and the Senate are going to produce a bill before the August recess.” Today, when asked by Tapper whether both the House and Senate will have it through by the August recess or whether it might just be as far as the House, WH Spokesman Robert Gibbs said “Well-I’ll take either one.” Tapper noted in his close: “House Speaker Pelosi today asserted that Democrats would introduce their health care reform legislation and it will be voted on before the August recess. But there are no such assertions from the Senate.”

SPACE SHUTTLE-NASA has once again scrubbed the launch of the shuttle Endeavour due to inclement weather at the Cape. Sunseri: “This makes the fourth launch attempt (scrubbed)-Saturday wasn’t technically a launch attempt because they didn’t gas it up and climb on board.” NASA will try again Wednesday night at 6:03pm ET.

INDIANA PRISON ESCAPE-A daring prison escape by three inmates from the maximum-security Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana has residents in Grand Beach, Michigan staying inside their homes behind locked doors. The three men-two convicted killers and a rapist-broke out of the prison which sits 8 miles from the summer community of Grand Beach. Barbara Pinto, reporting for WORLD NEWS, told us that “in a scene that sounds more Hollywood than real life, the inmates crawled through utility tunnels and slithered through sewage pipe that led straight to freedom. “  This morning-two of the men were spotted near the vacation home of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley by an officer with Daley’s security detail. The officer caught 48-year-old Charles Smith at gunpoint in a driveway near Daley's home, and police later arrived and took him into custody, said Grand Beach Police Chief Dan Schroeder. The other man ran off into the woods. So with two of the escapees still on the loose, scary times for Grand Beach-Pinto notes that “this quiet community has only four full-time law enforcement officers. They’ve called in dozens more from neighboring states and the FBI. That is hardly enough to calm fears.”

GOLDMAN SACHS-Goldman Sachs delivers their quarterly earnings report tomorrow and the conventional wisdom suggests huge profits will be announced in the neighborhood of $2 billion. Goldman has long been considered the strongest bank amid the economic downturn but asDavid Muir noted on WORLD NEWS, “many will ask, just how did they do it?”. The answer it appears is returns on risks, or as Seamus McMahon from McMahon Advisory noted “They’ve taken bets, they put their money behind those bets, and they’ve made a tremendous amount of profit.” Now you may remember that Goldman Sachs took money from the Treasury-$10 billion-when the Fed was bailing out financial institutions. Goldman Sachs has paid that money back to the government but Muir notes that “even with that loan money returned the next question will be ….is is right for any one bank to be taking such huge risks-even if it turns huge profits. After all, huge gambles are what pushed banks to the brink in the first place.” The flip side to that question-what’s wrong with making money? Goldman Sachs, Muir adds “has long had a history of taking risks” and reminds that “they don’t face as much competition any more. There are just a few major investment banks still competing…after rivals Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns crumbled.”

WOODRUFF’S RETURN TO IRAQ-Bob Woodruff has returned to Iraq for the first time since an IED nearly killed him three years ago. Unfortunately, horrific sandstorms made feeding material tonight from Kirkuk for WORLD NEWS impossible. We hope to see the first fruits of Woodruff’s return trip on GOOD MORNING AMERICA tomorrow.

SOMALI TERRORISM:  Two men have been indicted in Minnesota on federal terror charges in the case of several missing young men of Somali descent.  Jason Ryan reports the grand jury indictment unsealed today names Abdifatah Yusuf Isse and Salah Osman Ahmed with “allegedly providing material support to terrorists, engaging in a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, and injure individuals overseas and 2 counts of making false statements to the FBI.”  The city of Minneapolis has one of the largest populations of Somali residents, and within the past year nearly 2  dozen young men have disappeared . They are believed to have been recruited and taken to Somalia to train with a terrorist group called Al-Shabab, which is also believed to have links to Al-Qaeda.  Jason Ryan also tell us, “US officials say that some extremists are drawn to the lawless area to establish Sharia or Islamic law, some officials and Somalis in America believe that propaganda on the internet by the terorrist group has played an influence in causing the men to leave the US to end up in one of the most violent places on Earth.”  Federal agents are concerned  that these young men could be trained in Somalia and end up returning to the US with plans to launch an attack. The fighting in the region has increased with gun battles in the capital of Mogadishu in the past few days.  There have been unconfirmed reports in recent days that 2 Americans from the Minneapolis area had been killed recently.  (thanks to Faisal Jamil for this entry)

GAS PRICES-From Dan Arnall: “The Energy Department says that the price of gasoline has dropped by eight cents in the past week. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is now $2.53 – six percent lower than the recent high four weeks ago. A year ago, drivers were paying the most per gallon ever recorded in the U.S. — $4.11. So during the past year, gasoline prices have fallen by 39%.”

RECORD DEFICIT-The Federal deficit has hit new highs this fiscal year, topping the $1 trillion mark for the first time ever. The Treasury Department says the deficit in June totaled $94.3 billion, pushing the total since the budget year started in October to nearly $1.1 trillion. Reasons? Combating the economic recession with stimulus funds and a downturn in tax revenues. That’s stoking fears of higher interest rates and inflation. Matt Jaffe notes that the “White House has forecast that by the time September 30 rolls around, the deficit will reach a record $1.8 trillion.”
BERNARD MADOFF TO NORTH CAROLINA-Convicted swindler Bernard Madoff is being sent to a medium-security federal prison in Butner, North Carolina to serve out his 150-year prison sentence.
DEMJANJUK-Accused Nazi John Demjanjuk was formally charged today by German prosecutors with being involved in the murder of nearly 28,000 people at a Polish death camp. A court spokeswoman in Munich says Demjanjuk's trial probably won't start before the fall.
WHO YA GONNA CALL?-The Ectomobile is up for sale on E-bay. The car featured in the Ghostbusters movies (actually a 1959 model hearse) can be yours for a mere $40K. (Barbara Garcia)

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