Howdy folks-here's what's happening this evening…..
FITNESS CLUB SHOOTINGS-As friends and family of the victims of last night’s shooting rampage at the L.A. Fitness Center in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania try to come to terms with what happened, John Berman, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted “police tell us they found a calendar inside the home of George Sodini with the schedule of Latin Impact classes circled.” Berman explains what happened last night: “At around 8pm, 10 minutes into the Latin Impact dance class, Sodini walks in the back of the room wearing gym clothes…he unpacks his bag, turns out the lights and opens fire…Chaos. He fires 3 hand-guns-36 shots, leaving 3 women dead, 9 injured before shooting himself.” The gunman, 48-year-old George Sodini was first named as the suspect this morning by Chris Cuomo on GOOD MORNING AMERICA. We also learned exclusively from Cuomo on GMA of the on-line blog Sodini wrote that showed his virulent dislike of women. Apparently ignoring the “TMI” rule, Sodini’s blog recounted his bad luck with women-quotes such as “Girls and women don’t even give me a second look anywhere. There is something blatantly wrong with me…..no girlfriend since 1984…no sex since July 1990.” Ouch-as Carolyn Reinach Wolf, a mental health lawyer interviewed for Berman’s WORLD NEWS piece noted “he clearly resented the women who had rejected him or resented women in general because they weren’t willing or able to have a relationship with him.” Also, Sodini’s blog makes clear last night’s shooting rampage was not a rash decision. Berman: “He talks of planning the attack for more than a year. In November 2008, he says ‘planned to do this in the summer but figure to stick around to see the election outcome.’…His last line is simply ‘Death Lives’.” That blog should have sent alarm bells ringing-but Berman in his live close noted “Police say the real irony here is they aren’t even sure whether anyone read George Sodini’s lonely blog.”
LEE AND LING RETURN HOME: An emotional family reunion in Burbank, California this morning for journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling after being held captive in North Korea since March. The women were sentenced to 12 years hard labor in July, and were largely kept apart from each other until they were called into a surprise meeting with former President Bill Clinton on Monday. Martha Raddatz reports details of how the arrangement unfolded: “US officials urgently worked back channels with help from the Swedish ambassador to North Korea. In mid-July a breakthrough, but not from diplomats. Ling and Lee are allowed to call home. They tell their families that the North Koreans will free them if President Bill Clinton comes to get them. Kim Jong Il is believed to have long been fixated on Clinton as a charismatic and powerful force who would bring him worldwide attention.” The women were released and brought back on a plane supplied by Hollywood producer Steven Bing. “Neither woman gave any details of their ordeal today…but US officials are certainly looking forward to hearing their story,” Kate Snow reported on WORLD NEWS.
As for what’s next for Ling and Lee…their families’ spokesperson said they are not sure, but good food is certainly on the menu. Ling’s mother prepared traditional Chinese watercress soup for her daughter; Lisa Ling said her sister craves fresh fruit after being fed rice with rocks during captivity. “Euna’s husband Michael said today he doesn’t want to be apart from his wife right now,” Snow reports. “He said he was planning to heat up leftovers so no one would have to leave the house for food.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
OBAMA/CLEAN-ENERGY CARS-President Obama was in Indiana today talking up clean-car initiatives. The President announced that $2.4 billion in grants will be earmarked for the national electric-car industry, which would come from the stimulus money already approved by Congress. Obama addressed employees at Monaco RV near the border of Indiana and Michigan. The biggest portions of the grants will be going to those states to create jobs. And while it is those states and a “made in America” theme the Obama Administration focused on, Jeffrey Kofman explained on WORLD NEWS what a boon this could be for Bolivia thanks to its’ vast supply of Lithium. Kofman traveled to Uyuni, Bolivia. Kofman: “Lithium. More than half of the world’s known reserves (are here in Bolivia). You’ve heard of the new generation electric cars that will soon be on the market..they’ll run on lithium batteries.” As Kofman noted, “it could bring riches to Bolivia…but they’ve heard that here before..with silver, gas, oil…yet this remains the poorest country in South America.” But focusing on the upside, Kofman adds that “If Bolivia can make this work, it could offer this poor country a richer future and the planet a greener future.”
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CONVICTED-Jason Ryan: “Former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson has been convicted of 11 counts of bribery and conspiracy charges. Jefferson was charged in a 16 count indictment in June 2007 on allegations of bribery, money laundering, obstruction of justice, violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, racketeering and conspiracy charges. Jefferson was found not guilty of obstruction of Justice, violating the foreign corrupt practices act, and scheme to deprive citizens of honest services. The jury will reconvene tomorrow to decide the forfeiture of funds in the case.”
SEASONAL FLU SHIPPING EARLY AMID INCREASED DEMAND-The swine flu pandemic has pushed seasonal flu vaccine providers to move up deliveries far ahead of schedule. The reasons are two-fold-an expectation of increased demand for the seasonal variety and a “clean the slate” move so the companies can make the swine flu vaccine. The top U.S. supplier of flu vaccine, Sanofi Pasteur, stopped taking orders for 10-dose vials of Fluzone, which make up about 60 percent of its production, on June 19, spokesman Len Lavenda said today. Last year you could have ordered as late as Thanksgiving. Sanofi, Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline PLC all have begun shipments of seasonal flu vaccine earlier than usual, with Glaxo and Novartis both starting shipments Wednesday and Sanofi on July 27. Novartis said it was starting "weeks ahead of schedule;" Sanofi is about two weeks early, and Glaxo is a little ahead of its normal mid-August start. The Associated Press article that came out today talked of “supplies tightening”. That’s a tad misleading-Lisa Stark points out that there’s plenty of vaccine available-what is in short supply are things like vials and the like.
–LAPD CHIEF BRATTON TO STEP DOWN-In a surprise announcement, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announced today he is stepping down in the middle of his second term as the city’s top cop. Bratton has been in the position for seven years. Bratton's resignation will be effective Oct. 31. He will then join Altegrity Inc. of Falls Church, Va., focusing on bringing professional policing to emerging nations.
–IMMIGRATION DETENTION ANNOUNCEMENT-(AP) The Obama administration plans to place federal employees in the largest immigration detention facilities in the country to monitor detainee treatment. This oversight role is currently handled by private contractors. The government has been criticized for its treatment of immigration detainees, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has made detention policies a top priority for her department. People briefed on the plans say Homeland Security intends to hire a medical expert to review the health care protocols for the detention centers and give an independent review of medical complaints. They spoke only on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement expected Thursday. Note: Jason Ryan confirms that ICE will be announcing this tomorrow.
–CASH FOR MIXED-RELIGION COUPLES IN IRAQ- Iraq has paid more than 1,700 newlywed Sunni-Shiite couples $2,000 as an incentive to promote peace between the often warring sects, even though violence between Shiites and Sunnis has dropped sharply of late. And It's no small savings to get help footing the bill for expensive weddings in a nation where nearly one in four people live below the poverty line, defined as living on $2.50 or less per person a day. To apply for the money, mixed couples write to Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's office with legal proof of their union. They are handed the cash in an envelope during a mass wedding celebration. (Jan Simmonds)
–SQUEAKY FROMME TO BE PAROLED- Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, the Charles Manson disciple convicted of attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford back in September 1975 is set to be released from a federal prison in Texas next week after serving more than 30 years behind bars. (Eileen Murphy/Mark Mooney)
–NEW YORK TIMES NAMES NEW FOOD CRITIC- The New York Times has named Culture Editor Sam Sifton its new chief restaurant critic. Sifton replaces Frank Bruni and starts his new gig in October.