Congress and the Department of Justice appear to be headed for a showdown this week over documents detailing Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gunrunning sting set up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that funneled more than 1,700 smuggled weapons from Arizona to Mexico.
The Justice Department has until Wednesday to deliver to congressional investigators a stack of records and emails naming the individuals responsible for the gun trafficking operation that may have killed dozens, if not hundreds of Mexicans, and is becoming a growing embarrassment for the Obama administration.
Under Project Gunrunner and the Phoenix off-shoot, dubbed Fast and Furious, the ATF encouraged gun store owners to sell to straw buyers — consumers who they suspected of working on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
Project Gunrunner purposely allowed the straw buyers to illegally buy and export guns only to see where they surfaced in Mexico. Using this investigative technique, the ATF hoped to take down the entire gun trafficking organization. Instead, records show it allowed more than 1,700 guns, including hundreds of AK-47s and high-powered, armor-piercing .50-caliber rifles to be trafficked to Mexico
Buying guns for non-personal use is illegal. Yet gun store owners were assured by ATF agents the buyers were under investigation and the guns were being intercepted before crossing into Mexico.
Instead, whistleblowers say the guns were allowed “to walk.”
President Obama, speaking for the first time about the growing scandal, conceded last week Fast and Furious may have been “a serious mistake,” but he claimed, “I did not authorize it; Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He’s been very clear that our policy is to catch gunrunners and put them into jail.”
But an investigation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, could show otherwise.
The ATF operates under Justice Department, and two assistant U.S. attorneys in Phoenix authorized virtually every wiretap, affidavit and investigation conducted in Operation Fast and Furious.
Some, like Issa, wonder how Holder could not have known about an investigation that size.
“One of the questions we always ask is who is lying,” Issa told Fox News. “We lose our credibility if we don’t come clean and make the changes necessary to save lives on both sides of the border.”
If the Justice Department and ATF refuse to deliver the records Issa requested, as it already has done with similar requests by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Issa can subpoena the records.
“We will subpoena if we have to, we’ll hold hearings if we have to, we’ll call in officials if we have to. But at the end of the day, the two Americans likely to have died as a result of this action pale in comparison to the countless numbers of Mexicans who have been killed,” said Issa.
He is referring to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata. The guns used to kill both men were bought in the U.S. and investigators will now see if they are linked to Project Gunrunner.
Humberto Trevino, a senior Mexican lawmaker, says at least 150 people have been shot with ATF-monitored guns.
Two of the gun stores involved were Carter’s Country in Houston and J&G Gun Sales in Prescott, Ariz.
“Let me tell you something about Carter’s Country. They have been co-operating with ATF from the get-go,” says Carter’s County attorney Dick Deguerin.
“They were told to go through with what they considered to be questionable sales. They were told to go through with sales of three or more assault rifles at the same time or five or more 9-mm guns at the same time or a young Hispanic male paying in cash. It’s all profiling, but they went through with it.”
Both gun stores felt burned by the ATF — first by leaked records to The Washington Post that showed the two stores responsible for dozens of guns found at Mexican crime scenes, and now by Operation Fast and Furious.
“You assumed they had your back,” added J&G President Brad Desaye. “Absolutely, we felt like partners with ATF in a lot of ways.”
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in a Feb. 4 letter the operation’s purpose was “to dismantle the entire trafficking organization, not merely to arrest straw purchasers.”
“The allegation — that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico — is false,” he wrote.
Holder also says his department policy is not to “let guns walk.”
Cpl. Steve Smith with the Alabama State Troopers said the four teens were Matthew Riley Zimmer, Evan Weaver, Matthew Roe and Alexx Bauer. The 18-year-olds were from Angola, Ind., a small community near the Ohio and Michigan state lines.Niall McNellis, 21, of Troy, Ala., also died in the crash about 3 p.m. Saturday.
An initial investigation indicated McNellis was driving south on Interstate 65 just south of Clanton, Ala., when his vehicle crossed the median and hit the car driven by Zimmer head-on as the teens drove north, Smith said.Bauer and Zimmer played for the Angola High School football team, and a message on the team’s website said the members “thoughts and prayers” were with all the students’ families.
“We will never forget you,” the message read.
Head coach Luke Amstutz said the four were “wonderful kids.”
Principal Steve Grill said the school planned to have counselors available for students and staff when classes resume Monday. He said all four teenagers were good students who were headed for college.”They’re just great young people, the kind of people you hope to have in school. It’s so tragic for the families and close friends and really the whole school district that we’ve now lost them,” he said.
High school counselors set up a memorial at the school’s entrance. Classmates stopped by throughout the day Sunday to leave flowers and other memorabilia. Among them were Tiffany Shoemaker and Miranda Davenport.
“They were great people,” Shoemaker, a junior who was friends with the four, told The News-Sun of Kendallville, Ind.
Smith said several people in a third car suffered minor injuries.
It was unclear whether bad weather that passed through the area contributed to the wreck.
Coover was working for Tennessee Eastman Company when an accident resulted in Super Glue, according to his grandson, Adam Paul of South Carolina. An assistant was distressed that some brand new refractometer prisms were ruined when they were glued together, marking the invention of the popular adhesive.
President Barack Obama honored Coover in 2010 with the National Medal of Science.
Coover was born in Newark, Del. He received a degree in chemistry from Hobart College in New York before getting a master’s degree and Ph.D., from Cornell.He worked his way up to vice president of the chemical division for development for Eastman Kodak. Coover and the team of chemists he worked with became prolific patent holders, achieving more than 460. The work included polymers, organophosphate chemistry, the gasification of coal and of course, cyanoacrylate, better known as Super Glue.
Coover also had a part in early television history, appearing with Garry Moore for “I’ve got a Secret.” Moore, the show’s host, and Coover were hung in the air on bars that were stuck to metal supports with a single drop of his glue during a live television broadcast.
The Industrial Research Institute, for which he served as president in 1982, honored Coover with a gold medal and the U.S. Patent Office inducted him into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio in 2004.
Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport, Tenn., is handling the arrangements. Paul says a family memorial is planned for May at Allendale Mansion in Kingsport, Tenn.
Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly didn’t learn much from his 2008 arrest and subsequent 2010 indefinite suspension by the NFL for felony drug charges. According to CBSHoustonTX.com, Jolly was arrested a second time for possession of codeine in Houston on Friday morning.
The website reports police pulled over Jolly for a traffic violation at 12:45 a.m., but after they learned he was driving with a suspended license, they searched his sport utility vehicle and found 600 grams of codeine — enough to be charged with a felony — along with another unidentifiable substance.
It has yet to be determined if there were enough substances found in Jolly’s SUV for his possession charge to be heightened to intent to distribute.
Jolly, who starred in high school at Houston, played at Texas A&M before the Packers drafted him in the sixth round in 2006.
Just three days after Chris Brown’s notorious window-smashing blowup at ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ the network reportedly wants to book him for a sit-down interview together with ex-girlfriend Rihanna.
In a surprising twist of events, a source close to ABC News told E! the network wants to “milk this event for everything it’s worth,” adding, “It’s all about the ratings…at all other costs.”
On Tuesday, Brown had a violent outburst following an interview with GMA’s Robin Roberts, because she asked him a question about his 2009 assault on Rihanna. The singer kept his composure during the interview, then “terrified” employees backstage as he broke a window in his dressing room, tore off his shirt and stormed out of the studio without performing his second scheduled song for the live broadcast.
Now, the network may be capitalizing on the headlines, working on getting Chris Brown to appear with the girlfriend he beat up the night before the 2009 Grammys. Perhaps ABC hopes they can pull it off now that Rihanna’s restraining order against Brown was just lifted.
Another unofficial rumor is that ABC may offer Brown a reality series, however that scenario was slammed by the E! source, who said, “No, that would never happen here.”
The source added, “What’s far more likely is orchestrating Chris Brown talking to Rihanna for the first time.”
And even though Diane Sawyer famously got Rihanna to open up about the physical abuse she suffered at Brown’s hands, E! says its ABC source denies that Sawyer would get involved this time: “She would never do it….it would be Robin [Roberts].”
The network decided not to press charges against Brown this week, and he’s still scheduled to appear on next week’s ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
The teenager who has identified himself as the boyfriend of Kathryn Filiberti , the 18-year-old New York college student who was found dead last week, told AOL News via Facebook that people should not believe what they are reading in the news about the case.
“Don’t believe what’s in the news and newspapers,” Mike Delarm wrote. “[Their] sources aren’t from the police or people who [knew] Katie.”Earlier this week, Delarm, 19, told the Poughkeepsie Journal that he was the last person to see Filiberti alive. The Dutchess Community College student’s body was found on March 19 near Greentree Park in the Dutchess County town of Hyde Park, about 75 miles north of New York City.
Delarm told the Journal that he had been at a party with her on the night of March 18, just hours before her body was found some five miles away. Delarm said that Filiberti was upset because someone she did not like had been at the party. “They argued, and she walked away from him, he thought to go cool off,” the newspaper reported.
In a Facebook message to AOL News, Delarm said he wanted to clarify that he did not get into an argument with Filiberti before she disappeared.
“We didn’t get into a fight,” he wrote. “She was aggravated because of a couple of people at the [party] she didn’t like.”
An autopsy on Filiberti was completed March 20, and her death is listed as a homicide, but authorities have declined to elaborate. “The cause and manner of death is pending,” Dr. Kari Reiber, the county’s chief medical examiner, told AOL News.
Authorities have yet to confirm local media reports that Filiberti had been stabbed multiple times in the face and the chest.
Delarm and two other men were arrested in Poughkeepsie in January in connection with an alleged gang assault, according to the Mid-Hudson News Network. The men were charged with second-degree assault and remanded to jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, the newspaper reported.
Repeated calls to the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office have not been returned, so the disposition of the case remains unclear. According to Delarm, he was not charged.
“[I was not] charged with anything … it was not a gang assault and … the kid in the hospital didn’t almost die at all. He had minor injuries,” Delarm said.
Earlier this week, Filiberti’s best friend, Lindsay McGarril, described Delarm to the Journal as Filiberti’s ”on-again, off-again” boyfriend. In a separate interview with AOL News, McGarril said that Filiberti often put her friends and Delarm first.
McGarril declined to go into detail about the case today. She said that Delarm had deleted his Facebook page because he was “being harassed.” She said Filiberti’s family had asked her not to speak with the media anymore.
“I’m listening to their wishes,” she told AOL News. “I’ve told you about her and as much as I could about the case, and that’s all I can say.”
Delarm was also hesitant to go into many details about the case.”I could jeopardize the investigation by saying too much, but I can say that everyone loved Katie [and] no one hated her.”
Delarm added, “I love her and I wish I could switch positions with her. When she was murdered, so was I. I’m never gonna be normal again without my Katie Kat.”
Further comment from Delarm will have to wait until the individual responsible for her death has been caught, he said.
“When they catch the guy, I’d love to have an interview with [AOL News], but it’s just too risky until then. I’m sure [you] understand.”
The pastor and seven members of a small church in central Wisconsin have been charged with using wooden rods to spank infants as young as 2 months old for “being emotional, grumpy or crying,” the Dane County Sheriff’s office said.
The Aleitheia Bible Church, in the town of Black Earth, was started in 2006 with a donation in the range of $500,000-$600,000 from Bob and Lori Wick of nearby Mazomanie, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Lori Wick is the author of almost three dozen historical Christian novels with more than five million books in print, according to her Amazon profile. Reached by AOL News today by telephone at their home, Bob Wick said they “have no comment” on the case.
Publicists at Lori Wick’s publisher, Harvest House Publishers, did not immediately respond to emails from AOL News today for comment.The investigation into the Aleitheia Bible Church began last November, when former members contacted authorities with concerns about how children were being treated, according to the sheriff’s office.
Six church members pleaded innocent to charges of child abuse during an appearance Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court. They were booked and released.Pastor Philip Caminiti, 53, and his brother, John Caminiti, 45, were charged with a dozen counts of child abuse last week and also pleaded innocent.
The victims included 12 children ranging in age from infancy to 6 years old, according to the sheriff’s office.
“During interviews with detectives, Phil expressed his belief that the Bible dictates the use of a rod over a hand to punish children. He stated that children only a few months old are ‘worthy’ of the rod and that by ‘one and a half months,’ a child is old enough to be spanked,” according to the sheriff’s office release.
“Throughout the investigation, the church members were open with detectives about their ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ philosophy. They described using wooden dowels and wooden spoons on the bare skin of children, starting as young as 2 months old,” the sheriff’s office said.
“If you spank early and it is done right, then kids will be happy and obedient,” Philip Caminiti said, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the sheriff’s office, the dowels were described as being 12-18 inches long with a diameter about the size of a quarter. The parents told detectives that “redness and bruising” were the “common effects of the spankings.”
“One person described the children being emotional, grumpy or crying as behaviors that would constitute a spanking with a dowel,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Three sets of parents are among the six others charged, including two of Philip Caminiti’s children and their spouses: Matthew Caminiti, 27, and his wife, Alina, 24; and Maria J. Stephenson, 29, and her husband, Timothy, 28. Also charged are Andrea L. Wick, 26, and Timothy J. Wick, 27.
The children often were punished when they cried or failed to sit still during church services, a former church member told authorities. “Phil was very strict about children being quiet during church,” the complaint states.John Caminiti told investigators in November that he does not allow his family to communicate with people outside his religious beliefs and has punished his wife and son by confining them to their rooms until they corrected their disobedience, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Attorney Jeffrey W. Nichols, who represents Alina Caminiti, described his client as a “caring mother who loves her children,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“I believe it is important to note that the children have never been removed from her or her husband’s care despite these allegations and despite some unfair characterizations of her,” he said.
All the children of the parents charged are remaining in their homes and the families are working with social workers from Dane County Human Services, the sheriff’s office said.
TRIPOLI, Libya — A distraught Libyan woman stormed into a Tripoli hotel Saturday to tell foreign reporters that government troops raped her, setting off a brawl when hotel staff and government minders tried to detain her.
Iman al-Obeidi was tackled by waitresses and government minders as she sat telling her story to journalists after she rushed into the restaurant at the Rixos hotel where a number of foreign journalists were eating breakfast.
She claimed loudly that troops had detained her a checkpoint, tied her up, abused her, then led her away to be gang raped.
Her story could not be independently verified, but the dramatic scene provided a rare firsthand glimpse of the brutal crackdown on public dissent by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime as the Libyan leader fights a rebellion against his rule that began last month.
The regime has been keeping up a drumbeat of propaganda in the Tripoli-centered west of the country under its control even as it faces a weeklong international air campaign against the Libyan military.
At a hastily arranged press conference after the incident, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said investigators had told him the woman was drunk and possibly mentally challenged.
Before she was dragged out of the hotel, al-Obeidi managed to tell journalists that she was detained by a number of troops at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday. She said they were drinking whiskey and handcuffed her. She said 15 men later raped her.
“They tied me up … they even defecated and urinated on me,” she said, her face streaming with tears. “The Gadhafi militiamen violated my honor.”
The woman, who appeared in her 30′s, wore a black robe and a floral scarf around her neck and identified herself. She had scratches on her face and she pulled up her black robe to reveal a bloodied thigh. She said neighbors in the area where she was detained helped her escape.
The Associated Press only identifies rape victims who volunteer their names.
As al-Obeidi spoke, a hotel waitress brandished a butter knife, a government minder reached for his handgun and another waitress pulled a jacket tightly over her head.
Al-Obeidi said she was targeted by the troops because she’s from the eastern city of Benghazi, a rebel stronghold.
The waiters called her a traitor and told her to shut up. She retorted: “Easterners – we’re all Libyan brothers, we are supposed to be treated the same, but this is what the Gadhafi militiamen did to me, they violated my honor.”
It soon turned into a scene of chaos with journalists attempting to protect the woman from government minders who physically attacked and intimidated her.
Journalists who tried to intervene were pushed out of the way by the minders. A British television reporter was punched, and CNN’s camera was smashed on the ground and ripped to pieces by the government minders.
Eventually the minders overpowered the woman and led her outside, shoving her into a car that sped away. Al-Obeidi kept crying that she was certain she would be thrown in jail. She begged photographers to take her picture, raising her robe to show them her bruised body. A minder tried to cover her mouth with his hand to keep her from talking.
“Look at what happens – Gadhafi’s militiamen kidnap women at gunpoint, and rape them … they rape them,” al-Obeidi screamed.
She said she wanted to be taken to see the leader himself.
“I want to see Moammar Gadhafi. Didn’t he say that every victim will have justice? I want my rights,” she said.
The government spokesman said the woman was under investigation.
“The investigators did phone me and told me the lady is drunk and that she seems to be suffering mentally,” Ibrahim said. “They are checking on her health condition, her mental condition, whether she was really abused or if these were fantasies.”
Gadhafi’s crackdown has been the region’s most violent against the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East. Tensions have been rising between foreign reporters in the Libyan capital and the government minders who have sought to tightly control what they see and whom they talk to. Most of the international press corps is being housed at the Rixos hotel.
Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times reports that at the age of 75, Ferraro died of complications from blood cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket. According to a statement released by her family, she died surrounded by her loved ones after battling multiple myeloma for twelve years. Her family said of the loss.
“Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice. To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed.”
After first being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, she went on to serve New York’s ninth congressional district for three terms. Ferraro ran as Walter Mondale’s running mate in the 1984 presidential election.
Delegates in San Francisco erupted in cheers at the first line of her speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination.
“My name is Geraldine Ferraro,” she declared. “I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us.”
Her acceptance speech launched eight minutes of cheers, foot-stamping and tears.
Ferraro sometimes overshadowed Mondale on the campaign trail, often drawing larger crowds and more media attention than the presidential candidate.
“No one asks anymore if women can raise the money, if women can take the heat, if women have the stamina for the toughest political campaigns in this country,” Judy Goldsmith, then-president of the National Organization for Women told People Magazine in December, 1984. “Geraldine Ferraro did them all.”
But controversy accompanied her acclaim. Frequent, vociferous protests of her favorable view of abortion rights marked the campaign.
Ferraro’s run also was beset by ethical questions, first about her campaign finances and tax returns, then about the business dealings of her husband, John Zaccaro. Ferraro attributed much of the controversy to bias against Italian-Americans.
Mondale said he selected Ferraro as a bold stroke to counter his poor showing in polls against President Reagan and because he felt America lagged far behind other democracies in elevating women to top leadership roles.
“The time had come to eliminate the barriers to women of America and to reap the benefits of drawing talents from all Americans, including women,” Mondale said.
Ferraro joined Mondale’s ticket against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Ultimately, Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, the largest landslide since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first re-election, in 1936 over Alf Landon.
In the years after the race, Ferraro told interviewers that she would have not have accepted the nomination had she known how it would focus criticism on her family.
“You don’t deliberately submit people you love to something like that,” she told presidential historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in an interview in Ladies Home Journal. “I don’t think I’d run again for vice-president,” she said, then paused, laughed and said, “Next time I’d run for president.”
Zaccaro pleaded guilty in 1985 to a misdemeanor charge of scheming to defraud in connection with obtaining financing for the purchase of five apartment buildings. Two years later he was acquitted of trying to extort a bribe from a cable television company.
Ferraro’s son, John Zaccaro Jr., was convicted in 1988 of selling cocaine to an undercover Vermont state trooper and served three months under house arrest.
Some observers said the legal troubles were a drag on Ferraro’s later political ambitions, which included her unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in New York in 1992 and 1998.
Ferraro, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was back in the news in March 2008 when she stirred up a controversy by appearing to suggest that Sen. Barack Obama achieved his status in the presidential race only because he’s black.
She later stepped down from an honorary post in the Clinton campaign, but insisted she meant no slight against Obama.
Ferraro received a law degree from Fordham University in 1960, the same year she married Zaccaro and became a full-time homemaker and mother. She said she kept her maiden name to honor her mother, a widow who had worked long hours as a seamstress.
After years in a private law practice, she took a job as an assistant Queens district attorney in 1974. She headed the office’s special victims’ bureau, which prosecuted sex crimes and the abuse of children and the elderly. In 1978, she won the first of three terms in Congress representing a blue-collar district of Queens.
After losing in 1984, she became a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University until an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate nomination in 1992.
She returned to the law after her 1992 Senate run, acting as an advocate for women raped during ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Her advocacy work and support of President Bill Clinton won her the position of ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, where she served in 1994 and 1995.
She co-hosted CNN’s “Crossfire,” in 1996 and 1997 but left to take on Chuck Schumer, then a little-known Brooklyn congressman, in the 1998 Democratic Senate primary. She placed a distant second, declaring her political career finished after she took 26 percent of the vote to Schumer’s 51 percent.
In June 1999, she announced that she was joining a Washington, D.C., area public relations firm to head a group advising clients on women’s issues.
Ferraro revealed two years later that she had been diagnosed with blood cancer. She discussed blood cancer research before a Senate panel that month and said she hoped to live long enough “to attend the inauguration of the first woman president of the United States.”
After a long career of taking risks in music, Dallas Austin is preparing to embark on an entirely new adventure. The legendary producer has announced that he will be one of the world’s first intergalactic tourists.
The music mogul, who has remixed Michael Jackson tunes and crafted pop hits for Madonna, Pink, TLC and Gwen Stefani, has revealed via Twitter, that he will be a passenger aboard one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial space shuttles.
“Yes!! Just got my confirmation to travel to space in 2013 thanx to Richard Branson!!” tweeted Austin. “I’m gonna see Earth!!”
The seats aboard Branson’s spaceliner carry a hefty $200,000 price tag, and thus far over 400 passengers have reportedly booked tickets.
This space mission is far from Dallas Austin’s first brush with danger. The producer was busted for drug possession in the United Arab Emirates in 2006, and was only released due to the support of a U.S. senator.
Austin recently made an appearance in Chris Brown’s ‘Beautiful People’ video, along with T-Pain, Nelly, Timbaland and many other hip-hop and R&B stars. He also appeared on ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ in 2008, where he attempted to produce a song for the show’s star Kim Zolciak.