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Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Promise of the American Dream is broken

By Tavis Smiley and Cornel West

A boy sits in his uncle's home April 21 in Owsley County, Kentucky, where 44.5% of residents live below the poverty line.

Editor’s note: Tavis Smiley is the host of the late-night television talk show “Tavis Smiley” on PBS and Cornel West is a professor at Princeton. They co-host “Smiley & West” on Public Radio International, and their new book is “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.”

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that the unemployment rate fell to 8.2%. That should have been a signal that jobs are coming back and that the economy is about to rebound. But, as many economists say, the numbers fell primarily because unemployed Americans have become so discouraged with trying to find a job that they’ve simply quit looking.

Because nearly one-third of the American middle class, mostly families with children, have fallen into poverty or are one paycheck away from poverty, it is paramount that we dissect the root causes of this mass disenfranchisement within the American workforce. This was the motivation behind “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience,” our 18-city bus tour that traveled across the country last year. It was designed to bring more attention to the plight of impoverished Americans.

These citizens do not fit the negative stereotypes and propaganda that we’ve heard during the Republican presidential primary contests. The candidates who have vowed to cut government subsidies speak of the poor as if their constituents had been exempted from the millions who, despite their middle-class identification and aspirations, now fall beneath the established poverty line.

The people we met aren’t lazy or eager to live off so-called government entitlements. We spoke with formerly middle-class parents who were thrust into poverty when one or both lost their salaries. We heard the stories of single mothers and fathers, military veterans and former high-wage employees desperately trying to re-enter a workforce that no longer pays living wages.

Joann Cotton, a 54-year-old Columbus, Mississippi, resident, was one of those faces of poverty we met on the tour. Unemployed for three years, Joann has gone from making “$60,000 a year to less than $15,000 overnight.” Her husband is disabled and dependent on medicines the couple can no longer afford. They rely on food stamps, which, Joann says, “is depressing as hell.”

Receiving government aid, however, has not been as depressing as her job search. Joann says she has applied for at least 300 jobs. Even though she can barely afford gas, she drives to the interviews only to learn that the employers want to hire younger candidates at low wages.

The experiences have taken a toll: “I’ve aged 10 years in the three years that I’ve been looking for a job,” Joann told us. “I want to get a job so I can just relax and exhale … but I can’t. After a while you just give up.”

Like Joann, millions of Americans are just giving up on the possibility of ever rejoining the workforce. These frustrations reflect a reality that is unraveling the American identity. One of the most fundamental dictates in achieving the “American Dream” has always been a good job that pays wages decent enough to care for our families, buy a car and a home, and live reasonably comfortable lives.

What has caused so many to quit looking for jobs and, by extension, abandon the American Dream? We argue that a covenant has been broken with the American people. We live in a society where corporations put profits over people. We march to the beat of political leaders who have decided the richest 1% of the people in this country deserve generous tax breaks and preferential treatment while most of the 99% are forced to pay unbalanced shares of the tax burden and live on less and less.

Unemployment has been discussed in sound bites within the framework of the Great Recession. Reporters and pundits pontificate about the housing and home-lending fiasco, the collapse of Wall Street and the amount of construction, manufacturing and government jobs lost as a result of the market’s economic downturn.

Yet economists and politicians propose failed remedies based on rebuilding and rebooting systems that have already dashed the American Dream for many. Economist Peter Morici, for example, suggests dynamic job growth will be sparked by increasing domestic oil production, tackling the trade imbalance with China, relaxing regulations for big businesses and curbing health care mandates.

Not only do these efforts lack the innovation necessary to meet the demands of a burgeoning world economy, they also do nothing to change the nation’s capitalist equation that renders everyday Americans irrelevant.

“Fair trade” with China will not interrupt the transportation of construction, manufacturing and production jobs overseas in exchange for huge profits. Fat-cat executives running investment firms, banks, insurance, health care and pharmaceutical companies might like to curb health care mandates, but that approach certainly doesn’t address the needs of Americans looking for decent wages and affordable health care.

The Supreme Court’s regressive Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in many ways validates a truism. The court basically ruled that corporations are people. And like all Americans, corporations have the free speech rights and can spend whatever they want on political ads without disclosing who they are or exposing their agendas. So, in a very real sense, corporations are people — super-rich, self-serving people who can use their billions to influence elections at the expense of, well, real people.

Most major corporations are run by the über-rich — the same people who shipped American jobs overseas, broke the backs of labor unions, pay a fraction of the salaries once paid for manufacturing jobs, turned full-time work into part-time positions, and snatched health care benefits away from employees. And many companies have even established “unemployed need not apply” policies. In other words, if you don’t have a job when it’s time to apply, you can’t get the job.

When the “need not apply” story broke late last year, more than 6 million Americans had been out of work for six months or more.

Talk about kicking people when they’re down.

During our poverty tour last year, we met countless people caught in vicious cycles of looking for nonexistent jobs because their unemployment benefits were expiring or had run out, scraping change together for gas to go on interviews that may or may not pan out, and having to swap food stamps for cash to keep the lights or gas on in the house.

Frustrations are especially high among young people dealing with an 18% unemployment rate — a more than 60-year high. We attended a town hall meeting in Detroit during our poverty tour where parents complained of 25-year-olds who came of working age before the Great Recession who have never had a job in their lives. The newly launched #FixYoungAmerica campaign is centered around the fact that 20% of young workers have been out of work for a year or longer, jobs are scarce, and the cumulative student loan debt is more than $1 trillion.

“Our generation has been hit far worse than any other,” said Scott Gerber, 28, part of the group of young people who started the campaign. “We represent the broken dream of America, and we can’t let it continue.”

That dream has been broken for youths and adults all over the country.

Many single mothers have stopped looking for work for the sake of their children’s health. Because of deficit budget cuts, states are either eliminating or tightening eligibility requirements for child care programs that used to serve the working poor. More cuts are on the way, but, for the moment, children of women on welfare have access to basic health care. But previously eligible low-wage-earning parents are now either denied assistance or their children are placed on interminable waiting lists. It has reached the point where struggling parents have to choose between a low-wage job and welfare so their children can receive basic medical attention.

A person can survive in the jungle for only so long before his or her spirit breaks. And the spirit of the American workforce is approaching a breaking point.

Today’s staggering unemployment isn’t the stepchild of the Great Recession. It is the illegitimate offspring of a long-abided system that places the profits and concerns of big business and the mega-rich above the rest of us. The cancer of greed has spread throughout the body of America and surgery based on pre-recession strategies won’t cure the disease.

The inconvenient truth is that America itself is in need of a transfusion of economic equity and radical reform. Everyday people must recognize that their lives matter just as much as the lives of the rich. A workplace rooted in fundamental fairness that provides decent living wage jobs will allow frustrated, unemployed workers like Joann Cotton to breathe again, and give them a chance to become revitalized contributing members of society. It’s time to resuscitate the American Dream.

Promise of the American Dream is broken



Sony Hayabusa specs rumored: 4.5-inch screen, 7mm thin

he last we heard of the strangely-named Hayabusa, it was sitting on a Sony release list bound for July. At that time we didn’t know anything about the phone, other than the fact that it was one of the most expensive (and presumably most powerful) devices on Sony’s 2012 lineup. NowBriefMobile reports from unnamed sources in China that the phone is the LT29i, destined to become Sony’s next flagship. And if their specs are anything close to real, it’ll be a doozie.

First, the screen will be 4.55 inches, bigger than any Sony phone to date. Naturally it’ll feature the same 720p resolution as the Xperia S. It also packs a whopping 13-megapixel camera with high dynamic range video, A Snapdragon S4 processor with upgraded GPU, a larger than average 2200mAh battery, and crams it all into a case that’s just 7mm thin – impressive, since Sony’s phones haven’t been particularly svelte up to now. The phone is reportedly already running Ice Cream Sandwich.

All of this certainly seems possible. After all, the HTC One X has similar specifications in a slinky frame, and the Hayabusa would have had more time to overcome the engineering difficulties of a larger battery and more dense camera sensor. According to the leak, the phone is expected to have a June announcement and a July release date. The previous roadmap showed the Hayabusa with a price tag of €493, about $650.

Nicki Minaj Starships Video Unveiled And Labeled ‘Saucy’

Nicki Minaj picture

Nicki Minaj Starships Video Unveiled And Labeled ‘Saucy’

It’s been a while since Nicki Minaj first showcased her ‘Starships’ track but the official video for the track aired on Mtv last. It’s a characteristically ludicrous affair, which begins with a spaceship making its way to an island, where it drops off its extra-terrestrial passenger: the aforementioned Nicki Minaj. With a green-blonde wig and a neon pink bikini, Nicki writhes around on the beach awhile. As the video progresses, she gradually amasses a hoard of followers until the technicolour flesh exhibition culminates in a frantic club scene.

Complete with psychedelic visuals, the video becomes increasingly kaleidoscopic as it progresses and it’s been branded as ‘saucy’ by a number of reviewers. Nicki clearly wasn’t put off by the response to her ‘Stupid Hoe’ video (which was banned from the BET network for being too saucy. At one point, she has to hold herself into her skimpy bikini as she jumps up and down with her newfound rave partners. Prior to its release Nicki warned Mtv viewers that it might be too raunchy for the network, but they went ahead and aired it anyway, treating Nicki fans to an attention-deficit parade of semi-nudity, muscle flexing and budget animation.

A review on Stereogum described the video as “a furiously goofy affair. the end result may be more deeply silly than the song’s Vengaboys sample.” It could just be that this particular reviewer is taking the whole thing a little bit more seriously than Nicki herself.

Nicki Minaj Starships Video Unveiled And Labeled ‘Saucy’

Los Angeles riots’ youngest victim, shot while in her mother’s womb, remembers the violence 20 years later

Jessica Evers survived with only a scar on her elbow


<br />
	Jessica Evers survived a shooting while still in the womb of her mom, Elvira Evers, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.<br />

Nearly 20 years ago, the most innocent victim of the riots that were gripping Los Angeles had yet to be born — she was shot while still in her mother’s womb.

Her mother survived — and miraculously, so did she, with a small scar on her elbow as the only physical evidence of the shooting.

On April 30, 1992 — while swarms of looters, police and rioters raged through her Compton block — 71/2 month-pregnant Elvira Evers felt a bullet pierce her skin.

“I remember everything like it was yesterday,” Evers told NBC Los Angeles.

At the time, looters and fires ravaged the city. The riots were sparked by the acquittal of four cops accused of the brutal beating of Rodney King, which was caught on tape. The case of King, an African-American, fueled racial tension that then spiraled into violence and homicides. Fifty-four people were killed.

A friend rushed Evers to St. Francis Medical Center, where doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section.

Evers slept for a week.

When she came to, she assumed her baby hadn’t made it. But then a nurse brought her Jessica, whose elbow had been hit by the 9-mm. bullet.

“I saw the baby and I touched her and I cried and I cried,” Evers told NBC Los Angeles.

A 1992 report by The Associated Press detailed Evers’ shock when she left the hospital and returned home to Compton.

Elvira Evers holds her new-born daughter Jessica Evers-Jones, at a press conference on May 7, 1992 at St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles and talks about being shot in the abdomen during rioting. Elvira was in her 38th week of pregnancy when a bullet pierced her abdomen and lodged in the baby’s upper right forearm. (AP Photo/Olga Shalygin) Elvira Evers holds her daughter, Jessica in front of the security gates of her apartment complex in Gardena, California, Monday, April 4, 1994 where she finally feels safe after moving from her previous residence in Compton, Calif. Evers was shot during the 1992 Los Angeles riots while pregnant with Jessica, who was born with the bullet in her elbow. In the background are son Marvin, 13, left, daughter Nella, 7, and Paris Beacon, a 5-year-old neighbor. (AP Photo/Rhonda Birndorf)

“Everything was different to me,” she told The AP. “All the stores around there were burned. It’s just like I was brand-new going to that place.”

She reportedly told a friend, “I know I deserve better than this,” then moved to nearby Gardena.

Now, days before her 20th birthday, Jessica Evers tries to understand how she survived, and why.

“As each day goes by, I try to find out what I’m here for,” she told NBC Los Angeles.

“I’m innocent, but then again there are other innocent people that got hurt, too,” she added.

Although the riots’ 20th anniversary is just around the corner, Evers says she’s forced to remember them every year on Jessica’s birthday.

“I get sad,” she told NBC Los Angeles. “Because 20 years ago, I was supposed to be dead. So I have God to give thanks.”

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Kim Kardashian Denies Nude Pic is Her, Krashes ’30 Rock’

Reality star Kim Kardashian has denied that she’s the nude woman seen frying eggs in a recent photo leaked online, reports Daily Mail. The busy mogul found time to appear on last night’s episode of “30 Rock.”

Kim Kardashian Denies Nude Pic is Her, Krashes '30 Rock'

The photo first appeared on, then on Media Takeout with the caption: “Nude Pic of Kim Kardashian Hits the Net… and It’s an Old Pic… Before She Got Her Boobs Done!!!”

Kim’s representative is denying that the pic is of Kim. “It’s not her. You can totally tell. It looks nothing like her.”

Meanwhile, the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” star made a guest appearance on Thursday night’s “30 Rock,” alongside “SNL” alums Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon.

She came in at the top of the show acting as a Cabletown co-worker who needed to use the restroom. Later, Kim popped in to tell drag queen Paul (Will Forte) that she just caught his marriage proposal to Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) on tape for “14 million people” to see.

The 31-year-old socialite tweeted after the show, “Anyone see 30 Rock tonight??? I had a blast!!!! Love this show!”

Other surprise guests included Jon Hamm and Sir Paul McCartney.

Kim Kardashian Denies Nude Pic is Her, Krashes ’30 Rock’

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Illinois surgeons re-transplant kidney into second patient in unusual operation

Kidney re-transplant

Cera Fearing, Ray Fearing and Dr. Erwin Gomez were the participants in the pioneering kidney retransplant. (Courtesy of Northwestern Memorial Hospital / April 26, 2012)

By Thomas H. Maugh II

In what is claimed to be the first operation of its kind, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have removed a transplanted kidney from its original recipient and implanted it in a second recipient. The kidney was failing in the first patient, but began fluorishing in the second and is now healthy.

The first recipient of the kidney was Ray Fearing, a 27-year-old Arlington Heights, Ill., resident who suffers from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), in which scar tissue develops on the kidney and prevents the organ from filtering waste from the bloodstream. In June, a team headed by Dr. Lorenzo Fallon of Northwestern implanted a kidney donated by Fearing’s 24-year-old sister, Cera. But, as is the case in about half of transplants to patients with FSGS, the new kidney began failing almost immediately following a recurrence of the disease. The surgical team knew the kidney would have to be removed, but reasoned that it might be saved if the procedure was done quickly.

The team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that, after an extensive discussion of the ethics of the situation and after consultation with Ray and Cera Fearing, they decided to re-transplant the organ into 67-year-old Dr. Erwin Gomez of Valparaiso, Ind. Gomez, the father of five, was a good immune match for the kidney, but he was also a surgeon and thus familiar with the complexities involved in the procedure. On July 1, 14 days after the organ was originally implanted in Ray Fearing, it was re-implanted in Gomez. The operation was a success and Gomez is now off dialysis and apparently healthy. Fearing is back on dialysis and says he, too, is doing fine.

“This is a groundbreaking medical moment because it suggests that it is possible to reverse the damage done to a kidney as a result of FSGS after it is transplanted into a body with a healthy circulatory system,” said Dr. Joseph Leventhal of Northwestern. “Not only did we save a viable organ from being discarded, we also made significant strides in better understanding the cause of FSGS, which has been relativley unknown, so we can better treat the disease in the future. This proves that when an organ fails in one body, it may thrive in another.”

Illinois surgeons re-transplant kidney into second patient in unusual operation

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Transportation Security Administration drug-smuggling case stems from airport mix-up

A Transportation Security Administration screener is arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in an alleged drug trafficking scheme in this picture provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office April 25, 2012. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

LOS ANGELES – Duane Eleby, a suspected drug courier, was all set to sneak 10 pounds of cocaine through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport last February with the help of a former Transportation Security Administration employee and a screener.

Eleby, however, bungled the plan by going to the wrong terminal and was arrested after another TSA screener found the cocaine, which set in motion a series of undercover operations that led to Wednesday’s announcement that two former and current TSA employees had been indicted on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges.

A 22-count indictment outlined five incidents where the TSA employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at LAX over a six-month period last year. In all, seven people are facing charges, including Eleby.

“The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation’s security needs,” said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.

TSA screeners charged in LA drug trafficking probe

Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA for an unrelated matter in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener.

It wasn’t immediately known if any of the four had retained attorneys. Authorities didn’t say what post Richardson, who began working for TSA in 2002, once held.

Eleby was given specific written instructions by White last February to ensure his safe passage through the airport, according to the indictment. Instead of going to Terminal 6 where White, who was hired six years ago, was located, Eleby went to Terminal 5 where his plane was scheduled to depart, authorities said.

The plan, court documents show, was to have Eleby use a secure tunnel linking the two terminals after he was allowed through security by White.

Despite Eleby’s arrest, the smuggling scheme continued and federal agents set up a sting where informants were able to pass cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints without further inspection.

In one case, after nearly 8 pounds of meth went through an X-ray machine, Whitfield and an operative met in an airport bathroom where Whitfield was paid $600 for his efforts, court documents show.

In another instance, McKinney let more than 44 pounds of cocaine pass through her security checkpoint, authorities said.

None of the drugs ever made it to their final destination, authorities said.

Randy Parsons, TSA’s security director at LAX, said the agency is disappointed about the arrests but that it remained committed to holding its employees to the highest standards.

If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. Whitfield, who has worked at TSA since 2008, and McKinney, a seven-year veteran, are under suspension, authorities said.

There have been a handful of other arrests of TSA employees since the agency was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Last week, former TSA officer Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone for his role in a painkiller trafficking ring. Another former TSA officer, a former New York police officer and a former Florida state trooper have already pleaded guilty.

If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. Whitfield, who has worked at TSA since 2008, and McKinney, a seven-year veteran, are under suspension, authorities said.

There have been a handful of other arrests of TSA employees since the agency was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Transportation Security Administration drug-smuggling case stems from airport mix-up

Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Increased 4.1% in March

By Lorraine Woellert

Signed contracts to buy U.S. homes rose more than forecast in March as low interest ratesdrew buyers back into the market.

The index of pending home purchases rose 4.1 percent to 101.4, the highest level since April 2010, after a 0.4 percent gain in February that was revised from a previously estimated 0.5 percent drop, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 43 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 1 percent rise in the measure, which tracks contracts on previously owned homes.

An improved labor market and mortgage rates near historic lows are helping to stabilize housing. At the same time, the industry remains the economy’s weakest link, depressed by the threat of more foreclosures, stricter lending standards, and lower property values.

Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Increased 4.1% in March

“Housing demand this year will continue to recover moderately,” Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York, said before the report. Even so, the glut of new foreclosures is likely to start pushing prices down in the second half of this year, she said.

Estimates for March pending sales ranged from a drop of 3.7 percent to an increase of 4 percent in the Bloomberg survey.

Stocks were little changed after the figure, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index falling less than 0.1 percent to 1,390.37 at 10:32 a.m. in New York. The S&P SupercompositeHomebuilders (S15HOME) Index climbed 2.7 percent. PulteGroup Inc. rallied 6.9 percent after the homebuilder’s loss was less than forecast.

Leading Indicator

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator of progress in real estate because they track contract signings. Purchases of existing homes are tabulated when a contract closes, typically a month or two later, and made up about 93 percent of the housing market last year.

Compared with a year earlier, March pending home sales climbed 10.8 percent after 14.9 percent surge in February.

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Two of four regions saw an increase in pending home sales from the prior month, led by an 8.7 percent jump in the West, today’s report showed, while the South posted a 5.9 percent gain.

Housing is showing uneven signs of progress. This week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported a February increase in home prices, up 0.4 percent from a year earlier, the first annual gain since July 2007.

Home Prices

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values fell 3.5 percent for the year ended in February.

Sales of previously owned houses in March fell for the third time in four months, from a 4.6 million annual rate to 4.48 million, the National Association of Realtors reported earlier this month.

Demand for new homes also dipped in March. Homes sold at a 328,000 annual rate, down from an upwardly revised 353,000 in February, which was the highest in almost two years, the Commerce Department reported.

To hold down borrowing costs, Federal Reserve policy makers say they will continue to swap $400 billion in short-term securities with long-term debt to lengthen the average maturity of the central bank’s holdings, a move dubbed Operation Twist.

Pending Home Sales Rise 4.1% in March

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“Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed,” Federal Reserve officials said in a policy statement yesterday.

Underlying the uneven housing numbers is an overall improvement in consumer confidence, said Farooq Kathwari, chief executive officer of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. (ETH)

“I would go mad, crazy,” looking at housing data every day, Kathwari said in an April 24 earnings call. “So I don’t look at them every day because I’ve got to plan three, six months, a year from now,”

The home furnishings company, based in Danbury, Connecticut, reported an 8 percent year-over-year increase in net sales for the quarter ended March 31, to $175.9 million. “Three, four years back we decided to build a 240,000 square foot plant in Mexico. If we had not done it, we would not be able to deliver the products we have,” Kathwari said.

Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Increased 4.1% in March

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Attacker tells cops he jumped white man because he was mad about Trayvon Martin case

18-year-old suburban Chicago man charged with hate crime


Alton Hayes told police he robbed and beat a white man last week because he was upset about the Trayvon Martin case.

A black man in suburban Chicago told police he jumped a white man last week because he was upset about the Trayvon Martin case, police said.

Alton L. Hayes, 18, and a 15-year-old Chicago boy attacked the 19-year-old victim on April 17 at around 1 a.m. in Oak Park, west of Chicago, police told the Chicago Tribune.

Hayes was charged with committing a hate crime Wednesday, as well as attempted robbery and aggravated battery.

The boy, who is also black, was charged with attempted robbery, the Tribune said.

Hayes said he and his partner grabbed the man from behind and hit him several times, then grabbed a tree branch and said, “Empty your pockets, white boy,” FOX Chicago reported.

The pair then threw the man to the ground and hit him in the head several more times before taking off.

The pair was picked up a few blocks away after the man called the cops.

State’s attorney spokesman Andy Conklin told the Tribune that Hayes said he jumped the man because he was mad about what happened to Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida teen shot and killed by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26.

Hayes was being held in Cook County jail on $80,000 bail.

The attack was at least the second in a week to be tied to the Martin case.

On Saturday, a crazed mob in Alabama allegedly beat a man in his home with chairs, pipes, brass knuckles and paint cans and then left him with the words, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon,” according to two witnesses.

The attack on Matthew Owens, 40, of Mobile, was being investigated as an assault, not a hate crime, and Mobile police said the Martin case had nothing to do with it.

On Wednesday, police made their first arrest in the mob beating, 44-year-old Terry RawlsWKRG television reported.

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TSA defends pat-down of 4-year-old at Kan. airport

WICHITA, Kan. — The grandmother of a 4-year-old girl who became hysterical during a security screening at a Kansas airport said Wednesday that the child was forced to undergo a pat-down after hugging her, with security agents yelling and calling the crying girl an uncooperative suspect.

The incident has been garnering increasing media and online attention since the child’s mother, Michelle Brademeyer of Montana, detailed the ordeal in a public Facebook post last week. The Transportation Security Administration is defending its agents, despite new procedures aimed at reducing pat-downs of children.
The child’s grandmother, Lori Croft, told The Associated Press that Brademeyer and her daughter, Isabella, initially passed through security at the Wichita airport without incident. The girl then ran over to briefly hug Croft, who was awaiting a pat-down after tripping the alarm, and that’s when TSA agents insisted the girl undergo a physical pat-down.

Isabella had just learned about “stranger danger” at school, her grandmother said, adding that the girl was afraid and unsure about what was going on.

“She started to cry, saying ‘No I don’t want to,’ and when we tried talking to her she ran,” Croft said. “They yelled, ‘We are going to shut down the airport if you don’t grab her.'”

But she said the family’s main concern was the lack of understanding from TSA agents that they were dealing with a 4-year-old child, not a terror suspect.

“There was no common sense and there was no compassion,” Croft said. “That was our biggest fault with the whole thing — not that they are following security procedures, because I understand that they have to do that.”

Brademeyer, of Missoula, Mont., wrote a public Facebook post last week about the April 15 incident, claiming TSA treated her daughter “no better than if she had been a terrorist.” The posting was taken down Wednesday. Another post said the family had filed formal complaints with the TSA and the airport.

The TSA released a statement Tuesday saying it explained to the family why additional security procedures were necessary and that agents didn’t suspect or suggest the child was carrying a firearm.
“TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child,” the agency said.

The statement noted that the agency recently implemented modified screening procedures for children age 12 and younger to further reduce the need for pat-downs of children, such as multiple passes through a metal detector and advanced imaging technology.

“These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce — though not eliminate — pat-downs of children,” the statement said. “In this case, however, the child had completed screening but had contact with another member of her family who had not completed the screening process.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, pressed the TSA for more information Wednesday. Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he was concerned the TSA went too far.

“I am a staunch advocate for effective transportation security, but I’m also a strong advocate for common sense and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” Tester wrote to TSA Administrator John Pistole. “Any report of abuse of the power entrusted to officers of the TSA is especially concerning — especially if it involves children.”

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