EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2013

Around the nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — In budget impasses, warnings about cuts could be real

WASHINGTON (AP) — Get ready for two weeks of intensifying warnings about how crucial, popular government services are about to wither. Many of the threats could come true.

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans made no progress this past week in heading off $85 billion in budget-wide cuts that automatically start taking effect March 1.

Lacking a bipartisan deal to avoid them and hoping to heap blame and pressure on GOP lawmakers, the administration is offering vivid details about the cuts’ consequences: trimmed defense contracts, less secure U.S. embassies, furloughed air traffic controllers.

Past administrations have seldom hesitated to spotlight how budget standoffs would wilt programs the public values.

When a budget fight between President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, some threats came true, like padlocked national parks.

Latest try at weapons ban would exempt specific firearms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.

“What a joke,” said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.

Hanlon recalled lying on the street as brass bullet casings showered on him. He thought the shooter had an automatic weapon.

Both models of the Ruger Mini-14 specified in the proposed bill can take detachable magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition. “I can’t imagine what the difference is,” Hanlon said.

Wife and daughters away, Obama flees empty White House for golf weekend

PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) — Faced with a long weekend in an empty White House, President Barack Obama figured he needed a getaway, too, so he put together a golf outing with some buddies.

Not at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland or at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, two Washington-area military posts where he’s a regular on their courses.

Instead, he went south, to Florida, to spend the long President’s Day weekend staying and playing at the Floridian, an exclusive and secluded yacht and golf club on the state’s Treasure Coast. He arrived Friday night after a speech in Chicago and wasn’t expected to be seen again in public — including by the members of the news media traveling with him — until he returns to Washington on Monday.

“At this time, there are no public events scheduled or plans for the president to leave the grounds of the golf club,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Saturday.

Call it a weekend with the boys, presidential style.

LAPD cop killer gone but suffering remains

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) — As soon as he heard officers were chasing the suspected cop killer in a stolen truck, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Roger Loftis was certain: His buddy Jeremiah MacKay would be there.

In 15 years with the department, “Jer” had earned about a dozen and a half awards for 10851s — the California penal code for grand theft auto. Once, while heading to a bar to celebrate another award, MacKay noticed there were no keys in the ignition of the car next to him at a traffic light, and he veered off. He waltzed into the bar two hours later, a grin stretched across that fair, freckled face, a copy of an auto recovery record in his hand.

Last week, Loftis called his fishing, drinking and golfing buddy to see how he was doing. He knew the 35-year-old detective had been working around the clock, scouring the San Bernardino Mountains in the search for former Los Angeles Police Officer Christopher Dorner.

“If that guy’s still on this mountain,” MacKay told him, “I’m going to find him.”

Former US Rep. Jackson Jr.’s charges tied to status objects, not power

CHICAGO (AP) — For all the talk of Jesse Jackson Jr. aspiring to be a U.S. senator or mayor of the nation’s third-largest city, his career wasn’t ended by attempts to amass political power.

Instead, it was the former congressman’s desire for flashy items — a gold-plated Rolex watch, furs and collectibles, such as Eddie Van Halen’s guitar.

In a state where stop-at-nothing political ambition has been well documented — and often rewarded — the seemingly frivolous cause of Jackson’s undoing is seen by political observers and at least one former colleague as both nonsensical and sad.

“When you have a magic name like that, he was in position, waiting for the gun to go off, for mayor, the Senate ... he was playing with the big guys.” said Paul Green, a longtime political scientist at Roosevelt University in Chicago who moderated Jackson’s first congressional campaign debate. “To go down for this, you just feel sad.”

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Jackson Jr. with one count of conspiracy for allegedly spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses. The Chicago Democrat’s wife, former alderman Sandra Jackson, was charged with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns.