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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views

Police say a chimpanzee who rampaged through a Las Vegas neighborhood last month made a second escape from her backyard enclosure.  The Las Vegas Sun reports a resident called authorities about 4:50 p.m. Saturday to report CJ, the chimp, broke free from her cage. Las Vegas Metro Police captured her at around 5:30 p.m. after setting up a containment area and targeting her with tranquilizer darts. On July 12, CJ and her mate Buddy broke free and roamed through their owners' neighborhood, pounding on vehicles and climbing in an unoccupied car. Buddy also jumped on cars.  An officer shot and killed him after police say he veered too closely toward onlookers. CJ was returned to her owners then, but officials say that won't happen this time. The Sun reports she was being secured at a local zoo.     

A Denny's with a 24 hour wedding chapel? Denny's says its newest 24-hour diner in Las Vegas will feature a full bar and a wedding chapel.   The restaurant announced Thursday that it plans to open a flagship diner by the end of the year in downtown Las Vegas' Neonopolis shopping complex. Denny's CEO John Miller says Las Vegas is ideal for the one-of-a-kind restaurant because it operates on the same 24-hour schedule as the diner itself. The 6,400-square-foot eatery will include an interactive photo booth where patrons can take their photos with Vegas-themed props and share them on social media sites.  The restaurant will also offer a range of wedding packages at its on-site chapel, some including wedding cakes made of Denny's Pancake Puppies.   The Denny's chain includes more than 1,680 restaurants, including two locations on the Strip.

A federal judge in Las Vegas set a November date for arguments on a national gay rights advocacy group's lawsuit challenging Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones said Friday that he wants to quickly decide the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund against Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and various officials. The lawsuit focuses on differences between rights granted by the state Legislature with a domestic partnership law in 2009 and a gay marriage ban that voters made part of the state constitution in 2002.  Jones says he'll hear oral arguments Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court in Reno.  He told lawyers from both sides that he plans to rely on written arguments, not courtroom testimony from people offered as experts.

The Clark County School District says it's hiring back 419 licensed employees who got layoff notices earlier this summer.   District officials say Friday that teachers leaving the district or retiring made room for the re-hires.   The layoff notices came after an arbitrator ruled this spring that teachers should get their scheduled raises for the current and next school year.    District officials said the payout contributed to a $59 million budget gap and forced them to cut 1,000 teaching positions from the budget. That number includes vacant teaching posts. District spokeswoman Melinda Malone says the 1,000 positions are still gone and class sizes will still be up by an average of three students, adding that sending the layoff notices "wasn't a game" to pressure the teachers union during negotiations.

Mining has returned to Nevada's historic Comstock more than 150 years after the discovery of one of the world's richest silver veins touched off a frenzy that drew thousands of people west. But unlike the hard rock miners in the 1800s, the modern day operation involves huge trucks that haul ore from a pit mine near Virginia City to a nearby processing site. The Reno Gazette-Journal  reports Comstock Mining Inc. began active operations on Wednesday, and company officials hope to begin pouring gold and silver by mid-September. Company officials believe the region holds nearly $5 billion worth of identified minerals Opponents pledged to keep fighting the mining activity that they say threatens public safety, the environment and one of the nation's most precious historic sites. The Comstock is riddled with deep man made caves an caverns held together by century and a half old wood. Locals in Virginia City and elsewhere fear sinkholes, shifting, and other public safety hazards caused by nearby mining. The also fear the eyesore of open pit wholesale mining will keep away the tourism needed for the local economy, and leave behind permanent eyesores.

Iranian state television has raised the toll from Saturdays' twin earthquakes to over 250 dead and at least 2,000 injured.  Images broadcast on the main news channel showed dozens of families of sleeping outdoors in parks, with blankets laid out on the ground. Some were crying, others shivering from chilly weather in the mountainous region hit by the quake in the northwestern part of the country. TV also showed many people evacuated by rescue teams on stretchers to hospitals and clinics. Other images showed the injured in hospital beds. The quakes in northwest Iran came a few minutes apart, destroying entire villages. There were a number of aftershocks. Despite the embargo, the US, with ample military relief services in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, has offered humanitarian aid.

Israel's prime minister says the threat from Iran dwarfs all others the Jewish state faces. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday: "Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons." Netanyahu said recently that no decision had been made on whether to attack or not. There is no way to know however whether hints from Israel's leadership indicate actual policy positions, or are part of a disinformation campaign meant to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu and other leading officials have noted that tough international sanctions have not succeeded Iran to abandon its suspect uranium enrichment program - a process that has civilian uses but could also be used to build bombs. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful, designed mainly to produce energy.

A California man took a cold, pre-dawn plunge in Lake Tahoe, hoping to swim across the scenic mountain lake to raise awareness of the conflict plaguing the African nation of Congo. After more than 11 hours in the water yesterday, Keris Dahlkamp  came up 2 miles short of his quest to swim 22 miles from South Lake Tahoe to Kings Beach on the north shore. Dahlkamp and his supporters say the effort was still a success.


For the fifth straight Summer Olympics, American athletes will take home more medals than any other country. With only Sunday's competitions remaining, the U.S. has locked up the overall medals race over China. The U.S. has claimed 102 medals, 15 more than the Chinese. Americans are also leading the gold medal chase over China, 44-38. American swimmers won 31 medals. Track and field now has 29, one marathon medal on Sunday away from getting to 30 -- a goal that seemed far fetched to some in the U.S. Olympic movement not long ago. 


Traditionally stoic  Brits are smiling and relieved. It is in their nature to expect the worst. instead traffic was, for the most part, manageable, retail is up (but not as much as many merchants had wished), there has been crime but nothing major, the anti-aircraft batteries on rooftops have not had to be used, the Queen is visible and happy, and Britain has seen the the traditional home court bump in medals.

The feats of athleticism are just about done but London is getting set to bend over backwards one last time to throw a huge Olympics-closing party. The curtain comes down today on the two-week festival of sports with a thunderous celebration of British music, from the classical compositions of Elgar to the classic rock of The Who. Artistic director Kim Gavin promises "the best after-show party that's ever been." There'll be plenty of fireworks and colored lights, acrobats, gymnasts, drummers, supermodels and other surprises. The record 10,800 Olympic athletes will march in as one and form what Gavin has described as a human mosh pit on the field. Queen Elizabeth will be on hand for the party. Eight minutes have been turned over to Brazil, host of the 2016 Rio Games, which promises an explosion of samba, sequins and Latin cool. The 2012 Democratic Party's Platform Committee met Saturday in Detroit. At this meeting, members of the  Committee are considering amendments to the draft before it goes to the full convention. One key part of the platform is a plank in support of gay marriage.   In the "modern" era party platforms do not require candidates to pledge fidelity to the platform or accept the planks in the platform. It is largely symbolic. The process of putting together a platform once took days, with this year and 8 hour day blocked out. The meeting and the acceptance of the Democratic Platform took only two and a half hours.

The secret-busting organization WikiLeaks says it's been the victim of a sustained denial-of-service attack which has left its website sluggish or inaccessible for more than a week. In a statement released late Saturday the group said the assault intensified around the beginning of August and has since expanded to include attacks against affiliated sites. Denial-of-service attacks work by overwhelming websites with requests for information. WikiLeaks has said it's been flooded with 10 gigabits per second of bogus traffic from thousands of different Internet addresses. Josh Corman, with online content delivery company Akamai, characterized that as "a bit larger" than attacks commonly seen in the past few years. WikiLeaks, which has angered officials in Washington with its spectacular releases of classified U.S. documents, remained inaccessible Sunday.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate puts Medicare and Medicaid front and center in the campaign. Cuts, vouchers and a redefining of health care for older Americans, coupled with cutting the safety net for many middle class and poor Americans are part of both Romney and Ryan plans to balance the budget. As much as 72% of the savings will be at the expense of 93% of Americans, including the middle class for whom taxes have actually gone down over the past three years. Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, are pitching themselves as "America's Comeback Team," Republican turnaround artists willing to take on tough decisions.  Romney's selection of Ryan as his vice presidential running mate this weekend jolted the presidential contest and set the contours for the fall campaign. Romney touts himself as a proponent of a friendlier business climate seeking to revitalize the economy and rein in federal spending.

President Barack Obama and his allies say adding the conservative Wisconsin congressman to the GOP ticket creates a sharp choice for voters on the future of the nation's tax system and safety-net programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. Obama casts himself as a defender of middle-class families and federal spending on health care, retirement pensions and education. 

The Obama administration is inviting school districts across the country to compete for almost $400 million in grants through the Race to the Top program. The first rounds of the 3-year-old program provided grants to states that agreed to ambitious education reforms. This year, the Education Department is opening the competition to school districts. About 15 to 25 grants will be handed out, ranging from $5 million to $40 million each. Districts must show how they'll use the money to personalize learning, prepare kids for college and close the achievement gap. They also must put evaluation systems in place for teachers and administrators. Districts have until the end of October to apply. They'll find out if they've been chosen by the end of the year.

As Greece's economy lies in ruins, Greeks feel threatened and burdened by migrants -- many of them Muslims. But human rights groups say authorities are ignoring a sharp rise in vigilante attacks on immigrants -- including those working legally in Greece. Fishing, industry, service industry jobs are increasingly filled with legal, and illegal immigrants who then send money back to their families in Egypt. The violence is rising as the economy grows worse, and with news of any terrorist activity anywhere in the country. A legal extreme nationalist party, Golden Dawn, holds 18 of the 300 seats in the Greek Parliament, and campaigns on a platform of cleansing Greece of illegal immigrants. they say the violence pales to the attacks on Greek citizen. Greece is a transit point for an estimated 80% of the immigrants coming into the European Union. 

The US is tied strongly to the economy of Europe. No US president, Republican or Democrat, can truly control or heavily influence US joblessness when Europe is having economic problems. Many Americans are blind to the reality of an international marketplace and how the US does not determine its own economic destiny. Once we did, but now international ownership, markets, wars and politics have a greater impact on every nation than ever before. We are also tied to China and Asia, with China playing the international investment and construction roles played by the US in the 20th Century.

But both parties are campaigning on the economy, implying Congress and president have far more power than actually exist.Meanwhile last week the Justice Department admitted it could not prove a crime by any one individual in the causing the Great Recession, from banking crisis to housing crash, job loss to the exporting of jobs overseas. There is culpability on the part of a large number of individuals and corporations, but not enough to prove a case in court.

Norway, a nation of just five million people, has among the highest standards of living in the world. Unemployment is only 3.3%, and those people are full salaried until they find work. Oil and gas money feeds public services, but also raises prices to the highest in Europe.In a society where most basic needs are taken care of, high prices are not as unbearable as you might think. Expendable income remains very high. High tech and other jobs that require high education levels, another area Norway leads much of the world, have found profitable homes in the country, where their employees can be happy and well cared for.

A former Utah lawmaker who lost a congressional bid and traveled briefly to Nevada for a political job he never had has returned to his roots in law enforcement.  Carl Wimmer began a new job Wednesday as an officer with the Gunnison Police Dept.  Wimmer will work as a school resource officer during the academic year and work as a patrol officer when school is out. In June, Wimmer announced he was moving to Las Vegas to take over as director of the Nevada Republican Party. But that fell through when the Chairman of the Nevada GOP, Michael McDonald, said he'd never heard of Wimmer and didn't offer him a job. Wimmer went back to Utah and described the Nevada Republican Party as "non-functional."

 A law enforcement task force grouped in Ely, Nevada say two illegal marijuana farms were discovered in an eastern Nevada mountain range. Authorities estimate the street value of the pot plants at more than $30 million. An investigation was launched after a citizen work crew found suspicious items in the Ward Mountain Range south of Ely. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies between July 26 and Aug. 1 removed more than 10,000 plants. A day later a second marijuana crop was discovered in the same region and nearly 4,300 plants were seized. White Pine County Sheriff Dan Watts says both sites were camouflaged, and camps were equipped with food, shelter and other supplies.   

The weather report this morning for Ely, Nevada included a smoke advisory with areas of "heavy smoke." A U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman says two new wildfires sparked by lightning in northern Nevada have grown rapidly. Spokesman Mark Wilkening said late Friday that the Ten Mile fire about 10 miles northeast of the tiny community of McDermitt was first noticed about noon Friday. It has burned across nearly 8 square miles or 5,000 acres. Earlier in the day there were fears that strong winds would drive the fire perilously close to the community but Humboldt County Undersheriff Curtiss Kull says the winds eased and the fire's pace has slowed. He says it looks like the danger has abated. The Banana Lake fire 30 miles southeast of McDermitt near the Oregon-Idaho border also started Friday and had burned across more than more than 15 square miles or 10,000 acres by evening.   

Scientists are rethinking long-held assumptions about the forces that influence Lake Tahoe's health and clarity. An annual report released Thursday shows that despite a prolonged wet and cold winter in 2010-2011, the lake's famed clarity actually improved. Such conditions are generally believed to decrease clarity.   Researchers also say that the 2007 Angora Fire on Tahoe's west short that burned more than 3,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of home has little effect on the lake's water clarity. The 2012 State of the Lake report, funded by the University of California, Davis and the California Tahoe Conservancy, comes in advance of this year's Tahoe Summit, being held Monday at Edgewood.

Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley are touting business endorsements in their heated Nevada U.S. Senate race.   Heller on Thursday was endorsed by the U.S. and Reno-Sparks chambers of commerce. A Republican, Heller was appointed to the Senate last year and is seeking election to a six-year term in November.   During a stop in Sparks, former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings now with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Heller is committed to free enterprise principles that drive economic growth and job creation.  Berkley is a seven-term Democratic congresswoman from Las Vegas. Her campaign released a list of small business owners supporting her candidacy, including a Republican business owner in Las Vegas.   Businesswoman Maggie Arias Petrel praised Berkley's support of the Small Business Jobs Act, providing tax breaks to small businesses.  

 Las Vegas saw more visitors this June compared with the same month last year, although gambling was down about 8 percent in Clark County.   The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says about 3.4 million visitors came to Las Vegas in June. That's 2.1 percent up from the same month last year, when 3.3 million people visited Sin City.   There were more guest rooms available this May, and citywide occupancy rates remained mostly flat at 88 percent.  Average hotel rates were up 8.5 percent to $110 a night.  Clark County gambling revenues of $707 million were down year-over-year, with a 4.5 percent drop on the Las Vegas Strip and a 23 percent decline on the Boulder Strip.  Southern Nevada tourism is up 2.4 percent so far this year.

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