Correspondent, Chicago
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Jun 1, 2010

Sarah Ferguson tells Oprah gross stupidity led to sting

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Britain’s Sarah Ferguson said her own self-hatred, mounting debts and “gross stupidity” led her to fall for a videotaped sting by a journalist in which she appeared to offer to sell access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew.

“I’ve been a huge overtrusting, idiotic, stupid woman that went to look for the perfect situation, and that’s all I can say really,” the Duchess of York told Chicago-based talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Apr 30, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Blago judge says Obama doesn’t have to testify

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The federal judge overseeing the corruption trial of  Rod Blagojevich said he sees no need for President Barack Obama to testify, denying a defense request, though he left open the possibility.

“The testimony of the president is not material to this case,” James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said at a hearing on Friday.

Apr 22, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich asks for President Obama to testify

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Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys have asked for President Barack Obama to testify at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial, saying he would be “a critical witness.”

In an apparent mechanical error, blacked-out portions of the defense’s request were visible for some time online, and were subsequently published on the websites of Chicago’s daily  newspapers.

Apr 21, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Bristol Palin says she got calls after Mom’s e-mail hacked

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By Robby O’Daniel

A Tennessee college student on trial for hacking into Sarah Palin’s e-mail account and posting it on the Web during the 2008 presidential campaign heard from Palin’s daughter, Bristol, who testified she was flooded with phone calls as a result.

One call  to the then-17-year-old’s cell phone came in the middle of the night at the family home in Wasilla, Alaska, from “a bunch of boys” who claimed to be outside the house and wanted to be let in.

Apr 21, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

No head-butting, judge tells Blagojevich

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No head-butting, no fighting, no macho posturing, the judge overseeing former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s upcoming corruption trial said on Wednesday.

If the federal courtroom is sounding more like a boxing ring, the disgraced politician suggested as much. On Tuesday Blagojevich called out prosecutor U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, telling reporters “I hope you’re man enough to be there (in court) tomorrow too.”

Apr 8, 2010

NATO head says Afghanistan’s Karzai a good partner

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai may not always do and say what NATO allies would like, but he is a willing and necessary partner, NATO’s secretary- general said on Thursday.

“In general, we have very good cooperation from President Karzai and his government and such cooperation is essential for our strategy in Afghanistan,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a speech at the University of Chicago.

Mar 23, 2010

Matisse’s “aha” moment subject of U.S. museum show

CHICAGO (Reuters) – His artistic career spanned six decades, but curators of the museum show “Henri Matisse: Radical Invention” have focused on the years from 1913 to 1917 when he created what he termed his “most important pictures.”

“It’s an amazing moment when Matisse, the master of color, tones down the color and pays attention to form,” said Stephanie D’Alessandro, curator at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mar 18, 2010

US man pleads guilty in Mumbai attack, Danish plot

CHICAGO, March 18 (Reuters) – A Chicago man pleaded guilty on Thursday to scouting targets for the deadly 2008 assault on Mumbai and plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper in which his accomplices instructed him to behead any captives.

David Headley, 49, has been cooperating with U.S. investigators since his arrest in October and faces up to life in prison, but will escape the death penalty, prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty to 12 counts, including conspiring to bomb and murder U.S., Indian and Danish citizens, and supporting the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said. No sentencing date was set.

Headley, outfitted in an orange prison jumpsuit and leg shackles with his head closely shaved, gave mostly one-word answers to the judge’s questions, indicating he understood his plea.

In the agreement with prosecutors, Headley promised to cooperate and provide testimony against others in exchange for a pledge he would not to be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark.

"Not only has the criminal justice system achieved a guilty plea in this case, but David Headley is now providing us valuable intelligence about terrorist activities," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Three other men have been charged in the case, including Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, 49, who has pleaded not guilty to similar charges and is being held without bond. Rana’s lawyer has said he was "duped" by Headley. Lashkar, a group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, has denied any link to Headley or Rana.

Two Pakistanis, Ilyas Kashmiri and Abdur Rehman, are also charged in the U.S. case, but are not in custody.

SUICIDE MISSION

Kashmiri was described in court documents as a leader of an Islamist group with close ties to al Qaeda. Rehman, a former Pakistani army officer nicknamed "Pasha," was Headley’s contact with Lashkar-e-Taiba, prosecutors said.

Headley was told by Kashmiri in a May 2009 meeting in Waziristan, Pakistan, that the planned attack in Denmark would be a suicide mission, so the attackers should make "martyrdom videos beforehand," according to the plea agreement.

Headley also was told that "the attackers should behead captives and throw their heads out of the newspaper building in order to heighten the response from Danish authorities," it said.

Aimed as revenge for the newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that offended many Muslims, the attack never came off.

Headley was arrested at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 3 before leaving for Pakistan. He was found with about 13 surveillance videos from Denmark that he planned to deliver to his handlers.

The Denmark attack was put on hold by Lashkar because the group was facing pressure after the Mumbai attacks, the plea agreement said.

The Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans, strained relations between India and old rival Pakistan and led India to suspend a 4-year-old peace process.

But Kashmiri had already told Headley he could provide support for the Denmark plot and Lashkar’s backing was not needed. Headley tried to seek out Kashmiri’s European contacts, the plea agreement said.

Headley, who spent his childhood in Pakistan and whose father was Pakistani, changed his name in 2005 from Daood Gilani to ease his travels, "portraying himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani."

Prosecutors have said he scouted several targets throughout India, including figures in Bollywood, India’s movie industry.

Beginning in 2002, Headley traveled three times to Lashkar camps to receive weapons training and learn survival skills and combat tactics, according to the plea agreement.

Headley’s case number is 09-CR-830. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)




Mar 17, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich trial to begin in June

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Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s trial will begin in June, which gives fellow Democrats reason to squirm before the mid-term elections.

The judge in Blagojevich’s corruption case turned down the defense’s request to delay the trial to November, which would have been after the November 2 election.

Mar 9, 2010

Canadian vaccination study proves ‘herd immunity’

CHICAGO, March 9 (Reuters) – Inoculating children against
flu protects more people of all ages in the larger community,
probably because young people tend to spread viruses through
physical play, Canadian researchers said on Tuesday.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario
found there were 61 percent fewer flu cases in isolated
communities where children and adolescents received the
seasonal influenza vaccine, compared to communities where
children received an unrelated vaccine.

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