Wal-Mart Closings and Jade Helm

Wal-Mart suddenly closed five stores in four states on Monday for alleged plumbing problems.

The closures could last up to six months and affect roughly 2,200 workers in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Florida, CNN Money reports.

Wal-Mart employees say they were completely blindsided by the news, having been notified only a couple hours before the stores closed at 7 p.m. Monday.

“Everybody just panicked and started crying,” Venanzi Luna, a manager at a store in Pico Rivera, California, told CNN Money.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/wal-mart-suddenly-closes-stores-2015-4#ixzz3Xt8wMo9g

10 defining moments of the Sochi Olympics

It promises to be another memorable occasion — but will it beat Winters Games gone past?

The 17-day sporting extravaganza is being dubbed as the most expensive Olympics ever, with the Russians having spent $50 billion on turning the faded Black Sea resort into a rejuvenated host venue.

Thousands of athletes from over 80 different countries are ready to descend on Sochi as the 2014 Winter Olympics begin in Russia.

Here at CNN, we’ve put our heads together and come up with our top 10 definitive moments in Winter Olympics history.

Do you agree? What have we missed? Give us your views on Facebook and Twitter and enjoy the Games!

‘The Miracle on Ice

It is the moment that all American ice hockey fans still talk about.

At the 1980 Lake Placid Games, the U.S. team — made up of college students and amateurs — produced one of the greatest shocks in the sport’s history.

Facing the Soviet Union in the semifinals — a team which had won the four previous gold medals — the U.S. was expected to be swept aside easily.

It had been beaten 10-3 in a warmup game two weeks before the Olympics, though the Americans did qualify for the last four without too many problems courtesy of wins over Norway, Romania, West Germany and Czechoslovakia.

read more…

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

With former Port Authority official David Wildstein’s new claim that  “evidence exists” showing Christie knew about the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge back in September, several Jersey State politicians are already floating the dreaded “I” word: impeachment.

It wasn’t so long ago that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was a popular Republican in a big blue state with big 2016 dreams. But with the twin scandals of Bridgegate and his handling of Superstorm Sandy recovery money, the real question may now be whether he can even hang onto his current job.

The editorial board of the Star-Ledger is calling for Christie to either step down or be impeached if the new accusations prove true.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak told msnbc that if Wildstein’s allegations prove true, the state Assembly would “have to issue articles of impeachment.” The Democrat said there is “reasonable suspicion that a series of crimes may have been committed by the governor.”

ohn Wisinewski, the head of the New Jersey Assembly panel probing the lane closures, has said it’s “not credible” that Christie was unaware of the plot and that impeachment does become a possibility if it can be proved Christie had direct involvement. He has since softened his rhetoric, telling msnbc.com such talk is premature. New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell calledthe  letter, in which Wildstein’s lawyer claims he has the evidence, “devastating” for Christie.

To read more…

Is Marijuana the Bootleggers’ 21st Century ‘Moonshine’?

Prohibition Researcher Cites Historic Parallels

Whether they realize it or not, residents of Colorado and Washington have traveled back in time – 80 years, to be exact.

The first two states to decriminalize recreational marijuana are sharing in the national experience of 1933: the end of Prohibition. And the similarities are uncanny, says Prohibition-era researcher and author Denise Frisino.

“As with Prohibition and the criminalization of alcohol production and sales, after marijuana possession was banned in 1937 there were many unintended negative consequences,” maintains Frisino, author of “Whiskey Cove,” (www.whiskeycovebook.com), a novel based on firsthand interviews with Prohibition-era bootleggers in the Pacific Northwest.

“The most obvious is the proliferation of corruption and organized gangs. After Prohibition became effective in 1920, America saw the rise of unprecedented crime.”

And, as was true in the 1920s, increasing crime means a greater need for – and expenditures on – law enforcement and judicial services. Enforcing the Prohibition cost the federal government more than $300 million.

In the interest of learning from history, Frisino cites these additional parallels to Prohibition and our contemporary problems with criminalized marijuana:

• Public safety: During Prohibition, there was no regulatory oversight on the production of alcohol, which meant some illegally brewed and tampered with liquors were downright dangerous. “Bad booze actually killed people,” Frisino says. On average, 1,000 people a year died from drinking tainted alcohol. Marijuana, too, can be dangerous when dealers lace their product with chemicals to make it seem more potent. One benefit of decriminalization is that the quality of substances can be monitored. In Colorado, the growing process is strictly monitored from seed to sale.

• Tax revenues: The federal and state governments lost $11 billion in tax revenues during Prohibition, which was especially painful for states like New York, where nearly 75 percent of revenue came from liquor sales. Today, with the country still reeling from the Great Recession, legalization of marijuana will provide some much-needed extra tax income for Washington and Colorado.  

• Medical uses: Like marijuana, alcohol has medicinal uses. Physicians of the early 20th century prescribed it for a variety of ailments. During Prohibition pharmacies could sell medicinal liquor, which led to a spike in the numbers of pharmacies as bootleggers set up shop. 

• Common criminals: As with marijuana, outlawing alcohol turned many average Americans into outlaws. During the 13 years of Prohibition, jobs were lost and families crumbled as breadwinners went to jail and became stigmatized as lawbreakers. The number of federal convicts increased 561 percent, according to Mark Thorton’s, “Policy Analysis: Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure.” In 2004, more than 12 percent of the drug offenders in federal and state prisons were convicted of crimes involving marijuana, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And that’s just prisons – it doesn’t include local jail populations.

The Prohibition era holds valuable lessons about the unforeseen outcome of criminalizing “vices,” Frisino points out. Rather than reducing alcohol consumption, which was the goal, it actually increased from 1929 to 1933, she says. In addition, legitimate jobs and businesses were destroyed and even restaurants and other entertainment businesses suffered.

“History teaches us that going about change by criminalizing certain behaviors can have a very negative impact on society,” Frisino says.

About Denise Frisino

Denise Frisino is an award-winning writer, actress and arts teacher. She has spent her summers playing and working in the numerous islands that define the Pacific Northwest, where her family spans four generations. Frisino and her husband spend time at Hood Canal and reside in Seattle. Her novel, “Whiskey Cove,” is a nominee for the 2013 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award.


26 dead in elementary school massacre

The bodies of children and educators lay where they fell in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school — in classrooms and hallways — as investigators worked to identity the dead early Saturday while piecing together the path of the gunman.

Twenty children and six adults were killed when the shooter opened fire Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a rampage that shattered the quiet of this southern New England town and left a nation reeling over the number of young lives lost.

Authorities were expected to announce the identities of the dead as early as Saturday morning, though the bodies could remain inside the school until as late as Sunday, said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police.

There were more questions than answers about the possible motive of the shooter, identified by three law enforcement officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza — who authorities say appeared to have taken his own life, turning his gun on himself in the school.

Police say Lanza, who grew up in the tight-knit community of 27,000, killed his mother at her Newtown residence before going to the school where he primarily targeted two classrooms.

Within minutes, Lanza killed 26 people with chilling efficiency, leaving only one injured survivor, according to Vance. Among the adults killed were Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s beloved principal, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach.

“Stuff like this does not happen in Newtown,” roughly 60 miles northeast of New York City, said Renee Burn, a local teacher at another school in town.

Until Friday, only one homicide in the past 10 years had been reported in the upscale community of expansive homes surrounded by woods, where many residents commute to jobs in Manhattan and the nearby Connecticut cities of Stamford and Hartford.

The number of young victims, between the ages of 5 and 10, sent shockwaves across the nation.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” President Barack Obama said, wiping away tears.

In a televised address from the White House, the president recalled shootings this year at an Oregon mall, a Wisconsin Sikh temple and a Colorado movie theater.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics,” he said.

The president stopped short of calling for gun control measures, though the White House said later Obama supports a reinstatement of a federal ban on assault weapons.

With the death toll at 26, the massacre in Newtown is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, behind the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting that left 32 dead.

Flags were lowered to half-staff in a number of states, and vigils were held at houses of worship and at schools amid a national outpouring of grief that saw many ask one question: Why?

There are, for now, few answers.

Three weapons were recovered from the school: a semi-automatic .223 Bushmaster found in a car in the school parking lot, and a Glock and a Sig Sauer found with Lanza’s body, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said, on condition of anonymity.

The weapons were legally purchased by Lanza’s mother, said the official, who was not authorized to release details of the case to the media.

After killing his mother, investigators believe Lanza took her guns and made his way to the elementary school. There, dressed in black fatigues and a military vest, according to a law enforcement official, Lanza reportedly targeted two classrooms of kindergartners and first-graders.

How he got into the school remains a question as the doors were locked. At about 9:30 a.m., as announcements were read over the loudspeaker to the nearly 700 students, the first shots reportedly rang out.

Students described being ushered into bathrooms and closets by teachers after hearing the first shots.

It sounded like “pops, gunshots,” Janet Vollmer, a kindergarten teacher, said.

Vollmer locked her classroom doors, covered the windows and moved her 19 pupils toward the back of the room.

“We’re going over in a safe area,” she told the 5-year-olds. Then, she opened a book and started to read.

Outside Vollmer’s classroom, a gunman was moving through the hallway of the one-story building.

In the first few minutes, the gunman is believed to have shot the principal, Hochsprung, and the school’s psychologist, Sherlach.

One parent who was at the school in a meeting with Hochsprung, Sherlach and the vice principal said she heard a “pop, pop, pop.” All three left the room and went into the hall to see what was happening. The parent ducked under the table and called 911.

“I cowered,” she told CNN. The gunman “must have shot a hundred rounds.”

At the police station, dispatchers began to take calls from inside the school.

“Sandy Hook school. Caller is indicating she thinks someone is shooting in the building,” the dispatcher told fire and medical personnel, according to 911 tapes.

Then, another caller reported gunshots. And then another.

“Units responding to Sandy Hook School at this time, the shooting appears to have stopped. The school is in lockdown,” the dispatcher said.

The dispatcher warned police and medical personnel that callers were reporting “multiple weapons, including one rifle and a shotgun.”

Then, a police officer or firefighter called for “backup, ambulances, and they said call for everything.”

The dispatcher, according to the 911 tapes, asked how many ambulances were needed.

“They don’t know. They’re not giving us a number,” the officer or firefighter said.

Inside a classroom, Vollmer was still reading to the children when police officers banged on the locked door.

The kindergartners were told to line up and cover their eyes as they were led by police past bodies, presumably of their fellow schoolmates, Vollmer said.

As reports of the shooting made their way around town, frantic parents descended on a nearby firehouse where the children had been taken.

“Why? Why?” one woman wailed as she walked up a wooded roadway leading from the school.

Inside the firehouse, Vollmer’s kindergartners were beginning to understand something terrible had happened.

“They saw other people upset,” Vollmer said. “We just held them close until their parents came.”

By nightfall, the firehouse became a gathering point for parents and family members whose loved ones would never walk out of the school.

Authorities, meanwhile, in Hoboken, New Jersey, were questioning Ryan Lanza, the suspected gunman’s older brother, law enforcement sources said, though they did not label him a suspect. Lanza’s father, Peter, who lives in Connecticut, was similarly questioned, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Earlier Friday, investigators identified Ryan Lanza as the shooter. It was not clear what caused the confusion among investigators.

Elementary school massacre: 27 killed Elementary school massacred, including 20 kids, at Connecticut school

A teacher’s son — clad in black and carrying three assault weapons — rampaged through a Connecticut elementary school Friday, killing 20 small children and six adults, including his mother, in the nation’s second-worst school shooting, law enforcement officials said.

The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, was also found dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, law enforcement officials said. Officials initially told NBC News the gunman was Lanza’s brother, Ryan, who is cooperating with investigators and said Adam has a history of mental illness, according to a senior official.

An unidentified woman was also found fatally shot in the face at a home in Newtown after police showed up with there a bomb squad,  officials said.

Lanza’s mother is a kindergarten teacher at the hilltop school, and most of the dead were found inside her classroom.

Some young survivors — ages 5 to 10 — described the terror of the shooting and a massive police response that included SWAT officers going room to room to search for victims as students huddled in classroom corners.

Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.

“That’s when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door,” he told the Associated Press. “He was very brave.”

One student said she was in the gym when she heard “seven loud booms.”

“The gym teachers told us to go in the corner, so we all huddled,” she said. “And I kept hearing these booming noises. And we all … started crying.

“All the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us,” she added. “So then a police officer came in and told us to run outside. So we did and we came in the firehouse.”

The high death toll and the tender age of many victims sent shock waves all the way to the White House, where the flag was lowered to half-staff.

President Obama, his voice cracking at times, said he reacted to the tragedy first as a parent.

“Our hearts are broken today,” he said. “The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old.”

Authorities in the small bedroom community 60 miles from New York City were alerted to the unfolding carnage by a 911 call around 9:30 a.m., and then reached out to state police and neighboring police departments for help.

Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said troopers fanned out across the school and searched “every door, every crack, every crevice” of the building.

Most of the bodies were found in two rooms in one section of the 600-student school, which goes up to the fourth grade.

Two children were taken to Danbury Hospital, but they died. A third person was being treated at the hospital, which went into lockdown mode and cleared trauma rooms as doctors waited for an influx of survivors that never came.

After police finished searching the school and determined there was only one gunman, they led the children outside, telling them to close their eyes, apparently to avoid seeing anything gruesome.

At a staging area ringed by police vehicles that raced to the school from across the state, the dazed and crying kids were reunited with worried loved ones.

Brenda Lebinski, mother of a third-grader, said she found a “horrendous” scene.

“Everyone was in hysterics — parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied,” she said, according to Reuters.

One parent picking up his 7-year-old son said the shooting was “the most terrifying moment a parent can imagine.” He went on to describe the anguish of waiting to find out if his son was a victim and then running to his child when he saw him.

“It was the greatest relief in my existence,” the father said. “I’m just happy that my kid’s OK.”

Two 9mm handguns were recovered from the scene, an official told NBCNewYork.com. A rifle was found in the back of a car parked outside the school.

The FBI was assisting with the widening investigation, and authorities said there were many unanswered questions, including the motive.

“There is a great deal of search warrant activity…in and out of the state,” Vance said, without giving specifics.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy was meeting with grieving families.

“As you can imagine, the governor is horrified by what’s happened,” said aide Roy Occhiogrosso.

The death toll is the highest from a school shooting since a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two teens killed 13 people and wounded 24 in 1999.

Parent Stephen Delgiadice, whose 8-year-old daughter was not hurt, said he never could have imagined such bloodshed in the quiet town of 27,000, where the police force has only three detectives.

“It’s alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America,” he told The Associated Press.

Obama said Friday’s shooting, following the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and other murder sprees, showed the need for “meaningful action…regardless of the politics” to prevent more blood from being spilled.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who has been pushing for tougher gun laws, called for Washington to act immediately.

“Not even kindergarteners learning their A, B, Cs are safe,” he said. “We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again.”


Did You Vote?

Hey everybody. Did you vote this year? Or did you assume your vote wouldn’t make a difference? Voter turnout for 2012 fell to 118 million from 2008’s impressive turnout of 131 million, with only 60% of eligible voters actually exercising their right to choose their government. In an election where the difference in the popular vote was less than 5 million, the 78 million people who chose not to vote might have made a huge difference. So how did President Obama get out the vote? Tweets, likes and status updates. Check out the following infographic to see how Obama bested Romney through a war waged on social media.

Did You Vote?

Created by: LearnStuff.com

Jimmy Hoffa – No human remains found

Soil tests indicate that no human remains are buried beneath a shed in Roseville, Mich., where authorities were investigating the possibility that the late Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa might have been buried, officials said.

Michigan State University tested two samples from a home in Roseville, a suburb of Detroit, after an unidentified tipster told authorities that he witnessed a body being buried there the day after Hoffa disappeared in July 1975.

Those tests came up negative for human remains, Roseville police said Tuesday.

The lead appears to be yet another dead end in the search for Hoffa, who ran the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the country’s biggest labor union, from 1957 to 1971. It joins a long line of false leads that have fueled conspiracy theories for years.

Investigators and other experts had said that they doubted that Hoffa was at the site.

Andy Arena, the former FBI special agent in charge for Detroit, said that while his “gut feeling is that this person saw something,” it defies common sense to believe that the Mafia would have buried the body in broad daylight in a busy suburban area.

“If this guy was standing there watching this, and it was Jimmy Hoffa, he would have been in the hole with him,” Arena said.

Missed Opportunities at the Republican Convention by Dr. Dennis Becker

“It’s August 28. We’ve just finished watching and listening to the first night of the

Republican Convention.” With that, Dr. Dennis Becker launched

electionspeakers.com, a series of podcasts in which the speech coaches at

Brookline, Massachusetts-based The Speech Improvement Company, Inc.

objectively critique the important speakers of the 2012 presidential campaign.

“These broadcasts are designed to give voters valuable information needed to

make a confident decision on November 6. We’ll be watching and listening to the

candidates and others who are trying to win your vote. The talking techniques and

the tactics that they’re using are our exclusive topic for this unique critique,”

according to Becker.

Overall, Becker and the other electionspeakers.com panelists (senior speech

coaches Laurie Schloff, Monica Murphy, and Robin Maxfield) find that the speakers

at the Republican Convention’s first night missed too many opportunities – partly

due to speech writing, and partly due to delivery – to win over the undecided six

percent. Here’s a sample of the coaches’ analysis of Ann Romney:

•    Ann Romney was trying to humanize the situation and make Mitt a

loveable figure. That’s where she disappointed…she came across as strong vs.

soft, and hyper as opposed to low-key. Her speech wasn’t well written.
•    She used facial expressions and gestures well, and she started strongly

with her use of the word “love.” But Ann Romney could have used stories – with a

beginning, middle, and end — to connect with the audience in a heartfelt way. For

example, what makes a real marriage? How did Mitt help her when she was ill?

What was it like to be the father of five kids? How does he make her laugh?
•    She was nervous. Her pace of speaking was too fast. The listeners never

had an opportunity to stop and appreciate her, and get involved with it…[but] she

did the best she could with the speech that she had.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie scored slightly higher than Ann Romney, overall, in

the electionspeakers.com panelists’ estimation. They had this to say:

•    Chris Christie’s body language and facial expressions were great, and he

had some interesting things to say.
•    What was the point of this keynote? It took him 17 minutes before he

even mentioned Governor Romney.
•    His constant intensity and anger were difficult…he seemed on edge. It

was surprising he wasn’t more upbeat and positive.

There are 16 shows in the electionspeakers.com series, and there will be a post

every Monday PLUS every night that there is a special event, such as the

conventions and the actual debates. Dr. Becker and other electionspeakers.com

panelists are available to expand upon their critiques of the Republic Convention

speakers, and to rate their performances objectively. You can hear the

electionspeakers.com podcast here:


Candidates’ Communication Choices written by Monica Murphy

5 Ways to Persuade the Undecided 6 Percent of Voters

Six percent of all Americans who are eligible to vote in the November presidential

election aren’t aligned with a political party. This undecided group will make all the


What do the voters who are still on the fence need to hear, or see, to make their

choice among the candidates? Here are the communication choices candidates

make that will determine who is the next president, and vice president, of the

United States:

1.    Word Selection. The successful candidate will choose specific words that

conjure up emotional images. For example, Paul Ryan walks onstage with his mom,

Betty, and promises to end this raid on Medicare. He assures his listeners that the

board will not mess with “your” mom’s or “my” mom’s healthcare. Ryan chooses

the words “your” and “my” to build a rapport with his audience, and words like

“raid,” “promise,” and “piggybank” are designed to motivate seniors to run into

the voting booth, as fast as they can get there, to protect themselves from an

encroachment upon their Medicare benefits and a threat against their healthcare.

Point made!

2.    Vocal Variety. Along with choosing the right words, candidates have to

work on their inflection, volume, and pace. Before the dawning of YouTube and

other broadcast media outlets – when the print media reigned – all that mattered

was the content of the candidates’ messages. Today, we’re going to hear the ways

in which the candidates deliver their messages. This is the time for President

Obama to tap into his much-remarked-upon vocal talents. A man who can channel

Al Green has no excuse, ever, to slip into a boring monotone and let his listeners

(and his potential supporters) slip away!

3.    Distilling the message. Candidates need the ability to be concise in their

verbal and written communication. Voters are looking for concise, easy-to-

understand strategies. Usually, less is more. Sentences that are very short – 8 to

13 words, no more – are the most persuasive. Even the best politicians derail

themselves when their sentences are too long. Listeners tune out. Even the best

language in a long sentence loses a listener. Mitt Romney has mastered the art of

editing the highlights of his strategies and plans into concise sound bites that his

listeners can easily digest. A candidate who does the best job editing does the best

job selling him- or herself to those undecided voters.

4.    Smile, smile, smile. While some of the undecided six percent of voters are

aural, and will make their choices based on what they hear, others are more

attuned to visual – that is, nonverbal — persuasion. They’ll rely on a candidate’s

facial expression for their cues about whom to trust, and a smile will go a long way

toward making that decision. The ability to smile naturally when speaking to a

group, even if your topic isn’t humorous, is a way to demonstrate warmth and build

a rapport. Joe Biden has mastered the art of smiling to present himself as

approachable. He keeps that smile on his face frequently and naturally – and, in

November, he may just find those undecided voters smiling back at him.

5.    Using Your Aristotle. So much of what we know about public speaking

today derives from what Aristotle taught us, and the successful candidates will tap

into this ancient wisdom. They’ll use ethos, pathos, and logos appropriately. Ethos

relies on the speaker’s credibility. How easy should it be for an incumbent

president – or, for that matter, for a  corporate executive – that he has an extensive

background in leadership? Pathos moves past speakers’ credibility to their ability

to connect emotionally with their listeners. Remember Paul Ryan’s mother, Betty?

She was (along with being a mother) a wonderful rhetorical prop, and Joe Biden

uses his own pathos when, for instance, he recalls losing his wife and daughter in a

car crash. As for logos, the use of logic to make your argument? Mitt Romney’s

five-point-plan for achieving energy independence can appeal to voters who want

to hear substantive ideas. President Obama’s has – it’s a bit more complicated, but

it still appeals to voters’ intellect – a twenty-five point plan to reform IT

management. Ethos, pathos, and logos … the best use of those old pillars of

communication will help someone win the Oval Office in November.

When an election is as close as the November election is shaping up to be,

communication matters. The candidates who win the votes are the ones who can

build trust and rapport with the undecided six percent of the voters through the

content, and style, of their speech and through their visual presentation. All of the

candidates this time around seem to have the tools necessary for success. The pair

of candidates who use those tools most wisely, and most consistently, will be our

next U.S. president and vice president. Good luck, and good communication, to all

of the candidates!

Monica Murphy is a Senior Coaching Partner with Brookline, Massachusetts-based

The Speech Improvement Company. Visit her online at


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