New Jersey corruption probe

July 31, 2009

The New Jersey scandal involving black-market kidneys, money laundering and fake Gucci purses led to the arrest of 44 people last week, including rabbis, mayors and state lawmakers, thanks in large part to the work of an FBI informant. Here’s a look at the details and some of the characters in this bizarre case.

The informant: The man who reportedly did much of the undercover work for the FBI investigation is a rabbi’s son who was charged with bank fraud in 2006. (Who is he?)

A death in the case: Political consultant Jack Shaw was found dead at his home Tuesday. Police have not released a cause of death for Shaw, 61, but said it does not appear to be a homicide. (Find the latest news on his death.) Shaw had been charged with taking bribes. (How much was he accused of taking?)

Three’s company: The mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus were all arrested and charged with accepting bribes in connection with the investigation. (Which one resigned first? Then he was next.)

The kidney broker? A Brooklyn man is accused of brokering the sale of black-market kidneys. (Who is he?) (Learn more about organ trafficking.)

The religious leaders: The five rabbis arrested in the probe are accused of using charities to commit fraud and launder millions of dollars. (What are the charges?) They are also accused of dealing in counterfeit goods. (What did they reportedly sell?)

The lawmakers: Two New Jersey assemblymen are accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes. (What happened to them since the arrests?)

Not the first time: In September 2007, 11 New Jersey public officials were arrested in an insurance scheme. (What was the FBI investigation called?)

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‘Harry Potter’ is No. 1 in U.S. Theaters

July 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES, July 19 (UPI) — J.K. Rowling’s young wizard conjured a fortune this weekend with “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” No. 1 in U.S. theaters, Box Office Mojo said Sunday.

The latest movie installment of the British author’s fantastical novels, with Daniel Radcliffe in the title role, piled up an estimated $79.48 million in its first weekend in U.S. theaters.

The animated “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” stayed No. 2 with $17.7 million. and the science-fiction adventure “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was still No. 3 with $13.75 million.

Last weekend’s top-grossing movie, the mockumentary “Bruno,” fell to No. 4 in its second week with $8.37 million, followed by “The Hangover,” which moved back up a spot to No. 5 with $8.32 million in its seventh week in U.S. theaters.

Rounding out the Top 10 were “The Proposal” with an estimated $8.23 million in ticket sales, “Public Enemies” at $7.59 million, “Up” at $3.15 million, “My Sister’s Keeper” at $2.83 million and “I Love You Beth Cooper” at $2.7 million.

“The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” dropped out of the top tier in its sixth week.

Another new offering, “500 Days of Summer,” a romantic comedy starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, debuted at No. 12 with just $838,000 in gate receipts.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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PETA wishes Obama hadn’t swatted that fly

June 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter in chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he’s bedeviled by a fly in the White House.

PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside.

“We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals,” PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. “We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.”

During an interview for CNBC at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama’s conversation with correspondent John Harwood.

“Get out of here,” the president told the pesky insect. When it didn’t, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smacked it dead.

“Now, where were we?” Obama asked Harwood. Then he added: “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.”

Friedrich said that PETA was pleased with Obama’s voting record in the Senate on behalf of animal rights and noted that he has been outspoken against animal abuses.

Still, “swatting a fly on TV indicates he’s not perfect,” Friedrich said, “and we’re happy to say that we wish he hadn’t.”

Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House has no comment on the matter.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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