Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 29, 1986 - Challenger Disaster | Charlotte Observer Special Section

Every newsroom simultaneously dreads and thrives on the prospect of big breaking news. Across the United States and around the world, news organizations went into high gear on the morning of Wednesday, January 29, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 74 seconds after liftoff, killing the crew of seven, including Christa McAuliffe, America's first teacher in space.
View the section here, extracted from The Observer's microfiche archive.
-- Gary O'Brien

Mecklenburg commissioners talk priorities

Mecklenburg County commissioners on Thursday starting outlining what programs and services should receive top priority as they're planning the 2011-12 budget.

Commissioners will vote on their final priorities for the year at a later meeting.

But a preliminary list -- which you can view by clicking here -- was presented Thursday at the board's annual strategic planning conference at the Charlotte Museum of History. It is based on the results of a community survey as well as county management's list of "critical success factors" they believe the county needs to focus on in the next few years.

(Learn about the critical success factors on page 36 to 47 of this link)

Landing at the top in priority one of seven were Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, debt service, economic development, education support services and job training/employment assistance.

The priority list helps influence how much money certain programs or services could be in line for in the new budget. Being ranked at the bottom, or in level 7, doesn't mean a program will receive no money.

Likewise, being listed at the top won't prevent a service from facing cuts.

On Thursday, commissioners noted several categories they'd like to see moved to different priorities.

Seven board members wanted to raise the ranking for Central Piedmont Community College, which is at level 4 in the preliminary list. Three commissioners also said they'd like to raise the ranking for the parks, fields and recreation centers category (5).

Other categories at least one commissioner wanted to move higher on the list included
child & adolescent mental illness prevention and treatment; adult abuse/neglect prevention and protection; child abuse/neglect prevention and protection; homelessness services; jail and detention facilities; morgue and medical examiner and regional planning.

Areas that at least one commissioner wanted moved to a lower ranking included: economic development, non-communicable illness/disease prevention and treatment; land quality; greenway development and management; and transportation. APRIL BETHEA

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Audit: County mismanaged housing program

Federal auditors have released a report detailing

Mecklenburg County's lax oversight of the Shelter Plus Care housing program.

The initiative was one of several programs previously managed by troubled nonprofit Mecklenburg Open Door, which until last October was one of the county’s largest mental health contractors.

Click here to read the report.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development said the county “mismanaged its program,” paying many expenses without adequate supporting documentation.

The county also housed mentally ill participants “in units that were not decent, safe and sanitary.”

“These deficiencies occurred because the County failed to develop and implement a system of internal controls.”

HUD said it will require the county to provide documentation showing that about $441,000 in expenses was eligible for reimbursement – or to repay that amount from non-Federal funds.

- Ames Alexander

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another library departure

One day after Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Director Charles Brown announced his resignation, a published report detailed the departure of a second library executive.

According to Library Journal on Thursday, the merger of some library services with Mecklenburg County departments eliminated the position of director of organization resources held by Brian Beavers.

A library spokesperson told the publication Beavers, who earns $84,978 in salary and $27,872 in benefits, would leave Feb. 5.

Beavers' departure helps offset the cost of retaining Brown through June and the immediate hire of an interim chief executive officer, library officials say.

Brown will work the next five months at 80 percent of his current $170,974 salary. Interim CEO Vick Phillips will receive $13,000 a month.

Brown also gets an $800 monthly auto allowance and a benefits package worth $56,097, the report says.

- Doug Miller

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Obama's state dinner menu

A Whtie House place setting for the state dinner in honor of China's president, Hu Jintao. (AP photo)

The White House released the meat-and-potatoes menu for tonight's state dinner honoring the visiting president of China, Hu Jintao.

Guests will be served a "quintessentially American" meal, including "old fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream."

The main course for the third state dinner hosted by the president and Michelle Obama will feature poached Maine lobster, dry-aged rib eye with double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach.


Dinner Menu
D’Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese
Fennel, Black Walnuts, and White Balsamic

Poached Maine Lobster
Orange Glazed Carrots and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Dumol Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008

Lemon Sorbet

Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions
Double Stuffed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach
Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005

Old Fashioned Apple Pie with
Vanilla Ice Cream
Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008


View the state dinner program:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Read Obama's remarks in Tucson

Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared address on Wednesday to honor those killed and wounded in a shooting Saturday, as released by the White House.

President Barack Obama hugs Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on Wednesday.
(Kevork Djansezian - Getty)

To the families of those we've lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

Watch the Sarah Palin video that's sparked an outcry

In saying her critics “manufactured a blood libel,” Sarah Palin used a phrase linked to the false accusations made for centuries against Jews, often to malign them as child murderers who coveted the blood of Christian children.

Blood libel has been a central fable of anti-Semitism in which Jews have been accused of using the blood of gentile children for medicinal purposes or to mix in with matzo, or unleavened bread traditionally eaten at Passover.

In a video posted to her Facebook page early Wednesday, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate accused the U.S. media of inciting hatred and violence after the shooting that gravely wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Palin has been criticized for marking Giffords' district with the cross hairs of a gun sight during last fall's campaign.

“But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” she said. -- Observer News Services

What do you think?

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Obama's statement on Arizona shooting

President Barack Obama's statement about the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in Tucson today:
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.

We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Elizabeth Edwards leaves nothing to John in her will

Elizabeth Edwards in 2006.
Elizabeth Edwards' final will and testament was released Wednesday on the Web, and it doesn't mention John Edwards' name once.

Elizabeth Edwards signed the document, obtained by the TV show "Inside Edition," on Dec. 1, just six days before she died after a long battle with breast cancer.

The couple's older daughter, Catherine, 28, was named as executor. Elizabeth Edwards left all of her belongings to Catherine and her other two children, Emma Claire and Jack.

"All of my furniture, furnishings, household goods, jewelry, china, silverware and personal effects and any automobiles owned by me at the time of my death I give and bequeath to my children," the will says. Read the full will here (PDF).

Edwards' death certificate, which was also released Wednesday, listed her cause of death as metastatic breast cancer, "Inside Edition" reported.

Elizabeth and John Edwards separated early last year after he admitted to fathering a child in an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Chainsaw massacre role-playing'

On Nov. 3, 2010 a person who used the social networking site where Adam and Elisa Baker met recounted a conversation she had with the Bakers regarding their involvement in a chainsaw massacre role play.

The user said the conversation involved the Bakers' virtual family "doing a murder with chainsaws with chainsaws" around Sept. 22. Tuesday’s release was the second significant disclosure of search warrants in the Baker case.

Click here to read the documents.

Other records allege that Elisa Baker said Adam Baker dismembered Zahra Baker's limbs before the Bakers disposed of them in various locations.

Click here to read the documents.

- Doug Miller