Friday, August 1, 2008

Schwarzenegger makes layoffs, orders pay cuts for California state workers

Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today ordered his administration to lay off thousands of part-time state workers and to work with the state controller to temporarily slash the pay of most full-time employees to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour.

More than 10,000 part-time and seasonal workers lose their jobs and 200,000 could have their compensation slashed pending budget approval. Controller John Chiang vows not to implement the order.
By Michael Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressing frustration with lawmakers' failure to approve a state budget, ordered his administration Thursday to lay off thousands of part-time employees and moved to temporarily slash the pay of most full-time staff.

The governor, a Republican, apologized to state employees, many of whom, he acknowledged, are already struggling in a difficult economy. But he said he had no choice in the absence of a budget one month into the fiscal year.

"Our state faces a looming cash crisis," Schwarzenegger said.

Nearly 200,000 employees could have their pay cut to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour, with full salary reimbursed once a budget is signed. More than 10,000 lost their jobs Thursday. Exceptions were made for those deemed too critical to let go for purposes of law enforcement, public health and safety or other crucial services

Schwarzenegger also limited overtime and imposed a hiring freeze.
"I have a responsibility to make sure that our state has enough money to pay its bills," said the governor, who signed an executive order shortly before noon at a news conference in Sacramento. "It is a terrible situation to be in. I don't think any governor wants to be in this situation. . . . But this is really the only way out at this point."

It is far from clear, however, whether the governor can put the salary cuts into effect, or how long it might take. State Controller John Chiang, a Democrat who was elected to his post, suggested that the governor had overstepped his authority and said he would not cooperate. Chiang made his statements in a letter to Schwarzenegger and at a Los Angeles news conference.

Chiang disputed the governor's interpretation of a 2003 decision by the California Supreme Court that Schwarzenegger says requires most employees to be paid only the federal minimum wage during a budget impasse. And the controller insisted that the state has enough money to pay its bills through September.

Speaking to 100 union members outside the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in Los Angeles, Chiang called them "innocent victims of a political struggle."

"The state of California, the elected leadership, cannot put the important public servants of California in harm's way," he said. "We put people first, we make sure we protect their interests, and that's why I have to tell the governor, with all due respect, I am not going to comply with this order."

The workers, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, were dressed in purple and chanted in protest against the governor's move.

"People are going to get put out of their homes," said Debra Martin, a union steward. "The governor says he's sorry. . . . We can't pay with sorry."

Schwarzenegger said he would file suit against the controller in court "if that's what it takes." But the governor also expressed hope of signing a budget within days, which would make a battle unnecessary.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), calling Schwarzenegger's action "most unfortunate," said she was confident a budget compromise would be reached before the end of August, when most employees would feel the effect in their monthly paychecks.

The budget dispute has broken down along party lines. Democrats have insisted on increasing taxes to help close a $15-billion budget gap. Republicans are banking on cuts in government services and, like Schwarzenegger, have focused on changing the state budget process to create a more secure rainy-day fund.

Both sides have seemed open to compromise in recent days.

"We believe budget reform is an essential element, and we also appreciate there may be some tax loopholes that need to be closed," said Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo). "We're willing to talk about all those issues."

An agreement, if one is reached, will have come too late for the 10,300 part-time, seasonal and occasional employees who Schwarzenegger's aides said received pink slips Thursday, without any guarantee of being rehired later. That is about half of all such state workers.

Derek Pettersen, 21, a student who was working full time this summer for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in Sacramento, was told not to show up Thursday.

"It's not my fault that the budget hasn't been signed yet, and I'm the one paying for it," said Pettersen, who will forgo $1,600 if he remains unemployed for all of August. "I don't really understand why I had to lose my job temporarily because someone else isn't doing their job."

Jim Herron Zamora, a spokesman for SEIU Local 1000, said the group would file a lawsuit Friday to fight the governor's use of its members as "pawns" in his dealings with lawmakers.

"We are not pawns," Zamora said. "We are 95,000 living, breathing human beings."
Michael Genest, Schwarzenegger's finance director, said the executive order was needed because cash in the state's accounts threatens to dip so low by the end of September that reserves could run out and the state's checks could bounce.

The state also hopes to avoid an expensive type of short-term borrowing that it would be forced to use because it has no budget, were it to need a quick infusion of cash.

Genest said the layoffs could save the state up to $100 million a month. The pay cuts could temporarily save $1.2 billion a month if they were applied to all 200,000 workers subject to federal labor laws.
But many are expected to be declared exempt because they must work overtime for the state police, in prisons, in healthcare or in similar jobs. The governor gave agency secretaries until Friday to produce a list of exempt employees.

Elected officials and their appointees have had their salaries withheld since July 1, because Chiang cannot pay them without a budget in place; many are receiving loans with little or no interest from local banks in the interim.

The dispute between the governor and the controller is over the interpretation of the state Supreme Court's decision five years ago in White vs. Davis. The governor says that under the decision, when a budget has not been approved the controller has the authority to pay only the federal minimum wage to employees covered by federal labor laws. Only those who earn overtime can be paid their full salaries, the governor argues.

Chiang contends that although he is permitted to pay the minimum wage during a budget impasse, he is also allowed to pay an employee's full salary. Even if he wanted to comply, Chiang said, it would take 10 months to configure his agency's outdated computer systems to do what the governor is asking.

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Oil Profits Shatter Records

In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)

HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest profit from operations ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares slumped 3 percent.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company said net income for the April-June period came to $2.22 a share, up from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 40 percent to $138.1 billion from $98.4 billion in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding an after-tax charge of $290 million related to an Exxon Valdez court settlement, earnings amounted to $11.97 billion, or $2.27 per share.

Analysts on average expected Exxon Mobil to earn $2.52 a share on revenue of $144 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Financial. The estimates typically exclude one-time items.

The record-setting results were largely expected, given that crude prices in the second quarter were nearly double what they were a year ago. Natural gas prices were significantly higher too.

But investors expected even bigger profits Thursday, especially after Europe's Royal Dutch Shell reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter earnings to $11.6 billion, which fell just shy of Exxon's own record earnings from 2007.

Exxon Mobil shares fell $2.64, or 3.13 percent, to $81.74 in afternoon trading.

Setting U.S. profit records has become commonplace for Irving-based Exxon Mobil. The $11.68 billion topped its own U.S. record of $11.66 billion, posted in the fourth quarter of last year. Right behind that was the $10.9 billion it reported to start 2008.

In fact, if one-time gains like bankruptcy settlements and spinoffs are stripped away from other companies, Exxon Mobil owns the record for the top 10 most-profitable quarters for a U.S. company, as well as the largest annual profit.

United Airlines' UAL Corp. reported first-quarter profits of $22.9 billion in 2006, but that reflected a bankruptcy settlement, not true profit. The airline would have posted a $306 million loss if those gains were stripped out.

Ford Motor Corp. reported profits of $17.6 billion in the first quarter of 1998, but that included a $16 billion, one-time gain from the spinoff of Associates First Capital.

Exxon Mobil, which produces 3 percent of the world's oil, got its biggest boost from its exploration and production arm, where earnings rose 68 percent to $10.01 billion from $5.95 billion a year ago. The main driver was record crude prices, partially offset by lower sales volumes and higher operating costs.

Once again, Exxon Mobil's results revealed a troubling trend at the heart of its business.

Production on an oil-equivalent basis fell 8 percent from a year ago _ a significant blow for a company that generates more than two-thirds of its earnings from oil and gas production. That follows an opening quarter of 2008 when the company said overall production fell 5.6 percent from a year ago.

Excluding last year's loss of its Venezuelan assets, a labor strike in Nigeria and lower volumes because of production-sharing contracts, Exxon said production was down about 3 percent in the most-recent quarter.

Like its competitors, Exxon Mobil said it took a beating from lower global refining margins. Earnings from refining and marketing fell 54 percent in the quarter to $1.55 billion.

For the first six months of 2008, Exxon Mobil said it earned $22.57 billion, or $4.25 a share, from $19.54 billion, or $3.45 a share, in the first half of 2007. Revenue rose to $254.9 billion from $185.5 billion.

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Top Colleges For Getting Rich

In Pictures: Top Public Colleges For Getting Rich
In Pictures: Top Colleges For Getting Rich

Big Green grads are in the money. So says a recent study compiled by that looks at earnings of alumni at colleges around the country. Graduates of Dartmouth College finished on top of the list with a median compensation of $134,000, edging out alumni of Princeton University who finished second with a median comp of $131,000.

While many rankings look at what newly minted college graduates are making, we ranked the schools based on the pay of alumni with 10 to 20 years of work experience. After all, it is not how you start but how you finish. "Starting salaries do not tell you a whole lot, but there is a real divergence in dollar terms as you go over the course of a career," says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at

Looking at the pay of alumni with less than five years of work experience, Dartmouth trails 18 other colleges with an average paycheck of $58,000, although most top schools are bunched closely together. The two outliers are Stanford University with median pay of $70,400 and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where recent grads earn $72,200 thanks to lucrative engineering jobs secured straight out of school.

Top employers for Dartmouth's 2008 graduating class include Bain, Goldman Sachs (nyse: GS - news - people ) and McKinsey, which are almost all high-paying posts. Yet two other big employers of recent grads fall on the other end of the pay scale: Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Both organizations are focused on helping the less fortunate and require two-year commitments. So how do Dartmouth grads, many starting at nonprofits, leapfrog their peers when it comes to compensation as they gain more experience?

"Dartmouth produces well-rounded people who can move into senior-level positions easily," says Monica Wilson, associate director of career services at the school. Another important factor in the success of Dartmouth grads is an extremely tight and loyal alumni network. Dartmouth is located in tiny Hanover, N.H., and is the smallest of the Ivy League schools with 4,100 undergrad students enrolled. Yet the alumni network is extremely impressive and stretches from Daniel Webster to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during its 239 year history. Other prominent grads include General Electric (nyse: GE - news - people ) head Jeffrey Immelt, eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ) chief John Donahoe and former IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) boss Louis Gerstner.

In order to compile the ranking of colleges, we turned to, an online compensation comparison tool. PayScale's database includes real-time salary data culled from 13 million unique compensation profiles. PayScale allows users to compare their salary online to other people with similar individual and job characteristics.

We only included schools with more than 1,000 people enrolled. The median salary figures are only for full-time employees and exclude anyone that went on to receive a graduate degree. Salary numbers include bonuses, commissions and profit sharing but not equity compensation.

The only public college to appear on our list of the top 20 schools was the University of California at Berkeley. It ranked 12th with a median salary of $112,000. A separate ranking of public schools shows eight California schools in the top 20. The University of California system is one of the best in the country and has 220,000 students spread across 10 campuses. However, the California schools and those schools on the East Coast get a significant boost in our rankings because they are largely placing people in careers in big coastal cities like New York and San Francisco where salaries tend to be higher.

Overall, Dartmouth students at mid-career (10 to 20 years experience) finished above any other school. Yet when it comes to the top earners from each school, Yale University grads just nipped out those from Dartmouth. The highest-paid 10% of Yale alums earn more than $326,000 compared to $321,000 for Dartmouth's best paid. The third and fourth ranked schools by this measure were fellow Ivy members Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania. The fifth- ranked and first non-Ivy school among the top earners was Colgate University located in Hamilton, N.Y., where the highest-paid graduates earn $265,000.

Wilson says that recruiters visiting Dartmouth tell her that Dartmouth doesn't have as strong a business background as some of its competitors but that students can always learn the business. What they do like, she adds: "The ability to think outside the box and adapt as easily as Dartmouth students do is what puts them ahead."

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Devil in the details

The hidden tax traps in the housing-rescue bill

By Eva Rosenberg
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- The eagerly anticipated housing-rescue bill, also know as the Housing Assistance Act of 2008, is intended to calm the mortgage market, the real estate market, homeowners on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure, victims of bank failures and others whose lives are topsy-turvy this year.

But from a tax perspective, the bill is likely to cause more upset than calm. President Bush signs the housing bill.
Here is a look at five areas where tax law was changed along with housing law, and the good news and bad news that goes along with each:
1. Tax credit for new homeowners
First, we have a $7,500 credit for new homeowners that's not really a credit. It's a loan. Those who qualify to receive this credit will receive 10% of the purchase price of their home -- up to $7,500, in the first year. Then they will repay the loan over a 15-year period, starting in the second year after the taxable year in which the house is purchased.
Video: Impact of New Housing Bill
Paul Bishop, economist for the National Association of Realtors, speaks with WSJ's Sudeep Reddy about the implications behind a major housing bill signed into law on Wednesday. (July 30)
In other words, if you bought a home in August 2008, you start paying back 6.667% of the original credit on your 2010 tax return. This credit applies to purchases of new homes on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009.
The good news:
  • This is a refundable credit. That means, even if your total tax liability is zero, you can file to get this money directly from IRS.
  • Although this is a loan, it's a zero-percent loan.
  • Bonus: If you buy the home in 2009, before July 1, 2009, you can make an election to report the purchase on your 2008 tax return and get the refund a year early.
The bad news:
  • Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, points out that people who normally don't have to file tax returns will need to start filing tax returns just to pay the credit back. That will affect seniors living on modest fixed incomes and Social Security.
  • If you forget to pay it back? Well, the bill doesn't include any specific penalties. But all of IRS's usual non-filing and non-payment penalties will apply. Expect IRS computers to track this and to issue notices for unfilled returns.
  • If you sell the house in less than 15 years, you will have to repay the rest of the credit immediately. This requirement is waived if the owner dies. There are special provisions when the house is sold due to divorces or other emergencies.
  • This is a temporary credit and may not be renewed once it expires on June 30, 2009.
  • The credit phases out for married folks, filing jointly, with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $150,000- $170,000. For singles, the phase-out is at MAGI between $75,000-$95,000.
Who qualifies? Folks who haven't owned a principal residence for three years before buying the new home. If you've owned a vacation home or timeshare, you will still qualify.
In long-distance marriages each spouse may buy his/her own home (principal residence). They will have to split the credit between them.
2. New standard deduction rules
We have a new standard deduction -- in addition to the old standard deduction -- for real property taxes paid. This is designed for folks whose overall itemized deductions fall below the standard deduction. Married couples, filing jointly, may now deduct qualified real property taxes paid up to $1,000 ($500 for singles and married filing separately).
"Qualified" refers to real property taxes you could have deducted on Schedule A if you had been able to itemize. Naturally, property taxes used on other parts of your tax return, like Schedule E, Schedule C, Schedule F, or office in home can't be used again here.
Luscombe points out that generally when Congress gives us these extra deductions, they are "above the line" deductions, like education expenses, student-loan interest and teacher expenses.
This is effective in 2008. And there are no AGI limits to this benefit.
3. Vacation-home hit
We've been taking for granted that lovely $250,000 ($500,000 for couples filing jointly) personal residence capital-gains-tax exclusion for about a decade. Savvy taxpayers have played hopscotch, moving from home to vacation home to the next home, etc. and avoiding income taxes on the sale of each one. That free ride is at an end.
The personal resident exclusion is still good on your personal home. However, you'll be paying taxes on the sale of your vacation home, or rental property converted to a home. The tax will be based on the amount of days the house was not a qualified personal residence divided by the total number of days you owned it. This ratio is multiplied by the amount of gain realized on the sale of the property.

Gain resulting from depreciation taken on the property after May 6, 1997 won't be included in this computation. That gain will still be taxed separately as ordinary income.
The good news:
  • This won't affect any sales you make this year since the law becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2009
  • The ownership period to take into account as the numerator for nonqualified use also starts on Jan. 1, 2009.
Snowbirds, folks who typically summer in their principal residences up north and spend winter in their vacation homes in the south will have to wait until IRS writes up regulations interpreting the new law. It's not clear if their temporary absences will be considered a period of nonqualified use.
The new law defines unqualified use as:
  • any period after the last date the property is used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or spouse (regardless of use during that period), and
  • any period (not to exceed two years) that the taxpayer is temporarily absent by reason of a change in place of employment, health, or, to the extent provided in regulations, unforeseen circumstances, are not taken into account.
4. Tighter tracking of payments
In a blow to eBay merchants and others accepting credit cards, debit cards, or third-party payments, your merchant bank will now be required to send a report to IRS and to you with your total annual gross payment card receipts. In other words, IRS will get your total merchant credit card gross receipts for the year.
The good news:
  • For merchants who had always meant to catch up on bookkeeping, you will now get a report summarizing all the money you received.
  • This won't be effective until Jan. 1, 2011.
  • There will be an exemption for business with 200 or fewer transactions generating sales of $20,000 or less.
The bad news:
  • Like most bank reports that add up total deposits, it will be wrong. After all, there were credits you issued, and refunds that won't be reflected in the total gross receipts. Be sure to reduce the total income on that report by all the costs and fees you had too.
  • In the past, when IRS wanted to get information from banks and merchant accounts, it required going to a judge and getting a subpoena. With this new law in place, IRS can now step in and audit at any time -- with a little or no notice, depending on the urgency of the circumstances, explains Luscombe.
5. Miscellaneous provisions
Some other juicy tidbits tossed our way include:
  • Tax exempt interest on certain mortgage bonds will no longer be an alternative minimum tax preference.
  • Low-income-housing credits and rehabilitation credits may now reduce AMT.
  • Bonds backed by FHA are eligible for treatment as tax-exempt bonds.
Many of the provisions of this law won't become effective until next year. Some won't be effective for several years.
But the provisions for converting your vacation home to a personal residence are becoming effective soon. So, if you've got a second house you want to sell tax-free in the next year or two -- move into it before the end of this year.

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American Airlines Thinks It's "Generous" To Charge A $100 Excess Baggage Fee To Soldiers

Let's say you are in the military and have to undergo some training before you are deployed to Iraq to fight in a war. Let's also say that this training requires to you bring 3 bags of equipment. If the airline you're flying charges a $100 "excess baggage" fee, but waives the $15 first checked bag fee, and the $25 second checked bag fee... is that "generous?"

American's policy allows military personnel "one checked 100-pound duffel-type bag, one standard checked 50-pound suitcase and one standard carry-on suitcase of up to 40 pounds." They're getting "a total of 190 pounds of free luggage," said airline spokesman Tim Wagner, in an e-mail to the El Paso Times.

Staff Sgt. Ashley Serrano doesn't see it that way. He says that other airlines see his uniform and waive their baggage fees. "I have flown Southwest, Continental, and when they saw me in uniform, they didn't even ask," Serrano said. "I flew American a couple of times before, but I never had this problem."

Serrano said he was confronted Friday at the El Paso International Airport with a demand for $100 for his third bag, and when he mentioned he was headed for Camp Bowie - where Texas Army National Guard soldiers train before deployment - he said they told him, without a smile, that the Army should have given him a voucher. Serrano's fellow soldier and traveling companion had three extra bags and was charged $300, he said.

"I am not aware of any ability by our agents to waive an excess baggage fee, even for military personnel - since they already have the common checked bag fees waived in our policy," [an American Airlines spokesperson] said. "Otherwise, our policy is very generous as you can see, and intentionally so. We're very proud of our military forces - and many of our employees began their flying careers with the military - so we're pleased to be able to help."

Serrano doesn't seem to think the policy is generous.

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New York man arrested for YouTube baby food threat

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man who claimed in YouTube videos that he had directed others to poison millions of containers of Gerber baby food with the intent to kill babies was arrested on Thursday, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Gerber had not found any evidence that its product had been tampered with, and the man was charged with making threats and falsely claiming to have tampered with a consumer product.

Anton Dunn, 42, who called himself "Trashman," was behind a series of videos posted on YouTube and other sites. The videos claimed that Gerber employees acting at his direction had poisoned millions of bottles of baby food, said prosecutors at Manhattan federal court.

In several videos, Dunn -- wearing a black mask -- said the baby food had been poisoned with cyanide, prosecutors said.

A spokesman for Gerber, which is owned by Switzerland-based Nestle SA, said in a statement the company stands behind the safety of its products.

"We are aware of a recent posting on the Internet and believe this is a malicious hoax," said David Mortazavi. "The safety of Gerber and Nestle Nutrition products is our top priority. We are taking this issue seriously, and are cooperating fully with federal authorities."

The videos, posted from April to July, also claimed that the affected food had been shipped to consumers and it was "too late" to do anything about it, prosecutors said.

On July 24, similar videos appeared on the Web sites and

Dunn, a Manhattan resident, faces charges of sending threats and falsely claiming to have tampered with a consumer product. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Some of the videos can still be viewed online.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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40-year-old suspect held in gruesome Manitoba bus killing

A 40-year-old man is in custody in Manitoba after a young man was stabbed — and, witnesses said, decapitated — aboard a Greyhound bus travelling through the province overnight.

Police officers spent Thursday examining a Greyhound bus where a passenger was reportedly stabbed and decapitated late Wednesday.Police officers spent Thursday examining a Greyhound bus where a passenger was reportedly stabbed and decapitated late Wednesday. (CBC)The RCMP would not confirm the reports of beheading, saying only that a stabbing took place around 8:30 p.m. CT on an eastbound Greyhound bus on the Trans-Canada Highway about 20 kilometres west of Portage la Prairie.

The suspect, believed to be from outside Manitoba, was arrested early Thursday morning after a standoff lasting several hours and remains in RCMP custody .

Charges have not yet been laid, and the suspect has not yet been interviewed, said RCMP spokesman Staff Sgt. Steve Colwell, adding that he could release no further information on the investigation.

The RCMP declined to identify either the suspect or the victim.

Thirty-seven people were aboard the bus en route to Winnipeg from Edmonton.

Colwell said the "brave" behaviour of the passengers and driver probably prevented anyone else from being hurt.

"It's not something that happens regularly on a bus," he said. "You're sitting there enjoying your trip and then all of a sudden somebody gets stabbed. I imagine it would be pretty traumatic … the way they acted was extraordinary."

Victim 'just a kid': witness

Passenger Cody Olmstead, 21, told CBC News he had smoked a cigarette earlier in the trip with the victim, whom he described as a man in his late teens or early 20s. The victim got on the bus in Edmonton, he said.

"I never took the time to know him, but he seemed to be OK, right, just a kid," said Olmstead, a Nova Scotia man who had been taking the bus from Alberta to Montreal.

"He just said he was going to Winnipeg … going home, that's where he was from."

Garnet Caton said he heard a 'blood-curdling scream' and turned around to see a man repeatedly stabbing the passenger sitting next to him.Garnet Caton said he heard a 'blood-curdling scream' and turned around to see a man repeatedly stabbing the passenger sitting next to him. (CBC)Garnet Caton, who was sitting in the seat in front of the victim, said he saw the attacker stab his seatmate, a young man sleeping with his headphones on.

Caton said he heard a "blood-curdling scream" and turned around to see the attacker holding a large "Rambo" hunting knife above the victim, "continually stabbing him in the chest area."

"He must have stabbed him 50 times or 60 times," said Caton.

"Like, just everywhere, arms, legs, neck, chest, guts, wherever he could swing it, he got it," said Olmstead.

"It looked kind of like a scuffle or an argument, you know, and then somebody's, like, 'Knife! Knife! Run!' so I was running up the alleyway, slapping people telling them to get going, move, get off the bus. I got pushed over, some lady got pushed over, I was just making sure everybody was OK, and we all got off the bus," said Olmstead

As panicked passengers fled the bus, "the attacker was over top of the victim … continually cutting him. I think the victim was gone at that point," Caton said.

Trio tried to check on victim

Caton, the driver and a trucker who had stopped at the scene later boarded the vehicle to see if the victim was still alive.

"When we came back on the bus, it was visible at the end of the bus he was cutting the guy's head off and pretty much gutting him up," said Caton.

The attacker ran at them, Caton said, and they ran out of the bus, holding the door shut as he tried to slash at the trio.

When the attacker tried to drive the bus away, the driver disabled the vehicle, Caton said.

"While we were watching the door, he calmly walks up to the front with the head in his hand and the knife and just calmly stares at us and drops the head right in front of us," said Caton.

"They did an awesome thing, holding him in there, because if not, what would have happened?" said Olmstead.

RCMP crisis negotiators communicated with the suspect for several hours while he was on the bus. Around 1:30 a.m., he attempted to jump from a bus window and was subdued and arrested, RCMP said.

Acted 'like he was a robot'

Caton described the attacker as surprisingly calm. "It was like he was at the beach or something. There was no rage in him. He wasn't swearing or cursing or anything. It was just like he was a robot or something."

The suspect remained on the bus for several hours and was arrested around 1:30 a.m., RCMP said.The suspect remained on the bus for several hours and was arrested around 1:30 a.m., RCMP said. (John Woods/Canadian Press)Police cruisers arrived about 10 minutes after the attack began, he estimated, and officers began directing passengers to school buses to take them to a hotel in Brandon.

"While we were waiting on the side of the road, [the attacker] was taunting the police with the head in his hand," said Caton.

Caton described the attacker as appearing "totally normal" earlier in the journey, even chatting with a young woman as he smoked a cigarette during a break.

But when he got back on the bus, he moved his belongings from the front to a seat beside the victim in the back and about 20 minutes later began attacking the man, said Caton. "He didn't say anything to the victim at all," said Caton.

Counsellors, chaplains aid passengers

A six-year-old and other children were among the passengers who saw the horrific incident unfold, said Caton.

"It was pretty traumatic," he said, adding that some passengers said they have been unable to sleep or eat since it happened.

"It's disturbing," Olmstead agreed, adding that images of the previous night haunted him when he tried to fall asleep early Thursday morning. "I closed my eyes and I seen him in the window there, just like a madman."

Bev Cumming, head of acute care services for the Brandon Regional Health Authority, said chaplains and psychiatric nurses have been working with dozens of passengers on the bus since they arrived in Brandon.

"When you see something as horrifying as that, the brain locks on to those images. It's very difficult to release those images," Cumming said.

"The assistance that people will get will be along the lines of coping in the immediate phase, learning what to do to reduce the profound effect this experience will have."

Tim Sen, president of Trauma Management Group, which offers counselling and post-traumatic support in Ontario, said it will take time for bus passengers to come to terms with what they've seen.

"They will experience very, very vivid flashbacks of that occurrence. Those will usually dissipate over a period of time, but right now it's going to be very vivid [as] they're still dealing with the shock and processing this horrific event," he said.

"There's not a right or wrong way to go through this. Some people will still be in shock and being very flat in presentation, like nothing's happened. Other people may not get out of bed and not want to move for a while, or be having what we call very acute [responses], so they'll be maybe crying and not wanting to calm down at all. Everybody's going to go through this very difficult journey in a very different way."

For children on the bus, Sen said, the response will depend on the age and maturity of the child. Generally, the key message caregivers should try to convey is that the situation is over and the child is now safe.

If intense feelings and emotions and symptoms such as flashbacks don't subside within a few months, Sen said, the passengers should consider seeking professional help.

Investigation is in 'full motion': minister

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day commented on the killing, saying that like most Canadians, he was horrified to hear witness accounts of the homicide.

"The horrific nature of it is probably one of a kind in Canadian history," he told reporters late Thursday morning in Lévis, Que.

The minister said he didn't want to say anything that would compromise the investigation, but "I can assure people that everything is in full motion and momentum to getting to the bottom of this incident."

Questioned about whether weapons regulations should be put into place for buses, Day said it would be premature to look at such precautionary measures but added that the legal process will be followed as "aggressively as possible."

The union that represents Greyhound drivers says the company must move to improve its security measures.

"All we can do is physically observe the individual's behaviour, but obviously the item of destruction got on the bus somehow, and if it was visible to any driver, he would not have boarded the bus just for that simple reason," said Jim Higgs, a spokesman for the Amalgamated Transit Union.

"There has to be some reactive measures taken, whether it be metal screening, or whether we design differently our loading policies at various depots [so] you have to funnel down a chute as your only way onto the bus…. At major terminals, I really believe now we have to do something — not only that, we have to be investigating carry-on luggage and certain things like that."

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said the company is examining security on buses.

"We are working with Transport Canada to review inter-city bus security," she said.

"Due to the rural nature of our network, airport-type security is not practical for bus travel. It's just a completely different system."

Original here

Bill C-61 goes beyond downloading

By Emily Davies, Assistant News Editor

English professor Laura Murray says Bill C-61 would eliminate the University’s ability to take advantage of fair dealing. (Lindsay Duncan)

A proposed change to copyright law could change the way Canadians share media. It could also have a negative impact on the education system, said English professor Laura Murray.

Bill C-61, first read to the House of Commons by Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice on June 12, outlines the provisions for copying media and fills in the grey areas not covered by existing copyright laws.

Under current copyrighting laws, Canadians aren’t allowed to copy newspapers, books, periodicals, photographs, videocassettes and music. Under Bill C-61, users would be allowed one copy of each item per individual media device such as an iPod and would also be permitted to record television and radio programs for later use.

An anti-circumvention clause in the bill would make it illegal to break digital locks on copyrighted material, nullifying the new allowances for most digital media.

Murray, also the author of the book Copyright: A Citizens Guide said, If passed, the bill could have a serious effect on Canadian universities.

“Decoding is being criminalized when there are a lot of legitimate purposes for it, especially regarding education,” she said.

But, Murray said the bill would make it illegal to get around digital locks, which are designed to prevent the reformatting and copying of contents found on DVDs, cell phones and other digital devices.

“The bill, if passed, would give the owner the ability to lock up material many different ways.”

Murray said Bill C-61 would also eliminate the university’s ability to take advantage of fair dealing, which allows students to download online journal articles and broadcast journalists the right to show clips from movies and newsreels without the permission of the copyright owner. The determination of what is considered “fair” is left to courts on a case by case basis.

“Everyone needs to understand fair dealing so that they know what they’re losing. This whole idea that users have rights is foreign to many people,” she said. “Fair dealing will be virtually impossible if the owners decide to block it out. To me, they’re giving up on the principle, ‘some things are free.’ That’s wrong, and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.”

Under the current Copyright Act, the public is able to legally quote from digital sources for the purposes of private study, research criticism, review and news reporting.

“We [the University] certainly hope it doesn’t pass … the public should be as familiar with the concept of fair dealing as they are familiar with the term copyright,” Murray said. “At a university we need fair dealing in order to do research, it will mean less audio visual material will be used in the classroom and will provide barriers to students who want to use digital materials in the classroom.”

Film studies professor Blaine Allan said he’s been educating himself about the effect Bill C-61 could have on the film department.

“We regularly, for the sake of convenience, make copies of digital materials to show clips from movies and other film mediums,” he said.

Allan said if Bill C-61 is passed, he might have to bend the law in order to continue to teach his courses effectively and efficiently.

“What we may have to do strictly, legally speaking is use the actual item which would be technically cumbersome and distracting,” he said. “If we were adhering to the letter of the law we would not have the ability to use the materials that we would normally.”

Should the bill pass, Allan said his teaching would be severely restricted.

“It is preventing us from doing what we do in a way that we see as being productive and beneficial enacting an unfair constraint,” he said. “We have a lot of great tools in our hands, it would be a same for us to not be able to use them.”

The Film Studies Association of Canada (FSAC) has issued its own statement regarding the new proposed copyright reform legislation. In it, FSAC expresses its concerns about Bill C-61 limiting their rights as scholars and educators. In the document, the FSAC calls out for “a truly balanced copyright act, which would protect the rights of creator and copyright holders and the legitimate rights of users of copyright material.”

Outside the classroom, Bill C-61 could have serious implications for those who upload or download files from peer-to-peer networks.

People caught downloading material such as mp3s or videos will be subjected to fines of $500 per incident. But, if a defendant testifies they were unaware they infringed on copyright the fine could be reduced to $200.

Current Canadian copyright law allows for the legal downloading of sound recordings while the downloading of movies is deemed copyright infringement and is criminalized.

Uploading a file onto a network like YouTube could result in a lawsuit of $20,000 per file.

In her first year at Queen’s, Ayan Ga’al, ArtSci ’11, discovered DC++, a free peer-to-peer file sharing network popular among students living in residence.

“Everyday I downloaded something whether it be a movie or a song. It’s good because it makes downloading easy,” she said. “DC is an amazing tool because it allows you to download movies, music and lecture notes all in one place.”

Ga’al said she was shocked to hear her money-saving activity could potentially have legal implications but said she won’t change her downloading habits anytime soon.

“I’d probably take my chances … although I would probably try to incorporate iTunes into my everyday life,” he said.

Ga’al said downloading music and movies is so ingrained into the fabric of Canadian society, it would be difficult for people to stop the practice altogether, despite the government’s efforts to impose a financial deterrent.

“It’s so much a part of what we do,” she said. “It’s not about, ‘did you get this new CD?’ It’s ‘did you download this new song?’ Everybody downloads.”

Original here

Was It a Murder Conspiracy?

Murder Scene

Charlie Otero walked home from school under a crisp winter sky, almost giddy about the future. He'd aced his biology exam, and he was beginning to make friends in his new town. Charlie had always been a straight-A student and star athlete, outgoing and popular. But his family had moved from Panama to Wichita, Kansas, a few months earlier, and he'd been feeling off-kilter ever since. Now things were looking up.

Charlie, 15, planned to go to Wichita State University after high school; then he would follow his father, a recently retired master sergeant, into the Air Force. He yearned to distinguish himself as an officer, flying jets and earning a chestful of medals. "My father expected a lot from me," Charlie says. "I wanted to show him I could do it."

Otero in Albuquerque: "He didn't kill me. He didn't kill my heart."

On that January day in 1974, he crossed the suburban street to his family's neat white bungalow and saw that the garage door was open and his mother's car was missing. She was usually home to greet him after school. He walked around back, and the family dog bounded toward him across the snow. No one ever let Lucky -- a German shepherd mix with a habit of biting strangers -- outside alone. Charlie stepped into the kitchen and noticed a half-made peanut butter sandwich sitting on the table beside an empty lunch box. Then he saw his father's wallet tossed onto the stove, its contents strewn across the top.

His brother Danny, 14, and sister Carmen, 13, had returned home just minutes before. Suddenly Charlie heard Carmen shout, "Come quick! Mom and Dad are playing a bad joke on us!"

From the doorway of his parents' bedroom, Charlie saw Joseph Sr., 38, on the carpet by the bed. He had been strangled with a belt, and his handsome features were grotesquely swollen. Charlie's mother, Julie, 34, lay on the mattress; a length of clothesline was cinched around her neck. Both of them had been bound with thin cord at the wrists and ankles.

"What have you done?" Charlie wailed.

The phone was dead, so Danny ran to a neighbor, who called the police. When the patrol car pulled up, three of the five Otero kids were sobbing on their front lawn. Charlie relayed what he'd seen inside to the police officers, adding that two other siblings -- Josephine, 11, and Joseph Jr., 9 -- were still at school. A search of the house turned up the missing children, however. Joey had been asphyxiated with a plastic bag in his bedroom. Josie's partially clad body was hanging from a pipe in the basement.

"I hated God for allowing this to happen to my family," says Charlie, a former altar boy. "I lost my religion the minute I saw my mother lying there."

The Otero killings baffled the Wichita authorities, but Charlie suspected that his father's military career had included clandestine work, and he seized on the notion that the murders were related to Joseph's double life. Joseph, a Puerto Rican immigrant to New York City like his wife, had joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952 and wore the uniform for more than two decades. The family moved from postings in England, where Charlie was born, to Camden, New Jersey, and then, their expanding brood in tow, to Panama for seven years. There, at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, Joseph taught military personnel from all over Latin America to repair Phantom fighter jets and C-130 cargo planes. Charlie says his father often disappeared for weeks at a time, flying on missions that he refused to discuss.

In Wichita, where Joseph retired and took a job at an airfield maintaining private planes, Charlie recalled troubling omens. One day, his father sent him to make sure that a phone company truck was parked outside when a repairman stopped by unannounced. Another time, Joseph shooed Charlie from the room to make a telephone call. Listening through the door, the boy heard him mention work for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the service's counter_intelligence agency. Soon after that, Joseph's car was mysteriously run off the road. Returning from the hospital with two broken ribs, he offered Charlie his signet ring. "If anything happens to me," he said, "I want you to have this."

"I told him, 'You'll probably outlive me, old man,'" Charlie recalls. "'Keep it.'" Days later, Joseph, his wife, and their two youngest children were dead.

The Conspiracy Theory

Charlie and his surviving siblings were sent to live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where one of their father's Air Force buddies had offered to raise them alongside his own six kids. But before long, Charlie withdrew from his siblings and new family. He began to obsess about his theory that his loved ones had been murdered by a team of assassins on the wrong side of his father's intelligence work -- and that the killers would return to finish the job. "I always thought someone was coming to get me," he says.

Back in Wichita, investigators probed several conspiracy scenarios. "We tried to follow up on leads in the direction of Joseph's military work," says Gary Caldwell, one of the first detectives on the case. "We even sent a couple of investigators to Panama." They came up dry.
Charlie Otero
Joseph Otero
Julie Otero
BTK Killer
Otero Family
Otero in Albuquerque: "He didn't kill me. He didn't kill my heart."
Joseph Otero, Chalire's father. Charlie suspected Joseph's military career was a reason for his murder.
Julie Otero and her husband Joseph were the killer's first victims.
Denis Rader was convicted in 2005.
Charlie and siblings Carmen and Danny attended Rader's sentencing.
Joseph Otero
Joseph Otero, Chalire's father. Charlie suspected Joseph's military career was a reason for his murder.

Fearing for his and his siblings' lives, Charlie kept people at bay, neglected his schoolwork, and spent most of his time racing motorcycles. After graduating from high school, he managed to get into the University of New Mexico, but his crime-scene flashbacks and nightmares made it hard to concentrate on his studies.

Charlie switched to a vocational institute, then drifted to Las Cruces, where a Honda dealership hired him as a mechanic. After he was injured in a traffic accident, he wound up in a dispute with the hospital over his unpaid bills. When the judge ruled against him, Charlie says, "I went outlaw."

He quit his job and got by on freelance work -- rebuilding Harleys, selling handguns, and breeding pit bulls and Dobermans -- for clients who didn't need to see his ID. He figured that without a paper trail, a hit squad would have a harder time finding him. He began drinking heavily and using drugs, becoming lost among his increasingly embattled thoughts.

By 1987 he was living with a girlfriend, Lynette Shafer, in a remote desert area in New Mexico. Their house was a shack made of shipping containers from a local missile range, encircled by barbed wire and guarded by attack dogs. Carved into the hillside behind it was an abandoned jail in which Billy the Kid was briefly imprisoned a hundred years earlier. Sometimes Charlie would sequester himself for days behind the lockup's steel-plate door. "Nobody could get to me," he says.

When Lynette announced that she was pregnant, Charlie sent her back home to Wisconsin to have the baby, whom she named Joseph, after Charlie's father and brother. Just weeks later, the couple cut off all communication with each other. Both believed that Charlie's would-be assassins might harm the child as well -- and that letters or phone calls might be intercepted by the killers.

In time, Charlie found a new girlfriend and became the father of two daughters. "I loved those girls," he says. "We'd go to the park with the dogs. I'd take them motorcycle riding." But neither Charlie, then in his mid-30s, nor the children's mother, not yet 20, was able to fully care for them. When the girls were four and five, the couple separated. Charlie tried to stay in touch, but that grew difficult after he married a woman with bipolar disorder and a taste for methamphetamine.

Then came an event that would again change Charlie's life. He became a plaintiff's witness in a civil lawsuit his wife had filed. While doing a routine background check on Charlie, the attorney received case files on the Otero family murders. That day, while the two were having lunch at a Mexican restaurant, he asked Charlie, "Have you ever heard of the BTK killer?"

"No," Charlie said.

The lawyer told him that a serial killer who went by the initials BTK for what he did to his victims -- bind, torture, and kill -- had long ago contacted a Wichita newspaper claiming responsibility for the Otero murders and vowing to strike again. And he did: Over the next 12 years, he committed at least four more murders in the Wichita area. The victims, each a woman, were trussed up with elaborate knots and strangled slowly.

BTK's subsequent messages for investigators took the form of macabre poetry, puzzles, and gruesome works of art. He knew details of the murders that the police had not made public. He wrote that he had a "monster" inside him. He sent half a dozen notes in all, then, in 1988, stopped all correspondence. The trail went cold.

Charlie was stunned -- and angry -- when the lawyer finished recounting what he'd learned. Wichita investigators had failed to share this break in the case with him when it came to light 24 years earlier. "In these types of investigations, there's a whole lot you don't want to let out," says retired detective George Scantlin, who worked on the case. "The initial messages were kept confidential and used as an investigative tool."

Still, something didn't add up for Charlie: How could just one person have subdued his father, an ex-commando, and his mother and siblings, all of whom had trained in judo? "I said, 'This is bull -- I'll never believe it,' " Charlie recalls.

Never-Ending Troubles

He couldn't know it yet, but the hunt for BTK would eventually help turn his life around. At the moment, though, his troubles seemed never-ending. Charlie's wife called the police after an argument and accused him of trying to choke her with a coat hanger. He denied it, but facing a charge of attempted murder, he accepted the prosecutor's bargain and pleaded guilty to aggravated battery. In October 2001, he began a 44-month sentence at Western New Mexico Correctional Facility.

In prison, Charlie worked as a mechanic and took courses in computer programming and astronomy. He spent hundreds of hours reflecting on his tormented history and even started attending chapel. "I was doing good in prison," he says. "It was like a revitalization."
Charlie Otero
Joseph Otero
Julie Otero
BTK Killer
Otero Family
Otero in Albuquerque: "He didn't kill me. He didn't kill my heart."
Joseph Otero, Chalire's father. Charlie suspected Joseph's military career was a reason for his murder.
Julie Otero and her husband Joseph were the killer's first victims.
Denis Rader was convicted in 2005.
Charlie and siblings Carmen and Danny attended Rader's sentencing.
Julie Otero
Julie Otero and her husband Joseph were the killer's first victims.

Charlie spent the 30th anniversary of his family's murders behind bars. A few weeks later, one of his cellmates called out to him, "Hey, Charlie, your mom's on TV!" A news program was reporting that BTK had resumed his communication with a coded message to The Wichita Eagle. Pictures of victims BTK had claimed flashed onscreen one by one, including those of Charlie's parents, sister, and brother. The return of the killer rekindled his rage; later that day, he beat on a punching bag at the gym. "I was like a grenade with the pin pulled," he recalls.

The next day, Charlie wrote to the producers of America's Most Wanted, identifying himself as a relative of four of the Wichita victims. They asked him for an interview from prison. Newspaper reporters began calling, too, and a woman who'd seen him on TV volunteered to design a website on which Charlie could field questions about the case.

With the spotlight back on his family, Charlie's old nightmares -- images of his loved ones' screaming faces and tortured bodies -- kicked up. But his waking hours held a note of hope. By breaking the silence he'd enveloped himself in for so many years, Charlie dreamed of tempting the killer out of hiding. Perhaps, he thought, BTK would leave some DNA on his next letter. "I dared him to come for me when I was on prison road crew," Charlie recalls. "I thought, If he runs me over, maybe somebody will see his license plate."

BTK sent nine more notes and packages to the media and police over the following months. Two were decorated with New Mexico-themed postage stamps, which Charlie interpreted as directed at him. But the most astonishing communiqué came in December. It was a call to Charlie from a 16-year-old Wisconsin boy named Joseph. "This is your son," said the voice on the phone. "I'm looking forward to meeting you."

Charlie walked out of prison into a cold rain on January 3, 2005, ready to make amends with the world. The first person he visited was his sister Carmen, now a mentor to at-risk kids in Albuquerque. He apologized to her for his years of estrangement, and the two spent the afternoon talking as they hadn't since childhood. Later he called Danny, who was working as a cable installer in Phoenix. Their conversation had the same tone of forgiveness, and they vowed to stay in closer touch. He got a room at a halfway house not far from Carmen's place and found a job as a day laborer.

He was clearing brush on a landscaping job the next month when he got a call from Carmen. "They got him," she said, and Charlie's adrenaline pumped so intensely that he uprooted shrubs as if they were dandelions.

Dennis Rader, a 59-year-old Cub Scout leader and father of two, confessed to ten murders as the BTK killer. Rader was the compliance officer for a Wichita suburb and president of the congregation at Christ Lutheran Church. He had remained undetected for 31 years, until he sent police a message on a floppy disk that was traceable to his church computer. To make sure Rader was their man, investigators obtained a DNA sample. It showed a strong resemblance to samples taken at several BTK crime scenes.

Charlie and his siblings attended Rader's trial, listening as he described without remorse how he'd stalked their mother, Julie, and young Josie, planning to torture them to death after getting rid of Joey, and how he'd clipped the phone line and waited by the back door for a chance to get in. Rader said he'd been surprised to find Joseph Sr. home that morning but had a pistol to keep the situation under control.


During Rader's testimony, Charlie calmed himself by thinking of the people who cared for him, his long-lost family members and the hundreds of strangers who'd written to him after seeing him on television. "I wanted to kill him," he says of Rader, "but I didn't want to hurt them."

At Rader's sentencing, Charlie, Danny, and Carmen cried as prosecutors showed photos from the crime scene inside their neat white house. BTK would soon be condemned to ten life terms. But for Charlie, any sense of resolution would have to wait.
Charlie Otero
Joseph Otero
Julie Otero
BTK Killer
Otero Family
Otero in Albuquerque: "He didn't kill me. He didn't kill my heart."
Joseph Otero, Chalire's father. Charlie suspected Joseph's military career was a reason for his murder.
Julie Otero and her husband Joseph were the killer's first victims.
Denis Rader was convicted in 2005.
Charlie and siblings Carmen and Danny attended Rader's sentencing.
BTK Killer
Denis Rader was convicted in 2005.

During the lunch break, he got a call from his ex-girlfriend Lynette: Their son Joseph, 17 years old, had been hit by a car while riding his bike near his Wisconsin home. He was in a coma, and the doctors didn't know if he'd live.

Parole rules forbade Charlie to travel without permission. He worked the phones, wrangling with the authorities to allow him to fly the next day to Wisconsin. But before leaving one tragedy behind for what could be the beginning of another, he planned to address the court.

The next morning, family members of the victims spoke with restraint and dignity. When it was Charlie's turn, he stood ramrod straight. "Dennis Rader did not ruin my life," he said in a strong, clear voice. "He caused me to challenge my faith, separated me from my loved ones, and changed my future forever … but despite Dennis Rader's efforts to destroy my family, we survive."

Carmen spoke, too, mourning those she had lost. Then the three siblings embraced, and Charlie boarded a plane to meet his son, Joseph Otero Shafer, for the first -- he hoped not the last -- time.

Charlie spent a week at Joe's bedside. He told the boy how much he loved him and promised to take him hunting and fishing as soon as he got better. And while Joe gave no sign of hearing his father, he did not die. He finally emerged from his coma three months later. His mother nursed him back to health at home. Charlie traveled from New Mexico to visit Joe when he could and called him several times a week.

Now, at 20, Joe has some cognitive and memory problems as a result of the accident but has recovered sufficiently to work two part-time jobs. He hopes to go to college someday. And he adores his father. "He's a lovely, caring person," he says. "We talk about everything -- life, work, home. It's great to know he's finally there."

Charlie is determined to right other important relationships. He's working to restore ties with his two daughters, now teenagers, who had been placed in his brother's custody shortly before Charlie went to prison. He has found a nurturing mate in Linda Evans, a Wichita native who attended the trial as part of her job aiding victims' families. "I've seen him blossom" since the trial, she says. "The anger has gone away."

The couple share a house trailer with two small dogs in Albuquerque. They travel occasionally around the country to screenings of a new documentary movie, Feast of the Assumption: The Otero Family Murders -- made by another former Kansan, Marc Levitz. Charlie talks to audiences about his story, hoping it will help others find solace in hard times. He's taking a course to further hone his public speaking skills.

Charlie still believes there's more to the Otero family murders than Rader admitted -- he has never fully let go of his conspiracy theory. But with the killer locked away forever in a maximum security cell, Charlie no longer dreams of death.

Instead, he's busy remaking his life. "If there's a heaven, I want my mom and dad to look down and be proud," he says. "I want my family to know I'm going to make it."

Original here

China to Limit Web Access During Olympic Games

Foreign journalists at the main press center on the Olympic Green in Beijing on Wednesday.

BEIJING — The International Olympic Committee failed to press China to allow fully unfettered access to the Internet for the thousands of journalists arriving here to cover the Olympics, despite promising repeatedly that the foreign news media could “report freely” during the Games, Olympic officials acknowledged Wednesday.

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages — among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC’s Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

The restrictions, which closely resemble the blocks that China places on the Internet for its citizens, undermine sweeping claims by Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, that China had agreed to provide full Web access for foreign news media during the Games. Mr. Rogge has long argued that one of the main benefits of awarding the Games to Beijing was that the event would make China more open.

“For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the Internet,” Mr. Rogge told Agence France-Presse just two weeks ago.

But a high-ranking Olympic committee official said Wednesday that the panel was aware that China would continue to censor Web sites carrying content that the Chinese propaganda authorities deemed harmful to national security and social stability. The panel acquiesced to China’s demands to maintain such controls, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not the designated public spokesman for the International Olympic Committee.

It was not immediately clear if China had provided special Internet links for overseas journalists working at the press center in the Olympic Village. But Chinese officials, speaking about the Internet restrictions on Wednesday, said they would not allow foreign journalists to visit Web sites that violated Chinese laws.

In its negotiations with the Chinese over Internet controls, the Olympic committee official said, the panel insisted only that China provide unregulated access to sites containing information useful to sports reporters covering athletic competitions, not to a broader array of sites that the Chinese and the Olympic committee negotiators determined had little relevance to sports.

The official said he now believed that the Chinese defined their national security needs more broadly than the Olympic committee had anticipated, denying reporters access to some information they might need to cover the events and the host country fully. This week, foreign news media in China were unable to gain direct access to an Amnesty International report detailing what it called a deterioration in China’s human rights record in the prelude to the Games.

“We are quite stunned by the decision, but we will survive this mess,” the official said. Sandrine Tonge, the media relations coordinator for the committee, said it would press the Chinese authorities to reconsider.

Chinese officials initially suggested that any troubles journalists were having with Internet access probably stemmed from the sites themselves, not any steps that China had taken to filter Web content. But Sun Weide, the chief spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, acknowledged Wednesday that journalists would not have uncensored Internet use. “It has been our policy to provide the media with convenient and sufficient access to the Internet,” Mr. Sun said. “I believe our policy will not affect reporters’ coverage of the Olympic Games.”

Mr. Sun said foreigners using the Internet in China would be subject to the same laws under which censors blocked access to a wide range of Web sites thought to be detrimental to stability. China has long maintained that its laws governing Internet access do not amount to censorship and are similar to restrictions on pornography or gambling sites in many countries.

The restrictions were the latest in a string of problems that have tarnished the prelude to the Olympics, which open Aug. 8. China struggled to contain ethnic unrest in Tibetan areas this spring. The global torch relay that China organized to promote the Games was disrupted by protests. Air pollution in Beijing has remained severe despite efforts to reduce it.

In recent months, human rights advocates have accused Beijing of stepping up the detention and surveillance of those it fears could disrupt the Games. On Tuesday, President Bush met with five Chinese dissidents at the White House to drive home his dissatisfaction with the pace of change. Mr. Bush, who will attend the opening ceremonies in just over a week, also pressed China’s foreign minister to ease political repression.

The White House also urged China to lift its restrictions on the Internet. “We want to see more access for reporters, we want to see more access for everybody in China to be able to have access to the Internet,” the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said Wednesday.

On Capitol Hill, Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, introduced a resolution on Tuesday urging China to reconsider what he said were its plans to force international hotel chains to track electronic communications by its guests. At a news conference, he introduced redacted documents that he said were provided by the hotels requiring them to install government software to monitor Internet traffic during the Olympics.

Concerns about media access to the Internet intensified Tuesday, when Western journalists working at the Main Press Center in Beijing said they could not get to Amnesty International’s Web site to see the group’s report on China’s rights record.

T. Kumar, Amnesty International’s Asia advocacy director, said he thought the government hoped it could dissuade reporters from pursuing stories about human rights issues by blocking their access to Internet-based information. “This sends the wrong message not only to journalists but to anyone on his or her way to the Olympics,” he said.

It was not clear how hard Olympic committee officials pushed for open access to the Internet during negotiations with the Chinese, which dated from to the decision to award Beijing the Games in 2001, or why Mr. Rogge, the Olympic chief, promised that the news media would have uncensored access during the Games when officials working for him were aware that China would keep at least some of its censorship policies in place.

Kevan Gosper, press chief of the International Olympic Committee, was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that I.O.C. officials had agreed that China could block sites that would not hinder reporting on the Games themselves. “I also now understand that some I.O.C. official negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games-related,” he told Reuters.

The senior Olympic committee official said the committee pressed hardest for unfiltered access to sites that sports reporters would need to cover athletic competitions. He said such sites included some that had been blocked in China in the past, including Wikipedia, but did not include political sites run by groups that the Beijing government considers hostile, like the spiritual sect Falun Gong.

Jonathan Watts, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, said he was disappointed that Beijing had failed to honor its agreement to temporarily remove the firewall that prevented Chinese citizens from fully using the Internet.

“Obviously if reporters can’t access all the sites they want to see, they can’t do their jobs,” he said. “Unfortunately such restrictions are normal for reporters in China, but the Olympics were supposed to be different.”

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