R.I. City Files For Bankruptcy Protection

CENTRAL FALL, R.I., Aug. 2 (UPI) — The city of Central Falls, R.I., battered by debt and years of financial woes, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Robert Flanders Jr., who took over the city’s government last year as a receiver, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Monday, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

Among other problems, Central Falls has Rhode Island’s highest unemployment rate — about 15 percent — and the state’s lowest per-capita income, data indicate. It made headlines last year when its under-performing high school fired, then rehired, its entire faculty. When Flanders took over the city as a state receiver, local elected officials became advisers.

“The current situation is dire,” said Gov. Lincoln Chafee when announcing the bankruptcy filing, “and it necessitates decisive steps to put the city back on the path to solid financial footing and future prosperity.”

The city of 19,000 is on track to end the fiscal year next June 30 with a $5.6 million deficit, based on projected revenues of $16.4 million and projected expenses of more than $22 million, court filings reveal.

Chapter 9 bankruptcy is reserved for municipalities as a reorganizational bankruptcy, during which the municipality or the debtor can restructure its debts to its creditors.

Municipal bankruptcies are “extremely rare,” New York bond lawyer Brian Fraser of Richards Kibbe & Orbe told the Globe.

“The jury is still out on how effective Chapter 9 is in solving very deeply embedded financial problems like those in Central Falls,” Fraser said.

Lawyer Gets 4 Months For Lying To FBI

AKRON, Ohio, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Cleveland lawyer was sentenced to four months in jail Tuesday for his part in a case-fixing scandal involving a former Cuyahoga County auditor.

A federal judge in Akron also ordered Joseph O’Malley to spend six months in home confinement, pay a $10,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service, The (Cleveland )Plain Dealer reported.

O’Malley, 45, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, apologized for his actions.

“In a blink of an eye, I changed myself from a hardworking attorney to a criminal defendant,” he said.

Frank Russo, who served as Cuyahoga County recorder before winning election as auditor, has pleaded guilty to 21 counts and could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. Steven Terry, a former judge in the Cuyahoga County common pleas court, was convicted in June of corruption and also is awaiting sentencing.

O’Malley was a longtime friend of Russo and worked for him as both recorder and auditor.

Gingrich Swears Twitter Followers Are Real

DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Newt Gingrich’s campaign says he does have 1.3 million Twitter followers, despite charges that some were made up.

On Sunday, the former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate complained to his hometown Georgia newspaper, the Marietta Daily Journal, that the media are ignoring him even though he has six times as many Twitter followers as all other candidates combined.

“We’ve been a little bit like a sailing ship in the middle of a hurricane in which we are sailing straight into the teeth of the media, and that slowed us down,” he said.

Monday, Gawker.com relayed an anonymous source’s claim that some of the Twitter accounts following Gingrich “are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various ‘follow agencies.'”

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond issued a tweet Monday night denying the charge, the Des Moines (Iowa) Register reports.

He said: “@Newtgingrich’s 1.3 million followers are legitimate. @Gawker ‘s ‘source’ is not. Story untrue.”

Hammond then retweeted another message: “@jclairecantrell I follow @newtgingrich and (last time I checked) I am real. Not only am I real, I am #withNewt for 2012!”

Gingrich, with 1,325,966 followers as of Tuesday morning, has been on Twitter’s recommended and suggested user lists.

Woman Got Benefits For Years After Death

JENNINGS, Mo., Aug. 2 (UPI) — A woman last seen alive in 1994 was still getting Social Security checks when her mummified remains were found in a Missouri home in February, an official says.

The remains of Gladys Stansbury were discovered Feb. 26 by relatives cleaning out the Jennings, Mo., home of her 75-year-old daughter, Gladys Bergmeier, who was found dead by police Feb. 7 after a neighbor reported not seeing her.

Stansbury’s body was wrapped in plastic and a multicolored curtain. The home was full of newspapers, magazines and bags of trash.

Authorities have been unable to establish when or how Stansbury died, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday. Relatives and friends said they had lost touch after she moved to Jennings in 1993. She was last seen alive in 1994.

“A search of our records shows that Ms. Stansbury was in payment status until February 2011,” Mona Finch, division director of the Office of Privacy and Disclosure at the Social Security Administration’s Washington headquarters, said in an e-mail Monday.

Trial To Be Moved In Zahra Baker Case

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 2 (UPI) — Elisa Baker’s North Carolina trial will be moved because of excessive publicity surrounding the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter Zahra, a judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Kincaid granted a change of venue after Baker’s defense attorney argued it would be impossible for her to get a fair trial on second-degree murder charges from Catawba County jurors, The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday.

“You would have to live under a rock in Catawba County not to have been exposed to all of the rumors, the false reports, the hearsay evidence, the anger people have concerning this case,” defense attorney Scott Reilly said. “The anger people have against Elisa Baker because of the highly prejudicial nature of the coverage.”

Baker, 43, is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. She and her husband Adam Baker reported Zahra missing Oct. 9, setting off a massive search that ended when her body was found dismembered and discarded throughout adjacent Caldwell County.

Kincaid said he would rule on a new location for the trial at a hearing Sept. 12.

Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither Jr. said he wasn’t opposed to the venue change but said he believed a fair and impartial jury could have been found in Catawba County.

“I trust the jury system, and I trust the system wherever we go,” he said.

Jobs To Be Top Focus In The Fall

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Discussions about jobs shoved aside debt ceiling talk just minutes after the U.S. Senate passed a bill raising the debt limit and cutting the federal deficit.

President Obama pledged Tuesday he would “fight for what the American people care most about: new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth.”

Congressional party leaders also staked claims to growing the economy and job creation in their port-mortems on compromise legislation that will allow the debt ceiling to be raised while cutting the federal deficit, pulling the country back from the brink of losing its borrowing authority and risking default.

Voters may have elected a divided government, “but they sure didn’t vote for dysfunctional government. They want us to solve problems. They want us to get this economy growing and adding jobs,” the Democratic president said.

When Congress returns from its August recess, Obama said, “I will urge them to immediately take some steps, bipartisan, common sense steps that will make a difference.”

Obama ticked off a list of initiatives he said would stimulate the economy and jobs, including extending tax cuts for middle class families and jobless benefits, patent reform, passage of trade agreements and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

“It shouldn’t take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs,” Obama said, “because there’s already a quiet crisis going on in the lives of a lot of families in a lot of communities all across the country.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., echoed Obama’s words. “Now it’s time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled programming — and that means jobs,” he said.

Now that the debt ceiling-deficit reduction issue has been resolved, “jobs won’t have to play second fiddle to the deficit anymore,” Schumer said. “We welcome this chance to shift the playing field to jobs.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers must do more for American families.

“Today we made sure America can pay its bills,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Now time to make sure Americans can pay theirs.”

Senate Republicans also said they welcomed the chance to discuss jobs because, as Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona put it, “Republicans have never taken our eye off of job creation.”

“I’m often asked, ‘What would you do to get the economy going?'” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “My answer is always the same: We need to quite doing what we’ve been doing. Quit borrowing. Quit spending. Quit trying to raise taxes. Quit over-regulating and let the private sector flourish so we have a chance again to have a growing economy which of course will produce more revenue for the government. So that ought to be our single focus — not only at home during the recess — but when we come back here.”

Book Prompts Questions In Wallenberg Case

STOCK, Sweden, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Researchers say Russia intentionally withheld information about a Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

The assertion is based on a new book, “Secrets of the Third Reich Diplomacy,” which includes transcripts of interrogations of German diplomats imprisoned after World War II by the Soviet Union, including the cellmate of the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, The Local in Sweden reports.

“This ranks as one of the most significant findings in the Raoul Wallenberg case in the last 50 years,” historian Susanne Berger told The Local.

From 1945 to 1947, Willy Rodel was the cellmate of Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews from being sent to Nazi death camps while working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the Soviet occupation of the Hungarian capital.

Historian Vadim Birstein, a Russian-born researcher who now lives in the United States, said Russia’s Federal Security Service, the KGB’s successor, had long told him and Berger a file on Rodel’s investigation did not exist. The FSS published the book.

The statements by Rodel are from before the period he shared a cell with Wallenberg but came in the same 549-page file including other information about Rodel. The researchers had been told those pages were 543 to 549, which would make Rodel’s the last case in the file.

The newly surfaced statements are on pages 477 to 484, which has led Berger and Birstein to conclude there may be 57 additional pages Russians had claimed didn’t exist that have yet to be released.

“If the early statements made by Willy Rodel in Soviet imprisonment survived even though Russian officials have told us adamantly for two decades that they did not, we cannot help but wonder if Rodel’s interrogations dating from the time he was held together with Raoul Wallenberg also continue to exist,” Berger and Birstein said in a statement.

Soviet and Russian officials have said Wallenberg died in Soviet custody in 1947 but family members and experts doubt that, The Local said.

Canada Rules HIV Killer Dangerous

HAMILTON, Ontario, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Canadian court Tuesday imposed the designation of dangerous offender on a man in Hamilton, Ontario, convicted of killing two women by giving them HIV.

Ontario provincial Justice Thomas Lofchik ruled 54-year-old Johnson Aziga, the first man in Canada convicted of first-degree murder via human immunodeficiency virus transmission, was a risk to “the safety of the women in this community,” Postmedia News reported.

Crown prosecutors sought the legal declaration of dangerous offender to keep him in prison indefinitely, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said.

Aziga was arrested in 2003 and charged with failing to tell 11 women he had sex with about his HIV-positive status as required by law after he was informed of his diagnosis in 1996. Seven women were infected, two of whom died.

The judge spent 2 hours explaining his 50-page decision to impose the dangerous offender status, previously only conferred on serial killers, rapists and predators.

Aziga has repeatedly denied knowingly infecting the 11 women with unprotected sex and indicated he wanted to appeal his murder convictions.

The Ugandan immigrant, who has refugee status, said Tuesday he wanted to renounce his Canadian citizenship, the CBC said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn Sorry For Obama Comment

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Republican congressman has apologized to President Barack Obama for saying being linked to him was “like touching a tar baby.”

Speaking of the debt ceiling issue, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said during an interview with a Denver radio station Friday: “I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby, and you get it — you know, you’re stuck, and you’re part of the problem now, and you can’t get away.”

Though a dictionary defines “tar baby” as “something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself,” it also has long been considered a racist slur.

Monday evening, Lamborn’s office said he had “sent a personal letter to President Obama apologizing for using a term some find insensitive,” The Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the Colorado Springs NAACP, said: “The world already views [the area] as ultra-conservative, ultra-right-wing, Tea-Party-loving, gay-bashing, an epicenter of hate. With two vitriolic words, our own congressman again sealed our fate.”

“It’s disgraceful that anyone would try and insinuate that he was being racist,” said Eli Bremer, chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party. “… It’s really unfair to take something completely out of context.”

Iraq Revives Attempt To Buy U.S. F-16s

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Iraq is renewing its bid to buy F-16 jet fighters from the United States, the Pentagon says.

Maj. Christopher Perrine, a Defense Department spokesman, told the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram more negotiations are planned after the sale of 18 warplanes was put on hold because Iraq did not budget the $4.2 billion it proposed spending last fall.

“We’re still working on letters of offer and acceptance for 18″ planes, he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday he would come back to the U.S. government with a request to purchase 36 F-16s.

Perrine said that to sell more than 18 aircraft, the Pentagon must again notify Congress, which would have 30 days to block a sale.

Lockheed Martin wants to book new F-16 orders to keep production going at its Fort Worth plant and among suppliers. As of last week, it had 65 unfilled orders, which would keep the line running through 2013. Production of many parts and components begins two or more years before final assembly.

Lockheed directly employs about 2,000 workers in Fort Worth on the F-16, with many more working at suppliers in the area.