Nation roundup for July 26
Homeland choice defends himself
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s choice to be the No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security used his appearance before a Senate panel Thursday to adamantly deny allegations that he helped a politically connected company obtain a foreign investor visa.
But the lawmakers who may need the most convincing — the eight Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee — weren’t in the room for the nearly two-hour confirmation hearing.
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the panel’s ranking Republican, said in a written statement that he wouldn’t participate in the hearing until the allegations against Alejandro Mayorkas are resolved.
The nomination hit a snag this week after The Associated Press reported that the department’s inspector general is investigating Mayorkas’ role in helping secure a foreign investor visa for Gulf Coast Funds Management, a company run by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham. The efforts on behalf of Gulf Coast allegedly occurred after the visa application had been denied and an appeal rejected.
Democrats didn’t shy from asking Mayorkas, currently the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to explain what he knew of the investigation, and he said he only learned about it on Monday night, at the same time as lawmakers. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri had to prod Mayorkas to forcefully deny the allegations.
“You’ve got to do a rebuttal here,” McCaskill said. “I don’t think you can talk around it. Say what you want to say. You aren’t going to get another opportunity like this.”
Mayorkas told the committee that suggestions of impropriety on the visa matter were “unequivocally false” and that he had overseen the program “based on the law and the facts, and nothing else.”
Obama calls GOP rivals ‘deadbeats’
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Casting House Republicans as stubborn deadbeats, President Barack Obama sought Thursday to discredit House Republicans in upcoming fiscal fights by painting them as roadblocks to a thriving middle class.
With Obama and Congress approaching all-too-familiar showdowns over spending levels and the nation’s borrowing limit, Obama used a visit to a seaside port in Florida to argue that the nation’s economic agenda should be immune to the partisan backbiting he faulted Republicans for instigating.
“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open — that’s not an economic plan,” Obama said, wiping sweat from his face in a muggy port warehouse. “Threatening that you won’t pay the bills in this country, when we’ve already racked up those bills, that’s not an economic plan — that’s just being a deadbeat.”
In the last of three stops on a two-day tour to reframe his broad economic vision for the nation, Obama pitched the need for enhanced American infrastructure at this port and others across the country — and for better roads, bridges and power grids. But while he touted his efforts to streamline permitting, the president offered no new proposals for how Americans and their leaders could accelerate a lethargic economic recovery.
Obama warned that if Republicans continue with their “my way or the highway attitude,” dire consequences could await for Americans. He encouraged voters to use next month’s congressional recess to tell Republicans who’ll be in their home districts that gridlock is unacceptable. “It could plunge us back into financial crisis,” the president said.
Parole board hears Simpson’s pleas
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — O.J. Simpson went before a parole board and pleaded for leniency on his armed robbery and kidnapping sentence Thursday as he expressed regret for his actions and described being an upstanding inmate who earns pennies an hour keeping gym equipment sanitized and umpiring and coaching games in the prison yard.
Simpson also said he has become a counselor of sorts to fellow inmates doing time for similar crimes and noted that he has made amends with his victims in a botched heist of memorabilia in a hotel room in Las Vegas in 2007.
“I just wish I never went to that room,” the 66-year-old Simpson said during a 15-minute appearance.
Parole officials did not immediately rule on his request, which Simpson made remotely from a video conference room the Lovelock Correction Center. But their decision will have little impact on his overall sentence because he is only eligible for parole on one of his consecutive sentences.
As a result, even if the Nevada Parole Board ruled in his favor, he would then begin serving sentences attached to other charges and spend at least another four years in prison.
His best chance for freedom lies with a pending decision by a Las Vegas judge on whether to grant him a new trial based on claims that his trial lawyer botched his defense and had a conflict of interest in the case. Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell held a weeklong hearing in May on the issue that featured testimony from Simpson.
At the parole hearing, Simpson provided a glimpse of his time in prison since he was sentenced to nine to 33 years behind bars. He said he has served as a counselor of sorts to other inmates who come to him with their issues. But he said he shouldn’t be compared with other inmates.
Ex-pro wrestler arrested in slaying
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A former professional wrestler whose Facebook page showed a photo of a bloody body part Wednesday evening faces a murder charge in the stabbing death of a woman at a Tampa apartment complex, authorities said.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said Brian McGhee, 29, will be charged with first-degree murder. He was booked into the Pasco County Jail Thursday morning after being treated at a Tampa hospital for injuries received in a car crash when fleeing from deputies late Wednesday. He went by the wrestling monikers “The Future” Donovan Roddick and DT Porter.
The victim was identified as 25-year-old Bianca McGaughey.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter, deputies were called to an apartment complex around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. There, they found a woman who had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso lying on a sidewalk. She died at the scene.
Detectives said McGhee and McGaughey had dated previously.
They broke up a year ago, but continued contact with each other.
McGhee was named as a suspect and his car was spotted. Deputies say McGhee fled from officers and crashed his car near Interstate 75, north of downtown Tampa, in Pasco County. When he didn’t respond to commands to place his hands in the air, law enforcement officers let a police dog inside the vehicle. McGhee was taken to a Tampa hospital, where he was being treated Thursday morning for injuries sustained in the crash and the K-9 apprehension.
A photo of what appears to be a bleeding arm or leg was posted at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday to a Facebook page under McGhee’s name. It’s unclear who the body part belongs to. The photo had been made McGhee’s Facebook profile photo.
According to his Facebook page, McGhee, who previously lived in St. Louis, had been employed by World Wrestling Entertainment from 2010 to 2012.
On a pro wrestling website, McGhee — going by the name DT Porter — is described as being 6 feet, 6 inches tall, 251 pounds, and a victim of childhood bullying.
“Once the oppressed, DT is the one now doing the enforcing,” his wrestling bio read. “Determined to take out all of his childhood pain and torment out on the bodies of his opposition, DT lacks mercy, and will deliver great anger and furious vengeance on any who stand in his way.”
There have been other domestic violence incidents involving wrestling stars. In 2007, wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and son, then hanged himself in his Georgia home. Just this month, a film company announced that a movie about Benoit’s life and death is underway.
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