Bar Tried to Keep Out Black People, Claims Lawsuit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Philadelphia bar actively discriminates against black patrons and employees, banning drinkers who wear baggy clothes and forcing black workers into behind-the-scenes jobs, according to a lawsuit filed by an attorney who moonlights there as a bartender.

In a class-action lawsuit against McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon, lawyers for bartender Michael Bolden said they have obtained e-mails and text messages in which managers discuss ways to limit the number of black patrons.

"We don't want black people we are a white bar," one manager is alleged to have e-mailed another, according to the lawsuit.

The class-action suit brought against the bar and its parent company, East Coast Saloons, claims that the manager, Walt Wyrsta, was worried the clientele had become too black and chided a white employee for promoting DJs and guest bartenders who were attracting too many black customers.

In an e-mail dated Oct. 28, Wyrsta, a general manager, wrote shift manager Kathy Killian to ask about the racial makeup of patrons on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

"2 of the [DJ's] in the battle were black, so it was darker than normal," Killian replied, in a string of messages about how a regular group of black customers patronizing the bar on Wednesday nights was ruining the bar's "reputation."

Employees who answered the phone at McFadden's and at East Coast Saloons said no one would comment. Messages left for Wyrsta and Killian were not returned.

According to the suit, only five of the bar's 75 employees are black, including Bolden and the "man and woman who work in the bathroom handing out towels."

In a statement released by Bolden's lawyers, the 29-year-old Stanford-educated lawyer who has worked part-time at the bar since 2007 said he felt a "moral obligation" to take a stand.

"The one constant is that it is often subtle, behind the scenes, and typically, not written down," he said. "And therein lies the problem: how do you challenge a system, since it seems one cannot even prove it exists. Well, now I can."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Study Finds Minimal Risk in Ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

(WASHINGTON) -- A forthcoming Pentagon study on the impact of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" will reportedly show that most service members wouldn't care if they had to live and work alongside openly gay and lesbian peers.

Seventy percent of respondents to a confidential military survey said they expected positive, mixed or non-existent effects from lifting the ban, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Two sources familiar with the closely-held draft report told the Post there's little evidence that changing the law would significantly hurt unit cohesion or combat readiness.

But 40 percent of Marines expressed concern over repeal, according to the sources, a finding that is likely to embolden political opponents of changing the law.

Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have vehemently opposed a legislative change to the ban on gay troops during a time of war, or at least prior to completion of the survey to allow troops to share their views.

But with the eagerly-anticipated study now nearing release and its findings shared with members of Congress, advocates for repeal hope the political dynamic will change.

The House passed a Defense Authorization bill in September that includes a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," but a similar measure failed in the Senate, where Republicans threatened a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised another vote during the lame-duck session which begins next week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Zahra Baker Search Uncovers Human Remains

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Investigators searching for the missing North Carolina girl Zahra Baker are analyzing human remains found while combing through an area that they had previously checked.

The remains were discovered while searching along Dudley Shoals Road in Caldwell County and the banks and waters of the adjacent Gunpowder Creek, ABC News affiliate WSOC-TV reported Thursday.

Police had looked through the area earlier while accompanied by Zahra's stepmother Elisa Baker, who is currently being held on charges relating to the disabled girl's disappearance.

The remains will be analyzed at the State Bureau of Investigation's lab, WSOC reported.

A spokesman for the Hickory, N.C. police department declined to confirm the discovery of the remains and told ABC News, "The only thing I can share is that yesterday we recovered evidence that could provide valuable information in the Baker case."

Zahra, who was 10, was reported missing by her stepmother and father, Adam Baker, on Oct. 9, but police say no one outside of the family has reported seeing her since Sept. 25. Police have said they believe Zahra is dead.

Elisa Baker remains in jail after admitting to writing a fake $1 million ransom note, discovered the day she and her husband reported Zahra missing. The Bakers deny any involvement in their daughter's disappearance.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White House Set to Extend Bush Tax Cuts

(WASHINGTON) -- The White House said Wednesday it is prepared to sign off on an across-the-board extension of tax cuts put in place by the Bush administration. 

President Obama's top adviser, David Axelrod, said the extension would ensure that middle-class Americans are not faced with a tax increase at year's end.

The White house would prefer to extend the tax cuts permanently for individuals making under $200,000 and couples making under $250,000, but Republicans have argued that even the wealthiest Americans should see an extension.

Top lawmakers from both parties are set to discuss the issue with the president at the White House next Thursday. Lawmakers will have until the start of the new year to extend the tax cuts.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Gary Condit's Son: Dad Got a 'Bad Deal', Didn't Deserve What Happened

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Nine years after Chandra Levy’s murder cast suspicion on California Congressman Gary Condit, his son told ABC News that he doesn’t know if his father will ever get over what happened to him.

“I don’t know that it will ever entirely be behind him,” Chad Condit said on Good Morning America.

“This has been a bad deal. He didn’t deserve what had happened and we have been dealing with it for ten years. It is just unfortunate. It has worn on my Mom and Dad,” Condit said.

Ingmar Guandique is now on trial for Levy’s murder, but Gary Condit was at one time the prime suspect in the case, creating a media firestorm.

“Congressmen are disposable in our society. So one leak here, one story there, you had a runaway train.  And when it’s your dad, someone you love, it’s a painful thing to watch,” Condit said.

Gary Condit is writing a book about his ordeal, his son said. Asked if his father was partly responsible for the price he paid because he did not speak publicly about Levy, Condit says his father wasn’t silent and fully cooperated with the police.

“He told the police everything he knew about Chandra Levy from the very start. I mean he called the police originally. Dr. Levy called my Dad because he wasn’t getting the kind of response from the police department,” Condit said. “So he got everything moving and it boomeranged on him because it made a good story. It made a good story and it sold a lot of papers.”

The Congressman was not reelected and the incident also affected the careers of his son and daughter. Chad and Katie Condit were working for California Governor Davis at the time but resigned “out of protest” when Davis publicly criticized their father.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Crippled Cruise Ship Splendor Docks in San Diego

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SAN DIEGO) -- More than three days since nearly 4,500 people were stranded without power or hot food aboard a damaged Carnival cruise ship, the vessel finally arrived Thursday in San Diego.

Carnival's massive 113,000-ton Splendor cruise ship, which is twice the size of the Titanic, suffered a fire in its aft engine room early Monday morning at the beginning of a tour of the Mexican Riviera that forced passengers to scramble to the deck as a precaution. Eventually, they were allowed back around the ship as it floated listlessly off the Mexican coast for hours before tugboats arrived to drag the vessel to San Diego.

"We really did feel like it was out of a movie," passenger Chris Desaunier said. "And then at the aft part of the ship, the back of the ship, the smoke in that area was really very, very intense."

The fire knocked out all but emergency operations -- there are few lights, no air-conditioning, heating or hot food, and there were no functioning toilets for more than a day.

Before the U.S. Navy began executing military-style air drops of food and supplies late Tuesday, passengers said they were left only with cold and sometimes rotting food to eat.

But for the most part, many said the passengers have been making the best of the situation.

"I also want to tell you that the guests have been magnificent and have risen to the obvious challenges and difficult conditions aboard," Carnival senior cruise director John Heald wrote in a blog once the ship regained Internet access.

Carnival announced late Tuesday it was canceling the Splendor's next voyage, set to begin Nov. 14 from Long Beach, Calif. The company said it would offer those guests a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, as well as a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

For those on this cruise, Carnival is offering a full refund as well as another free trip.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Oklahoma Plans to Execute Convict Using Veterinary Drug

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Lawyers for a death row inmate in Oklahoma are protesting a state plan to kill their client using a drug typically used to put down animals amid a nationwide shortage of the anesthetic regularly used in executions.

Oklahoma is considering the use of pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize animals, in the upcoming execution of John David Duty, a convicted murderer scheduled to be executed on Dec. 12.

Across the country, states that implement the death penalty by lethal injection are scrambling to determine alternative ways to kill convicts.  Hospira, the maker of sodium thiopental, better known as Pentothal, has announced a suspension of production of the drug because of an unspecified supply problem with the drug's key ingredient.

"We are probably going to look at a number of different options now that we can't use sodium thiopental," said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.  "We are not sure yet what we'll end up using, but pentobarbital is a strategy we're looking at."

In court documents requesting approval to use pentobarbital, the state called the drug "an ideal anesthetic agent for humane euthanasia in animals," comparing it to the sodium thiopental used as the first part of a three-drug cocktail administered during an execution.

In federal court documents filed Monday, Duty's lawyers argued that using pentobarbital is potentially painful and would be tantamount to torture.  "Pentobarbital is untested, potentially dangerous, and could well result in a torturous execution for Mr. Duty," his lawyers wrote.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Elizabeth Smart Ends Testimony, Paints Kidnapper as Brutal Zealot

Photo Courtesy - George Frey/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY, Utah) -- When Elizabeth Smart stepped down from the stand, ending three days of excruciatingly personal testimony Wednesday, she had painted her accused kidnapper as a brutally cruel, religious zealot obsessed with sex.

Speaking in a controlled voice, her words tinged with anger, Smart called Brian David Mitchell selfish and a "hypocrite" who raped her at every chance he got even while proclaiming himself to be God's servant.

The now 23-year-old woman told the jury that Mitchell talked to her during her nine months in captivity about what would happen if they were captured.

"He knew he would go to prison.  But then he also said that I...and the other wives...would come and testify in his behalf," Smart testified.  "And he said that he would be released and he would be killed and lie dead in the street for three days and then he would be resurrected and he would go on to fight the Anti-Christ."

She also spoke of being forced to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, which disgusted her.

Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her bed in Utah.  She has said she was forced to "marry" Mitchell in an impromptu ceremony shortly after the kidnapping and that he would often beg her for sex, angering accomplice Wanda Barzee, who was jealous of the attention Mitchell gave Smart.

During her three days on the stand, Smart was poised and unruffled as she detailed her nightmarish nine months with Mitchell and Barzee.  She said that at one point she was confronted by a police officer looking for Elizabeth Smart and he wanted to look under the veil Mitchell made her wear.  She was so afraid of Mitchell's death threats that she didn't speak up and was heartsick that the officer wasn't more persistent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bernie Madoff's Personal Belongings Up for Auction This Weekend

Photo Courtesy - Department of Justice/United States Marshal(NEW YORK) -- From a $300,000 diamond engagement ring to a Steinway grand piano to a pair of light blue boxer shorts, everything remaining in Bernie Madoff's former Manhattan and Long Island residences is up for auction this Saturday.

Proceeds from the auction, which begins at 10 a.m. at Manhattan's Sheraton Hotel and Towers, will go to the victims of Madoff's monumental Ponzi scheme, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which has been handling the sale of the spoils of Madoff's criminal enterprise.

"These pieces are the last of what once occupied the homes and lives of Bernard and Ruth's residences in New York City and Montauk, New York," said Joseph R. Guccione, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York.

The auction includes the desk that authorities believe Madoff used to run his multi-billion dollar scam.  The nine-drawer desk, made of yew wood, was located in the Manhattan penthouse apartment where authorities say Madoff most likely ran his scheme, safely away from prying eyes in his nearby office.

Madoff's ill-gotten gains were spent on an opulent lifestyle.  Madoff collected Rolex and Patek Philippe watches and had an Imelda Marcos-like obsession with shoes. "He just bought every kind of shoe in that style that the company made.  And most of them are brand new -- never used," said one auctioneer."  He also collected bulls, large and small sculptures in leather and wood.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Shariah Law Outlawed in Oklahoma State Courts, Ignites Debate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- A new chapter in the age-old debate about the role of religion in government is playing out in Oklahoma this month as a federal judge considers the constitutionality of a ballot initiative that forbids state courts from considering Islamic Shariah law in their decisions.

Although sponsors of the measure produced no evidence that Shariah law -- the body of law based on the Koran and the religion of Islam -- is actually being used in the courts, voters approved the measure by a 70 percent margin Nov. 2.

Oklahoma Sen. Rex Conrad, who penned the legislation, told The Los Angeles Times, "Oklahoma does not have that problem yet.  But why wait until it's in the Courts?"

Opponents of the ban say it is an unconstitutional scare tactic aimed at discriminating against Muslims.  They say it will have a broad impact in the areas of family law that come before the courts and could prove to have national implications.

Muneer Awad, Oklahoma executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed suit in federal court two days after the election.  Awad claimed the measure violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which forbids the government from giving preference to one religion over another.

He says that the sponsors have tried to stigmatize and segregate his faith as something to be feared, while Shariah can play an important role in the areas of marriage and probate law.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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