Thursday, May 31, 2012

West Village dog spa worker accused of raping co-worker

The employee of a high-end West Village doggy spa allegedly raped a colleague inside the business after closing hours, The New York Post has learned.

The 21-year-old victim told cops that she and coworker Vincent Lopez were on an overnight shift at Biscuits and Bath Dog Retreat on West 13th Street in the early hours of Saturday when he started boozing on the job, sources said.

Lopez, 21, -- who refers to himself as a dog care supervisor on his Facebook page -- allegedly became intoxicated and pounced on the woman at 2:30 a.m., sources said.

The victim tried to push Lopez off, but he punched her repeatedly in the face and ripped off her clothes, according to a court complaint.

“He beat her and then raped her,” said one source.

The two were alone at the time and the store had closed its doors at 8 p.m., sources added. The pooch spa offers 24-hour care, as well as grooming, walking, training and veterinary services, the company states on its Web site.

The terrified victim locked herself inside a bathroom for several hours until she was discovered by another co-worker in the morning and they called the cops, sources said.

Lopez, who fled, was trailed by Sixth Precinct cops to an old address in The Bronx, but he wasn't there, sources added.

He was finally nabbed Tuesday at his Throgs Neck home and charged with rape, records show.

"I bet I'm in big trouble, aren't I?" Lopez allegedly quipped at the time of his arrest, sources said.

He is being held on Rikers Island on $50,000 bail. He has since resigned from the job, sources added.

Lopez has prior arrests for criminal trespass, farejumping and robbery, sources said.

Rutgers Web cam spy reports to jail

Dharun Ravi reported to jail Thursday to begin serving his 30-day sentence for his hate crime
conviction in the Rutgers University webcam spying case, The Star-Ledger reported.

Ravi, 20, had the right to delay his report date while prosecutors appealed his sentence, which they argue was far too lenient.

But Ravi announced earlier this week that he would turn himself in Thursday, saying in a statement he had decided to "accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It's the only way I can go on with my life."

According to The Star-Ledger, Ravi, dressed in a navy blue T-shirt and brown jeans, arrived at the Middlesex County, N.J., Sheriff's Office at 12:38pm local time, accompanied by his father, lawyer and two family friends.

He declined to comment while passing by a swarm of reporters and photographers on his walk to the jail door.

His family and friends left shortly after entering the sheriff's building.

"He got to say goodbye to his family," Sheriff Mildred Scott told The Star-Ledger. "He will be processed, fingerprinted and photographed and taken to the Middlesex County Corrections Center."

Prior to receiving the 30-day sentence, Ravi had faced up to 10 years in prison after he was convicted on bias intimidation charges in March for streaming a romantic encounter between his roommate, Tyler Clementi, and an older man on the internet.

The incident fueled a national debate over privacy rights and bullying when Clementi, 18, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge soon after learning of Ravi's spying in September 2010.

Ravi was not charged in connection with Clementi's death.

He is expected to only serve 20 days in jail with time off for good behavior.

As part of his sentence, Ravi was also ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and attend counseling classes on cyber bullying and alternate lifestyles.

Ravi is also appealing his conviction, meaning he will be serving a sentence that may ultimately be thrown out.

Earlier this week he issued his first apology over the incident with Clementi.

"My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions," he said in a statement. "I apologize to everyone affected by those choices."

Elderly woman dies after minivan backs into McDonald's

An elderly woman died today after a minivan struck her in front of a Brooklyn McDonald’s this afternoon, cops said.

The driver of the Nissan Quest was trying to parallel park in front of the Marine Park fast food joint on Flatbush Avenue, near East 47th Street, about 1 p.m., when she accidentally backed into the front of the restaurant, hitting the woman and breaking the front window, witnesses and authorities said.

“We just heard a scream, then we heard a boom,” said a woman who works nearby at an Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, but did not give her name. “The woman was under the van. Someone was holding her head, trying to keep her calm.”
"It sounded like an explosion," said Herman Morales, 48, an MTA bus driver. "It wasn't a movie, it was real stuff. Everybody was shaken up."

EMS worked to pull the vehicle off of the badly injured pedestrian, and rushed her to Beth Israel Hospital where she eventually died.

Cops were questioning the driver at the scene.

Bush, Obama on stage together share laughs

WASHINGTON — President Obama welcomed former president George W. Bush to the White House Thursday for the official unveiling of his presidential portrait, hailing his predecessor for his "extraordinary service to his country."

Bush was joined by his wife, Laura, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, his two daughters and several Bush family members, former officials and invited guests at the White House East Room ceremony.

"We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences," Obama told the audience in brief remarks before the unveiling.

In his portrait, painted by John Howard Sanden, Bush can be seen standing in the Oval Office with his right hand resting on an armchair. Over his right shoulder hangs a 1929 western painting, A Charge to Keep, by William H. D. Koerner, which he often praised.

A portrait of Laura Bush, also by Sanden, was unveiled alongside her husband's.

Obama thanked his predecessor for his guidance, and said he would always be grateful to Bush and his staff for going out of their way to make the transition in January 2009 as seamless as possible.

"You also left me a really good TV sports package," Obama joked. "I use it," he added to laughter.

When it came time for Bush to speak, the former president unleashed a series of jokes that delighted the crowd.

"I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection," he said. "It now begins and ends with a George W!"

He also made light of his political differences with Obama, saying, "Mr. President, as you gaze at this portrait, you can ask yourself, 'What would George do?'"

Thursday's event marked the first time in over two years that Bush had set foot in his old home. He last visited the White House in January 2010, when he and former President Bill Clinton met with Obama to discuss relief efforts in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

Boyfriend of girl in LI house 'drive-thru' crash jailed over outstanding warrants

The goofball boyfriend of the Brooklyn hipster who drunkenly plowed a convertible Mercedes through the Long Island home of a sleeping 96-year-old woman was shipped off to jail today by a no-nonsense judge who fumed that he has "no respect" for the law.

Daniel Sajewski showed up in Brooklyn Criminal Court in a blue Oxford and khaki pants - and bearing no visible marks from his wild weekend ride with 21-year-old galpal, Sophia Anderson, who remains locked up on Long Island.

But Judge Evelyn Laporte quickly sent Sajewski packing to Rikers Island, where he will spend the night without bail before a court date Friday in Manhattan on an outstanding warrant.
"You obviously have no respect for the court system," Laporte told the 23-year-old Brooklyn bartender, who was in court on charges of pot possession and sipping booze on the subway.

Sources said Sajewski has an extensive history of no-showing court appearances. He's set to face a Manhattan judge Friday on an outstanding warrant for having come up short on a sentence of community service.

"I don't care if you were here on time," Laporte scolded Sajweski. "You have six outstanding warrants on six different cases!"

The troubled son of a well-to-do Huntington family, Sajewski was riding shotgun next to Anderson when she boozily blasted his mom's Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 though Helen Indiere's home.

Sajewski and Anderson both escaped uninjured after the red convertible crash-landed against a tree and atop some bushes in Indiere's backyard.
But Anderson remains jailed on $50,000 bail and prosecutors have said she likely guzzled more than a dozen drinks before getting behind the wheel of the luxury ride.

Sajewski's rap sheet includes arrests in Manhattan, Long Island and Brooklyn for drug possession and theft.

His lawyer, Carl Benincasa, declined comment on Sajewski's home-wrecking ride with Anderson.

"He's been trying to do the right thing and turn his life around," Benincasa said.

Jury finds Edwards not guilty on one count, judge declares mistrial on five others

GREENSBORO, NC — Disgraced pol John Edwards beat the rap on one of six criminal counts today, before a federal judge declared a mistrial on all other corruption charges.

The panel, which had been deliberating since May 18, acquitted the former North Carolina senator on Count 3, an accusation that he took funny money in 2008 from sugar momma donor Rachel “Bunny” Mellon.

After US District Court Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial on all remaining counts, a relieved Edwards -- who wore his lucky green tie to court today -- put his index finger to his lip, hugged daughter Cate and then embraced his parents Wallace and Bobbie.

Outside court, the utterly shameless Edwards declared his political career isn’t dead yet.

“I don’t think God’s through with me,” Edwards said. “I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do.”

The 2004 Democratic VP candidate sounded like he was on the campaign trail, vowing to fight for impoverished children.

“And whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids I’ve seen,” he said.

“You know in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world, that I can help them -- in whatever way I’m still capable of helping them.”

Edwards thanked jurors and said he’s the only one to blame for his political collapse.

“I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong,” he said.

“And there is no one else responsible for my sins. None of the people who came to court and testified are responsible. Nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible.”

Edwards added: “And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, I honestly, I don’t have to go any further than the mirror. It’s me. It is me and me alone.”

Edwards was accused of orchestrating a million-dollar scheme to use illegal funds to cover up his affair and love child with a loopy campaign groupie Rielle Hunter.

Edwards was on trial for one count of conspiracy and a single count of filing a false report. He faced two more counts of taking bad money from a long-time supporter, the late Frederick Baron.

Jurors were deadlocked on all those counts and one additional count tied to Mellon.

The 101-year-old banking heiress Mellon, who was too ill to travel to the trial, had said Edwards
reminded her a young John F. Kennedy.

Each charge had a maximum of five years behind bars.

Federal prosecutors will now have to decide whether they want to put Edwards through another trial, on the unsettled charges.

The trial’s abrupt ending came hours after jurors launched a wild scramble in Eagles’ courtroom.

Trial watchers practically tripped on themselves to rush into court, when it appeared jurors have
reached verdicts on all counts this afternoon.

There was a gasp in court when jurors said they had, in fact, only come to unanimous agreement on Count 3.

Judge Eagles didn’t immediately take verdict, and instead sent jurors back into deliberations.

Less than two hours later, jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked on the other five counts.

That’s when Judge Eagles took the not-guilty verdict on Count 3, and declared a mistrial on remaining charges.

Eagles seemed disappointed full verdicts could not be reached, but she told exhausted jurors to be proud of their service.

“You can hold your head up,” the judge said.

Even though Edwards is skating for now, this trial took a punishing toll on the defendant and rehashed one of the most embarrassing political implosions in recent memory.

Edwards fell from his lofty perch as the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee to delusional, win-at-all-cost horndog by 2008.

The government’s case hinged largely on the credibility of former Edwards confidante Andrew Young, who testified that the White House wannabe told him that keeping Hunter off the public radar was the aide’s “most important job in the campaign.”

Young had even once claimed paternity of Edwards’ love child, in a pathetic attempt to cover up for his boss.

Even though he’s skating for now, the trial still took a huge toll on Edwards, who was forced to hear, all over again, how he cheated on dying, cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth Edwards.

During his comments outside court, Edwards thanked adult daughter Cate for standing by his side and mentioned his young daughter Emma, 14, and son Jack, 12.

He even dropped the name of the baby girl he had out of wedlock with Hunter.

“My precious Quinn,” Edwards said, “who I love more than any of you could ever imagine, and I am so close to and so, so grateful for.”

Brandon J.’s News opinion: Banning sugary drinks?

Written by Brandon Julien, follow him on twitter @Brandonjnews

Ever since I started up Brandon J.’s News about 2 years ago, I have covered some pretty weird stories. But this story isn’t weird; it’s actually on the borderline of something that came out of someone’s ass. If you’re new to this, let me just give you a brief description on what’s going on. According to ABC News, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on large sugary drinks in an effort to curb obesity. The plan would make it illegal for food service establishments such as restaurants, street vendors, sports venues and movie theaters to serve sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.
I think that this idea might be the dumbest idea that anyone has suggested. First of all, nobody died and made Bloomberg king. Second of all, I think we can take care of ourselves and not have someone looking over us like someone’s mother. But this isn’t the first idea like this that Bloomberg has come up with. First he banned smoking in public places. Then, he outlawed trans-fats in the city's restaurants. And finally, he required chain restaurants to post calorie counts.
According to Bloomberg and ABC News, New York City spends $4 billion a year on health care for overweight residents and the city claims sugary drinks are the most significant factor in the increasing number of obese or overweight New Yorkers.
"Obesity deaths have grown to 5,000 and will soon exceed the number of smoking deaths [in New York City]," Bloomberg said during an interview at the All Things D Conference. "You can still be obese, we are just telling you this is detrimental to your health and helping you understand that with portion size."         
The one major problem that Bloomberg is failing to realize is that The New York City Beverage Association says banning soda will not impact the city's obesity rate.
"The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the association. "The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates."
New Yorker’s reactions to the subject were varied.
"I don't think it's the mayor's job to decide what sort of soft drinks that people in Manhattan or anywhere in the world want to buy," said one New Yorker.
Other New Yorkers believe the ban is a step in the right direction.
"I think it's a good way to send a message that he's supporting healthier lifestyles," said one woman.
ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser said on Good Morning America that Mayor Bloomberg’s legislation doesn’t make up for New Yorker’s personal responsibility.
"You have to want to do it and I don't think this ban is going to make people want to change their behavior."
The ban on sugary drinks requires approval from the city's Board of Health and if passed, which is considered likely because Bloomberg appointed all the board's members, it could take effect as soon as March.
Let me just say that if this actually passes, I’ll just buy 2 small drinks instead. Or I’ll just move to New Jersey because there’s no rule on that.

Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty ImagCoca-Cola Co. beverages displayed on shelf in... View Full Size
Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coca-Cola Co. beverages displayed on shelf in a grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on F
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekend Bridge and Street Closures – May 26-28

The Grand Street Bridge over Newtown Creek will be closed on Saturday from 7 am to 3 pm for bridge repair work. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be detoured to the adjacent Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.
Mulberry Street between Canal Street and Broome Street and Hester Street between Mott Street and Baxter Street will be closed on Sundays from 5:30 pm Friday to 9 pm through September 9 for the Mulberry Street Pedestrian Mall.
Broadway and 7th Avenue between 43rd Street and 44th Street in Manhattan will be closed on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm for Fleet Week.
The following streets in Manhattan will be closed on Saturday:
  • Lexington Avenue between 42nd Street and 57th Street will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the 17th Precinct Community Council Lexington Avenue Spring Festival.
  • 6th Avenue between 14th Street and 23rd Street will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club Festival.
The following streets will be closed on Sunday:
  • Broadway between 72nd Street and 86th Street in Manhattan (east side/northbound lanes only)will be closed from noon to 5 pm for the 25th Annual Livable West Side Festival.
  • Lexington Avenue between 34th Street and 23rd Street in Manhattan will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Bellevue South Community Association Lexington Avenue Jubilee.
The following streets in Queens will be closed from 1 pm to 3:30 pm for the United Veterans and Fraternal Organization of Maspeth Parade:
  • Maspeth Avenue between Grand Avenue and 61st Street;
  • Grand Avenue between 72nd Street and Maspeth Avenue;
  • 56th Road between 61st Street and Remsen Place;
  • Clinton Avenue between 64th Street and Queens Midtown Expressway;
  • Queens Midtown Expressway between Clinton Avenue and Grand Avenue;
  • Grand Avenue between Queens Midtown Expressway and 69th Lane.
The following streets in Queens will be closed from 2 pm to 3:45 pm for the College Point Citizens Memorial Day Parade:
  • 28th Avenue between Ulmer Street and College Point Boulevard;
  • College Point Boulevard between 28th Avenue and 26th Avenue;
  • 26th Avenue between College Point Boulevard and 120th Street;
  • 120th Street between 26th Avenue and Graham Court;
  • Graham Court between 120th Street and College Point Boulevard;
  • College Point Boulevard between Graham Court and 5th Avenue;
  • Poppenhusen Avenue between 5th Avenue and 119th Street.

  • 8th Avenue between 39th Street and 49th Street in Brooklyn will be closed from noon to 6 pm for the 8th Avenue Spectacular.
  • Clarkson Avenue between Utica Avenue and Nostrand Avenue and Nostrand Avenue between Erasmus Street and Foster Avenue in Brooklyn will be closed from 1 pm to 5 pm for the Haitian American Day Parade.
The following streets will be closed on Monday:
  • Liberty Street between Broadway and Trinity Place in Manhattan will be closed from noon to 6 pm for the Chabad of Wall Street Community Fair.
  • Cypress Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Madison Street and Myrtle Avenue between 71st Street and Cypress Avenue in Queens will be closed from 11 am to 1 pm for the Allied Veterans Memorial Ridgewood and Glendale Parade.
  • Broadway between Crescent Street and 47th Street in Queens will be closed from noon to 6 pm for the Broadway Merchants Professionals Association Festival.
  • Northern Boulevard between Glenwood Street and Alameda Avenue in Queens will be closed from 2 pm to 5 pm for the Little Neck and Douglaston Memorial Day Parade.

The following streets in Queens will be closed from 11 am to 2:30 pm for the Howard Beach Memorial Day Parade:
  • Coleman Square between 159th Road and 159th Avenue;
  • 159th Avenue between Coleman Square and 100th Street;
  • 100th Street between 159th Avenue and 157th Avenue;
  • 157th Avenue between 100th Street and 157th Avenue;
  • 157th Avenue between 100th Street and 99th Street;
  • 99th Street between 157th Avenue and 159th Avenue;
  • 159th Avenue between 99th Street and 98th Street;
  • 98th Street between 159th Avenue and 160th Avenue;
  • 160th Avenue between 98th Street and 102nd Street;
  • 102nd Street between 160th Avenue and 159th Road;
  • 159th Road between 102nd Street and Coleman Square.

  • 3rd Avenue between 87th Street and Marine Avenue, Marine Avenue between 3rd Avenue and 4th Avenue, and 4th Avenue between Marine Avenue and 101st Street in Brooklyn will be closed from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm for the United War Veterans Memorial Day Parade.
  • Father Capodanno Boulevard between Sand Lane and Greeley Avenue in Staten Island will be closed from 8 am to 11:30 pm for the Staten Island Advance Road Race.
  • Forest Avenue between Clove Road and Marianne Street in Staten Island will be closed from 9 am to 3 pm for the United Staten Island Veterans Parade.
Alternate side parking (street cleaning) regulations and parking meter regulations are suspended on Monday, May 28.
The times listed for closures for street fairs are for the actual times of the street fairs themselves. The streets may be closed longer to allow for set-up and breakdown. Street fair organizers are generally permitted to begin set-up at 8 am and breakdown must be completed by 7 pm.

Knicks' J.R. Smith arrested on warrant in Miami Beach

Knicks guard J.R. Smith took his talents to South Beach and got arrested.

Miami Beach police say Smith was arrested last night on a bench warrant for not having a valid driver's license. Sgt. Bobby Hernandez told The New York Post that Smith was recognized on famed Washington Avenue in South Beach. Police originally said that Smith was pulled over while driving a scooter, but after reviewing the arrest report have now said that is not the case.

The warrant stemmed from Smith, 26, being cited last year in Miami for driving a scooter without a valid driver's license.

Smith was taken to the Miami-Dade County jail and booked under his legal name of Earl Joseph Smith, shortly before midnight and later was released on bond. Smith has had past transgressions with the law, including vehicular manslaughter charges that were dropped.

Smith, who joined the Knicks in February as Sixth Man after playing in China, can opt out of the final year of his contract worth $2.5 million and has until June 26 to do so. Smith was fined $25,000 by the NBA in March for tweeting a partially naked woman in his hotel room in the wee hours.

On April 3 in Indiana, Smith was ejected with 10.7 seconds left for throwing down Leandro Barbosa after throwing away an inbounds pass.

Coach Mike Woodson had a long talk with Smith afterward and admonished him in the media, saying he needed to be "more professional.''

“I told him I’m going to continue to coach him as long as I’m coaching the team,’’ Woodson said in April. “I told him I’m not going to let him off the hook."

Back then, Woodson even took note of Smith's fashion style, which often consists of sagging pants.

"I want his shorts pulled up," Woodson said. I want him to look presentable. Be a professional. That’s what it’s all about.

"On the floor, I expect him to be more professional. I want him to be a pro. That’s my job as a coach. I’ve dealt with so many young players over the years. That’s one thing you got to teach some of them. It’s not just playing on the floor. It’s how you present yourself off the floor as well.’’

Paint Project Underway On Bronx Side of Throgs Neck

Have you seen the oversized white cocoon enveloping the Throgs Neck Bridge near Ferry Point in the Bronx?
Well, it is part of a $47 million rehabilitation project that will remove the last lead paint from the bridge, clean and repair steel and apply new paint to the structure.

Throgs Neck containment area image
The work begins in early June and the white cocoon that is already going up is a fully sealed, environmental containment system where the sanding, blasting and repainting will take place in accordance with city, state and federal regulations.

During the paint removal, negative air pressure is maintained inside the containment to prevent dust and other particulates from escaping. Continuous environmental monitoring will be performed throughout the project, including air, noise and visible inspections of the containment system.

A total of 2.5 million square feet of steel on the Bronx approach of the bridge will be cleaned and repainted using about 45,000 gallons of paint. The work will be done through November this year, and again from March to November in 2013. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by early 2014.

“The abrasive blasting to remove the old paint is noisy and we ask for our Bronx neighbors' patience while this necessary work is being done,” said Facility Engineer Ed Knightly. “The best news is that once this project is completed, the entire bridge will be lead free and it will not need to be repainted for at least another 20 years.”

The work will be done Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays to make up any rainy days during the week. In an effort to be a good neighbor, contractor Ahern Painting of Queens will begin Saturday work at 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.

This is the last phase of an overall, $100 million paint program at the Throgs Neck Bridge, which began in 2006 and has included cleaning and painting the bridge's suspended spans, towers and the Queens approach structures.

Keeping bridges properly painted is critical to keeping them in a state of good repair. The paint, which is specially designed for use on bridges, protects the steel structures against corrosion.

More travelers to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend

More Americans will hit the road this holiday weekend than a year ago. And they'll have a bit more
money to spend thanks to lower gas prices.

Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season, and since pump prices never reached $4 or $5 a gallon, as feared, economists says travelers are likely to dine out or shop more once they pull off the road.

About 30.7 million people will drive more than 50 miles for Memorial Day trips, according to auto club AAA. That's 400,000 more than last year, a jump AAA attributes to improvement in the economy and consumer attitudes.

The number of holiday travelers grows to 34.8 million when you include planes, trains and other means of transportation.

A drop in gas prices encouraged Americans to spend more at restaurants and bars in April. And that trend could continue over the holiday. Pump prices are down 27 cents since their peak in early April, to $3.67 a gallon, where they're likely to stay this weekend, predicts Tom Kloza, the chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. That's 12 cents cheaper than last year. Over the weekend, U.S. drivers will burn about 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline — and spend $144 million less on gas than last year.

Restaurants, movie theaters and retailers hope some of that savings goes to them. Just last month, AAA and IHS Global Insight, the firm that analyzed the AAA study, were expecting travelers to spend less on entertainment, dining and shopping on vacation and devote more time to family and friends. .

Now, travelers might take longer trips or spend more on other things "because there's more money left in their pocket," says John Larson, vice president for IHS.

Still, most people need to restrict their travel budgets. For many, incomes are growing slightly if at all. Household debt remains high. And although the increase in the stock market over the past year has helped some regain wealth lost in the recession, there is still a ways to go. A recent report from the Federal Reserve shows that American household wealth would have to rise by 13 percent to return to pre-recession levels.

While drivers may feel relief at the pump, gas still isn't cheap. Besides last year, the only other time gas was more expensive on Memorial Day was 2008, when it eventually climbed to a record of $4.11 per gallon. This year, gas shot up by 66 cents from January through early April because of a spike in oil prices.

As a result, many people were skittish about planning long road trips. Half of those surveyed by AAA said they'll travel less than 400 miles. They might be tempted to drive farther — a fill up costs about $4 to $5 less than in early April when gas peaked at an average of $3.94. But they'll burn through that savings after about 30 to 40 miles.

Douglas Berkley, Jr., of Cranberry Township, Pa. drives his family 90 miles to a family house on Indian Lake in Shanksville, Pa. most summer weekends, including Memorial Day. He hasn't noticed much of a drop in prices — it still costs him about $80 to fill his Chevy Tahoe. "Any little bit helps, though, obviously," he says.

How far people travel might also depend on where they live. The difference in gas prices around the country is far wider than normal this year, Kloza says. In states like South Carolina, drivers could be paying as low as $3.10. Meanwhile, refinery problems on the West Coast — where prices usually exceed the national average anyway — have kept prices especially high there. West Coast drivers could be paying as much as $4.50 per gallon this weekend.

Thom Rasmussen of Battle Ground, Wash. would have driven 100 miles southwest to Lincoln City, Oregon and rented a hotel near the coast. Except that gas has risen to $4.33 per gallon where he lives.

The retired truck maker now plans to "rent a bunch of movies" with his wife. He'll consider making the trip this summer if gas falls below $4.

Some people who would normally stuff suitcases in overhead bins are packing them in car trunks.

They're balking at higher ticket prices, and AAA forecasts a 5.5 percent decline in air travel within the U.S. this Memorial Day. U.S. airlines spent 8 percent more on fuel in the first quarter, on top of a 26 percent increase last year, government data show. They're passing that expense along to passengers.

The average airfare for North American flights: $291.04 per round trip, including taxes, according to travel site That's up 23 percent from last year.

Memorial Day travel is usually a good proxy for the summer. Alan Pisarski, independent consultant for the tourism industry, expects summer travel to be about flat compared with last year. Pisarski says concerns about the economy, primarily about jobs and housing, will keep many people at home.

Others will likely travel less than they'd planned.

Douglas Frechtling, chair of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at George Washington University, is more optimistic. He thinks the drop in unemployment, higher incomes and the drop in gas prices will encourage more people to travel. The increase will be just a "few" percent.

But that's important for travel destinations like Provincetown Mass. on the tip of Cape Cod, and Ocean City, Md., where motels and restaurants were forced to close during the economic downturn.

AAA doesn't expect a significant pick up in travel until employment, incomes and consumer spending show greater gains and the housing market turns around. It sees signs of that happening next year. For now, travel remains well below the pre-recession peak of 2005, when 44 million people traveled for Memorial Day weekend.

At least that's good news for people who hate overcrowded beaches. 

Brandon J.’s News opinion: Subway grades?

Written by head writer/reporter Brandon Julien, follow him on twitter @Brandonjnews

The MTA has always given me ideas for some of these little opinion pieces. I’ve heard of some good ideas like +Selectbusservice, and then I’ve heard of some really bad ideas. That list is actually too long to count. But this idea is one I actually have not thought about. Actually, it’s an idea that nobody thought of.
According to amNewYork, Councilman Peter Koo made the suggestion to MTA officials during a joint hearing between the council's finance and transportation committees Wednesday, after griping about conditions at the nearby Park Place station.

"We grade the restaurants, right? A, B, C, D. So we should rate all the stations in the MTA system," Koo (D-Queens) said.

Transportation chair James Vacca was quick to second Koo's impromptu proposal, exclaiming, "That's a good idea!"

"Why can't we rate stations on cleanliness, rats, water, garbage, graffiti?" he asked. Vacca said he would draft a resolution to call for the grading system along with Koo and Domenic Recchia, who heads the council's finance committee. The only problem with Vacca’s idea is that the council could not pass legislation requiring the agency to post grades, since the MTA is a state agency.

Another problem with this idea is that the MTA quickly rejected the council's station grading idea, saying it already provides monthly statistics about the appearance, equipment and information on its subway lines and the stations - which are broken down borough by borough, not by station as the council members said they want.

"The MTA already publishes an array of statistics on station cleanliness" spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. "We leave it to our customers to determine for themselves the cleanliness of a station without the need for letter grades."

Now I personally think that it’s a good idea because some of the worst stations can be fixed for things like chipping paint, station announcements, cleanliness, etc. So in that case, they should go over to 8th Avenue and 116th Street and start there because I really want some subway announcements over there (so I don’t have to guess where the train is).

But I want you to pay important attention to this part, because this is really important. The council members suggested the MTA should conduct the tests and grade themselves on their own - unlike restaurants, which are graded by city inspectors. The council also said the cash-strapped MTA - not the city - should pay for the tests. Recchia added that if the tests were done in an unsatisfactory manner, the council could consider holding hostage some of the $786 million the city gives to the MTA.

For those who didn’t read that correctly, the city council might hold hostage some of the $786 million the city gives to the MTA. And trust me, the MTA needs that money like Barrack Obama needs to get re-elected in November. If I were to do this grading system, it would be A for excellent, B for great, C for satisfactory, D for needs improvement, and F for really needs work.

And in case you want to know where this idea came from, that’s a good question. The idea quickly formed during a testy meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Council members were annoyed with statements made earlier in the day by MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, who questioned the necessity of having MTA representatives attend a budget hearing.

"There is no discretionary funding that is coming from the city," Lhota said, adding that the money the agency gets is mandated by law or contract. "We are a great place to put discretionary money," Lhota added.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, which has done its own station inspections, said letter grading might hold the MTA more accountable for station conditions.

"I think they could do it, and maybe the council should fund it," Russianoff said, adding that the MTA already looks for signage and proper garbage disposal, like restaurant inspectors do.

But Russianoff acknowledged that some straphangers are stuck with their local subway station even if it is filthy, since there may not be any other alternative.

The letter grades, he said, would be "more like a scarlet letter. It would motivate transit officials to try to manage their way to doing the best job they could to keep the stations clean."

I’ll keep you posted on this story.

For Brandon J.’s News, I’m Brandon Julien.

Pope's butler allegedly arrested in Vatican leaks probe

VATICAN CITY -- Vatican police Friday arrested a man who reportedly is the pope's butler on allegations he leaked confidential documents and letters from the pontiff's private study to newspapers.

The man was caught in possession of secret documents, the Vatican said, but it would not confirm the suspect's identity, age, or when he had been arrested.

"The inquiry carried out by Vatican police ... allowed them to identify someone in possession of confidential documents. This person is currently being questioned," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.

According to Il Foglio newspaper and ANSA news agency, the detained man is the pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, a member of the small team that works daily in Pope Benedict XVI's apartments.

The Italian daily said he is likely to be used by the Vatican as "a handy scapegoat" for several others suspected of being involved in leaking documents, some of which ended up in a new book published a week ago.

Gianluigi Nuzzi's "His Holiness" reproduces dozens of top secret and private letters and faxes that were smuggled out by whistle-blowers tired of the alleged corruption and bitterness in the Vatican.

The number of people who have access to the pope's private study is very limited, and includes his butler, four nuns and Benedict's two secretaries, Georg Gaenswein and Alfred Xuereb.

Last month, the pope set up a special commission of cardinals to probe the leaks, which began in January and have seen private documents splashed in the Italian media -- to the embarrassment and rage of the Holy See.

Among papers leaked to Italy's press are some that have dealt with allegations of corruption within the Vatican.

They have mainly centered on the activities of the Vatican bank and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The arrest came a day after the head of the Vatican Bank was ousted for failing to clean up the image of the institution.

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was thrown out by the bank's board for failing to do his job -- but had also recently been suspected of being one of those behind the leaks.

Knicks name Mike Woodson permanent head coach

The Knicks finally made it official tonight, naming Mike Woodson their permanent head coach, removing the interim tag.

“Mike took over the team under challenging circumstances and made it clear, starting on day one, that he was going to hold every player on our roster accountable,” said Knicks owner James Dolan in a statement. “We saw a significant improvement since Mike took over and believe our team will only keep improving under Mike’s direction.”

Woodson is believed to have been awarded a three-year deal, which is the amount of years left on Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire's pact. Woodson took over the reigns March 14th after Mike D'Antoni resigned and reeled off an 18-6 record, guiding the Knicks into the playoffs. It was the second-best record over that period in the league next to San Antonio. The Knicks did not conduct a search, failing to call Phil Jackson, who sources said had interest.

"Mike has the respect of every person in this organization,'' Knicks GM Glen Grunwald said in the statement. "He and his staff led the team in an impressive push into the playoffs over the last 24 games and we believe he is the right man to lead the franchise as we move forward.''

The Knicks were ousted in the first round by Miami in five games after a mountain of injuries befell the club. "Our goal is to build off the success we had at the end of last season and to continue our quest of bringing an NBA championshhip to the Garden.''

When asked on a conference call about Dolan not contacting Phil Jackson, Woodson said, "Coach Jackson is a tremendous coach. I knows his name was mentioned a lot. That was not my concern. My concern was coaching the Knicks. Mr. Dolan decided to bring me back. I’m very, very happy Mr. Dolan gave me this opportunity.’’

Grunwald said on the conference call Jackson wasn’t considered after their first interview after the season.

“Woody earned the right to be the first person we talked to and turned out the only person we talked to because our discussion with him after the season really reflected why he was so successful during the season,'' Grunwald said. "We thought he was the right guy for this team at this time. Obviously there were names out there, had we opened up the search, that would’ve been called, namely Phil Jackson, the most successful coach in NBA history. But we felt Woody was our guy. We told Woody he'd get first crack at the job and he hit it out of the park.''’

Etan Patz 'killer' charged with second-degree murder in hospital arraignment

The former SoHo bodega stock boy who confessed to murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz was charged with second-degree murder tonight after being taken to Bellevue Hospital and temporarily placed on suicide watch, authorities said.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, wore an orange jumpsuit and had his hands cuffed behind his back, FOX News Channel reported. His lawyer, Harvey Feinstein, was by his side and a police officer in front of him
in a hospital conference room.

The official complaint charging murder in the second degree said Hernandez strangled Etan and placed his body in a plastic bag.
Hernandez told cops yesterday he had never seen Etan before that day — but once he spotted him, “I knew he was the one . . . [I] just felt the urge to kill,” according to a law-enforcement source.

At 5:30 a.m. today, after being in police custody for more than 24 hours, Hernandez was taken to the hospital, saying he was depressed, off his psych meds and threatened to "kill himself," a source told The New York Post.

Hernandez's arraignment comes 33 years to the exact day since Etan disappeared.

Hernandez told cops he lured the child “with the promise of a soda, and led him to the basement of the bodega, and strangled him there,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Hernandez then placed Etan’s body in a bag, took it about a block and a half away and left it “with the trash,” Kelly said.

Hernandez denied sexually abusing the boy, but investigators are skeptical, sources said.

In his written confession, Hernandez stated, “I’m sorry, I shoke [sic] him,” the sources said.

The arrest of the married New Jersey dad — who was 18 when Etan was killed — brought a sense of closure to the boy’s long-suffering parents.

Stan and Julie Patz were in Boston at the time of the arrest, but cops informed them of the dramatic development. “Mr. Patz was taken aback, a little surprised and overwhelmed,” said Lt. Christopher Zimmerman, head of the NYPD’s Missing Persons Squad.

Patz's parents returned to their SoHo apartment this afternoon. They have not commented on Hernandez's arrest.

Hernandez’s name was included in a detective’s report when the case broke, but was not questioned until Wednesday.

The cancer-stricken Hernandez, a churchgoing teetotaler, was identified as a suspect in the past month by a member of his family after news broke that investigators were digging up a former handyman’s basement on Prince Street in late April.

Nothing was found there, but the search prompted Hernandez’s brother-in-law, José Lopez, to call the NYPD and tell them that Hernandez had admitted killing an unnamed child shortly after Etan vanished, sources said.

Relieved SoHo residents said last night that the abrupt conclusion of their neighborhood’s most notorious mystery brought both satisfaction and rage.

Hernandez first told relatives in 1981 he “had done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,” Kelly said.

Hernandez was picked up Wednesday at his home in Maple Shade, NJ, where he lives with his college-student daughter, Becky, 20, and his second wife, Rosemary.

Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez's court-appointed lawyer, asked reporters to respect the privacy of his client's family as they waited inside Manhattan Criminal Court this morning.

"It's a tough day," he said. "The family is very upset. Please give them some space."

With NewsCore

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Liddi's slam sends Millwood, Mariners to win

SEATTLE -- Veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood continued his run of recent excellence with six shutout innings Wednesday and Alex Liddi supplied the offensive support with a grand slam as the Mariners topped Texas, 5-3, at Safeco Field.

Liddi, a converted third baseman making his second start in left field, torched a line drive just over the scoreboard in left for his first career slam in the fifth inning as Seattle won for the fifth time in its last six games.

Liddi became just the second Italian-born Major Leaguer to hit a grand slam, joining the Tigers' Reno Bertoia from 1958. He got a curtain call from the Safeco crowd of 23,097, tipping his cap after being shoved out of the dugout by teammate Justin Smoak.

"It felt pretty good," the 23-year-old rookie said. "It was a good moment. Obviously, you see the big-time guys doing it and when you do it, it's a good thing."

Millwood, 37, gave up just three hits with one walk and had two strikeouts to move past Catfish Hunter into 64th on MLB's all-time strikeout list with 2,013.

Texas scored three runs in the eighth off reliever Tom Wilhelmsen before Brandon League came on in the ninth for his ninth save.

Millwood has been outstanding his last three starts, including a two-hit shutout at Colorado in his previous outing on Friday. But this was easily his best start at Safeco Field, where he was 0-2 with a 10.05 ERA in his first three games as opposed to 2-2 with a 1.78 ERA in five road appearances.

Millwood has thrown 17 straight scoreless innings and is 3-4 with a 3.72 ERA after starting the season 0-4 with a 5.88 ERA in his first six starts.

"I think the biggest thing is just confidence has been building the last couple weeks, so when I got out there, it just felt like I was going to have a good game and throw the ball well," said Millwood, who still knows most of the Rangers from his time with Texas from 2006-09. "When I missed, guys made good plays or they just fouled it off. Confidence goes a long way in this game and that's kind of what I'm working on right now."

The Mariners won the series with Texas, improving to 21-25 on the season heading into a four-game Safeco set with the Angels. Seattle is 3-4 vs. the Rangers this season after finishing 4-15 against them a year ago.

Texas (27-18) totaled just seven runs and 16 hits in the three games against the Mariners, whose starters are 5-2 with a 1.42 ERA over the past seven outings. Millwood is 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in his own last three starts and the Rangers came away impressed.

"For some reason, my timing always seems off against him," left fielder David Murphy said. "He's not much to figure out -- he's always been fastball, curve, slider and changeup. But he's a veteran who knows how to pitch and has been doing it for a long time.

"He's had our number and he's in our division, so we're going to face him a lot and we have to make an adjustment. He also caught us at a time when our offense is not producing the way we're capable of. But you have to give him credit."

Seattle managed just four hits for the game, three coming against starter Scott Feldman, but they took advantage of five walks in his 4 1/3 innings to score five times.

Liddi's slam -- the second of the season for Seattle -- certainly helped. The big Italian cleared the bases after Michael Saunders walked, Mike Carp flared a single just over shortstop Elvis Andrus and Dustin Ackley was intentionally walked after an error on a pickoff attempt at second base had pushed both runners into scoring position.

"That was huge," Millwood siad. "One run against those guys, you never ever feel comfortable. For him to put us up 5-0 let me relax a little and let our offense and defense relax and we could all just go out and play the game."

Liddi missed a fly ball in the corner by Yorvit Torrealba for a two-base error leading off the third. But Millwood stranded Torrealba at third to escape any harm, and the youngster more than made up for that with his bat.

Liddi doubled in the first inning and went 2-for-3 with a walk. He's hitting .273 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 77 at-bats.

"He's still a young hitter, learning how to hit," manager Eric Wedge said. "But the ball comes off his bat as good or better than anybody we have."

Feldman, starting in place of Mariners nemesis Neftali Feliz, walked the first three batters in the second inning and Saunders drove one run in on a sacrifice fly to center, but that was the only damage the Mariners could do with that opportunity as they finished the day 1-for-8 with runners in scoring

The one, of course, was Liddi's slam. And that was enough to help Seattle snap a string of five straight series losses to the two-time defending American League champions.

Feldman's spot start spoiled by Seattle slam

SEATTLE -- Scott Feldman needs better command of all his pitches if he's going to stay in the Rangers' rotation. He had that command in Spring Training, but it has escaped him during the past six weeks of erratic use as a spot starter and long reliever.

The question is whether the Rangers will give him the regular work as a starter while Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list to allow him to regain his command. That's something they intend to discuss before Feldman's scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday against the Mariners.

But manager Ron Washington wasn't ready to put the entire blame on Feldman after the Rangers finished their road trip with a 5-3 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday. Feldman did give up a grand slam to Alex Liddi, but the Rangers' offense didn't help matters by being held scoreless for six innings by former teammate Kevin Millwood.
"I don't think you can put what happened today all on Scott," Washington said. "He made a bad pitch to Liddi, but he made a ton of good pitches, too. We have a decision to make and we'll make it, but you can't put all of that on Scott."
Just as costly as the grand slam were five walks issued by Feldman, including one that was intentional.
"Walking that many guys, I was dodging bullets the whole day and they finally got me in the fifth inning," Feldman said. "Bad command. I've got to get back to where I was when I left [Spring Training] and I had confidence in all my pitches.
"There were some positives. My fastball was decent, but my other pitches, I didn't have the command. I'm going to work hard the next few days between starts and work on that, maybe an extra bullpen [session] or throw to some live hitters."
The Rangers haven't announced whether Feldman will start on Tuesday, but they don't have much choice otherwise. Alexi Ogando isn't stretched out and there are no attractive alternatives at Triple-A.

Roy Oswalt is unsigned and the Rangers have interest, but he isn't close to being ready to pitch in a Major League game.

"We haven't talked about it yet," Washington said. "We'll just wait and see when we start to talk."
The Mariners were in need of starting pitching depth this winter, so they signed Millwood to a Minor League contract and then put him in their rotation at the end of Spring Training. He has pitched twice against the Rangers this season and has allowed just one run in 12 innings.
"When you face a lineup that good, you focus more, which is kind of bad to say because you should probably focus like that against every lineup," Millwood said. "But when you have one through nine that can do damage, it makes you try to lock in even more, and I think that's what we've done."
The Rangers managed just three hits and a walk through six innings against Millwood. He struck out two in winning his third straight start. He has allowed one run in his last 22 innings.

"To me, for some reason, my timing always seems off against him," Rangers left fielder David Murphy said. "He's not much to figure out -- he's always been fastball, curve, slider and changeup. But he's a veteran who knows how to pitch and has been doing it for a long time. He's had our number and he's in our division so we're going to face him a lot so we have to make an adjustment."
Millwood isn't the only pitcher who has thrown the ball well of late against the Rangers. In their last 10 games, the Rangers are hitting .243 with a .293 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage while averaging 3.5 runs per game. They didn't score on Wednesday until the eighth inning.
"We're not swinging the bats the way we're capable of right now," designated hitter Michael Young said. "We've got to stay the course. That's what the big league season is all about. When things don't go your way, you stay with it and play hard. Our confidence is still high as a team and we expect things to go our way."
Feldman's troubles started when he walked the first three batters in the second inning and then Michael Saunders gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. Feldman was able to escape further damage by retiring Mike Carp on a popout and Brendan Ryan on a grounder.
He retired the side in order in the third and fourth before walking Saunders to start the fifth. Carp followed with a single to left. A botched pickoff moved runners to second and third. Ryan grounded out to shortstop without the runners advancing and then Dustin Ackley was intentionally walked to load the bases. The obvious idea was to get an inning-ending double play out of Liddi, and Feldman threw a first-pitch sinker.
"I was trying to go down and in, and get him to roll it over," Feldman said. "I got it up."
He did and Liddi crushed it over the left-field fence for a grand slam.
"He'd been throwing a pretty good sinker down in the zone," Liddi said. "I think he wanted me to hit a ground ball, so I was looking for a pitch up that I could hit a fly ball or drive it."
Feldman needed better command of his pitches. That will decide whether he can fill this spot in the rotation. The Rangers have much to talk about.   

Secret Service director apologizes for hooker scandal

WASHINGTON — Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologized Wednesday to lawmakers for misconduct by agents involved in an alleged prostitution scandal last month in Colombia.

Sullivan, speaking publicly for the first time since the April 12 incident, said the investigation found no indication there was a breach of operational security for President Barack Obama's arrival later that week in Cartagena, Colombia.

Sullivan testified at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing.

Twelve employees were pulled from duty following allegations that some brought back prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena days before Obama arrived for the Summit of the Americas. The incident became public after one of the men got into a payment dispute with one of the women at the hotel.

Nine agents were later found to be involved in serious misconduct and three were cleared of serious wrongdoing, the Secret Service said.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the committee, said the initial investigation found that the men went out in "groups of two, three, and four -- to four different nightclubs that evening. After considerable drinking, they returned to their rooms at the El Caribe Hotel with women they had met at the clubs -- some of whom were prostitutes."

The Secret Service has said the incident was an aberration and did not represent a pattern of conduct condoned by managers.

However, former employees have said agents routinely used the term "wheels up, rings off," to describe how men on foreign assignments would make their wedding rings optional.

At the hearing, Sullivan stood by the agency's contention that the behavior in Cartagena was unusual.

"The notion that this type of behavior is condoned or authorized is just absurd," he said.

Lieberman and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, told Sullivan they had doubts.

"It is hard for many people, including me, to believe that on one night in April 2012, in Cartagena, Colombia, 11 Secret Service agents -- there to protect the president -- suddenly and spontaneously did something they or other agents had never done before," Lieberman said.

Sullivan submitted prepared testimony that showed the agency could find no information to substantiate another alleged 2011 incident in El Salvador reported by a Seattle television station.

The report said agents went to strip clubs and may have paid for sex.

Parker's outstanding effort goes for naught

OAKLAND -- The A's did something Wednesday they didn't the night before. They scored a run.But it wasn't enough to prevent their second straight loss, as they dropped a 3-1 decision and the three-game set to the Angels, despite a stellar bounce-back performance from righty Jarrod Parker.

Parker, who gave up six runs in just two innings while pitching ill in his last start, appeared healthier than ever, showcasing his best fastball of the season -- hitting 95 mph multiple times during the day -- while limiting the Halos to one run and five hits with a career-high eight strikeouts over seven innings.

"I thought that was his best start of the year," manager Bob Melvin said. "His velocity climbed back up, he had good touch with all of his pitches. That's the guy we envisioned him being as far as stuff goes, and he had a confident look on his face."

But Parker's outing was seemingly all but forgotten by the time Alberto Callaspo stepped to the plate against lefty reliever Jordan Norberto with runners at the corners in the 11th inning of a 1-1 game and notched a two-run double.

Aside from Seth Smith's homer run to center field in the sixth, snapping a string of 19 scoreless innings for the A's, Oakland's hitters looked their sluggish selves. Angels righty Jered Weaver, meanwhile, looked his dominant self in eight innings of one-run ball, and the combination didn't bode well for the home team, which has just six hits over the last 25 innings.

The last two games have brought about just four, with the A's tallying only one against C.J. Wilson on Tuesday, before collecting just three with Weaver on the mound. Overall, they're batting a dismal .172 with 27 runs scored over the last 11 games, and their next task following Thursday's off-day is a three-game series with the Yankees.

"There's no doubt both guys threw the ball really well but, offensively as a ballclub, you gotta still make things happen," said A's shortstop Cliff Pennington. "They both were really hitting their spots, ahead in the count all day long, but at the same time you gotta be able to find a way to scratch and claw, especially when your guy did what Parker did. You gotta find a way to get a run or two across for him."

"Offensively, we obviously have to get better," said designated hitter Jonny Gomes. "We're going to put a lot of weight on our starting pitchers, and I think they know that. We've run into some good pitching and we've got some good pitching coming into town, but at the same time this is the big leagues. We've got to get back to being scrappy, putting some guys on, running around and touching the plate more than they do."

The loss marked the club's sixth in nine games, further magnifying the absences of injured Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Inge, both of whom are expected back within the next week. Not too soon after, Oakland could welcome in Manny Ramirez.

"That has something to do with it," Melvin said. "Inge, when he was here, was having a lot of production for us and, certainly, Yoenis is a guy in the middle of the order for us. We got Coco [Crisp] back but, still, it's no excuse. We got four hits in two games.

"We're not stringing enough hits together, getting guys on base. What do we have? One hit last night, three today, and one of them leaves the ballpark for the only run. So we just gotta swing the bats better."

To Weaver's credit, the veteran right-hander has dominated the A's, pitching to a 2.63 ERA in 22 career starts against them. In two games this season, he's allowed just two earned runs over 14 2/3 innings.

"For us to battle, obviously their guy did a tremendous job of throwing strikes and keeping us off balance," Weaver said. "We were able to get to the bullpen there in the last inning and push some across."

"Against a guy like Weaver, you gotta take your singles," Melvin said. "He made one bad pitch today, and that ended up leaving the ballpark. Other than that, our guys were coming back saying, 'God, I wish he made one mistake.' And, really, all he did was make one mistake, and that was to Smith."

The A's know, though, they can't keep playing the waiting game.

"It's our turn to make an adjustment," Gomes said. "It's not like we're a bad team, by any means. We're not getting run out of the stadium every night. These games are close. We're in every game. We have to find a way to get runners on, and do whatever it takes."

Callaspo delivers when Angels need it most

OAKLAND -- The struggling Angels' offense, which showed signs of breaking out of its funk in a win over the A's on Tuesday night, was back to its usual anemic self on Wednesday afternoon in the rubber match of the teams' three-game series.

But despite wasting another brilliant start from right-hander Jered Weaver, Los Angeles did just enough to take home the 3-1 win in 11 innings, securing the series victory and improving the team's record in deciding games to 2-4.

With no runs or hits tallied by either team since the sixth inning, Wednesday's game became a race to see which mediocre offense could push something across. The Angels finally did in the 11th off A's left-hander Jordan Norberto.

Alberto Callaspo doubled with two outs and runners on the corners, plating Peter Bourjos (pinch-running for Kendrys Morales) and Howie Kendrick and finally breaking the 1-1 tie that had gripped the game for five innings.

"We're doing what we need do," said right-hander Ernesto Frieri, who worked the bottom of the 11th for his first career save. "I think things are trending positive right now, and we just got to keep playing baseball. This is not an easy game. You've got to take every day one game at a time, and that's what we're doing right now."

For a while, it looked as if Weaver would just win the game himself. After allowing eight runs in a loss to Texas on May 13, the 29-year-old pitched like an ace for the second straight start, spinning eight innings of one-run, three-hit ball.

Weaver looked to have a significant chance to collect his second shutout of the season against a team that he has dominated in the past. He came into the affair with a 2.71 career ERA in 21 starts against Oakland, and lowered that mark to 2.63 with his performance on Wednesday.

Weaver's strong start came a day after left-hander C.J. Wilson one-hit the A's over eight shutout innings. Oakland has now scored just 27 runs over its last 11 games.

"There's no doubt both guys threw the ball really well, but offensively, as a ballclub, you got to still make things happen." said A's shortstop Cliff Pennington. "They both were really hitting their spots, ahead in the count all day long, but at the same time you got to be able to find a way to scratch and claw, especially when your guy did what Parker did."

The Angels looked just as poor at the plate against Oakland starter Jarrod Parker, who bounced back from the worst outing of his young career to spin seven innings of five-hit, one run baseball, striking out eight. Manager Mike Scioscia said his team's lack of offense made Weaver's job more difficult.

"He just keeps pitching," Scioscia said. "It's not easy to pitch with your back against the wall. It isn't. There are things that he had to do in the game a little earlier that he might not have wanted to do if we had a 2-0 or 3-0 lead, instead of a 1-0 lead."

That 1-0 lead disappeared when the punchless A's lineup managed to make things interesting. Seth Smith hit a changeup out of the park to center field with two outs in the sixth inning, tying the game at 1.

Aside from the run Los Angeles pushed across in the top of the third thanks to Maicer Izturis' RBI single, the team couldn't manage much offense against Parker or the three A's pitchers who followed him. Albert Pujols grounded out with Bobby Wilson on second base to end the third, and Morales lined out with two runners on in the top of the eighth off right-hander Ryan Cook, ending the only other minor threat the Angels had.

But Los Angeles finally produced in the 11th, and Frieri, who still hasn't allowed a hit in his stint with the team, closed it out. Despite the continued struggles at the plate, the Angels came through when it mattered most to get a much-needed win. It was both their first extra-inning victory and their first in their last at-bat all season.

"Obviously, we haven't played to the level we need to or want to, but we're not looking for instant gratification," Scioscia said. "We're looking for the grind. You want to keep pounding, and then maybe 30 days from now, see what the standings are, or 60 days from now."

Second suspect nabbed in blind woman's mugging

The second of three suspects who mugged a blind woman in a Forest Hills subway station has been nabbed, police said.

Cops arrested Latisha Richardson, 39, today and charged her with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and jostling for allegedly robbing the 68-year-old victim as she walked with her guide dog in the subway below Queens Boulevard on April 16.

Richardson and two accomplices targeted the disabled woman near the F-train, snatched her wallet and used her stolen credit cards at local stores, cops said.

One accomplice, Michael Peoples, 45, was arrested April 24. A third accomplice remains on the lam.

B.J. comes through for Rays in 11th for walk-off

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays outfielder B.J. Upton had heard the rumors that teammate Rich Thompson was fast, and he was proven right on Wednesday.

Upton hit a liner to left field off Darren Oliver and Thompson scored from first in the bottom of the 11th inning at Tropicana Field in front of a crowd of 11,471 fans to give Tampa Bay a 5-4 walk-off victory over Toronto in the rubber match between the American League East rivals.

"I heard he could run, I just hadn't gotten the chance to see it," Upton said. "I hit that ball out there and thought it would be second and third with one out. ... It kinda blew my mind when he made it to the plate."

Thompson said after the game that he knew his teammates hadn't seen his speed, but he was more than happy to show it off when it counted.

"I got a really good break," Thompson said. "That ball was hit high enough that I was just going as soon as I saw it off the bat. I got a good jump and didn't look back. I got the go-ahead. I've got my eyes on the third-base coach the whole time, just hoping that he'll send me."

Upton has settled into a groove as of late and is 10-for-22 with five extra-base hits, including two home runs in his last five games. The hot streak has helped the 27-year-old raise his average to .300, and Rays manager Joe Maddon said he's doing a good job deciding when to be aggressive.

"He started out being more on the passive side, then maybe too much of the aggressive side, but he's finding his happy medium right now," Maddon said. "He gets it. He's got a good look about him and his work has been great."

Jose Bautista struck in the first for the game's first run when he sent a homer over the left-field wall for his 12th of the year. He ended up going 2-for-4 with two runs.

The lead for the Blue Jays wouldn't last for long, as Tampa Bay came back in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Pena walked to lead off the inning and after Upton struck out, Matt Joyce also took a base on balls. New cleanup man Drew Sutton doubled to center field, scoring two runs.

The Rays added another run in the bottom of the third, when Joyce hit a grounder to first base with one out and men on second and third, scoring Pena. Sutton followed that with a walk to put runners on the corners for Luke Scott, who grounded into a RBI fielder's choice for a 4-1 Rays lead.

Toronto got one of the runs back in the top of the fifth inning. Brett Lawrie singled to lead off before another Rays error -- the 41st in 45 games -- allowed Colby Rasmus to reach base and Lawrie to advance to third. Yan Gomes hit a sacrifice fly to center field, bringing in Lawrie to pull the Blue Jays to within two runs.

In the top of the eighth, Bautista hit a double with one out. Maddon opted to go to his bullpen -- starter James Shields racked up 10 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings -- and reliever Joel Peralta promptly gave up a home run to Edwin Encarnacion to even the score at 4.

"I thought James Shields was really, really good," Maddon said about his starter, who got a no-decision after the home run. "He deserves a better fate than that."

Tampa Bay nearly avoided having to go to extra innings as Pena walked and Upton singled with one out in the ninth before Joyce struck out. Sutton fell behind in the count early, but battled back and hit a sharp grounder to the first-base side and made it to the bag with no one covering first, but Pena was thrown out at the plate by Omar Vizquel.

"It was just one of those unorthodox plays, but I'm glad we tried it," Pena said.

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero dealt with control issues all game, giving up four runs on a career-high seven walks and two hits, but he had seven strikeouts. His seven walks were the most by a Blue Jays pitcher since Dustin McGowan had eight in 2008.

"I beat myself -- again," Romero said. "They didn't beat me, I beat myself. That's kind of been the story of my season. I've beaten myself more than other teams have beaten me."

Blue Jays fall in extras after wild Romero start

ST. PETERSBURG -- A high number of walks is proving to be the Blue Jays' biggest weakness on the mound this season.
Toronto's inability to control the strike zone has been its undoing on multiple occasions and continues to be a problem that isn't going away. The club entered play against the Rays with a league high 172 walks and that number got a lot worse on Wednesday afternoon.

The Blue Jays issued 10 base on balls and hit two batters in a game that was settled in the 11th inning, when Darren Oliver surrendered a walk-off double to B.J. Upton to send Toronto to a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

"When we're in the strike zone, we're recording outs consistently," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Four runs on two hits, you're contributing to an inning where they can manufacture some runs. It's certainly not something we're designing to do, and yet we've got to continue to work and gain consistency in a couple of areas."

Oliver opened the 11th inning by hitting left fielder Rich Thompson with a 1-1 fastball. It was the sixth time the Blue Jays started an inning by either walking or hitting a Rays player, and this one came back to haunt them.

Two batters later, Oliver worked the count to 2-2 before Upton ripped a shot into the corner in left field. Eric Thames retrieved the ball, but his throw back into the infield was well late as Thompson easily crossed home with the game-winning run.

"It looked like a good pitch to hit, so I swung at it," said Upton, whose club is 2-1 in extra-innings games this season. "Oliver has been good for a very long time, so I knew it was going to be a grind of an at-bat. I got the pitch I wanted and I kept it fair."

The Blue Jays fell behind early thanks in part to an inconsistent afternoon on the mound by Ricky Romero. Toronto's lefty entered the game having walked at least four batters in each of his past three starts. The lack of control continued against the Rays as Romero often had difficulty hitting the target set up by catcher J.P. Arencibia and walked a career-high seven batters.

The problems began in the first and were only compounded by a relatively tight strike zone from home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher. Romero issued free passes to two of the first three batters he faced, which set the table for a two-run double off the bat of third baseman Drew Sutton.

Romero escaped a jam in the second, but his woes continued in the third. The native of East Los Angeles hit Carlos Pena to lead off the frame and then surrendered a double to Upton to put runners at second and third with nobody out. Both Pena and Upton would come around to score on a pair of
grounders as Tampa Bay took a 4-1 lead.

"I can't explain it, I'm frustrated," said Romero, who was at a loss to explain the inconsistent location of his pitches. "I just have to keep working. The game takes a lot out of you -- mentally more than physically -- and it's gotten its toll on me, because I'm trying to fix things and it's just not going my way."

Toronto's No. 1 starter continued into the seventh inning before being pulled after another leadoff walk. Romero was charged with four runs on six hits while striking out seven and throwing 54 of his 105 pitches for strikes.

Romero has walked 21 batters over his past four starts and is averaging 5.1 per nine innings this season. He entered the year averaging 3.5 walks per nine for his career, and while Romero has recorded six quality starts in 10 outings this season, the walks are beginning to catch up to him.

"I've never gone through this in my career, ever," said Romero, who saw his ERA rise to 3.86. "I've never walked seven guys, six guys, in back-to-back-to-back outings. It's frustrating, it's really frustrating."

Jose Bautista gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a solo home run. His 12th of the season was his seventh over the past 13 games and went deep into the left-field seats. That also moved Bautista into a tie with Fred McGriff for eighth spot on the club's all-time home run list, with 125.

Toronto added another run in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by rookie Yan Gomes, but still trailed, 4-2, heading into the eighth. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion changed that with one swing of the bat as he sent a 2-1 curveball from reliever Joel Peralta into the seats in left for his 14th home run of the season.

The two-run shot tied the game at 4, but in the end, it wasn't enough as the Blue Jays missed an opportunity to win their first series at The Trop since April 2007. Toronto has lost 15 consecutive series to the Rays over that span at Tropicana Field and has lost 10 straight series overall to Tampa Bay.

"The team did a good job of battling back, but that's a tough Tampa team every time we play them, and it's just unfortunate to come up with the loss," Romero said.

"What'd they get, two hits [off me]? I beat myself -- again. They didn't beat me, I beat myself. That's kind of been the story of my season. I've beaten myself more than teams have beaten me."

Artist released after 'I Love NY' bags cause bomb scare

They just didn't get his art.

A Japanese furniture designer was released from jail today after his art installation featuring plastic "I Love NY" bags caused a bomb scare and got him arrested and locked up over the weekend.

"I am not sure they understood what it is," said a beaming Takeshi Miyakawa, who was locked up last Saturday. "They understood it's not a bomb at least."

The 50-year-old designer, who works for prominent Manhattan architect Rafael Vinoly, was charged with reckless endangerment for planting false bombs in illuminated plastic bags and ordered held for a mental examination.

But Brooklyn Justice William Garnett agreed to release Miyakawa, who will now undergo a mental examination in an outpatient facility. He is still charged with reckless endangerment and placing a false bomb.

"I feel great," said Miyakawa, who hugged dozens of supporters who packed a courtroom to hear his lawyer argue for his release.

"I just wanted to bring a piece of art to the street," he said.

Cops arrested Miyakawa early Saturday for hanging one of the illuminated "I Love NY" bags from a lamppost near McCarren Park in Williamsburg. A day earlier, cops had received a 911 call about a suspicious package attached to a tree on Bedford Avenue

"I was in shock," said the designer, who has a studio in Greenpoint. "But I was more in shock that people in Williamsburg were evacuated for two hours.

"I'm really shocked by that and I apologize."

MTA Seeking Two New Restaurants for Grand Central

For 15 years, the value of real estate in Grand Central Terminal has soared four-fold, and now, as the building prepares to turn 100 years old, the MTA has created two large new spaces to lease for the first time ever. The spaces are envisioned for sit-down restaurants.
Interior Shot of Grand Central Terminal
One new space, consisting of up to 12,300 square feet, includes the west side of Vanderbilt Hall, the former main waiting room, on 42nd Street. It is backed by a former beauty salon and has another entrance leading to the passageway that connects to the New York City Subway's 42nd Street Shuttle (S). The other site, consisting of 4,700 square feet, is an undeveloped area above the Grand Central Market with a balcony overlooking the eastern end of the market. Neither location has ever been offered for leasing to a permanent tenant.
The re-emergence of the Terminal as an increasingly popular retail destination and transportation hub has been mirrored by an increase in leasing revenue to the MTA. In 1994, before the renovation, the MTA earned $7 million in rent for retail space at Grand Central. By 2002, rental income reached $15 million from an array of 100 retail tenants. By 2011 the MTA nearly doubled the rent again, to $27 million.

"Grand Central will always be the greatest train station in the United States and the crown jewel of the MTA's transportation network," said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. "It's a focal point for the economic and social life of the region and a superb setting for the daily business of moving people. At the same time, over the past 15 years, it's also been transformed into one of the world's most well-known destinations for shopping and dining. These latest additions will only heighten its reputation."

"The built-in traffic at Grand Central makes these spectacular sites for food-service businesses," said Nancy Marshall, MTA's Director of Grand Central Terminal Development. "Vanderbilt Hall is visually stunning, and a restaurant above the vibrant Grand Central Market promises to have tremendous cachet."

Unique locations such as these have helped other popular Grand Central destinations to thrive, including the world famous Oyster Bar, which is tucked away in the lower level, and the trendy lounge Campbell Apartment, which occupies a secluded area accessible only from Vanderbilt Avenue.
The new restaurants, which will be available for 2013 openings, will benefit from increased foot traffic during the Terminal's centennial year, which kicks off in February. Centennial activities are planned throughout the Terminal and in Vanderbilt Hall all year long.

At Grand Central and throughout the transit system, whenever a retail space managed by the MTA becomes available, it is put out to bid on the open market pursuant to New York State law. Last year, Grand Central welcomed the country's largest Apple store and an outpost for shoes and fashion designer Vince Camuto. Shake Shack is slated to open soon.

"As the MTA strives to make every dollar count, we are looking to achieve the maximum economic return we can from each property that we control," said Jeff Rosen, MTA Director of Real Estate.

"The success we've had at Grand Central mirrors our efforts elsewhere, and shows the way forward for all our properties, large and small."

Over the past five years, some 45 retail leases in Grand Central have expired and been replaced by new leases. "Even in these lean economic times, each and every time we've had a lease expire, the bids have been above what the previous tenant was paying," Marshall said.

With 750,000 visitors per day, Grand Central Terminal is the second most-visited place in New York City after Times Square. It is the heart and hub of MTA Metro-North Railroad, the nation's busiest commuter railroad, which maintains the Terminal and operates 650 trains to and from it each day serving more than 200,000 passengers. MTA New York City Transit's adjoining subway complex is the second busiest in the New York City subway system, with five lines serving a combined average of 288,700 riders per day.