Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Young US Marine :: 1st Living Marine Honored in Decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday bestowed the highest U.S. military honor on Dakota Meyer, a young and humble Marine who defied orders and barreled straight into a ferocious “killing zone” in Afghanistan to save 36 lives at extraordinary risk to himself.

“You did your duty, above and beyond,” Obama told Meyer after reciting his dramatic story. Though the corporal and a fellow Marine were going against orders — commanders considered their effort too dangerous — they were doing what they thought was right, Obama said.

The president placed the Medal of Honor ribbon around Meyer’s neck, patted his back and shook his hand as the audience in the White House East Room applauded.

At age 21, Meyer charged through heavy insurgent gunfire on five death-defying trips in an armored Humvee to save 13 Marines and Army soldiers and an additional 23 Afghan troops pinned down by withering enemy fire.

Meyer killed at least eight insurgents despite suffering a shrapnel wound in his arm as he manned the gun turret of the Humvee and provided covering fire for the soldiers, according to the military.

He had been supporting a patrol on Sept. 8, 2009, into a village in the Ganjgal Valley on the day of the ambush.

Meyer and the other Americans had gone to the area to train Afghan military members when, suddenly, the village lights went out and gunfire erupted. About 50 Taliban insurgents on mountainsides and in the village ambushed the patrol.

As the forward team called for air support that wasn’t coming, Meyer, a corporal at the time, begged his command to let him head into the incoming fire to help.

Four times he was denied his request before Meyer and another Marine, Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, jumped into the Humvee and headed into the fray. For his valor, Rodriguez-Chavez, a 34-year-old who hailed originally from Acuna, Mexico, would be awarded the Navy Cross.

“They told him he couldn’t go in,” said Dwight Meyer, Dakota Meyer’s 81-year-old grandfather, a former Marine who served in the 1950s. “He told them, ‘The hell I’m not,’ and he went in. It’s a one-in-a-million thing” that he survived.

Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez began evacuating wounded Marines and American and Afghan soldiers to a safe point. Meyer made five trips into the kill zone, each time searching for the forward patrol with his Marine friends — including 1st Lt. Michael Johnson — whom Meyer had heard yelling on the radio for air support.

With Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez ready to test fate a fifth time, a UH-60 helicopter arrived at last to provide overhead support. Troops aboard the chopper told Meyer they had spotted what appeared to be four bodies. Meyer knew those were his friends and he had to bring them out.

“Dakota, I know you’ve grappled with the grief of that day, that you said your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn’t come home,” the president said. “But as your commander in chief and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it’s quite the opposite.”

Meyer and Obama chatted informally Wednesday evening, on a patio outside the Oval Office, over a beer.

In the ceremony, Obama praised Meyer’s humility and work ethic, noting that he would not even take a call from the president during his shift at a construction job because he was working. He is now out of the Marines. So they two arranged to talk over his lunch hour. Obama jokingly kidded him with thanks for taking the call.

 

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Uncle Frank of ‘Kimmel Show’ fame dies at 77; former officer handled security, comedy on show

LOS ANGELES  (AP)— Jimmy Kimmel’s Uncle Frank, who handled both security and comedy on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” has died. Frank Potenza was 77.

A statement from the show says Potenza died early Tuesday. Further details weren’t immediately available.

The silver-haired Potenza had served as a New York City police officer for two decades and as a private security guard before Kimmel asked him to join his show in 2003. On “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Potenza was paired in comedy bits with Guillermo Rodriguez, a real-life parking lot security guard for the show.

Potenza and his former wife, Conchetta “Chippy” Potenza, also were sent by Kimmel on comic “adventures” such as working on a dairy farm.

The Kimmel show says Potenza’s “kindness and humor” will be missed by all who knew him.

 

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MOTOWN LEGEND NICK ASHFORD DIES :: Lost Battle with Throat Cancer

NEW YORK (AP) – Nick Ashford, one-half of the legendary Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, has died at age 70. His longtime friend and former publicist Liz Rosenberg told The Associated Press that Ashford — who along with wife Valerie Simpson wrote some of Motown’s biggest hits — died Monday in a New York City hospital. He had been suffering from throat cancer and had undergone radiation treatment.

Among the songs Ashford & Simpson penned are “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” ”You’re All I Need To Get By” and “Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand.”

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Check out a video from one of Ashford & Simpson’s classics, “Solid”:

 

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PLAXICO BURRESS RETURNS TO FOOTBALL :: Helps Lead NY Jets to Victory Over Bengals

Plaxico Burress saw the ball coming his way and everything started to move in slow motion. He stretched his arms out, grabbed the pass over his shoulder and fell into the end zone for a touchdown. After being away from the game for nearly three years, Plax was back.

“Everything feels normal,” the wide receiver said. “It feels like football. To be honest, it feels like I never left.”

Burress caught three passes for 66 yards, including a terrific 26-yard reception for a touchdown, in his first game since 2008 to help the New York Jets beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-7 in a preseason game Sunday night.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” Burress said. “I’m just getting started.”

Signed last month after serving 20 months in prison on a gun charge, Burress made his debut with the Jets a memorable one. He caught a 20-yard pass from Mark Sanchez on the Jets’ first offensive play, prompting huge cheers from the rain-soaked crowd at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

“He was ready to play,” Sanchez said. “He’s been waiting for this for a long time, so I didn’t have to say anything or do anything, really, except get him a ball that he could catch and he was rolling after the first play.”

Burress had another 20-yard grab in the second quarter, but the highlight came on New York’s last offensive play of the first half. Burress could only dream for nearly three years of the cheers he heard Sunday. After a slow start with the Jets because of not being able to practice fully with the sore ankle, Burress got in a few days of full practices this week and felt good.

Now, he needs to build a rapport with Sanchez, who threw Burress’ way seven times.

“We left a few plays out there that we should’ve hit,” Burress said, “but the sky’s the limit.”

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The Wire’s Felicia “Snoop” Pearson To Plead Guilty of Drug Charges

The actress who played a Baltimore drug gang assassin in HBO’s “The Wire” is expected to plead guilty Monday in a drug conspiracy case.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, 31, is scheduled to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin, a day before her trial was set to begin, attorney Benjamin C. Sutley said.

Pearson was one of 64 people charged in March in “Operation Usual Suspects,” a joint state-federal prosecution of an alleged east Baltimore drug gang. The federal indictment states that since 2008, members of the conspiracy bought heroin from New York and marijuana from California and sold the drugs on the streets of Baltimore. As part of the conspiracy, the indictment alleges, members discussed how those who failed to perform required tasks were dealt with violently.

Pearson did not play a significant role in the alleged conspiracy under scrutiny, and she decided to enter the plea to rid herself of the burden of dealing with the charges, Sutley said.

“More than anything she wanted to close this matter and move on,” Sutley said.

The attorney said Pearson was familiar with some people involved in the wider case – not necessarily her co-defendants – who helped take care of Pearson when she was a teen.

“She learned a valuable lesson about how some loyalties you keep and others drag you down,” Sutley said. He expected Pearson to receive probation and he planned to ask the judge to allow her to travel out of the state to pursue her acting career.

“The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008, was filmed in Baltimore and put a spotlight on the city’s struggle with poverty and drug violence through the stories of the city’s police, drug organizations, schools, politicians and media. Pearson’s character, which shares the nickname “Snoop,” knocks off several people for the fictitious Stanfield drug gang.

This was not Pearson’s first brush with the law. She was convicted of second-degree murder in a slaying committed when she was 14. She served five years of an eight-year sentence and was released in 2000. Pearson was arrested on a minor drug charge in 2008 when police went to her home to pick her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in a murder trial. She was found not guilty.

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KANYE WEST :: “PEOPLE LOOK AT ME… LIKE I’M HITLER”

EASTNOR CASTLE DEER PARK, England – Kanye West says he feels like people look at him like Hitler.

The 34-year-old rapper known for his outbursts was the headline act at the Big Chill music festival Saturday night, where he ranted in the middle of his set about being misunderstood and underappreciated.

“I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I’m (expletive) insane, like I’m Hitler,” he said. “One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did.”

West received light boos from the crowd as a result.

The performer also defended the music video for his song “Monster,” which features cannibalism and girls hanging from their necks.

“Who saw the video before it got banned, before they took it down and before women’s groups starting saying that a person that lost the most important woman in his life is now against women in some way?” asked West, referring to the 2007 death of his mother Donda West.

West, who started his set roughly 30-minutes late, apologized to the crowd for his tardiness, saying he needed to make sure his performance was great.

“Michael Jordan changed so much in basketball, he took his power to make a difference. It’s so much (expletive) going on in music right now and somebody has to make a (expletive) difference,” he said.

The multi-platinum seller is known for his outspokenness, most notably his diss toward Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where he grabbed the microphone from her as she accepted the award for best female video and said Beyonce should have won it. In 2005 he said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a Hurricane Katrina telethon.

At the music festival, West talked about some of his awards show drama, saying some of his sponsorships were canceled as a result.

But West closed his show on a positive note by paying tribute to Amy Winehouse.

West, who said he met the late singer a few years ago during Paris fashion week, played snippets of Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own” and “Back to Black.” He said it was “beautiful” to meet the performer and that she was “amazing.”

Then, in Kanye fashion, he began to rant.

“Thank you for protecting your artists that are still here,” he said to the crowd. “This is for McQueen, for Amy, for Michael and for all the media, can you lighten up on all your artists that are still here?” he asked, receiving a roaring cheer from the crowd and leaving the stage with his 3-man band and 20-something backup dancers.

 

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DEAD MAN WALKING :: Man Wakes Up After 21 Hours in Morgue Fridge

A South African man awoke to find himself in a morgue fridge – nearly a day after his family thought he had died, a health official said Monday.

Health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the man awoke Sunday afternoon, 21 hours after his family called in an undertaker who sent him to the morgue after an asthma attack.

Morgue owner Ayanda Maqolo said he sent his driver to collect the body shortly after the family reported the death. Maqolo said he thought the man was around 80 years old.

“When he got there, the driver examined the body, checked his pulse, looked for a heartbeat, but there was nothing,” Maqolo told the Associated Press.

But a day after staff put the body into a locked refrigerated compartment, morgue workers heard someone shouting for help. They thought it was a ghost, the morgue owner said.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Maqolo said. “I was also scared. But they are my employees and I had to show them I wasn’t scared, so I called the police.”

After police arrived, the group entered the morgue together.

“I was glad they had their firearms, in case something wanted to fight with us,” Maqolo said.

He said the man was pale when they pulled him out.

“He asked, ‘How did I get here?'” Maqolo said.

The health department said the man was then taken to a nearby hospital for observation and later discharged by doctors who deemed him stable.

Kupelo, the health department spokesman, urged South Africans to call on health officials to confirm that their relatives are really dead.

The man’s family was informed that he was alive during a family meeting convened to make funeral arrangements. They’re very happy to have him home, Maqolo said.

But Maqolo said he is still trying to recover from the traumatic experience.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I had nightmares,” he said. “But today I’m much better.”

 

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