Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News

  • Attacked on both sides, Whitman offers to take polygraph

    AP071018099730California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman told reporters at a news conference Thursday that she would take a lie detector test to prove she was "stunned" when she found out that her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant in 2009, CNN reports.

    The former housekeeper's lawyer, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, produced a copy of a letter from the Social Security Administration informing Whitman in 2003 that her employee's Social Security number did not match her name, the Los Angeles Times reports. A note scrawled on the letter, asking the housekeeper to "check up" on the matter, was written by Whitman's husband, Allred says.

    Whitman says she never saw the letter, and told reporters that the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, sorted her mail and could have taken it.

    Diaz Santillan tearfully announced in a Wednesday news conference that Whitman fired her after nine years when Diaz Santillan asked for help gaining legal status. Diaz Santillan alleges that Whitman knew she had no papers because of such letters from the Social Security Administration. Whitman insists that she never saw those letters and that she believed Diaz Santillan was legal because the housekeeper provided a driver's license and Social Security number when she was hired.

    An anti-illegal-immigration group has called for Whitman to be arrested, while the Service Employees International Union, which supports immigration reform, is releasing an attack ad accusing Whitman of hypocrisy.

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  • Mullen: Military suicides an ‘emergency’

    AP10090415614Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the military is facing a suicide crisis. "The emergency issue right now is suicides. We had five suicides in the Army last weekend," he told reporters.

    Mullen said that the struggle to prevent military suicides will on get tougher as huge numbers of soldiers return to bases after multiple deployments. Last week, four suicides were reported at Texas' Ft. Hood base, including a murder-suicide. The suicide rate on the base is four times the national average, according to the New York Times. The overall Army suicide rate hit record levels over the summer.

    "Dealing with [post-traumatic stress disorder], dealing with the injuries, dealing with just the overall pressures that so many have dealt with for so long," Mullen said, "I think we're going to see a growth in that before we see a decline."
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  • Suicide sparks outrage on Rutgers campus

    teen suicideAP100930029580A quiet 18-year-old violinist from New Jersey has apparently killed himself after his Rutgers University roommate, also 18, allegedly live-streamed video of him kissing another man. Now, some outraged Rutgers gay students are lobbying for separate housing facilities for the campus' gay community.

    Tyler Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, apparently tweeted on Sept. 19 from his account (which has been deleted, but is cached on Google): "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

    Now both Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, 18, are charged with invasion of privacy and could get up to five years in prison, the Associated Press says. Clementi jumped off a bridge Sept. 22, AP reported, and authorities just confirmed Thursday that a body found a day ago is his.

    At least one gay rights group is calling Clementi's death a hate crime, AP says, quoting Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein: "We are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."

    About a hundred students demonstrated Wednesday night on campus chanting, "We're here, we're queer, we're not going home." Gay students told the school newspaper, the Daily Targum, that they want their own space to live in where they can feel safe and free from bullying.

    Coincidentally, the college had launched a two-year project Wednesday to encourage civility in New Jersey and on campus.

    Robert O'Brien, an anthropology instructor who helped organize Wednesday's protest, told The Upshot that the university needs to hear out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students' demand for designated gay-friendly spaces in dorms instead of just talking about civility.

    "Students are told [by university officials] that all of Rutgers is safe and why would you need a safe place in your dorm?" O'Brien said. "And they're told they don't understand the way the world works. And then they come to my office and they cry and they scream." O'Brien, who didn't know Clementi, said he knew another gay student who committed suicide last year.

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  • PARTING SHOTS: Spate of suicides at Fort Hood

    Here is our roster of stories that managed to avoid the full-on blog treatment:

    • After heated debate, the House passed a first-responders health bill to provide for Ground Zero workers who got sick. Seventeen Republicans voted for the measure. (CBS)

    • Tens of thousands of workers protested in Europe today over new austerity measures to reduce debt, complaining of higher taxes and job cuts. (AP/Yahoo! News)

    • Four U.S. soldiers reportedly took their own lives at Fort Hood in Texas just over the past week. (CNN)

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  • Suit from Meg Whitman’s maid highlights growing Latino disenchantment with GOP

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    Meg Whitman has set a new campaign spending record in her quest to be California's next governor — but she will likely be spending at least the next several days fending off questions about how she treated a low-wage domestic worker in her own home. Whitman's former housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz-Santillan, is launching a lawsuit against the billionaire former CEO for EBay, saying that Whitman tossed her out like "garbage" when she asked for help in finding legal status in the United States.

    Diaz's lawyer, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, said in a press conference today that Whitman learned from the Social Security administration that Diaz's Social Security number did not match her name, but threw some of the letters in the trash. When Diaz asked for help in becoming legal after nine years of work, Whitman said, according to Diaz: "From now on you don't know me and I don't know you. You never have seen me and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?"

    Whitman's camp released a statement saying Allred was manipulating Diaz, whom Whitman considered to be a family friend. Whitman said Diaz provided documentation to prove she was legal when she applied for the job, and that Whitman and her family fired the maid when she informed them she did not have legal status and had used her sister's documents. Whitman also pointed out that Allred donated to her political opponent Democratic Jerry Brown's campaigns in the past.

    Tearfully addressing the press, Diaz said she explained her situation to Whitman in June 2009 and expected her employer to help because of Diaz's loyal years of service:

    I explained that I was married and our economic situation in Mexico is very bad. We have no jobs, no food, no place to live and for that reason we made a decision to come here. I told her what she knew — that I don't have papers to work here and I need her help. I want her to help me get an immigration attorney. Ms. Whitman just laughed and turn her face to one side. At that moment Dr. Harsh entered. Dr. Harsh was very angry and said, "I told you, I told you she was going to bring us problems!"

    Allred says Whitman also implied she might fire Diaz when she became pregnant, and did not pay her for some hours of her work every week. Allred also said her client did not receive reimbursement for gas when she ran errands for Whitman. "It felt like she was throwing me away like a piece of garbage," Diaz said.

    In crafting her general-election appeals for a California electorate that includes a large contingent of Latino voters, Whitman has been trying to walk a fine line with her stance on immigration: She supports aggressive raids on employers who hire, and frequently mistreat, undocumented workers, while opposing a path to citizenship for people in the United States illegally.  Her response to her former housekeeper's allegations will thus pose a test for her with two key groups: California Latinos and conservative anti-illegal-immigration voters.

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  • State attorney launches bizarre Internet war on openly gay college student

    Screen shot 2010-09-29 at 11.05.55 AMHere's a curious test case for any public servant pondering a sideline as an online political activist. An assistant state attorney general for Michigan has created a blog devoted to discrediting the University of Michigan's student body president, who is openly gay.

    Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has called student Chris Armstrong a "pervert" and "Satan's representative" on his blog, and admits to protesting outside the 21-year-old's home. He scours Armstrong's Facebook page and Armstrong's friends' Facebook pages and posts defaced photos of Armstrong on his site.

    "You might wonder how is this man still employed in the attorney general's office," CNN's Anderson Cooper observed in a Tuesday-night segment on Shirvell.

    Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, Shirvell's boss, provided a written statement to CNN calling Shirvell's opinions "his alone," not those of the AG's office. "But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear," Cox's statement added. Cox declined to comment further.

    State laws protect employees' rights to express political opinions in off-hours.

    You can watch Shirvell defend his campaign against the college student below:

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  • PARTING SHOTS: Biden tells Dems to stop whining

    Here is our roster of stories that managed to avoid the full-on blog treatment:

    • President Obama urged college students to get involved with the midterm elections, saying he wants everyone to participate and be informed. (CNN)

    • Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, evidently playing the bad cop, told Democrats to "stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives." (ABC News)

    • A 22-year-old Army corporal accused of killing Afghan civilians and keeping body parts for trophies describes on video how his sergeant killed three unarmed and innocent Afghans. (ABC News)

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  • Palin and Obama battle for America in new Archie comics

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    The beloved Archie comic book series will soon feature President Obama and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin duking it out on two of its covers, POLITICO reports. Palin and Obama will get involved in Archie's student elections in the issues.

    An earlier, friendlier Archie cover showed the pols sharing a milkshake.

    "At the end of the day, President Obama and Sarah Palin completely come from opposite sides, but they both want the same thing: The best interests of the United States. And we figured Riverdale High School was a place they can unite," Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater told the paper.

    (Photo/Archie Comics via Politico.)

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  • Does future hold spate of ‘don’t ask’ legal battles?

    AP100924029018Air Force Major Margaret Witt won her court battle to be reinstated into the military last week, after a federal judge said the military could not prove her sexuality had a negative effect on unit morale. Since legislative action to end the military's ban on openly gay service looks stalled for now, Witt's case points toward what some gay activists say is a productive, if more gradual challenge to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy forbidding openly gay military personnel to serve: chipping away at the policy via individual court cases.

    The legal director of Washington's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on MSNBC today that Witt's case sets a key precedent for any member of the military who is discharged in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, which covers Western states that account for around 20 percent of the national population.

    "They'll have an opportunity to go to court and show that their sexual orientation had no effect, no negative consequence on their unit or the military's ability to do their mission or do their job," ACLU's Sarah Dunne said.

    Witt's case has created a higher bar for military discharges in the region. In 2008, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the military had to prove that any person discharged under "don't ask" also had a negative effect on larger military goals, like unit cohesion and morale.

    The federal judge who originally tossed out Witt's case, Judge Ronald Leighton, was forced to reevaluate it with the the circuit's new, higher standard, and ruled Friday that she must be reinstated. He said the military couldn't prove that Witt--who said on MSNBC today that her unit is behind her "100 percent"--negatively affected cohesion or morale in the Air Force.

    The Department of Justice will most likely appeal the decision. Justice layers have already announced they will continue to fight for the unpopular policy after a California federal judge ruled "don't ask" unconstitutional earlier this month. But if Lieghton's decision stands, Witt may become the first openly gay member of the military. The New York Times reports that she was outed in 2004 when the spurned husband of a woman she was dating informed the Air Force Witt was gay.

    But what about servicemen and women who don't fall under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction?

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  • Teacher put on leave after post on prostitution past

    An elementary-school teacher in New York has been put on leave after writing a story for the Huffington Post recounting how she used Craigslist to sell sex before she became a teacher.

    "From October 2006 to January 2007 I accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men I met online in what was then called the 'erotic services' section of Craigslist.org," she wrote.

    The weird part about the story, as Daily Intel's Chris Rovzar notes, is that a quick Internet search of the teacher, Melissa Petro, shows that Petro has a body of online work about her past in the sex industry as a prostitute and stripper. Petro even wrote about her colleagues discovering this in a post for the online literary magazine the Rumpus:

    I recently had the experience at my job of being warned by a colleague that other coworkers have begun Googling me. The concern is that I'm an elementary school teacher (teaching art/creative writing at a public school in the South Bronx) as well as a writer, and my writing — at least that which has been published and is therefore "Google-able"— is primarily about my experiences as a sex worker, which occurred some time prior to my becoming a teacher.

    She wrote that she's "never been one to shy away from publicity," and that she welcomed the inevitable debate with her colleagues over the status of sex workers in society. An administrator, she writes, asked her to write under a pen name.

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