ROLL CALL: How Region, state members of Congress voted

Here's a look at how area members of Congress voted the week of Feb. 23 to March 1. Look for this roll call report by Targeted News Service (with a week delay) regularly in Sunday Forum.HOUSE VOTES:CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE: The House passed the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1222), sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., to require the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants funding studies of congenital heart disease. Bilirakis said the research studies will work to determine the lifelong health and treatment needs of individuals born with congenital heart defects, improving efforts at prevention and mitigation of the disease. The vote, on Feb. 26, was 394 yeas to 7 nays.YEAS: Rokita, R-4th; Walorski, R-2nd; Visclosky, D-1stFUNDING DENTAL SERVICES: The House passed the Action for Dental Health Act (H.R. 2422), sponsored by Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., to authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to fund programs at state and local governments to increase dental services and provide dental care to various populations in need of better oral health. Kelly said the federal funding will improve oral health by breaking down barriers to care. The vote, on Feb. 26, was 387 yeas to 13 nays.YEAS: Rokita, R-4th; Walorski, R-2nd;Visclosky, D-1stREGULATING BANK RISKS: The House passed a bill (H.R. 4296), sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., that would require federal regulators to use certain risk-adjusted metrics when establishing operational-risk capital requirements for banks. Luetkemeyer said the new metrics would help banks "leverage their capital to grow their local economies" by giving regulators more flexible tools in determining acceptable levels of bank lending risk. A bill opponent, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said the metrics, by precluding regulators from looking at a given bank's historic losses as an indicator of potential future losses, would weaken their ability to prevent another financial crisis. The Continue Reading

FBI searching for ‘Chameleon Beard Bandit’ in multiple bank robberies, including in Henrico and Roanoke

The FBI is asking for the public’s help in identifying a man, dubbed the “Chameleon Beard Bandit,” suspected of robbing six banks in various states, including ones in Henrico County and Roanoke. He’s also suspected of robbing the following banks: • Bank of America in Durham on Sept. 29; • 1st Trust Bank in London, Kentucky, on Oct. 13; • Virginia Commonwealth Bank in Henrico County on Nov. 14; • Bank of America in Greensboro on Nov. 17; • Wells Fargo in Roanoke on Dec. 12 and • Chase Bank in Longview, Texas, on Jan. 5. The FBI said that in each robbery, the suspect would enter the bank, approach the teller and produce a demand note. On several occasions, the person either threatened he had a handgun or produced one. He’s described as a white male with a light complexion, in his mid- to late-30s, 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 2 inches, 180 to 240 pounds, with a medium build and brown eyes. He has been known to change the color of his beard. The FBI described a suspect vehicle as a light-colored, two-door car. A $10,000 reward is available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or people responsible for the robberies. Anyone with information can call the FBI Richmond’s Central Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force at 804-261-1044. Continue Reading

Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill passes 1st test

SALT LAKE CITY – A landmark Utah proposal protecting gay and transgender individuals passed its first test at the state Legislature on Thursday when a Republican-controlled Senate committee offered its unanimous and at times emotional support of the measure.Todd Weiler, a Republican senator from Woods Cross, said he comes from “a conservative, Mormon background” but he’s met many transgender individuals, including one in his neighborhood who grew up with his son.“I don’t understand those things,” Weiler said, “I understand that those people are different than I am, and that they have rights, and I am 100 percent convinced that they should be protected.”Weiler, who fought to stay composed, said the bill would send a message to young people struggling with their identity.The bill, which has earned the rare stamp of approval from the Utah-based Mormon church, bars discrimination against gay and transgender individuals while protecting the rights of religious groups and individuals.It advances to the full Senate, which has scheduled a hearing and vote for Friday. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that if the bill makes it to his desk, he’ll sign it.Drafters of the bill said they hope it serves as a model for other states.Idaho state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, a Democratic lawmaker who has pushed to get an anti-LGBT discrimination measure passed for years, said Utah’s proposal gives her hope.“It’s encouraging to see a state moving forward,” Buckner-Webb said. “Utah has many similarities with Idaho. It’s inevitable that it will happen here.”During a two-hour hearing Thursday in Salt Lake City, lawmakers heard from gay and transgender residents who described their fears and experiences.Neca Allgood, of Syracuse, appeared with her 20-year-old child Grayson Moore, who is transgender.“I want him to be hired and promoted on the basis of his ability, effort and Continue Reading

Alleged bank robber makes 1st appearance in Utah court

ST. GEORGE – A California woman suspected of robbing a Utah bank and possibly three others in California and Arizona before being arrested by Mesquite police after a high-speed, multi-state chase on Interstate 15 made her first appearance in court Wednesday.Sandeep Kaur, 24, is accused of robbing the South Bluff Street branch of US Bank in St. George on July 31 shortly before 5 p.m., allegedly threatening to shoot a teller if she did not comply with her demand to turn over a large amount of cash.She is charged with one count of bank robbery by force or violence.Kaur was charged with one count of bank robbery by force or violence in St. George’s federal court Wednesday with her hands shackled and wearing an orange jump suit.U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Braithwaite appointed the law firm of Lamar and Jay Winward to represent Kaur and scheduled a hearing Sept. 22 for arguments on whether Kaur should continue to be held in custody or set free during the remainder of court proceedings.Lamar Winward said Kaur is pleading not guilty to the robbery charge. Prosecutors provided him with a digital copy of evidence from the investigation prior to the hearing, he said.St. George police identified Kaur’s Nissan as a possible match for the robber’s car seen by a bank employee. The employee followed the robber to watch her leave the parking lot after the July heist. Kaur is accused of failing to stop when officers attempted to pull her over. She reached speeds of more than 120 mph before two sets of tire-deflating spikes eventually brought her car to a stop.Mesquite police officers who arrested Kaur near Logandale some 28 miles south of Mesquite reported finding a holdup note, clothing matching the suspect’s description and a large amount of cash in Kaur’s car but they did not mention a firearm.Federal agents are investigating whether Kaur may be the woman dubbed the “Bombshell Bandit” by the FBI because of that suspect’s Continue Reading

Despite legal challenges, Brian Banks wins primary fight

Despite legal challenges and a fierce fight from a Harper Woods attorney, state Rep. Brian Banks pulled out a victory in the 1st state House District seat.With 98% of the vote tallied, Banks, a Harper Woods Democrat, was winning by a 2,366-1,863 votes over Pamela Sossi, who led in the race throughout the night until Detroit vote totals started coming in.Banks said he still wanted to wait for the final numbers before declaring victory. "When you look at the work that I've done in the district and the representation that I’ve provided, the voters must be pleased with their representative."The 1st district House race was perhaps the most competitive in Wayne County as Banks, is trying to retain his seat at a time when he's facing felony charges for allegedly providing false information on a 2010 loan application. The charges come on top of other prior felonies against Banks, including eight counts of writing bad checks and credit card fraud in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2005.Despite the charges, Banks has gotten the support of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and many of his colleagues in the state House, and has raised the most money in the race.One of his primary opponents, Harper Woods attorney Pamela Sossi, has been aggressively campaigning against Banks, picking up a number of endorsements and raising a significant amount of money for the campaign fight. Other Democrats running include: Kameshea Amos, Corey Gilchrist and Washington Youson, all of Detroit, and Keith Hollowell of Grosse Pointe Woods. The winner will face Republican William Broman of Grosse Pointe Woods.Two other Detroit Democrats who are leaving their seats because of term limits — Reps. Harvey Santana and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi — have relatives who are hoping to win their seats. They are Santana's wife Sylvia Santana and Tinsley-Talabi's daughter, Detroit community activist Carla Tinsley-Smith. With 98% of the votes counted, Continue Reading

Recount unlikely in 1st House District primary

Lansing — Harper Woods attorney Pamela Sossi will not request a recount in a close special Democratic primary she finished second in on Aug. 8, according to her campaign strategist.After a Wayne County Circuit judge denied a request to throw out Detroit’s absentee ballots following an election challenger’s concern there was a problem with their validity, Sossi’s former campaign strategist Mike Norris said they don’t imagine a recount would change the outcome. The deadline for that request with the State Board of Canvassers is Thursday“I would say it’s probably not likely,” Norris said, who added that he and Sossi have been out of town since she lost the primary. “I don’t see the margin changing dramatically.”Unofficial Wayne County results show Sossi, 33, finished second in the primary, losing by 198 votes to Tenisha Yancey, 41, a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor who won endorsements and campaign contributions from unions and Wayne County government officials.Those vote totals will likely be certified Thursday at a State Board of Canvassers meeting.Norris said Sossi was concerned there were problems with absentee ballots after she heard that Detroit resident Anita Belle was going to request Wayne County Circuit Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. toss all absentee ballots cast in the Aug. 8 primary.Colombo denied that request and said “there is no evidence there was a problem with absentee ballots.”Sossi posted a day after the election on Facebook that she was considering a recount but did not return a call from The Detroit News seeking explanation.Yancey will now face GOP opponent Mark Corcoran and Libertarian Gregory Creswell of Detroit in the Nov. 7 general election in a heavily democratic district that includes parts of northeast Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores.The seat has been vacant for nearly six months after former Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Continue Reading

Yancey, Corcoran head to fall state House ballot

Harper Woods school board member Tenisha Yancey won a special Democratic primary Tuesday to help determine who will replace an ex-convict who resigned from a state House seat in Wayne County.Yancey declared victory in the state House 1st District primary as she defeated Harper Woods attorney Pamela Sossi 33 percent to 30 percent with all precincts reporting. She said she was celebrating at Bert's Warehouse in Detroit.Sandra Bucciero of Grosse Pointe Woods was third with 14 percent and Justin Johnson, brother of state Sen. Bert Johnson of Highland Park, trailed at 9 percent among the 11 Democrats competing.Yancey said Tuesday night she is grateful for the support and thanked God above all else.“This has been truly a blessing," she said.In the Republican primary, Grosse Pointe Woods construction business owner Mark Corcoran won with 74 percent of the vote to 26 percent for William Phillips, who has a listed Ferndale post office box for his campaign.Yancey and Corcoran will face off against Libertarian Gregory Creswell of Detroit in the Nov. 7 general election in a Wayne County district that includes parts of northeast Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores. But the district leans overwhelmingly Democratic, so Corcoran faces an uphill battle in the fall.The seat has been vacant for nearly six months after former Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, resigned in early February and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of making false statements of financial condition to try to obtain a $7,500 personal loan. He was sentenced to one day in jail.Yancey said she has worked hard and credits Banks with helping knock on doors and asking his past constituents to support her even though he did not officially endorse her."He came out, and he knocked doors and his constituents love him," she said.Sossi did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday night.The district has not had a voice Continue Reading

Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts is lousy ‘gift’ for President Obama on 1st anniversary in office

WASHINGTON - Happy Anniversary, Mr. President. Your second year could be worse than your first. You've just lost your filibuster-proof majority, your opposition is energized, allies worry you've lost touch with the voters and polls say you're almost as polarizing as your predecessor. The Massachusetts Miracle is more than a symbolic repudiation. It's a reminder that the heady optimism of Barack Obama's inaugural, a year ago today, has dissolved into a struggling presidency. To revive his fortunes, aides say Obama must first pass health care reform quickly, then do a better job of explaining to a dubious public why it's good for them. He must also shed his professorial style and tap into populist rage over exorbitant-as-usual bonuses by the big banks to reconnect with everyday Americans. "He does come off as very detached and aloof," a longtime booster said. "It's time for Drama-Obama," a reference to the President's long-admired reputation among associates as an unflappable, no-Drama Obama. "If people don't think he's like you and me, something's seriously wrong," the Democrat added. Finally, aides recognize he has to pivot from health care to the economy, whose state of health will determine if he's a one- or two-term President. "In the end, the economy will save him or doom him," a Democratic elder predicted. "The focus has to be on recovery, recovery, recovery the rest of the way." Presidential handlers call the difficult past year a down payment on the transformational change Obama promised voters and say they're confident an improving economy will eventually revive his political standing. "We're nowhere near where we need to be," senior counselor David Axelrod said last week. "We're happy with what we accomplished, but we are not satisfied with what we accomplished."Elsewhere, reviews aren't so cheerful."He is a man of perpetual promise," conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer observed in October. "He has obviously Continue Reading

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pledge $900M in aid to Gaza on 1st visit to Mideast

WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton will carry a $900 million pledge for Gaza aid on her politically risky first trip to the Mideast as secretary of state, U.S. officials said Monday.The money for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip will be pledged at a donors' conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh next Monday. U.S. officials said Clinton had ordered that the U.S.-designated terror group Hamas have no role in distributing the funds to repair damage from the Israeli invasion and bombing last month. The money will go through the United Nations and relief groups working in Gaza. As expected, Clinton on Monday added visits to the West Bank and Tel Aviv to her schedule in the U.S. effort to press a two-state solution while both the Palestinians and Israelis are going through leadership struggles. Clinton set up meetings with all the players involved in difficult negotiations to form a new Israeli government after the inconclusive Feb. 10 elections. Right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, named by President Shimon Peres to seek a coalition government, got nowhere yesterday in seeking to lure centrist Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni to join him. "There is no agreement," Livni said after talks with Netanyahu. Netanyahu was described as nearly desperate to gain moderate support to curry favor with the U.S. and offset his hard-line image. Netanyahu "is terrified by the possibility that he will have to present a narrow government to Barack Obama," the Maariv newspaper said. "It keeps him awake at night." On the Palestinian side, Clinton will restrict her meetings to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose influence is limited to the West Bank. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Boro gets 1st affordable co-op

It's a struggling West Bronx neighborhood, but a developer who believes in its future is putting up a co-op there. Mastermind Development will break ground this week on the co-op in Morris Heights. It will be the first green, affordable co-op complex in the Bronx. The firm, which recently completed Tremont Park Plaza in East Tremont, is building the $18 million Washington Bridge View co-op on Featherbed Lane and University Ave. Some 42% of residents in the area receive public assistance, according to the last census. "The board is in complete support of this project," said Xavier Rodriguez, district manager of Community Board 5, which has been reviewing the proposal for the past year. "In terms of the concept and what we feel it will do for that area of our district, it's a home run." The 14,671-square-foot, seven-story property will have 48 apartments and is expected to be completed by fall 2009. The units - ranging from a $67,000 one-bedroom to a $223,000 two-bedroom with a 900-square-foot terrace - will be priced for families earning between $40,000 and $90,000, and will be sold through a lottery. The project will cost $18 million to construct, but Radame Perez, president of Mastermind, said his company will only make back $13.5 million when the units are sold. The deficit is being financed by Bank of America, Borough President Aldolfo Carrión, the city Housing Development Corp., and the Housing Partnership Corp. "Why are we doing this? We are crazy," joked Perez. "But beside our looniness, I am a third generation of a family business that has a stick-to-it-ness attitude about the Bronx. I was born here and I live here. "It is also smart to invest in communities that can have a serious benefit by creating home ownership." To make the building "green," it will be built with wall and roof insulation beyond the state's requirements, energy-efficient heating and lighting systems, recycled materials and Energy Star appliances. Continue Reading