Archive for March, 2012

Kansas, Illinois, Maryland tickets share record $640 million Mega Millions jackpot

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

By Party Bus Seattle

Updated 12:22 p.m. ET — Three lottery tickets sold in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland hit the world record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said Saturday.

Illinois’ winning ticket was sold in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis. Mike Lang, spokesman for the Illinois Lottery, said the winner used a quick pick to select the numbers.


Dennis Metzger, the manager at the Moto Mart in Red Bud that sold the winning ticket, said she has no idea who the lucky person is.

“This is very exciting, people are extremely happy, and of ourse everybody wants to know who it is,” Metzger said. “Hopefully I sold that ticket to someone who comes in every single morning.”

NBC’s Luke Russert reports from outside the Maryland store where a winning ticket to Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot was sold.

 The Maryland Lottery announced earlier Saturday that it had sold a winning ticket at a 7-Eleven store in Baltimore County. The harried manager could only repeatedly say “No interviews” to the reporters pressing for details.

Maryland does not require lottery winners to be publicly identified; the Mega Millions winner can claim the prize anonymously.

The Kansas ticket was sold in the northeastern part of the state. No other information would be released by the Kansas Lottery until the winner comes forward, spokeswoman Cara S. Sloan-Ramos said. Kansas law also allows lottery winners to remain anonymous.

Lang said each winning ticket was expected to be worth more than $213 million before taxes.

The winning numbers in Friday night’s drawing were 02-04-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23. Winners could receive either a one-time payment of their share or take it in 26 annual installment payments.

What is the first thing you’d do with the Mega Millions lottery winnings?

The estimated jackpot dwarfs the previous $390 million record, which was split in 2007 by two winners who bought tickets in Georgia and New Jersey.

Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion for a chance to hit the jackpot, which amounts to a $462 million lump sum and around $347 million after federal tax withholding. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million less if your state also withholds taxes.

No matter who wins the jackpot, one certain winner is the Internal Revenue Service. The tax-collecting agency subjects lottery winnings of more than $5,000 to a 25-percent federal withholding tax.

From coast to coast, people stood in line at retail stores Friday for one last chance at striking it rich.

Maribeth Ptak, 31, of Milwaukee, said she only buys Mega Millions tickets when the jackpot is really big and she bought one Friday at a Milwaukee grocery store. She said she’d use the money to pay off bills, including school loans, and then she’d donate a good portion to charity.

“I know the odds are really not in my favor, but why not,” she said.

Sawnya Castro, 31, of Dallas, bought $50 worth of tickets at a 7-Eleven. She figured she’d use the money to create a rescue society for Great Danes, fix up her grandmother’s house, and perhaps even buy a bigger one for herself.

“Not too big — I don’t want that. Too much house to keep with,” she said.

Willie Richards, who works for the U.S. Marshals Service at a federal courthouse in Atlanta, figured if there ever was a time to confront astronomical odds, it was when $640 million was at stake.

He bought five tickets.

 When it gets as big as it is now, you’d be nuts not to play,” he said. “You have to take a chance on Lady Luck.”
……………………..Well the dreams of Seattle party Bus Rentals to win and buy the most luxurious fleet of buses ever was just crushed..Maybe next time!

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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Which are America’s fattest cities?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

 

 

CNBC.com

 

By Seattle Party Bus Rentals

More than one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention. The obesity epidemic has been going on for decades, and today health-care costs associated with obesity are estimated at $147 billion a year.

To be considered obese, a person has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. With the extra weight comes myriad health issues — obesity contributes to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Recently, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked the 10 most obese metropolitan areas in the U.S., offering perspective on the cities that are affected by the country’s obesity woes.

The health implications are apparent — of the metro areas with the highest obesity levels, 58 percent of their residents were more likely to report having had a heart attack over the course of their lifetimes, and 34 percent were more likely to report having high blood pressure.  Combined, residents of these cities also pay an estimated $1 billion more in medical costs each year thanks to their high obesity rates.

In 2010, the government announced its goal to lower the prevalence of obesity to 15 percent. In 2011, only three out of the 190 areas surveyed in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index had an obesity rate below that level: Fort-Collins-Loveland, Colo.; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.; and Boulder, Colo. Boulder ranked as the least obese city, with an obesity rate of 12.1 percent.

It’s not all bad news, however. According to the CDC, although there was a rise in obesity between 1983 and 2000, the rates actually have stabilized over the past 10 years.

“There has been no change in obesity prevalence in recent years,” CDC scientist Heidi Blanck said. “However, over the last decade there has been a significant increase in obesity prevalence among men and boys, but not among women and girls overall.”

The government is aiming to eventually reduce the rate of obesity. In 2010, the Childhood Obesity Task Force released 70 recommendations to prevent and control childhood obesity.

Look ahead to see the most obese metro areas in the U.S., and how much their citizens are paying in obesity-related health-care costs every year, according to the recent Gallup survey.

10. Reading, Pennsylvania

Obesity rate: 32.7 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $190.2 million

Located approximately 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Reading, Pa., ranks 10th on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. It’s the most obese city in Pennsylvania, which has a statewide obesity rate of 28.6 percent, according to the CDC .

With 88,000 people residing in the city, more than 28,000 residents are considered obese. In Reading, 10 percent report having diabetes, a chronic disease associated with obesity. Even higher than the obesity rate is the poverty rate: 35 percent of the population in the city lives below the poverty level. According to the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center, women and children in poverty are at the highest risk for obesity.

9. Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Washington

Obesity rate: 33.2 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $116.5 million

This metropolitan area in southeastern Washington is called Tri-Cities. It’s also known as “The Heart of Washington Wine Country,” with more than 160 wineries. However, according to Gallup, the region has one of the highest obesity rates in the country — at 33.2 percent — which shows an increase from the 31.5 percent obesity rate a CDC survey found for the area in 2010.

8. Topeka, Kansas

Obesity rate: 33.3 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $109.8 million

More than 42,000 of the 127,473 residents of Topeka, Kan., suffer from obesity, according to data from Gallup. The good news is the city’s situation appears to be improving: Topeka had an obesity rate of 36 percent in 2010, almost three percentage points above where it is today, according to the CDC survey.

Topeka, the capital of Kansas, was also named as one of the 10 best cities for the next decade by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine in 2010.

7. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida

Obesity rate: 33.5 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $279.3 million

According to Gallup, the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., metro area has the potential to save more than $154 million in health-care costs if its obesity rate dropped to 15 percent. Instead, 33.5 percent of its residents suffer from obesity, racking up more than $279 million a year in medical bills.

The metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Lakeland and Winter Haven, has more than 75 lakes and is located in central Florida between Orlando and Tampa. In 2010, 37.9 percent of its residents were obese, according to the CDC study.

6. Charleston, West Virginia

Obesity rate: 33.8 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $146.9 million

Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and is dubbed the cultural, recreational and business capital of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s home to several golf courses and parks, including the Haddad Riverfront Park along the Kanawha River.

There are more than 51,000 people living in the city, as of the 2010 census, and based on the rates from Gallup approximately 17,000 of them are obese. In addition, about 17 percent of the population has also reported having diabetes.

The Gallup-Healthways’ number is up from the CDC survey’s obesity rate of 32.3 percent for the city in 2010. According to the CDC, the state of West Virginia had a 32.5 percent obesity rate in 2010, placing Charleston higher than the state average.

5. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

Obesity rate: 33.8 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $182.8 million

Located in southeast Texas, this metro area includes the cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur. Oil is big business for the region, with refineries throughout the area. The metro area has been a major player in the oil industry ever since the Lucas Gusher exploded on Spindletop Hill in 1901.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the metro area could potentially save $101.6 million in medical costs if its obesity rate dropped to 15 percent, instead of the almost 34 percent it has now. Beaumont-Port Arthur is the second most obese metro area in Texas, which has a statewide obesity rate of 31 percent.

4. Rockford, Illinois

Obesity rate: 35.5 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $179.4 million

Located in northern Illinois, Rockford calls itself the “City of Gardens” because of the 7,000 acres of parks, trails, tree-lined streets and public gardens within its borders. That’s not the only nickname the city has had — it has also been called “Forest City,” because of its woods and was once known as the “Screw Capital of the World” due to factories that produced screws and bolts. Manufacturing is still the area’s biggest industry.

Rockford also ranks as the fourth fattest city in the country, however, with an obesity rate of 35.5 percent. Of the more than 152,000 people who live in Rockford, nearly 54,000 are considered obese, while 10 percent have diabetes and 23 percent live below the poverty line.

3. Huntington-Ashland, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio

Obesity rate: 36 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $146.9 million

The Huntington-Ashland metropolitan area encompasses three states — West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio — at the point where they all meet by the Ohio River.

The metro area first gained national attention in 2008 after an Associated Press story called it the nation’s unhealthiest. That led Jami Oliver to bring his ABC reality show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” into Huntington, W.Va., to give schools and the town a nutrition make-over. Oliver has called his time there a success. However, the larger metro area still appears to be struggling — 36 percent of its citizens are obese, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and nearly 20 percent suffer from diabetes.

2. Binghamton, New York

Obesity rate: 37.6 percent

Annual obesity-related costs $131.5 million

In the city of Binghamton, more than 17,000 residents are obese, according to rates from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. It’s surprising then that 54 percent of respondents also said they exercise frequently.

Located at the junction of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers in southern New York, Binghamton has the highest obesity rate in the state, compared to New York State’s rate of just below 24 percent. Meanwhile, 27.8 percent of Binghamton’s population lives below the poverty level.

1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

Obesity rate: 38.8 percent

Annual obesity-related costs: $410.9 million

Located near the Mexican border in southern Texas, this metro area is the most obese in the nation, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. If the region dropped the rate from 38.8 percent to 15 percent, it could potentially save a whopping $252 million a year in medical costs annually. That’s a big savings, especially considering 50 percent of residents report being uninsured.

In 2010, 33.3 percent of the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area’s population was obese, according to a CDC survey, so the data suggest that the country’s most obese city is also getting worse, bucking the nationwide trend of stabilization in obesity rates.

See the full list: America’s fattest cities

“Fat & Fatter” premieres Thursday, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET, with a re-air Sunday, April 1 at 10 pm ET.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index results are based on telephone interviews throughout 2011, with a random sampling of 353,492 adults living in the U.S. Health-care costs were based on the National Institute of Health’s estimate of $1,429 per person, per year, in additional health-care costs for people considered obese, compared to those of non-obese individuals.

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Where the 1% live

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Mega Millions jackpot hits $540 million — and could go higher

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

By Seattle Party Bus Rentals

The Mega Millions lottery hit $540 million on Thursday, and people endured long lines for a chance at winning the hefty jackpot – an amount that could rise as more tickets are sold for Friday’s drawing.

“I have never seen so many people inside one store,” Jessie Rae Vaglivielo, a clerk at Hallelujah Junction, a one-stop gas and convenience store in Honey Lake, Calif., near the Nevada border, told msnbc.com on Thursday. It was her fifth day on the job and she didn’t have time to talk — she was selling tickets to dozens of people who had lined up.

Vaglivielo laughed when asked if she was going to buy a ticket. “No, I don’t play,” she said, adding “but there are a lot of people here who do, and I gotta go.”

At a 7-Eleven in the Bronx, Leisa Aspes said she sold at least $1,000 in tickets during the morning rush hour on Thursday. She described conversations at the store as lively, bursting with dreams of winning.

“That’s all people have been talking about all morning,” she told msnbc.com. “People are talking about what they would do if they won. I made sure to buy my tickets.”

Nobody matched all six numbers in Tuesday’s regular draw, and the total jackpot has been growing since. With a $540 million total, the lump sum payment is estimated at $389.8 million, according to lottery officials. Winners can also take payments annually for 26 years.

Mega Millions raises tough question for job seekers

Mega Millions is is played in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Players pay $1 for a ticket and must pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46 to win the jackpot. The odds of winning are 1 in about 176 million, according to the official Mega Millions website.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007, when the prize was split between two tickets sold in Georgia and New Jersey.

This story includes reporting by msnbc.com’s Sevil Omer.

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JetBlue suspends captain following in-flight meltdown

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

By Seattle Party Bus Rentals

JetBlue announced Wednesday that it is suspending the captain whose bizarre behavior prompted his fellow co-pilot to lock him out of the cockpit on a flight from New York to Las Vegas.

Clayton Osbon, 49,  has been a pilot at JetBlue since 2000, the airline’s first year of flying. The company said a “medical situation” occurred onboard the plane on Tuesday but wouldn’t elaborate.

Passengers said the pilot was yelling and acting unruly in the cabin after he was locked out of the cockpit. A group of passengers tackled the captain and restrained him until the plane landed in Amarillo, Texas.

JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said Wednesday that Osbon was taken off active duty pending review of the incident.

Two passengers aboard JetBlue Flight 191 recounted Wednesday the dramatic and bizarre situation of the plane’s captain leaving the cockpit, acting erratically and eventually being subdued. JetBlue’s CEO, meanwhile, said the captain was a “consummate professional.”

The captain “became increasingly agitated,” passenger Tony Antolino told TODAY’s Ann Curry, adding that several passengers grabbed the pilot, “tackled him to the ground” and sat on him.

Osbon, since charged with interfering with a flight crew and now getting medical care, left the cockpit, tried to enter an occupied lavatory and then became increasingly agitated when he couldn’t get back into the cockpit.

“The first thing I saw was the captain running down the aisle,” passenger Laurie Dhue said on TODAY, adding he was “banging on the door, saying ‘Let me in! Let me in!’ ” Dhue credited the “brave people on board” for handling the situation, saying it was “literally like a scene from a movie.”

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, also appearing on TODAY, told host Matt Lauer that he knew the captain personally and said there were no signs that pointed to the in-flight meltdown.

“It was a true team effort at 35,000 feet yesterday,” Barger said of the response by passengers and crew.

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger speaks out after a JetBlue flight made an emergency landing due to a pilot’s mid-air meltdown.

Flight 191 was scheduled from John F. Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas, but was diverted to Amarillo, Texas.

On Tuesday, Antolino told NBC New York the captain began yelling about an unspecified threat linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. “They’re going to take us down, they’re taking us down, they’re going to take us down. Say the Lord’s prayer, say the Lord’s prayer,” the captain screamed, according to Antolino.

A JetBlue flight made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, Tuesday after the pilot had a “medical situation” and had to be restrained by passengers. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, told the Associated Press that incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight are “pretty rare.” He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation.

Airlines and the FAA strongly encourage pilots to assert themselves if they think safety is being jeopardized, even if it means contradicting a captain’s orders, Cox said. Aviation safety experts have studied several cases where first officers deferred to more experienced captains with tragic results.

In-flight outbursts by airline crewmembers are rare, but they do happen.

Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant was taken off a plane for rambling about 9/11 and her fears that the plane would crash. “I’m not responsible for this plane crashing,” the crew member said over the public-address system, according to passengers. Passengers wrestled the flight attendant into a seat while the plane was grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; the flight attendant was hospitalized.

In 2008, an Air Canada co-pilot was forcibly removed from a Toronto-to-London flight, restrained and sedated after having a mental breakdown on a flight.

The FAA is likely to review the unidentified captain’s medical certificate — essentially a seal of approval that the pilot is healthy. All pilots working for scheduled airlines must have a first-class medical certificate. The certificates must be renewed every six months to a year, depending on the pilot’s age. To receive the certificate, the pilot must receive a physical examination by an FAA-designated medical examiner that includes questions about pilot’s psychological condition. Pilots are required to disclose all physical and psychological conditions and medications.

Passenger Charlie Restivo thought it was clear the pilot suffered a medical episode. “I don’t think when he got up this morning that that’s what he was intending to do,” Restivo told the AP. “Unfortunately, I just think it happened to him.”

The Associated Press and NBC New York contributed to this report.

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Unseen footage emerges from hugely viral ’80 MPH’ video

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Unseen footage emerges from hugely viral ’80 MPH’ video

8 hrs ago

​msnNOW video – The hilarious video of a woman struggling with the concept of miles per hour, much to her husband’s delight, became the most shared story on msnNOW last week. Today, in a global exclusive, msnNOW can reveal the never-before-seen raw video of the incident, which turns out also involves a frustrated and handsome California Highway Patrol “officer.”

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Kim Kardashian’s Flour Bomber Revealed as PETA Activist; Sister Khloe Quits Organization

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The woman who threw a bag of flour on Kim Kardashian has now been identified as an anti-fur activist who has ties to PETA, according to TMZ.com.

While attending an event to promote her new perfume Thursday, Kardashian was pelted with white powder on the red carpet. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the woman who allegedly threw the bag was detained by hotel security and later released at the scene. Kardashian, who refused medical treatment, told deputies that she did not want to press charges and a non-criminal battery report was taken.

VIDEO: Kim Kardashian gets flour-bombed on red carpet

PETA initially claimed to have nothing to do with the flour-bombing, but it has since been revealed that the attacker, Christina Cho, is a longtime PETA activist, who even received an award from the organization back in 2010. Cho’s younger sister is also a top PETA official in Los Angeles.

After Kardashian reportedly decided to press charges against Cho, the animal rights group called Kardashian heartless and noted that she “should get a life, the very thing that she denies animals.”

Now Khloe Kardashian, who has appeared nude on billboards for PETA, says she is disappointed with the way organization lied about their involvement in the flour bombing, and has vowed to no longer work with them. “Not only has PETA lied to the public, but they have proved that they support this kind of behavior,” she said in a statement. “I’ve been a vocal supporter of PETA for a long time, but I have also been very vocal about anti-bullying, so this was a huge disappointment for me.”

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Thousands march in protest to Florida hearing on Trayvon Martin slaying

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

This is very sad case for everyone involved. As thousands of people gathered in Sanford, Fla., demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, his parents maintained he was trying to get away from George Zimmerman, despite claims that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

By NBC News and msnbc.com staff

Updated at 9:38 p.m. ET: Thousands of people streamed through the streets of Sanford, Fla., on Monday to demand that authorities prosecute the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin one month ago.

The protesters were on their way to a special meeting of the City Commission at the town’s Civic Center that began at 5 p.m. ET, where members were to hold a hearing on the killing of Martin, who was unarmed, by George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

(Among the marchers and the speakers was the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC-TV’s “PoliticNation,” Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Corrine Brown, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.)

The shooting of Martin, who was black, by Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, has led to similar rallies across the country. Martin’s family has made multiple media appearances pushing for Zimmerman’s arrest.

Tracy Martin, the young man’s father, addressed the hearing Monday, accusing police of trying to “sweep another dead black male under the rug.”


To loud cheers and applause, Tracy Martin said Zimmerman “needs to be arrested. He needs to be put on trial. He needs to be given a sentence by a jury of his peers.”

Tracy Martin said he was anguished at “the slander of my son,” referring to leaked details of Zimmerman’s account of the shooting to police, which suggested that Trayvon Martin intitiated the incident, and news reports revealing that the younger Martin had been suspended from his high school for possessing an empty marijuana bag.

Trayvon Martin was suspended three times from school

“We consider ourselves strong black parents and we take pride in our kids,” Tracy Martin said, pounding his fist in the air for emphasis. “We’re not asking for an eye for an eye. We’re asking for justice, justice, justice!”

Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said her heart was broken.

“I’m not asking for anything,” she said. “I know I cannot bring my baby back. But I’m sure going to make changes so that does not happen to another family.”

Rep. Jackson Lee gave a legal case for the city or for the state of Florida to arrest George Zimmerman. Rev. Sharpton fierily demanded an arrest, while Rev. Jackson made Easter allegories and drew parallels between Martin’s death and that of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teen who was beaten and murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

Ben Crump, the attorney for Martin’s parents asked to know the identity of the officer “who made the decision for whatever reason to not do a background check on George Zimmerman who had just shot and killed Trayvon Benjamin Martin?”

He continued: “But yet saw fit to do a background check on this dead child on the ground. Number two, who was the officer who made the determination not to do a drug and alcohol analysis on George Zimmerman who had just shot an unarmed teenager with a bag of Skittles but yet found it appropriate to order drug alcohol analysis of Sabryna and Tracy’s son.”

Shooter’s account
Zimmerman’s account emerged for the first time Monday in a report by The Orlando Sentinel. Quoting unidentified “law enforcement authorities,” the Sentinel reported that Zimmerman told police that Trayvon Martin knocked him down with a single punch and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times before the shooting — an account that police said witnesses have corroborated.

EPA/Brian Blanco

Accompanied by their attorney, Ben Crump, right, Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, passionately addressed the Sanford, Fla., City Commission on Monday.

Zimmerman said he was walking back to his SUV when Martin approached him from behind, according to the Sentinel’s report, which Sanford police confirmed Monday afternoon.

The two exchanged words before Martin decked him with a punch to the nose and began beating him, Zimmerman told police. He said he then shot Martin in self-defense.

Witnesses said they heard someone cry out in distress, some of them telling NBC News and other news organizations that it was Martin. But police sources told the Sentinel their evidence indicated it was Zimmerman.

Dateline NBC interviews woman who saw aftermath

One witness told police he saw Martin pounding Zimmerman on the ground. This witness was certain it was Zimmerman who was crying for help, the Sentinel reported.

When police arrived less than two minutes later, Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and had a swollen lip and bloody lacerations to the back of his head, the newspaper reported. Police said Zimmerman wasn’t badly injured and didn’t seek treatment until the next day.

ABC News reported separately that Zimmerman told police that Martin also tried to take his gun.

In a statement, Sanford police said the Sentinel’s report was “consistent with the information provided to the State Attorney’s office by the police department.” It didn’t address the ABC report.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Craig Sonner, has said he could invoke Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, which provides significant leeway for people to use deadly force if they feel their lives are in danger.

Meanwhile, Angela Corey, the special prosecutor, told ABC News that means “the state must go forward and be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. … So it makes the case in general more difficult than a normal criminal case.”

Other new information that emerged Monday also appeared to complicate the case. Although toxicology tests on Martin’s body were still pending, a spokesman for his family confirmed to NBC News that Martin was suspended for 10 days from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami for possession of an empty marijuana baggie.

The disclosures added up an attempt to assassinate Martin’s character, said Ben Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family.

At a news conference, Crump alleged that police were “attempting to demonize and blame the victim by releasing bits and pieces of an ongoing investigation to build Zimmerman’s claim up.”

“Very clearly, whatever Trayvon Martin was suspended for had absolutely no bearing on what happened on the night of February 26,” he said, adding that Martin “wasn’t suspended for anything violent or criminal.”

“If he and his friends experimented with marijuana, it’s still completely irrelevant,” Crump said.

As the City Commission hearing approached, there were these other developments:

  • The Smoking Gun, a website that tracks criminal cases and document filings, reported Monday afternoon that Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, filed two applications last week for trademarks on her late son’s name.

Fulton is seeking marks for the phrases “I Am Trayvon” and “Justice for Trayvon,” according to filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In both instances, Fulton is seeking the trademarks for use on “Digital materials,” namely, CDs and DVDs featuring Trayvon Martin,” and other products.

  • Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte announced that Capt. Darren Scott would serve as interim police chief during the investigation, NBC station WESH of Orlando, Fla., reported. Police Chief Bill Lee stepped aside last week as criticism over the lack of an arrest mounted across the country.

Following is the full text of the statement Monday confirming The Orlando Sentinel’s report by the Sanford, Fla., Police Department:

In response to the recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, the information was not provided to the media through an authorized source at the Sanford Police Department, but possibly by a leak from within the department. The information in the article is consistent with the information provided to the State Attorney’s office by the police department.

“We do not condone these unauthorized leaks of information,” said City Manager, Norton Bonaparte, Jr. “Acting Chief Scott will be doing an internal investigation within the Sanford Police Department as this type of action compromises the integrity of the law enforcement agency which has pledged to uphold the law”.

Mr. Bonaparte stated that disciplinary action including possible termination will be taken against anyone found to have leaked the information.

Roxanne Garcia, Lauren Selsky,Tom Winter and Edgar Zuniga Jr. of NBC News contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

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US paid close to $50,000 per shooting spree death, American official tells NBC

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Updated at 11 a.m. ET: KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The United States paid close to $50,000 in compensation for each Afghan killed in the shooting spree attributed to a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan, a U.S. official told NBC News on Sunday.

The official, who asked not to be named, would not say exactly how much was paid to the families, but added the amount was close to the $50,000 reported by Afghan officials.

“The amount reflects the extraordinarily devastating nature of the incident,” he said.

Average annual income in Afghanistan is $425, according to the BBC.

f his base before dawn on March 11 then creeping into the houses of two nearby villages and opening fire on sleeping families within. The U.S. military has charged Bales with 17 murders.

Bales charged with 17 counts of murder in Afghanistan massacre

The 38-year-old soldier is accused of using his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher, to kill four men, four women, two boys and seven girls, then burning some of the bodies.

The Associated Press earlier reported that the families of the dead received $50,000 for each person killed on Saturday at the governor’s office, citing Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai.

Agha Lalai told the AP that each wounded person has received $11,000 and that they were told the money was from U.S. President Barack Obama. Community elder Jan Agha has confirmed the same figures.

US officials: Soldier split Afghan massacre in two

The American official who handed over the money said it was not compensation, but the U.S. government offering to help the victims and their families, Kandahar provincial council member Haji Nyamat Khan said.

But a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Col. Gary Kolb, said the money was compensation.

NBC’s Atia Abawi, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Twin clouded leopard cubs make debut

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Two endangered clouded leopard cubs were on view during their feeding on Friday, March 23, 2012. Visitors and the media could watch the two-week-old twins be held, bottle-fed, and burped by zoo staff biologists. The brother and sister cubs were also weighed, each coming in at just under two pounds. The cubs will make their public debut on Saturday with appearances every four hours during their feeding times, currently 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The public will also have the opportunity to vote on the cubs’ names through the Zoo’s website. Let us know how you voted in the comments below. More photos of the cubs in our photo gallery.

The female two-week-old clouded leopard cub, born at the Point Defiance Zoo on March 6, is lifted from its crate Friday by staff biologist Andy Goldfarb at feeding time.

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Seattle is No. 2 city to lose your cellphone

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Recently lost your phone? At least you can find comfort among fellow Seattleites who feel your pain.

Seattle ranks second among U.S. cities where you’re most likely to lose your phone, according to a report by smartphone security company Lookout Labs.

The company crowdsourced its 15 million global users to see where they were using the Lookout app to locate their lost or stolen device. Seattle came in behind Philadelphia, the only other U.S. city where residents lose their cell on average twice a year. (It’s good to note this statistic does not count broken phones, ruling out phones dropped in lakes, toilets or coffee cups.) Oakland, Long Beach and Newark trailed Seattle.

Turns out Seattleites are thrifty when it comes to buying phones. The study estimates the value of phones lost in Seattle in 2011 at $31 million, but the city didn’t make the list of cities with the highest value of lost phones. That top honor went to Atlanta, which lost more than $50 million worth of cellphones last year.

Surprisingly, coffee shops were the most likely place to lose a phone in San Francisco, but not in Seattle, where people are most likely to lose their phone at a fast-food joint. The second most likely place? You may want to check your garage.

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