Top 5 Live-WURD Thursday April 2
1. Atlanta schools cheating scandal: 11 of 12 defendants convicted
All but one of 12 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal were convicted Wednesday.
“We’ve been fighting for the children in our community, particularly those children who were deprived by this cheating scandal,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. Ten of the defendants were taken into custody, while one woman who is pregnant will remain out on bond until sentencing. All 11 were convicted of racketeering. One teacher was acquitted of all charges.
In 2013, a Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 educators from the district. More than 20 former school system employees took a plea deal. The cheating is believed to date back to early 2001, when scores on statewide skills tests began to turn around in the 50,000-student school district, according to the 2013 indictment. For at least four years, between 2005 and 2009, test answers were altered, fabricated and falsely certified, the indictment said.
2. Council considers conditions of Phila.’s police, fire stations
Members of City Council on Wednesday decried the condition of the city’s police and fire stations and accused the Nutter administration of failing to make fixing the problems a priority. In the second day of hearings on the city’s budget, Council President Darrell Clarke specifically pressed officials about the 22d Police District building at 17th Street and Montgomery, the station Officer Robert Wilson III was assigned to when he was killed while trying to stop a holdup at a nearby video game store.
Clarke called it “a dump.” And when city officials said there is no immediate plan to replace the station, Clarke accused them of ignoring requests he said he has made for several years that problems there be addressed. “We’re not blowing you off. I’m sorry you’re taking it that way,” said budget director Rebecca Rhynhart. “Yes you are,” Clarke responded. Wednesday’s hearing was on the city’s capital budget, which calls for $8.9 billion in spending over six years on the city’s infrastructure.
3. Low California snowpack ushers mandatory water restrictions
Facing a historic drought, California Gov. Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions for the first time on residents, businesses and farms, ordering cities and towns to reduce usage by 25 percent.v” The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past,” Brown said. The 25 percent cut in usage amounts to roughly 487,500 gallons over the next nine months, state officials said. The action comes as the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which Californians rely on heavily during the summer for their water needs, is near a record low.
In addition, Brown’s executive order will:
— Impose significant cuts in water use on campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes.
— Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with “drought tolerant landscaping.”
“It’s a different world,” Brown said. “We have to act differently.”
4. ISIS’ legacy in Tikrit: booby traps, IEDs and fear
ISIS is gone, but the fear remains.Iraqi forces, aided by Shiite militiamen, took control Wednesday of the northern city of Tikrit, they found vehicles laden with explosives and buildings that might be booby-trapped. CNN’s Arwa Damon, who was in Tikrit on Tuesday, saw a large mechanical digger packed with explosives that Iraqi forces had to disarm. The troops, she said, were cautious when they entered buildings in case they were wired to explode. Plumes of smoke rose from burning buildings in the background.
The potential booby traps were political as well as physical. Officials are concerned about the behavior of the conquerors, particularly the Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen who helped Iraqi troops. Officials fear the militiamen might take “scorched earth” reprisals for the reported massacre of Shiite air force cadets by ISIS fighters in Tikrit last year.
5. Sen. Robert Menendez indicted on corruption charges
Federal prosecutors indicted Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez on corruption charges on Wednesday for allegedly using his Senate office to push the business interests of a friend and donor in exchange for gifts, according to the Justice Department. The case, brought by the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, sets up a high-stakes battle between a New Jersey senator who has fought off investigations for years, and federal prosecutors and the FBI who have spent years pursuing him.
“Robert Menendez, a U.S. senator, and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, were indicted today in connection with a bribery scheme in which Menendez allegedly accepted gifts from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit Melgen’s financial and personal interests,” said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, in a statement.
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Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com and morning host on 900 am WURD radio. Click here to learn more about Solomon