Regional Roundup 3/12/13

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick convicted of Racketeering

After a homeless shelter operator donated to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund for a political favor nearly a decade ago, the federal government set its sights on then-mayor of Detriot, Kwame Kilpatrick.

This donation triggered an Internal Revenue Service search that found widespread corruption under Kilpatrick, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.

After five months of testimonies from 90 witnesses, the jury of four men and eight women found Kilpatrick to be a part of racketeering that lasted four years, according to the article.

The jury found Kilpatrick guilty on 24 of 30 counts. Among the most serious convictions were extortion, bribery and racketeering.

“Kwame Kilpatrick didn’t lead the city; he looted the city,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade at a news conference.

The federal government built its case through evidence like surveillance videos, wiretaps and cooperating witnesses. Perhaps the most compelling form of evidence came from text messages by the defendants, according to the article.

Kilpatrick faces up to three years of prison but remains free, pending sentence.

New York’s Soda Solution

A state Supreme Court Judge crushed the plans of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban large sugary drinks in the city’s restaurants and other venues, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Judge Milton Tingling declared Bloomberg’s plan to prohibit mobile food carts, restaurants, delis, concessions at movie theaters and stadiums from selling sugary drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces invalid.

Judge Tingling found that Bloomberg overstepped his authority by moving the issue around the City Council and presenting it to the city’s Board of Health, according to the article. The Board of Health’s members are appointed by the mayor.

At a news conference after the decision Bloomberg said he believed the judge’s decision was wrong and vowed to appeal it.

“It would be irresponsible not to try to do everything we can to save lives,” Bloomberg said.

Panel Rejects Medicaid Expansion

A largely Republican Florida Senate panel rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act with a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday, according to an article in The Florida Times-Union.

The move puts the Senate at odds with Governor Rick Scott who supports the expansion. Senate Democrats have strongly supported outright Medicaid expansion while the House has already rejected it.

The Republican Senate panel did present two alternative plans to outright Medicaid expansion.

The first was presented by Senator Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina, which would reject the $51 million in federal funds by expanding Medicaid in favor of a plan that relies on subsidies, according to the article.

The Affordable Care Act offers a set of federal subsidies to states that reject outright expansion. Using these subsidies to buy private insurance would annually bring Florida $1.5 billion more than Medicaid expansion, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis.

However, the plan would only offer subsidies to 500,000 instead of the 1.1 million covered under Medicaid expansion.

The second, introduced by Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would use federal money to help the uninsured purchase private insurance through a state run program, according to the article. Negron estimated the plan would cover up to 1 million people who are currently uninsured.

Negron said that others are free to submit plans and whatever framework that is considered moving forward will be discussed in a separate policy committee.

The Conclave to find a new Pope begins

Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel Tuesday to begin the conclave that will elect a new pope, according to an article in Reuters.

Laying their hands on the Bible and speaking a Latin oath of secrecy to protect the information within the conclave and the ballots their meeting began. The doors were shut at 5:34 p.m. (12:34 p.m. ET), according to the article.

The conclave was to begin on a later date, however former Pope Benedict XVI signed a rule that allowed the conclave to begin earlier in order to have a pope installed by Holy Week, which begins on March 24.

Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech, who at the age of 87 is too old to participate in the conclave, preached a sermon reminding the 115 cardinals of their responsibility. He and master of ceremonies Guido Marini would be the last to leave.

No modern conclave has elected a pope on the first day. Some cardinals suspected it might take four or five days to select the new pope.

The average length for the last nine conclaves was just over three days and none went more than five, according to the article.

Smoke from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel will announce the new pope. Black smoke signifies an inconclusive vote, white smoke signifies that a new pope has been elected.

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