David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

A City Councilman and an Attorney Erupt Over Trees; Unfolds With Our Cameras Rolling

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

CLICK HERE For Video From WTWO-TV NBC

A fight over city trees is drawing big attention.

Mike Ellis recently purchased a vacant building at the intersection of 6th and Wabash in Terre Haute.

Ellis says he hired someone to trim the trees outside of his building.

“We’re trying to spruce up downtown.  I was hoping someone would send us a a thank you card.”

But Ellis didn’t get a thank you card.  Instead, he was confronted by angry city leaders and members of the city police department.

Police responded Saturday when the work began, issued the worker a warning and told him to leave.  But he was out Sunday…trimming

Tempers Flair

 again…again without a permit.

(David Shepherd) :”So you need a permit to do this?

(Mike Ellis): “To trim them down?  I don’t so.”

(Shepherd): “They say you do.  So do the police.”

(Ellis): “Well, I don’t know.”

A sergeant with the Terre Haute Police Department told me the man hired by Ellis to do the work was issued a citation Sunday and will

Both Sides Go Head-To-Head

 need to appear in court.  A sign this dispute is far fromover.

(Ellis): “You’re a downtown businessman.  You ought to be happy…nuts.”

(Todd Nation, downtown business owner and city councilman): “The eight public trees at 6th and Wabash that have been illegally cut on in the last 48 hours, that’s happened without permits.”

(Ellis): “He’s a tree hugger.  He’s never met a tree he didn’t like.”

(Nation): “What would change this current situation is if the rules were followed, that are on the books, that everyone else follows.”

(Kal Ellis): “There are also rules on the books that you can’t have two foot weeds growing.  Yet, we have two foot weeds growing in downtown Terre Haute on City property.  The city should be cited for having two food weeds in Terre Haute.”

Ellis says he’s trying to improve the city…something he claims city leaders are not doing.  Nation says there is a right way and wrong way to do it.

(Shepherd): “What’s going to make this go away?  What’s going to make this stop?”

(Mike Ellis): “The city finding the budget that will pay for the things that need to be done and the citizens not having to do it themselves.”

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August 23, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WTWO In-Depth With the “Toughest Cop in America”

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

Terre Haute, IN He’s been called the toughest cop in America.  Arizona’s Maricopa County, sheriff, Joe Arpaio has long been

CLICK HERE For Video From WTWO-TV NBC

 criticized for his over-the-top, and often controversial methods of keeping law and order.

He’s currently being investigated by the White House and members of Congress for those methods.

The sheriff was in Sullivan Saturday stumping for the republican candidate for Indiana’s 8th district House seat.

In an exclusive interview, Arpaio tells WTWO, “Listen, they call me a genius.”

Never dull and often controversial, Maricopa County’s sheriff, Joe Arpaio, just can’t seem to get out of the media spot-light.

“Everyone is investigating me in Washington, DC.  The White House, mayors; they all seem to be democrats.  What is this?  A political thing every time I lock up an illegal alien?”

Since Arizona’s tough new approach to immigration reform took affect, the man known as the toughest cop in America has become the face of anti-illegal immigration laws.

He says he’s enforcing the law but critics often attack his methods.

Arpaio says, “Let them come after me.  I always have a come back when they try to get at me.  They’re all the activists and some politicians.”

He’s drawn sharp criticism from those who say his methods go too far.

“I’m going to go down as a pink underwear sheriff.”

Yes, you read that correctly.  Arpaio forces male inmates at his jail to wear pink underwear.  “They hate pink.  Why would I give them a color they like?  They may like pink in some other states but they don’t like it where I’m the sheriff.”

But it doesn’t end there.  The sheriff has constructed a tent city outside for some inmates to live.

Just last week, Arpaio said it was 138 degrees in those tents.  “Our men and women are fighting for our country.  They’re living in tents.  So, what’s wrong with convicted, I only put convicted people there, doing their time in a tent…next to the dump, the dog pound and the waste disposal plant.”

Whether you agree or disagree with his methods, it appears he has supporters in his hometown.

He’s been elected sheriff 5 terms in a row and he says he has no plans to go anywhere.

“I’m not going away,” Arpaio says confidently.    I’m sure there are a lot of people who want me to go away.  So, I’m running again in 2012.”

U.S. officials say they have threatened to sue the Maricopa County sheriff if he refuses to cooperate in a discrimination investigation.

August 23, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTWO Special Report: Inside the K2 Craze, Part 2

By: DAVID SHEPHERD [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, August 16, 2010

David Shepherd's Video Report (Click Here)

 

TERRE HAUTE, IN – In part one of our special report on K-2,  we introduced you to a new craze that is sweeping the nation; using a chemically altered herb to get high and in some states, like Indiana, it’s legal.  Or is it?

More on that in a moment.  As I researched this story, I met some K-2 users who say they love the herb.

One marijuana smoker even told me he prefers the high he gets off of K-2 but without knowing what company is manufacturing it and exactly what’s in it, health officials say the risk greatly outweighs the reward.

Clay County’s Chief Deputy, Rob Gambill says, “There’s already been hundreds of cases of ER visits, calls to poison control and so fourth.”

On streets and in towns across Indiana, those who make the laws and those who enforce the laws are warning people about the effects of K-2.

“It’s also more dangerous than marijuana apparently so I imagine it’s going to be vigorously pursued,” explains Gambill.

State Representative Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute) says, “K-2, as I understand it, is a chemical that was developed in a lab.  It’s a synthetic marijuana and yet it’s legal to buy across the counter and teenagers have access to it.”

Stores and gas stations that sell K-2 say they don’t sell the herb to anyone under 18-years-old but Kersey says, just like cigarettes, the K-2 is getting into the hands of kids much younger.  “There’ve been young people as young as 14 that have been admitted to the hospital with the affects of K-2.”

And the warning from police:  before you spend your money on the chemically altered herbs, know that it may already be illegal.

“According to one of the Controlled Substances Acts in Indiana, any drug that mimics the effects of another drug is an illegal drug,” explains Gambill.  “This mimics the effects of marijuana which is already illegal.”

So if it may already be illegal, why don’t the police arrest the users and the sellers?

Some cops say, they don’t know if they can but they warn if you get caught smoking K-2, they will investigate it.

Gambill says, “[We’ll] make the report, let the prosecutor make that decision since it’s kind of a murky area right now.  We want to be more cleared up before we take somebody to jail.”

But those who enjoy smoking K-2 are happy it’s so easy to get their hands on and they’re giving it rave reviews on the internet, where blog post after blog post pour in from people who’ve tried the synthetic marijuana; and who like it.

But the easy access they welcome may not be around very long.  Lawmakers in Indiana are already talking about actions they can take to make K-2 illegal in the next legislative session.

Kersey says, “It should be banned at least until we know what the effects are and whether we want this drug on the market.”

This herb is sprayed with a chemical and there is not one source that can tell us what it actually is and while users may enjoy the high, without knowing what you’re putting in your body, it can be a dangerous gamble.  It’s definitely something law enforcement and legislators are trying to get a better understanding of.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTWO Special Report: Inside the K2 Craze Part 1

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

David Shepherd's Video Report CLICK HERE

Police and lawmakers in Indiana are struggling with how to handle a new craze; a legal way to get high.

Law enforcement’s fight gets harder as a new herb’s popularity continues to spread.

K-2 is a blend of herbs and chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana but it’s so easy to get your hands on, all you have to do is go to your neighborhood gas station.

It’s that easy access officials in Indiana fear, as more and more people start lighting up the so-called synthetic marijuana.

At first glance, it looks like, smokes like and gets users high like marijuana.   But it’s legal and easily available and it’s growing more popular each day.

Chief Deputy Ron Gambill of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department says, “[Users] think they may be doing something legal and something that may not be as dangerous but, in fact, their exposing themselves to more danger.”

Opponents say there are more questions than answers.  For one, no one really knows what’s in it.

State Representative Clyde Kersey, (D-Terre Haute) says, “There’s been no human testing on it and so, no one really knows what the effect of it is.”

Police fear people will try the herbs because they are legal.  But being legal doesn’t mean it doesn’t have side effects. “People expect this to mimic marijuana, but it’s sometimes 10 times more potent than marijuana,” says Gambill.

With it’s affects possibly more potent than marijuana, why is it legal?

For one, it says right on the label the product is not for consumption.  Plus, Indiana lawmakers haven’t yet acted to make the chemically altered herbs illegal, at least not yet.

Kersey says, “I think there will probably be some bills that will be offered in the legislature in the next session and, if they’re not, I’d be happy to offer one because I think it’s something that should be addressed.”

But without more evidence that the legal weed contains something illegal, all law enforcement can do is investigate the craze and hope lawmakers don’t act too late.

“The professor that developed this from Clemson University said using this is like playing Russian Roulette,” explains Gambill.  “It was never designed to be in the public.”

Illinois recently passed a law making using and selling K-2 illegal and while it appears to be legal in Indiana for the moment, some in law enforcement say, “not so fast.”  It may be illegal already.

More Tomorrow As I Conclude My Special Report:  Inside The K-2 Craze.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ground Zero Debate Comes at a Bad Time for Candidates Running in November’s Midterm Election

By: David Shepherd, “The Washington Insider” columnist

Yahoo! News Photo

Professional Politics 101: Don’t get in the middle of a heated political debate in the midst of a crucial midterm election. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, the fight the President has landed in the middle of is between champions for freedom of religion and a nation still scared from the horror that gripped the country on September 11th.

The debate over a controversial plan to build a large Muslim cultural center 2 blocks from New York’s “Ground Zero” could be a perfect storm as an election that could shift the balance of power in Congress looms.

The President drew sharp criticism from Republicans earlier this week after issuing a statement where he seemed to be supportive of the Mosque’s plan to open in a part of town that saw, first hand, the terror of war on September 11, 2001.

This week on Fox News Sunday, Texas Republican John Cornyn said, “This is not about freedom of religion because we all respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience … but I do think it’s unwise to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack,”

The day before, on Saturday, Mr. Obama seemed to clarify his earlier statement. He said he supported the right of Muslims to build the center but would not comment on the “wisdom” of deciding its location in Lower Manhattan.

A debate, like this one, is the last thing any politician wants in a crucial election year. It takes attention from the issues the candidates

Yahoo! News Photo

 want to focus on. But it also forces candidates to take a public stance on the issue as public opinion remains sharply divided.

As both sides remain convinced their arguments are firm, politicians are hoping this debate goes away before November’s midterm elections, which are expected to result in big losses for Mr. Obama’s Democrats and a potential power shift in Congress in favor of Republicans.

Supporters of the right to build the center, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, argue that religious tolerance is the best answer to religious extremism, NBC News reported Sunday.

“The fallacy is that Al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us,” Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic congressman whose district includes the “Ground Zero” site, said on CNN’S “State of the Union.”

It’s unfortunate this argument won’t play out the way it would if it weren’t an election year. In critical election years, like the upcoming Midterm, many politicians are even more on guard than usual. It’s much more difficult to have an open, honest, productive debate as key players are caught up in the glare of media coverage that gets brighter as Election Day approaches.

August 15, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | Leave a comment

Video Shows Hundreds of Asian Carp in the Wabash River (WTWO – NBC 2)

By David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, August 15, 2010

WTWO / David Shepherd Video Report (Click Here)

TERRE HAUTE, IN  –  It appears Asian Carp have invaded Valley waterways.  Video shot by an amateur photographer and river enthusiast shows how incredible and dangerous these aquatic nuisances can be.

“They’re strong,” says amateur photographer Brendan Kearns.  “They’re very healthy fish.  When they get on here they’re fighting for their own life.  They want to get off this boat.”

Kearns’ video shows dozens of carp flying through the air, hitting the boat and members of his crew.  While Kearns admits shooting these amazing images was fun, these fish can be very dangerous.

CLICK HERE to see the full video on purplepug.com

“You see fish jumping like that, yeah, it’s neat, but when you feel the energy of them hitting the boat, it sounds like, ‘BANG’ like that.  It scares you.”

As Kearns’ video spreads across the internet and TV,  many are getting an idea of why wildlife experts didn’t want these fish here in the first place.

Kearns explains, “It’s unfortunate we’re seeing it here on the Wabash.”

For tour boat companies, business is booming.  They say everyone wants to see the Asian Carp.

But for those, like Kearns, who fish along the banks of the Wabash, an Asian Carp is far from what they want to see.

Asian Carp

“If they start getting up in Mansfield, Raccoon Lake; If you start seeing these fish in public waters where people go to recreate:  I couldn’t imagine pulling your kids on a tube and these fish jump up and hit them.  It’s going to be bad.”

Kearns continued, “Imagine a 15 – 20 pound bean bag slugging you upside the face going that speed.  You’re going to be hurt.”

The Carp isn’t just dangerous for those who like to relax on the open water.  Kearns explains fish and wildlife can be affected as well.

“They multiply so fast they’re basically taking over the waterways.”

The Asian Carp has been cultivated in Chinese aquaculture for over a thousand years.

But here in the United States, the Carp take over waterways, eating anything it can,  and producing at a rate much higher than other fish.

August 15, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boy, 13, Hit By Lightning At 13:13 on Fri. the 13th

What Are the Chances?

A 13-year-old boy in England was struck by lightning – at 13:13 hours on Friday the 13th.

NBC News is reporting the boy was watching an air show when he was struck.  He’s expected to make a full recovery.  He was treated for burns to his shoulder but, overall, the boy is lucky to be alive.

Rex Clarke, leader of the St. John Ambulance team that treated the child, told the Mirror what happened.

“Suddenly there was this huge crack of lightning really close to the seafront and really loud thunder,” said Clarke. “Seconds later we got a call someone had been hit. The boy was breathing and was conscious.”

“He had a minor burn to his shoulder and was taken to hospital as a precaution. It could have been a lot worse,” he said, adding: “It’s all a bit strange that he was 13, and it happened at 13:13 on Friday the 13th.”

August 15, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Takes A Dip in the Gulf; Says It’s Clean & Safe

David Shepherd  [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gulf Coast beaches are clean, safe and open for business, according to President Obama Saturday, as he and his family take a “working vacation” on Florida’s Panhandle.

The President pledged to “keep up our efforts until the environment is cleaned, polluters are held accountable, business and communities are made whole, and the people of the Gulf Coast are back on their feet.”

From Panama City to Biloxi, the Gulf Coast towns, which depend on tourism revenues, are more like ghost towns as the spill has many Americans making other vacation plans.

Before the spill, a hot summer weekend would attract thousands of vacationers to Panama City’s white sandy beaches and crystal blue Gulf waters.  Even before tar balls began coming ashore, there was a sharp decline in tourism revenues there.  As the spill grew, the number of tourists tanked. 

With so many people and businesses depending on the tourism dollars that continue to vanish because of the spill, the President sent a

NBC Photo

 confident message that Gulf waters are safe and open for business; he and daughter, Sasha, took a swim in the Gulf.

In a statement from the First Family, the Obamas say they came down to “enjoy the beach and the water — to let our fellow Americans know that they should come on down here.”

The trip has been on the books since Mr. Obama began taking heat for not heeding his own advice that Americans should vacation in the Gulf.  Critics point to the President’s North Carolina vacation and his planned trip to Martha’s Vineyard later this month, as not “practicing what he preaches.”

August 14, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gay Couples In CA Plan To Wed; Opponents Appeal

 By: David Shepherd – dshepherd@wtwo.com

August 14, 2010

Same-sex couples in California will legally be able to marry starting Wednesday, unless the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals intervenes.  This, as the state’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown, urges the federal appeals court to waste no time in allowing gay marriages to resume.

Earlier this week, a lower court overturned Proposition 8 (the state’s ban on same-sex marriage) saying it was unconstitutional.  Opponents of same-sex marriage, including a group of religious and conservative groups who call themselves the “Protect Marriage” coalition, want the 9th Circuit to reinstate a hold on same sex marriages until the appeals process goes through.

Protect Marriage has already filed an appeal with the appellate court asking for the hold.  But Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, told NBC News the court should not grant the group’s request to put a stay on gay marriages.

“While there is still the potential for limited administrative burdens should future marriages of same-sex couples be later declared invalid, these potential burdens are outweighed by the district court’s conclusion, based on the overwhelming evidence, that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional,” he said.

Judge Says Group May Not Have Right to Appeal

Judge Vaughn Walker

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional has brought hope to many same-sex couples that want to marry and has drawn criticism from conservatives and members of the religious community.

Vocal opponents of gay marriage want the 9th Circuit to prevent same-sex couples from getting married and, ultimately, want the court to overturn Judge Walker’s decision.  But Walker says the conservative group, Protect Marriage, may not have the legal right to file their appeal.

According to NBC News, Walker has expressed doubts over whether the group can challenge his ruling without the support of the state’s attorney general or the governor.  Both officials have recently said they see no reason why gay couples should not be able to get married now.

Is Washington D.C. Leading the Way?

Some say yes.  Earlier this year, the D.C. City Council voted to make same-sex marriage legal in the nation’s capitol.  Now, gay couples can apply for a marriage license and legally be wed in the District of Columbia.  The law, however, does not require clergy or religious organizations to perform gay weddings.

Chronology of Gay Rights - Interactive Map

Since Congress oversees D.C.’s laws, they had 30 days to file a joint resolution of disapproval that would eventually need to be signed by President Obama.  But Congress failed to act, sending a message, to some, that gay marriage is becoming more acceptable as more states act to make them legal.

Currently, 5 states and the District of Columbia offer full marriage rights to same-sex couples.  If gays are allowed to marry in California, it would become the 6th state to do so.

August 14, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | Leave a comment