David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

BREAKING NEWS: Hurricane Earl Forces Evacuations As He Eyes the U.S.

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Officials in North Carolina announced an evacuation for the Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m.  NBC News is reporting tourists are being ordered to leave the barrier island which is only accessible by ferry.  At this time, year-round residents on the Ocracoke Island are being urged to evacuate but have the option to stay.  That could change if the powerful storm shifts from its current path.

Hurricane Earl, a powerful Category 4 hurricane is forcing officials up and down the east coast to get a plan ready in case the monster storm makes landfall.

I’m getting more information together on this story and will update with developments.

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September 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Alex Strengthens Again To Tropical Storm Status As It Moves Into Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center [Sunday, June 27, 2010 – 10 PM CDT] shows Alex has gained strength over the warm Gulf waters and is once again classified as a tropical storm.

Tropical systems gain their strength from warm water and weaken as they move over land.

Alex made landfall Saturday afternoon in Belize, and is currently moving into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters believe Alex will be able to gain enough strength to reach hurricane status before making landfall in northeastern Mexico or the southern coastal areas of Texas later this week.

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, forecasters feared Alex’s track could push it west of the BP oil spill but close enough that it could cause major problems for the clean-up effort in the Gulf.

Now, with the projected track further to the west, experts say the chances Alex would cause serious problems for the Gulf coast’s already desperate oil woes are low.

With that said, tropical systems are very unpredictable and can change course at any time to people along the Gulf coast should still monitor the latest developments as Alex approaches.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Column: Do Gays Have It Better Today & Is It Enough?

Do Gays Have It Better Today & Is It Enough?

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

Editor’s Note:  This column is one reporter’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect those of WTWO-TV, NBC Universal, Nexstar Broadcasting, or any of their sponsors.  This column contains strong language and sexual material that may not be appropriate for all readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

Faggot, queer, homo:  they are words commonly used today to disparage and hurt others.  They are words that are used, not just targeting homosexuals, but anyone who is the target of bullying.  Ever hear someone say, “Oh, that’s so gay?”  But it seems America is turning a corner where, in many places, those words are no longer tolerated (much like the word nigger). 

Many Americans today, gay and straight, see those words as ignorant and closed minded.  But still, we hear it much too often on our streets, in our schools, and just about anywhere else we go in public.

 Looking back at it now, in 2010, it’s hard to believe there was a time in the United States where homosexuality was considered a mental disorder.  Gay men and women were institutionalized for the “perverted compulsions” and an employee could be fired if he or she were suspected of being homosexual.

For centuries, the gay stigma terrified so many people that coming out and living life openly gay was unsafe.  Those courageous enough to come out were often blackballed; thought of as deviants and mentally sick.  There were no laws protecting a homosexual’s rights to housing, employment, college acceptance, marriage or any other gay issue you can think of.

Matthew Shepard’s Brutal Killing Brings Gay Issues Front and Center

It wasn’t until the brutal killing of gay student Matthew Shepard in October of 1998 that gay rights issues took center stage, both in the national media and in Congress.  Shepard was kidnapped by two men in Laramie, Wyoming, tied to a fence and beaten to death because he was gay. 

Officers who responded to the crime scene later described the 21-year-old Shepard as beaten so badly; the only parts of his face not covered in blood were two streaks running down his cheeks from his eyes where he cried as he was left tied to the fence to die a long, painful death.

In the years following that horrific crime, lawmakers on both the state and federal level, have taken a more serious look at hate crime legislation as well as other gay rights issues.   

Many gay rights activists have praised the work that’s been done thus far, but many will still tell you more work must be done.

Lawrence v. Texas

Gay rights advocates claimed another victory in 2003 when the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy law in the landmark, Lawrence v. Texas case.  Before the high court made their ruling, 14 states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books.  Knowing they could no longer enforce those laws after the Supreme Court’s ruling, those states took the law off the books.

It all started on September 17, 1998.  Harris County police were called out to Lawrence’s home after a neighbor, who later admitted to police he lied, reported there was a weapon disturbance taking place there.  Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Quinn entered the apartment, gun drawn, and caught the two men having consensual anal sex. 

They were arrested, not for the erroneous report of a weapon, but for violating the state’s Homosexual Conduct Law, which prohibited anal and oral sex among people of the same sex but did not apply to those, participating in the same sexual activity, if the participants were members of the opposite sex.

The two men were arrested and each posted $200 bail after spending the night in jail.  A judge fined the two $400 dollars for their crime and were forced to pay over $100 in court costs.

The case eventually made it to the United States Supreme Court.  Their ruling made it so no other same sex couple would ever have to face that kind of discrimination again.

The most frightening, and some would say sickening, part of this is that 14 states had similar laws on the books before the high court’s ruling.

Things Get Even Better For Gay Community

Many states have debated the issue of gay marriage in recent years.  Many states passed constitutional amendments “protecting the sanctity of marriage,” ensuring marriages there stay between one man and one woman.

But 5 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) have legalized gay marriage as lawmakers in other states are hoping to do the same thing.  President Obama is against gay marriage, but believes in civil unions, which grant gay couples the same rights and benefits as “traditional marriage,” and equal rights for all Americans despite their sexual orientation.

Now, the Obama administration is renewing their vow to the gay community to pass more pro-gay laws including employment non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the controversial, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, baring gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

Allowing gays to serve openly will “hurt morale,” and “disrupt the unit,” according to many military officials.  The problem with that is that same rational was used to bar blacks from serving with whites in the early 1900’s.  The military officials were right.  It did hurt morale and disrupt the unit.  But the unit got over it and today, the thought of racially segregating the brave men and women who serve our country would be thought of as absurd and racist.

Cut the President Some Slack

MSNBC Photo

But not all homosexuals are happy with the administration’s “lack of action.”  As an openly gay man, television journalist, active member of the Episcopal Church, and partner to a wonderful man, Shawn, the gay community needs to cut President Obama some slack.

Many are angry Mr. Obama hasn’t acted on gay rights issues sooner.  When he took office, President Obama was facing huge issues that were affecting millions of Americans.  Mothers couldn’t afford to put food on the table for their families, the job market tanked, and healthcare reform was needed to ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare for themselves and their children.

The President adopted a national emergency from the previous administration and, in times of such an emergency, social issues need to take a backseat until the devastating problems plaguing our country improve.  Yes, Shawn and I would love to get married, but I can’t justify fast-tracking my social agenda while children are starving and can’t see a doctor because their parents can’t afford it.

As the economy improves and healthcare reform moves forward, Mr. Obama is now making gay rights a priority.  He’s fulfilling his promise and he started as soon as he was responsibly able.  If you expect anything else from the President of the United States, you are kidding yourself.

We are very lucky to have such a progressive President (whether you subscribe to his politics or not) and, quite frankly, he may be the most pro-gay person we will see in the White House for a long time.

Moving Forward and My Prayer

Americans are becoming more accepting of gay issues and homosexuals today have it much better than they did just a few years ago.  That said, yes, there is more work to do.  I’m not an activist by any means, I’m a journalist. 

It’s my hope and prayer that there will be a day where every couple is able to express their love for one another through marriage, gay or straight.  I pray to see a day where our schools crack down on bullying and harassment of all students, no matter what their sexual orientation. 

Progress comes in painfully slow increments.  The only thing we can do, as a society, is continue to love one another with all that we have, fight to ensure all Americans have equal rights, and pray the day will come when we can all join hands together, despite race, sexual orientation, gender or religion, as one people; all children of God.

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June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alex Weakens To Depression; Could Re-Strengthen In Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, June 27, 2010

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows, once Tropical Storm Alex, has been downgraded to a tropical depression.

Tropical systems gain their strength from warm water and weaken as they move over land.

Alex made landfall Saturday afternoon in Belize, and is currently moving into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters believe Alex will be able to gain enough strength to reach hurricane status before making landfall in northeastern Mexico later this week.

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, forecasters feared Alex’s track could push it west of the BP oil spill but close enough that it could cause major problems for the clean-up effort in the Gulf.

Now, with the projected track further to the west, experts say the chances Alex would cause serious problems for the Gulf coast’s already desperate oil woes are low.

With that said, tropical systems are very unpredictable and can change course at any time to people along the Gulf coast should still monitor the latest developments as Alex approaches.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tropical Storm Alex Develops, Eyes Oil Devastated Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Saturday, June 26, 2010

The first tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has developed in the western Caribbean near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center [6/26/10 11:00 a.m.]:

Location:  17.3 N      86.1 W

Winds: 45 MPH

Moving: WNW 9 MPH

As the tropical storm moves over the warm waters of the Caribbean, it is expected to strengthen.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the coast of Belize and the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula from Chetumal to Cancun and the islands of Roatan, Guanaja and Utila in Honduras.

From there it is expected to move into the western Gulf of Mexico.  Tropical systems are very unpredictable and tracks can shift at any time. 

If the storm continues on its current track, it could pose major problems for the oil spill cleanup effort. 

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Police Say Woman Stabbed Couple To Steal Their Baby

By: David Shepherd with information from WTWO-TV – Terre Haute, IN – Saturday, June 26, 2010

Terre Haute, Indiana police are shocked by a 34-year-old woman’s alleged plot to kill a couple to steal their newborn baby.  Police call the case “bizarre.”

The drama unfolded Wednesday after police say Stephanie Foster approached the home of a couple asking to use their phone.  She allegedly forced herself into the home, stabbing the couple, Michael and Ashley Speer.

Vigo County sheriff Jon Marvel tells WTWO-TV  in Terre Haute, “I have never seen anything this bizarre except on TV.”

CLICK HERE for the latest on this story on mywabashvalley.com (WTWO’s website).

Marvel and Vigo County prosecutor Terry Modesitt appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show” Saturday as shock from this story spreads across the country .

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama Administration Renews Vow To Gay Community: Too Little, Too Late?

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Obama administration is renewing its vow to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians at home and abroad.

At a White House reception honoring Gay and Lesbian Pride Month Tuesday, Mr. Obama said, “It’s not right, it’s not who we are as Americans, and we’re going to put a stop to it.”

The Obama administration is currently working to further extend benefits to gays and lesbians employed by the federal government.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton entered a gay pride event at the State Department to a standing ovation.

 “We are moving together in the right direction,” said Clinton. “We reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights of all human beings.”

 Gay Couples Expected to Receive More Rights

 The administration plans to announce plans later this week to allow gay workers to take medical leave to care for their same-sex partners under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 Before now, that benefit has only been reserved for the illness of relatives through blood or marriage.  Under the Family and Medical

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

 Leave Act, only companies with 50 employees or more are required to offer the unpaid time off.   

 Some gay rights activists aren’t satisfied.  They feel the Obama White House is moving too slowly on gay issues.  The gay community is traditionally supportive of democratic candidates and played a significant role in the election of the President.

 As frustration in parts of the gay community continues to grow, the President appears to be working to win back their trust.  His secret weapon: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 

There is little doubt among members of the gay community that if the President is able to repeal “Don’t Ask,” it would be a major gay rights victory.

 At Tuesday’s event, Mr. Obama told the cheering crowd, “We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy, and I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk.”

 

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June 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BREAKING NEWS: McChrystal Leaves White House After Oval Office Meeting

New Information: (10:30 a.m. eastern) Gen. Stanley McChrystal has left The White House after a half hour meeting in the Oval Office with President Obama.

Sources tell NBC News McChrystal has left the White House (and won’t be returning).  He was scheduled to meet with the National Security team at the White House after his meeting with the president.

McChrystal’s quick exit is further stirring the pot of rumors that he has either been fired or resigned.

The president plans to address the nation sometime later this morning or early this afternoon to announce his decision.

This is a developing story.

——————————————————————-

MSNBC Photo

Afghanistan’s top U.S. Commander comes face to face with the Commander-In-Chief Wednesday.

General Stanley McChrystal denies media reports that he plans to resign as he meets with President Obama in the Oval Office.

As of 10:00 AM (eastern), Obama and McChrystal were huddled in the Oval to discuss controversial remarks made to Rolling Stone magazine.

White House aides tell NBC News it is unlikely McChrystal will keep his job.  It’s unclear whether McChrystal will resign or be fired.

The President plans to go before the media Wednesday to discuss the results of the meeting.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Times Square Bombing Suspect Pleads Guilty

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]Monday, June 21, 2010

Faisal Shahzad - MSNBC Photo

The Times Square car bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad, pleaded guilty on the 10 terrorism and weapons charges handed down by a federal grand jury.

The Pakistan-born U.S. citizen appeared defiant in court Monday as he entered his plea, warning “we will be attacking the U.S.” unless the military “leaves Muslim lands alone,” according to court documents.

Shahzad was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when he was 18.  The married father of two, trained in the United States as a financial analyst, was indicted for receiving explosives training in Pakistan during a five-week trip to Warziristan. 

Court document show Shahzad received $5,000 in cash in late February from an accused Pakistani co-conspirator.  That same man allegedly ordered $7,000 more be paid to Shahzad on April 10th

Shahzad is scheduled to be sentenced October 5.  Many of his charges each carry life sentences.

Judge Challenges Shahzad In Court

Shahzad gave a detailed account of what happened the night he tried to detonate an SUV full of explosives in Times Square May 1st.  He

Yahoo! News Photo

 said he chose a warm Saturday night because there would be more people he could kill.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum questioned the would-be car bomber after he called the bombing attempt retaliation against the U.S. and other countries that “attacked the Muslim lands.”

Cedarbaum interrupted, “But not the people who were walking in Times Square that night. Did you look around to see who they were?”

Shahzad replied, “Well, the people select the government,” Shahzad said. “We consider them all the same.”

The judge also tried to determine if Shahzad constructed the bomb himself.

He calmly replied, “One has to understand where I’m coming from.”  He continued, “I consider myself a Muslim soldier,” telling the judge he built the bomb “all by myself.”

He continued to explain that he waited up to five minutes after he lit the fuse waiting for the bomb to go off.

“I was waiting to hear a sound but I didn’t hear a sound,” Shahzad told the court.  “So I walked to Grand Central and went home,” he said.

Yahoo! News Photo

Shahzad’s defiant tone didn’t end there.  He went on to say: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”

Guilty Plea Meant To Send Message Of Terror

During a court hearing that was far routine, Shahzad says he wanted “to plead guilty and 100 times more,” warning “we will be attacking U.S.” if President Obama doesn’t pull the military out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

 
 

 

June 22, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment