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Archive for July 8th, 2011

One of the most unfathomable aspects of the just-concluded Casey Anthony murder trial was that no one reported 2-year-old Caylee Anthony missing, or dead, until a month after the child’s disappearance. That’s something that Michelle Crowder has set out to discourage in the future – by making “failure to report” a federal crime.

 

Ms. Crowder, of Durant, Okla., has created a “Caylee’s Law” petition, which is circulating online at Change.org, a social change platform. The petition had collected more than 475,000 online signatures by Thursday afternoon, two days after a Florida jury acquitted Ms. Anthony of charges, including capital murder, that she was responsible for Caylee’s death.

The Caylee’s Law petition calls for establishing two new federal offenses: the failure of a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker to notify law enforcement of a missing child within 24 hours, and the failure to report the death of a child within one hour of discovery.

“The case of Caylee Anthony was tragic, and there is no reason for another case like this one to hit the courts,” Crowder writes in the petition letter. “Let’s do what is necessary to prevent another case like this from happening.”

Related: Florida residents react to the verdict

The petition coincides with a burst of public outrage over the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial. Anthony, Caylee’s mother, was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to police and will be released from jail July 13.

People might be supporting the Caylee’s Law petition because they disagree with the verdict, suggests Corey Yung, associate professor of criminal law at The John Marshall Law School, in Chicago. “This just seems like this is an instance of people just wanting to do something, and [Caylee’s Law] seems to be a place where outrage has been directed,” he says.

Crowder acknowledges she is among those who don’t believe that justice was done. “When I saw that Casey Anthony had been found not guilty in the murder of little Caylee, and that she was only being convicted of lying to the police about her disappearance, I was sickened,” Crowder says. “I could not believe she was not being charged with child neglect or endangerment, or even obstruction of justice.”

Her objections seem moderate compared with the fury being vented in social media and TV current affairs programming during the past two days. On Facebook, users have created several pages to express their views about the verdict, such as “There was NO Justice for Caylee 7/5/2011,” which registered nearly 120,000 “likes,” and “100,000 People Who Think The Casey Anthony Verdict Was Wrong,” with about 259,000 “likes.”

On Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” on Wednesday night, host Bill O’Reilly duked it out with guest Geraldo Rivera over the verdict. “The mother has the 2-year-old in the house. The 2-year-old is gone. The mother says nothing and lies about it. Come on, that’s neglect,” he exclaimed.

But is a Caylee’s Law really needed?

Current federal law requires police to report each case of a missing child to the National Crime Information Center. If the missing person is under age 21, the law requires police to file the case immediately, omitting the waiting period for filing cases on missing adults. The law was modified during the Bush administration to allow immediate reporting of young people between ages 18 and 21, after 19-year-old Suzanne Lyall, a student at State University of New York at Albany, went missing in 1998.

Every state has statutes requiring certain individuals, such as social workers, teachers or physicians, to report suspected child abuse in particular circumstances, but no statute or federal law currently exists that requires someone to report a missing person or child.

“There’s an incredible number of laws named after tragic incidents involving children,” says Mr. Yung. “By and large, these statutes are born out of rage and often passed by majority, without debate.”

The Caylee’s Law petition has prompted several lawmakers to learn more about their own states’ requirements for reporting missing children.

“I was shocked to find that we don’t have such a law in Oklahoma,” says state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R), who says he has been receiving many e-mails and petitions from constituents who are angry about the Anthony verdict.

“’I’m not surprised about the outrage, because I’m outraged,” Mr. Wesselhoft says. He intends to introduce a bill during Oklahoma’s 2012 legislative session that would require a parent or legal guardian to notify authorities within 24 hours if a child is missing or deceased.

“If my bill were a law in Florida, then Casey Anthony would be facing another six months or a year in jail,” says Wesselhoft, who suggests that measures inspired by the Caylee’s Law petition would be more appropriate at the state, rather than the federal, level. States investigate and prosecute most cases of child abuse, neglect, or death.

http://news.yahoo.com/caylees-law-petition-drive-missing-child-laws-change-234203533.html

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. —

A “Modern Family” character may be recast for the upcoming season.

The ABC comedy is looking for a new actor to play the part of Cameron and Mitchell’s adopted daughter, Lily, currently played by twins Jaden and Ella Hiller.

”We adore Jaden and Ella, but have started to think that they’d rather be at home playing than working as actors,” executive producer Steve Levitan toldEntertainment Weekly, which first reported the story.

However, fans of the character – and the twins that play the little one – should know it’s not a done deal.

“If we end up making a change, it’s only because we want what’s best for them,” Levitan added.

Levitan previously hinted to EW that trouble was brewing with the tiny stars.

“We all may determine that as gorgeous and sweet as Jaden and Ella are, it’s not what they signed up to do or what they love,” he told the mag in May. “Maybe they don’t love to be on a set and have to listen to us do a scene 10 times. Maybe they would be happier being kids. We don’t want them to be unhappy. If we feel it’s not in their best interest to stay, we will replace them, and ask that people forgive us for doing so.”

“Modern Family” starts filming its third season, beginning next month in Los Angeles, according to the mag.

In the meantime, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell on the show, will guest judge on FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” next week, per TV Guide.

http://www.accesshollywood.com/_article_50375

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis soared into the heavens and the history books Friday (July 8), kicking off the last-ever mission of NASA’s storied shuttle program.

Despite a bleak forecast of thunderstorms and clouds, the shuttle beat the weather in a stunning midday launch, sailing into the sky on one final voyage. The coutndown toward liftoff took a dramatic pause at T minus 31 seconds while ground crews verified that a vent arm at the top of the shuttle was fully retracted. NASA was quickly able to push on toward liftoff.

Atlantis blasted off just after 11:26 a.m. EDT (1526 GMT) from Launch Pad 39A here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, thrilling huge throngs of spectators who had descended on Florida’s Space Coast to see the swan song of an American icon. NASA estimated that between 750,000 and 1 million people turned out to watch history unfold before their eyes.

“On behalf of the greatest team in the world, good luck to you and your crew on the final flight of this true American icon,” shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts just before launch. “And so for the final time, Fergie, Doug, Sandy and Rex, good luck, Godspeed and have a little fun up there.”

“Thanks to you and your team, Mike. We’re not ending the journey today, we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end,” Atlantis’ commander Chris Ferguson replied. “Let’s light this shuttle one more time Mike and witness this nation at its best. The crew of Atlantis is ready to launch.”

After 135 launches over 30 years, the space shuttle will never streak into the sky again. [Video: Last Launch Of Shuttle Atlantis]

Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew are headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. The main goal of the shuttle’s 12-day flight — Atlantis’ 33rd mission after nearly 26 years of flying — is to deliver a year’s worth of supplies and spare parts to the orbiting lab.

But the world’s attention is fixed more on what Atlantis’ last mission means than on what it will accomplish in orbit.

“For an entire generation who grew up with the space shuttle, this is a moment that won’t be appreciated for some time to come,” said space history expert Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com and a SPACE.com contributor. “People have taken it for granted; I don’t think its absence is going to be immediately felt.”

A skeleton crew

Commander Chris Ferguson is leading a skeleton crew  of four on Atlantis’ STS-135 flight. He’s joined by pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus. Other shuttle missions over the years have typically carried six or seven spaceflyers, but NASA wanted to use every bit of available space to pack extra cargo on this last drop-off mission to the station.

The astronauts will deliver about 9,500 pounds (4,318 kilograms) of cargo to the station. Atlantis is also delivering several different science experiments, one of which — the Robotic Refueling Mission — is an attempt to demonstrate a way to refuel satellites robotically on orbit.

In addition, Atlantis is also carrying two iPhone 4 smartphones loaded with apps to help astronauts perform experiments in space. This represents the first time iPhones have ever gone to space.

 

 

Atlantis will chase the station down for a while, finally docking with the $100 billion orbiting lab on Sunday (July 10). The shuttle is scheduled to return to Earth for the final time on July 20.

Until Atlantis rolls to a stop on the runway, the astronauts plan to focus on the tasks they have to perform over the next 12 days, putting off meditations on their mission’s historic significance as much as possible.

“We’re not going to dwell on it too much until after landing,” Ferguson said before launch in a recent NASA video. “Then we’ll get a chance — hopefully following a great, successful mission — to kind of bask in the achievements of the program overall, and really reflect.” [NASA’s Space Shuttle Program In Pictures: A Tribute]

The end of an era

NASA’s space shuttle program was born in January 1972, when President Richard Nixon announced its existence to the nation. Back in those days, the shuttle was billed as a breakthrough vehicle that could enable safe, frequent and relatively cheap access to space.

“The shuttle era really was an effort to do a whole new kind of spaceflight,” Valerie Neal, curator of human spaceflight at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., told SPACE.com. The shuttle program, she added, “held with it the promise of making space just a normal part of human endeavor.”

The first flight took place on April 12, 1981. Since then, the shuttle — the world’s first and only reusable spacecraft — has become NASA’s workhorse vehicle, with the five-shuttle fleet making 135 flights over three decades.

Some of these flights have deployed or repaired important pieces of scientific hardware, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. And many missions since 1998 have helped build the International Space Station, which is now nearly complete.

In addition to these hardware accomplishments, shuttle missions have carried 355 different individuals from 16 different countries into low-Earth orbit, according to NASA officials. So the shuttle delivered on part of its promise, experts say, opening space up to many more people than had been possible previously and helping humanity develop its nascent capabilities in low-Earth orbit.

But the space shuttle didn’t turn out to be cheap or completely safe. NASA once estimated launches could cost as little as $20 million; they’ve turned out to run nearly $1.6 billion each. And two shuttle missions — Challenger’s STS-51L flight in 1986 and Columbia’s STS-107 mission in 2003 — ended in tragedy, killing a total of 14 astronauts.

Ultimately, historians will likely debate the shuttle program’s legacy for years to come.

Retirement awaits

When Atlantis touches down later this month, its flying days will be over. But the orbiter will still have to be prepped for one final mission: educating the public about spaceflight, and perhaps inspiring youngsters to become astronauts themselves someday.

Like the two other remaining shuttles — Endeavour and Discovery — Atlantis will become a museum showpiece. Atlantis won’t have to go far; it will assume a place of pride in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex here.

Discovery is headed for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, while Endeavour will make the trip west to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Without the space shuttles, NASA will rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, which is slated to operate until at least 2020. The agency wants private American craft to take over this taxi service eventually, but that probably won’t happen for at least four or five years.

For its part, NASA has begun shifting its focus beyond low-Earth orbit. Last year, President Barack Obama charged the space agency with sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and then on to Mars by the mid-2030s.

As exciting as both of these exploration prospects are, they remain far off, both in space and time. Right now, most thoughts are with Atlantis as it streaks toward the space station, its final mission closing out the life of a spacecraft that came to represent a nation in many ways.

Over the years, the space shuttle became a symbol of America, its ambitious goals and its technological know-how, experts say.

“The shuttle became a very powerful icon,” Roger Launius, space history curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told SPACE.com, “just as serviceable an icon as the astronauts landing on the moon, in terms of national prestige abroad and pride at home.”

http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-launches-space-shuttle-historic-final-mission-153202937.html

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