In ‘Guilt,’ Jonathan Kellerman crafts a solid, poignant tale of violence and innocence

Tugging at the roots of a sycamore in the yard of her future home, a pregnant woman named Holly unearths a blue box. Prying it open, she finds the skeletal remains of an infant. She gasps and drops the bones onto the ground: “The skull had landed right in front of her. Smiling. Black eyeholes insanely piercing. Two minuscule tooth-thingies on the bottom jaw looked ready to bite. . . . It kept staring. Like it knew something.” Holly, who has named her soon-to-be-born baby Aimee — which, in French, means “beloved” — retches and begins to scream.

Infants cherished and infants destroyed are at the center — or at what can genuinely be called the heart — of Jonathan Kellerman’s “Guilt,” the solid latest installment in the prolific author’s series of thrillers featuring psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware. Like Kellerman, who has a background in child clinical psychology, Delaware has worked cases involving child abuse. But this one may be the most wrenching of all — for him and for the reader — as it involves newborns, surely the most innocent and defenseless of all victims.

Delaware and his partner, Los Angeles Police Lt. Milo Sturgis, barely begin to sift through the scant clues to the infant’s identity and to the reasons for its covert burial before a worker discovers the scattered bones of another infant in a nearby park. And in another section of the park lies the body of a woman in her 20s or 30s, dead of a gunshot wound. The partners reason that the discovery of two infant skeletons in a matter of days can’t be a coincidence. Was the dead woman their mother and/or killer?

A briskly paced investigation ensues, with the collected, deliberate Delaware and the punchy, aggressive Sturgis pulling at strands of information and bouncing hypotheses off each other in scenes that crackle with sharp banter.

But it’s Delaware’s confident demeanor as a professional psychologist that largely sets the thriller’s tone, which is cool, brisk and polished. His personal life is also rather steady — he’s in a happy, nurturing relationship with a live-in partner and he has no vices, neuroses or obsessions haunting him at 3 a.m.

But you would be mistaken to describe him — or this case — as unexciting. The astute Delaware lets his sources take center stage, listening and watching keenly as they answer his questions in a series of terse, revealing and charged scenes that are rich in telling detail.

Thus, the sister of the woman shot in the park twists a diamond stud in her ear and admits, “I guess this is the point where I tell you we weren’t close. And feel crappy about it.” The tremors in a man’s hands are “mimicked by quivers along his jawline.” When Delaware confronts a doctor who is eating her lunch with a concise, accurate summation of a past tragedy, “her response was to saw a cube of Jell-O.”

The investigation eventually zeroes in on Tinseltown, fertile ground indeed for a tale of child abuse. Delaware’s infiltration of a movie star’s estate ramps up suspense for a deftly handled action finale. Here, when handed one of the more poignant pieces of information ever to cap a case, Delaware fights tears. The reader may, as well, while contemplating the fate of a newborn in a turbulent world.

Bartell is an arts and travel writer living in Manhattan.

Source : washingtonpost[dot]com


Danica Patrick, first woman to lead a lap at Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.Danica Patrick made more history at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

She became the first woman to lead a lap and was the highest female finisher in the famed Daytona 500. She led five laps and finished eighth. Janet Guthrie had the previous best finish for a woman in the Daytona 500 — 11th in 1980.

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Danica Patrick on making NASCAR history

"You spend a lot of time thinking about what to do when the time comes," Patrick said. "I kept asking up above what was working. You needed a hole, you needed people to help you out. I had a little bit of help today here and there, but I felt like if I was going to dive low, I had a feeling I was going to get freight-trained. … At the end of the day, it was a solid day."

Patrick, the former IndyCar star and current Sprint Cup rookie, was in position to make a run at winner Jimmie Johnson in the final laps. But Patrick faded, dropping from third to eighth as more experienced drivers passed her.

"We stayed basically in the top 10 all day long," she said. "You can’t really complain about that. It was nice."

Patrick stayed out of trouble in a 200-lap race that saw several top contenders knocked out early.

Patrick started the "Great American Race" on the pole after becoming the first woman to qualify in the top spot. She failed to lead the first lap, though, falling behind three-time race winner Jeff Gordon.

  • Danica Patrick crashes in Daytona qualifier
  • Daytona 500: Danica Patrick in spotlight
  • Nonetheless, it was a big moment for NASCAR and Patrick.

    But Patrick got her chance to be out front near the midway point. Fans were on their feet as Patrick beat Michael Waltrip to the front of the field on a restart. She led laps 90 and 91 and three more later before making a pit stop.

    Patrick also made history as an IndyCar driver. She led 19 laps as a rookie in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, becoming the first woman to lead open-wheel racing’s premier event. She finished fourth.

Source : cbsnews[dot]com

Jimmie Johnson wins wreck-affected Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Jimmie Johnson has won his second Daytona 500, racing past defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart, while Danica Patrick finished eighth.

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Daytona racecar loses control

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Fans injured in crash at Daytona

Johnson wasn’t challenged over the final six laps Sunday, adding another 500 title to go with his 2006 victory.

This time crew chief Chad Knaus can enjoy it — he was suspended by NASCAR for the first victory.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a late move to finish second, but didn’t challenge his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the victory. Mark Martin was third.

Patrick was third on the final lap, but faded in the flurry of late action. She became the first woman in history to lead laps in the Daytona 500, though, with her three laps out front.

A wreck knocked out Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards early in the race.

Source : cbsnews[dot]com

Obama’s legacy likely to be determined by upcoming battles

President Obama’s legacy ultimately could be determined over the next few months by a series of showdowns — both with Republicans, and, potentially, with fellow Democrats — slated to take place.

Guns. Immigration. Climate change. Debt and spending. The matters that Obama is either moving on or has promised to move on are the sorts of big issues that the two parties (and their presidents) have tangled with for decades and for which no easy solutions present themselves.

Solve them and Obama will write his name in the history books as one of the most influential presidents of the modern era. (Don’t forget he has already achieved a major overhaul of the nation’s health care system.) Fail to find solutions and Obama likely will join the long list of presidents who promised to change Washington but ultimately came up short .

There’s little question of how Obama sees himself — particularly following his reelection victory in November. In a series of speeches since then, Obama has cast his proposals — on guns, the fiscal cliff, the sequester — as designed to help people achieve the American Dream.

“It can feel like for a lot of young people that the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town; that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born,” Obama said, discussing his proposal to curb gun violence in a speech in Chicago last week. Later, he added: “We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny.”

While Obama’s rhetoric is clear about the grand aims he holds for his second term, the political realities around these issues seem to point to the sort of small-bore solutions that he has long rejected.

Take guns. There seems to be little expectation that an assault-weapons ban can be passed though Congress, a feat that even Bill Clinton, whose presidency was defined, largely, by its dearth of monumental challenges, was able to accomplish. Obama himself has acknowledged as much; in his State of the Union speech his call to action was not for Congress to pass his proposals to lessen gun violence, but rather to simply allow them to be voted on — something short of a historic stand on a controversial issue.

Ditto on the fight over how to reduce the country’s debt . The distance between the two parties over what mix of tax increases and spending cuts is the right one has been on stark display in the runup to the March 1 sequestration deadline. To say negotiations have broken down over how to avert the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts assumes that they ever really began in earnest — which they didn’t. While most polling suggests that Obama enjoys the political upper hand on the issue, that won’t bridge the massive ideological divide that separates the two sides.

Movement on climate change is even more politically fraught, with even small-scale solutions somewhat unlikely to make it through Congress. (Many Congressional Democrats are still reeling from the House passage of a cap and trade measure in 2009, a piece of legislation that went nowhere and is blamed by some within the party for the loss of the chamber the following year.)

Of the second-term issues where Obama’s legacy will be made (or not), immigration reform seems to be the one with the highest probability of a “big” solution — given that a bipartisan group of Senators is working on a compromise proposal. Even there, however, passage of a major piece of legislation will be a heavy lift.

Obama wants to go big. But, he oversees a legislative and political process that seems forever bent toward incrementalism. And, as much as his allies insist that Obama can do little about the alleged intransigence of Republicans in Congress, he will almost certainly need to find a way to bend the other party (or at least a few dozen of them) to his political will if he wants to leave the sort of mark on the presidency— and the country — that he so clearly desires to do.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the Post’s Politics Discussion Forums.

Source : washingtonpost[dot]com

A bone to pick with the Oscars


A scene from Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” with Daniel Day-Lewis portraying Abraham Lincoln.

Oscar night is upon us. I am usually asleep by the time the best actor, actress and picture of the year are announced, but it is, nevertheless, one of my favorite evenings of the year. In fact, every year, I do my best to see every movie nominated for an Oscar before the program, airs. At least, that’s what I did before I had children and had to resort to pay-per-view. That’s a discussion for another day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Yes, the program is just too long.

Yes, sometimes, the hosts leave a lot to be desired. I am, however, predicting that tonight, Seth McFarlane will be so entertaining as host of the 85th Academy Awards that I might actually be able to stay awake for the entire program.

Yes, there is always one person who delivers a speech that leaves us wondering whether they are intoxicated or in a drug-induced state of insanity.

Nevertheless, the evening of the Academy Awards is always exciting because the award recipients and their work teach us so much about who we are as Americans and as citizens of the world.

Nicole Kidman’s 2003 Oscar win for her performance in “The Hours” made the nation look at female actresses with the seriousness they deserve.

Charlize Theron’s 2004 Oscar win for her performance in “Monster” again forced us to not only look at an unfamiliar aspect of crime and justice — women as serial killers.

Reese Witherspoon’s 2006 Oscar win for her performance in “Walk the Line” and Julia Roberts’s 2001 Oscar win for her performance in “Erin Brokovich” showed the world that women as the subject on a bio-pic can win big at the box office.

When Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker and other African Americans won Oscars, they not only gave performances of a lifetime, they made history and gave all Americans, black and white, hope about all that our nation can be because of how far we have come.

Truly exceptional movies and the actors and actresses who seemingly become mediums, literally possessing the spirits of the characters they play, transform our lives in ways we don’t always fully comprehend.

“Schindler’s List” taught us much about the human experience

Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in “The Bucket List” and Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in “Terms of Endearment” made us laugh, cry and appreciate love.

Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia” made us want to become foot soldiers for social justice and human rights.

An exceptional movie has the power to make us think about the best and the worst aspects of human behavior and the world we live in, so that we never forget we are one.

This is why I love the Oscars.

I don’t have a crystal ball and will not even attempt to predict who will win. I will, however, share who I think should win based upon how a particular movie, actor or actresses performance had the greatest impact on how we look at the human experience.

Here are my picks:

Picture: “Lincoln”

Director: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”

Actress in a Supporting Role: Sally Field, “Lincoln”

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Actress in a Leading Role: Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

Now, like The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday, I do have a bone to pick with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Hornaday asks whether Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” will be “Swift-boated out of an Oscar.”

I second that.

Just as egregious as the campaign against “Zero Dark Thirty” (as well as the Academy’s failure to nominate Ben Affleck as best director for “Argo”) is the absurdity of completely ignoring Kerry Washington and her portrayal of Broomhilda von Shaft, the articulate, literate, German- and English- speaking slave in “Django Unchained.”

I would argue that Washington’s portrayal of “Hildy,” Django’s wife in Tarantino’s evocative depiction of slavery on a Tennessee plantation, deserves as much praise as the abundant plaudits of Anne Hathaway’s performance in “Les Misérables.”

Like Hathaway, who has been nominated as best actress in a supporting role for her portrayal of Fantine in the film adaption of the wildly popular Broadway musical, Washington should have been nominated for portrayal of Hildy.

Kerry Washington as Broomhilda Von Shaft in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”

Washington took on this very emotionally difficult role and channeled the spirit of every slave who was whipped, placed in a hot box as punishment for wanting freedom and torn away from their families simply because they were black and because they were women.

Broomhilda von Shaft was black.

She was a slave.

Should could read and speak German and English.

Yet, she was reviled by whites, many of whom were so inarticulate that they appeared to be speaking a foreign language.

Yes, “Django Unchained” is difficult to watch, but it teaches us much about the horror of slavery and racial discrimination and the strength of the human spirit.

As we ponder this era of American history, the final thing I will say about tonight’s Oscars is why I think “Lincoln” should win best picture and Daniel Day-Lewis should win best actor in a leading role.

The movie and Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln were breathtaking.

“Lincoln” is a movie that brought one of our nation’s greatest presidents to life. It made us feel the pain of slavery and war, the yearning for freedom, the battle between good and evil, and the struggle to right our nation’s original sin.

“Lincoln” is everything that the Oscars should stand for.

Michelle D. Bernard is the president & CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.  Follow her on Twitter @michellebernard.

Source : washingtonpost[dot]com

NASCAR to put fans right back in crash seats

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Fans feeling unsafe after the horrific crash at Daytona International Speedway can change seats for NASCAR’s biggest race.

Track President Joie Chitwood said Sunday workers successfully repaired a section of fence — 54 feet wide and 22 feet high — that was shredded Saturday when Kyle Larson’s car went airborne on the final lap of a second-tier race and crashed through the barrier that separates cars from fans. Large pieces of debris, including a tire, sprayed into the upper and lower section of the stands.

The crash injured more than 30 people, raising more questions about fan safety at race tracks.

Halifax Health spokesman Byron Cogdell said seven people with crash-related injuries remained hospitalized Sunday in Daytona Beach in stable condition. The six people brought to a different Halifax hospital in Port Orange with crash-related injuries had all been discharged by Sunday morning, Cogdell said.

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Daytona racecar loses control

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Fans injured in crash at Daytona

A spokeswoman at Florida Memorial Medical Center would not release information Sunday on the patients brought to that hospital.

Chitwood, meanwhile, said if any fans are uncomfortable with their up-close seating for Sunday’s Daytona 500, officials will work to move them.

"If fans are unhappy with their seating location or if they have any incidents, we would relocate them," Chitwood said Sunday. "So we’ll treat that area like we do every other area of the grandstand. If a fan is not comfortable where they’re sitting, we make every accommodation we can."

Larry Spencer of Nanticoke, Pa., said Sunday he’s not sure he wants to ever sit that low again after his 15-year-old brother, Derrick, needed three stitches in his cheek after being hit by metal debris flying from the crash. They sat close to the fence Saturday, but returned for the Daytona 500 with tickets dozens of rows farther away from the track.

"I thought it was just neat to see the cars going by that close," Spencer said. "After yesterday, though, I definitely will reconsider sitting lower ever again."

The tire that flew into the stands landed a couple of rows above where they had been standing. After the crash, looking around at the people seriously injured, Spencer said he decided to take his brother to a hospital himself so that speedway crews and paramedics could focus on the people who needed more help.

"The only way to describe it was like a bomb went off, and the car pretty much exploded," Spencer said.

Track workers finished repairs about 2 a.m. Sunday, having installed a new fence post, new metal meshing and part of the concrete wall.

Officials decided not to rebuild the collapsed cross-over gate, which allows fans to travel between the stands and the infield before races.

Even with the crash and potential questions about fan safety, the enthusiasm for NASCAR’s "Super Bowl" might dampen any concerns. CBS affiliate WKMG-TV in Orlando reports some fans camped out for two weeks in order to get good spots for the race.

"Nobody’s going to think about that, it’s racing," said Brian Wisneski from Pennsylvania. "Accidents, happen. They happen on the highway everyday."

Daytona has a grandstand remodel planned. Chitwood said the injuries could prompt a redesign that might include sturdier fences or stands further away from the on-track action.

"It’s tough to connect the two right now in terms of a potential redevelopment and what occurred," Chitwood said. "We were prepared yesterday, had emergency medical respond. As we learn from this, you bet: If there are things that we can incorporate into the future, whether it’s the current property now or any other redevelopment, we will.

"The key is sitting down with NASCAR, finding out the things that happened and how we deal with them."

Daytona reexamined its fencing and ended up replacing the entire thing following Carl Edwards’ scary crash at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama in 2009. Edwards’ car sailed into the fence and spewed debris into the stands.

"We’ve made improvements since then," Chitwood said. "I think that’s the key: that we learn from this and figure out what else we need to do."

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Source : cbsnews[dot]com

Yankees win right to be the only “Evil Empire”

NEW YORK There’s only one "Evil Empire" in baseball. And the New York Yankees have won a legal victory to make sure it stays that way.

A panel of judges in Washington D.C. issued a ruling this month against a company called Evil Enterprises that has been trying since 2008 to trademark the phrase "Baseballs Evil Empire."

The Yankees opposed the application, and in their decision, the judges agreed that the team alone owned the term, at least in connection with baseball.

Evil Enterprises lawyer Gerard Dunne tells The Wall Street Journal that he hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal.

The term actually originates with Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, who called the Yankees the "evil empire" after they signed Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras in 2002.

Source : cbsnews[dot]com