North Dakota Senate Candidate Rick Berg: Todd Akin on Steroids

North Dakota Senate candidate Rick Berg

Rick Berg is currently the at-large Representative for North Dakota, and is running for the Senate seat held by retiring Senator Kent Conrad. Yesterday evening, Buzzfeed reported that in 2007, when Berg was a state representative, he voted for a bill that would make abortion a “Class AA felony,” punishable by life in prison without parole. This penalty would be applied to a woman who obtained and abortion and anyone who helped her do so. Here’s the relevant text from Think Progress:

A new section to chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

Intentional termination of human life – Preborn children. A person is guilty of a class AA felony if the person intentionally destroys or terminates the life of a preborn child. A person that knowingly administers to, prescribes for, procures for, or sells to any pregnant individual any medicine, drug, device, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of a preborn child is guilty of a class AA felony.

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A person that intentionally or knowingly aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites a person to intentionally destroy or terminate the life of a preborn child is guilt of a class C felony. For purposes of this section, “preborn child” includes a human being from the moment of fertilization until the moment of birth.

The bill contains a separate section that says that a doctor who “provides health care” to a pregnant woman must “make every effort” to save both mother and fetus. If there is “accidental or unintentional injury” during this care, the doctor is not guilty of homicide. But the bill doesn’t specify whether the health care could include an abortion or whether the women who sought the abortion would still be considered a murderer.

According to Think Progress,

Berg was quick to denounce the comments of a fellow Senate Candidate, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), when he claimed that a woman couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” Berg called the statement “insulting and reprehensible,” and “condemn[ed] them in the strongest terms possible.”

But like vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Berg didn’t indicate to the media that he essentially agrees with Akin that a woman who is impregnated through rape or incest should be forced to carry the perpetrator’s child against their will.  I was somewhat shocked to learn that Rick Berg’s wife is a primary care doctor.

But the most shocking part of this story is that Rick Berg was given a brief speaking role at last week’s Republican National Convention. From the Bismark Tribune:

North Dakota Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Berg got a few moments in the spotlight at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

The Republican congressman spoke for two minutes about North Dakota’s low unemployment, job growth and state budget surplus. He says North Dakota provides a contrast to the sluggish national economy.

Berg says North Dakota doesn’t “burden our job creators with red tape” and that people “trust the individual, not big government.”

Here’s Ed Schultz talking about Berg, who is a millionaire, and admitted he didn’t know what the minimum wage is.

North Dakota Senate Candidate Heidi Heitkamp

Fortunately, Berg has a Democratic opponent, former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. In a poll taken in late July, Heitkamp was leading Berg by 6 points. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what Heitkamp’s views on abortion rights. I’ve posted a video of her below. She sounds fairly conservative, but she would obviously be far better than Rick Berg!

Here’s her website.


Open Thread: New Police Video of George Zimmerman

This video of George Zimmerman climbing a staircase at the Sanford Police Department is dated February 29, 2012–three days after Zimmerman shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Can anyone see two black eyes and a swollen bandaged nose?

From the Miami Herald: George Zimmerman had a broken nose, two cuts and two black eyes: ABC News report

The day after he killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman showed up at a doctor’s office with a broken nose, two black eyes and two small cuts on the back of his head, ABC News reported Tuesday.

According to medical records obtained by the network, he also had a minor back injury. Zimmerman takes Temazepam, an insomnia medication, and Adderall — which is prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy — “medications that can cause side effects such as agitation and mood swings, but in fewer than 10 percent of patients,” ABC reported.

The three-page medical report prepared by a physician near Sanford showed that Zimmerman declined to go to the hospital and did not get follow up care, ABC said. He also complained of stress and nausea.

The above video was recorded two days after Zimmerman saw his doctor. I’ve never had a black eye or a broken nose, but two days seems like a very short time for black eyes to have healed.

So far the news reports I’ve seen about this video have called attention to the fact that Zimmerman is walking around the police station unattended and that he has a bandage on the back of his head, but none have noted the lack of injuries on his face. Are my eyes deceiving me?


Trayvon Martin Case Update: Zimmerman’s Interactions with Sanford Police, Officials; Witnesses Change Stories

More information continues to trickle out in the The Trayvon Martin Case. Today The Miami Herald revealed that George Zimmerman may have had relationships with members of the Sanford Police Department and other Sanford officials.

In January, 2011, Zimmerman spoke at a community meeting called by newly elected Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. He strongly criticized the local police department and said he knew all about it because he had been on a ride-along with Sanford police officers.

“And what I saw was disgusting,” Zimmerman said, according to a recording of the January 2011 meeting obtained by The Miami Herald. “The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because, in his words, ‘anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork, and you’re going to find me as far away from it.’

“He took two lunch breaks and attended a going-away party for one of his fellow officers.”

According to the article, Chief Bill Lee had e-mail interactions with Zimmerman, even though during the controversy over Zimmmerman not be charged in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Lee claimed that Zimmerman

had no relationship with the police department. City records show Lee exchanged emails with Zimmerman last year, when the neighborhood watch volunteer wrote to the chief to praise the department’s volunteer program coordinator.

A video released last week by the State Attorney prosecuting the case shows Zimmerman freely walked about the police station the night of the shooting unescorted.

Sanford police say they have don’t know which officer or officers Zimmerman rode with. How ironic that Zimmerman criticized the police department that was so lenient with him after he killed a young boy for no discernible reason. In a further irony, Zimmerman argued that the previous chief who had failed to arrest the son of one of his officers in the beating of a homeless man should not receive a pension, because:

“I would like to state that the law is written in black and white and it should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line.”

In other news about the case, last night The Orlando Sentinel reported that four witnesses to portions of the fight between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin changed their stories after having more time to reflect on their memories of events. Here’s a brief summary of the changes from the New York Daily News.

Witness 12: A neighbor in the complex first told an agent March 20 that she saw two people on the ground, but wasn’t sure who was on top. Six days later, after seeing news reports, she said she believed Zimmerman was on top of Martin.

Witness 6: He first told an investigator that he saw a black man (presumably Martin) “throwing down blows” on a lighter-skinned man (presumably Zimmerman). He also believed the one being hit was calling out for help. But three weeks later, while he still claimed “the black guy was on top,” he wasn’t sure who was actually calling for help and wouldn’t assume Martin was the one hitting Zimmerman.

Witness 13: This witness interacted with Zimmerman before police arrived, according to the evidence, and noted the blood on the back of his head.

In two interviews a month later, he detailed how Zimmerman that night acted casually like “nothing” had happened, as opposed to “‘I can’t believe I just shot someone!’” according to the evidence.

Witness 2: She initially told police that she saw two people running, although she couldn’t say who was chasing whom. On March 20, she told a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent that she remembers seeing only one person running and heard them as well, but still couldn’t say who that was.


Breaking: George Zimmerman to be Charged in Trayvon Martin Shooting

Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey

Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey will hold a press conference at 6PM today to announce state charges against George Zimmerman, who admitted to shooting Miami high school student Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26 as he returned to the home of his father’s fiancee in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Sanford Police released Zimmerman the same night, apparently believing his claim that he killed Martin in self-defenst

Multiple news sources are saying there will be charges filed against Zimmerman, but not what crime he will be charged with. Corey had told reporters on Tuesday night that she would give them three hours notice before she announced new details in the Trayvon Martin case.

ABC News:

The prosecutor’s ruling is certain to provoke controversy in Sanford, Fla., where shooting took place and across the country.

Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed Martin, who was 17 and black, on Feb. 26 after following the teenager for several minutes.

The special prosecutor’s ruling came one day after Zimmerman’s legal team quit because they had lost contact with him, and suggested that the pressure of the case had “pushed him over the edge.”

His lawyers said that Zimmerman was no longer in Florida and ABC News has learned that prosecutors do not know his exact location.

I’m hoping that Corey knows where Zimmerman is. His former attorneys had said earlier that he would willingly turn himself in if a decision were made to charge him. Will he follow through on the promise now that he has reportedly gone rogue?

State tuned. I’ll update this post with any new information that I can find.


George Zimmerman Goes Rogue

UPDATE: Angela Corey has announced that she will hold a press conference in Jacksonville within the next 72 hours. She said she will give the press a 3 hour heads-up before she makes her announcement.

George Zimmerman’s attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, announced at a press conference this afternoon that they have withdrawn from the representing Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin homicide.

The attorneys decided to resign after they “lost contact” with Zimmerman–he has refused to return their calls since Sunday. They also learned over the weekend that Zimmerman had ignored their advice about a website they set up for him and had set up a Paypal account different than the one they had agreed on, which Zimmerman’s father would control.

The last straw was when Sonner and Uhrig learned that George Zimmerman had contacted special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office and asked to speak to her directly. She refused to speak to him without counsel. Zimmerman then called back and told Corey’s office that he had no attorneys, just “advisers.”

Zimmerman also contacted Sean Hannity, who took the call personally. Hannity confirmed that he did talk to Zimmerman off the record and that he would discuss it on his Fox News program tonight. Sonner and Uhrig have no idea what their former client said to Hannity.

Most troubling of all, Zimmerman has “left the state, but not the country.” So where is he? It’s not clear if even Zimmerman’s father knows where is now. Keep in mind that these two attorneys have never known where Zimmerman was hiding, and have never actually met him. They have only talked to him by telephone.

According to MSNBC, the attorneys said

“We have a pretty good idea where he (Zimmerman) is,” Uhrig said, but added that Zimmerman is not answering the phone. The attorneys said they thought Zimmerman was still in the United States, but not likely in Florida….

The attorneys also expressed concern about Zimmerman’s “emotional and physical safety” and said he may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They also have reservations about a web site Zimmerman set up to solicit money for help in his defense.

“Him setting up his own website is fine,” Sonner said. “I wish he would have told me.” Sonner, the first attorney Zimmerman contacted, said he had been working on the case for free.

From Think Progress:

At various times during the press conference, both attorneys said they did not know where Zimmerman is currently.

Uhrig told the press that, if people are trying to find Zimmerman, they should “stop looking in Florida” and “look much farther way.” This directly contradicts what Craig Sonner said on March 23 when he assured a reporter from WFTV that “he’s absolutely in the state, he’s local.”

Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys for Travon Martin’s parents, gave a statement to Time Magazine:

Benjamin Crump, attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family expressed surprise over the announcement and issued a statement to TIME.

Trayvon’s family was always concerned that Zimmerman doesn’t try to skirt his legal responsibilities and become a flight risk. We always wanted this before a judge and a jury. We hope that [authorities] will take this under consideration that this a flight risk. If they go to press charges, is he really going to face them?

Regarding the website, therealgeorgezimmerman.com, Crump says:

It’s America, and he has a right to do what he wants to do. The family was a little taken aback that George said he had this life-changing occurrence [and needs money]. Well Trayvon Martin had a life-ending occurrence; his family had to do all this stuff [to get someone] who killed their child to face a judge and a jury. The fact that he has this website and he’s out to do this website, when you see the balance, Trayvon is dead. If it were the reverse, Trayvon would have been arrested by day one.

Let’s hope that the special prosecutor’s office has caller ID or that the FBI has some way of finding out where Zimmerman has gone.


George Zimmerman was Fired from his “Under the Table” Security Guard Job for Aggressive Behavior

George Zimmerman

More details keep dribbling out in the Trayvon Martin case. This morning the New York Daily News published an anonymous account from someone who worked with George Zimmerman between 2001 and 2005 [UPDATE: The Zimmerman family moved to Florida in 2002, so the 2001 date at, at least,must be incorrect.] when they acted as paid security guards for “illegal house parties,” earning between $50 and $100 per night, paid under the table. Zimmerman would have been between the ages of 17 and 21 during those years.

Zimmerman, at the center of a firestorm for shooting an unarmed black teenager a month ago, worked for two different agencies providing security to illegal house parties between 2001 and 2005, the former co-worker said.

“Usually he was just a cool guy. He liked to drink and hang with the women like the rest of us,” he said. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When the dude snapped, he snapped.”

Zimmerman was fired and his class G security license was revoked after a particularly violent incident:

“He had a temper and he became a liability,” the man said. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted,” he said. “It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”

As the Daily News points out, 2005 is the same year in which Zimmerman was arrested for fighting with a cop and also had a physical fight with his former fiance Veronica Zuazo that led to each of them taking out restraining orders. The anonymous source said that Zimmerman “loved the power” that came with the job.

When I read this article, I had no idea what “illegal house parties” were, but via Google, I learned that they are drinking parties or maybe raves? thrown by underage kids, perhaps when their parents are out of town–like in the movie Risky Business perhaps. According to the Daily News article, there are actually agencies that provide security for these parties.

Times sure have changed since I was in high school. I admit I’m biased, but is anyone else getting the feeling that Zimmerman is a much better candidate for being called a “thug” than Trayvon Martin?

Joe Oliver

More recently, Zimmerman has been working as a “forensic loan review analyst” (an underwriter) at Digital Risk, LLC. One of his co-workers was Joe Oliver, a man who has been appearing regularly in the media to defend Zimmerman. Oliver, a former local and CNN news anchor, has worked at Digital Risk for the past three years as a “forensic chart review specialist.” According to Oliver’s Linked-In profile, that involves “process loans in default for forensic underwriting.”

It sounds like Oliver could have worked closely with Zimmerman. Given that Oliver’s wife is a close friend of Zimmerman’s mother-in-law, I wonder if Oliver helped Zimmerman get the job?