Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Metrolink train slams into car in Riverside (December 2, 2008) The driver of the car got out safely before the crash. No injuries in this incident!!
Metrolink train slams into car in Riverside
December 2, 2008
A Metrolink commuter train slammed into a vehicle on the tracks near a crossing in Riverside on Monday night, but the female driver and her passenger got out safely before the crash, authorities said.
Steven Frasher, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department, said the 21-year-old woman made a left turn onto the railroad tracks at Jurupa Avenue, mistaking them for a street. When she realized her mistake, she got out of the car and got clear of the tracks as the Metrolink 412 train approached about 7:45 p.m.
There were 40 passengers on the train, which had left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles at 6:35 p.m. heading to Riverside, Metrolink spokesman Francisco Oaxaca said. He said there were no injuries reported on the train.
Passengers on the train, which was only 10 minutes from its final stop, heard the crunch of metal and felt a slight bump.
The train stayed on the track and came to a rapid but relatively smooth stop.
Passengers were kept on the train for about two hours until police could complete their investigation and the tracks could be cleared and inspected.
Willon is a Times staff writer.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
There's a better way to spend discretionary funds
If the city of Rialto wishes to honor Congressman Baca, it may be more meaningful to do so in regard to his work in helping to clean up perchlorate and selling the Rialto airport. Perhaps a plaque on the Water District building or, if the Renaissance program ever gets off the ground, naming a structure or park after him.
If our city administrator has discretionary funds, I would like to see them used for red-light cameras on at least one of our busy east-west thoroughfares. Many accidents are caused on Base Line because of speeders who run red lights.
JO ANN BERG, Rialto
Vacancies in leadership loom for San Bernardino (Contra Costa Times September 27, 2008) The City is in for some Big Changes!!
Vacancies in leadership loom for San Bernardino
Within a span of several months, San Bernardino will have a new city manager, a new police chief and a new council member representing its 4th Ward.
There could be even more changes in play for city leaders. Code Enforcement Director Glenn Baude was relieved of his duties in July, and although the council has held several closed-door meetings to discuss his fate, nothing has been announced.
And of course, there's always a chance other city figures could retire, find a new job or end up stepping into some as-yet undiscovered hornet's nest.
At the very least, San Bernardino's next city manager will go to work in a city where politics are played like old-time football - three (or more) arguments and a cloud of dust.
The last city manager, Fred Wilson, left this month to take a job as Huntington Beach's top administrator. Wilson worked for San Bernardino for more than two decades, spending a dozen years as the city's top staffer.
Lori Sassoon, formerly Wilson's assistant, is acting city manager. The City Council has held interviews for an interim leader, and a headhunting firm has been hired to find the next permanent city manager.
Mayor Pat Morris said the next city manager will need to be someone who is experienced, knowledgeable and "accustomed to a challenging policymaking atmosphere, which is what our city offers."
Such a political environment, the mayor added, will require a leader with strength and resilience.
But San Bernardino's reputation for smash-mouth politics won't make it hard to find a new city manager, Morris said.
"I don't think so, and we can't pretend to be anything other than what we are," he said.
In this regard, Morris and 7th Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack agreed.
"It depends on how much of a challenge any one given candidate wants to embark upon," she said when asked if San Bernardino's political environment will make it hard to find a new city manager.
McCammack and Morris don't often see eye to eye. Of late, a prominent disagreement between them has been on the question of whether the council should subpoena several city leaders to investigate the management of Operation Phoenix, an anti-crime program that Morris launched in 2006, his first year in office.
Phoenix was thrust into turmoil in early July after community center manager Mike Miller was arrested and charged with child molestation. He is awaiting trial.
Miller's arrest opened the door to revelations of management troubles within the multiagency Phoenix effort.
McCammack has favored 1st Ward Councilwoman Esther Estrada's proposal to subpoena staff members to compel them to provide information about Phoenix. Morris has called the tactic unnecessary, and thus far, a majority of the council has rejected subpoenas.
In late July, Wilson placed Baude on administrative leave before it was revealed that Wilson was leaving for Huntington Beach. The council has discussed Baude's fate behind closed doors, but so far, no announcements have been made as to his future.
Baude is under a gag order from the city, and his attorney, James Curtis, has said that Baude was placed on leave for talking to the media about Phoenix in the wake of the Miller scandal. Curtis could not be reached for comment on this report, and elected officials who were interviewed didn't want to speak about the issue.
Until July, Baude was also Operation Phoenix director. The acting city manager is now in charge of day-to-day supervision of the program and general city business.
Police Chief Michael Billdt has also spent much of the past two years as a key member of the Phoenix effort and is scheduled to retire in March.
Many rank-and-file officers, however, would like Billdt to leave sooner.
The city's police union has taken a vote of no confidence in Billdt, and union president Sgt. Rich Lawhead has called for Billdt to leave office as soon as possible.
Billdt and Morris, however, are close, and neither has given any indication that the chief will surrender his stars before his planned retirement.
Billdt has also expressed optimism that the impasse between himself and the rank and file can be overcome.
Whenever Billdt returns to private life, councilmen Neil Derry of the 4th Ward and Tobin Brinker of the 3rd Ward said the city should wait to hire its next police chief so the next city manager can hire his or her own leadership team.
If Billdt leaves before March, McCammack said former Fontana and Rialto Police Chief Frank Scialdone "would be a perfect example of a great interim chief."
Scialdone is credited by many with rescuing the Rialto Police Department from the brink of dissolution. He and Cal State San Bernardino criminologist Larry Gaines have talked with Billdt and Morris about the possibility of teaming up to provide an outsider's perspective on how to improve the San Bernardino Police Department.
Morris said the search for a new city manager could take about six months.
With Billdt on schedule to leave the Police Department within that general time frame, the mayor said city officials may decide to search for San Bernardino's next police chief before a new city manager is in office.
"That's a discussion that we'll engage in with the council," Morris said.
On the council itself, Derry is scheduled to leave for higher office in December when he takes the 3rd District seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
Derry has made a name for himself as one of the council's more conservative members. He has made law enforcement a priority and has been occasionally critical of Phoenix- related spending. However, he voted on Morris' side when the council took up the issue of subpoenas.
He said he expects an election for his successor will take place in March, which he suggests be accomplished by a mail-in ballot.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
EPA ducks perchlorate standards
The decision, first reported by The Washington Post, came in a document indicating the EPA had made a "preliminary regulatory determination" not to set a standard.
The Sun has obtained a summary of the report from staff for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
According to the summary, the EPA draft underwent heavy editing from the White House, and the EPA's original suggestion to have a 45-day comment period was reduced to 30 days.
Perchlorate has been found at 400 sites nationwide, including more than 100 in California.
Locally, it has been found in especially high concentrations around Riverside, the San Gabriel Valley, Redlands and Rialto, where the EPA is close to naming a 160-acre area a Superfund site.
Perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland, affecting metabolism as well as mental and physical development.
California has set a maximum standard of 6 parts per billion, and Massachusetts has set one at 2 ppb in drinking water.
In 2002, EPA scientists developed a draft protective level of 1 ppb for drinking water, assuming all perchlorate intake comes from water. In reality, perchlorate is also found in milk, breast milk, lettuce and other food sources.
The National Academy of Scienceswas then tasked with coming up with a recommendation and came up with a reference dose of about 20 ppb, assuming a body weight of 150 pounds and that all perchlorate is ingested through water.
Environmentalists and some members of Congress blasted the news as an example of the White House and Pentagon - much of the perchlorate contamination is at old Pentagon and defense contractor sites - influencing the EPA.
"The Defense Department's response to perchlorate contamination raises serious questions about the appropriateness of its role in the EPA's internal regulatory process," Rep. Hilda Solis, an El Monte Democrat, and Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat wrote to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
The Sept. 23 letter asks for all communications on the issue since last year.
EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said the agency plans to issue the preliminary determination in the next couple of weeks and the final one by the end of the year but that "no decision has been made."
"This is an open and transparent process," she said.
Solis and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., have sponsored legislation to require the EPA to set a perchlorate standard.
In March, the Government Accountability Office criticized the EPA's risk assessment process and said it is not transparent enough and allows too much influence from other federal agencies, including the White House.
Boxer mentioned the issue at a May committee hearing.
"We had a full hearing on a GAO report ... and the fact that EPA is trying to shunt the scientists to the back, put the (Department of Defense) contractors to the front - at the table - and they said it's very dangerous," she said at the May hearing.
An EPA decision not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water would not have a major effect on Superfund sites with perchlorate, like the one on its way to Rialto, said Kevin Mayer, the EPA's regional perchlorate manager and a Superfund project manager.
Treatment systems the EPA uses in Rialto should remove all perchlorate from the water, he said, but the agency won't have to clean water contaminated at lower levels than the state standard, 6 ppb.
"In a Superfund program, we're required to meet federal and state standards, and we're required to assess the risks for those contaminants that don't have standards," he said.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
California Attorney General Takes Orange County Deputies' side in Pention Fight!! (L.A. Times September 3, 2008)
California attorney general takes Orange County deputies' side in pension fight
September 3, 2008
Brown's entry came after months of discussions with Tom Umberg, a former Democratic state assemblyman now representing the deputies union as a lawyer in the case, and Wayne Quint, the president of the union.
In announcing his intent to file a friend-of-the-court brief, Brown said in a statement: "The deputy sheriffs put their lives on the line for us, and they deserve fair compensation for their hard work serving and protecting the people of Orange County. County supervisors are not entitled to suddenly change their minds and decide to take away important pension benefits that the deputies bargained for in good faith."
The attorney general's decision has the potential to bring more attention to the case, a high-stakes battle over public employee retirement benefits that could have far-reaching consequences yet has received little attention outside the public employee pension realm.
At issue is the structure of a labor contract between the union and the county that has been adopted by countless government agencies throughout the state for all manner of public employees, including police, teachers and general government workers. All but two of California's 58 counties have adopted the same type of deal with their public safety unions.
The 2001 agreement increased pensions by one-third and granted the benefit retroactively. This year, the county, now led by an entirely new Board of Supervisors, concluded that the retroactive portion was unconstitutional because it violated a state prohibition on pay for work already performed, and filed a lawsuit seeking to repeal that part of the contract.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach estimates that the deal allows deputies, on average, to retire with a pension of $70,000 a year, and that the retroactive portion will cost the county $187 million over the next 30 years.
Brown's announcement did not articulate the legal grounds on which he intends to challenge the county's lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said the legal arguments were still being developed and were not ready to be unveiled.
Separately, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the $230-billion public pension fund that administers benefits for government workers, said Brown would be representing its interests in the court case. CalPERS contends that the benefits are constitutional.
Mario Mainero, the chief of staff to Moorlach, who led the county to file the suit, criticized Brown's decision to get involved as political and said his initial comments indicate that he doesn't understand the basis of the lawsuit.
"It's pretty clear here that Atty. Gen. Brown, who apparently wants to be governor again, is going to try to gain the support of people who can raise a lot of money for him," Mainero said.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Gay marriages begin as California ruling takes effect
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June 17, 2008
In Beverly Hills, the wedding couple wore matching ivory suits as a rabbi officiated on a courthouse plaza. In San Francisco, the brides exchanged vows as Mayor Gavin Newsom presided. And across the state Monday, at 5:01 p.m., the moment that same-sex marriage became legal by order of the California Supreme Court, exultant gay couples raced to be first to partake in a legal ritual long denied them.
County registrars and clerks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, Sonoma and Yolo counties kept offices open to allow at least two dozen same-sex couples the distinction of being among the first to wed.
In Los Angeles County, longtime partners Diane Olson and Robin Tyler were the first and only same-sex couple to obtain a license Monday. Together 15 years, Olson and Tyler were the original plaintiffs in the 2004 California lawsuit challenging the ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The couple were chosen to receive the county's first license "in recognition of their unique role in the court's decision," said acting L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan.
For eight years the couple trekked to the Beverly Hills courthouse on Valentine's Day, only to be denied a marriage license each time. They returned Monday as conquering heroines -- with friends, their high-profile lawyer, Gloria Allred, and a mass of media in tow.
Olson and Tyler were swarmed by news cameras as they entered the courthouse. "We just love each other," gushed Tyler as Olson gently placed her hand on the small of her back.
Around them were dozens of family and friends and a smattering of protesters quietly holding banners offering varying slogans, including "Homo Sex Is Sin!," but all suggesting that gay marriage invokes God's wrath.
At the county clerk's window, as Olson and Tyler's marriage license was prepared, the full measure of the moment hit. "We've never gotten this far before," Tyler said.
"Well, you have today," the clerk said.
As they walked out the glass doors, arm in arm, each taking turns brandishing the long-sought-after paper document high, the crowd cheered and a burst of the "Wedding March" sounded -- as if the wedding was already completed.
They stood before Reform Rabbi Denise Eger, and their ceremony was both crazed and intimate. Tyler was tearful as she slipped a ring on Olson's finger. A wedding singer -- real estate agent Michael Libow -- crooned "Someone to Watch Over Me." Family and friends were forced to strain for a mere glimpse of Olson and Tyler as reporters and photographers surrounded them, a microphone boom intruding under the huppah, the canopy that arches over the couple in a Jewish wedding. Beverly Hills police officers solemnly scanned the grounds as protesters held signs aloft.
From the sidelines, a protester screamed, "Jesus Loves You!"
"Shh! It's a wedding," a guest scolded him.
Their friends seemed prepared for the fact that they were at a media event. "This is not only a wedding, it's witnessing history," said psychotherapist Arlene Drake, a longtime friend of the couple.
The rabbi also acknowledged the long road to the moment, saying they had finally found "justice that reigns not just on you but all of California."
The rabbi had barely intoned the words that Olson and Tyler had waited so long to hear -- "By the power vested in me by the state of California . . ." -- when the crowd roared its approval, momentarily drowning out Eger, who continued: ". . . I now pronounce you spouses for life!"
At the reception, the couple cut a cake with matching bride figures on top.
"My name is Robin Tyler and I'd like to introduce you to my wife!" she declared.
The brides will retain their own names.
"This is the last frontier," said gay Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who attended the wedding. "Women got the right to vote, black people got the right to vote, now gay people can get married."
If only it had come earlier, Tyler lamented Monday.
"I'm 66," she said. "If they had let me get married 10 years ago, I would have been 20 pounds lighter and I wouldn't have needed airbrushing."
The couple rode in a white limousine -- friends chipped in to buy them the ride -- from their North Hills home to the county clerk's office in the Beverly Hills courthouse. Tyler, a comic who also owns a travel business with her partner, and Olson, 54, who has a separate business in Beverly Hills, chose the plaza outside the courthouse for their wedding because of its historic significance in their battle.
"This is a civil rights movement," said Tyler, who has long been active in gay rights issues. "The courthouse is the place where we were turned down."
In San Francisco, protesters arrived early on the steps of City Hall, as did a throng of more than 100 reporters. One protester held up a sign reading "Hello, Gay People. God Is Upset."
Inside, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin's private ceremony in Newsom's office marked a triumph of love, endurance and a pioneering commitment to gay rights spanning five decades.
Now in their 80s, the couple had their initial kiss when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. They first said "I love you" in an era when most Americans couldn't fathom two women as a committed, sexually active couple.
About 5:10 p.m., moments after the ceremony, a crowd outside the mayor's office erupted in applause and parted as Lyon, dressed in a blue pantsuit, slowly pushed her partner in a wheelchair toward a wedding cake.
"These are two extraordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives," Newsom said. "They have spent a half-century fighting for equality."
Outside City Hall, about 1,000 people waited for the couple to emerge. Some cheered, others booed. One man waved a sign that said "Homo Sex Is a Threat to National Security."
For many years, Lyon, 83, and Martin, 87, couldn't hold hands or embrace on the street. They lived in fear of being outed, labeled as "dirty" or "queer."
But Monday, as they took their vows as wife and wife, the public scrutiny had turned from bitter to oh-so-sweet.
They were more than retiring octogenarians turned social trailblazers Monday. Greeting the press after taking their vows, they were beaming newlyweds.
A same-sex wedding celebration would have been as unthinkable as flying to Mars when the couple met.
Lyon and Martin met through work and became inseparable, but at first only as friends. Soon, Martin revealed a secret. The pair were having drinks with a friend when talk turned to homosexuality. Martin knew details that surprised the other two women. They asked how she knew so much.
"Because I am one," Martin said.
One night, as the pair sat on the sofa in Lyon's apartment, Martin said she was upset that her friend was planning to leave on a cross-country trip. "She put her arm around me and sort of made half a pass," Lyon recalled. "Then I made the other half back."
At the time, both women kept their intimacy a secret. Lyon said she feared being exposed as a lesbian.
After they bought their home, they were invited to form a club with other lesbians in their neighborhood. "We formed a secret social club for lesbians," Martin said. "We just thought that was the greatest."
The club became the Daughters of Bilitis, considered one of the first lesbian organizations in the U.S.
As the years passed, the women became more active in gay and lesbian affairs.
Martin said coming out strengthened their union.
After so many years of keeping secrets, they said, public acknowledgment of their love is the best wedding gift possible. "It's really amazing and exciting," Lyon said.
Added Martin: "And exhausting."
Hall reported from Beverly Hills and Glionna from San Francisco. Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed to this report.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Rialto looking to upgrade its down-home downtown
But it also has a fair bit of turnover, a number of vacant buildings and no real draw to attract pedestrians.
Bringing some life to downtown once again seems to be a priority at City Hall. A new plan to guide the way has been completed and a number of modest or sizable projects are in the works.
"But the bottom line is there is a change coming through," said Joe Flores Jr., president of the Downtown Business Improvement District Association and owner of J & J Auto Fabrics.
In July, the City Council will decide whether to adopt a vision plan developed for downtown. The plan has a wish list that would take tens of millions of dollars to complete.
The recommendations include adding housing downtown, taking advantage of the Metrolink station for development, and building a new civic center with connections to Riverside Avenue.
Also recommended is cleaning up Trickleside Alley west of Riverside Avenue by putting the power lines underground, improving building facades and opening businesses to the alley.
In addition, the city wants to put together a deal with Newport Beach-based KDF Communities to build a 117-unit affordable senior housing project with 5,000 square feet of retail on the first floor.
"We've been going back and forth and negotiating a lot," said city Housing Manager John Dutrey.
The city is also
planning to expand its Metrolink parking lot and has been aggressively making facade upgrades to improve the look of buildings downtown.
"We're going back to how downtowns used to be - a destination where people can park the car and be able to walk around," Dutrey said.
The Mexican restaurant Cuca's was recently remodeled, and new businesses like an art gallery and clothing boutique are on the way.
Brian Powell, whose sister, Tanya Powell, opened Todie's Apparel on Riverside Avenue about 1<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 months ago, said business has been good.
"People are starting to respond pretty well," he said.
A new, midpriced, American restaurant should be coming to the downtown by the middle of next year, said developer Scott Beard, who is behind the restaurant - kind of like City Hall's own Old Ebbitt Grill, which is near the White House.
"I think there's no sit-down dinner place in Rialto that's any good in my opinion," he said, referring to places that serve American food.
The Alley Kat Jazz Lounge, which will feature live music at night, should be opening by next month.
Dangers do loom for downtown. The weak economy isn't helping revitalization efforts, and a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe's store are on their way two miles south of downtown.
The vision plan isn't the first time the city has tried to bring more life downtown.
"We've had a multitude of these visioning programs that have been done over the years," Beard said. "Obviously, we're hopeful that this one takes hold and the city has the patience and the fortitude."
Dutrey said fulfilling the vision will take time, but it will happen.
"So it's not going to happen in the next five to 10 years."
Rialto City Looking for Spark in Renaissance Rialto Plan (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) June 10, 2008
City looking for spark in Renaissance Rialto plan
In recent weeks, city officials have completed negotiations with a number of government agencies so the city can turn the Rialto Municipal Airport into the Renaissance Rialto development project.
The next step is to complete the plans and send them to the City Council - something that probably won't happen until the fall or end of the year.
But now there are murmurs that the plans need an extra spark.
"I'm convinced that the smart thing to do is to make Rialto a destination spot," said City Councilman Ed Scott. He mentioned the California Speedway in Fontana and the new stadium in Ontario as examples of regional draws.
The airport sits in the heart of what city officials and a development partnership between the Upland-based Lewis Group and Ross Perot Jr.'s Hillwood want to turn into Renaissance Rialto.
The latest plans for the project include shopping, about 2,000 homes, a school, parks and industrial and office space. A SuperTarget would anchor the retail center.
"We're going to need at some point to be very clear on what we're trying to accomplish," said City Councilwoman Deborah Robertson.
She said she is a fan of transit-oriented development and might want to bring an educational institution specializing in local concerns like
transportation and logistics, environmental issues or language to the city.
"I think we all are looking for the ideal draw," she said.
A regional draw could be a good idea as long as it complements other landmarks, like the Speedway, said City Councilwoman Winnie Hanson.
"I'm interested. I think it's a great thing to explore," she said.
Hanson said she doubted altering the project would delay it.
Approving the plan is important so the developers can start purchasing the airport property from Rialto and fronting money to relocate the tenants. Many tenants also won't sign on to fill the shopping area until a project has been passed.
The airport probably won't be closed for two more years because new facilities have to be built for the tenants before they can leave Rialto. Money to do that will initially come from the developers once a project is approved.
In the past few weeks, the city and the Federal Aviation Administration formally agreed on the value of the airport land and Caltrans officials agreed to give Rialto access to property the city needs to build Renaissance.
Federal legislation passed in 2005 allowed the city to close the airport with the condition that it had to pay 45percent of the value of the airport property to San Bernardino International Airport, which will receive many of Rialto's tenants.
Rialto has also submitted an airport closure plan to the FAA.
"I don't think we have any issues with this plan," said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
McCain: Obama Will Kill Economy and Jobs
Tuesday 10 June 2008, by admin
We are now in the midst of the general Election. Clearly Obama supports raising consumer prices and taxes, supports the largest tax increase in American history and wants to close down the American energy industry. Those are just part of the economic disaster of Barack Obama.
McCain is correct, Obama would be the second term of Jimmie Carter. Both support and apologize for dictatorships in the Middle East. Both want to talk to terrorist instead of taking action (remember the 400 day hostage crisis that ended the Carter administration).
Obama supports the special interest, unions, that can killed millions of U.S. jobs and open the borders to illegal aliens. McCain wants to deal with the illegal alien problem, Obama just wants to open the borders.
If we have disagreements with John McCain they are nothing compared to the disaster that we would have if Obama is elected. Pass this article to your friends, let them know their is a choice in Novemberthey must vote and must not throw away their vote.
What do you think? Is McCain or Obama better for the economy?
by Jitendra JoshiT, Agence France Presse, 6/10/08
Republican John McCain said Tuesday his White House opponent Barack Obama's economic platform would kill jobs and growth, vowing instead to keep big government out of entrepreneurship.
The Arizona senator spelled out the difference in governing philosophy that he said would be a critical choice in November's election, as he sparred with Obama for a second day over the economic crisis engulfing many US families.
"No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is what kind of change?" McCain told the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) here in a well-received speech.
"Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market," he said.
The Democrat would enact "the single largest tax increase since the Second World War" and index the federal minimum wage to inflation, "which is a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs."
McCain's accusation rests on Obama's commitment to rolling back multi-billion-dollar tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, and applying higher taxes on those earning more than 250,000 dollars a year.
In riposte, Obama said McCain was guilty of fuzzy mathematics and again mocked the Republican's self-confessed weakness in economic expertise.
"I've said that John McCain is running to serve out a third Bush term. But the truth is when it comes to taxes, that's not being fair to George Bush," the Democrat told reporters in St Louis, Missouri.
"Senator McCain wants to add 300 billion dollars more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn't even explained how to pay for it," he said.
The 250,000-dollar threshold for annual income would mean that 98 percent of workers would pay no more taxes, Obama said, and middle-class families would get tax relief starting at 1,000 dollars to offset surging costs of living.
The Illinois senator also took aim at McCain's incremental approach to reform of healthcare, whose rocketing costs are one of the biggest headaches for small businesses, along with gasoline prices topping four dollars a gallon.
Touting his own plan to dramatically increase healthcare, Obama earlier went on ward rounds with a hospital nurse in St Louis, on the second day of a two-week campaign tour that is taking him deep into Republican territory.
Obama, 46, is capitalizing on profound disquiet about rising unemployment and home foreclosures, plus opposition to the Iraq war, to accuse McCain of offering "four more years" for the hugely unpopular Bush.
McCain, 71, has a new line of retort, saying Obama would represent a second term for 1970s president Jimmy Carter, a throwback to an era of runaway spending by the government and economic stagnation.
The economy has dominated the two contenders' hard-hitting exchanges since Obama's opponent in the Democratic nomination battle, Hillary Clinton, quit the race at the weekend.
In Washington, top Democrats put on a show of unity after the bruising primary season, detailing how the national party will merge its activities into the Obama campaign's to pursue an election strategy across all 50 states.
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said the race between the African-American Obama and Clinton had seen "some ugly moments" of racism and sexism.
But he stressed: "Today, we stand united as a Democratic Party, focused on putting an end to the idea of a third Bush term, which we would get with John McCain."
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a message for the angry Clinton supporters who are now threatening to vote for McCain in protest at Obama's primary triumph.
"Women and blue-collar workers, whatever their race, have the most to gain by the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States and the most to lose by the election of John McCain," she said.
BS Ranch Perspective:
It is true that McCain paints Obama as somebody that will take any or all raises or money that you might have, to pay for the National Debt. However what McCain forgets is that Obama has said on his web site and during the debates that he is going to open up Negotiations with Countries where Communications have been closed for a good reason, that reason is that they Communicate but that country doesn't do so in good faith, and they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, by lying to us every-time we have been to the table to discuss the closing of their Nuclear testing and plans to gain a Nuclear bomb. Obama is hoping that he will go to Russia and they will just turn off all their Nuclear Bombs and destroy them forever. Obama has also said through Talk that Northern Korea will follow suit, it is his behalf that we have not talked enough with N. Korea and the talking that he does and also the dismantling of the United States Nuclear Defensive arms that are just waiting to be used in defence of our safety if any of these countries Gains the Nuclear Bomb, and decides to use it.
Star Wars Defense System has been shut down even though there has been successful tests that were done with that system, but it was expensive, & the President didn't see the payment of the system with the large amount of Debt that the country has. Obama wants to withdraw from Iraq and decrease the size of our Military Branches by a Considerable Amount, Not to mention Shutting down our Defensive Facilities that look out for our Countries Safety right now, We will not need it any more with all our Nuclear Weapons Dismantled and discarded. To show those Countries that Obama negotiates with that he is a man of his word, and he is willing to take the extra step, and hopefully those countries that he is negotiating with such as North Korea or Russia and I for one am hoping that if Obama wins that he is right in his plans, because I for one feel very uncomfortable trying to learn another language at my age.