New twist on an old profession
September 2, 2014

Late last week, prosecutors in Snohomish County, Washington, charged Carmela Panico with promoting prostitution and laundering the proceeds. What's unusual is the venue for the alleged sale of sex acts: Drive-thru coffee carts. Panico, a 52-year-old former nude dancer, owned and operated a fleet of Java Juggs coffee stands north of Seattle, featuring bikini-clad baristas.

Baristas told investigators that they earned $15,000 and $30,000 a month, mostly from tips. Panico hauled in more than $2 million in three years, and kept much of that cash hidden from the IRS, prosecutors say. Police found $250,000 in cash in Panico's house. Deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix alleged in the charging documents that Panico would take a fixed cut from each of her seven stands, letting the baristas keep the rest: "The sales goals were effectively rent that the girls paid to have the opportunity to perform lewd conduct or acts of prostitution."

The Everett Herald's Diana Hefley explains the basic business model:

The women told cops the price for a cup of coffee started at $6 and customers typically paid with a $20 bill. The baristas kept the rest to shake their breasts or expose their genitals. They charged more for sex acts with the droves of men who stopped at the stands. [Everett Herald]

A sheriff's sergeant, Darrell O'Neill, is also accused of tipping off Panico and her workers to the police investigation, in return for sexual favors. He resigned following his arrest, after 30 years on the force, but pleaded not guilty to the charges. Seattle's KOMO News has more on the story below. --Peter Weber

Watch this
11:55 a.m. ET
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Constrained by decorum, President Obama at times appears unable to express the full heft of his emotions when dealing with difficult situations. Enter Keegan-Michael Key who, when playing Obama's fictional "anger translator," Luther, on the comedy Key & Peele, serves as the mouthpiece to the president's true thoughts and emotions.

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday, Obama brought Key out to play that very role. Yet as Obama turned to obstreperous climate change deniers, he soon overtook Key as the voice of rage, prompting the comedian to leap in and save Obama from going too far.

"Instead of doing something about it [climate change] we've got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate," Obama said, his voice rising. "It is crazy."

"What about our kids? What kind of stupid, shortsighted, irresponsible bull—" he continued before Key cut him off. —Jon Terbush

Quotables
11:38 a.m. ET
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Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong spared no one in Washington with her routine at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, but her most poignant barbs focused on race relations in America.

"Your hair is so white now it can talk back to the police," Strong said of President Obama.

Earlier, Strong earned mostly hushed grumbling when she combined into one punchline recent police shootings of unarmed black men and reports of Secret Service incompetence. Calling for applause for Secret Service agents in attendance, Strong called them, "the only law enforcement agency that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot."

You can watch Strong's full routine below. —Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
11:04 a.m. ET
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday claimed Christians in America face persecution at the hands of intolerant liberals.

"Today's Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians," Cruz warned at Iowa's Faith and Freedom Coalition summit.

"There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers," he added.

Counting Cruz, nine declared or potential Republican presidential candidates attended the event in hopes of wooing evangelical voters. Representing a range of experience and political positions, the presidential hopefuls all tailored their messages to fit the religious tenor of the evening. Jon Terbush

Bringing the lols
10:44 a.m. ET
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President Obama came to the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday with plenty of barbs about Washington lawmakers and the reporters who cover them.

Noting that host Cecily Strong plays a CNN anchor on Saturday Night Live, Obama quipped that it was "surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN." And addressing Dick Cheney's recent media tour in which the former vice president lambasted Obama, the president said the feeling was mutual.

"He thinks I'm the worst president of his lifetime," Obama said, "which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime." —Jon Terbush

Developing story
9:19 a.m. ET
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At least 2,263 people are dead and nearly 6,000 are injured after Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, according to the country's Home Ministry.

A powerful 7.8 magnitude quake and a series of violent aftershocks — one an estimated 6.7 magnitude rumbling on Sunday — rocked the mountain nation, destroying historic buildings, buckling infrastructure, and leaving behind widespread devastation. Thousands of people squatted in the streets after the first seismic activity either because the quake leveled their homes or because it made them too afraid to go back indoors.

The earthquake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 people while injuring or trapping dozens more.

"I ran away," climber Nick Talbot told The New York Times. "I thought, 'There is no chance I can get away.' I just had my socks on." Jon Terbush

No justice no peace
7:55 a.m. ET
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Baltimore police on Saturday arrested 12 people after a dwindling protest over the police custody death of Freddie Gray descended into violence.

An estimated 2,000 people marched peacefully for hours hours before a small splinter group began hurling rocks, smashing windows, and scuffling with police. Protesters also tangled with bystanders and police outside Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and Red Sox, prompting the city to ask fans to remain inside the venue until authorities cleared the scene.

"I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

The city has suspended six officers while investigating how Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Jon Terbush

Develop
April 25, 2015
Omar Havana / Getty Images

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, leveling historic structures, causing widespread damage, and killing at least 1,457.

The quake struck around noon about 50 miles from the capital, Kathmandu. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers pick through the rubble in search of survivors.

"We never imagined that we would face such devastation," Minister of Information and Communications Minendra Rijal said.

The quake also triggered a fatal avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least a dozen climbers while injuring or trapping several more. From Romanian climber Alex Gavan:

The U.S. said it would send a disaster response team and pledged $1 million in aid. Jon Terbush

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