Houston & Texas News
Dropped wallet points police to robbery suspect
Oct. 31, 2009, 7:09PM
SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio police got some help in arresting an 18-year-old robbery suspect after he dropped his wallet near the scene of the alleged crime.
An arrest affidavit says Michael Kern was one of three people who attempted to rob a man at knifepoint Oct. 24 at an apartment complex.
A man said he was walking his dog when Kern and two others approached and one of them pulled a knife. The victim started running.
Authorities found Kern's wallet on the ground after the incident. The victim saw the photo and identified Kern, who was arrested on Wednesday. He was charged with aggravated robbery and was being held Saturday at the Bexar County Jail with bail set at $50,000. State officials had no details on whether he had an attorney.
Police: SC state attorney caught with stripper
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired, his boss said Wednesday.
Roland Corning, 66, a former state legislator, was in a secluded part of a downtown cemetery when an officer spotted him Monday, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.
As the officer approached, Corning sped off, then pulled over a few blocks away. He and the 18-year-old woman with him, an employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club, gave conflicting stories about what they were doing in the cemetery, Officer Michael Wines wrote in his report, though he did not elaborate.
Corning gave Wines a badge showing he worked for the state Attorney General's Office. Wines, whose wife also works there, called her to make sure Corning was telling the truth.
He then searched the SUV, where he found a Viagra pill and several sex toys, items Corning said he always kept with him, "just in case," according to the report.
Corning and the woman were let go without charges. Wines' wife reported the call to her supervisor, who told Attorney General Henry McMaster.
"We received credible information about inappropriate behavior Monday afternoon," McMaster said Wednesday. "And by the close of business, he was no longer working here."
Such a trip to the cemetery "would not be appropriate, at any time, for an assistant attorney general," McMaster said.
There was no answer Wednesday at a number listed for Corning, who was a Republican legislator in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was hired in 2000 by the attorney general's office, where he worked on securities cases.
South Carolina has had its share of scandal lately, most notably Gov. Mark Sanford's disappearance in June. His office told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was really in Argentina visiting his mistress.
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October 28, 2009 01:56 PM EDT
Turn clocks back this weekend
8:43 am Friday, October 30, 2009The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
If Saturday night's Halloween partying leaves you feeling ghoulish, you'll have an extra hour to recover as Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday.
While residents of most of the country once turned their clocks back an hour on the last Sunday in October, the date was changed two years ago to the first Sunday in November.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also extended Daylight Saving Time on the front end, starting in 2007, to begin on the second Sunday in March.
Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services spokeswoman Denell Boyd said this weekend is also a good time to change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
More than 6,200 fire departments nationwide now participate in the "Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" program started 22 years ago by the International Association of Fire Chiefs to remind families to use Daylight Saving Time as a reminder to change detector batteries when changing clocks back to Standard Time.
Facebook spammer's $711M fine won't stop problem, analysts say
Some say federal court order could lead to more sophisticated ways to avoid detection
October 30, 2009 03:37 PM ET
A federal court's decision this week to award Facebook a staggering $711 million in damages from a convicted spammer probably won't serve as much a deterrent to future attacks on social networks.
In fact, at least one analyst said the San Jose, Calif., court's decision could acually make it harder for sites like Facebook and Twitter to deal with spammers.
"I fear the major consequence from the fine will, unfortunately, be to spur social network spammers to become more sophisticated," said Dan Olds, principal analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group. "You'll see them covering their tracks better, making sure they are in jurisdictions that make it hard for legal authorities to reach them, and making their mechanisms more insidious and hard to stop."
Olds' speculation comes a day after Judge Jeremy Fogel ordered notorius spammer Sanford Walla to pay Facebook $711 million in damages for flooding the social network with spam messages starting around November 2008. Facebook noted on its Web site Thursday that Wallace, dubbed the Spam King, accessed people's accounts without their permission and sent phony Wall posts and messages .
Facebook also said that Judge Fogel referred the case to to the U.S. Attorney's Office with a request that Wallace be prosecuted for criminal contempt.
"While we don't expect to receive the vast majority of the award, we hope that this will act as a continued deterrent against these criminals," Sam O'Rourke, a member of Facebook's legal team, wrote in a Facebook blog post.
This isn't the social networking company's first big win against a spammer.
A little less than a year ago, Facebook was awarded $873 million in a separate federal lawsuit against spammers for violating the CAN-SPAM Act. The suit charged that Adam Guerbuez, Atlantis Blue Capital and 25 others falsely obtained log-in information for Facebook users and then sent spam to those users' friends.
Most analysts interviewed today said they have little faith that either judgement will help curtail spam on social networking sites.
"As long as there is money in spam and malware, there will always be people pursuing it as a vocation," Olds said. "It beats flipping burgers and we can't all be cool video game designers. Several years ago, there were huge fines handed down [against] e-mail spammers. Have you seen a big drop off in e-mail spam and phishing attempts? I would argue that we haven't."
And analysts say spam is a fast growing problem for sites like Facebook and Twitter. If it continues, many social networking sites that have seen their user base explode over the past year could quickly find many of those users leaving.
Caroline Dangson, an analyst with IDC, noted that spam is a problem especially for Facebook, which appeals to people looking to develop a private network where people need permission to send them messages.
"These consumer applications are free to use. Too much spam will push people away," she said. "We've seen Twitter recently add features to make it easier for users to report spam, most of which is pornographic."
Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said that dealing with spam should be a top priority of social networks.
"Spam is a massive resource problem in a world that is already network constrained," he said. "It reduces the value of everything it touches and is a substantial drag on national productivity. Inside or outside of social networks, it should be a top priority."
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said if spam gets out of control, usrs may abandon what are now their favorite social networks.
"Social networking is for both business and pleasure," said Gottheil. "In both cases, if you find yourself wasting too much time, especially in an annoying way, you'll stop doing it. If the downside can't be controlled, it will hurt social networking quite a bit, but I think it's controllable."
Thursday, October 29, 2009 7:09 PM
Clayton teachers on leave after fight over Facebook love letter
Rex Mill Middle School teachers Chaka Cobb and Ebony Smith were arrested on Monday, Clayton County Police Officer Kevin Hughes said.
On Thursday, district spokesman Charles White said the teachers had been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.
The fight broke out Monday morning after the women learned they both were involved with the same male teacher, who also teaches at the school.
Cobb, who told police she is expecting a child with the man, said she found a letter from Smith on the man's Facebook page.
"I am in love with you. I am tired of being your every blue moon [expletive]," the letter read.
Cobb responded on Facebook with a "tumultuous" message, police said.
On Monday morning, the fight moved from Facebook to the school halls. That's where Smith approached Cobb and told her to "never do that again," the report states.
Cobb summoned an assistant principal, but the fight didn't stop.
Instead, it spilled into a classroom where Smith began to swing at Cobb, the report states.
Several other teachers broke up the fight and Cobb stormed down the hallway while threatening to post the letter on the blackboard.
The assistant principal told police she pulled Cobb into another classroom, with the children present, to calm her down. But Cobb continued to curse in front of the students. That's when Smith ran into the room again and "attempted to attack" Cobb, the report states.
Police interviewed several students, who said they heard Smith yell "[Expletive], you don't want none of this" and "get the [expletive] off me" while teachers were holding her down.
After talking to students and teachers, police charged Smith with simple assault and disorderly conduct. Cobb was charged with disorderly conduct.
"Due to the serious nature and children being present during this altercation, it would have been inappropriate for me not to pursue prosecution into this matter," Officer K. Singleton wrote in the report.
Both women were released on citations and released on their own recognizance instead of being booked in the jail, police said.
Cobb, 33, teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts. Cobb did not return a phone call left at her Rex home Thursday night. Smith, who teaches family and consumer science, could not be reached.
School officials said they could not comment further.
“The incident is a personnel matter, which is presently under review by the district’s human resources office,” White said. "They are on leave while the district completes its review and determines an appropriate course of action."
The fight occurred the same week as Clayton school board member Trinia Garrett is scheduled to go on trial for assaulting her live-in boyfriend. Garrett, who remains on the board, is out on bond on charges of simple assault, simple battery and criminal trespass. Her trial is on the calendar for this week, but has not started yet, her attorney Herbert Adams Jr. said.
The fight also occurred while the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is reviewing the school system's probationary accreditation.
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Snoring could be cured with $3 injection
A $3 injection could cure snoring, a pioneering consultant claims.
7:00AM GMT 30 Oct 2009
Hadi Al-Jassim's team of consultants are the only ones in the country to offer an injection which they say is a genuine alternative to painful surgery.
The ear, nose and throat specialist - from Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust near Liverpool - has treated 400 patients at one of his hospitals and with excellent results.
''As everyone knows, snoring can cause major problems for patients and in particular their partners,'' said Mr Al-Jassim.
''In most cases it's the men who snore and their partners suffer sleep deprivation and at the end of the day you have to keep your partner happy - though women do snore as well.
''It causes all sorts of problems between partners and leads to marital, social and health problems.
''I am delighted with the treatment because, until this, there has been no effective treatment other than surgery.''
The treatment - called the snoreplasty - is quick and cheap.
It is a two-minute procedure done under local anaesthetic in which sodium tetradecyl is injected into the roof of the mouth.
The chemical, a sclerosing agent, is usually used in the treatment of varicose veins.
The injection combats snoring by stopping the soft tissue at the back of the mouth from vibrating.
Mr Al-Jassim, who is now giving lectures to other specialists across the country about the jab, added: ''Surgical treatment is very painful and takes weeks of recovery time so many patients decide not to do it because they can't get the time off work or their health's not strong enough for surgery.
''And in other cases surgery doesn't work.
''After the jab, patients can go home straight away and eat about an hour later.
''It will help around 70 per cent of sufferers and has made life easier for many patients and their partners.
''Even with those people it hasn't cured, they reported sleeping better and waking up feeling fresher.
''The jab can be given three times a year but some people find one injection lasts them a year.''
Public school nurses give swine flu vaccine to kids without parents' OK, sends child to hospital
Friday, October 30th 2009, 4:00 AM
Murray/NewsNikiyah Torres, with her mom Naomi Troy, who received a flu shot without parents permission was taken to a hospital.
School nurses mistakenly gave the swine flu vaccine to two students who didn't sign up for it - including a Brooklyn girl with epilepsy who wound up in the hospital.
"I was outraged," Naomi Troy, 26, told the Daily News after her 6-year-old daughter, Nikiyah Torres-Pierre, had a possible allergic reaction to the shot.
Officials at Public School 335 in Crown Heights called an ambulance to take Nikiyah to SUNY Downstate Medical Center when she fell ill following the arm jab.
"My stomach was hurting, and I was itching," Nikiyah said after she was released from the hospital.
The snafu and a similar mixup at a Staten Island school came in the first days of the city's in-school H1N1 vaccination program.
City officials have stressed the vaccine is safe and urged parents to sign up for it - though less than half have sent in permission slips.
Troy was waiting for advice from her family doctor on whether Nikiyah should get the shot since she takes medicine to control her epilepsy.
When the nurse called for a student Thursday morning, Nikiyah's teacher misunderstood and sent the wrong student, Troy said.
The error was compounded when the nurse didn't check Nikiyah's name before sticking her in the shoulder, the mother said.
"The school made a horrible mistake," she added. "They never asked for her name. They have no paperwork....How do you make a mistake like this?"
After the mistake was discovered, officials summoned Troy to the school, she said.
Troy said the nurse - a Department of Health employee - tried to get her to sign a consent form, after the fact.
"I was insulted. I was really angry. 'You just incriminated yourself even more,'" Troy recalled thinking.
"If they'd taken proper precautions in the school this never would have happened."
A student at PS 65 in Staten Island also received the vaccine without parental permission on Wednesday, but officials gave no further details.
Officials for the nurses union declined to comment. The Health Department said the incidents were under investigation.
"The Health Department does not expect any future adverse medical effects for these children, but we are working to determine how this misstep occurred," said spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti.
"We will develop additional safeguards to prevent similar instances in the future."
She added that the vaccine is safe for kids suffering from epilepsy.
Roughly 1,800 students have received the vaccine in the first phase of the school blitz.
Junk food as 'addictive as drugs'
Junk food is almost as addictive as heroin, scientists have found.
7:37AM GMT 28 Oct 2009
Eating junk food can be addictive Photo: GETTY
A diet of burgers, chips, sausages and cake will programme your brain into craving even more foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat, according to new research.
Over the years these junk foods can become a substitute for happiness and will lead bingers to become addicted.
Dr Paul Kenny, a neuroscientist, carried out the research which shows how dangerous high fat and high sugar foods can be to our health .
“You lose control. It’s the hallmark of addiction,” he said.
The researchers believe it is one of the first studies to suggest brains may react in the same way to junk food as they do to drugs.
“This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neuro-biological foundations,” said Paul Johnson, Dr Kenny’s work colleague.
Dr Kenny, who began his research at Guy’s Hospital, London, but now works at Florida’s Scripps Research Institute, divided rats into three groups for his research, due to be published in teh US soon.
One got normal amounts of healthy food to eat. Another lot was given restricted amounts of junk food and the third group was given unlimited amounts of junk, including cheesecake, fatty meat products, and cheap sponge cakes and chocolate snacks.
There were no adverse effects on the first two groups, but the rats who ate as much junk food as they wanted quickly became very fat and started bingeing.
When researchers electronically stimulated the part of the brain that feels pleasure, they found that the rats on unlimited junk food needed more and more stimulation to register the same level of pleasure as the animals on healthier diets.
Police: Man Said God Told Him To Steal Car
Web Content Producer
Posted: Oct 28, 2009 6:13 AM
Updated: Oct 28, 2009 11:59 AM
Lexington, KY - A bizarre story at a Lexington car dealership.
Police said David A. Silva, 36, smashed a window at Freedom Dodge but before he could get inside, a security guard stopped him. Silva apparently told the guard God wanted him to steal a Dodge Charger for the Almighty.
The security guard held Silva until police arrived and when officers questioned him, Silva initially told police his name was "Seven."
We're told Silva did a bit of damage to the dealership and is facing several charges, including criminal mischief.
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SOME MILD NUDITY
Did Schwarzenegger drop 4-letter bomb in veto?
Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross
SF Chronicle Columnists
(10-27) 19:19 PDT SACRAMENTO -- Did Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office use a coded veto message to send the f-bomb to Tom Ammiano, soon after the San Francisco assemblyman made news by telling the governor to "kiss my gay ass"?
Schwarzenegger's people say no. But the X-rated evidence is hard to miss in a message that Schwarzenegger sent to explain why he was vetoing an Ammiano bill dealing with financing for the Port of San Francisco.
A straight reading of the guv's letter laments "the fact that major issues are overlooked while many unnecessary bills come to me for consideration," and concludes, "I believe it is unnecessary to sign this measure at this time."
But a vertical read of the far-left-hand letters in each of the missive's eight lines offers a more blunt explanation: "I f- you."
Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, insisted Tuesday it was simply a "weird coincidence." He sent us veto messages the governor sent out in the past with linguistic lineups such as "soap" and "poet," which he said were also unintended.
"Something like this was bound to happen," McLear said.
Maybe. But the veto message came after Ammiano called the governor a liar and shouted from the audience to "kiss my gay ass" when Schwarzenegger unexpectedly showed up at a Democratic Party dinner in San Francisco on Oct. 7.
Ammiano later called Schwarzenegger's attendance at the event a "cheap publicity stunt" that wasn't at all amusing, in light of the governor's cuts in social services, ordered furloughs of state workers and failure to act on some gay-rights issues.
The governor's veto letter was in response to Ammiano's AB1176 - a rather mundane bill meant to help San Francisco's port with finance issues. The "coincidence" was first picked up on Tuesday by the Bay Guardian newspaper.
As for Ammiano, a professional comic in addition to being a liberal Democrat, he's playing it straight on this one: "They probably think they are even now," he said.
"I think it was very creative, and it's time to bury the hatchet," Ammiano added. "I'm not interested in prolonging it."
The hidden message - if that's what it was - "was certainly more subtle than 'kiss my gay ass,' " said Barbara O'Connor, political science professor at Sacramento State University. "But it shows the acrimony and bad feelings in Sacramento are pretty bad.
"I doubt if it was the governor himself," O'Connor said. "But maybe the staff was having a good time."
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Edward Ates Claims He's Too Fat To Have Killed His Son-In-Law
Wed Oct 28, 12:25 PM ET
HACKENSACK, N.J. — A man accused of running up and down a flight of stairs to kill a former son-in-law is offering a novel defense: At 5 feet 8 and 285 pounds, he was just too fat to have pulled it off.
An attorney for Edward Ates is making the case that his client wouldn't have had the energy needed to fatally shoot Paul Duncsak, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical executive, from a perch on the staircase.
Lawyer Walter Lesnevich claims that Ates, 62 at the time of the 2006 killing, was in such bad physical shape that he couldn't have pulled off the shooting or the fast getaway the killer made.
Lesnevich said his client's weight has led to asthma, sleep apnea and other obesity-related ailments.
"You look at Ed and you don't need to hear it from a doctor," Lesnevich said.
Houston defense attorney David Berg, author of "The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes To Win," an analysis of trial tactics and strategies, said that he had never heard of such a defense but that it could work.
"It's an unusual defense, but it would be a credible defense if the facts really fit in," Berg said.
"When the battered-wife defense was first used, it was considered abhorrent and bizarre," Berg said. "Jurors may be open to this in a society that talks about the infirmities that obesity causes."
At the time of the killing, Duncsak and Ates' daughter, Stacey, were involved in a bitter custody dispute after their 2005 divorce.
Prosecutors claim Ates drove from Fort Pierce, Fla., to Duncsak's $1.1 million home in Ramsey, about 25 miles northwest of Manhattan, in August 2006 and shot him as he came home from work.
Duncsak was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone when he entered the house and was shot. After hearing a scream from him, followed by a thud, the woman called 911. Police arrived minutes later, but the killer was gone.
Police quickly suspected Ates and found him 24 hours later at his mother's home in Sibley, La.
According to Lesnevich, the trajectory of the bullets shows that Ates wasn't physically capable of the shooting.
Duncsak was shot six times as he walked down a hallway. Lesnevich said the shooter first fired from a staircase leading to the basement. That was followed by several shots fired head-on. In order to do that, Lesnevich said, Ates would have had to run up the stairs.
Lesnevich also says it would have been impossible for Ates to clean up the shell casings and flee the house before police arrived minutes later, let alone to have driven alone 21 hours straight to his mother's house in Louisiana.
Prosecutors have built their case around cell phone records and computer forensics and have little physical evidence. Still, they say they have a strong case.
During the trial, they have presented evidence to show Ates bought books detailing how to build a gun silencer, did Internet searches on how to pick locks and how to commit the perfect murder.
Duncsak's mother, Sophia, has said Ates became vengeful toward her son after Paul Duncsak refused to give his father-in-law $250,000 in 2003 to keep Ates' struggling golf course in Okeechobee, Fla., afloat.
And Ates' sister testified that she initially told detectives her brother arrived at their mother's house a day earlier than he did because he asked her to lie.
Early in testimony Wednesday, Ates' doctor testified that bounding up the stairs would have caused Ates to become short of breath and shake, making it difficult to keep his wrist straight enough to accurately fire a gun at someone from a distance.
When Ates took the stand Wednesday, he testified that he often needed to take breaks while driving, implying that he wasn't capable of making the drive to Louisiana – a trip prosecutors say was orchestrated to create an alibi.
"I can't drive too long," he said.
He also directly denied killing his former son-in-law, saying he had no reason to want him dead.
"I hardly got to know Paul the whole time they were married," Ates said.
A brief cross-examination began Wednesday and was to resume Thursday.
While obesity appears to be a rare strategy for a murder trial, the defense was used recently in Ohio by double murderer Richard Cooey, who argued that he was too fat to execute.
He argued that at 5 feet 7 and 267 pounds, his obesity made death by lethal injection inhumane because it would be difficult for prison staff to find suitable veins to deliver the deadly chemicals. There were no such difficulties when he was executed this month.
Possibly hurting Ates' argument to jurors: He testified that he lost 60 pounds while in jail awaiting trial.
"It visually impacts it," Lesnevich said. "I'm probably the only person in his life that told him not to lose weight."
Local Grandma Turns 105
Her granddaughter Amy Black shouted in her ear, "How does it feel to be 105?"
Juanita answered, "OK."
Other than being a little hard of hearing, Juanita's in excellent health. She only takes three medications and has never consumed alcohol, smoked or driven a day in her life.
Amy Black said, "She walked everywhere. That might be why she's so healthy."
She then asked Juanita, "What's your trick? Why are you 105?"
Juanita laughed, "Because I drink green tea."
Amy nodded, "That's right, people. Green tea."
Widowed at 30 when her husband died in a car accident, Juanita outlived her three children and lived alone well into her 90s, refusing to go into a nursing home.
Amy Black said, "They came to her front door and she went out the back, and she called me and said, 'Look, I've got 1,800 bucks. Can I come live with you?'"
Amy happily took her in.
She said, "(Juanita's) a joy. I think I'm keeping her young because she likes to go everywhere I go and she likes to do all the things young girls like to do. She doesn't go anywhere without her lipstick or earrings."
To celebrate the big 105, Juanita shook up an iconic Houston ladies club.
Amy told Local 2, "We took her because she'd like to see some men. We took her to La Bare, to the strip club and she had a good time."
Amy asked Juanita, "How'd you like the strip club?"
Juanita smiled, "I liked it!"
Nightclubs for the plus-size set are latest trend in fat acceptance movement
Wednesday, October 28th 2009, 11:07 AM
Andrews/APPatrons dance the night away at Club Bounce in Long Beach, Calif. The club is specifically aimed at attracting overweight individuals.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Move over, it's Saturday night at Club Bounce and people are bouncing onto the dance floor in a big, big way.
These are big, big people, all dressed to the nines and many tipping the scales at 250, maybe 300 pounds.
That's because this expansive nightclub a couple blocks from the Pacific Ocean, with its flashing lights, friendly atmosphere and wall-rattling hip-hop sounds, caters specifically to fat people.
That's right, fat people. Not just any fat people, either, but fat people who are proud to call themselves fat people. People who joke that they are part of the new Fat is Phat movement.
"Self-conscious? No! Not at all," laughs Monique Lopez, a curvaceous woman of 23 as she arrives in a tight, black dress and heels. "I was like, 'I'm going to Club Bounce tonight. I'm going to wear my shortest skirt.'" (Which she did.)
The movement for equal rights for plus-sized people is nothing new of course. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, with chapters around the country, was founded 40 years ago. A nonprofit group, it advocates that everyone be treated equally regardless of size, arguing that we don't live in a one-size-fits-all world.
But what has been slower coming, fat advocates say, are places like Club Bounce, where people who might have some trouble getting past the velvet ropes at other night spots because of their size are made to feel like they fit right in.
"When you're not what they consider ideal, you know, and you're out there trying to get your dance on at those other places, you get the looks, the stares. But not here. Everything's accepted here," says Vanessa Gray of Long Beach, an attractive 30-something woman who acknowledges jovially that after giving birth to three children, "I've got a little more meat on my bones."
Such clubs are still a relatively new phenomenon, however, with a handful scattered across California, mainly in coastal cities from San Diego to San Francisco.
"The whole thing really started on the Internet, with clubhouse parties organized online," says Kathleen Divine, who runs another Southern California plus-size club, the Butterfly Lounge. "Now you see a lot more large people out in public, not hiding behind their keyboards anymore."
A Web site for "big beautiful women" (bbwnetwork.com) sponsors an annual "Vegas Bash," for example, and there are similar gatherings in cities like Atlanta and Seattle.
But veteran fat activist Lynn McAfe of the Council On Size and Weight Discrimination would like to see more clubs.
It's nice to have a place to go where you can do a little flirting and maybe bring your thin sister or somebody from work who isn't fat, and they'll be in your world for awhile," says McAfe, a pioneer of the fat advocacy movement. "That's an amazing experience for a lot of people who aren't fat, to spend a day or night in a world of fat people."
Not that every large person prefers to be called fat, especially by someone who isn't.
Lisa Marie Garbo, who opened Club Bounce five years ago, says she prefers plus-sized or larger-framed.
"But I don't think fat is a bad word anymore," she adds. "I think a lot of people embrace it now."
Garbo, a vivacious, 40-year-old blonde partial to flamboyant outfits of tight-fitting pants and low-cut tops, said she opened the club for herself and others who were tired of being "the only fat girl at the local nightclub."
The club, with a capacity of 400, attracts relatively equal numbers of men and women, although Garbo says about three-quarters of the women tend to be heavy, while only about a quarter of the men are.
Some club-goers, like Chad Koyanagi, started out big, then slimmed down. Others, like Garbo herself, have seen their weight go up and down over the years. Still others say they're happy the way they are.
Like a lot of heavy people, Koyanagi says he started dropping by the club after a friend he met on a social networking site kept after him to get out of the house. Painfully shy at first, the 30-year-old eventually began to fit in and ended up shedding 50 pounds. Although he's no longer hefty enough to fit the club's BHM profile (Big Handsome Man), he says he's made too many friends to stop coming.
But while not all club-goers are overweight, the very nature of such venues has led some to question whether they are encouraging people to remain fat in a society where, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of adults are already obese.
"I'm not a gain-weight advocate or anything like that," says Garbo, who adds she has struggled with her own weight since doctors put her on steroids as a child to treat her asthma. "My message to people is live your life no matter what size you are."
Although obesity remains a serious problem, with links to diabetes, heart disease and other health issues, says sociologist Karen Sternheimer, creating a place where people can feel good about themselves can build self-esteem, which in turn can prompt people to do something about their weight.
"As the country gets heavier and ultimately unhealthier, in many instances the problem is people feeling bad about themselves, and feeling bad about themselves doesn't motivate people to lose weight," says Sternheimer, author of "Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture."
What does motivate people, she said, is starting with a positive outlook of accepting who you are, then working from there to change your appearance in whatever way you want.
"Anything that helps people feel better about themselves," she said, "there's something positive to that."
Oct 28, 2009 6:15 am US/Pacific
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Jennifer Carter is accused of duct taping a student's mouth shut and bound his wrists.
Denver Police Department
Denver school administrators say the district plans to fire a staffer accused of duct taping a student's mouth and wrists.
Jennifer Carter, 45, was arrested on Monday on charges of misdemeanor child abuse and false imprisonment.
Palmer Elementary first grader, Joshua Tenner, was allegedly duct taped by Carter on Wednesday after being sent to the principal's office, reports.
Joshua, 6, told CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver that he was sent to the principal's office on Wednesday when a substitute teacher said he was disrupting his first grade class.
"The secretary taped my mouth shut and taped my wrists together," he said, referring to the principal's secretary.
The principal, Elizabeth Trujillo, sent a letter home with all students on Thursday. It stated the Denver Public Schools and Denver police would "... investigate any allegation of misconduct," and that "... be assured the safety of students is a top priority."
Ashlye Tenner, Joshua's mother, said the principal is acting as a witness.
"She said she came back from lunch duty, saw the tape on his face and told the secretary to take it off and not to do it again. And she said she apologized to my son," said Tenner.
Late Monday evening, Denver Public Schools released this statement:
"Based on the evidence confirmed at this stage, the district is taking action to immediately terminate the employee. This is a deeply troubling incident, and this type of conduct is completely reprehensible and inexcusable."
Carter has spent two nights in jail despite the charges against her are misdemeanors. KCNC was told it is the discretion of the arresting officer as to whether she needed to be kept in jail and Denver police decided she should be based on what they called "the magnitude of the crime."
Joshua has not been back in school and his mom plans to enroll him in a new school.
Michael Jackson film 'This Is It' premieres for fans and stars around the world
Wednesday, October 28th 2009, 4:00 AM
Savulich, Andrew New York DailyJordan Neely (right) and Moses Harper rock with Michael Jackson-like energy in Times Square at Tuesday night's New York premiere of the King of Pop documentary 'This Is It.'
'This Is It' premieres in New York, Los Angeles and around the world.
It was off the wall!
Dueling premieres on both coasts and sold-out theaters around the world marked Tuesday night's debut of Michael Jackson's super-hyped documentary "This Is It."
Fans of the King of Pop turned out in sequins, some doing impromptu moonwalks, as they clamored for theater seats to watch the late icon's swan song.
"He means everything to me," said Jordan Neely, 16, of Washington Heights, wearing a single sequined glove, matching jacket and fedora in honor of the music legend.
"When he died, it was one of the saddest days since 9/11. I just want to see him do it one more time," said Jordan, one of over a 3,000 fans attending the premiere at the Regal Cinema on 42nd St. and Eighth Ave. in Times Square.
Oprah Winfrey's sidekick, Gayle King, was among a roster of stars attending the New York premiere, including Ice-T, Spike Lee, Russell Simmons.
"The main thing you get out of the movie is that the dude was still very much alive," said Ice-T. "It was a cold shot, man. You gotta see it for yourself."
Sherri Sheppard of "The View" agreed.
"It was great. He looked so alive," she said, adding that it's a shame her 4-year-old son will never know who Michael Jackson is.
King said she was compelled to attend "because it's history."
"I loved Michael's music and I can't wait to see the genius that is Michael Jackson," King said.
In Los Angeles, celebrities including "American Idol" winner David Cook, Mickey Rooney, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Paris Hilton strolled the red carpet in front of the Nokia Theatre.
"We've been Michael Jackson fans for a long time," said the 89-year-old Rooney, standing with his wife, Jan. "Everybody who came out tonight came out of respect."
The 111-minute film was culled from 120 hours of footage of Jackson preparing for his comeback shows at London's O2 Arena.
Sony Pictures paid $60 million for the right to distribute the movie, which is expected to gross over $250 million in its first week.
Jackson died at age 50 on June 25 from a prescription drug overdose, just days before his first concert.
"This movie is unguarded, it's real, it's raw and honest," insisted the film's director, Kenny Ortega. "You see Michael not always in perfect situations, going through the process of creating a show, and sometimes it's painful."
Famed lawyer Thomas Mesereau, who successfully defended Jackson in 2005 against child molestation charges, was on hand in L.A. to pay homage to "a true genius."
"I'm here to see one of the greatest performers of all time," Mesereau said.
Premieres were simultaneously held in 16 cities around the world, including London, Berlin and Seol, Korea.
Miko Brando, son of screen legend Marlon Brando and one of Jackson's closest friends, attended the London premiere and said the film showed a resurgent Jackson.
"This was just rehearsing," said Brando, who saw the movie at a special screening over the weekend with Elizabeth Taylor. "You can only imagine what it would've been like if he had performed like this on stage."
Asked how Taylor reacted, he said: "She didn't tell me anything - we just enjoyed the movie together. It's a great performance by my best friend."
Taylor reportedly described "This Is It" as the single best piece of filmmaking she had ever seen, according to Larry King.
"Sure - I guess she took the words out of my mouth. I agree with her 100 percent," said Brando.
Chucky Klapow, 29, one of the dancers in "This is It," fondly recalled his last rehearsal with Jackson and lamented not being able to perform with him in front of a live audience.
"You can only imagine what the real show would have been," said Klapow outside the Nokia. "He was ready and strong."
LINK TO PHOTO GALLERY OF THIS IS IT FROM AROUNG THE WORLD:
Fla. man says Home Depot fired him over God button
"I've worn it for well over a year and I support my country and God," Trevor Keezor said Tuesday. "I was just doing what I think every American should do, just love my country."
The American flag button Keezer wore in the Florida store since March 2008 says "One nation under God, indivisible."
Earlier this month, he began bringing a Bible to read during his lunch break at the store in the rural town of Okeechobee, about 140 miles north of Miami. That's when he says The Home Depot management told him he would have to remove the button.
Keezer refused, and he was fired on Oct. 23, he said.
"It feels kind of like a punishment, like I was punished for just loving my country," Keezer said.
A Home Depot spokesman said Keezer was fired because he violated the company's dress code.
"This associate chose to wear a button that expressed his religious beliefs. The issue is not whether or not we agree with the message on the button," Craig Fishel said. "That's not our place to say, which is exactly why we have a blanket policy, which is long-standing and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons."
Fishel said Keezer was offered a company-approved pin that said, "United We Stand," but he declined.
Keezer's lawyer, Kara Skorupa, said she planned to sue the Atlanta-based company.
"There are federal and state laws that protect against religious discrimination," Skorupa said. "It's not like he was out in the aisles preaching to people."
Keezer said he was working at the store to earn money for college, and wore the button to support his country and his 27-year-old brother, who is in the National Guard and is set to report in December for a second tour of duty in Iraq.
Skorupa noted the slogan on Keezer's pin is straight from the Pledge of Allegiance.
"These mottos and sayings that involve God, that's part of our country and historical fabric," Skorupa said. "In God we trust is on our money."
Michael Masinter, a civil rights and employment law professor at NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, said any lawsuit over religious discrimination might be a tough one to win.
"Because it's a private business, not one that's owned and operated by the government, it doesn't have to operate under the free speech provisions of the First Amendment," Masinter said.
"But we're not talking about religious displays here," he said. "This sounds more like a political message ... Wearing a button of that sort would not easily be described as a traditional form of religious expression like wearing a cross or wearing a yarmulke."
Police in Belgium say one-legged suspect caught after one shoe goes missing from store
9:24 PM EDT, October 26, 2009
BRUSSELS (AP) — Police said a one-legged suspect was caught after only one shoe went missing in a store in Belgium. An amputee was an immediate suspect when a store attendant found one shoe missing from a shop in the western Belgian town of Maldegem. Police spokesman Rik Decraemer said Monday authorities were alerted and quickly found the man who fit the description by shopkeepers. The shoe was also recovered.
The suspect, a Russian asylum seeker, faces possible charges and was handed over to judicial authorities.
Southwest Airlines debuts $25 fare sale
Tuesday, October 27th 2009, 10:06 AM
Twenty-five bucks will get you a lot of things, though you probably never expected it to get you an airline ticket. But now it does.
Southwest Airlines debuts its $25 airfare sale Tuesday. The $25 fare, part of the airline's fourth-quarter sale, is available on several one-way flights of less than 375 miles. For travel of between 375 and 549 miles, the price is $50; for travel of between 550 and 999 miles, the fare is $75.
The company is heavily promoting these fares on Southwest.com with a campaign that says, "With fares this low, you should invent a reason to go."
The fares are available for travel Dec. 2 - 16, 2009, and Jan. 5 - Feb. 10, 2010. You can purchase them through Thursday. Some restrictions apply.
2 Pit Bulls Rip Bumper Off Car
Ft. Smith Police Still Looking For Dogs
POSTED: 9:16 am CDT October 26, 2009
UPDATED: 9:30 am CDT October 26, 2009
FORT SMITH, Ark. -- Animal control officers are searching a local neighborhood for two pit bulls that were able to rip apart the front of a car with their teeth.
Police said a 911 call led them to a Fort Smith home off Kinkead Avenue, where they found two pit bulls on the hood of a car early Sunday morning.
"They turned flash lights on the car. There was one on the car and one on the hood," said Fort Smith resident Ima Jean Vervack.
Police chased the dogs and searched nearby neighborhoods.
Vervack said it's shocking to look at the front bumper of her car that was torn apart by the dogs' teeth.
"The whole front is torn up. The fender is torn off. There was blood where they cut their mouth trying to tear this stuff off," Vervack said.
Vervack said police rushed to her home just before 4 a.m. when her daughter called 911.
"The police --- if they hadn't have seen the dogs, they wouldn't have believed it if we just told them that. So, thank God they saw it," she said.
Vervack said the two dogs ran into the neighborhood with police right behind them.
"He had his gun and my daughter yelled at him and said, 'That dog will attack you. Look what he has done to the car,' and he said, 'No, I'll get him first,' " she said.
Vervack said she didn't find an animal under the car that the dogs might have been trying to attack, but was trying to figure if they were trying to attack something.
"I watch a lot of TV, and I saw on there one of the times where they were training the dogs to break into the cars. I thought of that," she said.
Police said if residents see these dogs in their neighborhoods that they should not approach them, but should call Animal Control.
Police said they don't believe the dogs have rabies, but said they are trying to figure out why the dogs would viciously rip apart a car
LINK TO PHOTO AND VIDEO OF CAR:
Billboards now deliver news of local deaths
Des Moines Register
October 21, 2009
Last Updated October 24, 2009
Des Moines residents are learning about people's deaths in a new way: electronic billboards.
The obituary, long a staple of newspapers, has taken an evolutionary twist, thanks to Iles Funeral Homes of Des Moines and the local division of Clear Channel Outdoor.
"This is not anything I've ever heard of," said Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association in Brookfield, Wis.
Obituaries have broken out of print in recent years with the advance of technology, notably the Internet.
Funeral homes publish obituaries on their Web sites, and Koth said she's heard of funeral homes that post obituaries on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But she said advertising on billboards is new territory.
The electronic billboards are not posting full obituaries; drivers would never have time to read them. The signs are more like service announcements.
Alternating with ads for vacation getaways and gas station soft drinks, the 8-second announcements feature the deceased's name and the day, time and place of the funeral. A picture is optional.
Families don't pay extra.
"We thought that might be a good way to do something similar, to get those service announcements out," said John Wild, general manager at Iles.
The program started with Clear Channel approaching Iles about advertising its funeral homes on electronic billboards, Wild said. He said Iles wasn't interested in advertising itself directly but wondered about doing service announcements.
Tim Jameson, president of the Des Moines division of Clear Channel Outdoor, was mum on details of the program, declining to share even how many electronic billboards the company has in the Des Moines area.
Wild counted at least five, on Interstate Highway 235, 63rd Street, Ingersoll Avenue, Southeast 14th Street and Army Post Road.
Tony Alwin, a senior vice president in marketing and creative with Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the world's largest providers of digital billboards, said he had not heard of the program in Des Moines until a reporter called. He thought it was a good idea.
"I've got to find out more," Alwin said. "That could be something we want to explore more with all of the markets."
Not everyone is a fan.
"Out from the back pages, huh?" said Marilyn Johnson, author of "The Dead Beat," a 2006 book about obituaries.
Johnson, who spent two years studying obituaries from around the world, said billboard obituaries "invite a lot of bad taste."
She said old family photos make bad enough reproductions in newspaper columns, let alone being blown up onto a billboard.
"It could cause accidents, right? Wouldn't you like drive into a telephone pole if you saw your neighbor up there and didn't know? ... "What are you going to do, pull off and mourn?"
Jameson played down questions of whether the ads posed safety issues, saying drivers could just as easily receive news of a loved one's death via a call on their cell phone.
Like it or not, today's world moves at a faster pace, and that includes many distractions on the road, Jameson said. He said the companies that adapt will survive.
"If you think about it, the family living room is not the family living room," he said. "The living room is the minivan."
RODNEY WHITE/REGISTER PHOTO
This electronic billboard can be seen from the northbound lanes of Interstate Highway 235 near Euclid Avenue in Des Moines.
Officer accused of pointing gun at 'House of Screams' character
Off-duty city officer charged with assault in incident involving killer from Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie
Baltimore Sun reporter
4:08 p.m. EDT, October 26, 2009
(AP photo/Melanie Dabovich)
This Oct. 1, 2009 photo shows hotel owner Larry Whitten standing in front of the sign for his hotel in Taos, N.M. Whitten has caused a stir in the small northern New Mexico town after he purchased a hotel in the community and Anglicized the Spanish first names of some employees and asked Hispanic employees to not speak Spanish is his presence.
Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names
Published - Oct 26 2009 08:57AM EDT
Associated Press Writer
TAOS, N.M.— Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.
The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.
No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.
Whitten's management style had worked for him as he's turned around other distressed hotels he bought in recent years across the country.
The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed.
His rules and his firing of several Hispanic employees angered his employees and many in this liberal enclave of 5,000 residents at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where the most alternative of lifestyles can find a home and where Spanish language, culture and traditions have a long and revered history.
"I came into this landmine of Anglos versus Spanish versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody up here. I'm just doing what I've always done," he says.
Former workers, their relatives and some town residents picketed across the street from the hotel.
"I do feel he's a racist, but he's a racist out of ignorance. He doesn't know that what he's doing is wrong," says protester Juanito Burns Jr., who identified himself as prime minister of an activist group called Los Brown Berets de Nuevo Mexico.
The Virginia-born Whitten had spent 40 years in the hotel business, turning around more than 20 hotels in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina, before moving with his wife to Taos from Abilene, Texas. He had visited Taos before, and liked its beauty. When Whitten saw that the Paragon Inn was up for sale, he jumped at it.
The hotel sits along narrow, two-lane Paseo del Pueblo, where souped-up lowriders radiate a just-waxed gleam in the soft sunshine as they cruise past centuries-old adobe buildings. One recent afternoon, a woman slowly rode her fat-tire bicycle along a cracked sidewalk, oversized purple butterfly wings on her back and a breeze blowing her long, blonde dreadlocks.
The community includes Taos Pueblo, an American Indian dwelling inhabited for over 1,000 years, and an adobe Catholic church made famous in a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.
After he arrived, Whitten met with the employees. He says he immediately noticed that they were hostile to his management style and worried they might start talking about him in Spanish.
"Because of that, I asked the people in my presence to speak only English because I do not understand Spanish," Whitten says. "I've been working 24 years in Texas and we have a lot of Spanish people there. I've never had to ask anyone to speak only English in front of me because I've never had a reason to."
Some employees were fired, Whitten says, because they were hostile and insubordinate. He says they called him "a white (N-word)."
Fired hotel manager Kathy Archuleta says the workers initially tried to adjust to his style. "We had already gone through four or five owners before him, so we knew what to expect," Archuleta says. "I told (the workers) we needed to give him a chance."
Then Whitten told some employees he was changing their Spanish first names. Whitten says it's a routine practice at his hotels to change first names of employees who work the front desk phones or deal directly with guests if their names are difficult to understand or pronounce.
"It has nothing to do with racism. I'm not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don't know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything," Whitten says.
Martin Gutierrez, another fired employee, says he felt disrespected when he was told to use the unaccented Martin as his name. He says he told Whitten that Spanish was spoken in New Mexico before English. "He told me he didn't care what I thought because this was his business," Gutierrez says.
"I don't have to change my name and language or heritage," he says. "I'm professional the way I am."
After the firings, the New Mexico chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a national civil rights group, sent Whitten a letter, raising concerns about treatment of Hispanic workers. Whitten says he sent them a letter and posted messages on the hotel marquee, alleging that the group referred to him with a racial slur. LULAC denied the charge.
The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society," further enflamed tensions.
Taos Mayor Darren Cordova says Whitten wasn't doing anything illegal. But he says Whitten failed to better familiarize himself with the town and its culture before deciding to buy the hotel for $2 million. "Taos is so unique that you would not do anything in Taos that you would do elsewhere," he says.
Whitten grew subdued as a two-hour interview with The Associated Press progressed. He said he was sorry for the misunderstanding and insisted he has never been against any culture.
"What kind of fool or idiot or poor businessman would I be to orchestrate this whole crazy thing that's costed me a lot of time, money and aggravation?" Whitten said.
Whitten should have dealt with the situation differently, especially in a majority Hispanic town, said 71-year-old Taos artist Ken O'Neil, while sipping his afternoon coffee on the town's historic plaza.
"To make demands like he did just seems over the top," he says. "Nobody won here. It's not always about winning. Sometimes, it's about what you learn."
From bad to hearse: Suit over funeral-car explosion
Last Updated: 5:01 PM, October 25, 2009
Posted: 3:53 AM, October 25, 2009
She went out with a bang, and it's left her Bronx family fuming.
Glatha Byrd's final send-off was "apocalyptic" -- as the hearse carrying her body exploded and caught fire on the Major Deegan Expressway, says family lawyer James Franzetti.
The family has filed suit in Bronx Supreme Court over the May 13, 2008, incident, accusing the Griffin Peters Funeral Home of causing some of Byrd's relatives "severe and serious" injuries.
Valerie Davis, wife of the Harlem funeral home's owner, Keith Davis, called the suit "ridiculous."
She said she had heard the relatives, who are also related to her husband, joking about the engine fireworks.
And, she added, no one indicated they were hurt as they removed the "unsinged" casket from the hearse, placed it in the back of an SUV and kept going -- leaving behind the shaken funeral director, who had been driving the hearse.
Little did they know the Ferncliff Cemetery burial in Hartsdale couldn't go on without him -- giving the funeral party an hour to kill beside Byrd's open grave.
Franzetti claims the casket was smoke damaged and the flowers were burned.
Tiny, tiny, tiny houses
October 22 2009 at 07:00 AM
Mobile dwelling designer Christopher Deam of Tumbleweed, the Tiny House Company, founded by Jay Shafer, who builds and sells -- you guessed it -- little dwellings ranging in size from 65 to 372 square feet.
Kids build forts with blankets and chairs, carving out their own space inside their parents' home. The space inside those "walls" are as sacred as the boundaries of their very real rooms. It's their safe spot and they can control everything that happens inside it. Not to trivialize these homes in any way, but they remind me of those forts I used to build with my friends -- except these are for grownups.
The Tiny Houses don't require building permits because they're on wheels, so they can literally be placed in a backyard (yes, albeit a very large backyard). The Small Houses are more like real dwellings with a separate room and an option for a 1st floor bedroom.
The XS-House measures 65 square feet.
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
The Weebee comes in at 102 square feet.
San Francisco's Modern Cabana offers its very own modern rendition. These range from 120 to 300 square feet.
Man who listed 'robbery' as occupation sentenced
Thursday, October 22, 2009 7:15 pm
A 60-year-old Rapid City man has been sentenced to four years in prison for robbing a bank in the city. Police said Lonnie Pannell walked into the downtown Dakotah Bank on Feb. 5 without a weapon and demanded money. He got away with about $2,800.
Pannell was arrested less than 24 hours later when his car ran out of gas near Chadron, Neb. Court documents said that when Pannell was booked into jail, he named "robbery" as his occupation.
Pannell, who also goes by the last name King, pleaded guilty in July.
Woman flashes $27,000 in Springfield bar, gets robbed
George W. Graham
October 20, 2009, 12:37PM
SPRINGFIELD – A 22-year-old woman, who flashed $27,000 in cash Monday night while inside an Indian Orchard bar, was held up at gunpoint around midnight after she left the bar with a male friend and walked towards her car.
Sgt. John M. Delaney said the victim, while inside the bar, bragged of receiving the $27,000 from an insurance claim.
Delaney, aide to Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet, said the victims told police they were robbed by two male suspects wearing dark clothing and bandanas, one armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun.
“Lesson learned...” Delaney said in prepared statement. “When you cash a settlement, put it in the bank.”
Detectives are probing the case, Delaney said.
October 22 2009
La-Z-Boy crash leads to DWI in Proctor
A Proctor man driving a motorized La-Z-Boy lounge chair hit a parked vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Duluth News Tribune
Proctor man driving a motorized La-Z-Boy lounge chair hit a parked vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Dennis LeRoy Anderson, 62, pleaded guilty Monday in St. Louis County District Court to DWI in connection with the Aug. 31, 2008, incident in Proctor. There were no injuries.
According to the criminal complaint, Anderson drove his motorized chair into a vehicle parked near a Proctor bar. Anderson told police he was traveling from the Keyboard Lounge after consuming approximately eight or nine beers. His blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit to drive.
Anderson claimed he was driving the chair fine until a woman jumped on it and knocked the chair off course. He has one prior DWI conviction. He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Proctor Deputy Police Chief Troy Foucault said the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower with a Briggs & Stratton engine. It has a stereo, cup holders and other custom options, including different power levels.
A National Hot Rod Racing Association sticker is posted on the chair’s head rest. The chair had a small steering wheel, about a third of the size of a golf cart’s, coming straight up from the middle of the La-Z-Boy.
Proctor City Prosecutor Ronald Envall said he charged Anderson under the portion of Minnesota law that makes it a crime to operate a self-propelled motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. He declined further comment.
Anderson had to forfeit his motorized chair to Proctor police, who plan to auction it with other forfeited items, Foucault said.
Duluth defense attorney David Keegan, who represented Anderson, declined comment.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Heather Sweetland sentenced Anderson to 180 days in the St. Louis County Jail or at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center and fined him $2,000 plus court fees. She stayed the jail time and one-half of the fine for two years of supervised probation. As conditions of his probation, Anderson must submit to a chemical dependency assessment, follow all recommendations
LINK TO PHOTO OF MOTORIZED CHAIR
October 21, 2009 05:50 am
Police: Son drove as mother made heroin deliveries
Gloucester Daily Times
A 46-year-old Gloucester woman has been arrested and accused of taking her 23-year-old son along with her on trips to buy and sell heroin.
Nancy Fulford of 7 Alpine Court was charged Monday night with possession of heroin and distributing heroin after Gloucester detectives found 10 individually packaged bags of the drug in a search of her bedroom, according to the police report.
Her son, Timothy Fulford, was charged with knowing where heroin was kept.
Police also confiscated a hypodermic needle and "numerous" prescription pills.
After her arrest at her home at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Nancy Fulford admitted to purchasing and then selling heroin in Gloucester around four times a week for the past four months, according to the police report.
In his own statement, Timothy Fulford said he had driven his mother around the city as she had made heroin deliveries.
‘Big Brother’ winner allegedly used prize to buy oxycodone
October 21, 2009
The grand prize winner of last year’s television reality show “Big Brother,’’ arrested Saturday in Massachusetts on an oxycodone distribution charge, allegedly told federal investigators that he used his winnings to purchase large amounts of the drug.
Adam Jasinski, of Delray Beach, Fla., was arrested at a North Reading strip mall and faces a charge of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone.
Jasinski allegedly agreed with a cooperating government witness to sell the witness 2,000 oxycodone pills. Jasinski flew from his home in Florida to Massachusetts Saturday to deliver the drugs, according to an affidavit filed Monday in federal court by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in support of the charges.
The agent wrote that Jasinski and the witness met at Logan International Airport. On the drive to North Reading, Jasinski allegedly removed a sock from his “pelvic area’’ containing two plastic bags full of small blue pills.
When the two men stopped at the strip mall, agents approached the car. Jasinski allegedly struggled with agents and threw the sock under an adjacent parked car.
But after waiving his Miranda rights, the affidavit said, “Jasinski stated that for the past several months he had been obtaining thousands of pills of oxycodone and reselling them to customers all along the East Coast.’’
“Jasinski was able to purchase large quantities of pills because he had received $500,000 as the grand prize winner of the CBS reality television show ‘Big Brother Season 9,’ ’’ the affidavit said.
2 former firefighters, civilian clerk charged in disability fraud scheme
October 21, 2009 01:41 PM
By Donovan Slack
Two former Boston firefighters were charged by federal prosecutors today with faking career-ending injuries to receive tax-free accidental disability pensions, while a fire department personnel clerk was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the federal fraud investigation.
Link To Video of fire fighter competing in body building:
Former district chief James Famolare, 65, and firefighter Albert Arroyo, 47, are facing multiple counts of mail fraud for seeking accidental disability retirements from the city of Boston for allegedly bogus on-the-job injuries, prosectors said.
Arroyo claimed last spring that he fell at a Jamaica Plain firehouse and could no longer work as a fire inspector, but he continued to train as a bodybuilder and participated in a competition just six weeks later.
Famolare claimed he suffered a severe back injury when he moved a box of files at headquarters while filling in as chief of personnel for a day. But prosecutors say Famolare had to shop for a doctor to bolster his claim and witnesses to the supposed injury later recanted.
The clerk, Erika Boylan, 31, allegedly lied while testifying under oath before a federal grand jury about delaying the processing of accidental disability retirement applications.
If convicted, Famolare and Arroyo face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count of fraud. Famolare has been charged with six counts and Arroyo faces two counts, according to the US Attorney's office. Boylan, if convicted, faces up to 15 years in prison.
Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser hailed the arrests as a step forward in his efforts to overhaul the Boston Fire Department.
"I’m glad the federal government has joined this fight," Fraser said. "We’ve been a full partner with the federal government, cooperating in the investigation. We will continue to work side by side to give taxpayers the department they deserve."
Federal prosecutors did not say whether more arrests are forthcoming in the probe.
The fraud investigation began 18 months ago and followed a series of Globe reports about disability pension fraud. The newspaper reported in January 2008 that Boston firefighters had claimed an unusual rash of career-ending injuries in recent years, sending the rate of disability retirements skyrocketing to 74 percent of all retirements -- more than twice the rate of similarly sized cities.
Between 2001 and 2007, some 167 firefighters reported career-ending injuries while on the job. A majority of them had claimed they were injured on the same day they were filling in for a supervisor, which allowed them to qualify for a pension at the higher pay rate. A state law designed to reform the pension system passed earlier this year eliminates that so-called "king-for-a-day" provision, which allowed firefighters who were filling in for superiors to receive pensions at the superiors' pay rate.
The Globe also reported that the processing of scores of disability pension applications were delayed for inordinate lengths of time, sometimes years, allowing firefighters to collect 100 percent of their salary, tax free, while they waited for their disability retirements to be approved.
The clerk indicted today, Boylan, allegedly lied to investigators while testifying under oath about participating in the delay of disability retirement applications. According to the indictment, Boylan said she never delayed them and was never asked to delay them. But the indictment said she was asked, "on at least one occasion to delay the processing of paperwork for a firefighter who had filed for accidental disability retirement."
Boylan was put on paid administrative leave today from the fire department, pending the outcome of the case.
Arroyo reported on March 21, 2008, that he had slipped on a stairway and injured his back. The incident occurred without witnesses in a firehouse where he was not assigned to work, records show. He went on injured leave and within weeks, a doctor recommended him for an accidental disability pension, saying he was "totally and permanently disabled."
But three days after his initial injury report, the indictment says, Arroyo worked out with a trainer at a Gold's Gym, and on May 3, Arroyo placed eighth in a men's bodybuilding competition, the 2008 Pro Natural American Championships. After the Globe published a video of the competition, Fraser ordered Arroyo back to work. When he didn't show, the fire commissioner fired Arroyo.
At the time, a lawyer representing Arroyo said bodybuilding was good for his back injury. But Arroyo didn't disclose the physical activity in his disability pension application submitted in June 2008, according to the indictment.
"In his application for disability retirement, Arroyo falsely stated that he had not participated in any sports or strenuous activities within the last year when in fact Arroyo had made numerous visits to various gyms during that one year period and was then training, including weight lifting, for a May 2008 body building competition," the indictment states.
Famolare claimed he suffered a career-ending back injury when moving a box of personnel files on June 18, 2006, when he was filling in for a single day as a deputy chief. He went out on injured leave at the higher pay rate, $155,000 per year, instead of his own, which was $127,000 annually.
Famolare collected the enhanced pay tax-free for more than two years while he awaited processing and approval of his disability retirement application, which would have awarded him 70 percent of the deputy chief's salary, tax free, for life. But in July 2008, his medical file was one of three that went missing from department headquarters and a witness who had signed his injury report recanted, saying he hadn't seen anything but had merely endorsed a form that Famolare asked him to sign.
Famolare abruptly withdrew his disability pension application, and asked for a regular, taxable pension instead. In a letter to the city's retirement board at the time, he said he was withdrawing his disability claim because he did not believe he could get a fair hearing.
The federal indictment says that shortly after his initial injury report, Famolare consulted with a doctor who declined to characterize his injury as so severe that he could never return to work as a fire department administrator.
"Shortly thereafter, in or about September 2006, Famolare had one visit with a second doctor ... who had never treated him before, but who had a reputation of regularly certifying total and permanent disability," the indictment says. "This second doctor immediately wrote a disability opinion after the one, short office visit with Famolare."
The indictment did not identify the doctor by name, but records show the physician is Dorchester neurologist Dr. John F. Mahoney. Mahoney is the same doctor who treated Arroyo and recommended him for accidental disability retirement.
Since 2001, Mahoney has evaluated 25 firefighters whose injuries he determined to be so severe that the city should award them accidental disability pensions, according to the records obtained last year under a public records request. A lawyer for Mahoney last year declined to comment on specific cases, but said in general, Mahoney made the best determinations he could based on information he was provided.
"Doctors don't have an obligation to independently corroborate injury," said the lawyer, Paul Cirel, citing Massachusetts court decisions regarding information provided by patients. "Doctors don't always agree on a prognosis; there is a fair amount of objectivity and there is a certain amount of subjectivity."
'Crash for cash' fraudster who staged 93 accidents in $1.6m insurance scam is jailed
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:09 PM on 21st October 2009
A fraudster who enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle on the proceeds of staged accidents and cost the insurance industry $1.6million was jailed today.
Mohammed Patel, 24, charged $500 a time to stage accidents which enabled fraudsters to claim an average of $17,000 from insurers.
He staged at least 93 crashes, earning himself around $46,000, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.
Patel, of Nottingham Drive, Bolton, Greater Manchester, admitted one count of conspiracy to defraud, six counts of dangerous driving and four counts of driving while disqualified.
He was jailed for four-and-a-half years today and banned from driving for three-and-a-half years.
William Baker, prosecuting, said Patel's earnings funded an 'Aladdin's cave' at the home of his unemployed girlfriend Ettorina Hay.
The pair enjoyed luxurious foreign holidays and drove expensive cars, the court heard.
Mr Baker said the scam was only exposed after office workers at a construction company overlooking a major roundabout became suspicious
Describing the set-up, Mr Baker said: 'One vehicle colliding with another at low speed with minor damage and often the same person driving the lead vehicle.
'They told drivers of the rear vehicles they thought they were the victim of fraud."
Mr Baker said: 'Mohammed Patel staged the road traffic accidents. He drove cars on to the roundabout and then stopped them so abruptly the vehicle behind could not avoid a collision.
'He did this because of the widely-held belief that the person who drives into the rear of someone else is in the wrong and they will admit liability.'
Fraudulent claims, submitted by people not present at the scene whom Patel purported to be, were then made.
Claims would include compensation for injuries, such as whiplash, damage to the vehicle, a hire car, and storage of the damaged vehicle.
Mr Baker said Patel staged the accidents between May 2005 and August 2008, and each claim averaged $17,000.
The cost to the motorist of a fraudulent 'cash for crash' claim is an extra $49 a year on their insurance premium, he addedMr Baker said: 'He spent more than $46,000 in cash on two cars, designer clothes, holidays, and paying the domestic bills of his girlfriend.
'There's evidence he received $500 per claim... and was involved in staging at least 92 collisions.'
Patel was arrested days after he was observed staging two accidents in a single day, the court heard.
On July 30 last year he staged an early afternoon collision at Junction 10 on the M65 near Burnley, Lancashire.
At around 5pm he staged another accident, while driving a Golf, at Trafford Park in Manchester, and gave a false name.
Mr Baker said that Patel was laughed at by the other party when he asked for $950 to cover the damage to his vehicle.
Suspicion: An aerial shot of Eden Point roundabout where office workers saw a series of similar crashes in late 2005
Patel was arrested in Bolton on August 7 last year and gave a prepared statement to police. He pleaded guilty to the charges at the earliest opportunity.
Patel paid $46,000 into his girlfriend's bank account, the court heard.
When police searched Hay's Bolton home, they found receipts from stores including Selfridges, Toys R Us and Marks & Spencer.
A $965 receipt for a flat-screen television was discovered at the single mother's home.
A $10,000 second-hand Mercedes C Class Coupe and a $14,000 Lincoln Navigator, which cost a total of $3,700 to insure, were also in her name, the court heard.
The pair enjoyed trips to Turkey, Barcelona and France. Patel paid $1,000 for his girlfriend to visit her brother in South Africa and even contributed towards her grocery bill.
Mr Baker said: 'The two enjoyed a high lifestyle from the proceeds of fraud.'
He said Hay, who is from Malawi and has a son, 'enjoyed a much higher standard of living than she would have experienced living on benefits of $90 per week'.
Her home was newly decorated and 'full of expensive furniture and electrical equipment', Mr Baker said.
Hay admitted one count of converting criminal property and one count of possessing criminal property.
She is due to be sentenced on December 18 and faces a maximum sentence of seven years.
Link to Photo of Patel and accident scenes:
LINK TO VIDEO OF PATEL:
Child's stare sparks restaurant argument
11:39 a.m. Wednesday, October 21, 2009
A College Park woman was charged with disorderly conduct after an argument at an Alpharetta restaurant that started because another customer's 5-year-old daughter was staring at her, police said.
The incident happened Oct. 1 at the McDonald's on North Point Parkway, according to an Alpharetta police incident report.
Ken Garrison told police that while he and his daughter were eating in a booth, Nicole Gomez, 39, became angry because the 5-year-old was looking over the back of the bench at her.
According to the report, Gomez "told Garrison that he needed to control his daughter because she was ‘[expletive] with her.' "
Told that she was being overly sensitive, Gomez "called Garrison a bitch and then moved to a booth further away," the report states.
Garrison told police that when he later went to refill his drink, he stopped by Gomez's booth and again told her that she was being overly sensitive, and Gomez then told him to "get out of my face, bitch."
As Garrison turned to leave, Gomez threw ice and a drink from a cup at him, according to the report, and he then asked the manager to call police.
Alpharetta police Officer J.P. Robinson wrote in the report, "I spoke with Gomez, who stated she was upset because the little girl was looking over the back of the bench and thought that Garrison was telling her to do it."
The officer also spoke with a McDonald's employee at the front counter who "stated she did not hear any of the cursing but did see Garrison at Gomez's table. She heard Gomez tell Garrison to please go away and leave me alone three times."
Gomez at first denied cursing, according to the report, but later admitted she called Garrison a "bitch" and used another expletive loud enough to be heard by other customers and by Garrison's daughter. She was cited for disorderly conduct and released.
In 1998, Gomez was sentenced to six years in prison on child cruelty charges after pleading guilty to abandoning her newborn daughter in a Dumpster at the Clayton County apartment complex where she was living at the time. The baby survived, and Gomez was released from prison in 2002.
Girl, 16, died from heroin overdose despite mother's pleas for social services to save her daughter
7:27 PM on 20th October 2009
The despairing parents of a teenage girl pleaded with police and social services for help her after she got hooked on heroin - but the authorities did nothing to save her, an inquest heard today.
Schoolgirl Kate Walsh, 16, was popular and a talented flautist before she met 25-year-old drug addict Alex Charlamow and spiralled into addiction under his influence, the coroner was told.
Her parents Deborah and Anthony Walsh, a sound engineer, sought help to stop her in the months before her death from a heroin overdose but say she fell into a ‘grey area’ - being too old for children’s services and too young for adult care services, which begin at 18.
Kate ended up in hospital twice after overdosing as she moved between supported lodgings, squats, and spells back at her family home.
She was reported missing by her parents five days before workmen boarding up a squat in a red-light district of Swindon, Wiltshire, found her body.
Her mother said Kate had kept her relationship with Charlamow, who lived in the Salvation Army run rehabilitation centre close to her home in Highworth, near Swindon, a secret for a year and a half.
Mrs Walsh, 45, who gave up her job as a postmistress as she struggled to cope with her daughter’s death, told the inquest: ‘We didn’t find out until she was 16 and by then it was too late.’
When the rehab centre found out that Charlamow was in a relationship they kicked him out, as it was against the rules.
But Mrs Walsh criticised the centre, saying: ‘They didn’t take steps to find out who it was, and they knew it was a young girl.
Kate Walsh as a young girl before the heroin addiction took hold
‘I feel that the manager really failed. He failed Alex because Alex was supposed to be rehabilitated.
‘He failed Kate because she could then see Alex, and he failed us because we lost our daughter.’
Mrs Walsh recalled the agonising times when Kate would leave home, which began on May 3rd, 2003, and how she drifted in and out of ‘supported lodging’ houses and squats.
She said: ‘If a 16-year-old wants to leave home there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re not allowed to lock them in the house.’
The inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall heard how police once had a warrant to enter a house Kate was staying in with other drug users.
Mrs Walsh said: ‘We told them Kate was in there taking heroin, but they wouldn’t execute the warrant. They just went and knocked on the door and asked for her.
‘They said, “Your parents have reported you as missing”.
‘But she said, “I’ve been living away from home for six months.” And that was that.
‘They knew she was in there taking heroin, as was everyone else, but they didn’t do anything about it.’
She also told the inquest about a failed ‘strategy meeting’ that was set up by social services-appointed ‘personal advisor’ to Kate, Michaela Norton, while Kate was in a supported lodging.
‘The meeting was supposed to decide what was the best way forward to help Kate,’ said Mrs Walsh. ‘But no plan forward was agreed because Kate turned up, she said she’d taken various different drugs, so the meeting fell apart.
‘People had to go - there were other meetings. It was decided the case wouldn’t be placed on the child protection register because Kate had access to all the relevant agencies.
‘It wasn’t the right help. It wasn’t what Kate needed.’
Kate had to shoplift to fund her £150 day drugs habit and had been arrested for the crime, the inquest heard.
Her mother believes she should have been put into ‘secure accomodation’ by social services - similar to being sectioned under the Mental Health Act - instead of the ‘supported accomodation’ that was offered.
After her second overdose in November 2003, Kate said: ‘Mum, I did it on purpose - I don’t want to live.’
Mrs Walsh said she had then asked staff at Gloucester Royal Hospital to section her daughter. But a psychiatric nurse determined Kate was not suffering from a mental health disorder, the inquest heard.
Mrs Walsh said she told social services that next time Kate left home she would die.
I didn’t know about secure accomodation until after Kate died, which is why I asked for her to be sectioned. But now I know that’s what should have happened,’ she said.
Kate was reported missing by her parents for the last time on December 30th, 2003. Her body was found on January 3rd, 2004. The inquest was originally opened that month but has since been delayed because of ‘serious illness’ to an unspecified party.
The inquest continues.
LINK TO PHOTOS:
Goodbye crack, hello OxyContin
Stephen Lam/The Chronicle
Pills are the new focus in the Tenderloin
New Police Chief George Gascón's focus on undercover drug stings in the Tenderloin has had an interesting side-effect: far fewer sales of heroin and crack cocaine, and more sales of OxyContin and other pills.
We told you last month about "Operation Safe Schools," the focus on heroin and cocaine sales within 1,000 feet of schools. Under California law, such deals come with a bail enhancement and an extra three to five years in prison. Everybody arrested with the enhancement since the operation's start in mid-September remains in jail with a bail of at least $100,000.
But it seems the undercover operation has run its course.
"The guys who were selling the coke and heroin just aren't down there anymore. It kind of flushed them out," said Lt. Jim Miller of the field operations bureau. "Word's getting around that if you sell around the schools in the Tenderloin, you're not getting out of jail...It's a huge deterrent that we didn't anticipate."
That's not to say the Tenderloin has turned into Mayberry. Far from it. The dealers are still there; they're just selling painkillers like OxyContin which costs $40 a pill on the streets.
Asked whether he thought state law should be changed so dealing pills near schools comes with the same penalty as heroin and crack, Miller said, "Definitely."
"Pills now are a huge part of street sales, at least in some areas of San Francisco, and they're extremely addictive," he said. "And the kids don't see whether it's cocaine or a pill - all they see is some drug dealer across the street selling drugs. It really doesn't matter what's being sold - it still has the same impact on the kids."
October 20 2009 at 11:15 AM
99-year-old is safest driver - no speeding tickets in 84 years
99-year-old George Geeson could be Britain's safest driver.
10:37AM BST 20 Oct 2009
99-year-old George Geeson could be Britain's safest driver Photo: MASONS NEWS SERVICE
After 84 years of driving he has never had a speeding ticket or caused an accident during nearly one million miles at the wheel.
Mr Geeson got his licence at the age of 15 in 1925 driving a Model T Ford and bought his first car, a Wyllis-Overland Whippet, 10 years later for two pounds and ten shillings (£2.50).
He has owned dozens of cars and motorbikes in 84 years of driving and has no trouble on the roads despite never having to sit a formal driving test.
Mr Geeson, a grandfather-of-three, has only ever been involved in one accident - when another motorist shunted into the back of him in the pouring rain in 1958.
Mr Geeson a former garage owner, of South Witham, near Grantham, Lincs., said his driving motto is safety first and he had always been careful to observe the law.
He said: ''I have always said to myself if I stay on the right side of the law I've no reason to be scared of anyone or anything.
''We used to think that 60mph was very fast but now people seem to drive at 100mph and that's too fast for me.
''I've always been careful. Even the one accident I did have was down to somebody else."
Mr Geeson opened the Fox Garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire with his brother Leonard in 1932 when it was still known as the Great North Road.
He first got behind the wheel of a Ford Model T in 1925, as an apprentice earning just one penny an hour - but he could not afford to buy his own car until Christmas Day 1935.
Mr Geeson nows drives a red Peugeot 106, but said his first love will always be the Ford.
First drove a Model T Ford in 1925
1935 - blue Willys-Overland Whippet
1937 - black Ford 8 saloon
1939 - black Ford Anglia 'standard'
1940 - blue Buick Special saloon
1941 - grey eight-seater Humber Pullman
1941 - grey Model A Ford
1953 - green Ford Popular
1959 - green with white top Ford Consul
1963 - Ford Consul
1965 - dark blue Jaguar 3.8 S-type
1970 - green Chrysler Valiant
1974 - dark blue Triumph Spitfire1500
1976 - blue Austin Maxi
1980 - green Austin 1100
1984 - Austin 1100
1997 - red Peugeot Diesel 306
2001 - red Peugeot 106
Social services 'to take baby from teenager deemed too stupid to marry'
A mother-to-be, who was banned from marrying after social workers said she is not intelligent enough, is to have her baby taken away immediately after giving birth.
3:57PM BST 18 Oct 2009
Kerry Robertson, 17, who has mild learning difficulties, has been told that she will not be allowed to bring up her own child, who she has already named Ben.
Last month Miss Robertson was prevented from marrying her fiancé Mark McDougall, 25, after council officials claimed that she “did not understand the implications of getting married
She has now been warned that she will only be allowed a few hours with her baby, which is due in January, before it is taken into foster care.
After hearing the news, Miss Robertson, of Dunfermline, Fife, who is 26 weeks pregnant, said: “I couldn't believe it. I am so upset – I can't stop crying.”
Mr McDougall, an artist, said he wants to take on full responsibility for his son but claims that he is powerless because he is not married to Miss Robertson.
He added: “Social Services are ruining our lives. As we are not married – because social workers would not let us marry – it seems I have no rights as a dad at all.
“Kerry's gran is trying to apply for custody of Ben but social services have already told us it is unlikely she will be successful. We feel helpless.”
The extraordinary case first came to light last month when the couple’s wedding was halted 48 hours before Miss Robertson was due to walk up the aisle.
Under Scottish law, a registrar may refuse to marry a couple if they believe one or both the parties lack the mental capacity to understand what the institution of marriage is about.
In a highly unusual step, Dunfermline Register Office refused to sanction the marriage after Fife council wrote a letter of objection.
Miss Robertson was brought up by her grandmother from the age of nine months because her parents were unable to look after her and her welfare has since been overseen by the council’s social workers.
She met Mr McDougall, from Arbroath, in January and the couple planned to get married after Miss Robertson became pregnant.
Two days before the ceremony, two social workers visited their flat and told them that the marriage was illegal because of Miss Robertson’s learning difficulties.
The service and reception for 20 guests had to be called off despite the couple having already bought rings and a wedding dress.
At the time, Miss Robertson said: “I know what marriage is. It is when two folks want to spend the rest of their lives together. I love Mark and I want to get married to him.”
Mr McDougall added: “Despite arguing that we loved one another and didn't want our baby to be born to unwed parents, they would not budge. It's a nightmare.”
He claims that social services have exaggerated the extent of Miss Robertson’s learning difficulties and that she is hoping to go back to college to catch up academically.
The council said it does not comment on individual cases. But Stephen Moore, the council's executive director of social services, said: “Much of the work we do is governed by legislation. Complex decisions are made that balance risk and welfare while supporting people at times of personal or family need.
"We will always work with people for the best outcome for all involved.”
In May it was disclosed that Rachel Pullen, 24, had her three-year-old daughter taken away from her by social services when she was six months old after Nottingham City Council officials deemed her too stupid to look after the child.
LINK TO PHOTO:
'You're not intelligent enough to marry', bride told
Alison Smith Squire
Last updated at 10:19 PM on 11th September 2009
Social workers banned a young woman from her own wedding in an extraordinary row over whether she is bright enough to get married.
Kerry Robertson, who has mild learning difficulties, was told her wedding was being halted just 48 hours before she was to walk up the aisle with fiance Mark McDougall.
Miss Robertson, 17, had bought her wedding dress and the couple had booked the church ceremony, bought the rings and organised a reception to be held last Saturday.
But two days before they were due to say their vows in front of 20 guests, social services told the bride-to-be that she would have to cancel the big day because she 'did not understand the implications of getting married'.
Yesterday, Miss Robertson, who is five months pregnant, said the decision was cruel.
She said: 'I am still so upset about everything. I know what marriage is. It is when two folks want to spend the rest of their lives together. I love Mark and I want to get married to him.'
Miss Robertson, of Dunfermline, Fife, has been in the care of her grandmother since she was nine months old after her parents were unable to look after her, with her welfare overseen by social workers at Fife council.
In January this year, she met Mr McDougall, a 25-year-old artist from Arbroath. When Miss Robertson became pregnant, they began making wedding plans.
Mr McDougall said their nightmare began last Thursday when two social workers arrived at the flat they have shared for the past four months.
He said: 'We were about to go out and make final arrangements for our wedding when we heard a frantic rapping at the door.
'When we opened it, two social workers burst in and told us that the marriage was illegal because Kerry has learning difficulties and did not possess the capacity to make such a decision.
'Kerry burst into tears. 'But despite arguing with the social workers that we loved one another and didn't want our baby to be born to unmarried parents, they wouldn't budge.'
Under Scottish law, a registrar may refuse to marry a couple if he believes one or both the parties lack the mental capacity to understand what the institution of marriage is about.
In a highly unusual step, the registrar at Dunfermline Register Office refused to sanction the marriage after Fife council wrote a letter of objection.
Mr McDougall claims Miss Robertson's learning difficulties are not severe. 'It's true she is not very academic,' he said. 'But she is nowhere near as stupid as social services are making out.
'She is a loving caring person. She can also read and write, although not very well, and was going to college to catch up.
'I didn't even know she had learning difficulties until we'd been dating for two months.
'At that time, social services said they were pleased we were together and seemed supportive.
'For the first time in her life Kerry was truly happy so we cannot understand what all the fuss is about.'
The couple are concerned that their unborn baby, a boy they have already named Ben, could be taken away if Fife council judges Miss Robertson unable to care for him.
She now faces a psychologist's assessment to determine if she is too unintelligent to get married.
Mr McDougall said: 'We are both going to fight this all the way. We feel the fact we want to get married should be encouraged, not forbidden.'
Helen Townsend of Fife council said: 'We cannot discuss details of individual cases for reasons of confidentiality.'
Alcatraz: Life on the rock
The former prison on Alcatraz may appear benign from afar, says Tim Jepson, but in the flesh it is a chilling memorial to darker times.
11:12AM BST 19 Oct 2009
Previous1 of 3 ImagesNext Alcatraz had been a lighthouse, fort and military prison before it became a federal penitentiary in 1934 Photo: GETTY Alcatraz was designed as the first 'super-prison' where rapists, murderers and vicious or extreme prisoners could be kept under one roof Photo: GETTY
The first surprise is how close it is to San Francisco Photo: GETTY
San Francisco is a tremendous city, and largely free of tacky tourist attractions, but I was certain one of its big draws – Alcatraz – would be unable to resist going down the Disney route, peddling a sanitised, Hollywood version of both prison and prison life.
The more so, as the island is reached from San Francisco's redeveloped waterfront, the Embarcadero, a long string of numbered piers, many still gritty, working wharves, others – such as Pier 39 – one of the city's few tourist ghettos: all souvenirs and fast-food outlets. But I was wrong. A visit to Alcatraz is a revelation.
Things start predictably enough. You board a gaudy boat full of chattering, camera-wielding companions, and chug towards "The Rock", as Alcatraz was known. The first surprise is how close it is – just a mile and a half from shore – the second, how pretty it looks; a pivotal feature of the matchless San Francisco Bay, perfectly framed by the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
From the boat, the illusion that this might have been a rather pleasant place to do time persists – what views back to the city and across the water, and what a pastoral-looking little island.
Step ashore, however, and you are quickly disabused. The place is battered, creepy, moribund, gloomy, depressing, dusty, drab, grey, seedy. But its appearance is by design, the work of the National Parks Service, sensitive custodians of the site who have avoided any sanitisation or sentimentalising of the past or place.
Little, in fact, has been done, other than basic maintenance, since Robert Kennedy, then the Attorney General, ordered the prison's closure in 1963, partly because it was so expensive to run – $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 elsewhere in the federal prison system – and partly because the bay was being horribly polluted by the sewage from the island's 250 prisoners and the 60 Bureau of Prisons guards and their families.
From the jetty, we join a guided tour and walk past crumbling guardhouses and other buildings, all peeling paint and pitted stone, to the main block and canteen, a forbidding space for which the word institutional might have been coined. Chatter in the group is now rather more subdued.
Alcatraz had been a lighthouse, fort and military prison before it became a federal penitentiary in 1934, designed as the first "super-prison" where rapists, murderers and recidivist, predatory and otherwise dangerous, vicious or extreme prisoners could be kept under one roof. Segregation on such a scale had never before been attempted. Al Capone was the most famous inmate, brought here from Atlanta, where he had been able to continue his rackets from his cell by buying off guards. No such joy at Alcatraz.
No joy of any sort, I imagine as we walk to the main cell block, made up of the most basic cells: rectangles, with no doors, just bars – cages, really – in long lines, with identical levels above. No windows. The tiny size is the most striking thing – seven or eight feet by five; that, and what must have been an extraordinary lack of privacy.
Unless, that is, you were in solitary, as many invariably were, notably Robert Stroud, the famous "Birdman of Alcatraz", who spent six of his 17 years on the Rock in solitary (and a total of 42 years in solitary during his 54 years of incarceration here and elsewhere). The cells in solitary are even smaller, and even more depressing – which is saying something.
Back out into welcome sunlight, my gaze turns to the beautiful view of San Francisco and, inevitably, to escape (most questions to our guide relate to escape, followed by queries on riots and violent death). The city looks so close. Surely it's an easy swim? You'd think so, until you look at the ominous churning currents in the straits. Thirty-six prisoners tried to escape in 14 attempts: 23 were caught, six were shot and killed; two drowned; and five were never found, presumed lost at sea.
The Parks Service background to Alcatraz suggests prisons are often a reflection of the time in which they are created, and that Alcatraz represents the US government's response to post-Prohibition and Depression-era America, born of necessity, and tailored to, and shaped by, a dour and violent decade.
True or not, it is a testament to the Parks Service's studied neglect of Alcatraz that this tiny fossil, in one of the world's most beautiful modern cities, continues to cast the chill, sombre
Massachusetts salesman's kidnapper arrested in Rock County
JANESVILLE—A Massachusetts man is in custody at the Rock County Jail today after allegedly kidnapping a West Springfield, Mass., car salesman during a test drive and driving the stolen vehicle more than 1,000 miles overnight before getting caught speeding early Friday morning in Rock County.
A Wisconsin State Patrol trooper, according to a lead dispatcher at the Rock County Communications Center, pulled over Aleh Kot, 32, of Massachusetts at 2:30 a.m. at Interstate 90/39 mile marker 165 just north of the Newville exit.
Kot was arrested on charges of operating a motor vehicle without owner consent, speeding and reckless driving, said a Wisconsin State Patrol spokesperson.
Kot is in custody at the Rock County Jail, according to a sheriff’s office spokesperson.
He will be extradited back to Massachusetts to face charges of kidnapping, larceny of a motor vehicle and unarmed robbery, the State Patrol spokesperson said.
The charges stem from an incident Thursday night, when Kot allegedly kidnapped a Balise Honda car salesman during a test drive of a 2010 black Honda Accord.
West Springfield police said Kot refused to turn the car around and continued to drive west on the Massachusetts Pike before dropping the man off at the Stockbridge tollbooth. The salesman was not injured.
Tiny congregation seeks God in a bar
The Janesville Gazette
Photo by Bill Olmsted
Kathy Price, right, makes a point during a church service she leads at the Willowdale Saloon on Hwy 11 west of Janesville on Sundays. Price's mission is to reach people that may not normally attend a church.
Photo by Bill Olmsted
Kathy Price holds on to a beer while conducting a church service at the Willowdale Saloon. While some of those in attendance, including Price, take advantage of the saloon's liquor license, most of the gathering didn't consume alcoholic beverages.
Photo by Bill Olmsted
Kathy Price, right, listens to the discussion during a church service she conducts on Sundays at the Willowdale Saloon, west of Janesville. Price chose the unlikely place for her ministry in an attempt to reach out to people who might not otherwise attend a religious service.
Photo by Bill Olmsted
Kathy Price bows her head in prayer while conducting her weekly church service at the Willowdale Saloon. Price hopes to reach out to non traditional believers.
IF YOU GO
The Red Door meets at the Willowdale Saloon, 5905 W. Highway 11, just west of Janesville, at 10:30 a.m. Sundays.
JANESVILLE — On Sunday mornings, they gather at the Willowdale Saloon.
Sunlight beams through the windows. The place smells of drink and smoke. Elvis Presley and a Coors Light girl peer out from big posters on the wall. A pool table and big-screen TV are among the furnishings.
Welcome to The Red Door, the only church in the area where beer, cigarettes and chicken wings mingle with prayer and theology.
On this Sunday, 12 congregants and their leader, Kathy Price, push two tables together and cover them with red cloths. They pull up barstools. Price leads them in prayer:
“We ask for your blessing and that your presence be manifest here today, in the name of Jesus … And God bless the Packers, if you’re a Packer fan.”
A few have gotten glasses of beer from the bar. A couple light cigarettes, holding the smoke away from the table. Price’s best friend, Terri Husen of Janesville, orders a bloody mary. Two families have brought their children.
Most are wearing jeans. One wears a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and sandals. A young man sports a T-shirt with an image of a longhaired man and the words “Jesus is my homeboy.”
Price’s prayer includes a plea for a friend who is in the Rock County Jail.
Congregants share their high points or low points from the past week. Then comes the main event.
Price leans in, a beer on the table in front of her, her long dark hair flowing over the table. She begins the discussion.
Seeking the mystery
This Sunday’s topic is the joy of seeking God as opposed to following religious dogma.
Price decries those who “reserve the right to figure God out and cram him down your throat the way they think he should fit down your throat.
“The only trouble with that is, another man comes around, and he has a different idea of who God is.”
Price thinks religion’s emphasis on rules crowds out the spiritual. Darin Wilson of Janesville chimes in: “If the mystery of God is solved, you’ve lost the seeking, which is where God wants us.”
“Yes, yes, because we don’t find God. He finds our sorry asses,” Price responds.
“I don’t reject rules, but in a relationship with God, the things he sees as most important in dealing with in our lives, he’ll shine a light on,” Price says later. “… I try to stay in connection with his voice.”
Price said there was a time when she was impulsive, and that led her to bad choices when she thought she was hearing God’s voice. Now, she waits to be sure.
She’s sure it was God who pushed her to start The Red Door.
Price dominates the conversation at the table but listens when others speak up. She notes that beer and cigarettes wouldn’t look right to many churchgoers.
“Jesus says it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him. It’s what comes out of his heart,” she says.
“A lot of people are in church this morning. They are not in a bar,” Wilson says. “But they were in a bar last night, and they acted completely different.”
The hypocrisy of some Christians is a recurring theme.
Price quotes author Brian McLaren, that the Bible has been used to justify slavery, racism, violence, oppression of women and other evils.
Price arrives at a favorite topic: Jesus’ sacrifice saved everyone, she believes, not just believers. Not just those who repent.
“The ground is level at the foot of the cross—gay, straight, black or white,” she says.
The idea that Jesus’ sacrifice saved everyone, even nonbelievers, is called universal reconciliation. It’s not mainstream Christian thinking. The Web site Bible.com calls it evil heresy.
Price said she can’t imagine that God’s love would not encompass everyone. She tells her congregation: “God loves you no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, no matter how bad you look on paper. He loves you, he died for you, he paid the price for your sin.”
The service concludes with a prayer. People slide off their stools but linger to chat.
Church and family
Wilson said he left a big church, where he didn’t feel at home.
“This is closer to the way people gathered in the Book of Acts, when the church was first formed, than in the big churches,” he said.
Scripture says everybody is supposed to be able to speak, Wilson said. “And this is an environment where you can do that. It was never meant to be thousands of people in an auditorium.”
Husen said she has a friend who is an atheist who comes to the Red Door because what she has to say is respected. And no one tries to convert her.
“It’s not our job to convince someone,” Husen said. “It’s God’s job, and God is big enough to do that.”
Wilson is asked about the beer.
“I’m not saying a person should get wasted and do stupid things. (But) Jesus had no problem with people of the world,” he replies.
Wilson said he has a problem with religious people who judge others but then smoke in the church parking lot or overeat at a church potluck.
“It’s a very well functioning part of the body of Christ, and I don’t apologize for the fact that they serve beer here,” he added.
The Red Door Church is a family. If someone has a financial problem, people take up a collection, Price said.
If someone has an alcohol problem, “we will surround him,” Price said. “Whatever anybody needs, we’ll try to meet that need.”
The church doesn’t pass the plate regularly, and Price doesn’t earn a penny.
Price moved away from the religious system she grew up in so she could minister to people who never make it to church.
“I wanted to bring water to the desert instead of the ocean,” she said.
Price and Husen started a Monday night prayer group at the bar about seven years ago, said Willowdale owner Art Conner. But Price felt called to start a Sunday service.
She was looking to rent, but Conner offered the Willowdale free of charge.
Conner, son of a minister, said he never had a second thought.
“That’s what Jesus did. He walked the streets and taught,” Conner said.
Ministering to the outcast is a family affair for Price. She’s the daughter of the Rev. Dave Fogderud who has operated The Overflowing Cup Total Life Center in Beloit since 1974.
Price spent much of her youth in the center’s coffeehouse, exposed to what some call the Jesus revolution and to her father’s outreach to street people and the homeless.
Price married and had five children. She and her husband became ministers. She’s going through what she describes as an amicable divorce. She’s working on a bachelor’s degree at UW-Whitewater.
She still works at The Cup, running a program for “street” youths.
Fogderud attends many Red Door services, even though he disagrees with universal reconciliation.
“I’m proud that my daughter has a heart for people who are down and out and wants to share the word of God with them,” Fogderud said.
Price said The Red Door is a refuge for her as well as her congregants.
“I share my heart with the people I love and listen to their hearts,” she said. “It keeps me grounded. … And I know God told me to do it, and there’s great joy in fulfilling your purpose …
“I want to spend my life loving people that maybe no one else took a chance on.”
Radio Host Gets Justice for Executed Kin
Picking a fight: White House vs Fox News
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 18, 2009
NEW YORK — President Barack Obama's communications director says it was Fox News Channel, not the White House, that picked a fight
Yet it was Anita Dunn's words during a CNN interview last week, saying Fox is like "a wing of the Republican Party," that ignited one of the most unusual verbal volleys between a presidential administration and journalists since Vice President Spiro Agnew complained during the Nixon years about the "nattering nabobs of negativism."
Dunn's stance cheered many of the president's supporters who seethe over anti-Obama stories on Fox opinion shows, but has caused a backlash among some who say it exposed the administration as thin-skinned.
White House unhappiness had been building. The president himself said there is "one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration." Fox's coverage of health care demonstrations over the summer, former administration official Van Jones and the community activists ACORN clearly knocked the administration off stride.
The White House blog attacked Fox commentator Glenn Beck for "lies."
"The administration was being attacked, members of this administration were being attacked, policies of this administration were being misrepresented — and that's a generous interpretation of how they were being described," Dunn said. "The reality is that at some point, the administration has to defend itself."
Fox has fought back hard. Network executive Michael Clemente said it was "astounding" that administration critics couldn't distinguish between news and opinion programming.
"It seems self-serving on their part," he said.
Fox said network executives have been told that no one from the administration would appear on a Fox show as a guest through the end of the year. Dunn denied there was a White House ban on Fox appearances. "We haven't said that to them," she said.
Last week on his show, Beck placed a red phone on his desk, saying it was a hot line available to Dunn anytime she thought something untrue about Obama was being said on his show.
"I don't think the White House actually wants a dialogue," Beck said. "They want to smear, isolate and destroy."
Dunn on Beck: "He's always good for a laugh."
Beck uncovered a speech Dunn had given where she referred to Mother Teresa and Mao Tse-Tung as "two of my favorite political philosophers." He said it was "insanity" that she was quoting the late Chinese dictator; Dunn said she was being ironic and got the idea for the reference from GOP strategist Lee Atwater.
Dunn also criticized Fox's Chris Wallace for referring to the administration as filled with "crybabies." ("We kept ourselves from ... responding, 'I am rubber, you are glue,'" Dunn said). But there was a specific provocation: The president appeared on five Sunday morning public affairs shows on Sept. 20, every one except Wallace's.
"I would think that what this reflects is a pent-up frustration or rage at the coverage they get, not only from Fox but elsewhere," said David Gergen, a CNN commentator and former White House aide.
Gergen said he understands the temptation to go on the attack — he's done it himself — but it frequently turns out to be a mistake.
"My experience has been when the White House engages in personal or organizational attacks, it elevates the other side to virtually the same level of the White House, which is not their intent," he said. "It's going to spike Fox's ratings," which are already high this year.
If the White House wants to fight back, it's better to let surrogates do the work, he said.
Several critics have questioned the wisdom of Obama's approach.
"Whether or not you like Fox News, all of us in the press need to be concerned about the administration of President Barack Obama trying to 'punish' the cable news channel for its point of view," wrote television critic David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun.
Among grass-roots Democrats, many think it was important for the president to put his foot down, said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist. Many strongly believe that the president and his staff should have nothing to do with Fox, she said.
But research has shown that Fox, easily the top-rated cable news network, has independents and moderates in its audience that the president shouldn't ignore, she said.
"There is room for a more nuanced strategy," she said: Stay away from Beck or the morning "Fox&Friends," she suggested, but an interview with Wallace could be beneficial.
Dunn said the administration still deals with Fox reporters such as Major Garrett in the White House. Obama "has appeared on Fox shows in the past (and) he certainly will appear on them in the future," she said. There have been no backstage "peace talks" in the past week; Obama adviser David Axelrod met with Fox chief Roger Ailes about a month ago.
On Sunday, Axelrod reiterated on ABC's "This Week" that administration officials would appear on the channel, even as he said Fox News shouldn't be treated as a news organization.
In a written statement Sunday, Clemente accused the White House of continuing to "declare war on a news organization" rather than focusing on issues such as jobs and health care.
"The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues," he said.
"Given the challenges facing the country, you would think there were a lot better things to talk about, for a news network," Dunn said. "Maybe they would want to cover some of these issues — if they were a news network."
Gergen suggested it's time for a cooling-off period for an administration that finds itself in the usually no-win position of fighting a 24-hour news organization.
"The notion ought to be to restore professional relations to the extent possible and not make this a long-term war," he said.
Elderly woman test-drives car over edge of cliff
An elderly woman has had a lucky escape after the disabled-adapted car she was test-driving plummeted over the edge of a 100-foot hillside in Highcliffe, Dorset.
12:56PM BST 18 Oct 2009
The car toppled over the cliff, rolling down a steep slope and into a patch of gorse Photo: BNPS
The woman, who is in her 80s, pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and sped through a park bench, sailed through the air, and came to rest half-way down the slope on a cushion of gorse before emerging unscathed.
The woman, who has problems with her legs, had been
She was driving round the car park of the Cliffhanger Cafe, in Highcliffe, Dorset, when she tried to pull into a disabled bay facing out to sea.
But instead of coming to a stop, the car lunged forwards and toppled over the cliff, rolling down a steep slope and into a patch of gorse.
Martin Jeffreys, 63, from New Milton, Dorset, said: "It's miracle she wasn't hurt - the car literally flew through the air.
"I was just getting out of my car when I saw her pulling up in the disabled bay.
"But she hit the accelerator by accident and just went lurching forwards.
"The car went up a small hill in front of the cliff edge, took the wooden bench out and went straight over.
"The car actually took off, it was unbelievable.
"I thought it must have rolled over and I ran down to try and help. I was the first person on the scene.
"The car was smoking a bit but the lady was absolutely fine. It was extraordinary."
Sergeant Leo Glendon, from Dorset Police, said: "The lady, who is in her 80s, came down to the car park to practice driving her car, which had just been fitted with hand controls.
"She was trying to pull up in a parking space when she lost control of it. Instead of coming to a stop, she drove straight over the edge.
"The car knocked through a wooden park bench and rolled down the cliff. Fortunately there is a lot of gorse around to cushion the fall.
"When we arrived she had already been helped out of the car through the boot by passers-by.
"Incredibly she wasn't hurt at all. Her only injuries are a few scratches she got from brambles as she got out of the car.
"She was shaken, of course, has now been taken home to recover with a cup of tea."
10:16 a.m. Sunday, October 18, 2009
Ala. mayor accused of taking Rolex, other bribes
The Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Mayor Larry Langford, who could be tossed out of office and go to prison if convicted of federal bribery charges, recently offered some advice to a new Birmingham City Council member.
"The illusion of power is the most dangerous drug on the planet," Langford said. "A little bit of power — nothing intoxicates like it."
Last week's comment may sound a lot like the government's opening argument against Langford, 61, the most recent in a long line of prominent names in the state Democratic Party to face corruption charges. Jury selection begins Monday.
Prosecutors claim a greedy, power-drunk Langford accepted bribes totaling some $235,000 — a chunk of it for upscale clothes and jewelry — while serving as president of the JeffersonCounty Commission before he was elected mayor. In exchange, they say, Langford steered $7.1 million in bond business to a political crony's investment banking firm.
Those bond deals and others turned sour during the credit crunch and brought on a financial crisis that has pushed Alabama's most populous county to the brink of filing what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The current commissioners have repeatedly extended credit agreements as they struggle to pay back $3.9 billion.
Charged with multiple felony counts of bribery, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and tax violations, Langford automatically would be removed from office if convicted of even one count.
Defense attorney Michael Rasmussen laughed at the possibility of a guilty plea, saying Langford "maintains he is innocent and expects to get a fair trial."
The government's key witnesses will likely be two former Democratic Party leaders indicted with Langford last year.
Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount, a former Alabama Democratic Party chairman, pleaded guilty in August to paying bribes to Langford, who is accused of accepting gifts including a Rolex watch, cash and loan payoffs at luxury clothing stores.
Lobbyist Al LaPierre, a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, pleaded guilty to being a middleman in the scheme.
Langford, also a Democrat, has argued that what the government calls bribes really were gifts between old friends. He says the charges were brought by a Republican prosecutor as part of a GOP plan to target him and other Alabama Democrats.
His argument is similar to that of former Gov. Don Siegelman, another Democrat convicted of bribery and other federal corruption charges in 2006.
A widespread probe of financial wrongdoing in the state's two-year college system also led to the downfall of its chancellor, Roy Johnson. He was once a powerful Democrat in the Alabama House who admitted getting some $1 million in kickbacks for himself, family and friends. He now awaits sentencing.
The executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, Jim Spearman, agrees that Republican prosecutors seem to go after Democrats with special zest. But Blount and LaPierre haven't been associated with the party for years, he said.
"Democrat or Republican, I don't think anyone has a lock on ethics. You see all degrees of problems on all sides, and we need to clean it up," Spearman said.
Nearly two dozen people already have been convicted or pleaded guilty in an investigation of Jefferson County's tangled finances, including four other commissioners.
The trial, expected to last about two weeks, will be held 55 miles west of Birmingham in Tuscaloosa because of pretrial publicity.
Langford served as president of the county commission from 2002 through 2006, giving up his seat to run for mayor in 2007. The former television news reporter and beer company promoter, with his fashionable clothes and wide smile, won in a landslide.
He has launched numerous projects to pave streets and clean up neighborhoods during 22 months as mayor, but he is also known for seemingly Quixotic, off-the-wall ideas, including a bid to lure the Olympics to Birmingham in 2020. Critics often call Langford "Mayor LaLa."
When he was commission president, the county made a series of risky financial deals known as bond swaps with Blount's firm, Blount Parrish and Co. Inc. Blount said in his plea agreement that he bribed Langford to make the deals, which brought $7.1 million to Blount's company.
Blount also admitted bribing another former commissioner, Mary Buckelew, with luxury gifts. Buckelew, a Republican, also pleaded guilty to lying to grand jurors and is expected to testify againstLangford.
A former judge not involved in the case said Langford must attack the credibility of witnesses, including Blount and LaPierre, both of whom could receive lighter sentences for their cooperation.
"Everybody has a motive if you're Langford, has a reason, not to tell the truth," said former U.S. Magistrate Judge John Carroll, now dean of the law school at Samford University in suburban Birmingham.
LINK TO PHOTO OF MAYOR:
Joe Biden: the worrying rise of Barack Obama’s Mr Wrong
Vice-President Joe Biden has been on the wrong side of history on all the big questions, argues Toby Harnden
4:17PM BST 17 Oct 2009
Joe Biden's overseas expertise amounted to having spent a long time as chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee Photo: EPA
Want to know how to deal with a momentous issue of war or grand strategy? You could do a lot worse than check out what Vice-President Joe Biden thinks – and plump for the opposite.
Mr Biden was chosen as Barack Obama's running mate last August because he was old, white and supposedly knew a lot about foreign policy. I say "supposedly" because really Mr Biden's overseas expertise amounted to having spent a long time as chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, knowing the names of lots of world leaders, and being able to josh around amiably with them during congressional junkets across the globe.
What Mr Obama overlooked was that Mr Biden, who served as a senator for tiny Delaware for 36 years, had never run anything in his life, or taken decisions rather than talking about things, at legendary length. Even in the United States Senate, that august body which each week produces enough hot air to transport 1,000 six-year-olds across America, Mr Biden – who sports hair plugs and a set of porcelain-enhanced gnashers that would blind a polar bear – is renowned for his wordiness.
His speech is littered with the word "literally" and he glories in meandering anecdotes about his family and Irish ancestry. When Obama aides tried to muzzle him during the campaign, Mr Biden agreed but would then muse on the stump: "I try to cut this stuff down, not dumb it down, just get down to the quick of the matter, the essence of the matter."
Making fun of Joe Biden is a bipartisan affair. A quip about Biden being a windbag is guaranteed to bring a Democrat and Republican together in Washington.
Mr Obama himself even dabbled in it in February when he responded to a question about yet another Biden gaffe by saying, "I don't know what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly", prompting stifled sniggers from White House staffers at the back of the room.
A miffed Mr Biden used his weekly lunch with the President to ask him not to "diss" him in public. Mr Obama agreed, scheduling a photo op of the pair eating hamburgers together to demonstrate they were still buddies. The real difficulty with Mr Biden, however, is his judgement.
On all the big questions, he has been – to put it politely – on the wrong side of history. In 1990, he voted against American forces expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. He voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and advocated splitting it into three states along ethnic lines. He opposed the Iraq troop surge of 2007 that pacified the country and rescued the US from the jaws of defeat.
Now, Mr Biden is pushing a policy of what he terms "counter-terrorism plus" – a scheme which involves a much smaller military presence in Afghanistan, with al-Qaeda elements being targeted at long range by military drones and smart missiles.
This runs entirely against the counter-insurgency doctrine convincingly outlined by Gen Stanley McChrystal, who wants an extra 40,000 troops to enable Nato forces to protect and influence the people while mentoring the Afghan army and police, and gathering intelligence on the ground.
The problem is that Mr Obama may now be listening to Mr Biden. Having supposedly already settled on an Afghan strategy in March, he is giving a very public impression of Hamlet as he wrings his hands and conducts endless White House debates – with details leaked to the press – about what to do. These Afghanistan policy seminars are principally designed to demonstrate that Mr Obama is not the hot-headed "decider" President George W Bush. But the dithering is projecting a dangerous uncertainty about the West's intentions to an Afghan people craving assurance that Nato is fully committed, and in for the long haul. More seriously, Mr Obama's inclination on troop levels seems to be to seek a middle way – a "splitting the baby" option that could be the worst of all possible worlds.
The Left, sensing that Mr Obama is wavering and beginning to rethink his campaign contention that Afghanistan was the "good war" as opposed to Mr Bush's evil Iraq adventure, is throwing its lot in with Mr Biden. There's a solidifying conventional wisdom in Washington that Mr Biden's star is in the ascendant. This week's Newsweek front cover sporting the vice-president's steely visage beside the headline "Why Joe is No Joke" is no doubt already framed in the Biden downstairs loo. If Mr Obama really believes that's true then we could all be in big trouble.
Navy veteran undaunted after robbery
Ralph Baker doesn’t mind so much that some lowlife marched into his apartment the other night and swiped his wallet.
It was what was inside the black billfold, which held $60.01, that he will miss most.
It was shiny and new when the native New Yorker picked it up off the ground at a Long Island train station the day his mother and sister saw him off to join the Navy in 1965.
The one-cent keepsake stayed with the 27-year enlistee through Vietnam, through the aftermath of the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983, through Kuwait during Desert Storm in 1991.
Now it may well be back in circulation after what happened Monday evening at Baker’s Old Clinton Road residence.
About 7 o’clock, a stranger, a man who looked to be in his late 20s, showed up in the breezeway outside Baker’s first-floor apartment. Baker, 61, likes to sit there in his wheelchair sometimes for the fresh air and the company of a skinny gray cat he feeds.
The stranger bummed a cigarette from Baker, a three-plus-pack-a-day smoker, and went on his way. Ten minutes or so later, Baker was back inside when the man barged in and said, “Give me your money!”
The bandit kept a hand tucked into the pocket of his gray sweatshirt, gesturing as if gripping a handgun.
“I started laughing at him,” says Baker, who hasn’t been able to walk since an industrial accident a decade ago.
“He said, ‘What are you laughing at?’ I said, ‘Kid, I’ve been in the military 27 years and you wouldn’t believe the number of times somebody’s pointed a gun at me.’
He said, ‘I’ve got a gun, I’ll shoot you.’ I said, ‘Knock yourself out.’ ’’
The thief took off with Baker’s wallet, which also contained his driver’s license and a military ID card. “And I can’t get those replaced easily,” the veteran says. “I can’t go stand in line and I don’t drive anymore.”
As for the lost lucky penny, “It doesn’t look like it used to,” says Baker, his native Brooklyn brogue anything but faint. “It’s like me. It’s all washed up, burned out and tarnished. ... But it’s been to more places than most people — 78 countries.”
Baker moved to Macon from Kentucky about a decade ago to be closer to his sister. She lives in Jones County.
Baker, who says he owns Colt .45 revolver, had given the gun to his sister. After Monday’s robbery, he plans on getting it back.
“I’ve got a shoulder holster for it,” he says. “It’s gonna be ‘Have Gun — Will Travel.’ If anybody unwanted comes in, I’m gonna blow ’em away.”
Robbers' choice of weapon: dynamite
Henry K. Lee
Chronicle Staff Writer
Last Updated Sunday, October 18, 2009
(10-17) 06:58 PDT VALLEJO -- Two men were armed with an unusual weapon of choice when they robbed a Vallejo check-cashing business - dynamite.
The holdup happened at the Cash & Go on the 200 block of Tennessee Street when the men came into the business at about 10:10 a.m. Friday.
One man was armed with a semiautomatic handgun while the other was carrying a bundle of suspected dynamite, said Vallejo police Sgt. Kevin Bartlett.
The men robbed customers and employees of undisclosed items before fleeing in a 197 to 1980 silver Volvo last seen heading west on Tennessee.
No explosion occurred. The robbery is being investigated with the assistance of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
One robber was described as a black man between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall and weighing 150 to 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black hoodie, a dark bandana and blue jeans.
The second was described as a black man between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 140 to 170 pounds, wearing a black hoodie, a dark bandana and black pants.
One of the robbers was seen with dreadlocks.
The Volvo was a 240-tpe model with a "loud exhaust" and tinted windows that were peeling in the back.
Two masked and armed suspects entered the Cash & Go in the 200 block of Tennessee Street in Vallejo on Friday, October 16, 2009. One suspect was armed with a semi automatic handgun and the other suspect was armed with a bundle of suspected dynamite. They robbed the customers and employees and fled in a silver Volvo heading west on Tennessee Street.
Photo: Vallejo Police Department
Woman, 97, has a front seat to homelessness
Bessie Mae Berger and her two sons, 60 and 62, live in a rusty 1973 Suburban. Getting a place is hard because they insist on staying together.
Bessie Mae Berger sleeps in the front seat of the 1973 Chevolet Suburban she shares with sons Larry Wilkerson, 60, and Charlie Wilkerson, 62. Among the items on the dashboard: lottery tickets. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Audio and video slide show:
October 16, 2009
Roger D. Grandy was killed in a fire at his home Wednesday.
Victim of fatal fire identified
Jay Tokasz and Gene Warner
NEWS STAFF REPORTERS
Lancaster police have identified the man found dead inside a house destroyed by fire Wednesday morning as Roger D. Grandy, the homeowner and sole resident.
An investigation into the cause of the blaze at 304 Pleasant View Drive, across the street from the transportation department of Lancaster Central School District, is continuing, police said.
The findings of an autopsy this morning confirmed what friends and neighbors of Grandy had suspected -- that the 51-year-old Lottery winner was caught inside the inferno.
On Pleasant View Drive, Grandy was considered a model neighbor and all-around good guy.
Fellow employees at the Clarion Hotel on Transit Road knew Grandy as a hard-working airport shuttle driver who treated them as family, celebrating their birthdays with cakes and singing.
Grandy lived an unassuming life for a man who had won $3.3 million in the Nov. 16, 1996, Lotto drawing. He was one of three winners of a jackpot worth $10 million, according to state lottery officials.
Friends said Grandy never spent lavishly and enjoyed working.
"He was very shy about letting anyone know about [his lottery windfall]," said Jody Schilling, whose parents live next door to the west of Grandy. "It was the first time he ever played. He never changed his lifestyle. He lived like an everyday, normal person."
Grandy's body was found in the back of the ranch house, in what was believed to be a living room.
"We don't know if he was trying to get out," Lancaster police Capt. Timothy R. Murphy said.
Grandy's pickup truck was still in the garage, and Wednesday was a regular day off from his job at the hotel.
Neighbors reported the blaze at 6:47 a.m.
Mike Diegelman, who lives next door, said that Grandy closed the garage door only when he was away from the house, and when Diegelman saw the door open, he ran into the garage and tried to alert Grandy by sounding the horn of the pickup.
"There was so much smoke, I had to crawl out of there," said Diegelman, who couldn't get into the house.
Diegelman also threw a log through a bedroom window and sprayed water inside to see if Grandy would respond.
"I thought beeping the horn would wake him up and he'd run out," Diegelman said. "It was horrible. It was the worst thing I've ever experienced, because I knew he was in there."
Lancaster police Lt. John Robinson also tried to get into the structure but was beaten back by flames and smoke, Murphy said.
Friends said Grandy was a smoker and regularly used a wood-burning fireplace in the colder months.
The devastating blaze left furniture in Grandy's home burned beyond recognition and melted the siding of a neighboring house.
The fire could have been smoldering inside long before neighbors noticed flames shooting from the center of the house, Murphy said.
Debra Mazurek, a neighbor, was taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst for smoke inhalation, according to Schilling, her daughter.
Grandy purchased the house in 2000, according to Erie County clerk's office records, and was considered a friendly, easy going neighbor.
Lottery officials said Grandy took his $3.3 winnings in annual payments.
"You would have never guessed," said Jenna Schweitzer, front office manager of the Clarion Hotel. "He collected bottles and cans and returned them."
Schweitzer said Grandy confided in her several years ago about his lottery winnings, but didn't talk about it openly.
"It didn't seem like something that was that important to him," she said.
Grandy was a conscientious employee who showed up early for his 6 a.m. shift start and "was always in good spirits."
"He was always here. He was a dedicated employee, here for 40 hours a week and then some," Schweitzer said.
Grandy remembered his co-workers' birthdays by bringing in their favorite cakes and singing to them, and at Christmas time he would bring in gifts.
"He's like family," Schweitzer said. "We're very, very shook up."
Neighbors were shaken, as well.
Grandy regularly checked on Schilling's father, James Mazurek, who had suffered a stroke.
He also kept a close watch on neighbors' homes when they traveled.
"He loved the neighborhood," Schilling said.
Suspect makes getaway on PVTA bus, but victim of stolen wallet at Springfield bus stop tracks him down
The Republican Newsroom
October 15, 2009, 11:22PM
The Republican file photo
SPRINGFIELD – Police said a woman was able to track the man who stole her wallet after he made his getaway as a bus passenger.
Demot E. Weaver Jr., of 152 Kensington Ave., was arrested and charged with unarmed robbery Thursday afternoon after he robbed a woman of her wallet as she was pulling out money for bus fare at the PVTA bus stop at Pine and Central streets, said Capt. C. Lee Bennett. After grabbing the wallet, Weaver left the scene by boarding the bus, she said.
The woman ran to get her boyfriend, and the two followed the bus in the boyfriend’s car downtown to Main and Fort streets, Bennett said.
The woman followed Weaver from Main and Fort into the Fort Restaurant, where he was filling out a job application, Bennett said. He saw her and ran out the door, but in the ensuing commotion, Fort employees called the police, Bennett said. Weaver was apprehended by officers Eugene Roux and James Moriarity a few blocks away, Bennett said.
FBI investigates investigator
An accountant known for tracing missing funds is being investigated over reports of funds missing from his firm.
October 16, 2009
Lewis Freeman built his career as an expert forensic accountant able to trace missing funds when failed South Florida companies went into receivership.
Freeman and his firm were frequently appointed by judges to scour company finances and recover money for defrauded victims.
``We make numbers clear,'' his company website promised.
Now, Freeman appears to be in trouble himself. About $3.6 million in funds are reportedly missing from bank accounts he controlled, according to sources familiar with an FBI investigation into the matter.
The ownership of the missing money is unclear.
On Friday, Freeman told his employees that his firm -- Lewis B. Freeman & Partners -- is being dissolved and is now in receivership.
The move comes days after FBI agents served a search warrant at his Coconut Grove office on Aviation Avenue and his Plantation office, hauling away records and computers.
No charges have been filed.
Judy Orihuela, spokeswoman for the FBI in Miami, declined comment.
Freeman's attorneys, Matthew Menchel and Robert Josefsberg, also declined comment.
In a letter to employees dated Thursday, Freeman wrote:
``It pains me beyond words to advise you that, because of the circumstances, I have today filed papers with the court asking for a receiver to be appointed to oversee the dissolution of our firm.
``I know that this action raises many questions, the most important of which is how this affects each of you in terms of compensation and benefits. . . . With much affection and sadness, Lew.''
Freeman's problems come at the same time he is battling the Internal Revenue Service over a $4.5 million civil assessment.
Freeman has financially dismantled companies accused of fraud. Among them: Unique Gems International, which was accused of defrauding consumers of as much as $90 million, and Hess Kennedy, a former law firm in Coral Springs accused of defrauding customers seeking to lower their debt.
A message left at Freeman's Miami office was not returned. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
LINK TO STORY AND VIDEO:
Mother, man charged in Oklahoma City teenager’s ‘torture’
53 counts filed against mother, her friend in case of 15-year-old allegedly locked in closet
A mother "tortured” her son in Oklahoma City for years, locking him in a closet, setting him on fire, beating him and forcing him to stand barefoot in the snow, prosecutors alleged Thursday in a child abuse charge.
A friend of the woman also is charged with abusing the boy.
The case attracted national attention after the malnourished boy left his apartment Sept. 25 and reported to police his mother "would lock him in a closet and not feed him for several days at a time.” The boy also told police he had never been to school in the four years he had lived in Oklahoma.
Police originally reported he was 14. Prosecutors Thursday described him as 15. The boy is identified only by the initials B.M.
The mother, LaRhonda Marie McCall, faces 29 child abuse counts. Her friend, Steve Hamilton, a taxi driver, faces 27 child abuse counts.
Prosecutors filed 53 felony counts in all. They are charged together in some counts and separately in others.
"We think it went on pretty consistently ... We could have filed 150 counts,” said Gayland Gieger, an Oklahoma County assistant district attorney. "They seemed to punish him if they felt like he had stolen something, or something like that. It’s pretty shocking ... allegations. It’s hard to figure out why just him and not the other children.”
Both could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
The two are being held in the Oklahoma County jail. Police report the mother admitted beating her son and locking him in the closet. Police report Hamilton also admitted he beat the boy.
Prosecutors allege the abuse began in March 2006 after the boy, then 11, began living with his mother again. Prosecutors allege in the charge that McCall and Hamilton beat him with their fists, bike chains, cables, extension cords and boards. Prosecutors describe the boy as permanently scarred.
McCall, 37, and Hamilton, 38, kept the boy locked in a closet for such "extended periods of time ... that he was forced to urinate and defecate in the closet wall,” prosecutors alleged. The two also are accused of repeatedly tying up the boy naked.
The mother is accused in one child abuse count of pouring rubbing alcohol on the boy and setting him on fire. Another time, she allegedly tied him naked to a ladder in a garage and poured sugar water "on his body in order to attract biting insects.”
She allegedly once forced him to stand barefoot in the snow for more than 45 minutes and another time stand barefoot on a patch of ice in a garage for more than two hours. This year, she allegedly stabbed him in the shoulder with a knife.
Both allegedly forced him to stand on one foot with a cord around his neck and around his raised right ankle so that he would choke if he put his right foot down. Police reported the mother admitted the boy "was left like this for about an hour.” Hamilton also allegedly once hit the boy in the head with a tire iron.
About the fire, Hamilton on Oct. 1 told police "he saw LaRhonda purposely pour rubbing alcohol all over B.M.’s body,” according to a court affidavit. "Steve stated LaRhonda had a lighter in her hand and when B.M. moved he was lit on fire. Steve stated B.M. ‘had a blue flame over his entire body.’ Steve stated B.M. was burned on his butt and his ear. However, B.M. was not taken to a hospital.”
Police reported McCall said she accidentally poured rubbing alcohol on her son and he caught on fire when she lit incense.
Police earlier reported the boy and McCall’s other minor children were placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services.
Oklahoma prosecutors said Thursday that McCall was convicted in New York in 1996 of second-degree murder. New York officials earlier said the conviction was for second-degree manslaughter for the death of a 2-year-old daughter.
LINK TO COURT DOCUMENTS:
LaRhonda Marie McCall
Okla. teen claims he was held in closet for years
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A woman was arrested after her 14-year-son told authorities he escaped from a home where he'd been kept for 4 1/2 years, spending most of his time locked in a bedroom closet, police said Monday.
A security guard at a National Guard facility in Oklahoma City called police on Friday after the teen showed up malnourished and with numerous scars and other signs of abuse, police Sgt. Gary Knight said.
"He was hungry. He was dirty. He had numerous scars on his body," Knight said. "It was very sad."
The boy was taken to a hospital to be examined and then turned over to the custody of the Department of Human Services Knight said.
After police interviews, officers on Saturday arrested the boy's mother, 37-year-old LaRhonda Marie McCall, and a friend, 38-year-old Steve Vern Hamilton, on 20 complaints each of child abuse and child neglect. Formal charges have not been filed, and both were being held on $400,000 bond, according to jail records.
Jail officials were not sure wheter either had retained an attorney, and no one answered the phone at McCall's home. A police report listed McCall as a pharmaceutical company employee and Hamilton as a cab driver.
The teen, wearing only a pair of oversized shorts held up by a belt, walked up to a security guard at the Guard facility around 5 p.m. Friday and asked where a police station was located so he could report being abused, according to a police report.
He told police that scars on his stomach and torso were from where alcohol had been poured on him and set on fire. Other scars were from being tied up, hit with an extension cord and choked, the boy told police.
"He had scars covering most of his body," Knight said. "They were basically from head to foot."
The teen told police he moved to the Oklahoma City area from New Jersey about 4 1/2 years ago after his mother was released from jail. Since arriving in Oklahoma, he said, he had never been to school and spent most of his time locked in a bedroom closet.
He told police the closet door was mostly blocked with a stepladder or a bed and that he managed to push the door open enough to escape and leave the house.
Knight said six other children living at the home were taken into DHS custody, but none showed signs of abuse. McCall had lived at several different addresses in the Oklahoma City area, he said.
A DHS spokeswoman said she could not discuss specific cases but generally an investigation would be conducted before any of the children are returned to the home or placed with other family members.
"There may be family members, but we do a diligent search, and we're very careful about placing kids in a safe environment," DHS spokeswoman Beth Scott said.
Poison gas may carry a medical benefit
Hub research focuses on carbon monoxide
For more than a century, carbon monoxide has been known as a deadly toxin. In an 1839 story, Edgar Allan Poe wrote of “miraculous lustre of the eye’’ and “nervous agitation’’ in what some believe are descriptions of carbon monoxide poisoning, and today, cigarette cartons warn of its health dangers.
But a growing body of research, much of it by local scientists, is revealing a paradox: the gas often called a silent killer could also be a medical treatment.
It seems like a radical contradiction, but animal studies show that in small, extremely controlled doses the gas has benefits in everything from infections to organ transplantation. Research is now beginning in people, who are given the gas at very low concentrations, and while many doctors remain skeptical, the National Institutes of Health recently gave the idea a vote of confidence: The federal agency awarded a $1.4 million grant to a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to study the underlying biology of how the gas works.
“Carbon monoxide essentially suffocates the red blood cells - that’s the way we learned it in school,’’ said Dr. Patty J. Lee, an associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine, who has done work with the gas. Scientific opinion of the idea has “gone from completely skeptical to moderately skeptical. . . . Therapeutically, I think it has incredibly great potential.’’
Much of the driving force behind scientific interest in carbon monoxide has come from Leo Otterbein, an associate professor at Beth Israel Deaconess who first began considering the possibility that the gas was beneficial a decade ago, as a graduate student.
Otterbein was studying an enzyme that plays a critical protective role in the body, but worked in unknown ways. That helpful enzyme breaks down a substance in the body and creates carbon monoxide as a byproduct, so Otterbein began working on experiments to see whether the gas was providing a benefit.
Positive experimental results began to trickle in, but Otterbein faced skeptics.
“I went to a conference and said, ‘Wait ‘til they see this data, they’ll be amazed.’ Guys stood up and made an absolute fool of me,’’ said Otterbein, who said he persevered anyway, relying on the accumulating data and ignoring the gut reactions of colleagues. “It’s been a hard sell, but in 10 years it’s evolved dramatically.’’
Since that time, Otterbein and other scientists have found that breathing the gas for an hour at about 5 to 10 percent of a fatal exposure has beneficial effects in animals with a range of illnesses, from malaria to cardiovascular disease. While its actions are only partly understood, the gas seems to play a role in controlling inflammation, regulating cell death, and promoting repair and renewal.
The most research has been done with organ transplantation. In one study, carbon monoxide showed promise in reducing organ rejection in rats given heart transplants from mice. In unpublished research on kidney transplants in pigs, the gas was found to improve the function of transplanted kidneys immediately after surgery.
Such findings paved the way for low doses to be administered to 31 kidney transplant patients. Results have not been disclosed and the trial was put on hold for a review, but there were no negative effects, said Otterbein, a consultant to the gas company, Ikaria Holdings Inc.
Dr. Jerzy W. Kupiec-Weglinski, director of the Dumont-University of California, Los Angeles Transplantation Research Center, said that the research might explain anecdotal reports from the 1980s that kidney transplants seemed to work better in smokers than expected, since cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.
But given the deeply entrenched fear of carbon monoxide as a toxin, he said it is unlikely that the gas would be directly given as a therapy to many people. Instead, research into the mechanism by which carbon monoxide works could allow scientists to design a drug that could act in the same way.
That is the thinking behind Alfama, a company with its US headquarters in Cambridge that is working on a drug to release carbon monoxide into the body. Otterbein also is a consultant for Alfama.
Dr. Claude A. Piantadosi at Duke University Medical Center has administered the gas to a small group of healthy people and found that it increases the activity of genes involved in making mitochondria, the cell’s power plants. But Piantadosi said sick people may respond differently.
He and other scientists cautioned that their work is at an extremely early stage, and that it should not encourage people to think of carbon monoxide casually.
“Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison. . . . It scares physicians like myself, and I’ve treated a lot of carbon monoxide poisonings,’’ Piantadosi said. “But it’s also made normally by the body. . . . So the issue is how does that all work.’’
In Boston, Otterbein hopes the grant will help him answer that question. His research will look at whether the gas binds to DNA to regulate which genes are active in the body.
When he proposed the idea, he said it seemed so far out, he was sure it would be laughed at instead of funded.
But Michael Bender, a program director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, said it was an innovative and risky hypothesis that, if true, could transform current thinking. He pointed out that it follows in the footsteps of Nobel Prize-winning work showing that nitric oxide played an important signaling role within the body.
Understanding this gas has led to drugs that are not inhaled, including Viagra, that work on the same biological pathway.
“It’s probably a risky kind of science to do,’’ Bender said. “It is a novel idea. . . . But what’s been amazing to me is, even though many basic biological processes are very well worked out, there are still surprises to be found.’’
Police: Lebanon man gave new meaning to term 'pothead'
Lebanon Daily News
Updated: 10/14/2009 09:06:49 PM EDT
A 29-year-old Lebanon man was arrested on drug charges over the weekend after a police officer saw him with a bag of marijuana stuck to his forehead in a city convenience store.
The officer entered the Turkey Hill Minit Market at 716 E. Lehman St. at 3:25 a.m. Saturday, police said Monday. While inside, he saw a man walking away from the restrooms. The man held a ball cap in his hand and was looking in the interior of the hat, near its sweatband.
When the man approached the officer, he looked up, and the officer noticed a small plastic bag stuck to the man's forehead that appeared to contain marijuana, police said.
The officer retrieved the bag from the man's forehead and asked, "Is this what you're looking for?" the police news release states.
The man, identified as Cesar Lopez, was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, police said.
Police said it is not uncommon for people possessing illegal narcotics and paraphernalia to store the items inside the sweatband of a cap.
Log Cabin staff writer
UPDATE: Vilonia police chief fires officer. Story updated at bottom.
A Vilonia policeman was arrested early this morning at a Conway private club on suspicion of disorderly conduct and public intoxication, both misdemeanor offenses.
The Conway Police Department released reports from three CPD officers today describing the arrest of 32-year-old Jeremy Smith, a patrolman with the Vilonia Police Department, at the Conway Veterans of Foreign Wars post off Old Morrilton Highway. According to these reports, the officers were dispatched to reports of two men fighting, one of whom was still on the scene and being combative with staff and customers. The three arrived at about the same time — around 1:35 a.m. — and saw a group of VFW employees and patrons restraining Smith against an outside wall.
"As I approached, they began backing away from the subject, continuing to tell him to calm down," Lt. William Keller wrote in his report. "(Smith) had blood on his face and hands. I told him to chill out, turn around and put his hands behind his back. He refused."
Lloyd Smith of CPD was riding with Matthew Edgmon, a rookie officer, for field training purposes when the call came in, and according to his account of the incident arrived at the VFW just behind Keller.
"As Keller approached ... the citizens let go of the man," Lloyd Smithwrote. "I saw the man was my brother, Jeremy Smith."
At this point, according to Lloyd Smith's account, he told the rookieofficer that, due to his relationship with the suspect, "we shouldn't beinvolved with this situation. ... but Jeremy only escalated the situation, challenging Keller to try and cuff him," Lloyd Smith's report continues. "When Keller tried to cuff him, Jeremy jerked away and took a defensive posture as if he was about to throw a punch at Keller. I decided I had to intervene."
According to Edgmon, "Ofc. L. Smith also began instructing J. Smith to calm down and stop fighting.
"J. Smith then continued to make threatening comments and gestures toward Lt. Keller," Edgmon's account continues. "At that time, Ofc. (Lloyd) Smith drew his taser and turned it on."
Smith wrote that when his brother continued to "raise his fists as if he was ready to fight, I pointed my taser at Jeremy and pled with him, 'please don't make me tase you.'"
Jeremy Smith continued to be uncooperative, according to the three officers, and was tased by his brother, handcuffed and taken to the Faulkner County Detention Center for 12-hour detox.
Vilonia Chief of Police Brad McNew declined to comment on the incident this morning, but told Vilonia correspondent Linda Hicks that he will issue a statement later this afternoon.
By Linda Hicks
Log Cabin staff writer
Patrolman Jeremy Smith, 32, arrested in the early morning hours on Wednesday and charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Conway, has been terminated according to Police Chief Brad McNew.
McNew said he was waiting at the Faulkner County Detention Center for Smith when he was released Wednesday afternoon at about 2:30 following a standard 12-hour detox period.
“I picked him up and took him home and I terminated him. While there, I picked up property belonging to the Vilonia Police Department including his weapon, badge and vest,” McNew said.
Smith, McNew said, was officially terminated for violating state law and department policy.
“In this incident, he used poor judgment,” McNew said, adding that he holds all of his officers to high standards. Regarding Smith’s past performance, McNew said, “there’s no disciplinary action of any kind in his files.”
During the arrest, Smith was tased by his brother Lloyd Smith, a Conway police officer. When questioned concerning that action, McNew said, “That’s sad that he put his brother in that position. But, the Conway Police Department acted responsibly — as it should have acted.”
Should officers from the Vilonia department have been making a similar arrest, McNew said, he would have expected a similar response.
Smith was hired Feb. 19 and was still on probation with the Vilonia Department. He had been a member of the Fairfield Bay Police Department for about a year prior to his employment with Vilonia. Smith completed police academy training in September 2008.
The alleged crimes are misdemeanors. Jeremy Smith is set for a court appearance next month.
LINK TO STORY AND COPY OF POLICE REPORT:
Cortland County deputies accuse man of eating pot leaves to destroy evidence
October 14, 2009, 6:59AM
Willet, NY--Cortland County sheriff’s deputies Sunday arrested a father and son after they found 116 marijuana plants growing in the son’s home.
Deputies say the son tried to eat some of the evidence.
Deputies accuse Jeremy L. Wheeler, 29, of 323 Fish Hill Road, Willet, of tampering with physical evidence, unlawfully growing marijuana and resisting arrest. His father, William J. Wheeler, 51, of 6090 Rt. 26, Whitney Point, is accused of unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful growing of marijuana.
Deputies said more charges are pending.
Both were released on tickets to appear in the Town of Willet Court at a later date.
Here’s what police said happened.
At 10:30 p.m. Sunday deputies arrived at Jeremy L. Wheeler’s home and confronted him about growing marijuana. Wheeler was taken into custody after a brief struggle.
Deputies found the suspect’s father, William J. Wheeler, inside a marijuana growing room in the house.
Deputies found 116 marijuana plants, several pieces of marijuana paraphernalia, a loaded gun and a large amount of cash.
Deputies then took the Wheelers to the Sheriff’s Department for booking. As deputies were bringing the marijuana plants into the building, Jeremy Wheeler took some leaves off one of the marijuana plants and ate them.
Couple tries to trade children for exotic bird
Accused to testify against guardian
A Eunice couple pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of the sale of minor children stemming from allegations that they traded a atoo and $175 for two minor children in February.
Paul James Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 28, both received five-year suspended sentences and have agreed to testify against Donna Louise Greenwell, 53, who is alleged to have sold them the 4-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy.
Both children were under Greenwell’s care after the children’s biological parents had left them with her, according to a news release from the Evangeline Parish District Attorney’s Office.
However, Greenwell allegedly left the children with the Romeros without the parents’ knowledge, the release stated.
The Romeros, who both received three years of probation and a suspended fine of $2,500, were set to stand trial today.
Greenwell also faces two counts of the sale of minor children and is set to stand trial Nov. 16.
The case made national headlines when it was announced in February.
The couple allegedly acknowledged that Greenwell received a atoo, valued at $1,500, and about $175 in cash from them.
Calls to the couple’s attorneys were not returned Wednesday.
Assistant District Attorney Nichole Gil was unavailable for comment.
The release stated that the Romeros were led to believe that Greenwell would use the money to transfer legal custody from Greenwell to them.
Greenwell allegedly met the Romeros after responding to a flier at a livestock barn offering a atoo for $1,500.
The Romeros were unable to have children of their own and were unaware of the exact legal requirements for transferring custody of minor children, according to the release.
“The couple maintains they were simply trying to provide a home for two children that were unwanted by Greenwell,” the release stated.
Timothy Fontenot, a court-appointed attorney who represented Greenwell early on, has said that she had good intentions and was simply trying to find a good home for children who had been abandoned to her care.
He also said that the Romeros gave the bird to Greenwell’s granddaughter and maintained that there was no swap involved.
Authorities said Greenwell was a cattle-hauling truck driver from Pitkin, in central Louisiana, with a criminal history dating back to the 1980s. She remains free on a $100,000 bond.
LINK TO VIDEO AND UPDATED STORY:
LINK TO ORIGINAL STORY WITH PHOTOS:
Robber Loses Wallet, Asks Victim To Return It
POSTED: 3:30 pm EDT October 14, 2009
UPDATED: 3:44 pm EDT October 14, 2009
Police said the man tried to rob a man at gunpoint at his home but fled and dropped his wallet then later called and told the man to return the wallet at a service station in North Little Rock.
Little Rock police were interviewing the victim when the call came and notified North Little Rock police who found the suspect outside the service station and arrested him after a short foot chase.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,
Mother chooses pet crocodile over husband
An Australian woman, Vicki Lowing, says she divorced her husband after he asked her to give up her pet crocodile, Johnie, which she says is "like a child" to her.
11:14AM BST 14 Oct 2009
Vicki Lowing watching a film with Johnie, her pet freshwater crocodile at her home near Melbourne Photo: REXFEATURES
Mrs Lowing, 52, who has hand-raised the one-and-a-half metre reptile for 13 years, gives it the run of the house and even lets it sleep with her son Andrew in his bed.
The trained nurse from Melbourne, Victoria, who had looked after ill and abandoned animals for decades, adopted the crocodile after it was left on her doorstep in 1996 by an anonymous person.
Her husband Greg said she spent too much time with the pet and asked her to give it up in a bid to save their marriage, but she refused and the couple divorced in 2005.
Mrs Lowing, a trained nurse, said: "Husbands can look after themselves but my crocodile can't make his meals.
"As soon as I started looking after Johnie, Greg and I started having problems. We did nothing but fight. There was a lot of tension in the house.
"He said I devoted all my time on the crocodile instead of him. I felt like Greg was asking me to put him ahead of one of my children.
Mrs Lowing raised Johnie in her home with Andrew, who is only 18 months older than the crocodile, and said the experience was "like having two children to look after."
She said: "They were like brothers, following each other around. And as Andrew learnt and grew his curious side, so did Johnie. I would find Johnie emptying the cupboards, just as Andrew had done a few weeks earlier.
"They also had their sibling rivalry. I once heard Andrew screaming 'mummy, mummy.' I ran in to discover Andrew crying, saying Johnie had taken his toy. Sure enough, there was Johnie in his water tank, with the toy in his mouth.
Johnie now sits on Mrs Lowing's lap while she watches television and behaves "just like any cat or dog".
It was only after the crocodile stopped growing at one-and-a-half metres that Mrs Lowing realised it was female, because the species has no external sex organs.
She said: "I had to tell Andrew his brother was actually his sister. We've stuck with the name Johnie though, because its what we, and she, is used to. And I was secretly thrilled - I've always wanted a daughter."
LINK TO VIDEO:
Police: Child forced to eat soap
October 13, 2009
Wilfredo Rivera, left, 41, and Adriyanna Herdener, 32, were charged with neglect of a child and child abuse after police were called to a home in the 2300 block of Shenadoah Drive to investigate the incident.
A mother and her boyfriend were jailed over the weekend after Palm Bay police said an 8-year-old girl was forced to eat soap after uttering an obscene word.
The girl, who police said suffered an allergic reaction, has been removed from the couple’s home by the Department of Children and Families, along with her 18-month-old sibling.
Wilfredo Rivera, 41, and Adriyanna Herdener, 32, were charged with neglect of a child and child abuse after police were called to a home in the 2300 block of Shenadoah Drive to investigate the incident.
Both were arrested Friday and face court hearings in early November.
“(The girl) used an expletive and the boyfriend had her eat soap,” said Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Police Department.
“It caused the girl’s mouth and throat to swell. But they didn’t provide immediate medical care.”
Police said the pair became concerned after the child continued to complain about the pain in her throat after chewing on the soap for 10 minutes.
The mother told police her boyfriend took the girl to a hospital because she, “didn’t want to deal with DCF,” police reported.
The mother also told police that the child wanted to wash her mouth out after eating the soap but that she, “made her clean up the mess first,” according to reports.
Police said the mother initially gave the child a dose of cough medicine and sent her to bed. Hospital staff members contacted police about the case. Police arrived at the home and found the child, who also suffers from asthma, wheezing and with a swollen lip.
The mother and boyfriend were taken to the Palm Bay Police Department for questioning before being transported to the Brevard County Detention Center
Stolen pot report gets Saginaw County woman busted
10/13/2009, 7:10 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press
(AP) — BRANT TOWNSHIP, Mich. - There are limits to being a crime victim, as a woman who called Saginaw County sheriff's deputies to report the theft of marijuana found out.
Detective Sgt. Randy F. Pfau (FOW) says the 54-year-old woman was arrested early Sunday after reporting two men had broken into her home in Brant Township, 80 miles north-northwest of Detroit.
Pfau says the woman told deputies the men fled after one of them demanded her marijuana plants. He says the woman then was booked on charges of manufacturing and delivering marijuana.Pfau tells The Saginaw News the woman claimed the drug was for personal use but didn't possess a medical marijuana card. He says police will seek charges pending test results on the marijuana they did confiscate.
Fugitive busted after Facebook friend request
October 13, 2009
SEATTLE (AP) — Maxi Sopo was living the dream of a fugitive abroad, kicking back on the beaches of Cancun by day, partying in the clubs by night.
Then he did two things that are never a good idea when you’re on the run from authorities: He started posting Facebook updates about how much fun he was having — and added a former Justice Department official to his list of friends.
Because of that indiscretion, the 26-year-old native of Cameroon is now in a Mexico City jail awaiting extradition to the United States on bank fraud charges. Federal prosecutors say he and an associate falsely obtained more than $200,000 from Seattle-area banks and credit unions.
“He was making posts about how beautiful life is and how he was having a good time with his buddies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville, who helped find Sopo. “He was definitely not living the way we wanted him to be living, given the charges he was facing.”
Even in the hold-nothing-back world of social networking, where police search Facebook photos for evidence of underage drinking and watch YouTube videos to identify riot suspects, it’s rare that a fugitive helps authorities this much.
In status updates, Sopo said he was “loving it” and “living in paradise.”
LIFE IS VERY SIMPLE REALLY!!!!” he wrote on June 21. “BUT SOME OF US HUMANS MAKE A MESS OF IT...REMEMBER AM JUST HERE TO HAVE FUN PARTEEEEEEE.”
Sopo, who came to the U.S. in about 2003, made a living selling roses in Seattle nightclubs until, according to prosecutors, he moved on to bank fraud. He apparently drove a rented car to Mexico in late February after learning that federal agents were investigating the fraud scheme.
Investigators initially could find no trace of him on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and they were unable to pin down his exact location in Mexico.
But several months later, Secret Service agent Seth Reeg checked Facebook again — and up popped Maxi Sopo. His photo showed him wearing a black jacket decorated with a white lion as he stood in front of a party backdrop featuring logos of BMW and Courvoisier cognac.
Although Sopo’s profile was set to private, his list of friends was not, and Scoville started combing through it. He was surprised to see that one friend listed an affiliation with the Justice Department and sent him a message requesting a phone call.
“We figured this was a person we could probably trust to keep our inquiry discreet,” Scoville said.
The former official told Scoville he had met Sopo in Cancun’s nightclubs a few times, but did not really know him and had no idea he was a fugitive. The official learned where Sopo was living and passed that information back to Scoville, who provided it to Mexican authorities. They arrested Sopo last month.
The fugitive had been living at a nice apartment complex, working at a hotel and partying at Cancun’s beaches, pools and nightclubs, Scoville said.
Sopo does not yet have a lawyer, and it was not immediately clear how to contact him.
Prosecutors say he masterminded the bank fraud scheme with Edward Asatoorians, who was convicted by a federal jury in Seattle last week. Testimony at trial indicated the pair persuaded young co-conspirators to lie about their income to obtain loans for fabricated auto purchases, and then used the money to prop up Asatoorians’ business and to take an expensive trip to Las Vegas.
Asatoorians is expected to face at least five years in prison when he’s sentenced. If convicted, Sopo could face up to 30 years.
Citing privacy concerns, the former Justice Department official declined an interview request left with the U.S. attorney’s office.
Scoville said it was someone who left the department when the Obama administration arrived, and who had been taking some time off and organizing student trips to Cancun.
Facebook was not Sopo’s only computer activity during his time on the lam. An affidavit contains details from an instant-message conversation in March between Sopo and a low-level conspirator in the case. Sopo explained that he had fled to “the one safe place where i can actually think.”
86-year-old charged with cat theft
Neighbors say it’s a case of a cat-napping
But the suspect – an 86-year-old woman – says she took in a stray cat, cared for it for almost a year and then was charged with theft.
A Fulton County judge will decide who gets to keep the long-haired, blue-eyed cat.
Fauniel Kliemt, 86, was arraigned Tuesday in State Court on a charge of theft of lost or mislaid property, a misdemeanor. She pleaded not guilty.
The alleged cat-napping dates back to 2007 when Kliemt’s neighbor gave her the cat, who she named Shatzie.
“The cat was a stray. She had been going to my next door’s neighbor and he didn’t want her,” Kliemt said Tuesday. “I had just lost my husband and I opened the door, and she came in.”
Kliemt, who was recently widowed, fell in love with the cat. She took the cat to the veterinarian, where she got her shots and spayed.
About eight months later, Kliemt was outside gardening when Kimberly Otey, who lives across the golf course, approached. Otey confronted Kliemt and snatched the cat out of the elderly woman’s hands, Kliemt said.
“She got very loud and very verbal,” Otey said Tuesday. “I picked up the cat and was going to take her.”
Otey’s husband broke up the dispute and called police.
Several hours later, Roswell police showed up at Kliemt’s house and charged her with theft, Kliemt’s lawyer, Stephen Berk said.
Instead of taking the elderly woman to jail, police released Kliemt on a summons to court. Officers allowed Kliemt to keep the cat as long as she showed up to court.
Two years later, the case is still pending – and the cat is still in the middle of the neighborhood tug-of-war.
Kliemt, who has paid more than $6,000 on a lawyer, said the cat has been living with her for three years now and considers her house her home.
“She’s an inside-outside cat, but she always comes back here,” Kliemt said from her home in the Horseshoe Bend neighborhood. “She sleeps in my bed every single night.”
Kliemt maintains she had the cat for about eight months before any one came looking for it. She said she didn’t see any signs up for a missing feline.
Otey insists she and her family hung signs and went door-to-door looking for the cat, which was purchased for the family’s daughter when she was 4 years old.
“We thought she was dead,” Otey said Tuesday.
Both women have offered to buy each other another cat as long as they can have the white-haired feline back.
“At this point, I want the cat back,” Otey said, who gave police photos and records proving ownership of the pet she called Chloe. “I’m sure she is her companion now, but right is right and wrong is wrong. Just because you love something, doesn’t make it OK to take it and keep it.”
Kliemt, who has lived in Roswell for about 35 years and has no criminal record, said she just wants the charges dropped and to keep the cat.
“I’ll pay whatever to keep this cat,” Kliemt said. “That cat really helped me tremendously. We had been married 60 years and I was never alone before.”
Otey said she is trying to teach her daughter a lesson.
“You can’t explain to a little kid that it’s OK for someone to take something and not give it back,” Otey said. “I know she’s old and it’s a sad story. I just don’t want this to be portrayed that I should get over this. Age is not an issue.”
LINK TO PHOTO AND STORY:
It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a ... Weapon?
Mustafah Abdulaziz for The New York TimesZachary Christie with his mother, Debbie, his father,
Curtis, and the Cub Scout utensil that got him suspended from school
October 11, 2009
NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.
Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary was suspended and now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.
“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.
Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.
But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.
But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?
“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother has hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”
Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.
“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.
Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.
For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”
The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.
In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.
“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”
In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”
Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.
“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.
Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.
In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.
In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.
“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.
Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.
The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.
Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.
“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.
In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.
And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.
Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.
For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.
“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
Campbell Co. newlyweds arrested for burglarizing wedding chapel
Oct 09, 2009 2:07 PM EDT
SEVIERVILLE (WATE) -- A Campbell County couple was arrested on their wedding night and charged with burglarizing the chapel where they were married.
Brian Dykes and Mindy McGhee were married Wednesday at the Angel's View Wedding Chapel in Sevierville's Black Bear Ridge Resort. Then they rented one of the resort cabins.
According to a police report, a resort worker noticed the couple's car back outside the chapel around 1:00 a.m.
After the car left, the worker found the chapel had been burglarized and a lockbox with cash was missing.
Sevier County sheriff's deputies found Dykes and McGhee at a Pigeon Forge restaurant.
The sheriff's department said the couple confessed and turned over a lockbox with nearly $500.
The couple is being held in the Sevier County Jail on bonds of $10,000 each.
Fingerprint points to $19,000 portrait being revalued as $100m work by Leonardo da Vinci
Antiques Trade Gazette
12 October 2009
New scientific techniques have uncovered evidence that this picture is a previously unrecognised work by Leonardo da Vinci.
ATG correspondent SIMON HEWITT gains exclusive access to the evidence used to unveil what the world’s leading scholars say is the the first major Leonardo Da Vinci find for 100 years.
Is this 13 x 9in (33 x 24cm) portrait, in chalk, pen and ink on vellum, mounted on an oak board, a long-lost work by Leonardo da Vinci? That is the claim being made by Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at Oxford University.
Catalogued as “German, early 19th century” and sold for $19,000 at Christie’s New York in the late 1990s, new scientific techniques have uncovered evidence that has convinced a growing number of the world’s leading Leonardo scholars that it is a previously unrecognised work.
ATG have had exclusive access to that scientific evidence and can reveal that it literally reveals the hand – and fingerprint – of the artist in the work.
The fingerprint is “highly comparable” to one on a Leonardo work in the Vatican.
Professor Kemp’s assertion is backed by scientific evidence obtained by the revolutionary “multispectral” camera pioneered by Lumière Technology of Paris.
Peter Paul Biro, the Montreal-based forensic art expert, examined the multispectral images and found a fingerprint near the top left of the work, corresponding to the tip of the index or middle-finger, and “highly comparable” to a fingerprint on Leonardo’s St Jerome in the Vatican (which, stresses Biro, is an early work from a time when Leonardo is not known to have employed assistants).
A palm-print in the chalk on the sitter’s neck “is also consistent in application to Leonardo’s use of his hands in creating texture and shading”, adds Biro, who is credited with pioneering fingerprint studies to help resolve authentication and attribution issues of works of art.
The Lumière camera has already been used to analyse Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Lady with an Ermine; by the Kröller-Müller, Van Gogh and Cleveland Art Museums; and by the Art Institute of Chicago.
Multispectral analysis reveals each successive layer of colour, and enables the pigments and pigment mixtures of each pixel to be identified without taking physical samples.
For the vellum portrait, Lumière have been able to establish the composition of the materials used in both the original drawing and the restoration. It transpires, for instance, that the green of the girl’s costume was obtained by applying progressive strokes of black chalk to the yellowish surface of the vellum.
Lumière have identified the chalk as amphelite, a fine-grained black argillite (clay slate). Meanwhile flesh tints, and the amber tone of the iris, were achieved by leaving the vellum uncovered.
Infrared analysis reveals significant pentimenti throughout, with stylistic parallels to those in Leonardo’s Portrait of a Woman in Profile in Windsor Castle; and shows that the drawing and hatching were made by a left-handed artist (as Leonardo is famously known to have been), whereas restoration was carried out right-handed.
There is no other known work by Leonardo on vellum, although Professor Kemp (citing a passage in Leonardo’s Ligny Memorandum) points out that, when French court painter Jean Perréal visited Milan with Charles VIII in 1494, Leonardo quizzed him about the technique of using coloured chalks on vellum.
Professor Kemp suggests that Leonardo used vellum here because the portrait was intended to adorn a book of poetry in honour of the sitter; three needle holes along the left edge of the vellum indicate it was once bound in a manuscript.
The sitter’s costume and elaborate hairstyle reflect Milanese fashion of the late 15th century. Carbon-14 analysis of the vellum, carried out by the Institute for Particle Physics in Zurich, is consistent with such a dating [it gave a date-range of 1440-1650].
But who is the wistful, peach-skinned, flaxen-haired teenager?
After originally code-naming her La Bella Milanese, Professor Kemp – who dubs her profile “subtle to an inexpressible degree” – upgraded her to La Bella Principessa after identifying her, “by a process of elimination”, as Bianca Sforza, daughter of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (1452-1508), and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis.
Kemp believes the portrait must date from around 1496 when, aged 13 or 14, Bianca married the Duke’s army captain, Galeazzo Sanseverino (a patron of Leonardo’s). Tragically, she died four months after the wedding.
This would be Leonardo’s first known Sforza ‘princess’ portrait, although he painted two of the Duke’s mistresses: Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine in the Czartoryski Museum, Cracov); and Lucrezia Crivelli (La Belle Ferronière in the Louvre).
After centuries of oblivion, the portrait resurfaced at Christie’s New York on January 30, 1998, as lot 402 in an Old Master Drawings (part II) sale as a Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress – catalogued as “German, early 19th century”, with a $12,000-16,000 estimate.
It sold for $19,000 (hammer) to New York dealer Kate Ganz, who sold it (for about the same sum) to the Canadian-born, Europe-based connoisseur Peter Silverman in 2007.
Ganz had suggested the portrait “may have been made by a German artist studying in Italy… based on paintings by Leonardo da Vinci”.
Silverman, an underbidder at Christie’s sale, had other ideas and mentioned the work to Dr Nicholas Turner, formerly Keeper of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum, when he bumped into him at the Polidoro da Caravaggio exhibition at the Louvre in January 2008.
Turner, who had seen a transparency of the work a few months earlier, told Silverman he suspected Leonardo’s involvement because of the “very high quality of the work overall, and the left-handed shading – his signature feature”, and directed Silverman to the renowned Leonardo specialist Martin Kemp.
Professor Kemp’s first reaction was that “it all sounded too good to be true – after 40 years in the Leonardo business, I thought I’d seen it all!” But, as he pursued his research, “all the bits fell into place like a well-made piece of furniture. All the drawers slotted in”.
Silverman is coy about the work’s current ownership, and the portrait has yet to be shown in public since its reattribution. However, Professor Kemp has recently completed a 200-page book about it (so far unpublished) in conjunction with Lumière Technology’s Pascal Cotte.
Attempts to display La Bella in a museum are said to have faltered because of financial concerns linked to insurance – as a Leonardo, the portrait has been valued by London dealer Simon Dickinson at $100m.
The portrait is now due to go on display next March at a show called And There Was Light: The Masters of the Renaissance Seen in a New Light to be held in the Eriksbergshallen, Gothenburg.
The exhibition’s artistic director is Alessandro Vezzosi, Director of the Museo Ideale in Vinci, Leonardo’s home town, and the first man to publish the portrait as a Leonardo in his book Leonardo Infinito last year.
Professor Vezzosi is one of a growing roster of Italian art historians who believe the portrait is an autograph work, including Mina Gregori, Professor Emerita of the Florence University and President of the Fondazione Longhi; Dr Cristina Geddo, an expert on Leonardo’s Milanese followers; and Professor Claudio Strinati, Head of the City of Rome Museums, who states that “the portrait constitutes a valuable addition to Leonardo’s oeuvre”.
To Professor Carlo Pedretti, head of the Fondazione Pedretti for Leonardo studies and widely considered the doyen of Leonardo da Vinci expertise, “this could be the most important discovery since the early 19th century re-establishment of the Lady with the Ermine as a genuine Leonardo”.
Days after fist fight in Claiborne County church, building burns to the ground
A church congregation already divided, is facing a new challenge.
Members of the Edwards Community Missionary Baptist Church learned Saturday morning, that their church building that had stood for 70 years, was no more. It had been destroyed by fire. A fire that investigators say is suspicious.
On Wednesday night, congregants met to worship in a member's garage. They couldn't help but remember what had happened a week before.
"On Wednesday, it all just broke loose," said church member David Lovin.
An argument over who should lead the church, actually turned to blows.
"Thats God's house, it's no place to throw fists, or shoot people, or talk about shooting people, it's for blessing the Lord," said the church's pastor, Rev. Clayborn Gibbons.
Three days later, the church building was gone.
The Volunteer fire department rushed to the burning church around 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
"I couldn't believe it. I knew there was trouble there, but I didn't think the church would burn," said Rev. Gibbons
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
"When I heard that the church burned, it just broke my heart, cause you know that's where my heart was, Lord sent me down there for a reason, and that's where my heart was," said Lovin.
Now, the faithful are trying to move on, holding services wherever they can. They say one thing is for certain. They will keep praising, and are sure God will provide.
"I hope we can get us a church, that's what I'm hoping for. We will look around, stay here as long as Mike will let us, and we will try to get something somewhere else later on," said Gibbons.
LINK TO VIDEO and PHOTO OF CHURCH:
Couple give away their $425,000 home in competition that's FREE to enter
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:54 PM on 12th October 2009
A couple have decided to give their $425,000 house away for free in a bid to settle their business debts.
Michelle and Paul Wood, both 50, have come up with the plan to give away the home they have lived in for 11 years in Allerton, West Yorkshire, as top prize in a competition in the hope they will make a profit from advertising revenue.
They decided on the unusual move when their business debts began to spiral after the luxury chocolate company they started in 2004, Theobrama in Harrogate, ran into trouble.
Prize: Paul and Michelle Wood are giving away their $450,000 home for free in a competition they hope will remove their business debts
They hope to make between $850,000 and $1million from advertising on the competition website to enable them to give their two-bedroom home away for free.
Things started to go wrong for their company when a banking error resulted in direct debit payments for a credit card not being paid.
Mrs Wood said: 'I hadn't even checked my bank account online so I had no idea that the payments hadn't been going out but then I went to get a business loan and the man said "do you know you have a court court judgment on your record?".
'The credit card company had taken action against us because of the banking error but I hadn't even been notified.
'I was dumbfounded and it meant that people were rejecting our applications for business loans.'
When the unfortunate couple did eventually get a loan and a new account, they ran into more problems in December 2007 when they claim a software developer took $12,000 from them and failed to deliver the programme.
After another failed venture into the animation industry, which they had worked on throughout 2008, the deflated couple decided to return to an idea they stumbled across in 2004.
Mrs Wood said: 'I remember seeing this woman in the paper, she was raffling off her house. She couldn't sell it because her neighbours were obstructing the sale, so she decided to raffle it instead.
'I remember thinking, we could do that, but then it got put to the back of my mind because we were trying to do so many other things over the years.
'When everything else seemed to go down the pan we decided to try it.'
Potential advertisers will be invited to pay for space on the competition website, which has 200 available slots a day.
It is hoped that the money paid for the adverts will help the Woods reach their target.
Mrs Wood, a mother-of-one, said: 'I am sure we will reach the target of $850,000.
'I've done the research and in three months about $850million is spent on advertising on the internet in this country.
'I am confident that we can attract at least a portion of that. Advertisers are looking for new places to put their ads all the time and we're going to be writing to big and small businesses over the next few weeks.
'The last few years have been like walking up hill, backwards, in concrete boots.
'But we have never stopped, not had a day off and have worked through the night some nights on this project and we think it will work.'
Competition entrants will get the chance of winning the 120-year-old stone-built property, which stands in 1,800sq ft of land, by answering daily questions correctly.
The competition will run for 12 weeks from November 2 and people will get the chance to enter up to 20 times a day by clicking on sponsors links on the website.
Each week one person who has answered a question correctly will be selected at random and put through to the overall final in January, where one lucky person will win the house.
Mrs Wood added: 'If we get to $850,000 that money will pay off our mortgage, business loans, creditors and various debts we're got along the way, so whoever wins the house will have no hidden costs.'
The couple, who have been married for 25 years, said they had made sure that all pitfalls had been avoided and ensured the house competition was legal by asking questions which require the entrants to exercise skill, judgement or knowledge, rather than those that rely wholly on chance, as they do in a lottery.
The couple have contacted the Gambling Commission and taken legal advice, and the couple now hope to move nearer to their daughter in Newcastle at the end of the competition.
Mrs Wood said: 'We have lived in the house since 1998 and it is a lovely house. Over the years, we have done it up ourselves.
'It has taken a long time but it looks really lovely and will be a great prize for someone.'
LINK TO PHOTO OF COUPLE AND HOUSE:
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1219807/Couple-away-425-000-home-free-enter-competition.html#ixzz0TkpZM3Gd
God is not the Creator, claims academic
The notion of God as the Creator is wrong, claims a top academic, who believes the Bible has been wrongly translated for thousands of years.
5:45PM BST 08 Oct 2009
The Earth was already there when God created humans and animals, says academic Photo: PA
Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew.
She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.
Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.
She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".
The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth"
According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the Earth out of nothing.
Prof Van Wolde, who once worked with the Italian academic and novelist Umberto Eco, said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration.
She said: "It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself."
She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.
According to them there used to be an enormous body of water in which monsters were living, covered in darkness, she said.
She said technically "bara" does mean "create" but added: "Something was wrong with the verb.
"God was the subject (God created), followed by two or more objects. Why did God not create just one thing or animal, but always more?"
She concluded that God did not create, he separated: the Earth from the Heaven, the land from the sea, the sea monsters from the birds and the swarming at the ground.
"There was already water," she said.
"There were sea monsters. God did create some things, but not the Heaven and Earth. The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding."
God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness.
She said she hoped that her conclusions would spark "a robust debate", since her finds are not only new, but would also touch the hearts of many religious people.
She said: "Maybe I am even hurting myself. I consider myself to be religious and the Creator used to be very special, as a notion of trust. I want to keep that trust."
A spokesman for the Radboud University said: "The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it."
Prof Van Wolde added: "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now."
Atlanta News 12:45 p.m. Saturday, October 10, 2009
King siblings to meet in court
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The children of Martin Luther King Jr. are to meet in court Monday for the next chapter in a family financial fight that friends say threatens to soil their father’s legacy.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville has tried to encourage an out-of-court settlement of what is, at its core, a feud over the company that controls King’s legacy and an estate worth millions of dollars. He has appointed an auditor to investigate the dispute.
Barring a settlement, jury selection will begin in a suit filed against Dexter King by his two siblings.
The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a King family intimate, said he remains hopeful the family can resolve the dispute without a protracted public court fight.
“People are hurt and saddened to see Martin’s children at each other’s throats instead of finding a way to resolve their differences through love and nonviolence,” he said. “They owe it to their family legacy not to foul it up with fights, bitter court fights and that sort of thing. It is contrary to what the King legacy is all about.”
Bernice, 46, and Martin Luther King III, 51, say they have sued their 48-year-old brother Dexter in part to protect that legacy. They have demanded he hold a board meeting of King Inc., the corporation that he heads and that controls the use of their father’s papers, intellectual property and materials. The last formal board meeting occurred before their mother, Coretta Scott King, died in January 2006. Dexter’s lawyers say there also were meetings by telephone.
The three siblings are the only board members. Lawyers for Dexter and King Inc. say the only purpose of a board meeting would be for Bernice and Martin to remove their brother as president and CEO of the corporation and take control.
“If their only goal is to have a coup at the corporation because of their personal feelings about Dexter, that is no way to run a corporation,” said Lin Wood, an attorney for King Inc. “The question now is whether the children want to come together and act in the best interest of the corporation. At this time, I’m not sure three siblings can make that decision. There has been so much acrimony. ... There is no trust on either side.”
Wood said King Inc. needs a custodian to run the corporation in its best financial interest — an offer he said Dexter has made to his siblings to resolve the litigation. If King Inc. doesn’t survive the battle, all the siblings stand to lose financially and will have more trouble protecting their father’s legacy and the use of his works, Wood said.
Attempts to reach Jock Smith, an attorney for Bernice and Martin, were unsuccessful.
Former King associate Lynn Cothren said King Inc.’s future should be decided by the three siblings.
“If Dexter knows they want to call the meeting in order to fire him, I guess what he needs to do is call the meeting,” said Cothren, a longtime special assistant to Coretta Scott King for 23 years. “If you’re going to be voted down, then you need to take it like a man, and if you don’t have the confidence of the other shareholders, then you need to step down.
“That is the way any corporation is run.”
The siblings’ yearslong feud burst into public view when Bernice and Martin filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court in July 2008. They accused Dexter of mishandling funds from King Inc., improperly taking money from the estate of their mother and acting unilaterally regarding both parents’ estates without their permission or knowledge.
The fight involves division of money from the $32 million payday for an archive of their father’s papers; the claim that Dexter misappropriated money from his mother’s estate; resistance from Martin and Bernice to a $1.4 million book deal for their mother’s autobiography and to a Dreamworks movie deal on their father’s life negotiated by Dexter. In April, Dexter’s two siblings complained they were unaware of an $800,000 licensing deal reportedly to benefit the King Center that he brokered with a foundation that is raising money for a King memorial on the National Mall.
Dexter countersued and sought to force Bernice to provide love letters between his parents that were crucial for the autobiography.
Dexter has prevailed in most court hearings to this point, Wood said. Glanville has ordered Bernice and Martin King to pay part of Dexter’s legal fees because they “have unnecessarily expanded and protracted the proceedings.” According to Wood, the judge has indicated he intends to dismiss the claim that Dexter misappropriated money from his mother’s estate if the case goes to trial.
For years, Dexter ran the family business “as his mother wanted” with little interference from his siblings and with the support of the eldest child, Yolanda, who died at age 51 in 2007, Wood said. But after she died, Martin and Bernice more aggressively questioned their brother’s judgment.
One legal problem for the siblings is that the bylaws of the corporation require 80 percent of the directors to be present at a board meeting for a vote to be taken. With only three of the original five members now alive, that means no substantive meeting can take place if one of the directors doesn’t attend. Dexter’s siblings say that allows him to maintain control.
“Mrs. King, it seems to me, wanted to give Dexter some extraordinary edge and that is what created the problem,” Lowery said. “He has more than his share of power and authority. They all got to give a little to work it out.”
Judge: Man's a 'vexatious litigator'
October 8, 2009
Saint Torrance isn't a lawyer but he's kept the Hamilton County courts busy with the dozens of lawsuits he's filed.
The Westwood man has sued tenants, utility companies and judges, prompting one judge to take the unusual step of ordering Torrance to file no more lawsuits without first getting permission.
Torrance "has repeatedly wasted the resources of the State of Ohio, Hamilton County, and this court by filing frivolous lawsuits and motions having no foundation," Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph "Ted" Winkler wrote in an Oct. 5 order.
Winkler declared Torrance a "vexatious litigator," or someone who files suits to harass or malign.
That designation prevents Torrance from filing any more suits in Hamilton County unless he first gets permission from the presiding judge.
Torrance, 42, responded to Winkler's order by filing a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Since 2007, Torrance has filed 21 lawsuits in Hamilton County courts and 16 complaints in the Ohio Supreme Court.
Many of the Supreme Court complaints are against Hamilton County judges who ruled in favor of those he sued.
"I've been in that courthouse 20 years and have not got paid on one of my cases," Torrance said after Winkler's order.
That's because they are ill-considered, often indecipherable and rarely based on the law, Winkler countered.
In one case, Torrance sued a free, online auto valuation service after it valued his vehicles - which Torrance believed were worth thousands of dollars - at $500 each.
"They told me my vehicles were junk," Torrance said. He sued and lost.
What particularly invoked Winkler's ire was Torrance's suit against Time Warner Cable after his Internet service was disrupted.
"Some days it was out for weeks at a time," Torrance's suit noted.
That was the second such suit he filed against Time Warner. After the first, Winkler warned Torrance to stop filing needless lawsuits. Winkler ruled in favor of Time Warner in both cases but the company's attorneys were so exasperated by Torrance, they asked Winkler to declare him a vexatious litigator.
"This is the first time I've had it come up. I think it's pretty rare," Winkler said.
Torrance files the suits himself, he said, because the attorneys he has hired in the past were inept.
"They didn't do their jobs," he said.
Torrance, also known as Torrance Smith, said he is a disabled veteran trying to make it in the world with the help of his belief: "God made this law, not man and man is the one who bends it," Torrance said.
"All the judges in Common Pleas Court are not actually following the law," he said.
He sued many of them to make that point.
In addition to Winkler, Torrance has sued or filed complaints against all of the judges in the Cincinnati-based 1st District Court of Appeals - because they upheld the rulings of other judges who ruled against him - as well as Hamilton County judges Beth Myers, William Mallory, Norbert Nadel, Ethna Cooper, Jerome Metz, John "Skip" West, Dennis Helmick, Fanon Rucker, Lisa Allen, Julie Stautberg and three magistrates.
"If a judge follows the law and he doesn't like it, he files a complaint against the judge," Winkler said.
For good measure, Torrance also filed complaints against Prosecutor Joe Deters and at least one of his assistant prosecutors, Clerk of Courts Patty Clancy and the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.
"He's got too much time on his hands," Winkler said. "We have to do something to stop the frivolous cases."
Man, 81, went out for pizza, turned up in Indiana
Margo Rutledge Kissell, Staff Writer Updated 9:07 PM Saturday, October 10, 2009
HARRISON TWP. — An 81-year-old Dayton man with Alzheimer’s disease who had been missing for more than 24 hours was found safe Saturday, Oct. 10, in a small Indiana town 80 miles away where he had run out of gas.
Paul Youngerman had been reported missing to Dayton police at 4:41 p.m. Friday after his wife said he had gone out to pick up a pizza at Marion’s Piazza on North Dixie Drive in Harrison Twp. but didn’t return.
He was found about 5:40 p.m. Saturday in Knightstown, Ind., a town of 2,100 residents about 36 miles west of Richmond.
Knightstown Police Chief Danny Baker said Youngerman’s concerned family members were on their way to pick him up. The elderly man appeared in good condition but very confused, he said.
Youngerman’s daughter, Pam Kimmel, was thankful he was OK.
“Oh, my heavens, you don’t know how bad,” she said. “It’s been a long 24 hours.”
After Youngerman had run out of gas on a state route south of Knightstown, a nurse who had been passing by checked him out and got him a couple of gallons of gas, the police chief said. A police officer who was sent out to assist directed Youngerman to a gas station in town but then noticed the man did not stop and kept driving out of town.
When the officer turned on his lights — and later his sirens — Youngerman continued to drive until the police chief came to assist the officer. He was able to get Youngerman to stop the beige 2001 Buick LeSabre by pulling in front of him.
When questioned, Youngerman said he had been visiting his wife in rehab but couldn’t remember which hospital when the chief asked. When Baker asked what town, Youngerman responded, “I can’t remember.”
Baker said, “I told him 'You follow me. We’re going back to get you gas.’”
The chief said he used that as an opportunity to start making some phone calls. “All the red flags went up on this one,” he said.
Youngerman provided a correct home phone number but when the chief called it, the line was busy.
Using the man’s driver’s license, Baker called Dayton police and learned Youngerman was missing. The chief later connected by phone with the family, who expressed tremendous relief that he was OK.
“We don’t know how he ended up there,” Kimmel said. “I’m just glad they found him.”
Kimmel said her mother had been in rehab at a nursing home after having open heart surgery three weeks ago and had just returned home Monday.
Kimmel said that while her mother was away, her father had stayed with her. He has not been driving very much but offered to pick up the pizza from the restaurant because it was less than three miles away and he assured his wife he knew where he was going.
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Obama reaffirms will end 'don't ask, don't tell'
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledge to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military in a speech Saturday, but offered no timetable or specifics for acting on that promise.
He acknowledged to a cheering crowd that some policy changes he promised on the campaign trail are not coming as quickly as they expected.
"I will end 'don't ask-don't tell,'" Obama said to a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000 at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights advocacy group.
The law was passed by Congress in 1993 and signed by President Bill Clinton, who also promised to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military but was blunted by opposition in the military and Congress. Obama said he's working with Pentagon and congressional leaders on ending the policy.
"We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country," Obama said. "We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage ... especially when we are fighting two wars."
Obama said it was no secret "our progress may be taking longer than we like." He followed this by asking supporters to trust his administration's course.
"I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has come fast enough," Obama said. "Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach."
Some advocates said they already have heard Obama's promises -- they just want to hear a timeline. Cleve Jones, a pioneer activist and creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, said Obama delivered a brilliant speech, but added "it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when."
"He repeated his promises that he's made to us before, but he did not indicate when he would accomplish these goals and we've been waiting for a while now," said Jones, national co-chair of a major gay-rights rally expected to draw thousands of gay and lesbian activists to the National Mall on Sunday.
Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.
He expressed strong support for the Human Rights Campaign agenda -- ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people -- but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.
"My expectation is that when you look back on these years you will look back and see a time when we put a stop against discrimination ... whether in the office or the battlefield," Obama said.
Obama's political energies are focused on managing two wars, the economic crisis and his attempt to reform the health care system.
His message Saturday was one of unity and support for a group that has funneled large amounts of money into Democratic coffers.
"I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight," Obama said.
Obama also addressed those who do not favor advancing gay rights. A recent Pew Research Center poll asked about homosexual behavior, and about half said it is morally wrong. "There's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open," Obama said.
Since Obama took office in January, some advocates have complained that Obama has not followed through on promises on issues they hold dear and has not championed their causes from the White House, including ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military and pushing tough nondiscrimination policies.
Richard Socarides, who advised Clinton's administration on gay and lesbian policy, said Obama delivered "a strong speech in tone, although only vaguely reassuring in content."
"The president and Nobel winner came and paid his respects, but tomorrow many will ask: What's his plan, what's his timetable?"
In the past, Obama has urged the gay-rights community to trust him. In June, he pointed to some initial efforts, such as a presidential memorandum he issued that expands some federal benefits to same-sex partners.
Obama publicly has previously committed himself to repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don't disclose their sexual orientation or act on it. But Obama hasn't taken any concrete steps urging Congress to rescind the policy, and his national security adviser last weekend would only say that Obama will focus on overturning it "at the right time."
Obama also pledged during the campaign to work for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But lawyers in his administration defended the law in a court brief. White House aides said they were only doing their jobs to back a law that was already on the books.
The gay community is somewhat split as to whether Obama should be expected to produce results right away.
The Human Rights Campaign, which invited Obama to speak at its dinner Saturday night, holds out hope of seeing more action.
"We have never had a stronger ally in the White House. Never," Joe Solmonese, the group's president, said at the dinner before Obama spoke. In an interview, he said the Obama administration has been working with the group on a range of issues "on an almost weekly and sometimes daily basis."
Obama noted new hate-crimes legislation, which would make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation. Approved by the House this week, Obama predicted it would pass the Senate and promised to sign it into law.
Two-year-old with same IQ as Einstein
Oscar Wrigley, a two-year-old with the same IQ as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, has become the youngest boy in Britain to be accepted into Mensa.
8:00AM BST 10 Oct 2009
Assessors at the Gifted Children's Information Centre in Solihull said Oscar, with an IQ of at least 160, is one of the brightest children they have every come across.
He has been ranked in the 99.99th percentile of the population and has been ranked off the scale as the Stanford-Binet test cannot measure higher than 160
Oscar's father Joe, 29, an IT specialist from Reading in Berkshire, said: "Oscar was recently telling my wife about the reproductive cycle of penguins.
"He is always asking questions. Every parent likes to think their child was special but we knew there was something particularly remarkable about Oscar.
"I'm fully expecting the day to come when he turns around and tells me I'm an idiot."
Mother Hannah, 26, told The Daily Mail: "He amazes everyone. We knew at 12 weeks he was extremely bright. He was unusually alert."
Mrs Wrigley, a housewife, added: "His vocabulary is amazing. He's able to construct complex sentences.
"The other day he said to me, 'Mummy, sausages are like a party in my mouth'."
Dr Peter Congdon, who assessed Oscar, said he was a "child of very superior intelligence".
"His abilities fall well within the range sometimes referred to as intellectually gifted. He demonstrated outstanding ability," he said.
John Stevenage, Mensa's Chief Executive confirmed Oscar had been accepted aged two years, five months and 11 days.
"Oscar shows great potential. Converting that potential to achievement is the challenge for his parents and we are delighted that they have chosen to join the Mensa network for support", he said.
The youngest British child to join Mensa is Elise Tan Roberts, from Edmonton, North London, at two years, four months and 14 days, with an IQ of 156.
LINK TO PHOTO OF OSCAR WITH PARENTS:
Girl, two, with IQ of 160 praised for 'wonderful imagination' - Telegraph:
Man on foot robs McDonald's drive-thru
October 9, 2009
Winston-Salem police are looking for a man who walked up to the drive-thru window of a McDonald's last night and reached through the window to steal cash.
The robbery occurred just before 9 p.m. at the McDonald's in the 100 block of Akron Drive. Police said the man reached inside the window and scuffled with an employee who tried to stop him. The robber was able to take an undisclosed amount of cash from the register's drawer before running away.
Officers using a police dog were unable to find the robber.
The man did not display a weapon during th robbery.
The robber was described as a black male in his early 20s, 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall, about 180 pounds, wearing a blue hoodie, baggie jeans and a ball cap.
White lightnin': Police find 929 gallons of moonshine under shed in North Carolina mountains
Last update: October 9, 2009 - 8:37 PM
N.C. Department of Crime Control Photo
WILKESBORO, N.C. - North Carolina authorities say they have found 929 gallons of moonshine under a shed in the mountains.
State Alcohol Law Enforcement officials say 63-year-old Roger Lee Nance of Wilkesboro was arrested Wednesday on charges including possession of non-tax-paid liquor for the purpose of selling.
Agency director John Ledford says it's one of the biggest mountain busts he can remember.
Spokeswoman Patty McQuillan says Nance stored moonshine in different-shaped containers under a shed in his backyard and was arrested following a two-month investigation.
A number listed for Nance was disconnected. A woman who answered another number identified herself as Nance's daughter-in-law and said she had no comment. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney.
Food stamps swapped for booze, Viagra
Friday, October 09, 2009 | 8:57 PM
October 9, 2009 (DETROIT) -- Viagra and pornography are not staples on the government's food stamp list. But authorities say a Detroit liquor store supplied them during a series of illegal deals.
Federal prosecutors filed fraud charges this week against three people who worked at Jefferson's Liquor Palace.
The alleged scheme worked this way: Food stamp recipients would get cash from the store in exchange for swiping larger amounts off their electronic cards. The store would then be reimbursed by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
And in some transactions, the government says the store provided informants Viagra, liquor and porn in exchange for swiping about $2,000 off food stamp cards
The government says fraud at the store topped $130,000 over 2 1/2 years. The store is closed.
ATM `skimming' case may be part of a ring
Manhattan Beach detective Joe Aiello shows the electronic underside of the fake ATM pin pad that was used to skim ATM pin passwords at the Citibank in Manhattan Beach. (Brad Graverson Staff Photographer)
George Puflene is a suspect in Manhattan Beach ATM skimming case. withdrawals from bank accounts ranging from $100 to $10,000.
George Puflene, 26, isn't talking since his arrest Sept. 25. Police believe Puflene had made a return trip to the Manhattan Village bank on Sepulveda Boulevard near Marine Avenue that evening in an attempt to steal customers' account and PIN numbers.
"We actually arrested him as he was placing the skimmer on the ATM machine," Manhattan Beach police Detective Joe Aiello said. "We found out Monday that was not the first time they had placed the skimmer on the ATM machine. We are now starting to uncover victims."
Redondo Beach resident Stephen Chan said Puflene was standing at the automated teller machine with three other men when Chan and his roommate, Ali
Al-Nasser, went to make a deposit about 8 p.m.
Puflene was feeding a stack of credit cards into the machine, but not withdrawing any money, Chan said.
"I thought he was doing credit card skimming as soon as I saw him," Chan said. "He was taking an awfully long time. He had a very large stack of cards in his hand. It looked an inch thick, a dozen, 15 cards."
Puflene and the other man were speaking a foreign language, Al-Nasser said.
Police believe Chan and Al-Nasser arrived at the ATM as Puflene and the men installed an overlay on the ATM to commit fraud.
Three of the men left together. Chan used the ATM after Puflene left alone.
Sensing they had witnessed something criminal, Al-Nasser and Chan decided to watch Puflene, who drove his white Lexus near the Bank of America branch, and called police.
Aiello said officers stopped Puflene and returned to check on the ATM. They discovered an aluminum and plastic plate placed over the ATM's keyboard.
The overlay perfectly fit onto the keyboard area at the bottom of the ATM. When someone used the keys, they pressed into the ATM's keys below to operate the machine.
As they did, a motherboard energized by a cell phone battery underneath the plate recorded the PIN codes, Aiello said.
The plate and keyboard are so similar to the real thing, police said, customers could not easily tell the difference.
"They literally built this from scratch," Aiello said.
Police discovered that the second ATM at the bank was disabled, so every customer had to use the doctored machine.
Puflene was arrested before he could install an additional device atop the card reader that would steal account numbers from magnetic stripes, Aiello said.
Police believe Puflene would have returned a couple of days later to retrieve the two devices, allowing the theft ring to create ATM cards using stolen account numbers and PIN codes to use later at ATMs to withdraw cash.
Investigators believe Puflene and his alleged counterparts had intended to install the devices on the ATM for the weekend, collecting them Sunday night.
Police did not immediately know at the time that Puflene and a theft group already had been successful with a device at the same bank.
"They don't take the money right away," Aiello said.
On Sunday, customers began seeing illegal withdrawals from their accounts and started reporting them to police, Aiello said.
Reports started rolling in on Monday, but not all of the 50 victims have made police reports.
"If they've used the Citibank ATM and they've noticed withdrawals that they did not make, then they are most likely victims of the skimming and they need to file a police report with the Manhattan Beach Police Department as soon as possible," Aiello said.
Citibank has reimbursed its customers for the money lost, making itself the primary victim.
Investigators believe a similar phony keyboard and card reader were placed on the Citibank ATM the weekend of Sept 18, 19 and 20, when customers' account numbers and PIN codes were stolen, Aiello said.
Police have reportedly recovered photographs of Puflene and another man at the machine on those dates.
Omodele Ogunmola, assistant manager at the Manhattan Beach branch, said the bank's fraud unit immediately notified customers who used the ATM that weekend. Their ATM cards were canceled and new ones were issued.
Ogunmola said the ATMs outside the bank are equipped with devices to detect tampering, but the devices were not operating when the fraud occurred.
On Monday, thieves made 100 unsuccessful attempts in Las Vegas to withdraw cash from machines using stolen numbers, Aiello said. The bank had already closed the card accounts.
The crimes also occurred after hours and on weekends, when bank employees are not around, Ogunmola and Aiello said.
ATM skimming has become an increasing crime across the nation and is often tied to Russian mobsters.
The Manhattan Beach case is the second major ATM skimming operation discovered in the South Bay since May.
As many as 1,000 people who used ATM cards to buy gas at an Arco station in Redondo Beach became victims of thieves who recorded their numbers at the pump. About $200,000 was withdrawn from accounts at several banks.
No arrests have been made.
Aiello is working to try to identify other members of the ring involved with Puflene, who remains in county jail without bail.
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have placed a hold on him. Puflene held a work authorization card.
Prosecutors have charged Puflene with computer access and fraud, theft, fraudulent possession and use of a scanning device, and possession of burglary tools.
Puflene pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Sept. 29 and is scheduled to return to court Wednesday.
He previously lived in Florida before coming to Southern California. He told detectives he lived with a friend, but refused to say where, Aiello said.
The Craz-E Burger: heart stopping but delicious
It has been called everything from “an act of culinary patriotism” to a “sign of the Apocalypse”. The Craz-E Burger is the latest food fad sweeping America. Nick Allen tried one.
Published: 8:09AM BST 09 Oct 2009t
Nick Allen eyes up a Craz-E Burger
The feast consists of a bacon cheeseburger with a buttered, grilled and glazed doughnut standing in for a bun
The recipe is simple: take one burger dripping in its own fat, garnish with two juicy strips of streaky bacon and a generous wedge of melted, oozing cheese. Then stick the lot inside a glazed and buttered doughnut.
You are left with a gut-busting, 1,500-calorie mountain of sugar and fat that makes a Big Mac look like a health snack.
And if that’s not enough to satisfy your yearning for lard you can also try deep frying the doughnut first. On no account add any lettuce or tomato. This meal is a nutrition free zone.
Health conscious celebrity chefs would probably have a heart attack at the very thought of the Craz-E Burger but the truth is it’s somewhat of a taste sensation. It combines the feeling of chomping on a cheeseburger with the satisfaction of sating a sweet tooth.
There’s also no need for dessert because the lingering taste of sugar means you feel like you’ve already had one. The whole heart stopping ensemble takes just 10 minutes to prepare and the result looks pretty unappealing. But after the first bite I was hooked.
The doughnut was much tastier and sweeter than a normal, bland hamburger bun and the sugar helps to meld the other ingredients together. After wolfing one down in a few minutes I felt like another straightaway.
Some 3,000 calories later I felt distinctly fatter but definitely ready to repeat the exercise the next day. It was delicious. My heart didn't stop beating and my arteries were still flowing.
In notoriously calorie conscious Los Angeles the Craz-E-Burger may face an uphill struggle to catch on so I decided to test it out on Amber Smith, 38, a healthy Hollywood actress and model. After looking more than a little cautiously at the gargantuan burger on her plate Miss Smith tucked in and nearly finished the lot.
“It’s a funny taste but it's really not bad,” she said. “Not bad at all. I like it. It’s like having a burger and a dessert and putting them together so it’s fast, fast food. If I was hungry I’d definitely eat the whole thing.
“Lots of people wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a burger like that though, it’s twice the amount of calories some women in Los Angeles have in a day. It's tasty though."
Miss Smith was less enthusiastic about the addition of a deep fried doughnut to her Craz-E Burger. "It burns the glaze off the doughnut so it's not as sweet," she said. "It's just like eating a burger soaked in oil."
Like two other American staples – Coca Cola and chocolate chip cookies – the Craz-E Burger was produced by accident. While the inventor of Coca Cola was trying to make a medicinal tonic, the creator of the Craz-E Buger was a chef in Decatur, Georgia who ran out of burger baps and, in desperation, used doughnuts instead.
He originally called it the Luther Burger because the singer Luther Vandross was reputed to like them. The name Craz-E Burger was chosen in a competition on Facebook, winning out over other more descriptive suggestions like “Heart Attack on a Bun” and “The E-Normous.”
It only came to national prominence this week after going on sale at the Big E, an agricultural fair in Massachusetts where the burgers were snapped up at the rate of 1,000 a day.
The merits of the doughnut burger have now divided America with some claiming it marks the beginning of the end. Doctors say it's a killer.
Leading the anti-burger charge Shepard Smith, the influential Fox News anchor, said: “Good God. There are a lot of ways to end it all. You could take a bottle of pills...or you could just eat one of those. I don’t know man, there are signs of the Apocalypse, you hear about them, this may be one of them.”
Perhaps he’d feel differently if he tried one.
US President Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize
October 9, 2009
OSLO – The Norwegian Nobel Committee says U.S. President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
OSLO (AP) — Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba and Chinese dissident Hu Jia are among the favorites to win the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reported Friday.
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and Afghan woman's rights activist Simi Samar also are possible candidates for the prestigious prize, NRK said, about an hour before the Norwegian Nobel committee was set to announce the prize at 11 a.m. (0900GMT).
As always, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee has remained tightlipped about its decision, which it made earlier this week, but will unveil its choice Friday. A record 205 nominations were received this year.
"We've had all the meetings we're going to have, and done what we needed to do," the committee's nonvoting secretary Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press Thursday.
British bookmaker Ladbrokes and its Irish counterpart, PaddyPower, give the best odds to imprisoned Hu, Cordoba, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, and Samar.
Hu, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was sentenced last year to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power" ahead of the Beijing Olympics. He also was a favorite for the prize last year, when the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award went to Finland's ex-president Martti Ahtisaari for decades of work as a peace mediator.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said he favored Cordoba, who leads Colombians for Peace, an organization whose aim is to facilitate peace negotiations between the government and the country's leftist FARC guerrillas.
Cordoba is a polarizing figure in Colombia owing to her close relations with Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, and her criticisms of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's government as an illegitimate "mafia state" that came to power with the help of right-wing death squads.
Despite that polemical status, she has been at the forefront of efforts to peacefully end her country's half-century-old conflict, which is rooted in deep social divisions. She was nominated by Adolfo Perez Esquivel, an Argentine who won the peace prize in 1980 and is a fierce critic of Uribe.
Guesses from the Peace Research Institute — an annual ritual — have become the cornerstone of world Nobel Peace Prize speculation. However, institute officials admit they have no inside information, and they rarely predict the winner.
Harpviken also mentioned bin Muhammad, a philosophy professor in Jordan who advocates interfaith dialogue in the Middle East, a region shot through with sectarian violence, and Samar. She currently leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and serves as the U.N. special envoy to Darfur.
He said he thought this year's award would go toward making "an impact on evolving processes" — such as armed conflict resolution — with the hope of encouraging their continuation.
In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, he said the peace prize should be given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Sweden and Norway were united under the same crown at the time of Nobel's death.
The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change. Some experts believe the committee will turn to human rights this year, because it hasn't picked a human rights activist since tapping Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for the prize in 2003.
"Twenty years since Tiananmen Square? Maybe a Chinese?" said Dan Smith, of the London-based International Alert peace group.
Emerging superpower China remains deeply sensitive about criticism of its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. And awarding dissidents would be a major poke-in-the-eye in the year the communist regime, established 60 years ago, celebrates its diamond jubilee.
The committee is famous for making grand symbolic gestures aimed at influencing the world agenda, as in 1989 when, in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre, the prize went to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
Although most of the buzz this year surrounds Hu, another candidate could be Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms of China's communist system. He now lives in the United States.
Harpviken told journalists last week that he was skeptical of suggestions that a dissident of any nationality might win the prize this year. He noted that Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland, who just ended a four-year term as president of Norway's parliament, was elected secretary general of the Council of Europe on Sept. 29.
Harpviken said he believes Jagland's connection to both the Norwegian government and a major pan-European organization will make the committee "careful" about who it chooses, hoping to avoid a public debate about its political independence. He also suggested that Jagland might want to avoid complicating his five-year term at the helm of the Council of Europe.
"It would be hard to think that it hasn't had an impact" on the deliberation process, Harpviken said.
Jan Egeland, director of Oslo's Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said he nominated Denis Mukwege, a physician in war-torn Congo who opened a clinic to help rape victims.
"He is working for the people in the biggest war," he said. "Sometimes the committee has to address the biggest wars."
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Scaredy-cat postmen to blacklist Magic?
The Western Mercury
08 October 2009
Magic, with Sam.
PETRIFIED postman are threatening to halt mail deliveries to a Weston couple - because they are afraid of being attacked by their CAT.
Mailmen say they have been mauled by Magic so often they are considering blacklisting the fearsome feline's Waverley Road address.
They say mail dropping through the letterbox prompts the three-year-old moggy to burst from his cat-flap and launch an attack.
Royal Mail's Weston delivery manager Peter Floyd visited Magic's stunned owners Sam Enan-McKinnon and husband Tariq to break the news of the ban on Monday.
Sam, a 25-year-old nurse, told the Mercury she was amazed to learn her peaceful pussy was being accused of postman persecution.
She said: "We're stunned. The head of the delivery unit came to our house yesterday to tell us mail services will be suspended if we don't 'address the problem'.
"I told them my cat wouldn't hurt a fly. We carried out an experiment where the man from Royal Mail pretended to post something, but Magic didn't do anything at all.
"Their solution is for us to block the cat-flap, but I'm a nurse and work odd hours, and we can't leave Magic locked in the house all day.
"He's a soft cat, we've never seen him attack someone, and we've never heard of him hurting anyone before. I can't believe they are saying this."
A letter to the couple from Mr Floyd confirmed the terrifying tabby's aggressive antics are being blamed for the mail ban.
It says: "I am writing to let you know that our post person, while delivering mail to your address, was menaced by your cat. This has happened for the last three days.
"I believe that your cat, as soon as it hears the letterbox, is straight out the cat-flap and attacks the post person.
"Animal attacks are a major cause of injury to Royal Mail staff.
"If any further incidents of this nature are allowed to take place, I shall have no alternative other than to consider suspending the delivery of mail to your home.
McRage over wrong size french fries
Oct 08, 2009
03:57 PMLast update Oct 08, 2009 @ 05:09 PMQUINCY —
The cashier gave them a small french fries, not a large. For most McDonald’s customers, a forgivable mistake. Not for these two, police said.
The man and woman turned violent, hurling coins and plastic safety cones at cashiers in the North Quincy restaurant, injuring one, police said. The incident Tuesday night was the second assault on fast food employees in less than a week on the South Shore.
Christina Galipeau, 22, of 70 Bay State Road, and Eugene Jackson, 33, of Dorchester, pleaded innocent on Wednesday to assault charges at their arraignment in Quincy District Court.
Judge Kevin O’Dea released Galipeau on her own recognizance and ordered a $1,000 bail for Jackson, who was wanted on two warrants issued in other courts in drug and assault cases.
O’Dea ordered Galipeau and Jackson to stay out of the McDonald’s at 275 Han<snip> St. and to make no contact with the cashiers.
When police were called at 11:23 p.m., Jackson, Galipeau and her sister had already left in their car.
A cashier who took their order told police that when Galipeau complained of getting the wrong size fries, she gave her a large fries and handed her change. The women exchanged words, and the cashier said Galipeau threw the change at her, hitting her in the face.
Jackson picked up a two-foot tall cone from the mopped floor and hurled it at the cashier and another employee, a 54-year-old woman, police said.
In the parking lot, Jackson allegedly threw another plastic cone at the second cashier, who had run outside to write down their license plate number. The second cashier was struck in the face, leaving a cut on her nose.
The first cashier and Galipeau fought and pulled each other’s hair before the altercation ended, according to the report.
Quincy police traced the car to Galipeau’s home and officers arrived as the trio pulled up to the house.
Jackson was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (plastic cone) and giving false information to a police officer. Galipeau was charged with assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot).
Last Thursday, a couple apparently upset that their food order was slow in arriving, allegedly punched and kicked another customer at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Norwell. Jared Garfagna, 31, and Sara Mohn, 24, both of Marshfield, allegedly yelled profanities at restaurant employees and attacked another man who asked them to stop because children were in line.
Garfagna and Mohn were each charged with assault.
LINK TO PHOTOS AND STORY:
Cape Cod Online
October 08, 2009
FALMOUTH – An East Falmouth teen attacked several of his family members after his mother punished him by taking away his cell phone, according to police reports.
Brandon Turner, 18, drew his mother’s ire on Monday night when he hit his 15-year-old brother. But when Kimberly Turner took away her son’s cell phone as punishment for the fraternal spat, police said Brandon’s aggressive behavior escalated and then exploded the next day.
Brandon laid down on the bottom part of his bunk bed and began kicking the top bed until it collapsed on him, police said. His mother tried to lift the bed off her son, but Brandon kicked her in the throat
During the struggle, police said Brandon threw a glass baking dish at his mother, head-butted his brother and struck his mother in the leg with a metal pooper scooper.
John Turner, a corrections officer at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility, eventually had to use handcuffs to subdue his son.
When police arrived, they found a handcuffed Brandon chasing his family members around the yard and yelling “just shoot me.” Police had to use leg shackles to get Brandon under control.
Brandon Turner was arraigned in Falmouth District Court on three counts of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property over $250, threatening to commit a crime, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
He was held on $1,000 bail at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Nov. 4.
Nobel Prize: ten most important winners
As the 2009 Nobel Prize winners are announced, we look at ten of the most influential laureates in the history of the awards.
4:24PM BST 08 Oct 2009
Professor Marie Curie working in her laboratory at the University of Paris in 1925 Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
1. Marie Curie
The leading light in a family that between them amassed a remarkable five Nobel Prizes in the fields of Chemistry and Physics. She became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903 when she was recognised, along with her husband Pierre and Antoine Henri Becquerel, with the Physics award for their research into radiation.
She later became the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes when she was given the Chemistry Prize in 1911 for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her further research into radium. She is among a select group of people to have won prizes in two different fields.
2. Martin Luther King Jr.
The American civil rights activist was the youngest person to be recognised by the Nobel foundation when he won the Peace Prize in 1964, at the age of 35, for his work to end racial discrimination through non-violent means.
Even after his death in 1968 King's legacy lived on, and his image is still used today as a symbol by human rights groups around the world.
3. Albert Einstein
Arguably the world's most famous scientist, Einstein was given the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his services to physics, especially his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.
During his career he made significant contributions to the world of theoretical physics, among them his famous theories of relativity.
4. Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins
These three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for their discovery of the "double helix" structure of DNA nine years earlier.
The award was deemed controversial because of the death of Rosalind Franklin, a collaborator with Wilkins, four years earlier. Nobel foundation rules, which state the prizes cannot be given posthumously, meant her work was not recognised.
5. Jean-Paul Sartre
The French existentialist philosopher, writer and literary critic was the first person to turn down a Nobel Prize in 1964 when he declined the Prize for Literature.
Sartre is still recorded as the winner by the Nobel federation for his influential work which was "filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth".
6. Sir Alexander Fleming
Sir Alexander shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Ernst Chain and Sir Howard Florey for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect on infectious diseases.
The Scot made his discovery accidentally when he returned to his untidy laboratory from a holiday to discover a fungus had developed that destroyed the bacteria immediately surrounding it.
7. Hermann Muller
The American won the same prize as Fleming a year later, in 1946, for his discovery of the mutating effects of X-ray radiation.
His research and continued argument against nuclear war made him a figure of great political significance in later years as nuclear weapons became an increasingly controversial subject.
8. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Russian novelist and dissident, who spent time in a Soviet labour camp after writing letters that criticised the communist regime, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970.
His most famous novels, The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, for which he received the award, exposed the brutality of the Soviet Union's forced labour camps.
9. The International Committee of the Red Cross
The highest number of Nobel Prize wins goes to the International Committee of the Red Cross with three separate Nobel Peace Prizes.
In 1917 and 1944 the organisation was recognised for its work during the First and Second World Wars, and it was named as a winner again in 1963, along with the League of Red Cross Societies, to mark its 100th anniversary.
10. Sir Clive Granger
The Welsh economist won the 2003 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his methods of analysing economic statistics, which revolutionised the way economists interpret financial data.
His prize was shared with Robert Engle III, for his research in a similar area.
October 6, 2009
Mask-wearing inmate sparks his attorney’s swine flu fears
Jail policy aims to stem spread of illness; in this case, it led to delay in proceedings
Meghann M. Cuniff
Mitchell A. Hardin’s attorney wanted nothing to do with him.
Set to enter a plea on a residential burglary charge in Spokane County Superior Court last week, the 21-year-old inmate was told he had to wait another day.
His lawyer, seeing a surgical mask Hardin was wearing, feared contracting the H1N1 virus and wouldn’t go near the jail inmate in court. Hardin said at the time he didn’t feel ill, but he had in the past few days and he shared a cell with sick inmates.
None appears to have H1N1, or swine flu, but Spokane County Jail officials aren’t taking any chances.
Under a new policy implemented in the past two weeks, inmates who show symptoms of flu or a cold – and anyone near them – must wear protective masks when they leave their cells. That includes court appearances.
But the reaction from Todd Porter, Hardin’s public defender, and subsequent delay of a scheduled court proceeding prompted Spokane County Superior Judge Maryann Moreno to call a meeting this Thursday with jail staff and attorneys to sort out what she predicted “is going to snowball into an issue.”
“Are we going to do this with all people who have the sniffles?” Moreno said in court last week, referring to Hardin. “This seems a little paranoid to me, with all due respect.”
Jail officials say they’re taking the extra precautions to prevent a widespread outbreak. About 20 inmates are affected, including one man whose transfer to Oregon was postponed last week because officials didn’t want to run the risk of spreading illness.
“Sometimes we’re taking these precautions when there’s no indication they have the flu,” said jail Lt. Dan Veloski. “We just wanted to nip it in the bud as quick as we could.”
Last week’s sentencing delay was caused by a misconception about H1N1 and the new mask policy, Veloski said.
“People still don’t understand what swine flu is,” he said. “A lot of people believe it’s airborne, and that’s not true. It’s the virus inside their cough or their sneeze.”
This week’s meeting should help clear that up. “We want to protect the people in that court,” Veloski said. “Things could spread very quickly in this type of environment.”
In the meeting, Veloski said, jail staff will explain to attorneys “what our protocol is and what certain individuals may be wearing masks when they come to court.”
The surgical masks are meant to catch contagious droplets in coughs or sneezes, which experts say is the most common way to contract H1N1.
“Are they 100 percent effective? No,” Veloski said. “But they’re better than nothing.”
No one else in the courtroom for Mitchell’s sentencing objected to proceeding, but Porter’s reluctance to sit next to his mask-wearing client was understandable, said David Brody, an associate professor at Washington State University and director of the Spokane campus’s criminal justice program.
“I can understand everyone’s perspective,” Brody said. “My concern would be whether it impacts a defendant’s right to go to court. Will it get to the point where they’ll want to do sentencing over video?”
Hardin shrugged when Moreno asked him what he thought of the mask in court last week. Interviewed later, he called the policy “dumb.” He said he chuckled when Moreno told him he looked “pretty silly.” “I was sitting there smiling, but no one could see,” Hardin said.
LINK TO PHOTO AND STORY:
Father, son arrested while trying to score heroin
Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 09:40 AM
DAYTON - A father and son are in Montgomery County Jail on drug-related charges after they told officers monitoring drug activity Tuesday, Oct. 6, they were trying to buy some heroin.
Charles Rosenbaum II, 25
Charles Rosenbaum Sr., 47
Charles Rosenbaum Sr., 47, and Charles Rosenbaum II, 25, were in the 2100 block of Benson Drive in a blue Chevy Monte Carlo that was pulled over about 7 p.m. by police for a license plate violation, according to a police report.
The Rosenbaums told officers they were in the area trying to buy some heroin, the report stated. Officers found the younger Rosenbaum with a needle and his father had a crack pipe in his possession, the report stated.
Both are being charged with misdemeanor loitering charges and possessing drug paraphernalia, the report stated.
Naked burglar tells Slidell police he has medical problem
October 07, 2009, 8:01PM
A Luling man who broke into a Slidell home while naked, made himself a meal and took a shower before fleeing has told police he was suffering from a medical problem during the bizarre break-in, authorities said Wednesday.
Slidell Police DepartmentThe naked burglar
cooked and took a shower while ransacking
a Slidell home early Monday morning, police said.
Slidell police planned to question the man, whose name has not been released, on Wednesday night and determine whether he will be booked with a crime, Slidell police spokesman Capt. Kevin Foltz said.
Police received a call Tuesday evening from a relative of the man who saw news media reports about the early Monday morning break-in, Foltz said. Investigators then spoke with the man, who agreed to come in for questioning, he said.
Police were told the man was suffering from a medical problem related to his diabetes during the break-in, Foltz said.
Video cameras at a house in the Country Club Estates subdivision captured the man striding up to the house naked on Monday about 1 a.m. He rinsed himself off with a garden hose in the driveway and knocked on the front door of the empty home before sitting covered in a garbage bag in the backyard.
The man then broke into the home and ransacked the place before making himself a meal and taking a shower. He then fled the home wrapped only in a sheet.
The 61-year-old homeowner, who was visiting her son on the West Bank all weekend, found out about the break-in after returning home Monday and gave police the surveillance video from her home security system.
The man had apparently left his car on a nearby highway before the break-in, Assistant Chief Jesse Simon said.
Mom, daughter accused in beating, choking of ‘snitch’
Dayton Daily News
Monday, October 5, 2009, 11:02 AM
DAYTON - Three people are in Montgomery County Jail after a man said the three beat, choked and tried to kill him because the group believes he told police about their drug habits.
The 35-year-old victim was in his apartment in the 100 block of Central Avenue about 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, when he heard a knock of his door, according to a police report.
He said Lonnie D. Black, 24, wanted him to come out so the two could fight. The victim said after Black left after he refused to come out of his apartment, the report stated.
Fearing that his car would get damaged, the victim went out to check on the vehicle, he told police. On the way to the parking lot, Black reappeared and confronted the victim.
The two men were about to fight when Brandy McBeath, 26, and her mother Debbie Sandifer, 51, arrived, the victim told police.
The victim said Sandifer tried four times to strike him with a club, while McBeath picked up a long piece of wood and struck him twice in the face, the report stated.
The victim hit McBeath with a club and the group fled the scene, the report stated. As the victim walked back to his apartment, Black came up from behind and choked the man with a shower curtain rod.
The victim hit Black with an object and was able to escape.
When officers arrived Black was armed with a “weighted club” wrapped around his wrist and telling at the victim, “I want to kill him,” the report stated.
The victim told officers he was attacked because McBeath and Sandifer were arrested on Thursday after officers found them with the drugs, according to a police report. McBeath and Sandifer thought the victim “snitched” or told police they were involved in drugs, he told police.
Officers found McBeath and Sandifer at their apartment at 628 Plymouth Ave. While searching the apartment, officers found 1.24 grams of crack cocaine, a crack pipe and a broken shower curtain rod believed to be used in the assault.
The apartment was labeled a nuisance, and Sandifer and another man living there were presented with nuisance abatement paperwork, the report stated.
Sandifer, McBeath and Black were taken to Montgomery County Jail each on one felonious assault charge. Their victim was treated for minor injuries.
Elementary student’s jaws pried from teacher’s forearm
Dayton Daily News
Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 10:41 AM
DAYTON - A Patterson-Kennedy Elementary School student sent his 54-year-old teacher to the hospital after biting him in the forearm Monday, Oct. 5.
Police responded to the Dayton City school, at 258 Wyoming St., about 11:30 a.m. after school officials said they had to pry the child from the teacher’s arm, according to a police report.
The child was brought to assistant principal Jack Johnson’s office by teacher Stephen Green for being disorderly in the classroom, the report stated. The child began throwing things in the office and had to be restrained by Green.
While clutching the child, Green was bitten in the forearm, Johnson told police. The child would not release Green’s arm and Johnson had to pry the boy’s mouth open —Â with his hands.
Green went to the hospital to be treated for the bite, the report stated. The child was transferred to Kettering Hospital for a psychological evaluation.
The child is being charged with felonious assault, but was not taken to the juvenile detention center. A court date has not been set.
Pa. police say woman put stolen check in church offering and stole a wallet from a pew
Last update: October 6, 2009 - 8:07 PM
NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. - Police said a woman put a forged $50 check in a church offering plate and stole a woman's wallet from a pew in the same western Pennsylvania church. New Brighton police Chief Charles Van Fossan said Tuesday that police were still searching for a 20-year-old woman. She allegedly committed the crimes at First Presbyterian Church in New Brighton on Sunday.
Police said the offering check was from a previously stolen checkbook.
The woman used a credit card from the stolen wallet to buy about $200 worth of merchandise from a dollar store and a convenience store. Police said the woman also tried to use a credit card stolen from another church to get a $16,000 cash advance that a bank refused to issue.
New Brighton is about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
San Anselmo police: Couple used boy, 13, as designated driver
Marin Independent Journal
10/05/2009 08:03:24 PM PDT
A couple was arrested in San Anselmo on allegations they let a 13-year-old boy drive them home from a restaurant because they both feared getting another DUI, authorities said.
The incident occurred Sunday night after the couple and the boy, who is related to one of the suspects, had dinner at a downtown restaurant, said San Anselmo police Sgt. Rob Schneider.
The couple, who have several drunken driving convictions between them, had been drinking that night and did not want to risk a new DUI arrest, so they had the boy drive, Schneider said.
The boy started to drive home, but he soon stopped the vehicle in the middle of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near The Hub.
Police came upon the stalled vehicle and stopped to investigate.
"The story that he gave was that it freaked him out, so he stopped and refused to drive anymore," Schneider said.
The 32-year-old woman and the 29-year-old man were booked into the county jail early Monday morning on suspicion of felony child endangerment and misdemeanor public intoxication. Bail was set at $50,000.
The boy was released to another family member at the San Anselmo police station.
The woman, a Mill Valley resident, was charged Monday with a misdemeanor count of child endangerment and a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, said Deputy District Attorney Charles Cacciatore.
She was also charged with allowing a minor to drive, an infraction. The vehicle, a Land Rover, was on loan to her while her own car was in the repair shop, Schneider said.
Her boyfriend, a San Rafael resident, was not charged.
Both were released from jail Monday night. The woman was scheduled to appear for arraignment next week.
10-Year-Old Gets $260 Ticket At School
7:37 am PDT October 6, 2009
For the boy's mother, the incident all started with a phone call at around 9 a.m. one day.
"Well, the school called me ... and told me that my son had an incident at school," said Charity Walka.
Walka did not know that her son's trouble in class would hit her in the pocket.
She said her son was on medication for a behavioral disorder and couldn't stay awake in class at Travis Elementary School.
"So he fell asleep again, and when they tried to wake him, he got angry," Walka said.
She said her son then left the classroom after a teacher tried to restrain him. She said her son also made noise in the hall. He lay down on the floor and wouldn't get up. For disrupting class, officers at El Paso Independent School District gave her 10-year-old son a ticket for $260, a class C misdemeanor.
Walka said her son did not hurt anyone.
"It was just devastating. I was just so angry. He doesn't understand," Walka said.
The station spoke with EPISD officials who said the ticket is legal under Texas law.
"The Texas Family Code does allow for a student who is 10 years of age or older to be cited under this type of offense," said Berenice Zubia, a spokesperson for EPISD.
A reporter found a copy of the law on a legal Web site, showing it falls under Texas Education Code 37.124, although an age was not specified in that version.
Zubia said it is rare that elementary school students get cited for disrupting class and that the fines collected do not go to the school district. She said students can receive citations after a series of incidences of misbehavior. The tickets then go to a justice of the peace for a final decision.
Walka didn't take the ticket sitting down. She fought it, and it was dismissed.
Papers show she was supposed to go to court on the matter on Tuesday. She said her son was going to have to enter a plea, but she said he would not understand what a plea is.
"I could see him getting a citation for drugs or weapons in the school, but disrupting the class, that just seems a bit much. I don't think the punishment fits the crime," Walka said.
Burglar caught after drinking victim's wine and falling asleep
A burglar was caught after drinking a bottle of his victim's wine and falling asleep on the sofa instead of making his getaway, a court has heard.
9:00AM BST 06 Oct 2009
Michael Dwyer, 44, broke in through a window of a basement flat in Cambridge before stuffing several pillow cases with DVDs, CDs and electrical items.
Unemployed Dwyer, who had already been drinking, then spotted a bottle of red wine and settled down on the sofa to drink it.
But he fell asleep until he was discovered with the empty bottle by his feet the next day by the homeowner returning from work.
The victim was still unable to wake up Dwyer and called police, who arrested him at the scene.
Dwyer admitted burglary following the raid on September 22 at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on Monday.
Paul Brown, prosecuting, said Dwyer claimed he had broken into the house to use the lavatory.
He said: "Mr Dwyer was found sleeping on the sofa with a bottle of wine next to his feet.
"The victim informed police who then arrested Dwyer. He claimed that he didn't remember putting the items in the pillowcase and said he had a serious alcohol problem."
Monica Lentin, defending, said Dwyer had shown genuine remorse for his crime.
She said: "He is really trying to get help for his alcohol problems. This is the first time he has actually committed a burglary and it is out of character."
Magistrates adjourned sentencing until October 27 and requested a pre-sentence report be prepared by the probation service looking into Mr Dwyer's alcohol addiction.
Suspects betrayed by their baseball caps
Henry K. Lee
Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 5, 2009
(10-05) 15:05 PDT CONCORD -- Two Concord bank robbery suspects were identified after they left behind DNA-laden baseball caps and a "High School Musical" bag filled with dye-stained cash, court records show.
Donte Maurice Turner, 29, and Sterling Isaac Garner, 22, allegedly robbed the U.S. Bank on Clayton Road in Concord at gunpoint last Oct. 15 and fled with $6,889.
Witnesses saw two men running through the parking lot of a nearby store. One man was carrying a black bag that was "emitting smoke" from a dye-pack device, FBI Special Agent Todd Dorman wrote in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
Police called to the scene found a large amount of dye-stained money, two exploded dye packs, two baseball caps, a black "High School Musical" bag with red dye stains and a pair of gloves, Dorman wrote.
A crime lab processed the baseball caps and matched DNA to Turner and Garner, authorities said.
In addition to the October robbery, Turner is in custody for a parole violation for allegedly robbing the Concord Federal Credit Union on Second Street on June 12.
Garner allegedly confessed to last year's robbery and told authorities that he was "yelled at" for dropping the money when the dye packs exploded, because the cash "could have been cleaned with alcohol," Dorman wrote.
Garner, whose listed occupation is that of a crime-scene cleaner, is being held without bail at a downtown Oakland jail.
Hotmail passwords leaked online
The email accounts of thousands of users of Microsoft's Hotmail email service have been compromised after passwords and account addresses were posted on the internet.
5:33PM BST 05 Oct 2009
A list of around 10,000 Hotmail passwords has been leaked online Photo: CLARE KENDALL
The login details of more than 10,000 accounts briefly appeared on a web-site used by computer programers.
The list included only addresses starting with A and B, raising fears that more could appear online in the coming days, potentially exposing tens of thousands more Hotmail users.
According to technology website Neowin.net, an anonymous user posted details of around 10,000 Microsoft Hotmail, Windows Live and MSN accounts on Pastebin.com, an online forum used by developers to share snippets of programming code. Neowin said the details appeared legitimate, and that most of the accounts exposed by the leak belonged to European web users.
The source of the leak remains unknown, but it seems likely that the details were collected as the result of "phishing" scams, which use fake websites to trick people in to revealing personal details, such as account login information, believing they are on a legitimate site.
Microsoft said that it had been made aware of the problem.
"We're actively investigating the situation and will take appropriate steps as rapidly as possible," said Microsoft in a statement. "Microsoft is committed to protecting the privacy of our customers, and believe they deserve to have their personal data used only in ways they have agreed to, and in ways that provide value to them."
Users of Hotmail, Windows Live and MSN email accounts are advised to change their passwords and security questions immediately, in order to block unauthorised access to accounts. There are fears that hackers or cybercriminals could use these email accounts to gain access to sensitive or personal information, or to log on to online bank accounts and shopping websites to make fraudulent transactions. Many internet users use the same password details for multiple accounts.
"It's unclear at this stage whether the cause of the leak is phishing attacks or some kind of attack on Microsoft's servers," said Carole Theriault, a senior security consultant with Sophos. "These things do happen, and people shouldn't panic, but we recommend taking some practical steps. If they have a Hotmail, MSN or Live email addres, they should change their account password and security question."
Hotmail is the largest web-based email service in the world, boasting an estimated 500 million users, with 14 million in the UK alone. The password leak comes at the start of a busy month for Microsoft, with the company launching its new computer operating system, Windows 7, on October 22. It also recently unveiled Microsoft Security Essentials, a suite of security software designed to help protect internet users against malicious software, trojans and viruses.
Lukas Oberhuber, chief technical officer at Forward Internet Group, said the leak looked like the result of a phishing attack. "Those sorts of attacks are almost impossible to defend against," he said. "They are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
"It's hard to say at this stage what the motivation was for posting the list online. Was the person responsible simply trying to prove that it could be done?"
Mr Oberhuber said that one indication that an account had been compromised might be if the user receives a number of emails saying that they had requested other account password reminders.
"Hotmail is not the first web email service to be hacked in this manner, and it won't be the last," he said.
A report earlier this year from Lucid Intelligence estimated that the identities of around four million Britons had been stolen and made available online to the highest bidder, while ast week, users of Twitter, the microblogging site, were targeted in a phishing scam. Clicking on a link received in a direct message re-directed unsuspecting Twitter users to a fake webpage that prompted them to enter their username and password details, and then harvested that information to hack accounts.
And the Yahoo! email account of Sarah Palin, the former US vice-presidential candidate, was famously hacked last year by an internet user who guessed the then Alaskan governor's password using readily available biographical information found online.
Ex-Ala. judge accused of spanking inmates
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009
WARNING SOME DETAILS ARE GRAPHIC!!!
10-04) 09:23 PDT Montgomery, Ala. (AP) --
Herman Thomas had an enviable political record as a black Democrat elected and re-elected in a county overwhelmingly white and increasingly Republican. The respected circuit judge once was the Democratic Party's choice to be the first black federal judge in south Alabama.
Then his career collapsed under allegations that he brought inmates to his office and spanked them with a paddle. Later, an indictment accused him of sexually abusing male inmates in exchange for leniency. The trial on charges of sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion, assault and ethics violations is set to start Monday.
The case has shocked his friends and former colleagues.
"I've always had the highest regard for him. The allegations were a complete surprise to me and everyone else who knew him," said Bob Edington, a prominent Mobile attorney and former Democratic state senator.
Thomas, who was known for wearing distinctive bow ties, stepped down from the bench in 2007 after the allegations of paddling surfaced and just ahead of a judicial ethics trial that could have forced him out of office. He was indicted on the more-serious charges this past spring by a Mobile County grand jury. If convicted of the most serious charges — sodomy and kidnapping — he faces from 20 years to life in prison.
The oldest incident in the charges dates to 1999, his first year as a circuit judge. The first public claim against Thomas surfaced in lawsuits filed by an inmate in 2001 in Mobile circuit court and in federal court that claimed the judge offered to help him with his case in return for sex. Both lawsuits were dismissed, and Thomas' reputation remained unblemished.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson said authorities began looking at Thomas after he changed a jail sentence in 2006 for his cousin, former Mobile County school commissioner David Thomas, even though the case was being handled by another judge. Other cases that Thomas had taken over from other judges without their approval soon surfaced, she said.
Some inmates in those cases described being checked out of the jail for meetings with Thomas in his car or in his private office in the county courthouse. First, there were reports of inmates having to pull down their underwear for spankings with a wooden paddle. Then came allegations of oral and anal sex, according to court records.
Retired Mobile County Circuit Judge Braxton Kittrell said people thought Thomas' personal interest in the defendants was a positive.
"Everyone thought he had a lot of concern for people who got into criminal difficulty. All of this was a surprise to everyone," he said.
Defense attorney Robert "Cowboy Bob" Clark calls the accusers "lying felons" who are trying to wreck the career of "a prestigious member of the Bar for over 20 years." The NAACP has defended Thomas and claims race is behind his prosecution.
But Patterson disputes that, noting that each of the victims is black, and says that jail checkout records back up inmates' claims about trips to Thomas' private office, and other inmates spotted marks after paddlings. There also is other evidence, according to court records, including one inmate's seminal fluid on the office carpet. The inmates also were able to describe in detail Thomas' unmarked windowless office.
Prosecutors say they have 15 current and former male inmates lined up to testify in a trial that could take several weeks.
The 48-year-old attorney, whose license to practice has been suspended, maintains his innocence. He has said he was trying to mentor the inmates.
He and his attorney blame the charges on politicians who don't like him. "There is no doubt that people assisted these inmates in telling these lies on me," Thomas said in April.
His attorney called the indictment "a high-tech lynching" by some in power in Mobile. "They don't like uppity black folks, and that's what they consider Herman," Clark said.
Thomas grew up in Mobile and returned home after law school at Florida State University to become an assistant district attorney.
At the time, the majority white county had no black judges, and local officials were concerned that a federal judge might end countywide elections for judges. Local Democrats and lawyers recruited Thomas because he had a reputation as a young, bright lawyer and was widely respected for his civic activities, Mobile attorney Cecil Gardner recalled.
They got a Republican governor to appoint him to a vacancy in 1990 and he later won election to a full term. He handled lower level cases as a district judge, but he moved up to a county circuit judgeship in 1999 and started handling the most serious crimes, including murder.
In 1997, Alabama's presidential advisory committee recommended President Bill Clinton appoint Thomas as the first black federal judge in the southern district of Alabama. The nomination was never acted on after Thomas failed to get the American Bar Association's top rating and amid some squabbling within the party.
Thomas still enjoys support in Mobile. He and his wife Linda are frequently seen in public, and he continues to keep a high profile, including maintaining leadership roles in several civic organizations.
Edington said Thomas was particularly proud when he got to see his teenage twin daughters march in President Barack Obama's inaugural parade as members of Mobile's Azalea Trail Maids.
"If all these things are proven, then I along with everyone I know will be dumbfounded," Edington said.
LINK TO PHOTO OF HERMAN THOMAS:
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/10/04/national/a080847D12.DTL&type=bondage#ixzz0T50BJuUO
and the Center for Disease Control
Woman Has Chronic Hiccups For 4 Years
Posted: 6:20 am PDT October 2, 2009
Updated: 7:47 am PDT October 2, 2009
So what ever happened to her?
Molisee suffered from what she described as debilitating and relentless hiccups. She couldn't stop her hiccups, and every time WJXT visited her, it seemed to get worse.
And today, Molisee is still at it.
"Four years this month," she said as she hiccuped. "It's very painful."
Molisee said the hiccuping gives her headaches and chest pain. She takes medication, but nothing seems to cure it.
Doctors remain puzzled.
"They're still not sure what's causing it," Molisee said.
She said it has gotten a little better since the last time WJXT talked to her.
"It's gotten to the point where they'll come on for a couple weeks and then they'll go away," Molisee said.
But she said they always come back, though she's not letting the hiccups stop her from living her life.
Molisee said she's getting married in three weeks to her fiance Ryan Tucker, and the two just bought a house.
Even as layoffs persist, some good jobs go begging
AP Business Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009
(10-04) 17:05 PDT (AP) --
In a brutal job market, here's a task that might sound easy: Fill jobs in nursing, engineering and energy research that pay $55,000 to $60,000, plus benefits.
Yet even with 15 million people hunting for work, even with the unemployment rate nearing 10 percent, some employers can't find enough qualified people for good-paying career jobs.
Ask Steve Jones, a hospital recruiter in Indianapolis who's struggling to find qualified nurses, pharmacists and MRI technicians. Or Ed Baker, who's looking to hire at a U.S. Energy Department research lab in Richland, Wash., for $60,000 each.
Economists say the main problem is a mismatch between available work and people qualified to do it. Millions of jobs with attractive pay and benefits that once drew legions of workers to the auto industry, construction, Wall Street and other sectors are gone, probably for good. And those who lost those jobs generally lack the right experience for new positions popping up in health care, energy and engineering.
Many of these specialized jobs were hard to fill even before the recession. But during downturns, recruiters tend to become even choosier, less willing to take financial risks on untested workers.
The mismatch between job opening and job seeker is likely to persist even as the economy strengthens and begins to add jobs. It also will make it harder for the unemployment rate, now at 9.8 percent, to drop down to a healthier level.
"Workers are going to have to find not just a new company, but a new industry," said Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director of Moody's Economy.com. "A fifty-year-old guy who has been screwing bolts into the side of a car panel is not going to be able to become a health care administrator overnight."
It's become especially hard to find accountants, health care workers, software sales representatives, actuaries, data analysts, physical therapists and electrical engineers, labor analysts say. And employers that demand highly specialized training — like biotech firms that need plant scientists or energy companies that need geotechnical engineers to build offshore platforms — struggle even more to fill jobs.
The trend has been intensified by the speed of the job market decline, Koropeckyj said. The nation has lost a net 7.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Yet it can take a year or more for a laid-off worker to gain the training and education to switch industries. That means health care jobs are going unfilled even as laid-off workers in the auto, construction or financial services industries seek work.
"So we have this army of the unemployed" without the necessary skills, Koropeckyj said.
Sitting in his office overlooking the Clarian Health complex, Jones leafed through some of the applications he's received. One came from a hotel worker who listed his experience as, "Cleaning rooms; make beds, clean tubes, vacuum." Another was from a fitness instructor whose past duties included signing up gym members.
Many of the jobless seem to be applying for any opening they see, Jones said.
"You just don't have the supply to fill those particular positions," he said of the more than 200 "critical" jobs he needs to fill at Clarian, including nurses, pharmacists, MRI technicians and ultrasound technologists.
Contributing to the problem is that in a tough economy, employers take longer to assess applicants and make a hiring decision. By contrast, "in a healthier economy, you don't wait around for the perfect person," said Lawrence Katz, a professor of labor economics at Harvard.
To be sure, employers in most sectors of the economy are having no trouble filling jobs — especially those, like receptionists, hotel managers or retail clerks, that don't require specialized skills.
But as more jobs vanish for good, the gap between the unemployed and the requirements of today's job openings is widening. Throughout the economy, an average of six people now compete for each job opening — the highest ratio on government records dating to 2000.
Sifting through applications for jobs at the U.S. Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state, Baker said he sees "people that have worked in other areas, and now they're trying to apply that skill set to the energy arena."
"Unfortunately, that's not the skill set we need."
The jobs opened up after the lab received federal stimulus money to research energy-efficient buildings. Baker needs employees with backgrounds in city management and a grasp of the building codes needed to design energy-efficient buildings. Yet even a salary of $140,000 for senior researchers isn't drawing enough qualified applicants.
Baker said he's getting resumes from well-educated people, including some from information technology workers who want to enter the green-energy field. But he said it could take a year to get an unqualified employee up to speed on all the building codes they need to know.
"We're running out of people to train" new employees, he said. "We simply cannot attract enough (qualified) people."
The lab has hired a recruiter for the first time to fill dozens of positions. Rob Dromgoole, the recruiter, is going so far as to make cold calls to college professors. He's also visiting academic conferences to pitch jobs.
The trend has left jobseekers like Joe Sladek anxious and frustrated. Sladek's 23 years in the auto industry haven't helped his efforts to land a job in alternative energy since he was laid off a year ago.
As a quality control engineer for auto supplier Dura Automotive Systems Inc. in Mancelona, Mich., he made about $75,000. Sladek would review technical reports to make sure the factory's auto parts matched the specifications of clients like General Motors and Toyota.
He hoped to parlay that experience into a similar job at a factory making windmill blades or solar panels. Several factories were hiring, and Sladek landed a few interviews. But he never heard back.
At PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, there's a shortage of qualified applicants for management jobs in tax services, auditing and consulting. Rod Adams, the company's recruiting leader, said huge pay packages on Wall Street siphoned off lots of business school graduates earlier this decade.
"That made our pipeline more scarce," he said.
Some of the openings at PricewaterhouseCoopers pay around $100,000 and don't even require graduate degrees — just specialized accounting certifications or other credentials.
Formerly successful bankers or hedge fund managers don't necessarily qualify.
"We've gotten a lot more resumes, but they haven't been the right people," Adams said
Cancer treatment enters 'very exciting' era
Cancer treatment is entering a “very exciting” era as a number of projects reach fruition that could stop the disease being a major cause of death, Britain’s leading cancer scientist is to claim.
2:55PM BST 04 Oct 2009
Sir David Lane, chief scientist at Cancer Research UK, believes care will be dramatically transformed as teams close in on techniques that are likely to lead to the creation of a new generation of drugs.
“The next few years are going to be very exciting,” he will tell the National Cancer Research Institute.
“There are new drugs coming through that look very promising. Discoveries that were made 25 years ago are now having their impact in the clinic.
“It would be wrong to raise hopes for patients in the very short term, but it would be unimaginable if we did not turn this work into something immensely useful in 10 to 20 years.
“I think that cancer will become a disease that is not a major cause of death.”
Dr Lane will be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the National Cancer Research Institute being held in Birmingham.
Dr Lane and the delegation will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his discovery of a human protein called p53, shown to play a pivotal role in the spread of nearly all cancers.
He said that the protein remained at the centre of the research.
“I was only a junior scientist at the time. It was clear p53 was important,” he said.
“However, none of us had any idea that it would turn out to be vital to understanding cancer. It is almost a universal factor we now realise.”
Known as the “guardian of the genome”, p53 is key to the prevention of cancers.
The disease arises because DNA errors build up inside the body’s cells. It is the role of p53 to correct those errors and prevent cancerous mutations from spreading. It organises repairs to damaged cells and, in those beyond repair, it arranges for the cell to be killed off before it can spread and divide.
However, sometimes p53 becomes damaged itself and cannot do its job.
As a result, rogue cancer cells are able to form a tumour.
“In this sense, you can think of cancers as the living dead – they are made up of cells that should have been killed off but which somehow have not and which pass through the body with deadly consequences,” said Dr Lane.
The crucial point about the discovery of p53’s almost universal role in the formation of nearly all of the 200 types of cancer that affect humans is that it has raised immediate prospects of developing treatments for a wide range of tumours.
Hence the excitement among cancer experts and the number of scientific studies now focused on the protein. These studies led last year to the publication of an average of 10 scientific reports on p53 every day.
Many of these studies are already producing results, as Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, will tell the conference.
“We are starting to use our understanding of p53 to select treatment,” he said.
Dr Lane said what was now needed was to develop a drug that could pinpoint a cell with no p53 in it or possessed a mutated form of p53.
It could then destroy that cell before it could spread and cause cancer.
“That is the ultimate goal. We have a way to go, but we are confident. The last few years have been immensely encouraging.”
He hopes you never live a week like this
Beating, robbery followed by accidental shooting
Friday, October 2, 2009 3:08 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Times have been tough for Ralph Needs.
The 80-year-old still aches from a broken nose and other beating injuries. His right hand is bandaged to protect a gunshot wound.
He can't return to his Groveport home because it's trashed. And his new, red Ford F-350 pickup truck was stolen.
"Hell, for anybody to have been beaten and shot, that would be a bad week," said Groveport Police Chief Gary York.
Needs' problems started Sept. 20. He fell asleep about 8:30 p.m. while watching TV in his bedroom and awoke to find two men standing over his bed.
They'd broken a sliding-glass door to get in and, for some reason, thought he had a lot of money.
For three hours, he was pistol-whipped, tormented and threatened with death.
He doesn't know why he was picked on. Perhaps, he said, it was the new truck in the driveway of his Bixby Road home.
"I don't have a real explanation. It may have given an appearance of money," Needs said this week.
The men eventually took the truck, a computer and credit cards.
Four days later, Needs was shot in his right pinkie and thumb. His eldest son, Steve, was trying to teach Needs how to defend himself with a gun. As Steve loaded the 9 mm pistol, it went off.
Because the shooting was accidental, no charge will be filed, York said.
Needs said he had always felt safe in the Groveport house he has lived in since 1973, even while living alone after his wife died six years ago. He's now living in Lancaster with a relative because his house was ransacked.
"They completely ruined the house, upstairs and downstairs," Needs said.
He was tied up with his belt, punched in the mouth and smacked with a pistol. At one point, his attackers kept him in his bathtub.
"I wouldn't want anyone else to go through it," he said. "They meant to kill me."
Two men terrorized Needs while at least one other -- and maybe more -- turned his house upside down looking for money and items to steal.
One of the assailants kept threatening to kill, electrocute or burn him unless he forked over $20,000, he said. Needs said he doesn't have that kind of cash, but he handed over his credit and debit cards.
One of the robbers took the debit card to an ATM and, with Needs' personal-identification number, withdrew $500.
Needs said one attacker promised, "I am going to burn him."
That man threatened Needs with something that Needs didn't see because, when it was plugged in, the lights in the bathroom were blown out.
When the men left, they locked him in a room by tying two doors together, but he was able to force his way out.
Last week, police found Needs' computer in a house at 1540 Weber Rd. in Columbus. Groveport and Columbus police questioned six people, and Paul D. Keel, 36, who lives there, was charged with receiving stolen property.
Police would not say what led them to Keel. No one has been charged with the assault.
One assailant threatened repeatedly to kill, electrocute or burn Needs unless he forked over $20,000, he said. Needs said he doesn't have that kind of cash, but he handed over his credit and debit cards.
LINK TO PHOTO OF NEEDS':
Stephanie Gutmann was a journalist in Manhattan for about 16 years. She is the author of The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? and The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy.
Top Ten Reasons Chicago Didn't Get the Olympics
Last updated: October 3rd, 2009
Top Ten Reasons Chicago Didn’t Get the Olympics
10. Dead people can’t vote at IOC meetings
9. Obama distracted by 25 min meeting with Gen. McChrystal
8. Who cares if Obama couldn’t talk the IOC into Chicago? He’ll be able to talk Iran out of nukes.
7. The impediment is Israel still building settlements.
6. Obviously no president would have been able to accomplish it.
5. We’ve been quite clear and said all along that we didn’t want the Olympics.
4. This isn’t about the number of Olympics “lost”, it’s about the number of Olympics “saved” or “created”.
3. Clearly not enough wise Latina judges on the committee
2. Because the IOC is racist.
1. It’s George Bush’s fault.
Cops find aspiring pol alive in Maryland
Friday, October 2, 2009
Philadelphia Daily News
A Southwest Philadelphia man who apparently planned to run for office against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady was found alive in Maryland yesterday, a day after police thought that he had been abducted.
Got it? Didn’t think so. The perplexing tale goes something like this:
On Tuesday, Eastwick resident Bismark Agbemble, 29, told his girlfriend, his father and a friend that he had been threatened on the street — he didn’t say where — by two men, police sources said.
Agbemble, a motivational speaker who refers to himself as “Mr. CEO,” was apparently so unnerved by the threats that he stayed at a relative’s house in Yeadon that night.
The following day, his family became worried when he didn’t show up to teach his regular class at ITT Technical Institute in King of Prussia, sources said.
When a relative went to his Eastwick home, the garage door was open, furniture was overturned inside and threatening graffiti was sprayed on the walls, the sources said.
The relative called police, who began trying to piece together the mystifying case.
“There was some concern, because of these threats he had described to others,” said Capt. Benjamin Naish, of Southwest Detectives.
Agbemble’s cell phone had been turned off, and the message had been changed to one “that suggested he was being held against his will,” Naish said.
But with no ransom note, and no contact from any abductors, police and FBI agents who joined the investigation couldn’t make out the situation.
Then, yesterday, they caught a break. Agbemble’s cell phone was apparently turned on and traced to Glen Burnie, Md., Naish said.
Glen Burnie police found Agbemble in a blue Jaguar outside a hotel he apparently had checked into. He appeared to be unharmed.
Investigators interviewed Agbemble and were convinced the “whole thing had been made up, that the threats were not real,” Naish said.
Sources said investigators believe Agbemble may have been plagued recently by mental-health problems.
The former appears to be set up for campaign donations, while the latter features a photo of Agbemble and describes an advocacy group he was a part of.
The site also features a quote from Agbemble that sounds like a campaign theme:
“We’re united by our shared vision to improve the lives of all individuals.”
A month in jail for keying car of Silicon Valley millionaire
10/02/2009 03:34:18 PM PDT
Updated: 10/02/2009 10:04:31 PM PDT
Ending a bizarre four-year ordeal over a vandalized car, an amateur lawyer charged with keying Silicon Valley millionaire Steve Kirsch's electric vehicle was sentenced Friday to serve at least a month in jail.
Judge Joyce Allegro said if convicted vandal Howard Herships fails to comply with stiff probation conditions, she will put him behind bars for a year. Herships, 65, must also take three months of anger management classes, pay Kirsch $5,000 for his legal fees, and complete psychiatric counseling at the direction of probation officials. Allegro also barred the self-styled legal beagle from the unauthorized practice of law.
The sentence resolves a drama prolonged by Herships, who filed a mountain of motions a foot tall in a case ultimately involving seven judges, four prosecutors and more than 60 court appearances — over two scratch marks less than 6 inches long on the rear door of a Toyota RAV4.
Herships keyed the car in 2005 immediately after Kirsch, an avid anti-junk-fax crusader, won a court case against a friend of Herships' for sending multiple unsolicited faxes. The car was parked in the parking lot of the Palo Alto courthouse.
Damage to the electric vehicle: $653.13.
Cost of the case to taxpayers: No one kept tabs, but enough to purchase more than a few new $28,000 RAV4s.
Societal value of sentence, prosecutors say: Priceless.
Prosecutors insisted all along that this was no ordinary vandalism case, and the judge agreed, noted Deputy District Attorney Marisa McKeown, the young prosecutor who fielded dozens of phone calls and legal papers generated by Herships.
Allegro told the court Friday that she viewed the matter not only as a case of vandalism but also as perjury, contempt of court and witness intimidation, McKeown said.
Kirsch said he was relieved the case was finally resolved. "For that sort of behavior, there should be zero tolerance, and I'm appreciative of how the judge handled it," he said Friday after the sentencing.
Herships has been declared a vexatious litigant, or legal pest, by the San Francisco courts for filing repeated frivolous claims, meaning he cannot file any new actions in any state court without permission of the presiding judge. But no such restrictions apply in federal court. Kirsch said Herships "had the gall" to promise in a Sept. 5 e-mail that he would drop a federal lawsuit he filed against Kirsch over the car if Kirsch paid him $1.8 million.
"However, I am open to a counter-offer," Herships wrote.
Kirsch said Friday that he did not make a counteroffer. "However," Kirsch said, "the state has now made Howard an offer he can't refuse."
Howard Herships, who keyed millionaire Steve Kirschs electric car, was sentenced Friday to a year in jail - with all but one month suspended, meaning hell serve about a month in jail. (Santa Clara County Department of Corrections)
Philadelphia Daily News
Posted on Sat, Oct. 3, 2009
Cleared con gets his freedom, not his cash
Staff photographer Larry Peterson
was convicted of a 1987 rape/murder and served 18
years in jail before being exonerated.
THERE are a lot of numbers rolling around in Larry Peterson's head right now, and they just don't add up.
It's been four years since DNA evidence exonerated him for the 1987 rape and murder of a Burlington County woman, but the nearly 18 years he spent in jail for the crime still eat away at him every day.
Even though New Jersey law grants wrongfully convicted prisoners the right to sue the state for up to $20,000 for each year they spent behind bars, he can't believe that the state has spent $214,672 fighting his lawsuits.
"I am mad," Peterson, 58, said recently, smoking a small cigar outside his attorney's office in Moorestown. "I am angry as hell."
Peterson, bedecked in a suit made of a "mixture of reptiles," said he might as well still be wearing his old prison jumpsuit.
"I just went from one prison to another," he said.
William Buckman, Peterson's attorney, said that the state initially agreed to pay Peterson under the 1997 law but that Peterson hasn't received a dime since he filed his compensation lawsuit against the Treasury Department in Superior Court in 2006.
"They had actually agreed to pay him $460,000, but they just never came through with it," Buckman said.
Peterson also filed a federal lawsuit that seeks damages from the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office for violating his civil rights during his arrest, trial and conviction. In court filings, the prosecutor's office has denied those allegations.
Lee Moore, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, said both lawsuits are being handled by the Teaneck firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Wisler.
Moore declined to comment on the cases, but as of last week, he said the state has paid the Teaneck firm $214,672 to represent them in the lawsuits.
s both lawsuits continue to wind their way through the legal system, Buckman claims the state has also put a freeze on expunging Peterson's criminal record.
"It's really Kafka-esque," Buckman said. "There seems to be no sense behind it, other than sheer vindictiveness."
He said it appears that the compensation law was enacted merely for New Jersey to pride itself as a "progressive" state.
"It's got enough loopholes in it to swallow the whole concept," he said.
The statute requires that "innocent persons" must "demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence" that they were mistakenly convicted and imprisoned.
Moore said about 10 individuals have been paid under the wrongful-conviction law since it was enacted.
During Peterson's trial, four witnesses testified that he had confessed to raping and murdering Jacqueline Harrison, whose body was found in a soybean field in Pemberton Township.
Peterson was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to life in prison. In 2003, with the help of the New York-based Innocence Project, Peterson won the right to test the state's biological evidence: hair, skin, blood and semen.
None of them matched Peterson's. Hairs that were reported to be a match with Peterson's belonged to the victim.
Rebecca Brown, a policy advocate with the Innocence Project, said there is legislation in the works in New Jersey that would allow wrongfully convicted prisoners to receive immediate compensation, as well as social services such as job training and housing.
"The goal with any sort of re-entry plan is to do everything possible for people to re-enter society and thrive," she said.
Peterson said he would have received more help from the state if he had been paroled from prison. Instead, he was released into the modern world with few job and life skills.
"I didn't know how to use a cell phone. I didn't know how to use a computer. Everything to me was a challenge. Everything was new to me," he said.
Buckman said he advises Peterson to write "No" when asked on job applications if he's ever been convicted of a crime, but the question always makes Peterson cringe.
In the Internet age, anyone can look him up, make their own judgments and close the door on him, said Brown, of the Innocence Project.
"People feel like they're in this no-man's land. They're not a probationer. They're not a parolee, and yet they're not really free," she said.
"We've heard about exonorees walking around with newspaper articles mentioning that they're exonorees."
Since he's been out, Peterson has worked as a newspaper hawker in Trenton and occasionally as a carpenter. He went to school to get his commercial driver's license, but couldn't find a driving job.
"I've probably applied to over 150 jobs and got a lot of 'Thanks, we'll call you back,' " Peterson said.
Recently, he started a landscaping business, and said he enjoys the sun on his face and cash in his pocket for a hard day's work.
The ever-present threat of prison violence has been replaced by the constant love of a new wife back in his hometown of Pemberton.
"She's the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Peterson said.
Still, Peterson says he can't subtract those 18 years from his mind, no matter when, or if, the state gets around to paying him.
Slow chicken order leads to assault arrest at Norwell KFC
Posted Oct 02, 2009
01:17 PM Last update Oct 02, 2009 08:02 P
Norwell --A couple, apparently irked over the slow delivery of their Kentucky Fried Chicken, assaulted a man at the fast food joint in Norwell, police say.
Witnesses said the couple, who were at the restaurant around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, yelled profanities at the restaurant employees when their food took too long, then beat up a man who asked them to stop for the sake of children in line.
Police say as the man who intervened was leaving the restaurant, Jared Garfagna, 31, of 1732 Ocean St. in Marshfield, ran up behind him and punched him in the head.
The man fell to the ground and Garfagna’s girlfriend, Sara Mohn, 24, of 48 Allen St. in Marshfield, allegedly started kicking him.
The couple left in a car, driving toward Hingham in a brown 2000 Nissan Maxima. Hingham police stopped the car on Main Street.
Mohn was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Garfagna will be summonsed to court for assault and battery.
The victim had cuts on his eyelid and wrists, but refused treatment, police say.
LI NK TO PHOTO:
Clerk says: Show me the gun and I'll show you the money
October 02, 2009 08:47 am
The man got flustered, fled across the railroad bridge to Bradford, but was caught in the woods along the river's edge by police shortly after.
Adam Alsarabi, 22, of 199 Newbury St., Lawrence, entered the White Hen about 12:45 a.m. this morning, got a drink, and approached the counter as if to pay.
That's when he told the clerk to give him money and that he had a gun, police said.
The clerk replied that he could have the money, but to first show the gun.
Instead, Alsarabi took off out the door and ran down Washington Street. The clerk saw him crossing the train bridge into Bradford, where he bolted into the woods, police said.
That's where police found him, attempting to hide in the underbrush. He was arrested without incident. A canine patrol was called in but not needed.
The clerk never saw a gun and police didn't find one on him when they arrested him.
He was arrested by Officer Brad Andrews and assisted by Officer Jason Pearl and several others.
Half a million road crashes 'caused by women drivers applying make-up'
Nearly half a million road accidents a year are caused by women drivers applying make-up behind the wheel, a new survey discloses.
7:00AM BST 02 Oct 2009
Nearly half a million crashes a year are blamed on women drivers applying make-up Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
Around on fifth of female motorists confess they have touched up their mascara on the move – equivalent to 2.7 million of Britain's 15 million women drivers.
Three per cent admitted causing a collision when distracted by applying cosmetics.
The poll of 4,000 women drivers by women's motor insurer Diamond comes a year after the introduction of a new offence of causing death by careless driving which carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
Previously, careless driving offences – including applying make-up, eating and map-reading – were punishable only by a fine.
Young women, aged between 17 and 21, were found to be the most likely to put beauty before safety and most liable to crash their car as a result.
Twenty-seven per cent confessed to putting on make-up and nine per cent of those aged 18 or younger have had a crash while doing so – three times the average.
That compares with just six per cent of women aged 56 or older who are least likely to do it at the wheel and just one in 200 – 0.5 per cent – in that age group who have had an accident while applying make-up.
Diamond managing director Sian Lewis said it is "worrying" that so many women put themselves and other road users at risk.
"We all have busy lives but applying your make-up when you're driving means your full attention is not on the road ahead," she said.
"Is your mascara more important than yours and other road users' safety? Even if you're lucky enough to arrive at your destination safely, you could be charged with careless driving if spotted by the police.
"Women are generally great at doing more than one thing at once but this is definitely one area where multitasking should not be practised."
In March 2006, 22-year-old part-time model Donna Maddock, of Mold, North Wales, was fined £200 with six penalty points for careless driving for applying make-up at the wheel of her Vauxhall Astra whilst doing 32mph on the A490 near Abersoch.
A separate survey earlier this year found that seven out of ten drivers believe it should lead to an automatic ban.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents appealed for women to avoid the potentially deadly distraction and warned it could prove fatal.
"It should go without saying that applying make-up while driving is a dangerous thing to do," said RoSPA's head of road safety Kevin Clinton.
"Driving requires concentration and even a momentary lapse could turn a near-miss into a serious or even fatal accident. Commonsense says apply make-up before or after driving."
Teller Couldn't Read Robbery Suspect's Note
HILLSBORO, Ore. -- A 30-year-old woman tried to rob a bank Wednesday by handing a teller a threatening note, but the teller couldn't read her handwriting, police said.
Hillsboro police said Stephanie Martin walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Hillsboro and handed the teller a note that read, "Need $300 or I'll kill you. I'm serious."
The teller told Martin she couldn't read the handwriting, police said. Martin then walked to a counter and re-wrote the note on a bank slip, according to Lt. Mike Rouches, of the Hillsboro Police Department.
The teller then hit the silent alarm and the bank's manager asked how he could help Martin, Rouches said.
Martin then said she wanted to open an account with the bank, according to officers.
Police and FBI agents arrived at the scene and arrested Martin, who police determined was under the influence of drugs, Rouches said.
LINK TO PHOTO OF STEPHANIE MARTIN:
Four-year-old boy a heavy smoker
The Daily Telegraph October 01, 2009 11:09AM
Deadly habit ... Dong Dong, 4, smokes a cigarette Source: The Daily Telegraph
SHOCKING pictures have emerged of a boy who is a heavy smoker - at just four years of age.
And the Jianghuai Morning Post reports that little Dong Dong, from Banqiao village in China's Anhui province, has been smoking since he was only two.
Dong lives with his grandparents, who run a grocery shop. They say he constantly steals cigarettes to feed his deadly habit.
He also drinks alcohol.
"When he needs cigarettes, he just takes them from the house or steals a pack from the store. We just can't seem to stop him," his grandmother told the paper.
Local doctor Zhang Gong, from Anhui Provincial Children's Hospital, was shocked to see a four-year-old smoke.
"From the way the boy smokes and his posture, he looks to have had a long history of smoking even though he is so young," he added.
Man Sues Froot Loops for Not Being Frooty at All
Man files suit in San Francisco court alleging he was deceived by frooty moniker
Updated 7:08 AM CDT, Wed, Sep 30, 2009
Is froot the same as fruit?
Roy Werbel thought the two words meant the same thing and now he is mad as hell at Toucan Sam for his treasure chest of deceit. The man filed a lawsuit against Kellog's Froot Loops cereal in San Francisco federal court for allegedly intentionally misleading breakfast eaters into believing those delicious colorful loops were actually made from fruit.
Werbel says in his court filing that he mistakenly ate the frooty cereal believing it was healthy for him. Now he is demanding unspecified punitive and actual damages to be paid to everyone else who was taken by the cunning Toucan Sam's friendly smile.
And the fruity plaintiff does not stop there. Werbel filed a separate suit against Pepsico, the maker of Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries cereal, because again he thought there was real fruit in the box.
New fossil moves story of mankind back one million years
Meet Ardi, our oldest known ancestor, who sheds new light on the link between chimps and humans.
5:12PM BST 01 Oct 2009
Ardi lived a million years before the previous oldest discovered fossil
The seven stone, four-foot tall female roamed forests 4.4 million years ago – a million years before the previous oldest discovered fossil.
Her skeleton promises to fill in gaps about how we became human and evolved from apes. It has already reversed some common assumptions of evolution.
Rather than humans evolving from chimps, the new find provides evidence that chimps and humans evolved together from another common more ancient ancestor.
Each has evolved and changed separately along the way, it is believed.
Formally known as Ardipithecus ramidus — which means root of the ground ape — the find is detailed in 11 research papers published in the journal Science.
“This is not that common ancestor, but it’s the closest we have ever been able to come,” said Dr Tim White, an anthropologist and one of the researchers at the University of California.
The lines that evolved into modern humans and living apes probably shared an ancestor six million to seven million years ago, the research suggests.
Ardi has many traits that do not appear in modern-day African apes, leading to the conclusion that the apes evolved extensively since they shared that last common ancestor with humans.
A study of Ardi, under way since the first bones were discovered in 1994 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, indicates her species lived in the woodlands and could climb on all fours along tree branches.
But the development of arms and legs indicates she did not spend much time in the trees, the study claims.
Her pelvis suggests she walked upright and her teeth are closer to humans than primates. While she would have had a muzzle, it did not project out as much as modern apes.
Dr White described her as a “mosaic” that was neither human or chimpanzee.
“The only way we’re really going to know what this last common ancestor looked like is to go and find it,” he said. “Well, at 4.4 million years ago we found something pretty close to it.”
Dr David Pilbeam, palaeoanthropology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, said: “This is one of the most important discoveries for the study of human evolution.
“It is relatively complete in that it preserves head, hands, feet, and some critical parts in between.”
Until the discovery of Ardi, the earliest well-known stage of human evolution was Australopithecus, the small-brained, fully bipedal “ape man” that lived between four million and one million years ago.
The most famous Australopithecus fossil is the 3.2-million-year-old “Lucy,” found in 1974 about 45 miles north of where Ardi would later be discovered.
Lucy was described as the “mother of man” and the missing link between humans and chimps. Before Ardi, she was thought to be the oldest fossil of a human ancestor that walked on two legs.
Dallas woman fuming over smoking neighbor at complex
01:46 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The Dallas Morning News
In an age when smoking has been outlawed in most public places – government buildings, bars and pool halls – a person's home is one of the few places you can puff in peace.
A Dallas woman has filed a lawsuit seeking six figures from a former neighbor and landlord for damage she says was caused by cigarette smoke wafting through adjoining walls of her high-end townhome
"Smoking is not a right, it's a privilege," said Chris Daniel, a retired nurse. "I'm sorry that people smoke. I think it's foolish, but when it comes into my house and hurts my health and my daughter's health and our belongings, it's a different issue."
The case is being watched by townhouse industry groups across the area.
A manager and attorney for Estancia Townhomes, a 52-building community near Prestonwood Country Club in North Dallas, said it's unlikely the Daniels sustained any smoke damage. There is a solid, two-hour fire wall from the foundation to the roof between each of the homes.
And even if some smell did seep through, the Daniels renewed their lease at Estancia – where smoking is permitted – six months after they say the problem began.
"Why do people file lawsuits?" asked Ginger Tye, an attorney representing the property managers and owners. "They're asking for money damages."
The next-door smoker, Rebecca Williams, declined comment.
Chris Daniel and her daughter, Cary, say in the lawsuit that a construction defect is allowing smoke to migrate between the units.
After a year of stinging eyes, breathing difficulty and sinus pain, they moved out of Estancia and into the Homewood Suites in Addison. Last week, movers wearing surgical masks loaded trucks with their belongings.
The Daniels said furniture will need to be reupholstered, artwork restored and closets full of clothing dry cleaned. The bills are still piling up.
"There's nothing in our home that was ready made. I picked out fabrics, everything was custom made and everything was spotless," said Chris Daniel.
"It's not like our worldly goods are the most important things in our life, but you know what? I don't expect them to be damaged."
Some multifamily communities have followed the lead of hotels and car-rental companies – designating nonsmoking rooms or buildings. The Glass House, a 21-story high-rise in Dallas' Uptown, markets itself as a smoke-free property.
Kathy Carlton, director of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, said she's never heard of a case such as the one filed by the Daniels.
She said most people who are highly sensitive to cigarette smoke don't move into a community or a building where it's allowed.
"Generally, this stuff is the property owners' prerogative, and people either live by the rules or move on down the street," Carlton said.
"If you have a pet, you look for a place that takes pets. If you hate pets, you look for a place that doesn't allow them. People have choices."
The Daniels said the freedom to choose cuts both ways.
Yes, people may be entitled to smoke in their home – but others are equally entitled to live in a clean and healthy environment.
The right to swing your fist, they said, ends when it meets my nose.
"This lease says I have a right to a habitable place, this lease says I have a right to quiet enjoyment, this lease says I have a right to safe living," said Chris Daniel, referring to court documents.
"And I did have that ... until someone moved in who did not care about her neighbor."
The Daniels lived at Estancia for four years. Today, after a final walkthrough of their home with an attorney and managers, they will hand over the keys.
Nicole Lott, property director at Estancia, said it's been a long year of acrimony.
Managers replaced air filters repeatedly, installed sealant-type electrical plates and – at the Daniels' request – used an industrial-grade roofing sealant to caulk pipes under their kitchen cabinet.
When that didn't work, managers tried to negotiate a move for both tenants within the community.
Williams, the smoker, finally moved to another unit in June after a judge issued a temporary restraining order forbidding her from lighting up in her home.
"We've done more for these people than we've ever done for anyone else," Lott said. "I don't think it's possible to satisfy them."
Chris Daniel also filed a complaint under the Texas Fair Housing Act, alleging that her sensitivity to cigarette smoke qualifies her for protection set aside for people with disabilities.
The complaint is being reviewed by Dallas' Fair Housing Office.
First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers said a garden-variety reaction to cigarette smoke – puffy eyes, runny nose, coughing – would probably not meet the standard set by the law, a severe limitation of a major life activity.
"Not just anybody will be able to say smoking has that effect, and that's one of the things our Fair Housing Office will investigate," he said.
"It's safe to say most people do not suffer the degree of impairment this person alleges from cigarette smoke."
Chris Daniel has been treated by an allergist and an internist, according to court records, and was prescribed two inhalers.
Dr. Barbara Stark Baxter, a clinical associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, wrote that Daniels "qualifies as disabled under the Texas Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Her attorney, John Clark Long V, said his clients were essentially driven from their home by cigarette smoke.
He illustrated the case this way:
"It was like living life in an ashtray you can never clean."
Cigarette smoke from a next-door townhome prevented her from breathing and ruined a life's worth of belongings.
Smoking is not prohibited in the complex, and construction standards prevent the migration of smoke from one unit to another.
The Dallas city attorney's office
The complaint is under review by the city's Fair Housing Office. To qualify for protection, the cigarette smoke would have to impair a major life function – such as breathing.
The plaintiff qualifies as disabled under the Texas Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Apartment Association of Greater Dallas
Rules regarding smoking are the prerogative of individual property owners and managers.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research
|JOHN F. RHODES
||Cary Daniel and her mother Chris Daniel, of Dallas, claim fumes from a smoking neighbor invaded their townhome where they used to live, by coming through a heating|
Spoiling children with sweets linked to violence in adulthood
Children given sweets or chocolate every day are more likely to grow into aggressive adults, according to a new study.
6:30AM BST 01 Oct 2009
Researchers found that preteens who regularly ate the confectionaries were much more likely to have a conviction for violent crime by the time they reached their mid thirties.
Psychiatrists believe that spoiling or assuaging youngsters with treats may lead to an inability to deal with not getting what they want in later life. This in turn could lead to frustration and anger.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, is the first to examine the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence. It suggests that a better diet could lead to better behaviour later in life.
The findings come from the 1970 British Cohort Study, a project following the lives of 17,500 people born in April 1970.
It found that 10-year-olds who ate confectionery daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence before the age of 34.
Researchers from Cardiff University found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at that age had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42 per cent who were non-violent.
The link between confectionery consumption and violence remained after taking into account other factors.
Dr Simon Moore, lead researcher, said: “Our favoured explanation is that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want.
“Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency.”
But he admits that the exact link is still unclear.
Dr Moore said another possibility is the additives in sweets themselves causing problems with attention and delinquency. But he felt it was more likely the way they are acquired that affected behaviour.
“If parents give their children sweets for attention seeking behaviour, or to prevent bad behaviour, they could be encouraging them to act out more. More research is needed here, but this is the most interesting mechanism.
“We looked at the decision making style and believe children given sweets on demand become risk takers rather than risk avoiders.”
Now researchers believe improving children’s diets may help controlling aggression and reducing violent behaviour.
The researchers concluded: “This association between confectionery consumption and violence needs further attention.
“Targeting resources at improving children’s diet may improve health and reduce aggression.”
5-year-old Goodrich boy's kill: a gator 20 times his size
Sept. 30, 2009, 9:52PM
There are hunters who go a lifetime dreaming of that big kill. Then there's Simon Hughes, who helped nab a beast of an animal on an East Texas hunt — while still in the first grade. The 5-year-old boy from Goodrich was part of a hunting crew that recently killed an 800-pound, 12-foot-6-inch alligator that has wildlife experts shaking their heads.
The reptile, whose size is at a state record level, is now at the taxidermist waiting to be mounted. Simon's family, meanwhile, is fielding calls from CNN and Good Morning America to feature his exploits.
Simon learned to drive all-terrain vehicles and shoot firearms when he was only 4. So he was primed and ready to go on an alligator hunt this past weekend with his father, Scott Hughes, a sixth-generation rancher, and hunting guide Chuck Cotton.
Simon had a new junior-sized .410-gauge shotgun. His first gun had been too big, having a recoil that opened a small cut below one eye after he fired it.
Neither his father nor mother worry about Simon using firearms, because he has been taught gun safety since he was big enough to walk and stand in a deer blind.
“That's the way it is in rural areas,” Scott Hughes said. “We don't think of guns as playthings or something used in videogames.”
By the time of the alligator hunt, Simon could shoot clay pigeons.
Polk County Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, a former Texas Ranger, has been bird hunting with Simon and said he shoots pretty well for his age. “Of course, you always keep an eye on children,” said Hammack, “but he's learned a lot from his father.”
Scott had obtained a state permit to kill two of the 40 alligators populating his 5,000-acre spread near Lake Livingston because he knew something “real big was out there” and driving small alligators from the swampy areas and into his stock ponds.
State law requires alligators be caught on a baited hook or shot with a bow and arrow. So they baited a hook on Saturday with some “smelly armadillo roadkill,” which apparently alligators adore.
When they returned the next day, the line was taut. Something had been snared and was resting beneath the dark 4-foot-deep waters.
‘Never afraid for a second'
The hunters soon discovered their catch was an alligator. They attached it to an all-terrain vehicle with a sturdy line, but the gator proved so strong it almost dragged their vehicle into the water.
Finally, the animal, after thrashing and rolling, surfaced a second time, and Simon, poised 5 feet away, fired the first and what proved to be fatal shot. Cotton, just to be sure, fired one more shot at the giant reptile, which had managed to rip the hook out of its mouth.
Simon said he screamed “holy moly” when he saw the catch of the day. “I was never afraid for a second,” he said of the gator, which is 20 times his size.
Taxidermist Stephen Moye said the head of the 12-foot- 6-inch reptile weighs 104 pounds by itself.
A state wildlife biologist estimated the gator's weight at more than 800 pounds. Finding an alligator of such size is rare, state officials said. Although the record length for a Texas alligator exceeds Simon's kill by 1 foot and 8 inches, the record weight for a gator killed on state property is only 690 pounds, records showed.
Simon, meanwhile, has shown pictures of the gator to his classmates in Goodrich, near Lake Livingston, but that won't be nearly as impressive as when he can bring the mounted head to show-and-tell and display its ferocious 12-inch bite.
“My friends were proud of me, and I was proud of myself,” Simon said of the photos that show him standing alongside the monstrous gator. “It's humongous!”
LINK TO VIDEO:
Michael Paulsen Chronicle
At age 5, Simon Hughes is no stranger to hunting.
His first big trophy — a 12-foot-6, 800-pound alligator, may be hard to top, though.
Michael Paulsen Chronicle
Five-year-old Simon Hughes gets a close look Wednesday at the head of the monster alligator he shot on his family's 5,000-acre spread Saturday. The hide of the reptile, now at Moye's Taxidermy in Livingston, will be made into boots. Simon and his family plan to eat the meat.
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