Friday, November 30, 2007

The Week That Was: 11/30/07

An 8th grader was suspended for 5 days for hugging a classmate. No details yet for you'll get for kissing, copping a feel, or getting inside your date's pants.

A couple of important elections are coming up this weekend. Democracy's down for the count in Russia; there may be hope for Venezuela.

Al Gore got his long overdue trip to the White House. George Bush does his part for global warming by giving Al Gore a chilly reception in the Oval Office. Smiling never looked like it hurt so much.

Darth Cheney experienced an irregular heartbeat this week. Not irregular enough for some folks.

Trent Lott announced his resignation from the Senate. In case you don't remember, Lott was the guy who said that if Strom Thurmond (that good 'ole segregationist) had been elected president (in 1948), "we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years."

Puerto Rico's Miss Universe pageant was peppered with controversy this week when it was discovered that the winner's evening gown had been doctored with pepper spray. I guess you could say that she's one hot mama.

In an interview with Time this week, horror writer Stephen King said that Jenna Bush should be waterboarded, that Britany Spears was nothing more than trailer trash, and that the celebrity with the largest impact on American life this year was Hannah Montana. I'm not sure what smart-ass thing to say about all that.

A British teacher faces 15 days in jail for allowing one of her children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed", and thousands of Islamic fanatics wielding knives demand that she be executed instead. Britain's foreign minister does his best George Bush imitation saying he is "extremely disappointed".

At The Movies: Nothing especially high-profile or particularly noteworthy opening this weekend. Use the time to catch up on "No Country For Old Men", "American Gangster" or "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" before the Oscar rush starts in earnest.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Glimmer Of Hope For Our Constitutional Rights

Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer, newly unsealed court records show.

The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a First Amendment right to keep their reading habits from the government. "The (subpoena's) chilling effect on expressive e-commerce would frost keyboards across America," U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker wrote in a June ruling.

Seattle-based Amazon said in court documents it hopes Crocker's decision will make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain records involving book purchases. Judge Crocker unsealed the documents against federal prosecutors' wishes.

Federal prosecutors issued the subpoena last year as part of a grand jury investigation into a former Madison official who was a prolific seller of used books on They were looking for buyers who could be witnesses in the case. The initial subpoena sought records of 24,000 transactions dating back to 1999. The company refused to identify the book buyers, citing their First Amendment right to keep their reading choices private. Prosecutors later narrowed the subpoena, asking the company to identify a sample of 120 customers, which Amazon also refused to do. Judge Crocker then brokered a compromise in which the company would send a letter to the 24,000 customers describing the investigation and asking them to voluntarily contact prosecutors if they were interested in testifying.

It was only then that federal prosecutors said they could obtain the customer information they needed from one of the suspect's computers. Prosecutors had initially claimed that their computer analysts had been unable to recover the information.

The judge gave a strong rebuke to the U.S. Attorney in his ruling. "If the government had been more diligent in looking for workarounds instead of baring its teeth when Amazon balked, it's probable that this entire First Amendment showdown could have been avoided," he wrote.

Maybe It's Time To Buy A Mac

Truly Desperate Housewife

Megan Meier died believing that somewhere in this world lived a boy named Josh Evans who hated her. He was 16, owned a pet snake, and she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had.

Josh contacted Megan through her page on, said Megan’s mother, Tina Meier. They flirted for weeks, but only online — Josh said his family had no phone. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour. The next day, in his final message, Josh wrote to Megan, “The world would be a better place without you.”

Sobbing, Megan ran into her bedroom closet. Her mother found her there, hanging from a belt. She was only 13 years old.

Six weeks after Megan’s death, her parents learned that Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by 47-year-old Lori Drew, who lived four houses down the street. That an adult would plot such a cruel hoax against a 13-year-old girl has drawn outraged phone calls, e-mail messages and blog posts from around the world. Many people expressed anger because officials did not charge Ms. Drew with a crime. St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Lt. Craig McGuire, said that what Ms. Drew did “might’ve been rude, it might’ve been immature, but it wasn’t illegal.”

Only in response to the incident did St. Charles County make Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail-- too little, too late, according to most residents in the small community near St. Louis.

According to the New York Times story, Lori Drew’s daughter and Megan had at one time been very close friends. Lori Drew said she created the bogus MySpace profile of “Josh Evans” to win Megan’s trust and learn how Megan felt about her daughter. Because Ms. Drew had taken Megan on family vacations, she knew the girl had been prescribed antidepression medication, and she also knew that Megan had a MySpace page.

Shortly before Megan’s death, the Meiers had agreed to store a foosball table the Drews had bought as a Christmas surprise for their children. When the Meiers learned about Lori Drew's MySpace hoax, they destroyed the table and threw the pieces onto the Drews’ driveway. The police learned about the hoax when Ms. Drew filed a complaint about the damage to the foosball table. In the report, she stated that she felt the hoax “contributed to Megan’s suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she found out Megan had tried to commit suicide before.”

“There are no words to explain my rage,” Megan's mother said. “These people were supposed to be our friends.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Death and Disaster in Zimbabwe

Three adult black rhinos have been shot at the Imire Safari park in Zimbabwe, according to a BBC report. The park, 100km southeast of Harare, is home to one of the only breeding centers for the iconic animals.

For the past 20 years the Hamilton family has been rearing the animals and returning them to the wild, but last week, in the dead of night, armed men in camouflage gear burst onto the site and shot dead all three adult females. One of them was just days away from giving birth. Her unborn calf died as well.

"It is deeply tragic. We've been left with four little orphan rhinos, which won't be able to reproduce for about 20 years. The whole breeding program is now at a standstill. It's desperate."

There are only about 3,000 black rhinos left in the wild, and the species is listed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union, which means they "face an extremely high risk of extinction". Last year, one of the four sub-species was declared as "already extinct".

Not surprisingly, the shootings have caused deep alarm among conservation groups, not least because there have been a number of similar attacks in Zimbabwe this year.

Black rhinos are sometimes shot by poachers, who sell their horns as dagger-handles or for use in Chinese medicine, but the Imire rhinos had recently been de-horned as a precaution, so they didn't have any value to hunters. This has led to fears that black rhinos are instead becoming a target in Zimbabwe's battles over land-ownership.

Hue And Cry Over Madonna's Sheep

Madonna has horrified animal activists after dyeing her sheep blue, pink, yellow and green for a Vogue spread at their English country estate, in Wiltshire.

Madonna, 49, and husband Guy Ritchie, 39, insisted the dye used was temporary and did not harm the animals but an online report on has said that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) stated that even though the dye may be safe for the animals those who copy this stunt might not be so careful.

An RSPCA spokesperson said: "Why is it necessary and what are they trying to prove? It is an irresponsible publicity stunt. It sends out the wrong message about how to use animals."

One Kind Of Cell Leads To Another

A New York judge has been removed from the bench for jailing an entire courtroom audience after none of them admitted being responsible for a ringing phone. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of Judge Restaino for what its chairman called "two hours of inexplicable madness" on the morning of March 11, 2005.

It said the 48-year-old judge had been presiding over a series of domestic violence cases when he heard a mobile phone ring and "snapped". "Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now," he told the courtroom's audience. Security officers then attempted to find the phone but failed.

Judge Restaino returned to the bench and again asked who had been responsible for the ringing phone. When no-one came forward, the judge ordered that the entire courtroom audience of 46 people be taken into custody and set bail at $1,500. "This troubles me more than any of you people can understand," the judge explained. "Ultimately, when you go back there to be booked, you've got to surrender what you got on you. One way or another, we're going to get our hands on something."

The audience and defendants were then taken to Niagara City jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were later shackled and transported to another prison.

It was only later in the afternoon, when reporters began to ask questions about the ruling, that Judge Restaino ordered their release. The commission on judicial conduct said Judge Restaino had acted "without any semblance of a lawful basis" and behaved like a "petty tyrant". The judge has said he was under stress in his personal life at the time. He has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

London Art-Goers Addicted To Crack

Artists have long suffered for their craft, but London's Tate Modern is now putting the hurt on patrons. Just four weeks into its opening, a new exhibit by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, entitled "Shibboleth 2007", has claimed 15 victims (the ever-so nimble Daily Dude escaped unharmed after his recent visit, however). The piece is an ever-widening crack, meant to symbolize racial divisions within society, running down the middle of the expansive Turbine Hall's floor.

Despite an internal e-mail warning of "the potential for significant leg injury," sent prior to the exhibit's opening, the fissure has nonetheless claimed the ankles and legs of over a dozen absent-minded Londoners. While some have suggested covering or roping off Salcedo's exhibit as a safety precaution, a Tate spokesperson announced that museum has no plans to do so at this time.

London Underground: Yes, We Mind The Crap

The woman who has been the "Voice of the Tube" for the last eight years has been sacked after allegedly criticizing the London Underground (LU). Voiceover artist Emma Clarke, 36, is the woman millions of Tube travelers hear warning them to "mind the gap". The Manchester resident was said to have upset her bosses at LU by saying she did not use the Tube because it was "dreadful". LU would only say that it would not be offering her further work.

Clarke also made a series of spoof announcements on a website promoting her voiceover work. In one announcement, Clarke says: "We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loudly." An LU spokesman said: "It's not because of the spoof announcements. It's because she has criticized the Underground system. Some of the spoof announcements are very funny. But Emma is a bit silly to go round slagging off her client's services."

She said she was "disappointed and perplexed" that LU had not contacted her but instead had decided to dismiss her via the media. "I can't get in touch with anyone at LU to explain I was wildly misquoted," she said. Clarke also told BBC News: "What I actually said was that traveling in a Tube train would be dreadful for me, listening to my own voice and seeing the haunted faces of commuters being subjected to me telling them to 'mind the gap'. I would find it quite an uncomfortable experience in the same way that when I call a company when I'm their on hold voice and it's me saying - please press 2 for accounts - it's a creepy experience to be honest."

Why Waste Your Breath When You Can Say It All Day Long On a T-Shirt?

More Tourists Are Asking "Ken-ya? Why Not?"

Bethan, 56, lives in southern England on the same street as best friend Allie, 64. They are on their first holiday to Kenya, a country they say is "just full of big young boys who like us older girls." Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the Kenyan coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex.

Allie and Bethan -- who both declined to give their full names to reporters -- said they planned to spend a whole month touring Kenya's palm-fringed beaches. The white beaches of the Indian Ocean coast stretched before the friends as they both walked arm-in-arm with young African men, Allie resting her white haired-head on the shoulder of her companion, a six-foot-four 23-year-old from the Maasai tribe. He wore new sunglasses he said were a gift from her.

"We both get something we want -- where's the negative?" Allie asked in a bar later, nursing a strong, golden cocktail. Bethan kept one eye on her date -- a 20-year-old playing pool, a red bandana tying back dreadlocks and new-looking sports shoes on his feet. He looked up and came to join her at the table, kissing her, then collecting more coins for the pool game.

These same beaches have long been notorious for attracting another type of sex tourists -- those who abuse children. As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts -- about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there -- are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya's government and U.N. children's charity UNICEF reported late last year. Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work, it said, some paid for the "most horrific and abnormal acts."

Emerging alongside this black market trade -- and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down -- are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men.

"Old white guys have always come for the younger girls and boys, preying on their poverty ... But these old women followed ... they never push the legal age limits, they seem happy just doing what is sneered at in their countries." Experts say some thrive on the social status and financial power that comes from taking much poorer, younger lovers. "This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies -- a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions," said Nottinghan University's Davidson.

Many of the visitors are on the lookout for men like Joseph. Flashing a dazzling smile and built like an Olympic basketball star, the 22-year-old said he has slept with more than 100 white women, most of them 30 years his senior.

"When I go into the clubs, those are the only women I look for now," he told Reuters. "I get to live like the rich mzungus (white people) who come here from rich countries, staying in the best hotels and just having my fun."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hillary Pilloried

Ruport Murdoch's The Times of London just threw a bomb onto the campaign trail. The Times, in an article purportedly meant to describe the dirty politics expected in the South Carolina primary, casts a glancing view on all of the dirty rumors being floated about the current set of presidential candidates.

However, the article leads with the biggest piece of mud by far - the long-blogged-about rumor of another Clinton sex scandal. The rumor is that she is having an ongoing lesbian affair with her personal assistant, the striking Huma Abedin (pictured above).

Clinton publicly denied being a lesbian during an interview in September. She was not asked about being a bisexual, nor about her relationship with Ms. Abedin. Since the Times article has now been picked up by the Drudge Report, it will begin to be widely publicized on this side of the pond.

I suppose that it's best for Hillary to get this kind of nasty business all sorted out before the primary season actually starts. The Daily Dude is more than happy to do his civic duty and throw the dirty laundry on the table and help with the sorting.

Changing The Story On Iraq

Note to Tanzania Hospitals: Check The LAST Name

A Tanzanian man who was mistakenly given a knee operation when he needed a brain tumor removed, died after finally having the operation he required. 19-year-old Emmanuel Mgaya died hours after the surgery, performed two weeks late.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Didas, 20, who underwent brain surgery while suffering from a obviously damaged knee, is now partially paralyzed as a result. The government has apologized for the horrible mix-up-- which has (incredibly) been blamed on both men having the same first name.

Didas, who cannot move his right side after the unnecessary brain surgery, told reporters at his bedside that he was able to eat his favorite food again - maize meal with fish and vegetables. Health Minister David Mwakyusa said a commission has been set up to investigate the saga and pledged to send Didas to India for specialized treatment at the government's expense. Didas originally hurt his leg in a motorbike accident.

The family Emmanual Mgaya (the brain tumor victim) has said they are not planning to sue the government - they always knew he only had a 50% chance of survival, as the tumour had grown so large. But they have urged the health ministry to employ qualified and compassionate medical staff.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brazilian Authorities Assailed When Tale of Girl Nailed in Male Jail Unveiled

Authorities in Brazil are investigating reports that a young woman was left in a police cell with some 20 men for a month and repeatedly sexually abused. The governor of the state of Para, where the reported case took place, has promised a full inquiry.

Governor Ana Julia Carepa said the age of the woman, put variously at 15 and 20, was irrelevant as she should not have been jailed with male prisoners. Media reports suggested that the girl was placed in a police cell in the town of Abaetetuba on suspicion of theft.

But human-rights groups say there is uncertainty about what offense the girl was accused of and she was not formally charged. They say that she was raped relentlessly and forced to have sex in order to obtain food. Jails in Brazil are notorious for overcrowding and appalling conditions, and this is not the first time that there has been a controversy over a female prisoner being detained alongside men.

Early Results On The Christmas Shopping Season

Bush-Appointed Judges and Prosecutors Continue Their Assault On Constitutional Rights

Ellen Nakashima of the The Washington Post reported this weekend that U.S. officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects. In many cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Such requests run counter to the Justice Department's internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied.

The issue is taking on greater relevance as wireless carriers are racing to offer new services that allow cellphone users to know with the touch of a button where their friends or families are. Sprint Nextel, for instance, boasts that its "loopt" service sends an alert when a friend is near, "putting an end to missed connections in the mall, at the movies or around town." With Verizon's Chaperone service, parents can set up a "geofence" around, say, a few city blocks and receive an automatic text message if their child, holding the cellphone, travels outside that area.

"Most people don't realize it, but they're carrying a tracking device in their pocket," said Kevin Bankston of the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Cellphones can reveal very precise information about your location, and yet legal protections are very much up in the air."

In a stinging opinion this month, a Corpus Christi federal judge in Texas denied a request by a DEA agent for data that would identify a drug trafficker's phone location by using the carrier's 911 tracking capability. Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley said the agent's affidavit failed to provide "specifics necessary to establish probable cause, such as relevant dates, names and places." Owsley decided to publish his opinion on the case, which would otherwise have been sealed under Bush-era terror laws. Another magistrate judge (who spoke on condition of anonymity), has denied about a dozen such requests in the past six months, saying that agents routinely attach affidavits to their applications that fail to establish probable cause.

"Permitting surreptitious conversion of a cellphone into a tracking device without probable cause raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns especially when the phone is in a house or other place where privacy is reasonably expected," said Judge Stephen William Smith of the Southern District of Texas, whose 2005 opinion on the matter was among the first published.

But judges in a majority of districts have ruled otherwise on this issue, Boyd said. Shortly after Smith issued his 2005 decision, a magistrate judge in the same district approved a federal request for cell-tower data without requiring probable cause. And in December 2005, Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York, approving a request for cell-site data, wrote that because the government did not install the "tracking device" and the user chose to carry the phone and permit transmission of its information to a carrier, no warrant was needed. These judges are issuing orders based on a much lower standard, requiring a showing of "specific and articulable facts" showing reasonable grounds to believe the data will be "relevant and material" to a criminal investigation.

The trend's secrecy is troubling, privacy advocates said. No government body tracks the number of cellphone location orders sought or obtained. Congressional oversight in this area is lacking, they said. And precise location data will be easier to get if the Federal Communication Commission adopts a Justice Department proposal to make the most detailed GPS data available automatically.

Truth In Advertising

All Is Not "Well-ing" If You Weight A "Ton" in New Zealand

If you're fat, you'd better think twice about moving to New Zealand. Richie Trezise, 35, a rugby-playing Welshman, was forced to lose weight to gain entry to New Zealand after initially being rejected for being overweight and a potential burden on the health care system. His wife, Rowan, 33, a photographer, has been battling for months to shed her extra pounds so they can be reunited and live Down Under but has so far been unable to overcome New Zealand’s weight regulations.

Trezise, who moved to Auckland in September after shedding two inches from his waist, said that if his wife was not allowed to come out by Christmas they would abandon the idea of emigrating. His employer-backed skills visa was initially rejected by immigration officials when they discovered that his body mass index, or BMI, was 42, making him morbidly obese under New Zealand regulations. BMI measures a person’s weight in relation to their height. Anything over 25 is regarded as overweight, and 30 or above is obese.

Trezise, a submarine cable specialist and a former soldier, said: "My doctor laughed at me. He said he’d never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit. The idea was that we were going to change our lifestyle totally and get outdoors and on mountain bikes and all sorts of activities." The couple, who both lived in Barry, Wales, were all set for a new life after the weighty Welshman was headhunted by New Zealand’s Telecom.

Robyn Toomath, a spokesman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic and an endocrinologist, said she was opposed to obese people being stigmatised. "However, the immigration department’s focus is different," she said. "It cannot afford to import people into the country who are going to be a significant drain on our health resources. The New Zealand Immigration Service said it did not know how many people were denied entry to the country because of high BMI readings. However, comments posted on the Emigrate New Zealand website reveal that many people have been turned down after medical tests revealed that they were obese.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catching Up With Camille

While I was out of the country quaffing ales in London pubs, I missed Camille Paglia's monthly column on this month, she focuses on several feminist icons. See below for a few choice excerpts on Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres:

The mainstream media have been in a breathless tizzy about how Hillary Clinton . . . screwed up at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia . . . But Hillary's performance at prior debates was never as deft or "flawless" as the media claimed in the first place . . . Hillary's stonewalling evasions and mercurial, soulless self-positionings have been going on since her first run for the U.S. Senate . . . The liberal Northeastern media were criminally complicit in enabling her queenlike, content-free "listening tour," where she took no hard questions and where her staff and security people . . . staged events stocked with vetted sympathizers.

That compulsive micromanagement, ultimately emanating from Hillary herself, has come back to haunt her in her dismaying inability to field complex unscripted questions in a public forum. The presidential sweepstakes are too harsh an arena for tenderfoot novices. Hillary's much-vaunted "experience" has evidently not extended to the dynamic give-and-take of authentic debate. The mild challenges she has faced would be pitiful indeed by British standards, which favor a caustic style of witty put-downs that draw applause and gales of laughter in the House of Commons. Women had better toughen up if they aspire to be commander in chief.

. . .

Ellen DeGeneres' cringe-making on-air meltdown over a dog, leading to her overwrought cancellation of several days of her show, should get a Raspberry Award for worst performance by a lesbian icon. Following Rosie O'Donnell's professional collapse amid lunatic rants and operatic kvetching, this has been a terrible year for Hollywood lesbians' public image. It's as if when the butch mask drops, there's nothing inside but a boiling candy kettle of infantile rage and self-pity. And now Ellen, the professed liberal, is narcissistically flouting the Writers Guild strike. Great going, gals!

Katie Couric Mocks Dan Rather

On a clip now running on YouTube, CBS anchor Katie Couric takes the piss out of former CBS anchor Dan Rather.

In it, she's shown outdoors preparing for a newscast in Nashville. She's seen fixing her overcoat, and immediately makes a reference to a well-known incident when Rather obsessed about how to wear his trench coat for over 20 minutes prior to a live newscast from Seattle. In that clip, Rather goes on and on about whether to wear the coat or not, and then debates whether to have the collar up or not.

Prior to the recent Nashville broadcast, Couric laughingly joked to her crew while arranging her overcoat: "I'm going to be like Dan Rather on YouTube." "Wait, 'What do you think, Mike?'" Couric says, mimicking the clip of Rather. "I think this looks good, this looks more anchorwoman-ish."

Earlier this year, Rather also famously said that CBS had "tarted up" the "Evening News" since he left. In the Nashville clip, Couric also makes a reference to that quote as well.

"I'm going to get in trouble," she says. "Too bad. Come on, it would have been funny. Jeez, don't you think he deserves a little payback? All right, this tart is ready to go."

Maybe It's The Cold Weather That Makes Them Crazy

Russian doctors and rescuers tried this week to coax more than two dozen doomsday cult members into leaving their forest hideout near the Volga River, where they were awaiting the end of the world with the coming of spring.

The cult members have threatened to blow themselves up with about 100 gallons of stockpiled gasoline if authorities forced them out of their cave bunker near the village of Nikolskoye, about 400 miles southeast of Moscow, regional spokesman Yevgeny Guseynov told reporters.

Pyotr Kuznetsov, a self-declared prophet who established his True Russian Orthodox Church after he split with the official church, has not joined his followers. He was undergoing psychiatric evaluation after he was charged with setting up a religious organization associated with violence.

The 29 people—including four children, one only 18 months old—were stocked with food and other supplies in the snowy forest hideout. Russian Orthodox monks carefully descended into the snow-covered gully to try to make contact with the cult, but members refused to speak. They were, however, exchanging letters with church leader Kuznetsov and doctors, who promised food or medical supplies if needed.

Kuznetsov said his group believed that, in the afterlife, they would be able to judge whether others deserved heaven or hell. They are not allowed to watch television, listen to the radio or handle money. Members of the group don't eat food packaged with UPC codes— which the cult regards as the mark of the Antichrist.

Gas Station Owner Gets Filled Up With Leaded

A battle between two Detroit gas stations took a shocking and tragic turn when one of the station's owner shot his rival after becoming irate over a gas-price cut.

The confrontation started when the owner of a BP station went to the neighboring Marathon station to discuss with its owner why he'd dropped the price for a gallon of unleaded gas to $2.93 per gallon, three cents less than BP.

The discussion quickly escalated into a fight with two more people from the BP station brawling with rivals at Marathon. One man was hit with a baseball bat in the melee. And then the 51-year-old owner of the Marathon station pulled out a gun and shot the owner of the BP, Jawad Bazzi, a 45-year-old father of five children.

To top it all off, it appears the BP station (whose owner was now dead) took advantage of the shooting. While the police shut down the Marathon station to secure the crime scene, the BP station temporarily jacked up its prices--- changing the price-per-gallon of unleaded from $2.96 to $3.09.

Boy George's Male Escort: "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?"

Boy George has been bound over for trial in England, accused of falsely imprisoning a male escort by chaining him to a wall. He was released on conditional bail until he appears at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court on February 25.

The former Culture Club lead singer is accused of falsely imprisoning a 28-year-old male escort at his home in Ravey Street, Shoreditch in east London. Earlier this year, Boy George performed community service in New York City for falsely reporting a burglary at his Manhattan apartment. When the police reported to his flat in that incident, they found a stash of cocaine.

Big Changes Down Under

Australia's Conservative party was spanked in federal elections yesterday-- a humiliating end to Johnny Howard's 11-year run as Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd's Labor party is expected to take at least 81 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, garnering over 70% of all ballots counted nationwide. Johnny Howard is also likely to lose his own seat in Parliament-- the second sitting prime minister in 106 years to do so.

Kevin Rudd's leadership team (which includes former Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett ) has promised to immediately withdraw all of Australia's troops from Iraq as well as immediately sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions (leaving the U.S. as the only industrialized country not to have done so).

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Week That Was: 11/23/07

U.N. Sec. Gen Ban Ki-Moon visited Antarctica last week. Dude-- you're pathetic. Not only did you miss Ann Curry by over a day, she's already married! Do something about that global warming in your pants.

Baseball's steroid king Barry Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury. Let's hope that baseball takes away the arrogant wanker's home run record as well.

Army desertion rates are at their highest in over 25 years. Duh. It just shows that soldiers are smarter than their commanders (in chief) and know when to get out.

Lindsay Lohan served 84 minutes in jail for a drunk driving offense. Just enough time for her to score some blow off the warden bitch.

Bush stepped forward to help ease air travel delays in advance of the thanksgiving holiday. How about getting rid of the moronic passport regulations and endless security screenings, dude?

Hillary Clinton canceled a fund-raising event with the Sikh community in California this week. Event planner Bob Virk accused her political staff of not wanting to see Hillary Clinton with people wearing turbans. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign called that suggestion ridiculous-- saying that Hillary has always felt that turbans can make a nice accessory for bad-hair days.

Italian courts have tackled a long-standing critical issue-- banning gossip in the media. Mafia Dons applauded the move, saying that spurious talk of their extramarital affairs, hair transplants and plastic surgeries have had a corrosive effect on their ability to extort money from the general public.

Saudi Arabian officials defended a six-month jail sentence levied against a rape victim this week by its Supreme Judicial Council. A court watcher was quoted as saying, "The bitch deserved it. Men cannot be responsible for controlling their urges or interpreting Islamic law correctly-- men are savages, let's admit it."

This weekend at the movies: "The Mist" looks like a re-hash of "Dawn of the Dead". Maybe the title refers to the smoke that was hanging over the room where the film's screenwriters worked. "August Rush" seems appropriately titled-- that's how much of a hurry people will be in to go see the flick. My bet: The Coen brothers' "No Country For Old Men", based on Cormac McCarthy's book and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Somebody Please Explain The Rules Again

A rugby player has been jailed for 15 months at Swansea Crown Court for stamping on an opponent's head. Rhys Garfield, 23, of Pontycymmer, was playing for his village team when he stamped on Gareth Howells, who was playing for the home side, Glynneath.

Garfield caused a 4-inch wound which needed 30 stitches. The judge said it was "wholly unacceptable behavior" on a rugby field. Garfield had been found guilty by a jury of unlawful wounding last month.

Howells' injuries were characterized as "cosmetic" and had returned to playing the game shortly thereafter. However, the judge said only a custodial sentence was appropriate. The prosecutor, in explaining his decision to press charges, said "I know people can overstep the line in rugby and become aggressive, but this was beyond that. I did not want this person to get away with that."

Leaders Of The Free (and Randy) World

Nearly 1,031,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in the United States last year - the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted disease, federal health officials said last week. The count broke the single-year record for reported cases of a sexually transmitted disease, which was 1,013,436 cases of gonorrhea, set in 1978.

More bad news: Gonorrhea rates are jumping again after hitting a record low, and an increasing number of cases are caused by a "superbug" version resistant to common antibiotics. Health officials don't know exactly how many superbug cases there were among the more than 358,000 gonorrhea cases reported in 2006. But a surveillance project of 28 cities found that 14 percent were resistant to ciprofloxacin and other medicines in the fluoroquinolones class of antibiotics. The superbug gonorrhea has been on the rise not only in California and Hawaii, where the problem has been most noticeable, but also in the South and parts of the Midwest.

Syphilis is rising, too. The rate of congenital syphilis - which can deform or kill babies - rose for the first time in 15 years. Syphilis, a potentially deadly disease that first shows up as genital sores, has become relatively rare in the United States. About 9,800 cases of the most contagious forms or syphilis were reported in 2006, up from about 8,700 in 2005. "Hopefully we will not see this turn into a trend," said Dr. Khalil Ghanem, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University's School of medicine.

The CDC releases a report each year on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, three diseases caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.

Vladimir Puttin' On The Hard Sell

President Vladimir Putin launched a searing attack on the west and Russia’s marginalized political opposition this week, accusing them of plotting together to weaken the country and return it to the chaos and thievery of the 1990s. He warned Russia that enemies were intent on snuffing out its economic revival and provoking an ill-intentioned “Orange” revolution.

“Those who oppose us don’t want our plans to be completed. They have completely different tasks and different views of Russia. They need a weak, sick state, a disorientated, divided society, so that behind its back they can get up to their dirty deeds and profit at your and my expense,” Putin warned. "Regrettably, there are those inside the country who feed off foreign embassies like jackals and count on support of foreign funds and governments, and not their own people."

Russia’s state-controlled Channel One devoted almost its entire early evening news to the often nationalistic speech, which ended with a call to vote for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. A crushing victory for the pro-Kremlin party is widely expected to become a platform for Mr Putin’s appointment to a new political post or to proclaim him “national leader” when he stands down as president next year. Putin’s scare tactics appeared aimed at the “Other Russia” coalition of former chess champion Garry Kasparov, and at Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister turned opposition leader.

At almost the same time, an opposition politician running in Russian parliamentary elections was shot and seriously wounded as he entered his house in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, according to Russian media reports.

Farid Babayev, who will lead the regional list for the liberal anti-Kremlin Yabloko party was in a serious condition in hospital, RIA novosti news agency reported after an unidentified gunman fired on him in the regional capital Makhachkala. Dagestan is in the North Caucasus, next to Chechnya, and has been hit by an upsurge in separatist attacks in recent months and crime. Babayev was not expected to win a seat in the December 2 parliamentary elections. Under Russian law, a candidate (even one that garners the majority of votes locally) cannot win a seat in parliament unless his party gathers at least 7 percent of votes on a national basis. Under this system, various local candidates from the controlling political party are able to win seats even though they finish second or third in their local precincts.

Things are not looking good for the upcoming December 2 election. Europe’s main election monitoring group has already said it was scrapping plans to deploy observers to Russia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections in a decision that could cast doubt on the integrity of the poll.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe claimed Moscow had imposed “unprecedented restrictions” on its activities. Russia had slashed the number of observers it would admit to the election and then repeatedly delayed issuing visas for OSCE monitors.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ranting About Rich Snobs and Rat's Milk

Heather Mills McCartney, the former model who is in the middle of a multi-million divorce battle with Paul McCartney, denounced the world's rich as misers and snobs this week. McCartney filed for divorce last year alleging "unreasonable behavior" by his wife. British press reports have speculated that McCartney has offered his wife around $50 million, while she is seeking at least double that amount.

Mills delivered the critical comments during a speech to the debating society of Trinity College Dublin. Mills said she was reluctantly obliged to befriend the world's wealthy because that was the only way to maximize her power as an agent for change. "Sadly, you have to mix at a certain level of people to raise the level of funds you need to bring about the greater good," she said. "Because people are very snobby. These people who have lots of money, they're either snobby or they're stingy. If you have lots of money, you have to be stingy — because why would you want that amount of money?"

She also compared herself to human rights crusaders down through the ages, suggesting they all had been victimized for their beliefs. "If you look at every single person in the history of the world who has tried to make a difference, you'll find a very long section of their lives where they were treated horrifically by the government or by the media," she said.

The speech came just days after she appeared at Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park. In that appearance, Mills suggested that people drink more rat milk, as she derided meat, dairy and fish products as principal causes of global environmental collapse. The 39-year-old Mills also asked people to cut down on one or two meat and dairy and fish dishes a week. "We are the only species that drinks another person's milk, so why aren't we drinking rat's milk, or dog's milk, or cat's milk, that's how crazy it is," she said. "It's mad that we are having cow's milk. Even cows don't drink it after one year but we continue forever."

The one-legged model's move to raise her profile on environmental issues was widely disparaged by the British press. Mills provoked accusations of hypocrisy after she arrived at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park in a gas-guzzling Mercedes 4x4 - and kept the engine running for part of the morning. One of the posters in the ad campaign shows Miss Mills - whose leg was amputated after a motorbike hit her as she crossed a street - sending herself up with the logo: "You haven't got a leg to stand on!"

Lazy Rapist

A Florida man is being held without bond accused of raping wheelchair-bound woman many times over the past year. According to reports, the Clay County Sheriff's Office said they began to investigate after a woman in her 20's told investigators Raymond Betros had repeatedly sexually attacked her and threatened to choke her if she told anyone.

28-year-old Betros was arrested and charged with sexual battery on a disabled person. He was booked into the Clay County Jail. Officials there said Betros was accused of a similar crime involving sexual activity with a disabled woman in 2002. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served six months in jail and was not required to be listed with the state's sex offender registry.

"It would have been nicer to have a sex offender status on the defendant," Clay County Detective Andrew Bowman said. Authorities said if he is convicted of the new, first-degree felony charge, he could spend up to 30 years in prison.

Brit Binge Boy Batters Bar Babe

A binge drinking ex-public schoolboy is facing charges in Britain, where details of his brutal crime hit the press last week. 24-year-old Adam Thomas picked up a strange girl on Valentine's Day and battered her to death after telling her 'I am the Grim Reaper'. He also boasted he got a sexual thrill out of kicking and beating her to death and said the killing was 'enjoyable and fun'.

Thomas was highly intelligent and had passed nine GCSEs and three A levels before starting a degree at Portsmouth University and dropping out after two years. He started binge drinking and had become so hooked on alcohol his mother confiscated his bank card to stop him buying it.

Thomas, of Trinfield Road, Exmouth, denies murder and the prosecution have rejected his plea of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. He is a former pupil of the £9,000 a year Exeter School. Prosecutor Martin Meeke said it is accepted Thomas had a psychopathic personality disorder but was intelligent enough to know what he was doing and realize it was wrong.

According to reports, Thomas had drunk at least five pints of lager before going to the club where he drank Carling, champagne, and Sambucca before picking up his victim. He later told police he could not even remember her name or what she was wearing. He said he was not interested in her and they did not have sex. They went back to her flat and listened to country and western music for two hours before he attacked her. He punched her to the ground, stamped on her so hard the pattern of his trainers was left on her face and battered her to death with a half brick she used as a doorstop.

Thomas allegedly told the first policeman to arrive at the scene 'I fucking stamped on her head, I fucking loved it. I killed someone. Big fucking deal." Thomas is also believed to have also told police he got a sexual thrill out of the act of killing.

The Daily Dude Is Back

Got smashed on the flight, avoided a crash in the big pond and am now safely stashed in my pad. Will blog later tonight with pictures to share as well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Daily Dude Going Offline

The Daily Dude will be in London for a about a week-- looking forward to "hitting the piss" as pubs and quid allow. Will have pictures on the blog upon my return.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Smokey And The (Butt) Bandit

The Fox News station in Washington, DC recently ran a story about vigilant bloggers in DC who are documenting (via video and photos) various acts of prostitution and drug abuse in order to clean up their neighborhoods.

But the Fox story doesn't come close to providing all the sordid details, as provided by Dupont Circle resident Keith Eby, who was the source of the story.

On this blog entry, Keith describes (and documents in a series of photographs) the full extent of the extracurricular activities that took place in his alley between a crack addict and a prostitute.

Before Eby could grab his camera, a black man starts things off with a 3-minute blow job from a white girl (possible a boy). Once our intrepid "Jimmy Olsen" starts snapping away with his camera, he then captures the black guy producing a crack pipe-- from which both share some puffs.

The incident comes to a climax when the prostitute pulls down his/her pants (and diapers, natch) and allows the black guy to cornhole him. Naturally, our eager photog is busted when he leans in too closely and bangs his lens against the window-- catching the attention of dynamic duo.

Swimming Can Be A Beach

Planning a vacation this winter? Before you start checking flights, you might want to cross these places off your list. Each year there are about 50 to 70 confirmed shark attacks and 5 to 15 shark-attack fatalities around the world. The numbers have risen over the past several decades but not because sharks are more aggressive: Humans have simply taken to coastal waters in increasing numbers. However, I'm not sure the reason would matter that much if I was lying bleeding on the beach waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

While experts say that coconuts kill far more people each year, I still would feel safer having a beer under a palm tree than swimming in the waters pictured below. All of these beaches listed below are home to some of the most aggressive, predatory species of sharks, according to experts.

-Kosi Bay, South Africa: Zambezi sharks
-Gansbaai, South Africa (“Shark Alley"): Great white sharks
-Brisbane, Australia: Great whites, bulls
-Bolinas Beach, Northern California: Great whites
-New Smyrna Beach, Florida: Blacktip and spinner sharks
-Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa: Great white and bull sharks
-North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii: Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks, tigers
-Recife, Brazil: Bull sharks
-Kahana, West Maui, Hawaii: Tiger Sharks
-West End, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas: Tiger Sharks

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bill Balsamico and His Signs: Election Edition

Aussie Mom Solves Problems In Piecemeal Fashion

An Australian shot her husband dead, hacked him to pieces with an axe and put the pieces in a freezer 15 years ago, a Sydney court was told last week. Her son, who was a teenager at the time, allegedly helped dispose of the body in a number of NSW locations, and kept the murder a secret.

His left arm and legs were found at two sites in Sydney's south in October 1992, days after a truck driver discovered his torso near Kiama on the NSW south coast. The remains of Wayne Robert Chant, 47, of Revesby, were only recently identified after advances in DNA technology. His head, hands and right arm have never been found.

Joyce Mary Chant, 56, was charged with murder while the son, 34-year-old James Vincent Chant, was charged with being an accessory after the fact. The police secretly recorded conversations between the mother and son discussing the killing. On the tapes, the widow was heard to say, "I don't know why they can't find the other arm because I put everything there, in the river. I put the legs in one place, arms in the other."

In another conversation, the son said to his ex-girlfriend, "Dad didn't go missing, mum killed him ... yeah, she cut him up and we got rid of the pieces ... mum put the bits into freezers ... the head was put into an esky and filled with concrete."

Defense lawyers say that Wayne Chant had been a violent alcoholic who abused his family. The pair sat next to each other in the dock but did not look at each other. According to press reports, they were denied bail and have been remanded to reappear in court early next year.

Farm Animal Drops In On Moo-ving Vehicle

An American couple have survived unscathed after their minivan was crushed - by a falling cow. Charles and Linda Everson were driving back to their hotel when Michelle, a 600-lb rodeo cow, landed on the roof of the vehicle. Amazingly, the beast had fallen 200 ft from a cliff.

Chelan County fire chief Arnold Bake said the couple missed being killed by a matter of inches in the accident near Manson in Washington State. The pair, who were visiting the area to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, were taken to hospital but later released.

Unfortunately, Michelle was not so lucky. She had to be put down. Mr Everson, 49, said he was in shock as he watched the bovine bounce off his battered roof. According to reports, he said, "I'm just glad to be alive. It's raining cows out here, man!"

The driver said he saw something hit his vehicle but amazingly kept on driving for a mile before pulling over. "All of a sudden I'm looking at it, and I tell my wife, 'It's a cow,'" he said. Chelan County Sheriff's Sergeant Mike Harris said the animal was a Professional Bull Rider-registered cow that had escaped its ranch about a month ago. "It was bred for rodeo," Sgt Harris told the paper. "It was not your normal cow in a field."

Congress Should Learn To Say "NO"

Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

The study, conducted by Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates, also sought to debunk what the report called "myths propagated by abstinence-only advocates" including: that comprehensive sex education promotes promiscuity, hastens the initiative of sex or increases its frequency, and sends a confusing message to adolescents. None of these was found to be accurate, Kirby wrote.

Instead, he wrote, such programs improved teens' knowledge about the risks and consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and gave them greater "confidence in their ability to say 'no' to unwanted sex."

A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.

Summit Heats Up In Chile

A somewhat undiplomatic moment sprung up at the closing of the Ibero-American summit this weekend in Santiago, Chile.

Speaking at the closing session, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (a close ally of George W Bush) a fascist, adding "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

In his speech, current Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero said: "Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."

Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off.

A clearly irritated King Juan Carlos of Spain, then leaned forward, and using the familiar tense (normally used for close friends or children) retorted, "Why don't you shut up?"

According to reports, Chavez later responded to the king's rebuke, saying, "I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner."

The theme of this year's 22-nation summit was "social cohesion".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our Lady Of Prostitution

A Kentucky Catholic school principal is on "personal leave" from his post after being discovered by cops sitting in his car "wearing an all-black, leather, woman's outfit, fishnet stockings and women's black plastic breasts" in a Louisville neighborhood "known for prostitution and narcotics".

50-year-old Paul A Schum was found by Louisville Metro police officers late on Tuesday "dressed as a woman and wearing bondage gear". They became suspicious when Schum offered them "conflicting stories about why he was parked in the alley dressed as a woman".

Schum, who is denying all allegations, was issued a citation to appear in court later this month on a misdemeanor prostitution rap. He is head of the Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, described as a "Christ-centered, college preparatory, co-educational high school that challenges students to develop spiritually, academically, socially, and morally in the Catholic tradition".

According to news reports, the local archdiocese released the following statement: "Per our policy, Dr. Schum has requested and is taking personal leave from his position as principal of Bethlehem High School pending the outcome of the investigation."

Fox News Raiding The "Hen" House

Came across this video condemning Fox News and its supposed "campaign against indecency" in the media. Spot on, dude.

Unraveling Cable At Last

The FCC is finally making moves to open the cable television market to competition after determining that cable companies have become too dominant in the industry.

Officials say the finding could lead to more diverse programs; consumer groups say it could also lead to lower rates. The decision would be a notable exception to the broad deregulatory policies of the Bush administration. Under the Bush regime, numerous industry regulations have been relaxed and many large corporate mergers have gone unchallenged.

If French companies can offer TV/Phone/Internet packages for under $50 (see here, here and here) then why can't Comcast?

Playing Games With The Hungry

After only one month online, an internet word game has generated enough rice to feed 50,000 people for one day. The game, called FreeRice, tests the vocabulary of participants. For each click on a correct answer, the website donates money to buy 10 grains of rice.

In the interests of Karma protection, the Dude is posting the link to the site HERE.

Now for the ugly part: Toshiba, Radisson, Apple, Amex, Macy's, Office Depot, Time/Life-- quit playing games with the needy! For once, donate some fucking money without expecting advertising exposure in exchange!

FreeRice is the invention of US online fundraising pioneer John Breen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Week That Was: 11/9/07

Pakistan is a mess. Musharraf imposes martial law, suspends constitution, places opposition leaders under house arrest-- but later softens, promising to hold free elections within months. Bottom line: no promises yet to reinstate impartial judges to the supreme court. Many say the current situation is a sham, with the sole purpose being the elimination of anti-Musharraf judges.

Hollywood writers are on strike, and Fox has postponed the January debut of "24" indefinitely. Jack Bauer to the rescue, please!

King Tut finally showed his face-- in all his buck-toothed, wrinkled glory. Sean and Christian from Nip/Tuck to the rescue!

Walter Mondale endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. We didn't care for Mondale in 1984, why should we care now?

Nancy Grace popped twins this week. She's going to name them "Guilty" and "Not Guilty".

Stephen Colbert was forced off the South Carolina primary ballot, effectively ending his mock presidential bid. Colbert said, "Although I lost by the slimmest margin in presidential election history—only 10 votes—I have chosen not to put the country through another agonizing Supreme Court battle. It is time for this nation to heal."

John Kerry said he'll be ready for the Swift-boaters next time. What next time?

French PM Sarkozy was a smash in Washington this week. Nevertheless, France will not be sending troops to Iraq, and freedom fries were not served at his state dinner.

Rosie O'Donnell blabbed about her negotiations with MSNBC and her proposed show fell through. News that Dan Abrams would continue on the air indefinitely sent the dollar to new lows.

Doctors now say it's good to be fat. Another order of wings with extra blue cheese dressing!

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, endorsed Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. After the press conference, Rudy was called upon to perform the Heimlich maneuver when Robertson began choking on his pride.

At the movies this weekend-- my pick is the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men. As for Redford's film, I can't figure out if Tom Cruise is the lion or the lamb.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The New "Back Alleys" Of Nicaragua

Two weeks after Olga Reyes danced at her wedding, her bloated and disfigured body was laid to rest in an open coffin — the victim of Nicaragua's new no-exceptions ban on abortion.

Reyes, a 22-year-old law student, suffered an ectopic pregnancy. The fetus develops outside the uterus, cannot survive and causes bleeding that endangers the mother. But doctors seemed afraid to treat her because of the anti-abortion law, said husband Agustin Perez. By the time they took action, it was too late.

Nicaragua last year became one of 35 countries that ban all abortions, even to save the life of the mother, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. The ban has been strictly followed, leaving the country torn between a strong tradition of women's rights and a growing religious conservatism. Abortion rights groups have stormed Congress in recent weeks demanding change, but President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary and a Roman Catholic, has refused to oppose the church-supported ban.

Evangelical groups and the church say abortion is never needed now because medical advances solve the complications that might otherwise put a pregnant mother's life at risk. But at least three women have died because of the ban, and another 12 reported cases will be examined, said gynecologist and university researcher Eliette Valladares, who is working with the Pan American Health Organization to analyze deaths of pregnant women recorded by Nicaragua's Health Ministry.

Before the ban took effect on Nov. 18, 2006, fewer than a dozen legal abortions were recorded per year in Nicaragua. They were performed only when three doctors agreed a woman's life was in danger. However, the Roman Catholic Church estimates that doctors and other medical staff carried out about 36,000 "secret" abortions a year, because under the old law they had little fear of government reprisals.

This year the Health Ministry has recorded 84 deaths of pregnant women between January and October, compared with 89 for all of last year and 88 the year before. It listed hemorrhaging as the most common cause, with 27 cases reported. The ministry refused to comment further on the ban.

Law student Reyes was one of the three confirmed fatalities. She knew something was horribly wrong, and went with her husband to their small town's medical center. They were sent to Bertha Calderon maternity hospital, more than an hour away in Managua. There, Perez said, Reyes was given a cursory exam, sent home and told to return the next day. By that time, the bleeding and cramping were worse. Perez said he rushed her to a hospital in nearby Leon, but after she had an ultrasound that confirmed her condition, they left her bent over and in agony for hours in a waiting room. When a doctor at a shift change saw her condition, she was rushed into surgery. She suffered three heart attacks and an exploratory surgery.

Valladares said doctors should have acted quicker. "They knew she had a limited amount of time before she bled out. The whole world knows that with an ectopic pregnancy," Valladares said. "They didn't treat her, out of fear." The hospital director, Olga Maria de Chavez, said Reyes arrived late at night, and was told to return the next morning when specialists were available. The doctors who handled her case in Leon refused to talk to the Associated Press.

Walter Mendiata, president of Nicaragua's Association of Gynecologists and a supporter of the abortion ban, said doctors are taking the new law too far. He argues that surgery for an ectopic pregnancy isn't the same as carrying out an abortion. "There's no discussion in a case like that," he said. "It's urgent, and you operate." But he acknowledged that many doctors fear they will be accused of performing an abortion, which could mean a license suspension and several years in prison, even though no one has yet been prosecuted.

Some doctors privately admit to carrying out what they believe are illegal procedures, while others say they won't jeopardize their careers. "Many are thinking that instead of taking the risk, it is better to let a woman die," said Dr. Leonel Arguello, president of the Nicaraguan Society of General Medicine.

As If Barfing In Public Wasn't Bad Enough

A British woman suffered a fractured skull when she was hit by an express train as she leaned over a platform to puke.

The Watford Junction to Gatwick service was traveling at 65 mph when it struck the 28-year-old woman at Purley Oaks station in Croydon, south London. A police spokesman said she was found at the bottom of some steps in the station and taken to a local hospital with serious head injuries.

The driver of the train from Watford Junction reported that the incident happened so quickly, that he was only able to sound the horn just prior to the impact.

Ooops! Sorry About That Beat-Down

A 66-year-old man was bashed to death while watering his lawn in an argument over water restrictions, according to Sydney police. A 36-year-old man, whose name has not been released, has been charged with murder following the fatal altercation.

The killer approached the elderly man (whose name has not been made public) as he watered his lawn in southern Sydney with a hose at 5:30 p.m. last Wednesday. An argument over Sydney's water restrictions ensued, after which the elderly victim sprayed the younger man with his garden hose. According to the police, the younger man responded by punching and pushing the older man to the ground and kicking him.

An off-duty police officer intervened and arrested the younger man. The older man was taken by ambulance to the hospital but died soon after, police said.

As it turns out, the victim was in fact complying with Sydney's water restrictions when he was killed. Watering with hand-held hoses is allowed on Wednesdays and Sundays before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

Soccer Coach Caught "Offside"

A youth soccer coach has been suspended for allegedly going to the middle of a sports field in Windsor after a contentious match, pulling down his pants and exposing his buttocks to his opponents - a team of 14- and 15-year-old girls.

Several of the girls and their parents were offended and immediately called police, who plan to ask Sonoma County prosecutors to file misdemeanor indecent exposure charges against the coach, Windsor police Sgt. Steve Brown said.

The coach, a Petaluma resident who was not identified, was leading his team in an under-16 tournament game at Hiram Lewis Park. The contest had featured physical play and "heated arguments," Brown said in a written statement.

After the alleged gesture, police officers spoke to the coach, who denied exposing himself, Brown said. He said the coach had been suspended.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


David Phillips, who claims that he had oral and anal sex with Senator Larry Craig 20 years ago in Craig's Capitol Hill home, is now being targeted by the State of Virginia.

Phillips has now been told by the state of Virginia that he must return his vanity license plate, "Poofter," that he has had for over 11 years. According to the Post, Phillips received a letter that stated:

"You may have grown fond of your personalized plates," but they are "socially, racially or ethnically offensive or disparaging" and "you must return them."

The Virginia DMV does not go back and reconsider plates that have been on the road for years. "We definitely rely on residents to report any inappropriate message," says DMV spokesman Melanie Stokes, who, citing privacy rules, won't comment on how Phillips's tags came in for reinspection.

Chump Change Courtesy Of Us Chumps

CNN Money is reporting that not everyone is happy about mortgage lenders' latest efforts to help troubled borrowers. Teresa Nelson, who bypassed a risky ARM (with its lure of a low initial rate) for the security of a 30-year fixed at 7.10 percent.

But many delinquent subprime borrowers who went for low teaser rates that shot up to unaffordable levels are now paying lower rates than Nelson as part of a new round of foreclosure prevention packages. And many folks like Teresa don't like it. For example, one subprime borrower had a riskier hybrid adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) with a rate of 7 percent that was going to reset in December to 10.5 percent. But last month, as part of a new bailout plan from Countrywide Financial, the lender gave him a rate reduction to 5 percent on his loan, saving him hundreds of dollars a month.

Nelson, like many others, feels cheated and has little sympathy for people who let their greed get the better of them-- for them, no bail-out, no assistance via taxpayer money. Steve Bailey, Countrywide's CEO of loan administration says he understands their anger but said, "That's a situation where the greater sin is letting their homes go into foreclosure. You have a vacant home in the community and drive down the property values of neighbors."

Not according to John Aravosis, who blogged the following:
[Steve Bailey (Countrywide's CEO) is right]--- because in a free market, capitalist economy it would be wrong for home prices to drop and wrong for me to have to spend less on the condo I'm looking to buy. Since when was it anybody's job to artificially drive up the prices of homes in my or any other neighborhood? Since when is it wrong for someone else to have their home value decrease because of a market adjustment, but it's right for me to have my future home cost increase because of an artificial intervention? They lose money, it's wrong - I lose money, it's right. Uh huh. I am just increasingly sick and tired of every bail out of the rich and the poor, from the right and the left, coming at the expense of those of us in the middle who never seem to get anything, except an increasingly large bill for helping everyone else at our own expense. I'm not opposed to helping others. I am opposed to never being on the receiving end of such help. The Republicans help one side, the Dems the other, and no one thinks of the middle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Horse Euthanized At Melbourne Cup

Australia's Melbourne Cup was marred by tragedy as one-time cup aspirant Bay Story crashed when leading in the Lavazza Long Black with rival Bling Bling crashing over the top.

Bay Story, who lead into the straight, had just been passed by the eventual winner, Red Lord, when he suddenly shifted ground, with his hind leg collapsing underneath him. Bay Story had to be put down and jockey Mark Zahra was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

Bling Bling's rider Greg Childs returned to the enclosure nursing a sore head. Bling Bling cut his head on the railing but Childs said the injury was not serious.

Later in the day, Efficient-- ridden by Michael Rodd and trained by Graeme Rogerson-- won the 147th running of the Melbourne Cup. The 12-1 shot came from behind to edge out the UK-trained Purple Moon. Irish-trained Mahler came third after leading into the final straight.

By mid-day, Victorian punters had outlaid more than $25 million on the Melbourne Cup, with a lot more expected as the day rolled on. TAB Corp expected about $35 million to be bet on the race in Victoria and $150 million across the country.

He said that, while horse racing in some parts of the country had been hit by equine influenza this year, punters never missed an opportunity to place a bet on the Melbourne Cup. Lenny Schlomovitz is a clerk at Metrobet and he says millions of dollars are wagered every Melbourne Cup Day. Despite the money that changes hands Mr Schlomovitz is no fan of cup day.

"I loathe it. It's too crowded, too many drunks. It's a great day out if you want to see 22-year-olds all dressed up with top hats vomiting on themselves," he said.

Eight-Limbed Child Believed To Be The Reincarnation of Vishnu

A toddler born with eight limbs and believed by some to be the reincarnation of the multi-limbed Hindu goddess Vishnu, is set to undergo a 40-hour operation to remove half of her limbs. Lakshmi Tatma was born joined to a 'parasitic twin' and will go under the knife at the hands of 30 surgeons to remove two of her useless arms and legs.

The headless 'twin' is joined to Lakshmi at the pelvis and has its own spinal column and kidney. Without the operation the little girl would never be able to walk or crawl and would be unlikely to live past her early teens, doctors said in an interview.

The extraordinary eight-limbed baby was born in a poverty-stricken region of Bihar, India - on the day devoted to the celebration of the four-armed Hindu deity Vishnu. Her mother Poonam Tatma said she believed her daughter was "a miracle, a reincarnation" of Vishnu.

Dr. Sharan Patil, who will be leading the surgery at the country's Narayana Health City, in Bangalore, said: "Fortunately, Lakshmi has one complete body with a near perfect set of organs. "Her skeletal system involves two bodies which are fused together at the level of the pelvis. The operation itself, although presents several challenges, is not the most complex in the world. What is highly unusual in Lakshmi's case is precisely how her bodies are fused, almost mirroring each other."

Parents Poonam Devi and Shambu Das, who earn about $1 a day as casual labourers, were turned away from several hospitals before her plight was taken up by Dr. Patil. The operation is expected to cost about $208,000.

Poonam, who gave birth to Lakshmi on the celebration day of the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity after whom the new born was named, said: "She is a miracle, a special blessing from God. But she is my daughter and she cannot live like this."

The Worst Floods To Ever Hit Southern Mexico

Thousands of people were left stranded on their rooftops awaiting rescue or supplies of food and drinking water in the flood-stricken state of Tabasco in southern Mexico. The water level had started to fall slightly but the centre of Villahermosa, the state capital, remained several metres under water, the national water commission, Conagua, said.

About 80,000 people in 17 towns remained isolated by the floods, which have left 800,000 people homeless. Rumours circulated that crocodiles were prowling the murky waters.

Local media reported widespread ransacking of abandoned shops and homes in Villahermosa, despite stern warnings and arrests. Looters said they were stealing to feed their families. Outside the city rescue workers said it was difficult to reach flood victims because of a boat shortage, and there were few dry areas where helicopters could land.

The army evacuated 5000 people in a four-hour operation with 14 helicopters, police said, while trucks brought food and bottled water to some 600 overcrowded shelters struggling to provide enough meals and dry beds.

Farmers expressed fears that their cattle, herded on to patches of higher ground with nothing to eat, would be lost along with their harvests.

The official death toll rose to eight, mostly reported from the neighbouring state of Chiapas, where there were severe floods, and mudslides in mountainous areas. In that region, authorities had drained water from two dams to prevent them from exceeding their capacity. Chiapas authorities declared a state of emergency in 22 municipalities while 2,500 people have been taken to shelters. The Federal Electricity Commission also said it was unclear when it would be able to close the spigots in the Penitas dam in Chiapas.

The Government of Mexico has not requested international assistance. In a radio and television address last week, President Felipe Calderon called the Tabasco flooding one of the worst natural disasters Mexico had ever seen and appealed to the Mexican people to donate to the victims. More that 8, 000 persons from Marines, the Army and Civil Protection are now mobilized in addition to more than 10,000 volunteers. Some 400 vehicles are being used to ensure transportation to safe areas or shelters. Soldiers and state authorities had placed more than 700,000 sand bags along the rivers to prevent flooding.

Health officials warned against outbreaks of tropical diseases, such as the mosquito-borne dengue, and water borne diseases. The General Coordination of Civil Defense of the Secretary of Government has issued an emergency declaration for 17 municipalities in Tabasco and 22 in Chiapas in order to activate resources from the Revolving Fund for Natural Disasters to assist the affected population. See this site for the latest updates on the flooding situation and the relief efforts underway.

UPDATE: Overnight, reports came in that a mudslide had struck a village in Mexico's southern Chiapas state, leaving at least 16 people missing and feared dead. The slip followed heavy rain which has caused severe flooding in Chiapas and in the neighbouring state of Tabasco.

Foreign aid is beginning to arrive in the region but big difficulties remain in distributing the aid. Water levels remain high and thousands of people are still waiting for food and other supplies. The floods that hit last week are some of the worst in Mexico's history. As many as half a million people have seen their homes damaged or destroyed, and at least 20,000 people remain trapped in their homes. The Mexican military has rescued almost 40,000 people in the two states.

Rescue teams were despatched to the community of San Juan Grijalva, where heavy rainfalls caused a hillside to collapse into a river. Local media reports said the landslide buried many houses and as many as 30 people could be missing. Some residents are thought to have fled into the hills to escape the advancing wall of mud and debris. "This village practically disappeared," the Associated Press quoted Chiapas governor Juan Sabines as saying at the scene.


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