Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let's Do Launch

The yacht pictured below was being loaded onto a cargo ship for delivery when something went wrong and it crashed nose first into the ocean. Sure, that has to suck big time-- but not as much as it did for the guy that went along for the ride (top right, rear of the boat).

Directing Traffic In Iraq The Easy Way

Jiminy Cricket!

Cricket-crazy Dave Morrison showed off his crooked fingers to reporters recently-- they're the result of half a century playing as a wicket keeper.

Dave, 64, has broken every digit over the years but was too scared of hospitals to get them treated. Instead, he left them to heal themselves with only bags of frozen peas to numb the pain — meaning each one is now crooked.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deadly Bug In Florida Waters

Reports are coming in that something strange in the lakes around Orlando, Florida, has claimed the lives of three boys this summer. "This thing is just there. It's lurking like some deadly thing in the water which can take our children's lives and we all have to be aware," said Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Kevin Sherin.

The "thing" isn't a fish or alligator. It is so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye. The killer that lives in the hot, fresh water is a single cell amoeba that once exposed to the human brain through the nasal passages is almost always fatal.

At first people exposed to the amoeba, naegleria fowleri, suffer from flu-like symptoms. Very quickly, in from one to 14 days, the symptoms worsen, Sherin said. "There's a downhill course. Folks lapse into a coma; there are abnormal movements of the eyes and a terrible cascade of events leading to the actual death of parts of the brain."

Sherin said exposure to the amoeba can be detected by an MRI and it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough, but Sherin said he believes medical personnel are not in the habit of looking for the disease. That is because the amoeba is very rare. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, has documented 24 cases in the United States since 1989.

Health officials do not know what caused three cases in Orlando in one summer. Theories range from warmer temperatures to a drought that has lowered lake levels. Sherin said officials considered closing access to the lakes, but concluded they did not have the authority. Even if public lakes had been closed, private lakes would have remained open.

So, at 15 parks and lakes around the city, warnings about the amoeba have been posted. The signs urge bathers to wear nose clips or stay out of water warmer than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be a breeding ground for the amoeba.

"[My son's] symptoms were like a flu bug," Steve Sellars, father of 11-year-old Will, said. "We rushed him to the hospital and two days later he's passed away. It's like a nightmare."
A month later, a 10-year-old boy died from exposure to the amoeba. Investigators have not determined where he was exposed. The death of a 14 year-old boy in June in the Orlando area also is being blamed on the amoeba.

As he investigates the deaths of the three boys from the amoeba, Sherin is concerned these type of deaths may be underreported. Health departments in Florida are not required to report amoeba infections to the state. The illness is so rare, he said, it may be commonly misdiagnosed in the United States and internationally. He said anyone who exhibits flu-like symptoms who has been in a lake recently should see a doctor immediately.

Sling Blade: The Sequel

The body of a 41-year-old Melvindale man, who went to extraordinary and bizarre lengths to kill himself by constructing a 7-foot-tall guillotine was discovered in a wooded area near a Detroit shopping center last week.

"It was the most deliberate suicide I've seen in my 28 years as a police officer," said Dale Covert, deputy chief of Allen Park Police. "It was one of those things where when you saw it, you couldn't help asking yourself, "What the heck?" Groundskeepers from the shopping center discovered the device and the body in a thickly wooded area in an undeveloped section of the retail parcel populated with hiking trails.

Police, who believe the man had been dead two days, declined to release his name to the press. Covert said the man had lived within walking distance of the spot where he died. Investigators believe the man made numerous trips to carry the wooden and metal parts of his contraption into the woods where he assembled it. Receipts for the materials used to build the device were found scattered on the ground, but a suicide note was not found.

"He spent some time doing this," Covert said. "This wasn't a spur of the moment plan." The machine utilized a "swing arm-type blade," according to police, instead of the typical falling blade guillotine used by French executioners in the 18th century. The device had a lever that allowed the man to trigger it himself, the deputy chief said.

Allen Park police and firefighters disassembled the machine after photographing it at the scene. Some of the metal parts, including the blade, were kept as evidence while the wooden parts were to be disposed of because they were soaked in blood and considered a biohazard, Covert said.

Although the device didn't completely decapitate the victim, Covert said he believes the man died instantly from his injuries. "It's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my life,"Covert said. "It probably didn't quite work the way he planned, but it succeeded in taking his life, probably instantly. I don't believe he suffered."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brilliant Billboards

Modern-Day Invasion Of The Body Snatchers?

Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities told reporters this week.

Around midday last Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.

Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a "strange odor," local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP. Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized, Lopez said.

Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide and 20-foot-deep crater, said local official Marco Limache. "Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned," he said.

Getting Down Down Under

Monday, September 17, 2007

Guilt By Stereotype

Street Justice Takes Hold In Northern India

Vigilante justice appears to have become the order of the day in the lawless northern Indian state of Bihar.

The latest incident in which 10 men suspected to be thieves were lynched by a group of villagers in Vaishali district underscored the people's frustration with the police. The villagers said that they were fed up with rising theft for the last two months in spite of informing the police regularly.

The villagers of Vaishali are not the only ones to dish out vigilante justice to suspected thieves and burglars in Bihar. Two weeks ago, in bustling Bhagalpur town, a mob nearly beat to death a man who was accused of snatching a gold chain from a woman.

What was more shocking was the fact that the incident took place in the presence of two policemen who were filmed by a local news channel dragging the man on their motorcycle.

On September 9 alone, there were three particularly horrific cases of public lynchings and beatings. First, three suspected motorcycle thieves were caught by villagers in Nawada district and brutally beaten up with sticks, stones and metal rods. The enraged mob even gouged out an eye of one of the suspects, Tinku Singh, with a pointed iron tool. The three men were taken to hospital.

Then, two men caught stealing material at a thermal power station in Begusarai district were beaten up by locals in the presence of policemen. They were later shot dead by unknown persons - and the locals said the police had fired on them. The police deny killing the men.

And in Nawada district, two children, aged 13 and 12 years, were beaten up by locals and paraded with their heads shaved for allegedly stealing salt and detergents from a local grocery where they were employed.

Such mob anger is not restricted to the villages alone. About six months ago, people in the Sultanganj area in the state capital, Patna, lynched a suspected criminal in full public view.

Earlier, three alleged criminals were nearly beaten to death in the posh Rajendra Nagar of the capital. The police arrived and allegedly shot them dead in front of a cheering mob.

Bihar has been India's most lawless state for many years now, and a change in government two years ago doesn't seem to have improved matters much. Even after the government tried to restore sagging public confidence in the police with a range of new measures - speedy trials, giving police a free hand to conduct investigations and appointing new officers in many districts - crime remains stubbornly high. More than 2,000 people were abducted in the state in the first half of this year. Bihar opposition leader Shyam Rajak says people have "no option, but to lynch criminals" when crime is so high.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Watched Too Many Re-runs Of "High School Musical"

Meet 26-year-old Paul D. Brunelle-Apley, who is a convicted sexual offender. He was arrested last week after he delivered flowers and a teddy bear to a 14-year-old girl Madison High School to apologize for cheating on her with a 15-year-old girl, police said.

Brunelle-Apley is charged with eight counts of unlawful sexual contact with two minor girls and is being held in jail after failing to post bond. Police believe Brunelle-Apley considered the 14-year-old his girlfriend, and accuse him of having sexual contacts with the 15-year-old victim at least twice during the summer. Both girls admit to having had sexual contact with Brunelle-Apley. He has a previous conviction in 2003 on similar sex-related offenses.

Whiz Kids At Boston High School

If you were a high school girls soccer player and you really wanted to screw with your rival you could probably think of a lot of things to do-- such as paint your logo on their bench or steal their mascot. However, the girls of Holliston High School outside of Boston came up with something new-- they all popped a squat on rival Medway High Schools synthetic field.

As a result of the "squat-and-run" attack, Medway officials were forced to spray the artificial turf at Hanlon Field with disinfectant prior to the hot-anticipated game.

"It's always healthy to have a friendly rivalry between two towns, but when it gets ugly - it's sad,'' said Medway School Committee member Stephen Dahl.

The whole incident came to light when pictures showed up on the internet showing the varsity girls Holliston soccer team urinating on the Medway field. "We don't know (if they really urinated). Nobody knows except the girls themselves, and they claim they didn't do it - they were just simulating it,'' said Dahl. "What the photos speak to is that obviously they weren't thinking,'' said Trindade. "These poor kids have to be an embarrassment to their parents.''

Medway Police said they did not respond to the incident, nor are they investigating, and the school district is handling the episode on its own. While the punishment meted out by the school has not been made clear, varsity football player Mike Healy said the team might have to forfeit its two games against Medway this year.


A woman was arrested and charged with arson and burglary after police say she set fire to the home of a neighbor she thought had stolen her keys.

Sgt. Clint Riley of the Lane County Sheriff's Office said the 23-year-old woman later found her keys hanging from her pants pocket. The woman was being held in the Lane County Jail in lieu of $350,000 bail.

According to reports, the woman told a deputy that after discovering her keys missing, she broke into her neighbors' trailer, and began trashing the place. After going home to fetch lighter fluid and cooking oil, she returned to the neighbors' place and tried to start a fire by spraying lighter fluid on a hot stove burner, according to the report.

When that didn't work, she allegedly placed the oil and a stuffed animal on the stove. She called 9-1-1 and hid in a bush across the street while deputies and firefighters responded to the fire.

The woman's boyfriend said a friend called him at work and he rushed home to find her hiding in the bushes, barefoot and incoherent. The woman told her boyfriend her keys were missing, at which time he pointed to a set of keys hanging from her pants pocket and "she began to cry," Riley said.

Want A Boob Job? Join the Australian Navy!

Australia's opposition Labor Party has questioned the need for female sailors to be given breast enlargements paid for with public money. An armed forces spokesman defended the operations, saying they were carried out for psychological reasons, not to make sailors "look sexy".

Brigadier Andrew Nikolic told the BBC the "holistic needs" of service personnel were considered under defense policy. But he said breast augmentations were not routinely funded by the military.

"We do consider the broader needs of our people, both physical and psychological," Brig Nikolic said. "But that is a long way from saying that if someone doesn't like their appearance, Defense will fund things like breast augmentation as a matter of routine - that is just not correct."

He was speaking after one plastic surgeon said he had carried out breast enlargements on two sailors, aged 25 and 32, for $8,500 each. Brig Nikolic said such operations were only recommended after a medical evaluation.

But the opposition Labor Party said it wanted details on the cases. "On the face of it, taxpayer-funded breast enhancement is a questionable practice," said Labor defense spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon. "I have to say it smacks of a government out of touch."

Baghdad Boil Bursts in Bubbaville

Texas doctors have identified nine cases of the skin disease leishmaniasis in patients who have not traveled to endemic areas.

The infectious disease, sometimes called the Baghdad boil, is common in South America, Mexico and the Middle East, but the North Texas patients identified by doctors at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center had not traveled to any of those areas.

The infection causes large sores that look like boils and usually last six to 12 months. The disease is caused by a single-celled parasite called Leishmania, and special cultures must be done to confirm the diagnosis of leishmaniasis, the hospital said Friday in a release.

Dr. Kent Aftergut told UPI that all of the leishmaniasis cases in North Texas appear to be Leishmania mexicana, which is less dangerous than other forms of the parasite.

Doctors suspect human infection begins when a sand fly bites a rodent called the burrowing wood rat, which carries the parasite. When the sand fly later bites a person, the sores may develop.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tom Ford Releases New Fragrance

American fashion designer Tom Ford released his new fragrance this week with the ad below. I imagine many men will look forward to the familiar musky, juicy scent of this "new" fragrance. If it isn't already available at your home, it can now be bought in stores.

Fishy Flare-up Fouls Food Supply in Zambia

Zambia's government has warned citizens against eating fish killed by a mysterious disease after hundreds of them were found dead on River Zambezi in western part of the country.

Agriculture Minister Ben Kapita told reporters that government has appointed a team of experts to investigate the outbreak of the disease that has killed several hundreds of sore-covered fish in the river in recent weeks. "We want to quickly find out the cause of the disease before the situation gets out of hand," Kapita said. The team would travel to western province to probe the cause of the disease and establish whether it can be transmitted to humans, he said.

Several hundred dead fish with sores have been found in recent weeks floating on the river by fishermen, Kapita said, and warned Zambians to refrain from eating such fish until investigations were conducted. A mysterious disease, which infected fish in parts of the Zambezi River in nearby Namibia, also broke out last December, forcing the government to impose a two-month ban on fishing to safeguard the public. Scientists later found it to be epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS). EUS-infected fish developed large sores and died.

Attacking Bees Corner Disabled, Elderly Fellow-- Gee!

A disabled Texas man died this week after being attacked by a swarm of bees outside his home. No one is sure what set off the swarm-- when firefighters arrived on the scene, they found 57-year-old Paul Lee Campton already covered in bees.

“They were on him head to toe,” according to local fire chief Elias Saldivar. His firefighters pulled the man away, suffering stings on their faces as they fought off attacks. “The coat and pants only cover so much,” the chief said of his firefighters’ protective clothing.

Rescuers separated the victim from the marauding bees, but it was too late. Campton, a disabled man who uses a walker, died at Mission Regional Medical Center after being stung more than 1,000 times.

The attack happened after Campton and his 41-year-old brother Lester, opened the garage door and were swarmed by as many as 1,000 bees. Lester Campton escaped to a neighbor’s house and called for help. Alton firefighters arrived on the scene to find a thick, dark cloud of bees attacking the men.

As paramedics took Paul Lee Campton to the hospital, the bees followed after them, stinging emergency workers, Chief Saldivar said. No rescuer sustained serious injuries. Paul Lee Campton died later that night at the Mission Regional Medical Center. His brother Lester was not seriously hurt.

Pest control workers later destroyed the majority of the bees, and authorities said they pose no further threat.

Dueling Dissidents

The Daily Dude Is Back Online

Apologies for the unintended week-long break. After suddenly being unable to access the internet beginning last Saturday afternoon, I thought that my computer was possibly the victim of a worm or spyware intrusion. In reality, it was only just some corrupted ZoneAlarm files, which was fixed by re-installing ZoneAlarm. Whew!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Which Species Is He Working For, Anyway?

When a Coney Island lifeguard spied a shark near an upset group of swimmers, he did what he thought was right: He rescued the fish. Marisu Mironescu, 39, said he was prompted to action Monday after seeing about 75 to 100 people circling the 2-foot sand shark off the beach and "bugging out."

"They were holding onto it and some people were actually hitting him, smacking his face," Mironescu told reporters. "Well, I wasn't going to let them hurt the poor thing." He grabbed the largely harmless shark in his arms and carried it, backstroking out to sea, where he let it go. "He was making believe like he's dead, then he wriggled his whole body and tried to bite me," Mironescu said.

"We had a little bit of a punctuation mark at the end of summer with 'Jaws' junior showing up and frightening people," said Adrian Benepe, the city Parks Commissioner. The rescue ended a holiday weekend that began with another city shark scare two days prior, when a 5-foot thresher shark washed up on Rockaway Beach, sending hundreds of swimmers out of the water. About 10 blocks of the beach were also closed down for hours on Labor Day weekend.

Airport Officials Act Capra-ciously, Some Say

Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said this week.

Nepal Airlines, which has two Boeing aircraft, has had to suspend some services in recent weeks due the problem. The goats were sacrificed in front of the troublesome aircraft Sunday at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said.

"The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights," said Raju K.C., a senior airline official, without explaining what the problem had been. Local media last week blamed the company's woes on an electrical fault. The carrier runs international flights to five cities in Asia.

Sure Sign That Your Roommate Is A Geek

Confining Miss Daisy

Worried neighbors in Atlantic Beach, Florida asked police to check out a home in their neighborhood. When they got there the front door was padlocked from the outside, the backdoor nailed shut, and a 92-year-old woman was locked inside.

"There's no air conditioning in the house at all, they said it was over 95 degrees. None of the windows were open, a couple fans were on inside the residence," says Atlantic Beach Detective Tiffany Layson. Police used bolt cutters to get in and took the woman to the hospital.

The woman's 40-year-old grandson, Wilfred Hutchinson, was arrested when he walked up to the house while police were still there. He told detectives he'd been locking up his grandmother for three or four years.

It's one of the worst cases of elderly abuse Atlantic Beach Police have seen. "It's awful, breaks our hearts, she also had a foot injury so she could barely walk, then to lock the residence knowing it's possible she would need medical care, it's a sad situation," says Layson. Hutchinson is still in jail, his bail is set at $100,000.

New Jersey Parking Authority Leaves The Door Open

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Week That Was: 9/7/07

Fred Thompson is in. Jack McCoy officially takes over as District Attorney.

Jerry Lewis uses the "F" word; Eddie Griffin uses the "N" word. Fuck No!

It ain't over until the fat lady sings. For Pavarotti-- the fat man, anyway.

Apple's refunds to overeager IPhone buyers leaves IPod buyers wondering if they overpaid too . . .

Senator Larry Craig resigns, then reconsiders, then decides he probably will resign after all. Some degree of indecisiveness in recently-outed gay people is to be expected, I suppose.

Thousands of faulty Chinese-made condoms were returned by the DC government. I guess that explains why they have over a billion people over there.

Katie says there's significant improvements in Iraq. I guess "CBS" stands for "Couric's Been Smoking" . . .

Adventurer Steve Fossett went missing in the Nevada desert this week. Three days, and no signal . . . from a guy who probably has GPS implanted in his dog, I'd say he's circling the drain.

George Bush tells Australia's Johnny Howard he's kicking ass in Iraq. Yeah, Petraeus' ass-- for recommending a troop reduction.

At the Movies-- go with "3:10 to Yuma", which pits Maximus (Crowe) against Batman (Bale) in a remake of the classic Elmore Leonard western. The film takes place in the 1800's, so you won't be seeing Crowe through any phones at anybody.

Bush Gets A Little Trimming

A federal judge struck down controversial portions of the Patriot Act in a ruling that declared them unconstitutional, ordering the FBI to stop its wide use of a warrantless tactic for obtaining e-mail and telephone data from private companies for counter-terrorism investigations.

As reported by Wapo, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York said the FBI's use of secret "national security letters" to demand such data violates the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers, because the FBI can impose indefinite gag orders on the companies and the courts have little opportunity to review the letters. The judge's comments echo some of the same concerns expressed by district court judge Royce Lamberth earlier this summer.

The secrecy provisions are "the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values," Marrero wrote. His strongly worded 103-page opinion amounted to a rebuke of both the administration and Congress, which had revised the act in 2005 to take into account an earlier ruling by the judge on the same topic.

Although a government appeal is likely, the decision could eliminate or sharply curtail the FBI's issuance of tens of thousands of national security letters (NSLs) each year to telephone companies, Internet providers and other communications firms. The FBI says it typically orders that such letters be kept confidential to make sure that suspects do not learn they are being investigated, as well as to protect "sources and methods" used in terrorism and counterintelligence probes.

The ruling follows reports this year by Justice Department and FBI auditors that the FBI potentially violated privacy laws or bureau rules more than a thousand times while issuing NSLs in recent years -- violations that did not come to light quickly, partly because of the Patriot Act's secrecy rules. Former Attorney General Gonzales got himself into hot water with Congress after he lied to them about whether there had been past FBI abuses of such secret NSL's.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Just For Men Of Terror

From the Middle East comes breaking news that Osama bin Laden will appear in the coming days in new video in what would be the first images of al-Qaeda's Director of Dread in nearly three years.

Analysts noted that al-Qaeda tends to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary with a slew of messages, and the Department of Homeland Security said it had no credible information warning of an imminent threat to the United States.

Still, bin Laden's appearance would be significant. Al-Qaeda's Head of Horror has not appeared in new video footage since October 2004, and he has not put out a new audiotape in more than a year, his longest period without a message.

One difference in his appearance was immediately obvious. The announcement had a still photo from the coming video, showing the Prime Minister of Panic with his beard fully black. In his past videos, bin Laden's beard was almost entirely gray with dark streaks. There was no apparent explanation for the mysterious change in beard color.

Extensive analysis of the still photograph, in conjunction with newly obtained CIA intelligence, have led Middle East analysts in the Bush administration to conclude that the First Man of Fear's beard has been dyed, a popular practice among Arab leaders.

IntelCenter, which monitors Islamic Web sites and analyzes terror threats, said the video was expected within the next 72 hours-- in conjunction with the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, or perhaps to coincide with opening weekend NFL broadcasts-- it's too soon to tell.

Cuero's Creepy Creature

A strange hairless, fanged creature with a protruding stomach and hind legs longer than its fore legs was run over and killed near Cuero, TX last month. Phylis Canion, who discovered and took pictures of the creature, said this was the weirdest and ugliest creature she had ever seen-- and she should know, having been to Africa twice on safari.

Ms. Canion is so convinced that it has scientific value that she kept half of it in her freezer and is inviting Texas A&M and the Texas Parks & Wildlife to come and take DNA samples to determine its genus. Though she had caught glimpses of it during the past few months, until now she had never seen it up close. It measures 40 inches in length with an estimated weight of 30 lbs.

What makes the situation even more unusual is that a similar creature was found run over by a car near Five Mile Creek later that same day, and another found dead three days after that, near the Guadalupe River.

Local game warden Michael Hoffmann and biologist Ryan Schoeneberg admit they have seen nothing like the Cuero creature but believe it to be either a mangy disfigured coyote or some form of hybrid dog that could have crossed with a coyote. In 2004, an animal found near San Antonio, dubbed the "Elmendorf Creature", turned out to be a coyote with demodectic or sarcoptic mange.

Botched Pussies

Cosmetic procedures billed as "vaginal rejuvenation," "designer vaginoplasty" or even "revirgination" are not medically necessary and are not guaranteed to be safe, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) cautioned last week.

The group, which educates and accredits doctors who treat women and deliver babies, said it is deceptive to give the impression that any of these procedures are accepted or routine, when in fact they are more likely to cause complications such as infection, altered sensation, pain and scarring.

The procedures include changing the shape or size of the labia, "restoring" the hymen, and tightening the vagina. "Some of these procedures, such as 'vaginal rejuvenation,' appear to be modifications of traditional vaginal surgical procedures for genuine medical conditions," ACOG said in their statement.

True medical conditions that merit the surgery include pelvic prolapse, the reversal or repair of female genital cutting, sometimes known as female circumcision, and the reversal of abnormalities caused by hormone imbalances.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who Says Ignorance Isn't Dangerous?

An Oregon man was sentenced last week to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing his stepson to get revenge on the boy's mother. William Gerald Collins, 44, told police he wanted to force his ex-wife's only son into becoming gay so she wouldn't have any grandchildren. He said he wanted to get back at her for asking for a divorce and kicking him out of their house.

Washington County Presiding Judge Thomas W. Kohl noted that in his 11 years on the bench, he had never had a case in which a person was victimized solely to hurt someone else. As a result, Kohl ordered consecutive sentences on several charges after Collins pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree sodomy and eight counts of first-degree sexual abuse, both Measure 11 crimes with mandatory minimum terms. The least amount of prison time Collins could have received was eight years, four months.

Collins cried as the judge handed down the lengthy sentence, ordered him to register as a sex offender for life and recommended that he not be allowed to be around children or go where they congregate after he is released from prison. "I know what I did was wrong," Collins said. "I'm in a learning process right now. I'm trying to acknowledge the pain I caused." Collins added that he hoped and prayed his victim would be able to forgive him someday.

Eric Butterfield, Collins' public defender, argued that 25 years was twice as much time as routinely handed down in sex-abuse cases with one victim. He debated what he called the "supposed motivation" and told Kohl to take Collins' "outrageous statements" to police "with a grain of salt." However, Collins did not deny the revenge angle when given the chance.

"This was not a pedophile who can't control his actions," said Andrew Erwin, Washington County deputy district attorney. "This was an evil, calculated plan by the defendant to not only destroy one life but two." Erwin said the abuse started in 1995 when the victim was 11 and happened "dozens of times" over the next two years.

According to the Oregonian article by Holly Danks, the abuse happened when the boy stayed with Collins and when Collins was allowed back into the family's home because he had no place else to go. It stopped when Collins moved from the area. Erwin said the victim did not disclose the abuse until November 2006, when his mother got a letter from Collins' former girlfriend in Reno. When the Nevada woman broke up with Collins, he threatened to rape her 14-year-old daughter, so she decided to tell what he had confessed to her about the molestation, Erwin said.

The Washington County victim wrote in a letter to the judge: "I never wanted my Mom to know this happened because I didn't want to hurt her." The victim and his mother were not in court, telling Erwin they never wanted to see Collins again. "Knowing now he did this to hurt my mom, I'm worried he will hurt my family again," the victim wrote. "I think he should be kept in jail forever."

The victim's mother wrote that she thought "all the anger" her son had back then was because of the divorce and she felt guilty because she hadn't recognized signs of abuse. "To think Will did this to hurt me, being that evil and vindictive, using a child, taking away his youth and innocence, he deserves to spend his life behind bars," she wrote.

You're Violating My Personal Space!

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists and engineers sued NASA last week, challenging extensive new background checks required by the space exploration center.

The lawsuit says NASA is violating the Constitution by calling on employees - everyone from janitors to visiting professors - to permit investigators to delve into medical, financial and past employment records, and to question friends and acquaintances about everything from their finances to sex lives. Those who refuse could lose their jobs, the suit says.

"They don't tell you what they're looking for, they don't tell you when they're looking for it, they won't tell us what they're doing with the data," said plaintiff Susan Foster, a technical writer and editor at JPL for nearly 40 years.

JPL employees have until Sept. 28 to fill out forms authorizing the background checks. Those who don't will be barred from JPL and be "voluntarily terminated" as of Oct. 27. A request for a preliminary injunction blocking the requirements is to be heard in court Sept. 24.

In June, workers aired their complaints before NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. At that meeting, Griffin said that it was a "privilege to work within the federal system, not a right" and that he would carry out the order unless it was overturned in court, according to a video of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press.

Attorney Dan Stormer said the employees were being forced to "voluntarily" sign forms opening up every detail of their personal lives to federal scrutiny for two years whether or not they keep their jobs. A 2004 Homeland Security presidential directive mandated new security badges for millions of federal workers and contractors. The suit claims NASA and the Commerce Department went well beyond the directive, which it said was concerned "exclusively with the establishment of a common identification standard" and "contemplates no additional background investigation or suitability determination beyond that already required by law."

Foster said she will resign before the badges are required, and that there were members of the clerical staff who were too frightened about losing their jobs to come forward. The suit claims violations of the Constitution's 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, 14th Amendment protection against invasion of right to privacy, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Privacy Act, and rights under the California Constitution.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Being Anti-Olympic Can Land You In A Chinese Jail

China has arrested an activist who gathered 10,000 signatures for an open letter spurning the Beijing Olympics and demanding human rights, a rights group and dissident said this week.

Yang Chunlin was arrested in northeast China's Heilongjiang province in early July and charged this week with attempting to subvert state power, according to a statement by China Human Rights Defenders, a loose coalition of activists.

Veteran dissident Hu Jia said the arrest was part of a government crackdown to "clear up" politically sensitive cases ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games.

"Right now I'm helping Yang Chunlin to hire a lawyer," Hu told AFP by phone from the Beijing home where he lives under tight police control. "The authorities have threatened Yang's family and relatives. Yang's wife dares not speak to anyone because of the threats."

According to China Human Rights Defenders, Yang's arrest was linked to an open letter entitled "We Want Human Rights, Not The Olympics," which was signed by more than 10,000 people, including many Heilongjiang farmers. Yang had been helping the farmers seek legal redress over the loss of their farmlands due to land expropriation, it said.

Land confiscation has become a hot social issue in China. Ordinary citizens routinely accuse local officials of colluding with land developers in lucrative real estate deals that begin with government-backed land acquisitions. Rights activists say large numbers of Beijing residents have been forced from their homes by Olympics-related construction projects.

The rights group called Yang's arrest "alarming" and expressed shock at the apparent willingness of the government to make opposition to the Olympics a 'political crime'. According to its statement, "The China Human Rights Defenders condemn the arrest of Yang Chunlin on suspicion of subversion because he dissented from the official line on the Olympics. The Ministry of Public Security's direct involvement in ordering Yang's arrest, and the subversion charge against him, point to the nervousness and political sensitivity with which the government views efforts to link the Olympics and human rights."

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Hunt For "White" October

A submarine-like vessel filled with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine was seized off the Guatemalan coast, U.S. officials said.

Four suspected smugglers were operating the self-propelled, semisubmersible vessel when it was located and seized on Sunday evening by officials from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, the Border Patrol said in a news release on the incident.

When the suspects realized they had been spotted by drug-surveillance aircraft patrolling the eastern Pacific, they scuttled the vessel but were unable to escape. Coast Guard officials, guided by the reconnaissance plane, intercepted the vessel and detained the reputed smugglers, who were transporting approximately 5.5 tons of cocaine worth $352 million, the Border Patrol said.

Drug-carrying submarines operated by Colombian drug cartels have become more prevalent in recent years.

And We Wouldn't Want Animals To Get Sick, Would We?

Getting A Stiffy From A Stiff

A Monessen man allegedly broke into a funeral parlor and "tampered" with a female corpse before getting caught in the act, according to Pittsburgh police.

Roderick Jones, who police said was convicted of abuse of a corpse in 1999, is facing new charges stemming from the incident in Monessen last month.

Funeral director Johnny Draper said he left the Draper Funeral Home to talk to some friends across the street for about 10 minutes. When Draper noticed a light on in the basement, he went back inside -- and that's when, according to a police affidavit, he found Roderick Jones lying next to the coffin of a woman whom Draper had been preparing for burial.

According to the affidavit, one of the deceased woman's legs was up in the air, her stockings had been removed and the plastic covering her body had been torn open. Draper said Jones was lying down near the casket in an attempt to hide, but Draper said he was able to restrain the man until police arrived.

Draper said the funeral home has a top-notch security system in place, and there has never been a break-in before. He also said he believes he made it back into the building before the corpse was "abused".

According to police, Jones has a history of burglary, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, along with the 1999 conviction in an unrelated case in Charleroi.

Still Catching Up With Casa D'Ice

Bill Balsamico was never a fan of high gas prices, as you can see from some of the signs in the past year.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Can We Pull The Plug On Bush?

A Day Off From School: Something To Really Die For

Three boarding school students are accused of strangling two small boys in the hope that classes would be suspended after the deaths, according to police in Mumbai.

The three students, ages 12 and 13, confessed to strangling an 8-year-old boy and his 5-year-old brother so that their school would close down, said S. Sethi, a police officer in the Jalna district, about 200 miles east of Mumbai.

"When questioned, the boys said they knew this school gave a holiday when a child had died last year and thought they could get another holiday this year," Sethi said. "They looked happy when they were being sent away from school," investigating officer Shirish Rathod said. "It was as if the three had finally got the long-desired holiday."

During questioning, the boys "narrated the entire sequence of events quite vividly. It is as if they are proud of their act," Rathod said.

Sethi said the three lured the two brothers then dragged their bodies into an unused restroom. Authorities found the bodies of the boys after their 9-year-old sister reported them missing the next morning, Sethi said. He said an autopsy confirmed the children were strangled.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sex Sells Cars

Kenyan Women Threatened by Marauding Monkeys

A troop of monkeys is giving Kenyan villagers long days and sleepless nights, destroying crops and causing a food crisis. According to reports, there are close to 300 monkeys invading the farms at dawn. They eat the village's maize, potatoes, beans and other crops.

And because women are primarily responsible for the farms, they have borne the brunt of the problem, as they try to guard their crops. They say the monkeys are more afraid of young men than women and children, and the bolder ones throw stones and chase the women from their farms.

Nachu's women have tried wearing their husbands' clothes in an attempt to trick the monkeys into thinking they are men - but this has failed, they say. "When we come to chase the monkeys away, we are dressed in trousers and hats, so that we look like men," resident Lucy Njeri told the BBC. "But the monkeys can tell the difference and they don't run away from us and point at our breasts. They just ignore us and continue to steal the crops."

In addition to stealing their crops, the monkeys also make sexually explicit gestures at the women, they claim. "The monkeys grab their breasts, and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. We are afraid that they will sexually harass us," said Mrs Njeri.

Charles Musyoki of the Kenya Wildlife Service claims that the the agressive behavior complained about has not been documented before, but they had launched investigations. In the meantime, the predominantly farming community is now having to receive famine relief food.

The residents say the monkeys have killed livestock and guard dogs, which has also left the villagers living in fear, especially for the safety of their babies and children. All the villagers' attempts to control the monkeys have failed - the monkeys evade traps, have lookouts to warn the others of impending attacks and snub poisoned food put out by the residents.

"The troop has scouts which keep a lookout from a vantage point, and when they see us coming, they give warning signals to the ones in the farms to get away," said another area resident, Jacinta Wandaga.

Despite the lack of action by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the government has been quick to warn the town not to harm or kill any of the monkeys, as it is a criminal offense.

Running out of options, residents are harvesting their crops early in an attempt to salvage what they can of this year's crop. Unfortunately, this only invites the monkeys to break into their homes and steal the harvested crops out of their granaries. Even the formation of a "monkey squad" to keep track of the monkeys' movements and keep them out has failed. The area is simply too large for the few volunteers to cover, they say.

Some residents have lost hope and abandoned their homes and farms, but those who have stayed behind, like 80-year-old James Ndungu, are making a desperate plea for assistance. "For God's sake, the government should take pity on us and move these monkeys away because we do not want to abandon our farms," he said. "I beg you, please come and take these animals away from here so that we can farm in peace."

They Had Breast Implants-- What Do They Expect Anyway?

A man who authorities say used his computer to make fake $100 bills to buy lap dances at a strip club has pleaded guilty to counterfeiting charges, federal prosecutors said.

Strippers at Deja Vu in Nashville were suspicious of the bills and called police after Damon Armagost spent $600 of the fake money last April. When officers arrived, Armagost first told them he got the money when he sold gold coins for $1,400 to an unidentified person.

U.S. Secret Service agents later determined that counterfeit bills with the same serial number had been passed in other parts of the country. When they went to Armagost's home, a family member told agents that an image of a $100 bill had been on a computer there.

Armagost then acknowledged that he had downloaded the image from the Internet and printed 14 of the bills, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency and has a sentencing date in November.


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