Monday, December 17, 2012

Women Of India Demand Respect, At Last

There has been shock and outrage in India over the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a city bus in the capital, Delhi.

The student and a male friend she was traveling with were beaten, stripped and thrown off the bus.  The couple have been admitted to hospital, where the woman is said to be in a critical condition.  Police have arrested the driver of the bus and detained several people.

The woman and her friend had boarded the bus from Munirka area and were on their way to Dwarka in southwest Delhi.  They were returning after watching a film in a shopping center in south Delhi.  The couple were attacked by "at least four men," police said.

"City Shamed" was the headline in The Times of India, saying that the incident was a new low for a city already notorious as India's rape capital.  "Delhi Shamed Again" said The Pioneer, reporting that the incident had "again renewed focus on the dismal state of safety for girls and women who venture out at night".

The Indian Express said the bus was driven around on a stretch in south Delhi for more than an hour after the attack and had "crossed" three police patrol vans. The Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit told reporters, "We want to ensure that the culprits are not granted bail under any circumstances. Stringent punishment for them is the need of the hour"  Dikshit said she would be considering the setting up of a fast track court to "ensure speedy justice to the victim".

Thursday, November 1, 2012

GOP Tries To Bury Evidence That Trickle-Down Doesn't Work

The New York Times reported today that Senate Republicans pressured the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) two months ago to withdraw a report that confirmed what many people (experts and non-experts alike) had concluded long ago--  that lowering marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans had no effect whatsoever on economic growth or job creation.

Republicans claim they had issues with the tone and wording of the report.  But all bullshitting aside,  they clearly objected most strongly to its findings, which undermine the primary fiscal philosophy of the party-- that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth and benefit everybody.

The CRS report, by researcher Thomas Hungerford, concluded:
The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

The report is extensive, but the reasoning behind its conclusion is fairly straightforward. The richest Americans are the least likely to spend extra money they get as a result of a tax cut, and are more likely to save it or invest it offshore. Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum, meanwhile, are the most likely to spend transfer payments they receive from the government.

Democrats in Congress, thankfully, have resurfaced the report and published it in full. It can be read here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Romney Now Politicizing Hurricane Disaster

In a very timely editorial, the New York Times has slammed Romney for his stance on eliminating FEMA:
Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt. 

Of course, Republicans are accusing the NYT of being taking advantage of the disaster to criticize Romney. But the election is less than a week away-- what time would be better?  And so much for Mitt Romney's promise not to campaign while American lives are still at risk-- he's now holding campaign events wrapped in “storm relief”.

Even worse, the Romney campaign is actually impeding hurricane relief efforts. ABC reported yesterday that the Romney campaign was pitching in and gathering supplies to donate for hurricane relief, which is exactly the opposite of what the Red Cross wants people to do. From the Red Cross web site:
 Unfortunately, due to logistical constraints the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items. Items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged and transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel. 

Breaking yet again his promise not to politicize disasters, Romney seems to be calling only GOP governors (not Democratic governors) to offer his world-renowned expertise in hurricane management (he has none).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

No-Fly Twist

The 34-year-old Mississippi native Wade Hicks got stranded in Hawaii this week after being told he was on the FBI's no-fly list during a layover for a military flight from the U.S. to Japan.

From California, he hitched a ride on a military flight (common for military dependents). But during his layover at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent told him he was on the no-fly list and wouldn't be allowed on a plane.  "I said, `How am I supposed to get off this island and go see my wife or go home?' And her explanation was: `I don't know,'" Hicks said.

The episode left Hicks scrambling to figure out how he'd get out of Hawaii without being able to fly. Then he was abruptly removed from the list on Thursday with no explanation.  It also raised questions beyond how he landed on the list: How could someone on a list intelligence officials use to inform counterterrorism investigations successfully fly standby on an Air Force flight?  Read more details here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Gitmo Conviction Thrown Out

A U.S. appeals court has quashed the conviction of Osama Bin Laden's former driver, who had been jailed in Guantanamo Bay for giving material support to terrorism.

Like most of the eight years of the Bush administration, Salim Hamdan's conviction was a farce.  Hamdan admitted working for Bin Laden  in Afghanistan from 1997 to 2001 for $200 a month as his driver-- but said he worked for wages, not to wage war.  The appeals court rejected the government's charge that he had conspired to carry out the 9/11 attacks, ruling that Hamdan's actions did not constitute war crimes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting Your Shit Together

City authorities in Zimbabwe's second largest city said Saturday they were appealing to home owners to flush their toilets at a specified time as a way to unblock sewers after days of severe water rationing.

Bulawayo City Council has asked its more than 1 million residents to flush their toilets simultaneously at 7:30 p.m. when water supplies are restored. City officials say "synchronized flushing" is needed to clear waste that would have accumulated in sanitary facilities which will have been affected by days of water outages.  No shitting-- check it out here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Romney Can Now Officially Go Fuck Himself

Leaked video from a Mitt Romney fundraiser has given us unexpected insight into the arrogant and elitist attitude behind the carefully crafted campaign bullshit he's been peddling.  A direct quote from the video:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney, this is the Daily Dude speaking-- I voted for Obama in 2008.  I am not dependent on government.  I am not a victim.  I don't feel I'm entitled to anything-- except, perhaps, a little respect for my intelligence from political candidates.  And by the way, I do pay income tax-- at a much higher marginal rate than you do. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Is The Jerk That Stirred Up The Benghazi Shit

The first picture has now come out of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (also known as Sam Bacile) who was last week named by the FBI as the film-maker responsible for Innocence Of Muslims, which ridicules the prophet Muhammad. In this set photo, he is shown with the film’s star Anna Gurji, who says she was duped by the 55-year-old director.

Nakoula is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian. Now living in California, he is a convicted drug dealer and conman who was released from jail in June of last year.  Two attorneys visited Nakoula's home hours before he was taken in for questioning.

 The film has ignited anti-American clashes from Morocco to Malaysia.  In Benghazi, Libya, violent protests over the film led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ultimate Herb Garden

An elderly British couple unwittingly grew a monstrous cannabis plant in their garden after buying what they thought was an innocuous green bush, and tending it carefully.

Police in Bedford, a commuter town 60 miles from London, posted a picture of a luxuriant cannabis plant growing as tall as a fence.  “Elderly couple bought shrub at car boot sale, tended carefully-biggest cannabis plant we had seen!!” a Twitter message from the police exclaimed.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Penis "Snake" Found In Brazil

The "penis snake" was first discovered in Brazil when engineers were building a dam in the Madeira River in Rondonia. Six of the unusual creatures were found at the time.  The unusual species gained its naughty nickname because of its appearance -- a broad, rounded head atop a thick, cylindrical fleshy body. But the phallic squirmer isn't a snake but an extremely rare, limbless amphibian.

 Biologist Julian Tupan identified the species as Atretochoana eiselti, a type of caecilian. According to the U.K.'s National History Museum, no living populations of the A. eiselti had been found prior to this discovery and only two preserved specimens were known.

Legless and lungless, this aquatic animal is thought to breathe through its skin. Tupan, who is working with the company building the dam, disclosed what little is known about the "penis snake" to Brazil's Estadao website, according to reports. “Of the six we collected, one died, three were released back into the wild and another two were kept for studies," Tupan said.

Friday, August 3, 2012

NBC Facing Charges Of Racism In Olympics Coverage

Another shocking development from NBC's much-criticized coverage of the Olympics.  In the latest incident, NBC unconscionably aired an ad showing a monkey performing gymnastics immediately after a piece featuring African-American gymnast Gabby Douglas.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Witholding IRS Returns Can Be Taxing

It's no wonder why Mitt Romney doesn't want to release his tax returns. In an interview with HuffPo, Senate majority leader Harry Reid admitted that Romney probably wouldn't make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, due to the lack of transparency over his personal finances.

"His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son," Reid also said, in reference to George Romney's standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.

The blockbuster quote of the interview came when Reid described a conversation he had with a Bain Capital investor a month ago.
"Harry, he didn't pay any taxes for 10 years," Reid recounted the person as saying.
"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," said Reid. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?
Reid also expressed doubt over the extent of Romney's wealthe.  "You guys have said his wealth is $250 million," Reid said "Not a chance in the world. It's a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don't pay taxes for 10 years when you're making millions and millions of dollars."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

NBC Sinks To New Low For High Ratings

NBC is continuing to face criticism over its Olympic coverage in London.   In this latest incident, live viewers of the women’s gymnastics’ team final saw Russia’s Ksenia Afanasyeva take a serious fall during her floor exercise. The glaring error virtually handed the gold medal to the Americans early on in the competition.

But NBC's tape-delayed coverage edited out Afanasyeva’s dramatic fall from its primetime broadcast, which would normally be unthinkable-- since she’s the reigning world champion for floor exercises. But there is widespread suspicion the network didn’t show her face-plant in order to create suspense over whether the Americans would win gold. Adding to this suspicion was NBC's steadfast refusal during the entire broadcast to include camera shots that would show standings on the arena scoreboards in the background.

Al Trautwig got in on the deception as well, asking (before the Americans followed the Russian on the floor exercises) whether the U.S. "can deliver a knockout blow"-- even though in reality the Russian mistake eliminated any doubt of U.S. winning gold. Deadspin's Timothy Burke also takes note of NBC's attempt to drum up further drama over the American women's chances by showing Aly Raisman missing a tumble landing during warmups.  In my opinion, all of this goes way beyond simple editing choices and is outright manipulation. Trying to stoke ratings in this way is insulting to sports fans.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Islamists Grow Bolder In Northern Mali, Stoning Unwed Couple To Death

A couple who had sex outside marriage has been stoned to death by Islamists in the town of Aguelhok in northern Mali, according to reports.  The man and woman were buried up to their necks, then pelted with stones until they died.

The northern half of Mali has been overrun by rebels-- Tuareg and Islamist-- following a coup in Mali's capital. The town of Aguelhok was one of the first to be captured by Tuareg separatist rebels. The execution came as interim President Dioncounda Traore finalized a unity government which is under pressure by foreign partners to take decisive action against the jihadists who have cleaved the nation in two. As politicians grappled for solutions in Bamako and west African capitals, the Al-Qaeda linked Islamists grew bolder, executing the couple in the center of town. In Timbuktu, Islamists have also implemented strict Islamic law and destroyed ancient World Heritage sites which they consider idolatrous.

The Islamists in Aguelhok stoned the couple to death in front of about 200 people, officials said. "I was there. The Islamists took the unmarried couple to the center of Aguelhok.  The couple was placed in two holes and the Islamists stoned them to death," a local government official told the AFP news agency. "The woman fainted after the first few blows," he said, adding that the man had shouted out once and then fallen silent.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Newsweek Plays The "Wimp Card"

From Michael Tomaskey's devastating piece on Mitt Romney:

It should be the easiest thing in the world for a presidential nominee: a trip to England . . . And yet, Mitt Romney managed to alienate just about every living Briton.   The Sun even went so far as to dub him “Mitt the Twit.”  It was an astonishing faux pas—one of many packed into his brief visit.

The episode highlights what’s really wrong with Romney. He’s kind of lame, and he’s really ... annoying. He keeps saying these ... things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately—with all the sincerity of a hostage.

In 1987, this magazine created a famous hubbub by labeling George H.W. Bush a “wimp” on its cover.  In hindsight, Poppy looks like Dirty Harry Callahan compared with Romney, who spent his war (Vietnam) in—ready?—Paris. Where he learned ... French. Up to his eyeballs in deferments.  And did you notice that his wife Ann was the one driving the Jet Ski on their recent vacation, while Mitt rode on the back, hanging on, as Paul Begala put it to me last week, “like a helpless papoose”?

Romney is the genuine article: a true wimp. Oh, there are some ways in which he’s not—a wimp lets himself get kicked around, and Romney doesn’t exactly do that. He sure didn’t during the primaries, when he strafed Rick Perry and carpet-bombed Rick Santorum (but note that they were both weaker than he).

In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May?

And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still.

He’s the most risk-averse major politician to come along in ages. He accepted the job at Bain Capital only after wringing out of Bill Bain a promise that, if the venture failed, Mitt would be welcomed back to Bain & Co.—at his old levels of compensation and seniority—and that the press and public would be fed some happy talk about how it had all gone as intended. And why didn’t he leave Bain in 1999 to go run the Olympics, as he always said he had, but instead take his now-famous “leave of absence”? To have the option of coming back; to minimize the risk. Even his flip-flopping, his taking of positions all over the map, is a form of risk aversion, being all things to all people, able to placate any audience, never stuck out on a limb unable to satisfy.

Politicians change positions for three main reasons: financial ambition, political ruthlessness, and political cowardice. Romney already has the big money, so that’s out. Ruthless? Not really—a ruthless change of position is one designed to please one group of people but equally to piss off another group. Romney’s flip-flops are solely about making a group of highly suspicious voters like him. That, folks, is door No. 3.

In a similar vein, it was breathtaking, and a meaningful window into his thinking, that he thought denouncing “Obamacare” to the NAACP constituted courage. That was the opposite of courage—an easy shot aimed at people who aren’t voting for him anyway.

But if Romney is elected? Be nervous. A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove. Reagan was happy with a jolly little shoot-up in Grenada, and eventually he settled down to the serious work of arms control, consummating historic treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev. But a weenie Republican—look out. He has something to prove, needs to reassert that “natural” advantage. That spells trouble more often than not.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fly Ball Into Far Right Field Goes Way Foul

Words like "offensive," "abhorrent," and "pathetic" are being used to describe a billboard in Caldwell, Idaho, that compares President Barack Obama — unfavorably — to James Eagan Holmes, the suspect in the shooting deaths of 12 people in a Colorado movie theater last week.

 The billboard attempts to equate the actions of the president's foreign policies to the cowardly acts of Holmes.   Of Holmes, it says: "Kills 12 in a movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out." Of Obama, it says: "Kills thousands with foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize."

The libertarian group that owns the board, The Ralph Smeed Foundation, says it wants to draw attention to military men and women dying overseas.  "This billboard is offensive to all those lives lost and affected by the shooting," wrote a commenter on the Facebook page of KBOI-TV of Boise, which first reported the story. "Just pathetic, even if this is their expression of the 1st amendment."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Disappointing NBC Olympic Opening Ceremony

NBC's broadcast of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics was a miss for me.  I have to give director Danny Boyle a big thumbs up for the opening segment which portrayed England's transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized economy-- stunning images and very cinematically portrayed.

But the rest of the ceremony was lackluster and the middle section on rock and pop music came across as especially insipid and almost incomprehensible-- something about a boy and a girl meeting on the subway, a lost phone, hooking up at a party-- not sure.  The section was heavily reliant on pre-filmed segments and on-screen graphics . . . to the live audience, all that could be seen were a bunch of randomly-costumed teenagers dancing haphazardly around a house that served as essentially as a big-screen TV.

NBC's coverage and editorial decisions, however, completely ruined it for me.  One of the major sections of the ceremony was a homage to Britain's National Health Service-- and Costas, Lauer and Vieira were strangely silent on the subject-- only one or two sentences saying what the segment was about and what "NHS" stood for.  Their reticence on the subject was in marked contract to the rest of the broadcast, which featured incessant running of the mouth about even the most obvious on-screen events.  In my opinion, it was a deliberate editorial call in favor of political correctness and to avoid saying anything that would be criticized by the right wing.

Not seen on American TV: Tribute to 7/7 bombing victims
Another shocking omission was the complete elimination (from the tape-delayed broadcast) of the moving tribute to the victims of the London 7/7 bombing.  Scottish singer Emeli Sande performed a moving rendition of "Abide With Me" in memory of the bombing victims, but the song was edited out of NBC's coverage in favor of an inspid Ryan Seacrest interview with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. It appeared that Phelps actually started to laugh out loud at Seacrest's opening question.

Another black mark on the NBC broadcast was their coverage (or lack thereof) of the Saudi Arabian team's entrance during the Parade of Nations.  Costas mentioned that this was the first Olympics where every country had female athletes, but not only did the cameras not show any of the Saudi women, but Costas and crew also failed to mention that the Saudi team forced all the team's female members to march behind the male counterparts. Guess NBC doesn't want to risk pissing off the IOC or losing General Electric business to the Saudi princes.

Nevertheless, I will give Costas props due to his honoring Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.   The International Olympic Committee had declined a request to hold a moment of silence during the ceremony to acknowledge the 11 slain Israeli athletes and coaches-- but Costas called that decision insensitive during an interview this month and during the broadcast had these words: "Still, for many, tonight with the world watching is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died."  After a five-second pause, NBC cut to a commercial.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Does The Government Own Sunshine Too?

A rural Oregon man has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and over $1,500 in fines because he has three reservoirs on his property to collect rainwater.

Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon, says he plans to appeal his conviction for violating a 1925 law for having what the state has called “three illegal reservoirs” on his property – and for filling the reservoirs with rainwater and snow runoff. “The government is bullying,” Harrington said in an interview. “They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail,” he said.

The court has given Harrington two weeks to report to the Jackson County Jail to begin serving his sentence.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Open Mouth, Insert Mitt

Mitt Romney, in his first trip abroad as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, is in the middle of a diplomatic disaster. The trouble began Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City games, said there were "disconcerting" signs in the days before this year's games. "The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials -- that obviously is not something which is encouraging," he said.

Should I shut up now?
 U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron soon shot back at Romney. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere," he said.

At a boisterous pre-Olympic rally, London's mayor, Boris Johnson, ridiculed Romney for his remarks questioning the city's readiness for the games. "There are some people who are coming from around the world who don't yet know about all the preparations we've done to get London ready in the last seven years," he said. "I heard there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!"

Mitt Romney's disastrous British trip continued the next day when he "caused amusement" by saying he had spent a great day in the "backside" of Downing Street, rather than the back garden. In yet another faux pas, Romney announced his meeting with MI6, the U.K. Secret Intelligence Service who never acknowledges or comments on its dealings with public officials.

And if you think that's bad enough, here's a quote from his book "No Apology":
“England is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions.”

Nice job, Mitt.  Maybe you can secretly baptize the late Queen Mother while you're at it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Six Women Rape Nigerian Man To Death

Uroko Onoja's fame and financial success allowed him to enjoy the patronage of the most beautiful girls in the Nigerian village of Ugbugbu Owukpa, Ogbadibo.  However, it also led to his untimely death at the hands of his six jealous wives, according to a local report

Trouble started at 3 am Tuesday morning, when Uroko returned from Ochanja, a popular joint in the small community of Ugbugbu and headed to the room of his youngest wife. According to the youngest wife, the other wives then invaded her room with knives and sticks, demanding that their husband have sex with all of them at once. Uroko was overpowered by the women and ordered that the sex marathon being with the youngest wife and to continue in that order to the oldest.

Uroko stopped breathing as the fifth woman was making her way to the bed. “Suddenly, my husband stopped breathing, and they all ran out, still laughing, but when they saw that I could not resuscitate him, they all ran into the forest," said the youngest wife.

When contacted, village chief Okpe Odoh affirmed that the matter had been reported to the police and investigation was ongoing even as the youth of the community were helping the police in search of the escaped wives.  At the time the report was filed, two of the wives had been arrested.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Skype Change Allows Eavesdropping Of Calls

The video calling service Skype recently made a change to how it routes calls. Hackers and bloggers are saying the changes, which push some of the video calling process onto Skype's own computers ("supernodes") instead of onto random machines on the Internet, could help the app spy on users' calls, presumably at the request of a court or government. "Reportedly, Microsoft is re-engineering these supernodes to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor calls," Tim Verry, from the website ExtremeTech, wrote last week. "In this way, the actual voice data would pass through the monitored servers and the call is no longer secure. It is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is made all the easier because Microsoft -- who owns Skype and knows the keys used for the service's encryption -- is helping." Skype, which grew out of the peer-to-peer downloading network Kazaa and how has 254 million "connected" users per month, has a long reputation for guarding the privacy of its callers. Skype calls usually are routed from one caller to another, rather than through a middleman. Chaim Haas, Skype's spokesman, refused to say if the update actually enabled the company to tap into and record Skype calls. He also would not answer questions about when the update took place or whether wiretapping was a motive.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Figure Involved In Salt Lake City Bribery Scandal Is Tied To 2012 Olympic Ticket Scandal

The biggest overseas ticketing agency for the London 2012 Games has been besieged by complaints after hundreds of buyers were forced to wait in lines for more than six hours and others received groups of tickets that were not seated together.

CoSport, which is the official overseas ticketing partner for the United States, Australia and Canada, was the subject of complaints in the U.S. last week after it told hundreds of purchasers they would not be receiving their tickets in the mail as promised and that they would have to collect their tickets in person from a box office in London instead.

By lunchtime, more than 200 people were waiting in line at a Paddington ticket office in temperatures of up to 90 degrees.  Some customers had to leave without collecting their tickets, while others found out that they had bought a group of tickets that were scattered in different locations at the same event.  One buyer from Toronto said three of four sets of tickets ordered for him and his 10-year-old daughter had come back with the seats a long way apart. "Having her sitting sections away and rows removed from me  is simply unacceptable," he said.

Another visitor from Northern England said it took CoSport staff at least 15 minutes to process each person in line.  He returned to his home in Harrogate empty-handed, with a promise from CoSport that his tickets would be couriered to him.  "I'm very nervous about this but still had [to wait] over two hours queuing and then a train to catch back to Harrogate. So, a wasted day, almost [$240] spent on train and food, and still no tickets," he said.

A London 2012 spokeswoman shirked any responsibility for the fowl up, saying that CoSport would have to deal with the fallout, and advised purchasers to contact the company directly.

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) gave CoSport the exclusive contract to handle distribution of tickets and hospitality packages for the London Games. The company is owned by the controversial Seattle millionaire Sead Dizdarevic, a well-known figure in Olympic circles for almost three decades.  Dizdarevic was implicated in the fallout from the 1999 Salt Lake City scandal, which rocked the Olympic movement to its core.   The IOC was forced to implement wholesale reforms after it emerged that large bribes had been paid to IOC members to bring the 2002 Winter Olympics to the city.

But this is not the first ticketing scandal involving tickets from CoSport at the 2012 games.  Last week, it emerged that the firm was sending out tickets to members of the public that were originally intended for Games sponsors.  IOC rules strictly prohibit reselling of tickets originally issued to Olympic sponsors. Recipients of Olympic tickets bought from CoSport (at a premium) reported that the tickets they received were stamped as having been originally issued to Dow Chemical and General Electric.  

The IOC suspended the sales process for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games while it investigates allegations that Olympic officials and agents representing 54 countries offered London 2012 tickets on the black market.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Best Buy Employee Joins The Peek Squad

A female Best Buy customer says an employee who promised to transfer her contacts and photos to a newly purchased iPhone burned a CD of her racy photos and invited her to his home to retrieve them.

Sophia Ellison says she hired a Geek Squad employee at the Fair Oaks Best Buy, in Fairfax, Va., to transfer her photos, phone numbers and email addresses when she replaced an older iPhone in April.  A day later, she realized her new iPhone 4s didn't have any of her 900 photos, including suggestive personal photos and a video taken by her young children of themselves, joking after getting out of the shower.

"I felt sick. I felt violated. I felt so embarrassed," Ellison said.  Ellison called the Best Buy to complain, and asked a manager to call her.  Instead, the Geek Squad employee called her, promising to retrieve her photos. "A few days later, he called back to tell me he'd made a CD at his house with all my photos, and said I could pick them up at his house," Ellison said.

Ellison hung up the phone. She's distraught that someone else has her very personal property.  "I'm a woman. I love to model. I'm not a model, but I love to model. I have some pretty racy photos of myself, for me."

Paula Baldwin, public relations director for Best Buy Services says the employee has now been fired.  "We can confirm that an employee at this store has been terminated for making a personal transaction with a customer while on duty at the store. We're continuing our investigation and assure you that we will continue to act promptly to address any inappropriate employee behavior."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Insenstive NRA Tweet After Aurora Shootings

Getting Your Story Straight

All we've been hearing from the GOP is the government spending doesn't create jobs. But now that automatic sequestration is looming, we are hearing the cuts in government spending will result in a loss of jobs-- which means that government spending does result in jobs, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Leona Helmsley Moment

 Money quote from a GOP supporter at a recent Mitt Romney fundraiser in Los Angeles:

"My college kid, the babysitters, the nails ladies - everybody who's got the right to vote - they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income - 1) you're not as educated; 2) they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Saudi "Barbaria"

This should come as no surprise from a country that raised 15 of the 9/11 hijackers and subjugates its women citizens:

Saudi Arabia has banned all government and private agencies from using the Gregorian calendar in official dealings.  The use of the English language to answer calls or communicate, mainly in companies and hotels, has also been banned, a local daily said.  All ministries and agencies have to use the Hijri dates (Islamic calendar) and the Arabic language, the interior ministry said.

Not that Saudi Arabia is welcoming any tourists anyway . . . 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Google Drive-ing Away Customers?

Google came out with its online storage service this week, and techies are already sounding warning bells about its terms of service.  In comparison, Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive are very clear about who owns what.

From the Dropbox terms of service:  "Your Stuff & Your Privacy: By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, "your stuff"). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don't claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below."

From the SkyDrive terms of service:  "5. Your Content: Except for material that we license to you, we don't claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don't control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service."

Although Google's Drive misleadingly starts its terms of service with the statement that "what belongs to you stays yours" . . . that's not exactly true.  It goes on to say the following:  "When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

So much for "doing no harm" . . .  And not only does Google feel free to abuse it users, it can't resist kicking them in the ass as they walk out the door:  "This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps)."   Think very carefully before you upload any files whatsoever to Google Drive . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Possibly The Best Obituary Ever

From the Denver Post:

Michael "Flathead" Blanchard

A celebration of the life of Michael "Flathead" Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St. Commerce City.

Weary of reading obituaries noting someone’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.

Mike was born July 1944 in Colorado to Clyde and Ethel Blanchard. A community activist, he is noted for saving the Dr. Justina Ford house from demolition and defending those who could not defend themselves. He was a Republican delegate, life member of the NRA, founder and President of the Dead Cats MC. He loved music.  Mike was preceded in death by Clyde and Ethel Blanchard, survived by beloved sons Mike and Chopper, former wife Jane Transue, brother Stephen Blanchard (Susan), Uncle Don and Aunt Cynthia Blanchard (his favorite), Uncle Dil and Aunt Dot, cousins and nephews. Baba Yoga can kiss his butt.

So many of his childhood friends that weren’t killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the celebration will contain adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Police Pop Perp Porting Penis Package

Ray Woods' bulge aroused interest from the police-- and when they probed deeper, he got the shaft.

It all started when traffic cops searched 23-year-old Ray Woods after a routine stop in Folcroft, Pa. last week. The cop reported that he saw a bag of marijuana at Woods' feet, and another vial full of weed on the seat when he asked Woods to step out of the car. Their attention was immediately drawn to a giant bulge in his pants, according to reports.

The patrolmen took Woods to a precinct house where the the contours of his pants aroused suspicion. Officers pulled down the perp's pants and discovered he had 41 bags of heroin and 48 bags of cocaine concealed in a larger sack, which was tied to his penis.

"I've seen it down their pants, in their ass, but I've never seen it tied to their penis," Folcroft police officer Christopher Eiserman said. "I couldn't believe it."
But things really got weird.

"I tried to remove it," Eiserman continued. "Unfortunately, and I don't know if it was nervousness or not, but [Woods] started urinating all over." Woods was charged with possession with intent to deliver, tampering with evidence and other crimes.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Asshole Cyclist Looking For Sympathy Buys Himself A Heap Of Trouble

The story of a callous cyclist who struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian and then apparently took to the Internet to tell his side of the story is burning up discussion forums in San Francisco. In a message posted on the Mission Cycling Club forum, member Chris Bucchere identified himself as the cyclist responsible for the crash the morning of March 29:

“I wrecked on the way home today from the bi-weekly Headlands Raid today. Short story: I'm fine. The pedestrian I clobbered? Not so much.

Around 8 am I was descending Divisidero Street southbound and about to cross Market Street. The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop. The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions. The intersection very long and the width of Castro Street at that point is very short, so, in a nutshell, blammo.

Bucchere was a member of the website, which tracks minute-by-minute data of cyclists for training purposes. According to sources, Bucchere was traveling through the intersection – which is at the bottom of a steep hill – at approximately 35 mph at the time of the collision. Bucchere continued his post:

The quote/unquote 'scene of the crime' was that intersection right by the landmark Castro Theatre – it leads from a really busy MUNI station to that little plaza where The Naked Guy always hangs out. It was commuter hour and it was crowded as all getup. I couldn't see a line through the crowd and I couldn't stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find.

I don't remember the next five minutes but when I came to, I was in a neck brace being loaded into an ambulance. I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn't mine. Apparently I hit a 71-year old male pedestrian and he ended up in the ICU with pretty serious head injuries. I really hope he ends up OK.

They asked me a bunch of stupid easy questions that I couldn't answer, so they kept me for a few hours for observation, gave me a tetanus shot and sent me on my way. Anyway, other than a stiff neck, a sore jaw/TMJ, a few bruises and some raspberries, I'm totally fine. I got discharged from the hospital during the lunch hour. The guy I hit was not as fortunate. I really hope he makes it. The cops took my bike. Hopefully they'll give it back.

In closing, I want to dedicate this story to my late helmet. She died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac. Like the Secret Service would do for a president, she took some serious pavement today, cracking through-and-through in five places and getting completely mauled by the ragged asphalt. May she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on. Can I get an amen?

Amen. The moral of this little story is: WYFH [Wear Your Fucking Helmet]

One poster wrote, “I'm not sure that's the moral of the story,” to which several others agreed. Another poster wrote: “What were you thinking ? As a 15 year sf resident and a 10 year cyclist and a pedestrian at that intersection every weekday .. I'm kind of embarrassed to wear my mc kit anywhere nearby now. I truly hope you've learned your lesson but I'd have to say this is not the end of the story for you, and yes you should get yourself a lawyer.” Another poster wrote, "It takes just one fucking jerk like Chris to give a bad name to the countless other bikers whom obey laws and ride safely." Another poster spoke directly to Bucchere: "Your irresponsibility injured (and ultimately killed) a man and you took to the Internet to tell your story? Yeah, you deserve jail time."

The posts on Mission Cycling Club's message board have since been removed and SFPD still has yet to officially identify the cyclist involved in the incident.  Bucchere's Twitter, LinkedIn and website accounts are gone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GOP Judge Turns School Marm

In a bit of political grandstanding earlier this week, Obama confidently predicted that the Supreme Court would not take an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" by overturning his health care law-- provoking a storm of protest that he was challenging the nation's top judges. Meanwhile, a GOP-dominated three-judge panel has been hearing a challenge to the health care law in the 5th district. And when the administration's lawyer began her arguments this morning, the Republican-leaning panel went apeshit.

Reagan appointee Judge Jerry Smith immediately interrupted, asking if the Department of Justice agreed that the judiciary could strike down an unconstitutional law. The DOJ lawyer, naturally, answered yes — referencing Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that firmly established the principle of judicial review more than 200 years ago.

But despite the lawyer's acknowledgement of the judiciary branch's purview, the Republican panel ordered her to "submit a three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday addressing whether the Executive Branch believes courts have such power."

Commentators have been unequivocal about the meaning of the court's order-- that is was meant to embarrass the President. According to blogger Allahpundit, "what the 5th Circuit is doing is humiliating Obama as a way of getting him to stop the demagoguery, with the letter acting as the equivalent of a kid writing on the blackboard as punishment after class. “I will not question Marbury v. Madison, I will not question Marbury v. Madison, I will not question...”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Charting New Depths At NBC

"I appreciate NBC’s boldness in having me on," said Palin, adding, "Doesn’t it kind of reflect that diversity of opinion that I hear that you all espouse?"

"Or desperation," said Meredith Vieria ...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sanford And Its Sons

Earlier this week, details of George Zimmerman's statement to the police surfaced.  The 29-year-old self-appointed watchman, who last month killed an unarmed teenager, claimed that he was in a life-or-death struggle with Trayvon Martin.  He said that the teenager tackled him on a sidewalk and started beating him up-- punching him in the nose and banging his head on the concrete.

A few days after that, surveillance video of his arrival at the police station hit the internet-- in the images you can clearly see that Zimmerman did not have blood coming from his nose; that there were no bruises or scratches on his face, neck or hands; nor was there any blood at all on his clothing.  There did not seem to be a wound on the back of his head, but that is inconclusive.

Tonight, CNN reported the story of a witness to the incident who says that he/she saw Zimmerman and Martin fighting on the grass, not the sidewalk-- which sows further doubt of Zimmerman's claim that his head was slammed into the sidewalk.

So even though we still don't know definitely what happened that fateful night-- in my eyes,  Zimmerman's credibility is slowing drifting away . . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sweet Tweet From Shrill Bill

I almost overlooked a classic cheap shot Bill Maher took on Super Tuesday-- aimed squarely at GOP voters in Alabama and Mississippi.  With all eyes on Republican primaries in those states, Maher sent the following message via Twitter saying, "Toothless Tuesday too tight to tally!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Tiger Is Showing His Stripes

In a new tell-all book, Hank Haney, former golf coach to Tiger Woods, paints his student of six years as a tempestuous, rude, cheap, porn-watching superstar oblivious to those around him. Excerpts from the book ("The Big Miss") have been published in the New York Post.

Haney described Woods' relationship with his wife as 'distant' and 'cool'. Three months after the couple married, Nordegren apparently wanted to celebrate her husband’s victory at Torrey Pines. She suggested they throw a party like they used to when she worked as a nanny for fellow golfer Jesper Parnevik. But Tiger shot her down, saying: “E, that’s not what we do. I’m not Jesper. We’re supposed to win.’

Haney adds that the model’s smile ‘got smaller’ as their marriage continued. ‘In the future Elin would keep her emotions under wraps whenever Tiger won,’ he writes. ‘As life became more complicated, I thought Elin changed . . . She and Tiger developed a calm, almost cool relationship in front of other people, and conversations with them tended to be awkward and strained. ‘I never saw them argue, but they weren’t openly affectionate either.’

Haney depicts Woods as bad-mannered, cheap, and a lover of pornography and potty-humor. Haney writes that during their six years together, Woods showed little respect for those around him. Whenever they got takeout, Haney would have to pick up the food — and the tab. “He seemed to think it was funny to be cheap.”

Haney also recalls cringing when Tiger would completely ignore “little-kid autograph seekers who were begging him to stop.”

Before the 2006 Ryder Cup, several golfers, including devout Christian Zach Johnson, shared a hotel room with Woods. Tiger ‘immediately purchased the adult-move 24-hour package and turned it on,’ Haney said. Johnson had no choice but to ignore the adult programming. “It was so funny watching him acting like everything was normal,” Woods told Haney. “I got him pretty good.”

He was more mean-spirited when it came to rival golfer Phil Mickelson. Tiger would call him lazy and “make fun of his body.”

The ex-coach said Tiger let his fame go to his head. When he went out to eat with Nordegren, he’d get up and leave, expecting her to follow – even if she hadn’t finished her meal. ‘When he was done – and he habitually ate fast – you were done,’ he wrote.

Though Woods said he hated the ‘vultures’ in media for picking apart his personal life, he oddly loved his depiction in the animated comedy "South Park", in which he is seen calling Nordegren a ‘fat Swedish cow.’

Haney eventually split with Woods via text message in May 2010-- appropriately enough, since Tiger is well-known for ignoring people while glued to his smartphone. As it turned out, the golfer was texting his mistresses at the time.

Woods has written off the book, calling it ‘unprofessional and very disappointing.’

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Hunger Games" A Book For Our Time?

The movie version of Suzanne Collins' 2008 book (the first in a trilogy of novels about a long counterinsurgency campaign, the costs it exacts, its moral traps, and the political use of violence) just hit theaters this weekend.

"Hunger Games" tells the story of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a country called Panem. She is a resident of District 12, the poor coal-mining remnant of Appalachia. There used to be a District 13, but it and its residents were destroyed 74 years ago after the districts rebelled against the central government in the Capitol. As punishment, each district has since then been required to send a girl and a boy every year to the Capitol city as “tributes.” The tributes are dressed up, paraded, and put in the "games", where they are forced to kill the other participants to ensure their survival. All money and luxury has been centralized in the Capitol, so winning the game (aside from survival) is important for getting more resources for your district. The children’s participation in the killing is designed to reinforce both the powerlessness of the districts and their role in supporting the central government.

In a New Yorker piece by Amy Davidson, Collins is quoted as saying she got the idea for the books from switching channels and seeing images of both the Iraq war and reality shows. Indeed, a fair number of the characters are broken by their own violent acts.

But aside from the various elements that make the books popular among adolescents, Davidson sees a larger social context at play. America has been at war for a decade now; is it really a coincidence that the biggest movie of the year is the first in a trilogy in which torture, terror, asymmetric warfare, and the manipulation of public opinion all play a role?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Santorum Tries To Pray The Gay Away

Sex columnist Dan Savage responded this week to Rick Santorum's statement that he was "praying" for him:

"Rick Santorum thinks that women who have been raped should be compelled—by force of law—to carry the babies of their rapists to term, he thinks birth control should be illegal, he wants to prosecute pornographers, etc., etc., basically the guy wants to be president so that he can micromanage the sex lives of all Americans...and I'm the one with issues? Because I made a dirty joke at his expense eight or nine years ago and it stuck? I'm the one with issues?"

If you'll recall, Dan Savage sponsored a 2003 contest in which his readers voted to redefine the term "santorum" as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes a byproduct of anal sex". Savage set up a website to spread the definition, which quickly led to a google-bomb on the former senator's last name.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Castrated By The Dutch Roman Catholic Church

And you couldn't imagine it could get any sicker.  Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has identified Henk Heithuis, who in 1956, reported priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.  He was a minor at the time.  In response, the Catholic church labeled him a homosexual and had him castrated.

Joep Dohmen, the investigative journalist who uncovered the Heithuis case, also found evidence of at least nine other castrations. "These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced," he said. "There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story."

Heithuis died in a car crash in 1958, two years after being castrated at the age of 20, while under the age of majority, which was then 21.  He had  accused Catholic clergy of sexually abusing him in his Church-run care home.  Two clergymen were later convicted of abuse but Heithuis, a victim, was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital.

He was later castrated "at his own request", despite no submission of his written consent. The surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.

Cornelius Rogge, 79, a well-known Dutch sculptor whose family knew Heithuis in the 1950s, reported the castration to an official inquiry into abuse within the Catholic Church. But his evidence was ignored.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Heads Roll Over Papal Visit In Mexico

Just days ahead of a visit by Pope Benedict, the severed heads of ten people have been found in Mexico in a suspected outbreak of drug violence, authorities said.  The heads were lined up on a street outside a slaughterhouse in Teloloapan, about 155 miles south of Mexico City.

The bodies have not been found, according to the Guerrero state attorney general's office.  Seven of the heads belonged to men and three to women, all aged between 20 and 35 years.

More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led crackdown on the cartels after taking office five years ago.  Teloloapan is in the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero, where the La Familia cartel and its offshoot, Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar), are fighting for territory.

A statement from the Teloloapan police said the heads were left with a message that appeared to threaten the La Familia cartel.  The warning said: 'This is going to happen to all those who support the FM.'

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still Think Online Piracy Is About Artists' Rights? Guess Again

For years, film and video content providers have been cracking down on internet pirates and private citizens in their efforts to maximize their bottom line. Through the use of lawsuits, criminal charges, congressional lobbying, corporate intimidation, and hostile software acquisitions, they have been methodically eliminating consumer options for backing up DVD's or transferring them from one platform to another.

What parent who has bought dozens of Disney DVD's would not want to make backup copies before they are totally scratched up in the minivan or left behind at their kids' sleep overs? If you shelled out over $250 for the complete Sopranos series, why wouldn't you want to easily (and without extra cost) be able to watch the shows on either your TV, your computer or on your iPod?

Hollywood has long been criticized for their seemingly anti-consumer initiatives, especially when they have not provided consumers with any viable alternative for streaming/sharing content themselves. But last week saw the high-profile unveiling of Hollywood's "UltraViolet" scheme-- available initially at Wal-Mart, it is marketed as an easier way to send movies and content to multiple devices. As always, we can count on CNET to give us the real deal-- and what is their verdict?

It stinks. Hollywood claims that Ultraviolet offers an easy-to-access digital library, "total freedom" to view your UV-enabled movies on any device, and future-proof DVD buying where every disc includes cloud backup.

The reality is less than promised, however. The Wal-Mart plan is that you can bring in your existing DVDs and, for a fee of between $2 and $5 per DVD, you can buy yourself digital streaming rights to those movies (even though you legally already have those rights-- but that's another discussion).  The streaming happens through Wal-Mart's Vudu service, which is available on only about 300 devices-- none of them Android devices.  It's available on iPad, but not in high-def.

You'll need to sign up for a free Vudu account for access, and you might end up needing to buy a new Blu-ray player, one of a handful of connected TVs that support the Vudu app, a Microsoft Xbox 360, or a PlayStation 3 to stream the content to your TV.

And if the Vudu catalog doesn't have a license for your movie, you might be out of luck-- in which case you'll have to go find and stream a digital copy of your DVD from a separate UltraViolet library, which requires a second sign-up process (and possibly more money). Cha-ching!

And by the way-- TV shows are excluded.  Oops!

And one more thing-- Wal-Mart's plan doesn't include Disney.  I mean, come on! What child-rearing family in the U.S. doesn't own at least one Disney flick? But that's OK . . . you can just re-purchase "Cars" or "Toy Story" on iTunes for an extra $14.99! Cha-ching!

But all of that doesn't seem what UltraViolet was promised to be-- right? UltraViolet is supposed to give you total freedom, access to your digital library everywhere, and the ability to watch on every device!

Wrong. The fine print from Hollywood allows retailers to determine the specifics of UltraViolet's implementation. Wal-Mart gets to decide what apps and what devices support the streaming. Best Buy could also decide. Amazon could make up its own terms whenever it starts selling UltraViolet movies.

OK, OK-- so maybe Wal-Mart is abusing the system, but UltraViolet is worth a few extra bucks (per DVD) for convenience, right?

Wrong again. Digital access bought using UltraViolet is limited to one year. The streaming benefits attached to a DVD you've already purchased have a finite expiration date.  Fees may be incurred if you attempt to stream content after that first year.  Fees may also arise if retailers and streaming services choose to require them (for any reason they desire).  Service fees could also apply if you want to download more than three of your UltraViolet files to various devices, and downloaded files can only be played on (at least right now) 12 compatible apps and devices. Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching . . . .

Back to Wal-Mart and Vudu for a second. Because Disney is not on board, Apple is obviously not on board, so your UltraViolet movie copies can't be backed up to iCloud, where you'll be storing other media if you own an Apple device. Still think this is convenient? Disney has also decided to turn its own digital movie locker, KeyChest, into a place to store and access all your Disney media. This is all starting to look like a hot mess, don't ya think?

To make matters worse, digital movies purchased on Amazon won't support UltraViolet (or iCloud, for that matter), so there's every chance you could end up with a minimum of two cloud libraries for movies. Three, once KeyChest launches. Maybe more!

Oh, and UltraViolet is region-coded-- meaning that whatever content your buy and store in the U.S. won't be playable while your vacationing in South America, Europe or Asia.  Can you give me one more big "Cha-ching"?!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

No Justice For Black Victims in Sanford, Flordia

Shot dead for carrying Skittles
17-year-old Trayvon Martin was visiting his father and the home of some family friends last month when he decided to head out for some snacks.  On the walk back home, he was confronted unexpectedly by 28-year-old George Zimmerman.  Within seconds, the unarmed teenager lay dead on the ground.  Zimmerman walked free that same night-- and, having shot an unarmed boy, still has not been charged with a crime.

The case has shocked people nationwide, taking on racial overtones and provoking cries of vigilantism gone amok in a case where an unarmed black teenager was shot by a white self-appointed "neighborhood patrol leader".  Zimmerman claims he was defending himself, but others say he was overzealous and lethally reckless.

What is known for sure is that Trayvon was on his way back home from a nearby 7-11 when he was spotted by Zimmerman, who called police to report a “real suspicious guy.” He told the dispatcher that Martin “looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” He described Martin as having his hand on his waistband, carrying an object, and coming towards him. “And he’s a black male…Something’s wrong with him…These assholes, they always get away.”

Despite being told by the dispatcher not to chase him, Zimmerman went after Martin. According to several 911 calls from the neighborhood, the two wrestled and screams for help went out from one of the two. Then after a single shot, Martin lay on the ground, dead. The object in his hands was a bag of Skittles.

When police came to the scene, Zimmerman dropped his weapon and told them he shot Martin in self defense.  Sanford police did not press charges against Zimmerman, telling the slain teen’s family that he had a “squeaky clean” record. He is a licensed gun owner studying criminal justice.

Reports have surfaced that Zimmerman had called police 46 times in the two months leading up to the incident and that his volunteer patrols had an unremitting focus on black males. He had also once been arrested for battery on a police officer. His defenders have pointed out that has been responsible for thwarting several crimes.

Since the incident, a new controversy has risen over whether the Sanford Police Department is protecting Zimmerman, whether he acted appropriately under Florida’s concealed carry gun laws, and whether he acted properly under the state’s “stand your ground” laws, which allow residents to use deadly force against a threat without trying to retreat.

Suspicion was heightened by the fact that Zimmerman was not tested for alcohol or drugs, customary police procedure after a shooting. Moreover, several witnesses have come forward saying Martin could be heard on the 911 tapes screaming for help.  Also fueling criticism of the Sanford Police Department are prior instances of cronyism and racial profiling.

In July 2005, two parking lot security guards, one the son of a Sanford Police Department veteran and the other a volunteer for the department, shot a black teen, Travares McGill, in the back, killing him. The two white security guards claimed self-defense, and the case was dismissed.

Last year, then-police chief Brian Tooley was forced from office after the son of a lieutenant was caught on camera beating up an unsuspecting homeless black man, but whom the department declined to prosecute. After the footage went viral on YouTube, the Lieutenant's son was arrested.

Martin’s family is angered-- not only over his death, but also over police inaction toward Zimmerman. They feel the killing was racially motivated.

The Sanford police said they do not have enough evidence to refute Zimmerman's claims of self-defense. The case has since been turned over to the Seminole County State Attorney's Office, which has still not yet determined whether Zimmerman should face any charges in Trayvon's death.

Trayvon's parents and community leaders, enraged by Sanford and Seminole County handling of the case, have called on the FBI to take over the investigation-- saying they no longer trust the local police department.

After efforts by Florida A&M students to draw attention to the case, those calls have now been heeded.  The Department of Justice this evening announced that it would be dispatching officials to Sanford to investigate and "to address tension in the community."

"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a written statement. "The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident."

Campaign Funnies

"I see that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum now have Secret Service with them on the campaign trail. And in Santorum's case I think it's the first time he's actually ever used protection."

-- Senator Scott Brown, using a joke from Conan O'Brien.

Argentina Breaking Away From Religious Oppression

Argentina's Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that any rape victim can get an abortion, setting an historic precedent in a country where abortions are generally illegal.

Until now, it had been up to a judge to decide which rape victims could get abortions, and generally only women with mental disabilities were approved. In several well-publicized cases, even young girls who had been raped were forced to carry out their pregnancies.

The Supreme Court now says no rape victim can be punished for terminating a pregnancy. And those women no longer need a court order. All they need to provide to a doctor is a sworn declaration that they were raped.

The Roman Catholic Church condemned the ruling, saying abortions are wrong even in the event of a rape.

Let's hope that Americans will come to their senses as well, and refute the religious right's renewed attack on women in this country.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Testament To The Power Of The Internet

An Indian man who lost his family while begging as a child has been reunited with them after more than two decades -- after spotting his home village on Google Earth.

Twenty five years ago, Saroo Brierly (then known as Sharu) was begging at a railway station in Khandwa, India, with one of his older brothers. They boarded a train that, unbeknownst to them, was going the wrong way and fell asleep. Nine hundred miles and 10 hours later, Saroo woke up on the other side of the country. His brother was nowhere to be found. He was five years old at the time.

The little boy spent a difficult month trying to find his way back home. He almost drowned in the River Ganges and nearly got abducted by a man who wanted to sell him as a slave.

Saroo was placed in an orphanage run by an NGO after he was found begging on the streets of Kolkata and was later adopted by an Australian couple who brought him to Tasmania.

Saroo Brierly never forgot where he came from, and began his search for his hometown soon after graduating from college. "I kept in my head the images of the town I grew up in, the streets I used to wander and the faces of my family, I treasured those memories," The debut of Google Earth in 2005 proved to be the key to Brierly's quest.

From a vague memory of the Khandwa train station, he spent years using the satellite mapping tool to locate an area near the train station that fit in perfectly with this childhood memories-- the village of Ganesh Talai. He then joined a Facebook group for his home town Ganesh Talai and managed to piece together the details by exchanging emails with members of the group.

He booked his plane ticket three weeks ago and went to the town, scouring the streets searching for his family. Incredibly, he found them-- still very poor and living in the same slum of his birth 30 years ago.

Brierly learned that his mother, Kamla, and his eldest brother, Kallu, had searched endlessly for him and his brother after they went missing.  They had sought the comfort of fortunetellers who told them that they would one day be together again. The hoped-for family reunion turned out to be incomplete, however. The brother that had accompanied him that fateful day had later been found dead on the railroad tracks near Burhanpur.

"To this day, I still can't believe I managed to find my family, considering India's population size and how young I was when I lost them," Saroo told reporters. He has no plans to return to his hometown, but hopes to visit his family frequently. He says he plans to make a movie on his past and present which “will have everything”.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Diplomat's Daughter Shot Dead In Venezuela

The 19-year-old daughter of a Chilean diplomat in Venezuela has been killed by police at an unmarked road checkpoint.  Chilean Consul Fernando Berendique, speaking from the western city of Maracaibo, said his daughter Karen was shot early Saturday while riding with her brother and another young man to see some friends.

The trio ignored a command to stop at the checkpoint, fearing the officers might be robbers. Venezuelans have long been distrustful of the police--  violent crime is widespread in Venezuela,  which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America.  Government officials have estimated that police are complicit in 20 percent of all kidnappings and murders.

The Prosecutor General's Office says in a statement that eleven police officers are under investigation for their roles in the death.  According to that statement, the victim after suffering three bullet wounds, including one to the head.  Judicial police chief Jose Humberto Ramirez condemns the shooting and what he calls "bad police practices."

Next Stop: End of the Rainbow

Open Mouth, Lose Election

Rick the dumb-ass prick
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans this week they would have to make English their primary language if they wanted to pursue U.S. statehood. There's only one problem, however-- that's not what the U.S. Constitution says.

Santorum's stupidity doesn't stop there. He went on, saying that other states must do the same: "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law. And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

Sun-torum dreaming of exercise
Of course, that's not true either. But his idiocy went further when he said, “To me, it doesn’t make any sense to be in America and not want to be a state and have full rights as a United States citizen.” Puerto Ricans, of course, are already United States citizens. Oops!

Needless to say, many Puerto Ricans are pissed. One of Santorum's most prominent supporters, former Puerto Rican senator Oreste Ramos, was so upset he rescinded his endorsement that very day. Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, also took issue, saying "Santorum's vision over what the U.S. should be is limited and close-minded."

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