Monday, February 29, 2016

Death By Selfie

A young dolphin has died of dehydration after being paraded around like a trophy and stroked by a crowd of Argentinian sunbathers who then abandoned it on the sand.

The group of people huddled around the mammal taking selfies after it was found on the beach resort of Santa Teresita in a province northeast of Buenos Aires.   Dozens of people crowded round to look at the squirming calf as they strained to touch it, and have their photos taken with it.

The La Plata dolphin (also known as the Franciscana dolphin) can live to be twenty years old.  The species is listed as vulnerable and is of particular conservation concern because of its restricted distribution and vulnerability to incidental capture in fishing gear. There are only around 30,000 animals of its kind thought to be left in the world.

The last tragic images of the individual exploited in this incident show the body, abandoned on the sand, as people continue to take pictures.

The episode has caused the Wildlife Foundation in Argentina to issue a reminder to the public regarding the vulnerable species, which is only present off the coast of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Manning Sexual Assault Allegations Resurface

Thirteen years ago, USA Today obtained 74 pages of explosive court documents on Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, the University of Tennessee, and Florida Southern College that revealed allegations of a sexual-assault scandal, cover up, and smear campaign of the victim that was so deep, so widespread and so ugly that it would've rocked the American sports world to its core.

Mel Antonen, now a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote about the documents for the paper on Nov. 3, 2003. Three days later, Christine Brennan, longtime sportswriter for USA Today wrote an op-ed about Peyton Manning and the documents entitled, “Do you really know your sports hero?” but the scandal pretty much died right there.  And don't even expect ESPN to cover this story-- it's become pretty clear that the once-respected sports network is the latest apologist for the scandal-plagued NFL.

ESPN has been running up the ratings with the feel-good story of the veteran QB winning the Super Bowl in his final season.  And many other sports writers and evangelical leaders have been extolling Manning “squeaky clean” image and positioning the Broncos QB as the arbiter of all things good and decent-- but that wouldn't be the case if this story had been reported on by responsible media outlets when it occurred.

The newly reported facts of the covered-up Manning sexual assault case provide credible evidence that Peyton and the Manning family knowingly, willingly, wantonly ruined the good name and career of Dr. Jamie Naughright, a respected scholar, speaker, professor, and trainer of some of the best athletes in the world.

Only time will tell if this story is treated with the seriousness it deserves or whether Manning is allowed to retire with the dignity he probably doesn't deserve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ESPN No Longer Cool

ESPN has been garnering much criticism of late by white-washing criticism of the NFL from its airwaves in a naked attempt to curry favor and programming from the controversy-drenched league.  Don't most people expect ESPN to report on sports?

During the recent  NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler used the opportunity to launch into some good words for Canada, saying, “The U.S. has a lot it could learn from Canada-- Health care, taking care of people.”

But ESPN reporter Sage Steele was having none of it.  “We’re talking about celebrity stuff, not politics,” Steele interrupted as ESPN quickly cut away. “Congratulations on your MVP!”

Saturday, February 20, 2016

More Incompetence in Flint

Residents of Flint, Michigan, began getting gravely ill and in some cases dying in summer 2014 in one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in U.S. history, and a county health director says attempts to find the source were hampered when the state wouldn't request federal assistance.   Eventually, 87 people got Legionnaire's and nine died.

According to Genesee County Health director Jim Henry, state officials purposely kept the CDC away once the county wanted to investigate the highly corrosive Flint River as the Legionnaire's outbreak began. By that time, the state had decided to switch the water supply source to the Flint River, and soon brown water began flowing from taps in the city. 

The CDC never showed up after being contacted by county officials and it appears that state purposely intervened.  According to CDC protocol, a state must "invite" the CDC to investigate an outbreak. And Michigan did not do that.  According to the CNN story, the CDC says "Michigan felt that they had the skills and resources needed to perform the investigation themselves."  Michigan state officials admit hat they never found the cause of the outbreak, but refuse to comment further.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Censorship On The Rise in France

And you thought we were past the "anti-smut" conservative movement that saw its heyday in the U.S. back in the 1970-80's.  What's even more shocking is that the latest battle against freedom of expression in the arts is taking place in France

The French conservative values group "Promouvoir" has won another victory in its crusade against sex and violence on French screens. Lars von Trier’s 2009 drama, "Antichrist", which won the best actress prize for Charlotte Gainsbourg at the Cannes film festival, has seen its operating visa revoked by a court in Paris. The court cited “scenes of great violence” and “non-simulated sex” in its decision, per multiple reports.

The move comes at a time when Promouvoir has won campaigns against several major titles in recent months, mostly over sexual content. It’s also somewhat ironic in a country that saw its right to to artistic expression so devastatingly attacked last year.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lifting the Veil of Bush-Era Secrecy

On a snowy afternoon in February 2004, an FBI agent came to Nick Merrill’s door, bearing a national security letter (NSL).  At the time, Merrill was  running a small internet service provider (called Calyx) on Manhattan's west side. 

The NSL demanded details on one of his company’s clients-- including cellphone tower location data, email details and screen-names.  If Merrill even talked about the NSL with his girlfriend or a lawyer, he could go to jail on "national security" charges.

NSL's were sparingly used over the years, but the Patriot Act vastly expanded what an NSL could be used for, and the FBI began rapidly abusing the tool, issuing nearly 57,000 in the most recent year.  After n 11-year battle with the FBI, Merrill can now finally tell his story to the public.

With the ACLU, Merrill went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the letter, and its associated gag order.

The case, in which Merrill was listed as a “John Doe” because of the terms of the order, was against the attorney general, John Ashcroft, FBI director, Robert Mueller, and FBI senior counsel Marion Bowman.

The same year, a district court judge, sided with Merrill against the federal government, finding that the letter violated his fourth amendment rights. A year later, in response, Congress amended the statute. Merrill went to court again; again, the district court struck down the law.  In 2008, a second circuit judge affirmed that decision.  The FBI eventually decided it no longer wanted the information it had demanded and dropped its demand for records-- but it continued to challenge Merrill's right to disclose the letter and publicly discuss his case.

In 2014, a federal judge in New York finally ruled that the gag order be completely lifted.  After waiting out the period in which the Department of Justice could appeal, Merrill finally received permission to publish the full, un-redacted version of the letter.

It has taken a long fifteen years-- but we are another step closer to unraveling the tortured legacy of the Bush administration.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Words of Antonin Scalia

This was the guy who was actually weighing in on some of the most important issues of the day . . . .

On the death penalty:  "Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."

In deciding that private businesses can be exempted from certain laws on religious grounds:  “Well, religious beliefs aren’t reasonable. I mean, religious beliefs are categorical. You know, it’s God [that] tells you. It’s not a matter of being reasonable."

On the right of Americans to arm themselves with anything that can be hand-carried:  "I suppose there are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.”

Responding to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings: “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo." (Italian slang meaning "fuck you")

“If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.” He then used a 19th-century law restricting the movement of freed slaves to bolster his argument:  "[Back in the day], “State laws not only provided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.”

“Nobody thought it (the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection) was directed against sex discrimination.  Although [gender bias]  shouldn’t exist-- [the idea that it is] constitutionally forbidden is a modern invention.”

Upon being corrected during oral arguments for mistakenly using the term stratosphere:  “Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist. That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”

On why he believed that comments from legislators were irrelevant in figuring out what statutes meant: “Once Congress floats that text out there, it has its own life. It means what it means. It means what it says.”

"Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say."

On his belief that racism no longer exists and that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed:  "[There is a] phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.  It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes."

On his tendency to equate homosexuality with murder and bestiality:  “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?"

“[The Texas anti-sodomy statute] undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty ... So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery.”

Explaining why an unopposed vote on a piece of legislation actually undermines the law:  “The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there.”

The Daily Dude notes that in 1986, the Senate approved Justice Scalia’s nomination to the Supreme Court by a vote of 98 to 0 . . . by Scalia's standards, there must be something wrong there.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Wiping Up The Mess After Treating Your Passport Like Shit

A woman has been refused entry to Thailand after ripping pages from a passport to use instead of toilet roll.  Faye Wilson, from the Lake District of Scotland, was turned back by border officers after they found missing pages, which she said she had used as toilet paper when drunk.  Here's how she put it:
"We were walking from one bar to the next and we must have been desperate for a wee and obviously didn't have any toilet roll.  It was maybe two or three pages. I was a bit drunk so didn't even think about the consequences."

"Thai immigration just opened my passport and started looking through it, and asked 'what's happened here'?  I just said that I had lost the pages because I was too embarrassed to explain the real reason. Before I could explain more, they had deported me back to Dubai and then to Glasgow and confiscated my documents."

Wilson will now have to apply for an emergency passport back in Scotland to continue the trip.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Another Stereotype Bites the Dust

The “drunken Indian” stereotype and been a disgraceful slur levied against Native Americans for centuries. But a new study at the University of Arizona has debunked the long-held view that American Indians have a uniquely high rate of use and abuse.

Researchers found that the rate of binge and heavy drinking is the same for Indians and whites. There was a major area of difference, however: Indians are more likely to abstain from alcohol altogether than are whites. The study appears in the Feb. 8 edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The researchers examined data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. They found that about 17 percent of both Indians and whites were binge drinkers (five or more drinks on one to four days in the previous month). About 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers (five or more drinks on five or more days in the previous month). But 60 percent of Indians reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.

James K. Cunningham, the lead author of the study, said: "Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn't mean that alcohol problems don't exist. All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

God Tweeted GOP NH Primary Results

Irate Gambler Lynched in Nairobi

A Tanzanian gambler has been stoned to death by fellow players at a casino in Kenya's capital Nairobi after he killed two of its employees.

The attack took place at the City View Bar and Restaurant Casino on Tenth Street in Nairobi's Eastleigh district.  The man, identified as John Barnabas Mchanga,  lost his temper when he was refused a chance to try to win back the $300 he had lost, according to police.

Mchanga went to the manager's office and demanded a free play from 40-year-old Winfred Mbuvi, but she turned him down.  He used a Somali sword to stab her several times, killing her.  A security guard, James Lutea, tried to rescue her but was also fatally stabbed.

The Tanzanian gambler also stabbed another guard, Kevin Ogada, who was being treated in a hospital and was listed in a serious condition.   The incident sparked panic and chaos at the casino, sending some patrons running for their lives while a mob of onlookers confronted the gambler.  The mob chased Mchanga and stoned him to death in a nearby street.

Casinos have been growing in popularity in Kenya in recent years.  Revenues for 2014 were estimated at $20 million, representing an annual increase of more than 6%.  Revenue growth is expected to fall, however, due to slower economic growth and a newly-levied 20 percent withholding tax on gambling winnings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Boo-hoo Over a Subaru

If you haven't been watching TV recently, you probably didn't know that Subaru has been running one of the most heart-breaking commercials in recent memory. The ad is titled "Dream Weekend" and it follows a man and his dog, celebrating the pooch's 14 and 3/4 birthday.  It will only take the viewer a few sad moments to realize why he isn't waiting to celebrate his dog's 15th.

The melancholy strains of Willie Nelson's "I've Loved You All Over The World" wash over the moments onscreen, as we watch the man marks items off his dog's bucket list one by one.

1. Road Trip
2. 100 tennis balls
3. Ferris Wheel
4. Sky diving
5. Beach
6. Old girlfriend
7. Chew a shoe
8. Massage at a hotel
9. Steak dinner
10. Hot air ballooning
11. Breakfast in bed
12. Looping roller coaster
13. (unknown)
14. River rafting
15. Ride a train
16. Sneak into a hotel pool
17. Run in the park
18. Dig a big hole

The commercial ends as the man and his loyal friend enjoy a sunset at the beach- the last item on the list. Watch for yourself:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Retirees Dealt A Bad Hand By Thai Police

A group of elderly bridge players in the Thailand resort town of Pattaya were surprised by a visit from the police this week.   Over 50 officers from the Thai Army and local police stormed a regularly scheduled bridge game, arresting 32 foreign retirees-- including an 84-year-old Dutch woman.  The group, which has been conducting weekly bridge games for over twenty years, said they were not playing for money-- but were jailed for possessing too many unregistered playing cards. 

Thailand's military rulers have vowed to crack down on corruption and crime.  Police said they raided the bridge club after its anti-corruption center received a tip-off.  Thailand has strict anti-gambling laws, with nearly all forms of gambling prohibited. The members had broken a 1935 law, the Playing Cards Act, which prohibits individuals from possessing more than 120 playing cards.  A group of 32 bridge players, by necessity, would need to utilize eight decks-- for a total of 416 cards.  The players were released on bail for $160 each after 12 hours in custody.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cheney The Carpetbagger

Yesterday morning, Liz Cheney used Facebook to explain why she was running for  the House of Representatives. . .  unfortunately, she had location enabled in her Facebook settings, which revealed that she had uploaded the post from her actual residence in Alexandria, Va.

Cheney, the Republican daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has faced criticism that she’s not firmly enough rooted in the Cowboy State.  Liz Cheney lived in Wyoming as a child and she and her husband bought a house in Wyoming four years ago in advance of her failed 2014 Senate bid.  In an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune this past weekend, Cheney claimed that she’s been heavily involved in her Wyoming community as a mother to five children.

After the post was widely shared on social media, her campaign updated the post to remove the location, using the ubiquitous excuse: “It was a campaign glitch."

There's no doubt Liz Cheney has unintentionally outed herself as a carpetbagger. In Wyoming, most candidates for political office differ very little in their conservative positions-- which is why other factors (such as integrity and honesty) can often make the difference.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shame The Lame Dame of the Blame Game

Partial-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was not happy today when her interview on NBC deviated away from the topic of the Iowa caucuses and toward her son's recent arrest.

Palin's son Track, who was arrested two weeks ago on weapons and domestic violence charges, is a veteran of the Iraq War. Palin suggested shortly after the arrest that President Barack Obama may be to blame because he does not offer veterans the respect they deserve:
But my son, like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened, they come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military, so sacrificially have given to this country, and that starts from the top, it’s a shame that our military personnel even have to wonder, if they have to question if they’re respected anymore. It starts from the top, the question, though, that comes from our own president, where they have to look at him and wonder: do you know what we go through, do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America and to secure the freedoms that have been bequeathed us!

But veterans who know the damaging effects of PTSD quickly came down on Palin's rhetoric, making it clear that her son's domestic violence charge shouldn't be used as a platform to politicize a condition that affects more than 10 percent of the U.S. military.  "Palin is using PTSD as an excuse to shift blame away from her son's domestic violence," said Brandon Friedman, the former digital media director for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Matt Miller, the chief policy officer for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said Palin used PTSD as a "crutch" for her son's domestic violence. Instead of politicizing the suffering of veterans, Palin could have instead sought help for him.

As for Obama's alleged apathy on veterans' issues, Miller said that simply isn't true. Just last year, Obama signed a bipartisan bill to improve veterans' access to mental health resources. And the Veterans Affairs budget is at an all-time high.  "It's ironic that people like Sarah Palin are in the party of 'personal responsibility' but as soon as someone in her family is arrested for domestic violence, it's Obama's fault," Friedman said.


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