Friday, November 30, 2007

Sudanese Protesters Call for Execution of "Teddy Bear Teacher"

As I previously said, I don't write about stuff like this normally, leaving it to the mainstream, but this is particularly egregious. You'll recall that Gillian Gibbons, a teacher who committed what was probably an honest mistake, naming a teddy bear used in a class exercise Muhammed (based on the students' votes, BTW!), was convicted yesterday of inciting religious hatred. Her sentence was 15 days in prison and deportation.

This is actually fortunate for her as it was possible she could get up to 40 lashes, and six months in prison.

However, today there are wild protests outside the presidential palace in Khartoum, with thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, calling for Gibbons' execution. Other protesters marched to her former high school, Unity High School, chanting and protesting --- fortunately without weapons.

Because of the protests, Gibbons has been moved to a secret location for her safety.

A hard-line cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri said, "This is an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad."

I'll say what I said yesterday verbatim because it still applies:
This woman travels from the U.K. to Sudan, sacrificing a (one would assume) comfortable life in the U.K. for a definitely less comfortable one, and this is the thanks she gets? You can bet others mulling over the same choice might have second thoughts now.
One more thing, though: I don't want to incite anything myself, but honestly, many have said that Islam is a peaceful religion. While that may in fact be true for the majority of its followers, how can you watch something like this and not have your opinion swayed negatively?

You Should Probably Stay Away from Bobby Knight When He Has a Gun

James Simpson, a homeowner in Lubbock, Texas, has accused Bobby Knight and a hunting buddy, Bob Curtis, of hunting too close to his house, resulting in pellets landing in his swimming pool (according to the video), and some pellets actually hitting him (though not hurting him).

In fact, this appears to be the second time that Knight has had a hunting "accident," as Mary Ann Chumley said Tuesday she was struck on the foot by a stray pellet on Oct. 20 in a similar incident. In that case Knight apologized and she forgave him. In this case ...

Watching the video, the owner asks Knight to move further away from his house.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Bobby Knight knows he's not the calmest man in the world. Do you really want to start yelling at him when he has a shotgun in his hands?

In fact, at one point in the video, Simpson warns Knight to stop moving the shotgun in his direction. Unfortunately, the gun is not visible in the video.

It's unfortunately humorous also that the homeowner has quite the accent, making it hard to understand, and hard to ... well, you'll see. As he said:
''Pellets fell on m' house. I don't want no pellets landing on my house while I'm playin' in my swimmin' pool.''
Apparently police and game wardens feel the matter is closed, but Simpson does not. We'll see what happens going forward.

Watch the video:

Graveyard Shift Can Lead to an Early Grave

It sounds like a nutty idea. Graveyard shift having anything to do with cancer risk? But at one time, that was how people felt about smoking and cancer, and we know what happened there.

Next month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer arm, will classify shift work as a "probable" carcinogen. At the same time, the American Cancer Society has indicated that once that classification takes place, it would most likely add shift work to its list of "known and probable carcinogens." Until now, the ACS has labeled shift work an "uncertain, controversial or unproven effect."

How did this reclassification take place?

The idea is isn't new; it was first posited in 1987 by Richard Stevens, a cancer epidemiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center. He published a paper suggesting a link between light at night and breast cancer. Naturally he was ridiculed.

However, recent studies have shown a correlation between women working at night for many years and an increased risk of breast cancer, and also that men working at night may have a higher rate of prostate cancer.

There have also been studies associating a higher incidence of tumors in animals who have had their light-dark schedules switched.

And that's the theory. One: that shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm, the body 24-hour physiological cycle --- and two: that the hormone melatonin, which suppresses tumor development and is normally produced at night, is suppressed in shift workers because light shuts down its production.

Additional possible contributors: lack of sleep and flipping between shift work and regular hours. No matter what, however, researchers say more studies are required.

One other thing: researchers recommend that shift workers make sure they sleep in a darkened room when they return home. This also ought to be a warning to those of you who fall alseep while watching TV, as sleeping with a lot of light is what researchers are concerned about.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sudan Trial on Teddy Bear Named "Muhammed" Ends with Guilty Verdict

Normally I wouldn't write about something so mainstream-media-ish, but this is just so ... outrageous. I actually thought this would blow over, particularly since officials Sudan's Foreign Ministry have tried to play down the case. In fact, they initially predicted Gillian Gibbons, 54, charged with inciting religious hatred by letting her pupils name a teddy bear "Muhammad," could be released without charge.

But the case has continued, and has now gone to trial. The ridiculous details are that Gibbons, a British citizen teaching at a British-run school in Khartoum, let her students vote on what to name a teddy bear being used in a exercise about animals. Nominees included Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad, and a vote ended with 20 out of 23 students picking Muhammed.

Apparently one of those three who did not vote for Muhammed complained, and here we are. Despite repeated conjecture that she would "be released" or "not be charged," including as I said the Sudan Foreign Ministry and the school's director, she is now on trial. The possible sentence: up to 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine.

Word is that the country's top Muslim clerics have pressed the government to ensure that she is punished, for what appears to be a genuine misunderstanding. It's unclear how long the trial will last, but Prosecutor-General Salah Eddin Abu Zaid said the Gibbons could expect a ''swift and fair trial.''

IMHO: This woman travels from the U.K. to Sudan, sacrificing a (one would assume) comfortable life in the U.K. for a definitely less comfortable one, and this is the thanks she gets? You can bet others mulling over the same choice might have second thoughts now.

Update: She's guilty. She will avoid the lashes, but she will get 15 days in jail and be deported.

Size Doesn't Matter, at Least for Flashers

What's that old saying? "It's not the size of the boat, it's the motion of the ocean." I guess that applies to flashers as well, or at least, the argument a U.K. man used that he could not be guilty as his genitals were too small didn't fly (pun intended) with the court.

Michael Carney, 41, said he couldn't be guilty; he was so small he was too embarrassed to possibly expose himself to women --- and he showed the court photographs as proof.

But the jury at Teesside Crown Court convicted Carney of 7 counts of indecent exposure.

After the conviction, the jury was told of Carney's prior conviction of five sexual assaults.

Seems like he's not all that embarrassed, is he?

Prostitute Auctions Off Sex for Charity Drive

Oh, those countries where prostitution is legal, what they can do. One such country is Chile, where a prostitute has auctioned off 27 hours of sex, and will donate the proceeds to Chile's annual two-day Teleton fundraiser, which runs for 27 hours starting on Friday.

Maria Carolina said, "I've already auctioned off the 27 hours of love. One of my clients already paid. It seemed like a good deed to him."

So wait, are you telling me this one guy is going to have 27 hours of sex with her?

Anyway, although campaign organizer Mario Kreutzberger said he would not encourage "immoral" activities, he said he'd take the money. Why not, after all?

BTW, she apparently has her own website, and that's her above.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Judge Who Jailed Entire Courtroom Over Cell Phone Call Removed

Sure, I've complained about cell phone calls in movie theatres and other places where you just wish people were polite enough to shut them off --- but jailing 46 people because no one fessed up to it? That's overkill. And a New York state commission agreed.

In March 2005, Judge Robert Restaino, angered by a ringing cell phone while hearing a case (a sign in the courthouse warns that cell phones and pagers must be turned off), said to those assembled:
"Everyone is going to jail. Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going."
He meant it, too. When no one came forward, he had everyone carted off to jail. He had them released later that afternoon, but still.

His excuse? Stress in his personal life.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct decided to remove Restaino from his post, which pays $113,900 per year. Through his lawyer, Restaino said he would appeal.

Still, how would you like someone "stressed out" like this to be sentencing you? Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Road Kill Toys Add Squash to Plush

I don't think they have any lead in them, but they certainly have some gore. The newest thing in plush toys: Road Kill.

Road Kill Toys is a new toy company, and as they themselves say, they are "toys with a macabre twist." Their first product is Twitch the Raccoon. All of the Road Kill toys will come with ID tags though, with information on the animal's demise. However, the first 1,000 Twitches sold will be limited editions, with special identity tags, hand-written by the designer.

The toy's, er, blood and guts can be stuffed into or pulled out of his body. A tire print even runs across its back.

Besides Twitch, future characters will include Grind the Rabbit, Splodge the Hedgehog, Pop the Weasel (it figures), Fender the Fox, and Smudge the Squirrel.

You can read their character profiles, including their death certificates, here.

The only one with a price so far in their shop is Twitch, at £25.00 --- the rest all have "call for pricing" tags. Still, as it says at their site, you'd better hurry before the maggots set in.

MRIs Confirm Second-Hand Smoke Damages Lungs

On Monday, doctors reported the results of a study which confirmed what those of us non-smokers who cough around smokers already know: second-hand smoke damages lungs.

The study looked at the lungs of "high exposure" non-smokers and found evidence of the kind of damage that causes emphysema. The team studied 60 adults between ages 41 and 79, 45 of whom had never smoked. The non-smokers were considered to have high exposure if they had lived with a smoker for at least 10 years.

The team, led by Chengbo Wang, a magnetic resonance physicist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, used long-time-scale, global helium-3 diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. This allowed them to examine lung structure on on a microscopic level.

Based on the scans, 1/3 of the people who breath in high levels of secondhand smoke have damage to their lungs similar to that seen in smokers, doctors reported on Monday.

"To our knowledge, this is the first imaging study to find lung damage in non-smokers heavily exposed to secondhand smoke. We hope our work strengthens the efforts of legislators and policymakers to limit public exposure to secondhand smoke," said Wang.

Why are we finally getting some results, after all these years? "It's long been hypothesized that prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke may cause physical damage to the lungs, but previous methods of analyzing lung changes were not sensitive enough to detect it," said Wang.

Yep, it's the new MRI method.

Now, I know what smokers are probably going to say: "But 2/3 of them aren't affected!" or "What about my rights!?" I've always said, smokers are free to kill themselves on their own time and in their own home, but what about my rights to live as long as possible? Second-hand smoke infringes on that right, as shown in this study.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Britney Spears Blows (Through) Three Stop Signs

Britney Spears has already been banned from driving with her kids; maybe she needs to be banned from driving period. Last Friday night, driving in her white Mercedes SL65 with her producer friend Sam Lutfi, the pop "diva" rolled through three stop signs.

Of course, many would say, "It's California, home of the California stop!" Be that as it may, she didn't really slow down all that much either. And based on the video, obtained by Usmagazine.com, it looks like she hasn't stopped texting while driving either.

And since she was returning from the Four Season Hotel, she most likely --- though not necessarily --- imbibed, just a little. Does she really want to attract more attention, what with her custody situation? Or does she just not care?

Download and watch the video.

"Deer Antler Kid" Survives After Antler Penetrates His Brain

Connor Schick, five-years-old, survived a frightening experience when a deer antler he was carrying while running pierced his eye socket and entered his brain (what did we say about running with sharp objects?!).

Connor and his family were vacationing in Utah this summer when he found the antler. He fell and the antler entered his eye socket, missing the eye but penetrating his brain. He actually removed the antler from his eye himself, according to reports.

The doctors at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City managed to save his life with high-doses of antibiotics after the wound became infected. He was even more lucky in that the antler, besides missing the eye, missed the muscles that control the eye and vital blood vessels leading to the brain.

Where did "Deer Antler Kid" come from? "Everybody knew him at Primary Children's as 'the Deer Antler Kid' because it was one of those things that doesn't happen," said his mother, Melissa.

Perfect Pet for Your Son? A Python Bigger Than Him?

A 20-foot long python could realistically kill a six-year-old child. After all, a 13-foot long boa constrictor killed his adult owner, in Cincinnati. Yet six-year-old Sambath Uon refuses to go to bed without the Burmese python named Lucky. They're pictured at left (click to enlarge).

The snake first slithered into their Cambodian village --- and their lives --- when Sambath was three months old and Lucky was only 20 inches long. Sambath's parents tried to return the snake to the wild, but it kept coming back.

Sambath's mother, Kim Kanara, said: 'We would find it asleep next to Sambath. They have slept together every night for the past six years."

Lucky is apparently now a member of the family. Personally the name just shows how "lucky" they have been so far.

"Simply Amish" Store Robbed of Plasma TV. Huh?

Simply Amish is a chain of stores which sells Amish-made furniture. As the national site says,
Amish isn't a style. It's a standard of excellence—desired by many and practiced by a very rare few. It's in the fine details of solid wood drawers, hand-finished, inside and out.
In Champaign, Illinois, the local Simply Amish showroom was robbed of
a 42-inch plasma television with an estimated value of more than $2,500. My response: huh? (Yes, yes, I'm sure they weren't selling plasma TVs, though a TV is furniture, but probably not made by "fine Amish craftsmen."

In addition, a stand for the television, a ceramic statue, a wall and a vinyl sign were damaged.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rome's Parking Chief Fired --- for Illegal Parking

Rome's traffic and parking chief was fired on Sunday after a newspaper revealed activity he, as parking chief, should know better than to do.

The newspaper reported that Giovanni Catanzaro parked his red Alfa Romeo Brera in a tow-away zone. Not only that, he used a handicapped permit that had previously been issued to an 86-year old woman, but had expired.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni showed no hesitation at removing Catanzaro once the story was printed.

Lassie Supports the Hollywood Writers Strike

Yes, our favorite collie appears to be supporting the Writers Guild of America (WGA) by picketing (see pic). In reality this is an imposter (we know Lassie has plenty of stand-ins) ... but it is Lulu, a descendent of Lassie (though since there have been many Lassies, it's hard to say which one!).

However, as Lassie and his (yes, remember Lassie is a he) owners and descendents have made tons of money off the hard-working backs of Hollywood writers, through TV series and movies, it's likely he supports the WGA.

(Besides, anything for a cool-looking dog picture, I say).

The WGA went on strike Nov. 5th over payment for work aired on the Web. Talks are reportedly set to start again today.

Whiskey Used to Keep High School Students Warm

Whiskey will be used to keep the students at Tynecastle High School in Edinburgh warm. Not in the way one would think of in Scotland, where whiskey is the national drink, but by using the waste heat from a distillery.

The high school is actually new, and will be built next to the North British Distillery. Water from the school will be piped from to the distillery where it will be warmed by waste heat, and then sent back to the school, cutting its fuel bill.

The setup will cost £200,000 but is expected to have paid for itself in energy savings within four years.

Not bad. And for you who thought they would be using whiskey to warm students "the other way," after all, that's just an urban myth anyway. And since it actually makes you feel warmer by dilating your blood vessels, it would actually hasten hypothermia. Sorry to be a downer.

The Spirit of Christmas: Three Women in Brawl Over Santa Arrival

Happy Holidays! Now get out of my way.

Thanksgiving has just passed and Santa's already making the rounds of shopping centers. Three women got into a shoving match at Anaheim Town Square shopping center over their places in line while waiting for Santa. One of the women was even carrying an infant (see above)

The mothers, all with children (I should hope so), were lined up to see the "Jingle Bell Jump," which involved Santa Claus landing in the parking lot in a hot-air balloon.

When something like this happens I always wonder about the sort of example parents are giving their children by doing something like this right in front of them. They're teaching them to be rude and disorderly when they grow up. And people wonder why more children are growing up to be anti-social.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Real-Life "Death Note" Book Gets Student Suspended

For those who haven't been watching Cartoon Network's Adult Swim on Saturdays lately, Death Note is an an anime series which centers around high school student Light Yagami, who finds a discarded notebook labeled "Death Note," lying on the ground (as with most anime, Death Note was previously a manga series).

The Death Note's instructions claim that if a human's name is written within it, that person shall die. The writer must know both the face and name of the "victim," to prevent mistakes. Yagami tries it on a couple of criminals first, and discovers it works.

As he continues to rid the world of criminals, he attracts the attention of the police. To protect himself, he begins killing innocents as well as the guilty.

In Richmond, Virginia at the Franklin Military Academy, a student was caught writing names in a Death Note notebook (reproductions are readily available). Naturally, this caught the attention of school authorities, who suspended him and sent a letter home to parents about it.

The letter also indicated that parents should go to the official website, to get more information on the series, and to be able to understand the context of the Death Note.

Update: an alert reader noticed that the website indicated in the school's note is not the official site at all, but a fan site. I hadn't noticed that in the video. Make sense, as Viz wouldn't place a simulation to put entries in a Death Note on their site.

Watch a video report:

Fliers Still Advertise "Aqua Dots" Date-Rape Toys

Aqua Dots, an extremely popular and award-winning toy, was recalled early this month when it was discovered that a chemical coating on the dots metabolizes into the daet-rape drug GHB. Embarrassingly for some stores, the recall didn't seem to affect their fliers as post-Thanksgiving ads for some stores featured the toys.

Of course, it's only an embarrassment, no danger to consumers --- as calls I made to some stores advertising the toys showed none of them had any. Naturally these fliers are printed long in advance, and based on the popularity of Aqua Dots, they were heavily featured.

Reports indicate that Toys "R" Us and Target ads featured the toys, but not all fliers in all locations in the country apparently contain the ads. In fact, ads in my area contained the ads, while those cross-country in my father-in-law's area did not.

Still, according to Kathleen Waugh, a spokeswoman for Toys "R" Us Inc., it's likely that fliers with Aqua Dots in them will continue to appear for a few weeks.

Fast Traffic Complaint Spurs Botts' Dots Install. Complaints Now About Fast and Noisy Traffic

In Paso Robles, residents were concerned about speeding traffic on Rolling Hills Road. Unfortunately, the solution installed by the city hasn't helped, and has made things worse.

You probably know what Botts' dots are (pictured), though probably not their name. They're the raised non-reflective dots placed on road to provide tactile feedback to drivers. In Paso Robles, the city tried installing them to slow traffic down. All it did was make the traffic on the street noisier.

“It sounds like somebody’s shooting a shotgun off,” said Bob Spielman, who helped gather the signatures asking the city to remove the dots. They were installed in September, and the City Council agreed last week to remove them.

“When they first put them in, they maybe braked a little bit. But people have these urban assault vehicles, and they just speed up to go over them,” Spielman said.

The speed limit is 35 MPH, but Spielman said he's seen plenty of traffic going as fast as 65 MPH. The road is used as a shortcut between Highway 46 East and other parts of Paso Robles, so as many as 300 cars / hour travel the road.

My suggestion: speed bumps. They always slow down traffic, or else the drivers will end up with some suspension issues, possibly what they deserve. An alternative is roundabouts.

At any rate, good luck to the residents, and hopefully they will soon get a good nights' sleep, free of rumbling from Botts' dots and free of worry over speeding cars in their neighborhood.

"Zookeeper for a Day" Program Goes Great --- Except for Bear Bite

Woodland Zoo and More, Inc. is a private zoo in Farmington, PA, owned by the Herring family. The victim was participating in a behind-the-scenes tour Saturday as part of a program called "zookeeper for a day."

Participants in the program, which is for adults, get access to an zookeeper's only area of the bear's den. The victim, a student at Frostburg State University in Maryland, required eight stitches. Another person who tried him help the victim received minor injuries. Both were released and home within hours.

"There's dog bites more serious than this every day, and the only reason this is drawing attention is because it is a bear," Sonny Herring said.

That might be, but ... well, it's a bear. It's a tad bit bigger than a dog.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Losing 2 Data CDs Not Good Enough for U.K. Gov't; Add Another Six

Remember how the U.K. government, specifically Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Department (HMRC), lost two data CDs with the personal information of 40% of their population? Apparently their inter-office mail is built like a sieve as they have admitted losing six more data CDs.

Fortunately these CDs only contained recorded conversations between a member of staff and a customer making a complaint. While that's all well and good, it points to a pattern in the inter-office mail system which screams "stop using it."

While Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologized for the data loss, let's admit it: that's little comfort to those whose data is concerned, just as in other cases of data loss. The HMRC does believe the CDs with personal information on them are still in their offices, but are still unable to find them.

Being Able to Tie a Noose: Not Really a Crime for an Eagle Scout

Wow, political correctness gone wild in the holiday season and it's not even about Santa Claus or anything. Amazing!

Travis Grigsby isn't an Eagle Scout, but he's close, according to his mother Kim. Naturally he knows how to tie a ton of different knots. And he's in the band. So when some kids on the drum line started talking about the best knots to use to tie up the drum equipment, it doesn't seem racist that one might ask if someone knew how to tie a noose.

In fact, Travis said he did but that he wouldn't because he could get in trouble for that. So, he knew about possible consequences and refused. Consequences! That's refreshing, actually.

Later, however, an African-American student on the drum line told the teacher he was offended. Apparently there's been some racial tension in the band at Lee's Summit West High School in Missouri.

Now, I might understand that if they were making racial comments, but in this case? This doesn't seem to be a "Jena Six" case, and seems overly sensitive. The school's response: a 10-day suspension for Travis and his friend Alex Coday, with the charge of "having a racially charged conversation about nooses."

Travis and Alex insist this was not the case, and the suspension was reduced to five days. But still, assuming the boys are telling the truth (and Travis' mother said the boys didn't get a chance to tell their side), is this political correctness gone wild again?

SMS for Someone's Name, Address, Phone Number. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

One of those "what were they thinking?" moments. The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh was (emphasis on "was") allowing anyone, just anyone, to text message the registration info of a car --- and get back the name, address, and phone number of the owner. What could possibly go wrong, eh?

Well, thinking about it a little, maybe young amorous men would start texting in trying to get the information of young women. And that's exactly what happened.

The advertisement (yep, they advertised this) for the service said, "SMS us the vehicle registration number ... and get all the information - vehicle, tax and owner's details. etc." After a series of complaints, the state transport department decided to stop sending all the info --- but they still send the owner's name.

According to the department, the service was meant to help policemen quickly find out details of vehicles involved in accidents or those suspected to have been stolen or involved in a crime. I guess that unlike the U.S., they can't just find that info by radioing back to the station or checking a computer.

The information was also meant to help those purchasing second-hand vehicles by providing details of the original date of purchase, fitness certificate, taxes and fees paid. Sounds a lot like CARFAX, but with a dating service attached. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Miniskirt Mouse Pad for the Prurient Web Surfer

At first glance, it looks like someone's got his hand up a mini-skirt. Take a closer look, and there's really a mouse pad inside the skirt.

Unfortunately, since I only found this one a Japanese-only online store, I don't know how much it costs. I did notice that in 2006 Axe had a promotion for their AxeFantasy site using these pads.

I hate to admit it, but I found this hiliarious, but at the same time, somewhat disturbing.

Criminal IDed by Video of His Butt

I kid you not. A knife attack by two men left Kevin Williams, 29, fighting for his life. The attack took place in a shop in Queen's ­Crescent, Kentish Town, and unlike shows like C.S.I., there was no residual forensic evidence. And Williams could remember little about the attack. But there was ... a closed-circuit video.

But the video didn't show any faces! What it did show, when one of the attackers bent over to continue attacking a prostrate Williams, was a large and ­distinctive birthmark across the attacker's lower back and butt.

It's unclear how police targeted the eventual suspect, Aaron Williams (unrelated), 28, but there had been a dispute between the two men over a woman. After arresting him, they photographic his back, and a dermatological expert said the marks, because of their uniqueness, were identical.

Aaron Williams was convicted and sentenced to 16 years. Kevin Williams still has several surgeries to endure. The second attacker has not been identified.

California Reminds Online Shoppers: Pay Your Internet Sales Tax. Honor System. We'll All Do It, Right?

The cost of living in California, as everyone knows, is pretty darned high. That includes the sales tax, which starts generally runs at around 8% depending on which county you live in.

Of course, we Californians have figured out that if you buy from places without a physical presence in California, we don't get charged sales tax on the transaction by the retailer. None of this is new; it's been this way since the days of mail-order, and it applies to other states as well. Of course, with the advent of the Internet and web shopping, states like California are losing a lot more revenue to this practice. Technically speaking, though, we should be paying it anyway.

At least in California, the "missing" sales tax would be paid as "use tax" on your state tax return. The State Board of Equalization took the time Wednesday to remind residents of their fiscal responsibility.

Of course, it's all based on the honor system, and first, assuming people were willing to pay this, it's doubtful they will remember every single transaction they made. Secondly, do you really think people would be willing to pay this? If someone doesn't have to pay a tax, would they freely offer it up? Not likely.

On the other hand, it's unlikely this tax-free buying will continue forever, despite what consumers may want. California will get it's $$$ soon enough.

Oh, and I didn't buy a single item from Amazon.com or any other such "non-sales tax for Californians retailer." Yeah, really.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Carjacker Caught After Getting Stuck in Cement

Thankfully, it's not quite as bad as getting killed by an alligator while fleeing, but it still reminds me of something you'd see on TV. In Reno, Nevada, a carjacker was caught when he tried to run and became stuck in wet cement.

Rudy Aguas and another suspect attempted to carjack a truck at the Courtyard by Marriott. After pistol-whipping the man, the suspects fled when the man grabbed for the gun.

Aguas ran into a building, where police followed him. He ran into a freshly poured concrete floor and was tackled by construction workers and arrested. The second suspect remains at large.

Audible Alert Lets Crooks Know You're Dialing 911 --- Seriously

By law even disconnected cell phones can make 911 calls, and cell phones are supposed to let the caller know when a 911 call is in progress, but this type of alert could be dangerous.

Carol (last name withheld) from Austin, Texas, called for help recently when she arrived at some vacant property she owns and found her security chain gone. To her horror, her new Casio G’zOne phone from Verizon Wireless, made an audible alarm when she called 911. It wasn't ear-piercing, but considering how quiet it was, it would have been quite audible several yards away.

Apparently the vandals were already gone, so she was OK. Still, why such a loud audible alarm, that could let criminals where a victim is hiding?

According to Verizon Wireless,
the audible tone is required by the Federal Communications Commission. It's another "accessibility" feature that Congress mandated. This is in regards to Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act which requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Since, as I stated above, the cell phone has to alert the user they have dialed 911, this is the solution for blind people. The loud alert is designed to let blind people know they've dialed 911. But by making it loud, they've created a problem.

It's been confirmed on forums on cell phone-centric websites that this occurs on other cell phones as well, so it looks like the issue is going to become more prevalent. Although Section 255 states there has to be a cue, like most of these regulations, I don't believe it specifies exactly how that cue is given (readers, correct me if I'm wrong).

So before people start blaming the government, perhaps it's the manufacturers and their interpretation that needs fixing. The solution (IMHO): vibrate on an outgoing 911 call. This not only helps blind people, but deaf people as well.

Background Check Company Said Woman Used Drugs with Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd

And of course, the company flagged her application as "do not hire." Seriously, South Carolina-based General Information Systems (G.I.S.) reported to City Market that Sue Jones had used drugs with cartoon characters, and had been also charged with felony drug possession and misdemeanor gambling.

How did this happen? Well, unfortunately for Jones, her name is a common one, and the cases that G.I.S. found were phony test cases that people working in the court system often use for practice. And names like "Jones" and "Smith" are often used.

Still there should have been some red flags for G.I.S., like the co-defendents being Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and the fact that the court cases didn't have a Social Security number or matching birth date for the real Jones. Also the word "test" on the documents might have been a giveaway. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Jones was initially suspended but has since gotten her job back; there's been no comment by G.I.S. or City Market as to whether or not City Market will continue to use the background check firm.

Butterfly Naming Auction Ends with $40,800 Bid

Butterflies aren't free, despite what Leonard Gershe may think. Or at least, naming one isn't.

You'll recall that I earlier wrote that researchers were planning to auction the naming rights for a new species of Mexican butterfly, the first such auction in North American. The auction brought in a cool $40,800, and the proceeds will be used to fund further butterfly research.

The butterfly, a species of owl butterfly, was discovered earlier this year. It will now be known as the "Minerva owl butterfly," scientific name Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae, named in honor of the late Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Ohio.

The donor, who wished to remain anonymous, made the donation in honor of Kitzmiller's five grandchildren. Kitzmiller
was born Nov. 17, 1883, in Malvern, Ohio, and died March 10, 1972. She and her husband Frank Kitzmiller had three sons and five grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Holiday PC Silliness: Santa in Red Too Commercial; Let's Go with Green

As I said previously, can't we just leave holiday traditions alone? I understand political correctness and all that, but come on! Notice how I can't even say "Christmas traditions' but carefully selected the word "holiday" instead.

In this case, the Steiner School in Brighton in the U.K. has decided that the red Santa Claus suit is "too commercial." Because of this, they want to have a green-suited Santa.

Why is the red suit "too commercial?" Well, many believe that the image of Santa as we see him today was originated by artist Haddon Sundblom for a Coca-Cola promotion in 1931.

But most will also note , and Coca-Cola also readily admits, that Santa Claus appeared in red many times prior to the Coca-Cola promotions. In fact, on the web page linked above on Coca-Cola's website, it says:
It is a common misconception that today's Santa Claus wears a red coat because red is the color associated with Coca-Cola. In fact, Santa appeared in a red coat in numerous earlier written accounts and illustrations before Sundblom painted him for Coca-Cola advertising.
This same information was even noted at the best site for debunking urban legends: Snopes.

In fact, some research shows that many believe Thomas Nast to be the true originator of Santa Claus as we know him today; the image of Santa to the right is the first Nast image with Santa in red ... and it was done in 1869. The Coca-Cola formula wasn't developed until 1885. 'Nuff said?

Naturally most parents are totally behind the red-suited Santa, as I am. I just wish those in charge at Steiner School would do a little research, so they can discover their over-the-top PC-ness is totally wrong.

U.K. Government Loses Data of 7.5 Million Families

The Child Benefit is a payment made British families with children under 16. It’s sort of like a tax rebate. Unfortunately for anyone receiving the Child Benefit, the government has managed to lose the data for all families receiving it, putting their addresses, personal info, and banking info at risk. Calling it a data breach does not do it justice.

The information was included on two discs and was only password protected and not encrypted, meaning it could be fairly easy to get at. The data includes names, dates of birth, bank account, and address details. The discs went missing from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office.

HMRC Board member Dave Hartnett wrote an apology to all affected on the agency’s Web site. “I would like to offer my personal apologies for any worry or concern this data loss may cause you. And I can assure you that all efforts are being made to ensure that such a loss can never happen again,” he said. Source: BetaNews

The CDs were actually lost in inter-office mail, if you can believe that. 7.5 million families and 25 million people would be approximately 40% of the entire U.K. population. Heads should roll.

Gaelic Street Name = "M*sturbation Meadow" --- Yes, It Needs to be Changed

Yeah, yeah, that word isn't that bad, but AdSense picks up on it and turns all my ads into public service ones. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Hence, the embedded *.

Anyway, right on the Welsh border with England there's a village called Morda. One of their streets has the Gaelic name of "Cae Onan." Now, cae translates into meadow, but onan really doesn't have a translation --- except for the Biblical figure smote by God for "spilling his seed upon the ground" (coitus interruptus) rather than possibly impregnating his late brother's wife.

Well, the term onanism has a secondary definition which means m*sturbation. So you can see the problem. Basically the translation means "M*sturbation Meadow."

Citizens of the village have started a petition to change the name, but the Council seems to think no one will pick up on this, so why bother?

My comments: well, now that this has been posted, they just might pick up on it. Also, a lot more people know about Onan than they might assume! Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Wii Know What You Did --- Console Used to Confirm Wife's Cheating

Pretty sad story. Tony (last name withheld) went to Iraq, along with his Nintendo Wii. When he started getting close to returning, he sent it back to the U.S. to his wife. More on this later, as it becomes evidence for any divorce proceedings.

Anyway, Tony returns in June of 2007 and hears reports of his wife's indiscretions with another man while he was gone. Confronting her, she told him she shared one innocent kiss with the guy in October 2006 --- but that was it.

Well, as Tony said in an email to GoNintendo, in November he decides to plug in the Nintendo (no explanation why he waited so long so "I can peruse the many friends that I have created with the guys that I played with in Iraq."

What he found was a Mii he hadn't created, but that looked quite a bit like the guy her wife "innocently kissed." Upon checking the Wii Calendar he discovered his wife and this Mii had been together a lot, playing Wii Bowling. This despite the wife's assertion that she never had contact with the guy after October 2006.

Pretty damning evidence, enough to convince Tony to file for divorce. Well, I'll be honest, he also found some love emails, too.

At any rate, now you know --- you not only have to wipe your PC in the event of a crime, but your game console, too! Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Swan to Spend Another Winter with Swan-Shaped Pedal Boat Heartthrob

Swans mate for life, in case you didn't know. This would mean that the citizens of the western German city of Münster had better be prepared, if they have hearts, to keep this up for a looooong time.

Last year the black swan Petra made headlines around the world when she decided to shack up with a swan-shaped pedal boat in Münster's Aasee lake. Despite attempts since last year, Petra is forever in love, it seems, and based on mating for life, it makes sense.

During last year's winter the boat and Petra were moved to the zoo, but that meant a pelican had to vacate its premises. This year they will move to the zoo again, but they've build a new winterized hutch just for the two of them.

Come on, come on, let's hear it. Awwwwwwwwww.

Hillary: "It Takes a Clinton to Clean Up After a Bush"

On Monday, during a two-day swing through Iowa, Hillary Clinton spoke about the economy yesterday. She spoke about oil prices, the credit / housing crisis, and (not enough for me) problems for middle-class workers.

But what really caught me was a great line. When speaking about the economy, and what a mess it is, Clinton noted some similarities between 1992, George H. W. Bush, and her husband Bill. "There seems to be a pattern here. It takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush."

No matter what you think of Hillary, either she's good with ad-libs or (more likely), we can see that all the good writers aren't walking picket lines in Hollywood.

Teenager Shot, Killed After Covering His Hunting Outfit with "Deer-Colored" Blanket

David Ruck, 18, of Wisconsin was shot and killed by his 63-year old grandfather, Gerald Ruck, after covering up his blaze orange hunting outfit with a brown and white blanket.

David Ruck was shot in his upper leg and groin by his grandfather, who said he mistook him for a deer. Sadly, although as the Department of Natural Resources Hunter Safety Coordinator said "be certain of the target and what’s beyond it," one can see how a mistake could be made, since whitetail deer are brown and white.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas Cards Banned for Environmental Reasons

Usually stories of holiday traditions being cancelled for political correctness reasons spark some fury, but how about this: Evan James Primary School in Wales, which has banned Christmas cards –-- for environmental reasons.

Head teacher Nicholas Daniels said the possible reasons for the ban were "endless," including the magnitude of handling that many cards for that many students. In fact, he mentioned how much time it took at his 420-student school to hand out cards.

However, the primary reason appears to be environmental:
"We did this last year and it was successful. It was a contentious decision and we had some phone calls saying we were not understanding the true spirit of Christmas but we stuck to our guns.

"We asked people, if they wanted to, to contribute the money they would have spent on cards to the school’s charity. We have a nominated charity each year.

“We knew we would face opposition but we decided to do this on moral and environmental grounds. Cards in school cause litter problems and can become a popularity contest about who gets the most."

He just mentions litter, but honestly, stuff like this wastes a lot of natural resources (think of what it takes to produce all those cards) and most of them end up in the trash --- not even recycled (be honest!).

Also, a study has shown that 50% of schoolchildren were kept awake at night by fears over global warming. Perhaps this will make them feel better?

I would like to know what readers think. Generally, as I said, P.C. reasons for cancelling holiday traditions cause quite the furor. What about this?

New Reason for the GOP to Support Universal Health Care: Tighter Immigration? Obese Woman Denied Entry to New Zealand

Well, this could get more in the GOP behind universal health care, not to say that some aren't behind it. But the type of universal health care bandied about by most U.S. politicians isn't the type that most industrialized countries have: true universal or single payer health care that costs little or nothing for the public, and that has helped most other nations achieve infant mortality rates far better than ours.

A British woman has been unable to join her husband in New Zealand because her B.M.I. (Body Mass Index) is too high. In short, she's overweight, and to a point, obese.

New Zealand has strict immigration laws around this sort of issue, because the country has universal health care and people such as Rowan Trezise, 33, and her husband Richie, 35, would be a burden to the health care system.

Richie has managed to lose enough weight to get in, but Rowan has not. If she doesn't lose it by Christmas, they're going to abandon the attempt to move.

Now, in terms of immigration, unless you've been asleep the last couple of years, you'll know that Bush has tried to push through immigration "reform," only to be stymied by his own party in Congress. Of course, my own personal feeling is the immigration "reform" Bush wants is really just another way to lower the wage cost to corporations, while helping out his friend Felipe Calderón in Mexico.

What I don't want to see is this New Zealand issue used as a serious excuse to stop universal health care in the United States. As we know, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health care. Even Mexico is working on it. Does it mean that everyone else is wrong and we are right? What do you think, particularly when you look at the statistics and compare our longevity with that of other countries?

Vermin Found in Fox News Channel Newsroom

Reports indicate that vermin have been found in the Faux News Channel, or should I say, Fox News Channel, Newsroom. As much as I hate to admit it, I don't mean the Fox & Friends hosts, or anyone like Sean Hannity. They're bedbugs.

It's been widely reported that bedbugs, once nearly exterminated in the U.S., have made a big comeback, and are now a problem in all 50 states. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, hasn't escaped unscathed either.

So, most likely these 4 - 5 mm long blood-sucking parasites made their way into the newsroom and then, just like fleas would, got into the furniture / carpeting.

I would think these pests might feel very at home at Faux News, with the likes of other blood-suckers like Bill O'Reilly and the aforementioned Hannity.

Exterminators have been called, but these new bedbugs are resistant (which is how they made their comeback) and they might be hard to get rid of ... like Faux News.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Police Aim to Deter Shoplifters with Life-Sized Cardboard Cut-Outs; One Stolen

Holiday shopping means increased shoppers, and also an increased incidence of shoplifting. In the U.K., Derbyshire police are deploying 10 life-sized cardboard cutouts of a policewoman in the Peak District to deter criminals.

They indicated that the deployment of the cut-outs does not indicate a reduction in force. According to Pc Anna Gaskill, model for the cut-outs, "We have plenty of police officers out there. It is just an extra deterrent." The cut-outs cost about £100.

The program is modeled after one already used in the Amber Valley area. Just one problem with the whole idea: in the Amber Valley program, one of the cut-outs was stolen.

Sentence for Gang-Rape Victim Increased by Saudi Court

In the United States and other countries rape victims are often "punished" by having their reputations dragged through the mud during a trial. They don't received court-meted punishment, however. In Saudi Arabia apparently things are different.

Last year the 19-year-old victim was sentenced to 90 after she met with an unrelated male. It was a simple meeting to get some photos, but the two of therem were kidnapped by the seven rapists, who abducted the pair and raped both. The rapists received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.

The victim's attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, appealed the sentences as too lenient, and they were increased to a range of two to nine years. However, at the same time the court changed the victim's sentence to six months in prison and 200 lashes. The reason, according to a source: because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

At the same time, the court barred al-Lahim from defending his client and revoked his law license.

Need I say anything about what this says about the treatment and stature of women in the Middle East, and specifically Saudi Arabia?

Man Collapses in His Car; Meter Maid Tickets It

I guess in the U.K. meter maids take their jobs seriously. So seriously that medical emergencies take a back seat to tickets.

The man, who is diabetic, had collapsed in a car outside the entrance to Altrincham General Hospital. Nurses ran out to help the man after his driver had dashed into the hospital to ask for help, but the meter maid, noticing that the driver had pulled up in an ambulance bay, sprang into action with her ticket book.

She ignored all the activity and even continued on after the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over the care of the patient, according to a shocked witness. The witness also said, "She finally did not give a ticket --- but it took two ambulance men and the driver to persuade her that this guy had collapsed."

He went on, "One has to wonder whether she was trying to meet a target --- or whether she was completely devoid of common sense."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Racist Rhyme Gets Teacher Suspended

There are many versions of the "eeny, meenie, miney, moe" rhyme, and apparently a teacher in Wisconsin used the "wrong" one.

A River View Middle School teacher used the rhyme while trying to pick a student to do a task. While there are several versions of the rhyme, each starting with "eeny, meenie, miney, moe", she apparently used the one with the second verse with the "n-word" in it.

The teacher has been suspended with pay while the investigation continues.

Use of a form of the rhyme by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant led to a 2003 lawsuit charging the airline with racism. The airline was acquitted in January 2004.

The rhyme in question in that case was:

Eeny meenie miney mo;
Pick a seat, it's time to go

Really racist, eh? The passengers in question were African-American and stated that they had been humiliated. Riiiight.

Police Mix Up Caucasian Man, African-American Suspect

Anthony Johnson, the suspect. Andrew Johnson, the innocent man. The names are somewhat similar. But they definitely could not be mistaken for each other visually. At least, I don't think so.

However, Florida resident Andrew Johnson can no longer drive because of a police mix-up. Anthony Johnson has been arrested twice in Broward County for felony drug possession. His license was revoked in February. The police mixed up their drivers license numbers and took Andrew's license from him (you would think they would check their computer records and see the photos are no where near similar).

Unfortunately, according to the police, the burden of proof falls on the victim, namely Andrew.

Andrew has been out of work for two weeks trying to clear this up. He sent all necessary documents to the State Attorney's Office in Ft. Lauderdale two days ago. "I'd like to get this cleared up so I can get on with my life," he said.

It's been said that eyewitness testimony is often inaccurate or even perjured, the police had all the information they needed in a computer at they still blew it.

Man Run Over by Train While Talking on Cell Phone

These are the types of accidents that New York state had in mind when they were considering banning the use of electronic devices while crossing the street. In Berkeley, California, 31-year-old Scott Slaughter was hit and killed by a train while taking a shortcut across two sets of tracks to get to work Thursday morning.

Witnesses said he waited for one train to pass on a first set of tracks, then crossed onto the second set of tracks and was hit by a second train. He didn't see or hear the second train because he was on his cell phone.

The train that hit Slaughter was a Chicago-bound Amtrak train traveling approximately 70 mph.