Thursday, April 30, 2009

Connecticut Senate OKs Machine Gun Ban for Kids

On Thursday, the Connecticut Senate OKed a measure which would ban allowing children under 16 years old to handle or shoot machine guns. This stems from the tragic death of eight-year-old Christopher Bizilj, who accidentally shot himself to death after losing control of a Uzi submachine gun at a gun fair.

In the shooting, while the fair had promised shooters would have certified instructors in an advertisement, Christopher Bizilj was supervised by an uncertified 15-year-old boy.

As the boy fired the Uzi, "the front end of the weapon went up with the backfire and he ended up receiving a round in his head" said the police report.

Charles Bizilj had selected the compact weapon for his 4-foot, 66-pound son to fire mistakenly believing the Uzi's small size made it safer for his small son. In reality, the opposite was true, said District Attorney William Bennett.
"Although it might appear a heavier or longer weapon would be more dangerous, the small size of the weapon together with the rapid rate of fire made it more likely that an 8-year-old would lose control and the muzzle of the weapon would come close to his face, which is what happened here."
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn said:
"For a young person, a minor, to handle an automatic weapon ... it's like saying that it's OK to pick up a rattlesnake and that it is somehow going to be safe," said . "It's not going to be safe and it should not be legal and I would think that a lot of folks would be shocked that there was not a law."
What's amazing is not that the legislation passed, but that it passed only 31-2. Gun rights is one thing, but let's use some common sense. If common sense had been used here, this never would have happened.

And that's the unfortunate reason that legislation like this must be passed: there is too little common sense among Americans.
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Crowds Flock to View Virgin Mary on a Griddle

Despite the swine flu, many are rushing to a diner in the small town of Calexico on the California-Mexico border. Why? A likeness of the Virgin Mary ... on the griddle.

Yes, on the griddle.

Hilda Maciel, a chef at the Las Palmas restaurant, discovered the image on a griddle she was cleaning last Wednesday. The following day, the Rev. Gerardo Fernandez of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Calexico confirmed the image was indeed a true likeness of the Virgin Mary.

So far more than 100 people have dropped by to view the griddle, Brenda Martinez, general manager at the restaurant.

The onlookers have included several Mexican wrestlers who were booked to appear at the Las Palmas swap meet as a special promotion.

Since the discovery, the griddle has been taken out of service and placed in a shrine in a storage room. Martinez said her family is planning to renovate the room and will continue allowing people to view the griddle for free.
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Justice David Souter to Retire: NPR

NPR is reporting that sources have told them that Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to retire.

Speculation about Souter's future plans began when the eight other justices hired the four law clerks who will work with them in the Supreme Court term that begins in October. Souter hired no one.

At 69, Souter is not the oldest member of the court by any means, but he has indicated a desire to leave Washington and return to his native New Hampshire.

Two other "elderly" Supreme Court justices, neither of which has given any indication of leaving, are Justice John Stevens, 89, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76.

Souter's retirement would give Barack Obama his first chance to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court; many saw this as an important, though largely unsaid, point during the 2008 Presidential campaign: with a number of justices aging, and with Supreme Court appointments being for life, this President would have the power to shape the court for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Many anticipate that Barack Obama will nominate a woman, with the following listed as possible candidates:
  • Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general who represents the government before the Supreme Court;
  • Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit;
  • Diane Wood, a federal judge in Chicago who taught at the University of Chicago at the same time this relative unknown named Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law there.
Surprising many, David Souter has proved more liberal than conservatives thought after GOP President George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1990. He generally votes as a a moderate-to-liberal member of the more liberal wing of the Supreme Court.

David Souter graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 1961 with a major in philosophy. He returned to Harvard to attend law school.

Watch an NBC report:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

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Eight-Year-Old Saudi Girl Divorces Husband, 50

Not news: divorce. News: an eight-year-old Saudi girl divorced her 50-year-old husband.

The girl had been forced to marry the man after her father basically sold her to the 50-year-old last year in exchange for about $13,000.

An out-of-court settlement enabled to girl to divorce her husband, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli. The exact date of the divorce was not immediately known, nor was the amount of the settlement revealed. They were married in August.

There is currently no minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia, and conservatives in the country have campaigned against such a restriction. That said, the kingdom's new justice minister was quoted in mid-April as saying the government was doing a study on underage marriage that would include regulations.

It's interesting that hoops had to be jumped through for for the "woman" to divorce her husband; Muslims have divorced their wives via text message before.
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Suspected Craigslist Killer's Wedding Off

Those who have already bought wedding presents for Philip Markoff, the suspected Craigslist Killer, and his fiancee Megan McAllister, can return them. The wedding is off.

While Megan McAllister visited Philip Markoff in a Boston jail yesterday, and while she says she still believes in his innocence, she said she intends to move on with her own life.

I suppose she does not believe he is as beautiful a person as she once thought.

Yesteday's meeting between the two was the first since Markoff was arrested and charged with murdering a Julissa Brisman in one Boston hotel and assaulting another woman in a different hotel.

McAllister's attorney, Robert Honecker told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday morning:
“I think, yes, she believes that he is innocent. I think she feels that she’s supportive of him. The man that she knew and loved for four years is not the man that’s being portrayed in the media.

“I can’t answer for the rest of her life. We’ve been dealing with this difficult situation on a day-to-day basis. The plans she made for life are not there.”
He also confirmed that the wedding is off, and not likely to be re-instated:
“The chances for that event to occur in the future, I would suggest, would be unlikely."
To say the least.

Rhode Island police have linked Markoff to a third crime, and are preparing charges.

Watch this morning's Today Show interview:

Pageant Organization Paid for Miss California Breast Implants

While it should be obvious that breast implants are not off-limits from beauty pageants, it's interesting to note that it appears pageant contestants don't even have to pay for their own.

Shanna Moakler, co-executive director of the Miss California Organization and a former Miss USA, confirmed that the group paid for Miss California Carrie Prejean’s breast implants, prior to her competing in Miss USA.

Nice perks.

When asked about it in an interview with Access Hollywood, Moakler said, defending the decision for the organization to pay for Prejean's implants:
“Yes, we did.

“It was something that we all spoke about together. It was an option and she wanted it. And we supported that decision.

“Breast implants in pageants is not a rarity. It’s definitely not taboo. It’s very common. Breast implants today among young women today is very common. I don’t personally have them, but you know — they are."
Interesting, because it seems that while beauty pageants pretend to be all about inner and outer beauty, we can see from this it's all about outer beauty.

At the same time, Carrie Prejean seems to be making the most of her notoriety, which, as Miss USA runner-up, is based mostly on her stance against gay marriage. She announced Thursday she will star in an anti-gay marriage ad sponsored by the controversial National Organization for Marriage.

Miss USA pageant officials called Prejean an opportunist:
"In the entire history of the Miss USA, no reigning title holder has so readily committed her face and voice to a more divisive or polarizing issue.

"We are deeply saddened Carrie Prejean has forgotten her platform of the Special Olympics, her commitment to all Californians, and solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs and instead reveals her opportunistic agenda."
Opportunist or no, it's certainly interesting how quickly she dropped her platform to pursue this, once the publicity became so great.
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Woman Claims Father Was the "Zodiac Killer"

The Zodiac killer is believed to have murdered at least five people and possibly as many as 36, terrorizing the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960's and 1970's. Nevertheless, his true identity has never been confirmed by police.

However, many believe he was Arthur Leigh Allen, a convicted child molester from Vallejo who died in 1992.

Wednesday, 47-year-old Deborah Perez claimed that as a young 7-year-old girl she helped her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson, write and mail some of the letters that earned him the Zodiac nickname.

The Zodiac Killer sent letters to local newspapers including The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner, taunting police,. media, and the public with clues and riddles of his identity.

The whole event revealing his name was rather sensationalized, however, with those involved going so far as to schedule a press conference (complete with a press release). The press release said:
At the press conference, a proven immediate family member of the Zodiac Killer will make a statement identifying the killer. Attending with her will be leading forensic experts, a Melvin Belli former partner, family lawyers and others who have helped solve this case that has been open for many years. Information of the forensic evidence - including cryptology, handwriting analysis, current law enforcement investigations, and most startling, the murder accomplice evidence - will be distributed. This historical revelation upsets the theories of the murder investigations in the past. Many cold case crimes have recently been solved because of 21st century forensic technology. This is one of the bigger breakthroughs.
At the news conference outside the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday, Perez said she has given police what she believes are the eyeglasses of one of the victims, San Francisco taxi driver Paul Lee Stine, as well as letters she wrote, some to the Chronicle, on her father's behalf.

Perez also claimed to be with her father when he allegedly killed Darlene Ferrin, 22, at the Blue Springs Golf Club in July, 1969 and wounded her companion, Michael Mageau, 19.

Perez said that until she saw a composite sketch of the Zodiac killer in on TV in August 2007, she had never heard of the Zodiac Killer. She added that she immediately recognized the man as her father, who died in 1983.

Additionally, during the press conference, Kevin McLean, the former law partner of the late Melvin Belli, who was used as a pawn by the Zodiac Killer, said handwriting analysis shows Perez did write some of the letters, and they hope DNA testing can be done on the glasses to show they in fact believed to belong to Stine.

It's hard to believe, but if independent forensic writing analysis can prove she wrote the letters, and / or DNA can be found on the glasses, we might finally have a solution to a case that some said, like Jack the Ripper, would never be solved.

Watch a video of the press conference:

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Steppin' Out With His Girlfriend: Mel Gibson

Earlier, Robyn Gibson filed for divorce from Mel Gibson, after 28 years of marriage, a filing that might lead to a record settlement. On Tuesday, he debuted his girlfriend, Russian songstress Oksana Grigorieva, at the premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Several Oksanas were actually linked to Gibson, but as he strolled hand in hand with this one, it was obvious that Oksana Grigorieva is the right Oksana.

His estranged wife, Robyn, should be be awarded half of Mel Gibson’s estimated $900 million fortune as there was no pre-nuptial agreement signed between the two when they wed. The couple said they separated in 2006.

However, it seems that Mel Gibson was with Grigorieva for pretty much that entire time, at least according to Access Hollywood. It has also been rumored that Grigorieva is pregnant, which is reportedly what triggered his wife to file for divorce.

Grigorieva, 39, is a singer signed to Gibson's Icon Records label. She has an 11-year-old son with British actor Timothy Dalton, her former partner.
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Swedish Court Calls Church's Name Unacceptable, Offensive

A Swedish court has thrown cold water on the Madonna of Orgasm Church (Orgasmens Madonnas kyrka), ruling that the church’s name is unacceptable and offensive.

No, really?

Seriously, though, the Madonna of Orgasm Church is centered on a similarly named painting by founder Carlos Bebeacua. That same painting sparked protests during the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville, Spain.

Bebeacua once told the Kvallsposten newspaper:
“The orgasm is God, the orgasm should be worshiped. The orgasm is the ultimate feeling of lust, it shouldn’t be limited to ejaculation. You can reach it through art or by looking at a landscape and thinking ‘Wow!’”
Bebeacua has been trying to register the church as a faith community in Sweden, hoping to swell the ranks of people that would then consider the orgasm as God.

In November of last year, the county administrative court overruled Sweden’s Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (Kammarkollegiet), which had refused to register the Madonna of Orgasm Church because it considered the name offensive.

But the Administrative Court of Appeal on Tuesday overturned the lower court’s decision.

Admittedly, you can bet that Bebeacua's heart sagged, sunk, deflated, you name it. Most of their objection was the same as Kammarkollegiet's: the name.
“In the opinion of the administrative court of appeal, the intention of such a combination of words, even in relation to the registration of a community for religious activities, must be to offend, not only for those within the wider circles of the general public who have Christian leanings, but also in society in general."
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Baskin-Robbins Offering 31-cent Scoops to Honor Firefighters

As a way of honoring firefighters, tonight Baskin-Robbins will be selling scoops of ice cream for 31 cents. Yes, get your spoons ready!

Proceeds from Baskin-Robbins' 31 Cent Scoop Night sales will go toward a $100,000 donation to the National Volunteer Fire Council's National Junior Firefighter Program.

The promotion runs tonight, from 5 - 10 PM, at any participating Baskin-
Robbins location. My guess is "participating" pretty much means them all, but still ...

If you're worried 31 Cent Scoop Night might slip your mind, don't be. If you send "scoop" in a text message to 31310, Baskin-Robbins will text you back later in the day to remind you.

Baskin-Robbins' site says:
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) National Junior Firefighter Program gives fire departments and youth nationwide the resources, tools, and information they need to help develop, grow, enhance, promote, and participate in their local programs.

In the program, youth learn about local fire, rescue, and emergency medical services response organizations in a safe, controlled, educational, and fun way while providing departments with an excellent recruitment mechanism.

A donation of $100,000 will be made by Baskin-Robbins to the NVFC National Junior Firefighter Program. At select local stores throughout the country, you may also have a chance to donate to your local fire station.
You can find a Baskin-Robbins near you via their store locator.
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Vick Signing Stunt Angers af2 Owner

On Tuesday the Albany Firebirds of the arenafootball2 league announced they wanted to offer Michael Vick a contract for the remainder of the season. This was obviously some sort of PR stunt (more on that later), but the press release read:
“At the start of the season we’d made the decision as an organization not to pursue Michael,” said General Manager Garen Szablewski. “However, in light of the team’s recent struggles, we were forced to re-examine the issue. After days of heated debate within the front office, we put together an offer that made everyone comfortable with the idea of singing him.”

The most notable stipulation in the team’s offer requires Vick to donate $100,000 to the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society.

The aF2 prohibits member teams from signing players who are currently under NFL suspension, but the Firebirds hope that the contract offer will expedite NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision.
Right, so you can't sign him while he's under NFL suspension. And once he's off NFL suspension do you seriously believe he would consider af2?

So, obviously a PR stunt, and Firebirds owner Walter Robb is definitely unhappy. Szablewski might start looking for a job (just MHO). late Tuesday afternoon. He said:
“That’s a joke. That’s a joke. I think it was a big mistake. I just found out about it 10 minutes ago. "I'm a dog lover and I don't want anything to do with him. I certainly would not have approved it had I known it was even being joked about.”
For those who may not recall, Michael Vick, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted and sentence to 23 months in prison for his role in dogfighting rings and animal cruelty. It raised hackles across the country, but despite this, it seems at least some NFL teams are looking at him.
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Swine Flu: What Does H1N1 Mean?

As controversy swirls about using the term "swine flu" for the A H1N1 virus currently sweeping around the globe, the question arises: what the heck does H1N1 mean?

Earlier this week, Israeli deputy health minister, Yakov Litzman, a member of an ultra-religious party, said that the name "swine flu" should not be used as it contains the name of an animal banned by Judaism. Instead he proposed the name "Mexican flu."

You can imagine how that went over with Mexico's ambassador to Israel. Later the statement was retracted and said to be a joke, or a slip of the tongue. Right.

At any rate, the virus is actually a combination of swine, avian, and human flus, which makes pigs far too blame-worthy by calling it swine flu.

At any rate, scientifically the virus is influenza A H1N1. The "H" refers to the hemagglutinin molecule, which is a molecule on the surface of the virus that allows it to key into its target cell.

"N" refers to neuraminidase, which is another molecule, also on the surface of the virus. In this case, it allows the virus, once replicated, to key out of the cell that it’s been "born" in.

There are 16 different types of hemagglutinins and 9 different types of neuraminidases.

H1N1 is the same virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed 20 to 40 million people around the globe. This is, of course, a descendent virus.

The fact that the new swine flu has H1N1 molecules doesn't make it identical to the 1918 strain, however. As indicated, it has genes from swine flu, avian flu, and human flu.

There, you now probably know far more about swine flu and its scientific ID than you really want to know. Or perhaps, in this time of outbreak, you want as much info as you can get.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Girl's Basketball Coach Arrrested for Sex with 16-Year-Old Boy

It's become so commonplace it's almost not an offbeat story any longer. Here we have the latest teacher / coach arrested for engaging in sex with a minor.

In this case it's Joey Strong, 35, a longtime girl's basketball coach at Holy Name School in Ausable Forks, NY. She has been charged with third-degree rape, a felony, and two misdemeanors for allegedly plying a 16-year-old boy with alcohol and having sex with him.

Ah, but finally something unusual. While Joey Strong has coached girl's basketball at the school for eight years, she's a volunteer, and thus not a employee of the school. And that makes it all better --- not.

Even better, Strong provided alcohol to not just this one boy, but appearently to four, a sort of underage drinking party at the Comfort Suites in Queensbury on March 30.

She only had sex with the one, however. Strong was arraigned in Queensbury Town Court and released on her own recognizance, pending prosecution in Town Court.
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Buchanan: GOP is a "Heavily White Party," Faces Demographic Problems

Speaking to MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall on Tuesday, Pat Buchanan said that his party has a major "demographic problem."

Buchanan said:
"There's a real demographic problem with the Republican Party. It is a heavily white party, quite frankly, and as a share of the electorate, that is diminishing and Hispanics are growing very rapidly, Asians are growing rapidly, and by two-thirds they tend to vote Democratic.

"Young people increasingly are more liberal and more socially moderate, and they move away from the Republican Party "These things are undeniable, the Republican party two months into the Obama Administration, or three months in, is in tough shape.

"I went though the Goldwater disaster, when we were down to 140 House seats and we were dead forever, and I came with Nixon in '66 and we won 47 House seats and we won 5 out of the next 6 presidential elections. I don't think that's necessarily in the cards, but I think it'd be foolish at this point when Obama is at his peak, really, to write off the Republican party for 2010."
Watch the video:

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GOP Sen. Arlen Specter to Switch Parties

Veteran GOP senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), announced on Tuesday his intention to switch parties, to the Democratic party. This brings the Democrats to the brink of a 60-member filibuster-proof majority.

To be honest, a filibuster is a simple (but effective) way to block legislature from passing. It exists in other governmental bodies and countries than just the U.S. Senate, but Specter's move affects the Senate.

In a filibuster, "an attempt is made to extend indefinitely a debate upon a proposal in order to delay the progress or completely prevent a vote on the proposal taking place." In reality, no longer is an actual physical filibuster necessary; just the threat of one is enough to block a vote. In the U.S. Senate, unless there are 60 votes, legislation is stalled.

I've always considered it silly that a minority can hold the majority party "hostage," even if by one vote, simply by the threat of a filibuster.

With Arlen Specter, who has served since 1980 as a GOP Senator from Pennsylvania, in the fold, if Al Franken, who currently holds a narrow lead over Norm Coleman in Minnesota, were to be seated, the Democrats would have the 60 votes they need, including Independents Bernie Sanders (VT) and Joe Lieberman (CT).

Specter released a statement today, explaining his move:
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
However, Specter did indicate that his vote would not be "automatic." He will vote his conscience. And that is a good thing, something I have seen to be sadly lacking of late in the U.S. government.

And it's probably why such things as 60-vote clotures exist; in the past, people did not see that legislators would begin to vote with their party, and ignore their own conscience.

Of course, the Republicans didn't take things well, and definitely shafted him on the way out. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele responded, saying,
"Let's be honest — Sen. Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."
Meanwhile, both Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama showed their support for Specter's move, with Obama promising to campaign for Specter in 2010.

Watch an MSNBC report on the switch:

Is the Wedding Off for the Suspected "Craigslist Killer"?

Is the honeymoon over before it even began? Despite calling her fiancee, Philip Markoff, the suspected "Craigslist Killer," a "beautiful person," it appears that Megan McAllister has at the very least postponed her planned wedding with him.

The Bstreetband, a Bruce Springsteen cover band, now lists Aug. 14th as open on their datebook.
Fri Aug 14th - due to circumstances beyond our control, this date is now available to book.
According to CBS News, the band had been scheduled to play at the Aug. 14th reception for Markoff and McAllister.
William Forte, the keyboardist and owner of the Bstreetband, said a relative of McAllister called him and said "that as of right now, there is no way they will be able to have the Aug. 14 wedding date."

Forte said he plans to return the couple's $500 deposit.

"Under the circumstances, I would never hold them to the contract," Forte said.
Of course, this could simply mean that it has become obvious that the wedding can't go on as scheduled, and that it's simply delayed. It could also mean that McAllister has finally taken a look at the stack of evidence against Markoff.

Philip Markoff , a 23-year-old medical student, is charged with murdering Julissa Brisman, a New York City resident, on April 14 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel, after responding to her Craigslist "masseuse" ad. He is also charged in a robbery at a nearby hotel of another Craiglist-related masseuse.

He has pleaded not guilty.

He has also been linked to a similar attack in Rhode Island.

Watch a "48 Hours Mystery" special report from last Saturday, embedded below:

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Daughter Forced to Help Cut Up Murdered Mother's Body

James Hawkins, 31, of Memphis, TN, is charged with first-degree murder in the death last year of his longtime girlfriend, Charlene Gaither, 28. But that's only half of his depravity.

The key witness against Hawkins is Keyuna Thomas, 13. She told police her father forced her to help cut up her mother's body with a power saw. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Keyuna Thomas also told police she saw Hawkins stab Gaither in the neck with a knife and then strangle her to death after she threatened to call police during an argument. The next day, Hawkins forced Thomas to help him cut up the body.

Thomas said:
"I told my dad I didn't want to do this anymore. He says, 'You want to die, too?'"
While Hawkins denies killing Gaither, police say he acknowledged dumping her body along a rural highway after severing her head, hands and feet. Hawkins and his defense attorney, Larry Nance, are trying to suppress that statement. Nance said:
"We hope to establish that he, in fact, gave no statement. That's his position, that he didn't say that."
Prosecutors say that Hawkins blurted out the statement.

Police believe the crime occurred on Feb. 9th. Hawkins reported Gaither missing on Feb. 12th and her torso was found two days later in Mississippi. The body was identified through DNA analysis.

Hawkins is being held on a $4 million bond.
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Karzai to Reverse "Marital Rape" Law

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has backed down on the so-called "marital rape" law, which had such draconian elements as a ban on married women leaving their homes without their husbands’ permission and the requirement that a wife be available for sex at least every four days unless ill or in danger of harm from sexual intercourse.

The Shia Family Law was signed into law by the Karzai last month. The law applies to the 15% of Afghans who are Shia Muslims, but another bill was already in progress which would have affected Sunnis.

At a press conference in Kabul on Monday, Karzai said:
“The law is under review and amendments will take place. I assure you that the laws of Afghanistan will be in complete harmony with the constitution of Afghanistan, and the human rights that we have adhered to in international treaties.”
When the contents of the 239-page document were made public it was widely condemned by Western governments. Karzai said that his aides had not briefed him properly about the details, meaning, I suppose, that the Afghani President doesn't read what he signs.
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Air Force One Backup Flying Over NYC Evokes Fear, Memories

An Air Force One backup plane (747) along with two accompanying F-16 fighters flew low over New York City on Monday morning, causing anxiety and resurrecting memories of the past.

The 747, or VC-25 as the Defense Department calls it, is a backup plane to Air Force One, and was scheduled for the flyover so that Air Force photographers could take pictures. The missing piece was that somehow the proper communications had not been made and many officials were unaware of the photo-op.

Edward Acker, a photographer who was at 3 World Financial Center said:
“People came pouring out of the buildings, the American Express Building, all the buildings in the financial district by the water. And even the construction guys over by 100 North End Avenue area, they all got out of their buildings. Nobody knew about it. Finally some guy showed up with a little megaphone to tell everyone it was a test, but the people were not happy. The people who were here 9/11 were not happy.

“New York City police were standing right there and they had no knowledge of it. The evacuations were spontaneous. Guys from the floor came out, and one guy I talked to was just shaking.”
President Obama was not aboard the plane, nor was he in the New York area, and was obviously not the one coordinating the flight.

Watch a video; you can hear comments about a "hijacking" during the replay.

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Rove Mocked Pandemic Flu Prep Spending

In February, Karl Rove mocked the stimulus package being written by the House of Representatives, but in particular one part of it: the part allocated to pandemic flu preparations.

You'll recall Rove used to be called "Bush' Brain," but in this case, he was not quite a seer when it came to this article, as the current swine flu outbreak seems to show. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Rove brought up the following as wasteful spending:
$2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations.
That $900 million was dropped, but mostly because legislators want to see it as part of the budget, not the stimulus. It should also be noted that pandemic preparedness was actually brought up by Bush, as well.

It's been clear to many, in the wake of scares over SARS and avian flu, that the potential for a global pandemic is high. The way we travel today makes transmission across the planet far easier. Mocking such expeditures essentially places U.S. citizens at risk.

It's also frightening to wonder what will happen if the swine flu spreads further across Mexico. How will the populace react? Will they try to flee to the U.S.? And if so, with border security and illegal immigration already a big issue, how will the U.S. respond?
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Utah County Republicans Defeat "Satanic" Resolution

Adventures in Utah County, as Republican delegate Don Larsen introduced a resolution called the "Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal." As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the resolution claims that groups such as the Ford Foundation are pushing "a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration."

The reason for this? Democrats get most of the votes cast by illegal immigrants and people in dysfunctional families. But as I said, it's not the Democrats behind it: it's Satan.

Larsen said:
"Satan's ultimate goal is to destroy the family, and these people are playing a leading part in it."
Apparently, Larsen's resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil, and the copy of the resolution given to delegates said that it "fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times."

Delegates defeated the legislation, saying it would do more harm than good. One said the religious language Larsen used would push people away from the party, while another reminded people that George W. Bush won the presidency because he garnered 40%.

"We are not going to be the majority party if we keep pushing the Latinos out," said Joel Wright.

He probably also should have added that submitting this type of resolution isn't going to help the Republicans simply because some will see it as, well, nutty. While the resolution was defeated, it's interesting that it even made it to a vote. Larsen also introduced a similar resolution in 2007. That resolution stated:
In order for Satan to establish his "New World Order" and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. ... The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness.
You can even watch an MSNBC report on that 2007 resolution. It appears Larsen has learned nothing since then, and it's amazing, quite honestly, Utah County would keep him around.

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Heart Attack Victim Dies After Paramedics Force Him to Walk Down Stairs

An investigation into the death of a heart attack victim who was forced by paramedics to walk down three flights of stairs last year has uncovered numerous violations by UMass Memorial EMS service, according to a report in the Telegram.

Charles F. Rondeau, 48, died last year after suffering a heart attack on Mother's Day. When the 911 call came in, it was made clear that Rondeau had been suffering chest pains, yet despite this paramedics forced him to walk down three flights of stairs while they steadied him, a violation of state standards of care which was also left out of their written report.

It wasn't just an error of omission, either: the report was falsified to indicate the paramedics had carried Rondeau down the stairs using a "stair chair."

The two paramedics, Seth Peters of Worcester and Jonathan C. Hanson, were fired by UMass Memorial EMS after a state report came out recently. The family is likely to file a lawsuit against UMass Memorial EMS, which, despite my complaints against how litigious this country is, I would applaud.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Man Bites Dog; Dog Maces Family

Actually, no one bit a dog, but a dog sure maced a family, according to a press release by the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. Tualatin Valley is a suburban region SW of Portland, OR.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's HAZMAT Team was called to a home in Tualatin following a 911 call reporting a family experiencing burning eyes, scratchy throats, and difficulty breathing. The report also noted their basement was filled with a hazy fog.

Upon arrival, firefighters found a family (mother, son, and grandmother) outside the home. They reported their symptoms had diminished upon exiting the house.

Once entering the home, the HAZMAT team found the source of the problem: a can of mace that had been punctured, lying on the floor.

Apparently, one of the family's four dogs had mistaken the can, about the size of a dog bone, for something he should play with. The family told firefighters that one of their four dogs had been acting strange just before the symptoms arose.
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Chewing Gum Improves Math Skills: Study

A study conducted by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and sponsored by (unsurprisingly) the Wrigley Science Institute has shown that gum chewing apparently improves math scores.

We all knew that chewing gum could be used to ehlp those wanting to quit smoking, ease anxiety, reduce tooth decay (assuming sugarless gum), but improving math scores?

The study included 108 students, 52 girls and 56 boys, ages 13 to 16. They were divided into two groups that would either chew sugarfree gum during math class, math homework and math tests, or not. After 14 weeks, all the students took a math test.

Those who had chewed gum showed a 3% increase in their scores, while their final grades were also “significantly better” than non-chewers.

While there isn't a final conclusion on "why," the leader of the study, Craig Johnston, PhD, an instructor of pediatrics-nutrition at the Baylor College of Medicine, said:

“Some researchers speculate that a decreased level of stress leads to better focus and concentration, which may explain the relationship between gum chewing and increased focus and concentration.”

He added that the study “demonstrates the potential benefits of chewing gum on academic performance in a real-life, classroom setting with teenagers.”

I wouldn't expect any major changes in allowing gum in schools; improvement or no, kids have this nasty habit of sticking it on the bottom of desks and other places, and popping gum in class as well. More study is needed.

Oh, in case you weren't sure, the gum given to the study participants was Wrigley's gum.
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Teen Pays for Lawyer with Stolen Goods

Jason Leigh Markham, 19, of Beloit, WI, faces three felony charges after allegedly burglarizing cars. The motive: he needed to pay for a lawyer for past offenses.

Markham had previously been charged previously with drug possession, disorderly conduct and theft of movable property. He can now add to that list the new charges of burglary, possession of burglar tools and bail jumping.

He was caught when a man signted Markham inside his Camaro, which was in his garage, around 4:30 AM on April 16th. The resident tackled Markham when he tried to escape and held him for police.

Police allegedly found gloves, a flashlight, a GPS system, nine CDs and seven video games in Markham's backpack.
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