Archives for the Month of December 2006 on Through the Magnifying Glass

Happy New Year

happy_new_year_aussie.jpg

Happy New Year Australia!

Here's a link to a java applet that shows how much time is left for major cities around the world.

NYE Cleveland Dec 31, 2006

After a long hiatus, I ventured back to Cleveland to see friends. I did my usual trip to Bob Evans for their breakfast. For the get-togethers before New Years, we went to XO Restaurant on West 6th and the House of Blues. Both were excellent.

We celebrated NYE at Cloud Nine, only a $5 cover charge, and the crowd size was just right. I saw friends I haven't seen in months, and some phikap brothers that I have not seen in years!!! Back at the after-party at a friend's apartment, I had the pleasure of meeting Sara and Tran for the first time! Face-to-face! =) Just be careful not to get them too happy on those beverages, hehe.

For the wknd itself, I stopped by campus, noticed a few changes. The Binary walkway was not even exciting, and you could not tell the 1's or 0's at first. There is no good color distinction, a waste of money if you ask me. I also stopped by the expression wall and noticed a bit of graffiti. I still think it's a bad idea. The whole thing just lacks creativity and originality.

Anyways, happy new year to all of you and best of luck!

MySpace, Facebook still relevant after college?

NY Post - Some Rethink Posting of Private Info

Throughout high school and college, your MySpace or Facebook entry must be filled with your postings about school, social life, and crazy events and images, plus comments and responses from friends and other visitors.

What you put on your MySpace or Facebook is for public consumption unless you explicitly set your entry to private so only your close friends can access it. For people who blog (like myself) and use social-networking sites, we have to realise that these places are really public and anyone can read whatever information we have uploaded, posted, and commented on.

Thus after college graduation, is it still appropriate to leave your personal page as-is? Probably not. Some examples from the article above:

Chuck Sanchez, a 25-year-old Chicagoan, recently deleted references to his public relations firm on his MySpace page after everyone from a job applicant to his fiancee's mother found the page.

Rachel Hutson removed some photos from her college sorority days after she took a job as a civilian working for the military. She's also made her Facebook and MySpace profiles private, so that only friends she approves can see it.

With everyone becoming more savvy with the Internet, more adults - teachers, parents, university admissions counselors, and prospective employers - can find your personal webspace via Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine. No matter if you deleted the page or changed it, it will take some time before it is completely purged from the Internet (note Google's cached page example).

Some of you may think it's invasion of privacy, but there is nothing you can do to prevent me from looking you up on Facebook or MySpace, or your own personal blog journal. If it is accessible on the Internet, it's public.

There is already increasing occurrences where employers are informing applicants that they will check up on their personal webpages or social-networking sites as part of their background check.

So if you want to remove some "embarassing" photos or cleaning up offensive posts or comments, now it is the time to do it. Or make your site restricted to just close friends and colleagues.

It is not about free speech. It is just about being more aware and to educate ourselves to be more cautious and careful.

The importance of checking one's resume

Sometimes that perfect resume may be too good to be true.

CNN Money.com - Trump mortgage chief inflated resume

Applicants should know that any company will try to verify your references so if you want to "hype" your resume, you better not stretch it too far.

Tax Quote - Heinlen

“First, what is it you want us to pay taxes for? Tell me what I get and perhaps I’ll buy it.”

– Robert A. Heinlen, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

Fuel Economy Changes Needed

The traditional Big Three automakers continue to argue that the current government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) are sufficient despite the fact that the current 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for trucks and SUVs have not been changed over a decade.

The technology is there to make it happen. Even if the standards remain the same, Japanese car makers Toyota and Honda will still win in the long run. If the Big Three won't adapt, they will suffer.

We are not asking for a 100-mpg vehicle. The technology is there to create vehicles that can run on 50-60 mpg saving consumers hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in gas costs.

How can one fail to see any logic in that?

CNN Money.com - GM slams possible fuel economy changes

Fifth Third Bank - Highest ATM Surcharge Fee

We like to award Fifth Third Bank for having the highest ATM surcharge fee to non-Fifth Third customers.

Their ATMs charges: $2.50 per cash withdrawal transaction

Not to mention that your own bank will charge you for using a different bank, most likely $1.00 to $1.50 per cash withdrawal transaction in addition.

Thank you Fifth Third for gouging everyone else.

Space: The Cost-Prohibitive Frontier

The Independent has an article on whether the United States should continue to support a new effort to launch a manned mission to the Moon with the hopes of establishing a permanent settlement.

It is estimated that it will cost approximately $600 billion over 20 years, or possibly $1 trillion if we incorporate cutting edge technological projects along the way.

Quite a huge sum, but given it is spread among many years, it could be managed. The US GDP is some $12 trillion annually.

If you believe Professor Stephen Hawking as stated in the article, space travel must be achieved to save the human race. Last week, the professor stated, "The survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet." The dangers of a major asteroid collision or a devastating planetary war would threaten mankind's future.

Public interest in space has waned. Perhaps the media no longer views NASA missions as publicity-attention events, only if a mishap or scandal would generate news coverage. Launches are routine, except to the most loyal space observers. Is it possible that we need some sort of threatening type of event to re-generate interest? Perhaps another cold war? An incoming asteroid of death or Martians?

While the U.S. estimates that they will return to the moon and established a settlement no later than 2018 or 2020, the Chinese hope to be there a few years earlier. The European Space Agency is concentrating on sending a manned Mars mission by 2030.

Clearly, the NASA initiative cannot be the only one that we should be dependent on. Private enterprise is probably the only way to revitalise the space industry. If the SpaceShipOne can complete its suborbital flight, then there should be no problem in letting private interests help speed the way to space colonisation and industry.

Student Expelled for Wrecking Xmas Tree

Honestly, imagine if he fell on the tree and broke his arm or leg, his parents would probably sue the school for failing to stop him, and then you get those safety experts calling for higher banisters or ways to prevent students from climbing over and jumping down to the ground floor.

But I guess the worst thing is the reaction among the students. Applause and laughter. It probably never occurred to any one of them that the student (now expelled) could seriously hurt himself. Another stupid thing I think they would do is convincing some dumb kid to light up a M-80, and put it in their hand and cover it up. Likley result: your hand gets blown off. Reaction from students: Oh, we did not know that could happened.

Are they getting dumber these days???

Mobile Phones on Airlines

Merry Christmas everyone!

Emirates Airlines has announced that in January, they will launch mobile phone usage in its planes. Thus, they will be the first to allow passengers to make mobile phone calls on its flights.

Australian carrier Qantas has also started evaluating technology that will let fliers use their mobile phones and PDAs during flight yearly next year.

In the United States, air carriers do not allow in-flight mobile phone calls, although the FAA is reviewing the safety concerns associated with mobile calls made in the air.

Enforcement varies. On my flight to Las Vegas from Newark, the female passenger on my left did not turn her Blackberry off. Throughout the flight, she took quick checks for incoming emails and text messages. The possibility of mobile phones and other units interfering with airplane electronics seems less remote. I would not be surprised if there was an emergency on the plane, passengers would use their mobile phones.

The technology that will allow the use of mobile phones in mid-flight at international roaming rates is coming soon. Its addition on U.S. carriers is all but certain, it's just a matter of when. It would definitely be quite cheaper than the current inflight phones which can be upwards of $10 a minute, plus a connection fee.

But will people be anxious in using their mobile phone? A majority of business travelers (61 percent) oppose the idea of being able to use their phones in the sky, according to a global survey conducted by travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel early this year. The plane is pretty much the only "quiet" place left while it is in flight. Discretion must be used obviously.

Could you imagine mobile phone ringing throughout a long-haul flight? Think of a loved one calling every hour to make sure his son or daughter is safe on the flight? Yes, you want to make sure they are safe and sound, but you can find out their flight status on the airline's website.

I could think of business travelers more likely using their blackberry or PDA since the company pays the bill, but I think they would also appreciate the peace and quiet while the plane is in mid-flight. Plus instead of talking, use email or text messaging.

It is not about having the right to talk on your mobile, it's about giving some due courtesy to your fellow passengers that are flying on the same plane.

Hispanic groups call for work raid moratorium

Latino_Protest.jpgReuters reports that U.S. Hispanic groups and activists which include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials are calling for a moratorium on workplace raids.

They believe that the raids are similar to the Nazi crackdowns on Jews in the 1930's. They also accused the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of "racial profiling," or selective enforcement against Hispanics. This comes after the raids that resulted in the arrest of over 1,300 workers on immigration violations on December 12 at meatpacking plants in six states.

Rosa Rosales, President of LULAC
"We are demanding an end to these immigration raids, where they are targeting brown faces. That is major, major racial profiling, and that cannot be tolerated."

LULAC even stated that the raids are causing families to be separated and is hurting the U.S. economy.

Democratic Party activist Carla Vela:
"This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up. Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?"

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First, I want to remind people that over 1,300 legal citizens or residents were the victims of identity theft since the arrested individuals held fake paperwork or other people's social security numbers. When the LULAC said families are being disrupted, the identity theft victims' lives are also messed up.

As for rounding up Jews for no reason, the Facist government in charge had lots of reasons, and in most cases, because they just Jewish. It was obvious that Jews were targeted because they were to blame for Germany's defeat for WWI, the recession and hyperinflation, and for the rest of the country's social and economic problems.

How can this be linked to the Hispanic immigration arrests? First, they were clearly found to be illegal citizens with no verifiable or legal documentation. Jews were indeed citizens and had verified documents. In the early 1930's, they had to register themselves with authorities because they were Jews. If they did not have any documentation, they would have been arrested and deported. Of course, things did get worse for them when the war started and during it. But linking them to the Nazis in the 1930's seems unreasonable.

Some would say that federal authorities were being obvious in targeting Hispanic workers at these plants, but another viewpoint would show that there was a high probability that workers at those meatpacking plants held illegal documentation, and unfortunately, most of them were Latin American.

Obviously, such a high-profile and public event of these arrests brought out Hispanic, immigration activists in protest. You have to wonder how long it took them to respond. How many other work raids occurred before the one on December 12? Maybe it just reached beyond a certain size, and the groups knew they had to act.

Should the raids continue? Or should the raids be suspended until immigration legislation has been passed? But how long would that take? Would we stand idly by and watch more Americans be subjected to identity theft? How would we feel if illegal workers are taking our jobs and not paying taxes? Which is the better decision? The more reasonable one?

In any case, a comprehensive immigration bill must be passed as quickly as possible, or these problems will continue to increase and worsen.

Associated Press vs Bloggers

Who should you believe - AP or Bloggers?

Christmas is now labeled as a Western thing

Ten doctorate students from China's elite universities are calling for a boycott of Christmas and urging people to revert to Chinese traditions.

In a statement carried by many Chinese Internet websites, they lamented the loss of Chinese traditions and morals, amid what they said was the widening invasion of western popular culture.

"We notice that many Chinese who do not believe or do not know anything about Christianity... would join in Christmas partying without much thought," said the students, all from elite universities.

"This is a phenomenon of the collective loss of sense."

The students said they supported religious freedom but called on Chinese people who are not Christians to stop celebrating Christmas and not to give cards and presents or go to parties.

They also urged government departments to consider regulating Christmas activities in public venues and in the media.

The statment said Chinese people should not pander to western culture and instead look to Confucianism for spiritual fulfillment.

Link

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If you want to support religious freedom, discuss the appointment of catholic bishops with the Vatican, stop abusing non-registered religious groups, and actually allow Chinese citizens to practice whatever their faith freely.

So the act of giving each other Xmas presents is anti-Chinese. Regulation is government control. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese schoolchildren will be taught that Kris Kringle is the devil and it's all an imperialist plot to brainwash Chinese citizens.

Consumer Technology invading corporate computing

The Economist has an interesting article on the spread of consumer technology in the corporate workplace.

It seems the IT department at Arizona State University decided to shift all 65,000 student accounts to Google Gmail, a free web-based email service. It is part of the bundle called "Google Apps for Your Domain" that also includes instant messenging (IM) and a web-based calendar.

According to Dave Girouard, the boss of Google's small but growing enterprise division, “tens of thousands” of organisations have already signed up to use Google's web-based tools in place of traditional in-house e-mail systems and other software.

ASU's decision is ahead of other IT organisations who tend to be sceptical of consumer technologies and often ban them outright. Employees, in return, tend to ignore their IT departments.

You can read more off the Economist web site.

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I would figure that this type of service would be beneifical to educational institutions, small and medium sized businesses. I really doubt that any one in the corporate Wall Street industry to take up Google's free service because of SEC rules and regulations and other compliance requirements.

Microsoft Outlook, Live Meeting, Lotus Notes will remain the backbone of most major financial companies. I am sure some of Google services will be used, but not exclusively. For instant messenging, we must keep records of conversations of users utilising AOL, MSN, and Yahoo Messenger. Hmm, I do not know if Google Talk is compatible yet.

But still, would you want all of your stuff to be under the control of Google?

We are Marshall - Dec 22, 2006

An inspiring true story...

Update: It seems the Edmonton Sun's standards were way too high for this film.

Remember the E-Trade Commericals

Thank god for YouTube

Another $99.7 Billion for Iraq and Afghanistan

The Pentagon wants the White House to seek another $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press.

Overall, the war in Iraq has so far cost about $350 billion. Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere around the world, the cost to taxpayers has exceeded $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Will Democrats go along with the request? Will they demand that any spending bill for Iraq/Afghanistan must include an equivalent of money that should be cut from the federal budget?

In the past Republicans and the White House did not include these figures as part of the fiscal budget. This action deceived the American people into thinking that the federal deficit was doing better than it was supposed to.

$1 billion needed for White House Race

The Washington Times has reported that the chairman of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) predicts that 2008 will produce the first $1 billion presidential race, and that $500 million is needed from each party's candidate in order to compete.

FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner said that nominees would need to raise up to $500 million for their campaigns and that the "entry level" for getting into the presidential nomination campaign as a serious contender will be $100 million by the end of 2007.

Hmm, maybe Bill Gates can make a run for the White House or maybe the Google founders can just cash some of their stock and buy the presidential mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Any bank willing to give me a $1 billion loan?

Honestly, there should be a campaign to buy every American a TiVo, then we can speed through all the political ads and junks that are going to flood the media waves over the next two years.

Another Santa incident!

Reported from a FOX affiliate in South Bend, IN on an incident on Long Island, NY:

Santa Hat-Wearing Bus Driver Allowed to Keep Job

Ken Mott (Newsday)

A Santa hat-wearing school bus driver on Long Island, N.Y., has won the right to keep wearing his festive headgear, Newsday reported.

Kenneth Mott, who keeps a long, white beard, almost lost his job after a parent called the bus management to complain. Mott, who has worn the red and white hat every Christmas since he started with the Bauman & Sons bus company five years ago, was ordered to stop wearing the hat because a child didn't believe in Santa Claus and was bothered by the hat.

"I said, 'What, are you kidding me?'" Mott recalled. "I thought it was a big joke," Newsday reported.

However, after Mott told other parents he might be fired for wearing the hat, supervisors changed their stance and said he could continue to wear the hat.

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A child was bothered by the hat? What is this? Some sort of brainwash attempt by Christians over the non-believers? A Santa hat does not cause mental harm or physical damage. Period.

How come the parent did not use any common sense? What if the driver was wearing a NY Yankees cap, and the kid loved the Mets? Is he going to complain too?

Soon, we are going to have drivers on the highway calling the cops about other drivers wearing Santa hats or have a Merry Christmas sticker on their bumper.

...and of course in the UK

A primary school has been accused of spoiling Christmas for pupils after a lesson telling them that Santa Claus does not exist.

The Golden Globes

Series 24 nominated again for Best TV series (Drama) - Yay!

New show Heroes also nominated for Best TV series (Drama) - Yay!

Masi Oka (Heroes) nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Movie - Yay!

Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica not nominated in any category - Bollux!

How can Alec Baldwin get nominated for Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy? Someone tell me!

No Bibles in Saudi Arabia

BMI air stewardess is claiming religious discrimination in which she says banned her from taking the bible to Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Office of Saudi Arabia, on its website:

"The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol, pork products and religious books, apart from the Koran, and artefacts are forbidden."

Telegraph - Stewardess 'banned from taking bible on plane'

So if the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia, I guess it won't hurt if the Koran is banned in the United Kingdom or United States.

Conservatives Fear Tax Increases

First, I want to say that the Republican Congress did pass a tax increase last year. The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 did prevent various tax increases from occurring this year, and defers others due to apply in future years. It was estimated to save taxpayers $69 billion. BUT..... it passed a $2.1 billion tax increase on Americans living overseas.

When it was signed into law this year on May 17, the changes are applied retroactively back to Jan 1, 2006.

Here is some background. The United States is the only nation that taxes its citizens and residents on their overseas income. Such overseas residents can use the foreign earned income exclusion clause if they are (i) a U.S. citizen who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or (ii) a U.S. citizen or resident present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days in any 12 consecutive month period. Before the Act, the maximum exclusion amount was to have been $80,000 for 2006 and 2007, and indexed for inflation after 2007. The amount of the housing cost exclusion was equal to the excess of a taxpayer's housing expenses over a base housing cost amount. A qualified individual also may elect to exclude certain foreign housing costs paid or incurred on his behalf (or claim a deduction where the costs are not paid by the employer).

Under the new Act, the $80,000 maximum foreign earned income exclusion amount is adjusted for inflation after 2005. As a result, the maximum 2006 exclusion is $82,400. That was the good news.

The bad news is that housing costs are limited to 30% of the maximum foreign earned income exclusion (computed on a daily basis) for the calendar year in which the tax year begins, multiplied by the number of days of bona fide residence or presence for which the qualified individual is eligible for the exclusion.

Thus, U.S. citizens are residents are adversely affected if they are living in Bermuda, Hong Kong, the Middle East, and Singapore. Those that are living in high taxed European countries would have a less impact because of the foreign tax credit, but they would still see a tax increase.

Since I lived in London from Jan to June 2006, I have to see if I need to pay more to Uncle Sam. Thank you Republicans for giving me a tax increase!

Link

NY Times - Tax Leads Americans Abroad to Renounce U.S.

Intl Herald Tribune - U.S. executives warn expatriate tax increase may backfire

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Back to the main topic at hand. Washingtion Times is reporting that Republicans are worried that the Democrats will raise taxes on upper-income citizens and President Bush may agree to it.

Of course, Republicans are somewhat mum (except for the happy fiscal conservatives) since Democrats are reining in earmarks from the 2007 congressional spending bills. Since the GOP failed to pass nine of the 11 fiscal year 2007 appropriations bills, the Democrats have to do it. One proposal is to pass a huge omnibus bill that would cover the rest of the departments. The one good thing is that the Democrats will remove all earmarks from the spending bills, and introduce a more stronger earmark transparency requirement for the following year, something that the Republicans failed to do.

The concern is that Bush may agree to some tax increase on upper-income families to win accomodations from Democrats. In addition, Bush has not rule out raising payroll taxes to help shore up our Social Security system. Since November, Mr. Bush has said everything should be on the table in the effort to fix the program's finances -- a statement in sharp contrast to his declaration after the 2004 elections that "We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem."

A bit of background. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes a withholding Social Security tax equal to 6.20% of the gross wage amount, up to but not exceeding the Social Security Wage Base ($90,000 for the year 2005; $94,200 for 2006; and $97,500 for 2007). The same 6.20% tax is imposed on employers. For each calendar year for which the worker is assessed the FICA contribution, the SSA credits those wages as that year's covered wages. The income cutoff is adjusted yearly for inflation and other factors.

A separate payroll tax of 1.45% of an employee's income paid directly by the employer, and an additional 1.45% deducted from the employee's paycheck, yielding an effective rate of 2.9%, funds the Medicare program. This program is primarily responsible for providing health benefits to retirees.

The combined tax rate of these two federal programs is 15.3%.

One sad thing I should add is that when President Bush or anyone in Congress stated that the federal deficit is not doing too bad, they failed to mention that under the rules of unified budgeting, the surplus from the Social Security Trust Fund is used to offset the total fiscal debt, making it look much smaller. So when the Trust Fund starts turning out deficits, expect a more than larger sized federal deficit each year.

Ok, so it is possible that Congress may introduce a bill to raise payroll taxes or eliminate the wage base cap currently in place. Should we be happy about this? Even such a tax increase would only extend Social Security's viability by a couple of years. For workers such as ourselves, we will likely see a bankrupt retirement system when we retire. While we have our 401k or any other profit-sharing program, could we continue to ignore the fact that 6.2 percent of our wages are going to a system which will not benefit us when we reach retirement age?

As for tax increase on upper-income, more information is needed. Are we talking about going back to the same tax rates before 2001? Or an even higher increase? While some of you may think that a person earning over $100,000 is doing pretty good, a person living in New York City on that salary is actually barely getting by. Over a majority of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and even some upper-income families are in that situation too.

Duke Rape Case - Throw it out! (Update)

More information revealed that puts more pressure on the D.A. to drop all charges against the Duke student players.

Will the defendants sue the county on civil damages? You betcha!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

Reports are coming in that the Duke DA will drop rape charges against the accused lacrosse team members.

The kidnapping and sexual offense charges still stand. Kidnapping - C'mon here, totally unjustified. Sexual offense - ha ha ha. I am just thinking the DA is trying to get something out of all of this.

I have to wonder how Duke will respond to the treatment they have lashed upon these student players.

Premiership Soccer: West Ham Defeats Manchester United!

westham.bmpGlorious West Ham United!!!

In his first game as West Ham manager, Alan Curbishley is all smiles after Nigel Reo-Coker, the Captain, scores the winner against the most successful Premiership team, Manchester United.

This is the first ever home win against Manchester in the whole history of the Premiership League. The last win was away at Old Trafford five years ago.

Come on you IRONS!!!

BBC Sport - Reo-Coker sinks leaders Man United

Knicks-Nuggest Game Ended in Brawl

Despicable, and bad for the game.

The Knicks players say it was a clean foul. The video tells us otherwise. Another black eye on the game. The players that were ejected were irresponsible and undeserving of our respect and pride. The leading scorer of the league ought to be ashamed of himself.

Shame Shame Shame!

Update 12/18/2006

Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas insists that the Denver Nuggets are to blame because they left their starters on the floor too long and that it was poor sportsmanship for them to continue to play when they they had a lead of about 18-19 points.

CBS Sportsline - Isiah puts blame on Nuggets for leaving starters in

That is the most piece of crap excuse that I have ever heard from a coach. So if a team is leading by double-points at the end of the game, do they send in their second-string players? Sometimes yes, but it is NOT a requirement!

What's wrong with a 18-19 point lead? You cannot hack it, Mr. Thomas? Your players cannot hack it? You feel that your pride is being hurt? Well, here's a solution for you. Go and PLAY BETTER! You think that if the Nuggets put in their second-string players, the score would be any different?

Stop whining and stick to winning games!

The punishments are out!

New York

Nate Robinson -- 10 games
Mardy Collins -- Six games
Jared Jeffries -- Four games
Jerome James -- One game

Denver

Carmelo Anthony -- 15 games
J.R. Smith -- 10 games
Nene -- One game

Each team was fined $500,000 as well.

Bachelor's Lorenzo Borghese is a farce

My prediction that Lorenzo is a fake has come true. It would seem the chosen girl "Jen," the teacher from Miami, has started dating her ex-boyfriend in the months she was forced to be apart from Borghese.

The New Jersey semi-Italian is not fazed by this. Why? Because he invited the second place female, Sadie, up to New York for a romantic trip.

Why is it that The Bacheolor never ends up with a happy ending? Just ratings and trying to make a bachelor an authentic Italian is just downright shoddy.

Can we please cancel it? Please!

Did you know about the "Real ID Act?"

More information on the piece of legislation

This law will take effect May 11, 2008.

It is intended to deter terrorism by:

1) Establishing national standards for state-issued driver's licenses and non-driver's identification cards;

2) Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders;

3) Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity;

4) Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (rather like bail bonds, but for aliens that have been released pending hearings);

5) Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security; and

6) Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australians.

Did you know...?

The Real ID act started off as H.R. 418, which passed the House (261-161-11) and went stagnant. It was then attached as a rider on a military spending bill (H.R. 1268) by Representative Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin (the author) and was voted upon (100-0) . It was signed into public law (109-13) on May 11, 2005.

This law essentially standardises all state drivers' licenses and ID cards for non-drivers.

Each "de facto national" card must include, at a minimum:

  • The person's full legal name.
  • The person's date of birth.
  • The person's sex.
  • The person's driver's license or identification card number.
  • A digital photograph of the person's face.
  • The person's address of principal residence.
  • The person's signature.
  • Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes.
  • A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements (the details of which are not spelled out, but left to the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation and the States, to regulate).

    But did you also know....?

    Anyone without a federal-compliant card would not be permitted to board an airplane, Amtrak train, open a bank account, or enter a federal building.

    Is the 16th Amendment Valid?

    Amendment 16 - Status of Income Tax Clarified

    The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

    It was proposed July 12th, 1909, and was supposedly ratified February 3rd, 1913.

    The We the People Foundation has evidence that the constitutional amendment does not authorise a income tax requirement.

    For some reason, the IRS is refusing to provide the exact statute or law that requires Americans to file an income tax return.

    Another good question, where is your income tax going to?

    Paying for highway construction/maintenance: the gasoline tax pays for it

    Education: your local property taxes pay for your schools

    It would seem that after interest on the debt and govt waste, your money is already spent and everything else is borrowed.

    Another false rumor or a question that should be answered by the U.S. government?

    Is the income tax an indirect or direct tax? Neither.

    The New York Times in a January 25, 1916 article:

    "In substance, the court holds that the Sixteenth Amendment did not empower the Federal Government to levy a new tax."

    Hmmmm.

    The Congressional Research Service in the 1980's found no provisions which require an individual to pay an income tax.

    Really, is this just all hoopla?

    Something that requires more investigation?

    Should we pay for war instead of borrowing for it?

    Washington Post's Op-Ed Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes "A War Bush Wouldn't Pay For"

    Believe it or not, winning the war in Iraq was never the Bush administration's highest priority. Saving its tax cuts was more important. That was once spoken of as a moral problem. Now it's a practical barrier to a successful outcome.

    Until recently President Bush's refusal to scale back any of his tax cuts was discussed as the question of shared sacrifice: How could we ask so much from a courageous group of Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan but not ask even the wealthiest of their fellow citizens to part with a few extra dollars to support an endeavor supposedly central to our nation's security? On the contrary, even after we committed to war in Iraq, the administration pushed for yet more tax cuts in dividends and capital gains.

    * * * * * *

    I still find the reasoning that cutting taxes and increasing military spending lacking. Bush wants to spend another $100 billion in special war funding for Afghanistan and Iraq. This is another $100 billion that we need to borrow, and no politician wants to raise taxes to pay for it. Is there something wrong with us? If we want to go to war, we have to bloody pay for it, not borrow!!! So basically, we have spent over $400 billion on credit for the war on terror. Can we still afford to keep on doing this?

    USG Comments for Dec 15

    Academic Integrity Board

    Let's clear this thing up. The board is comprised of three students (voting members) that are appointed by the Undergraduate Student Government, two faculty (voting members) appointed by the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate and two administrators (non-voting members). One administrator will be a dean from the office of undergraduate studies. The other administrator, the assistant vice president for student affairs or his or her designee, will chair the board.

    USG does not approve all members to the Integrity Board, it only approves the three student positions on it. Now, if USG has not been doing this, then there is a failure of communication. I would have thought the VP Academic Affairs would be aware of such a thing. Perhaps maybe it should be included in the officers' manual for next time.

    Archives Still Nothing

    I am a strong advocate of giving students the ability to access all USG documents because we are supposed to be a public entity. Come on here, the students elected the government, and they are accountable to them. After two years of politely asking, the Archives section is still saying "Coming Soon." The only place a student can check USG legislation, agendas, and minutes from 1999 to 2004 is here.

    It's not that hard. Yes, the creation of the online funding system took up manpower and lots of hours, but uploading scanned copies of minutes and legislation is not that difficult.

    As a New Years' resolution, please, pretty please, get all the archives online next semester.

    Restricting number of student groups next year

    How many active groups are we at currently? A quick look at the groups list off the USG site shows about 144. Five to six years ago, we had roughly 95-100 groups. The increasing trend rate is not too bad, but does this mean we should start restricting people from forming new groups. Not really. We had about 4,300 undergrad students enrolled for the Fall semester. This is up from about 3,400 to 3,500 from several years ago.

    Being an officer and member of the Finance Committee is a very hard job, and you cannot put a cap on group membership because there are just too many of them. Obviously, there should be more of an effort to determine if a new group should be recognised by USG and whether it helps improve student life. With an increasing SAF fee every year and a larger funding budget, the Finance Committee should be expected to handle this. This is why we still continue to justify that any candidate running for VP Finance must be a member of the Finance Committee for at least one semester.

    A restricted cap on the number of groups is an easy cheapshot solution. Another more effective solution needs to be made instead of this.

    It would also be nice to know how much money has been requested from all the student groups. Every mass funding bill that has been passed only shows what has been allocated. A summary report of what was requested and funded should be available off the USG web site. If it is, let me know.

    The Smoking Open Forum

    First, an open forum is a place to communicate and exchange ideas for anyone concerned. Now, I would have thought the forum would be the initial starting point to bring up solutions and debate them to tackle the issue of smoking on campus. By introducing the three USG draft resolutions on the subject, it would seem to me that you have already "mostly" decided on what should be the solution to this problem and the forum is used for just feedback. Observer's take on it showed that the forum could have been used more effectively.

    The forum should have just focused on three areas regarding smoking: an outright ban on it, designated smoking areas, and areas where smokers are not allowed. No draft resolutions should have been introduced. You want to give the sense that "everything is on the table for debate."

    After this, a task force study group should been created to debate the finer points of writing up the draft resolution. The smoking topic would undoubtedly affect everyone on campus, so it would be favorable to include graduate and professional students. This would give an united student viewpoint to the administration. Of course, future open forums would also be needed.

    Giving students to vote on three separate smoking referendums seems friviolous. First, an outright ban is not the ideal solution and should be subsequently dropped. Sufficient smoking shelters should be erected throughout campus, and designated certain floors or residence halls for smokers should be considered. This would make quite a lot of sense to most people. Areas that should be off-limits to smokers such as ventilation systems, building entrances is obvious.

    Imagine if the outright ban was the winning resolution, it would make resolution two and three unnecessary, but for the University, it is not the ideal way to solve this problem, so then it is a waste of time for USG.

    Eastwood's suggestion of a program to help end smoking addiction is a great idea and should be included in any USG comprehensive resolution.

    In any case, more work is definitely needed on this hot topic.

    A smoking referenda during the first two weeks of classes is much too soon and will NOT be conducive. How can you have an open forum on Nov 21, then decide two weeks later to hold a referenda when students get back?

    Student turnout will not be high. Students would not have all the facts to make the right decision. It would show that the open forum was meaningless. I would actually want to see the draft that was presented at the forum and the final version. Was there any change? =) =) =)

    Deport the killer

    Diego Pillco, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, who murdered indie actress Adrienne Shelly, feared she would have called police and have him deported.

    He entered the U.S. via Mexico in 2005 by paying smugglers $12,000.

    Pillco became enraged after Shelly called him a "son of a bitch," police sources said after his arrest.

    In his confession, Pillco said he overpowered the tiny independent-film star, who struck her head on a table when he pushed her down in her apartment.

    Pillco said he panicked, and hanged the woman - who may have still been alive - in her bathroom with a bed sheet to cover up the crime. He apparently hoped to make it seem like suicide.

    * * * * * * * *

    Well, Mr. Pillco, your wish came true. I hope you get deported unless you committ suicide in jail first. One less person we should worry about.

    NY Post - 'Bad Mood' Let to Lethal Rage - Alien's 'Actress Slay' Tale

    Case Alum Serving in Iraq

    I would like to let everyone know that one of our graduates and a fellow brother of Phi Kappa Theta is currently serving on deployment in Iraq.

    Lt. Colonel Eric Huweart, Class of 1992 (B.S. Biomedical Engineering) is in Iraq as a medical systems information officer.

    If you want like to send a post to him please mail to:

    Lt. Colonel Eric Huweart
    332 EMDG/MCC
    APO AE 09315-9997

    JibJab - Year in Review

    Christmas Carol Cops

    Ok, I think we are now acting quite irrational...

    A high school choir was asked to stop singing Christmas carols during an ice skating show featuring Olympic medalist Sasha Cohen out of concern the skater would be offended because she's Jewish.

    A city staff member, accompanied by a police officer, approached the Rubidoux High School Madrigals at the Riverside Outdoor Ice Skating Rink just as they launched into "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and requested that the troupe stop singing, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Thursday.

    Cohen, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist and 2006 U.S. National Champion, had just finished her performance at the rink on the downtown pedestrian mall, and was signing autographs.

    Choir director Staci Della-Rocco said she complied with the request "because a policeman told me to stop. I didn't want to have a big old huge scene in front of my kids," according to the newspaper.

    AP - A "silent night" as carolers told to stop singing at skating show

    Hazing Death - U Texas at Austin

    Three fraternity members were indicted Wednesday on hazing charges in the alcohol-related death last year of an 18-year-old pledge.

    Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath, a freshman at University of Texas at Austin, was found dead at the Lambda Phi Epsilon house on Dec. 10, 2005.

    Fraternity president Benny Chan was indicted on seven counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and 22 counts of hazing. Andrew Nguyen, the fraternity's pledge captain, was indicted on seven counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and 28 counts of hazing. And Kamal Pulukuri was indicted on 14 counts of hazing. All are misdemeanor charges.

    The University suspended Lambda Phi Epsilon's status as a registered student group until 2011.

    AP - Texas Frat Boys Indicted in Hazing Death


    Lou Dobbs: A tree grows in Seattle


    Web Site Link

    Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com

    NEW YORK (CNN) -- Merry Christmas! That's right, Merry Christmas. Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, pagan, barbarian or whatever, Merry Christmas!

    It's what most of us say in this country come this time of year. It's about who we are, where we are and where we've been. And all the namby-pamby, little sensitive darlings among us who can't handle this verbal assault on their delicate senses should immediately begin seeking emergency psychiatric care.

    This week we were treated to the spectacle of an easily offended and highly offensive rabbi who walked into an airport, gazed upon Christmas trees all around him and suddenly was overwhelmed with an immense, and apparently irresistible, urge to sue the management of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport because nowhere among all the Christmas trees was a single menorah. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Seattle even delivered to the airport's management a draft of a lawsuit he would file if they didn't sprinkle menorahs around the Christmas trees.

    Political correctness in this country reached an entirely new level of absurdity some years ago. But occasionally, and the situation at Sea-Tac is just such an occasion, we exceed ourselves. The militant fundamentalist rabbi so flummoxed Sea-Tac management with his threat and their perceived obligation to be "politically correct" that, rather than think rationally or simply tell him to stuff it, they started hacking away at all those artificial Christmas trees and quickly descended into a public relations nightmare in which they managed to offend reason, cultural values and the vast majority of Americans.

    As CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told me, "The Supreme Court has held since 1984, the famous 'Reindeer Rule,' that if a symbol of Christmas is mostly secular, like a reindeer or a Christmas tree or Santa Claus, that is not a violation of the separation of church and state."

    The irony that escaped the rabid rabbi and the timid Sea-Tac management team is that the Christmas tree's likely origin dates back to pre-Christian pagan cultures. The Christmas tree is not by any means a religious symbol, and when we're honest about it, the tree's become a purely commercial symbol more closely associated with shopping, roasting chestnuts and guzzling eggnog than a nativity scene with baby Jesus.

    And hang on, Christians, because you're in 21st Century America, and our culture celebrates your holiest day of the year with such insensitive gusto that our economy would suffer a serious setback if your religious sensibilities were as easily offended as those of the litigious rabbi.

    More than 140 million shoppers spent an average of about $360 on Black Friday alone, the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation. And all those Christmas shoppers are expected to spend nearly a half-trillion dollars this shopping season.

    Now if I were a fundamentalist Christian, that might strike me as a little politically incorrect. And I think all of you folks should think about suing somebody. You know, get in the spirit of the season.

    This mindless movement of political correctness at all costs is one of the most un-American and crazy twists in our culture as anything we've witnessed. Remember, we're Americans, and we have freedom of speech, that whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing. Or at least we did.

    And I hope you'll celebrate the Christmas season by offending someone. If you're Jewish, how about a hearty "Happy Hanukkah" to a good Christian? If they're offended you've revealed a fool, not such a good Christian and someone you shouldn't waste your expression of good will upon. But get ready for a few robust "Merry Christmas" calls to be thrown your way as well.

    The operators of the Seattle-Tacoma airport quickly righted a potentially dreadful wrong. The rabbi decided not to file a suit, Christmas trees have sprung back up throughout the concourse, and no, not a single menorah has been spotted. I can only hope this is the beginning of a major movement in America, one that regards thinking as paramount to phony feelings and heightened self-centered sensitivities. Common sense and judgment should always reign supreme over political correctness, no matter what the current trend.

    And, my gosh, even Wal-Mart this year has abandoned its generic, politically correct "Happy Holidays" greeting in favor of "Merry Christmas." I'm starting to think this may be the season to be jolly after all. Ho, ho, ho.

    To all, a Merry Christmas. OK, and a Happy Hanukkah, too.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

    Swift & Co. Immigration Raid

    Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents raided six Swift & Co. plants Tuesday morning with civil search warrants, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants working at the plants, including the plant in Greeley, federal officials confirmed.

    At least 800 workers at the Greeley plant are identified as illegal immigrants; 300 of them will be deported within the week, said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

    ICE said the workers were being arrested on administrative immigration violations and in some cases, existing criminal arrest warrants stemming from a nearly yearlong investigation dubbed Operation Wagon Train.

    ICE chief Julie L. Myers told reporters in Washington that agents had uncovered a scheme in which illegal immigrants and others had stolen or bought the identities and Social Security numbers of hundreds of U.S. citizens and lawful residents to get jobs with Greeley-based meat processor, Swift & Co.

    fingerraid.jpg
    Hector Angel, a Marshalltown business owner, states his point of view about the raid as ICE buses roll away from the plant.

    ice_protest.png
    A few ICE protestors at the raid: The wonderful Mexican flag is used.

    The New York Times decides to use a sympathetic picture of grieving families after the raids.

    Immigration advocates point out that the worksite raids are not an effective form of immigration reform and that they terrorise workers and destroy families.

    But they failed to mention that hundreds of these illegal workers were using stolen Social Security numbers and identity cards.

    The local Greeley, CO Tribune paper has more on the identity theft.

    Video and more info at 7 News Denver

    Example of Bad Manners by Tom Cruise

    Hollywood bigwigs were awed at a display of "sheer rudeness" by Cruise at the premiere of "The Pursuit of Happyness" in Hollywood the other night.

    Sony chief Amy Pascal "was introducing the movie, and during her speech Tom gets up, goes over to Will [Smith] and starts talking to him - and then says, 'Hey, Katie! Come over here and say hi to Will!' during Amy's speech. It was in bad taste."

    A rep for Cruise declined comment.

    United and Continental Merger?

    UAL's United Airlines is in preliminary talks with Continental Airlines about a possible merger, according to media reports.

    Each airline is worth about $4 billion in market value.

    UAL is ranked No. 2 and Continental is No. 4.

    A merger would make the merged airline No. 1 in passenger traffic.

    United's hub airports in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington would mesh with Continental's hubs in Houston, Cleveland and Newark, New Jersey.

    The combination also would combine Continental's strength in Latin America with United's Asia-Pacific routes and access to Heathrow.

    Plus Continental has the youngest jet fleet.

    Northwest has a "golden share" in Continental and could veto the merger.

    CNN.com - United and Continental flirt with merger

    Telegraph - United and Continental join merger round

    Corrupt Jefferson to be kept off Ways and Means

    House Democrats, insistent that they will hold lawmakers to higher standards, decided Tuesday that Rep. William Jefferson will not return to an influential committee until a federal corruption investigation involving him is completed.

    Here! Here!

    The Democratic Steering Committee has decided that Jefferson, who won his runoff election on Saturday, will not be given back his spot on the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that determines tax and trade policies.

    Of course, the whole Democratic Caucus must vote on the decision of the Steering Committee. Obviously, I would expect most of the Black Congressional Caucus to vote against it.

    It's unsure whether Jefferson would still hold his other committee seat on the House Budget Committee.

    Jefferson’s allies are concerned that he might not be appointed to any committee or that he could be isolated from working on issues related to Hurricane Katrina if he were to be appointed to the International Relations, Government Reform, Veterans Affairs or Judiciary committees.

    Well, first, he can rely on his other colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to further his goals of helping his constituents on issues related with Katrina. He is still under investigation and should not be involved until the process has been completed.

    CNN.com - Scandal-plagued Jefferson kept off Ways and Means

    The Hill - Jefferson kept off ways and means seat

    Rumor Mill: Fidel Castro Dead

    Increase in searches on google, yahoo... about Castro's death.

    Pajamas Media reports: Spanish Radio have reported Castro is dead. Miami police on alert.

    No mention yet on official news channels.

    Just a rumor? No word from Cuban government. Maybe Castro is in a coma? Just keep checking the blogosphere.

    Second Hand Smoke

    Enjoy!

    Hosted on Flurl Video Search - Watch More Videos

    The Flying Imams II

    As a follow up to the Flying Imams incident in Minneapolis, five of the six Muslim imams want an out-of-court settlement from US Airways for their ordeal.

    After the Nov. 28 incident, the airline offered to meet with the group of clerics on Dec. 4, but the men declined and instead sought legal help from the opportunistic Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C. I would imagine getting the CAIR supporting them would force the airline to make some sort of conciliatory settlement for the imams. Think of the bad publicity for U.S. Airways!!!

    Yet, there are conflicting reports of what really happened on that plane. Honestly, it would have been great to have a security camera in the cabin, or a travelling passenger would have tried to record the incident on their camcorder or digital camera. Now, we just have the word of the imams, the airline, and the rest of the passengers on the plane. Of course, some would not trust the airline or the passengers because they could be "baised" against the imams. Sigh!

    If you can see the YouTube video on my trackback, question the imams' actions when they boarded the plane which rouse the suspicions of the other passengers and crew.

    Out-of-court settlement? Denied!

    UPI - Ousted imams want airline settlement

    Update 12/14/2006

    The real purpose behind the imam publicity blitz

    Ordering imams off flight was a reasonable act

    Update 12/18/2006

    The Faking Imams from Pajamas Media

    He has a link to the official police report and handwritten statements from witnesses. U.S. Airways refused to be intimidated by these opportunistic imams trying to use their Muslim ethnicity as an excuse in being discriminated against.

    Back from Vegas!

    vegas.jpgBack from my five-day visit to Vegas. Lost money playing craps unfortunately, but got to visit the Venetian, MGM Grand, Mirage, Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and Mandalay Bay.

    For the best food, I would recommend Joe's Steakhouse in the Caesar's Palace Forum Shops and Tao Las Vegas restaurant in Venetian.

    Some quick suggestions for future visitors:

    Blackjack

    Get yourself acquainted with the basic strategy of knowing when to hit or stand. I would recommend the 10-20-40 bet method. Some players would bet $25, and if they win, they would bet $50 until they lose, then it's back to $25, and repeat. Double-down helps a lot in most cases.

    Craps

    Walk away from the table if you get two back-to-back shooters rolling a seven after getting the starting point. Then come back a bit later. If you get another two back-to-back shooters rolling a seven, move to another craps table.

    If you see players trying to bet against the shooter (Don't Come bet), then it's very likely the craps table is rolling an unlucky seven during the on-point phase. Sometimes they would bring some bad luck to the table, so watch out.

    Craps is great time to get a good return on your money. You just need to find a good shooter. Playing inside instead of focusing solely on the pass line would generate more returns.

    Of course, remember to hedge some of your bets.

    Attractions to see would be the Fountains at Bellagio, the volcano at the Mirage, and the Cirque du Soleil.

    Definitely have to go back.

    www.vegas.com

    Humbug to the following:

    Tourists and residents that were making fun of several marine corps servicemen (in uniform) walking down Las Vegas Blvd.

    Smokers who would deliberately pass their smoke straight into the face of a non-smoker.

    Learning how to stand on the right and pass on the left.

    Vista Minimum Requirements Unrealistic

    Betanews reports that the minimum requirements for the Windows Vista: 800 Mhz processor, 512 MB RAM, 35 GB hard drive is not enough.

    Consumers should go for at least 3 GHZ single-core CPU or 2 GHZ dual-core CPU. Notebooks (laptops) should be at least 1.5 GHZ.

    Memory should start at 2 GB and up.

    Outgoing McKinney introduces Bush impeachment bill

    It would seem that Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney wants to milk her "15 minutes of fame" by introducing a bill to impeach President Bush. We all remember her as the Democratic congresswoman who struck a Capitol police officer in March and used her race as an excuse for the fracas. She continually voiced her position that Bush was not legitimately elected and that he violated his constitutional oath.

    First, she would not be returning back to Congress in January, having lost in the primary race. Second, the legislation has no chance of passing, but is used as a parting shot at the incoming Democratic leadership since they do not want to entertain any motion that would sanction Bush and cause further distraction.

    Obviously, the few numbers that would support such a bill would be the most liberal members of the Democratic Party, namely the peaceniks and socialists that want to register their continued opposition to the President. In the bill, it accuses Bush for misleading Congress on the Iraq War and violating privacy laws with his domestic spying program.

    Will she disappear quietly? Probably not. She has longed given September 11 conspiracy theorists ammunition by suggesting that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks as well as involvement in the murder of rapper Tupac Shakur. She would probably be on a couple of talk shows or maybe head up some sort of peace think-tank group.

    McKinney's efforts are a waste of time for everyone.

    Good bye and don't come back!

    CNN.com - Rep. McKinney's parting shot: Bill to impeach Bush

    Off to Vegas

    vegas.jpgFlying to Vegas tomorrow and back Monday.

    It will be in the 60's for the rest of the week! =)

    Katrina Fraud $1 Billion

    a U.S. government report released today has estimated that fraud involving payments supposed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita would likely exceed $1 billion and only a tiny fraction of it has been recovered.

    FEMA only got about $7 million back. Ridculous!

    So for our next national disaster, you can get free money if the feds are not looking in the right spot.

    The Flying Imams

    Obviously, if you plan to make yourself conspicuous and doing things that would attract other passengers and the crew, then why is it discrimination?

    Also reported by The Jawa Report, it seems that a group called Oul-Al-Albab/Oul-Al-Absar on YouTube are targeting videos and users critical of Islamist violence.

    By gaming the YouTube system, they are able to "censor" videos that are offensive to them. One fellow user noted that if you keep on giving 1 star and flagging the video as inappropriate, you can get the video removed and the user banned.

    With tens of thousands of videos out there, how could we be sure that the YouTube admins are able to note which videos are fairly judged to be offensive? Is there enough human interaction to ensure the monitoring system at YouTube is not being duped?

    No Santa Claus Allowed

    santa.jpgA Christmas-themed event to raise money at a public elementary school in Warwick, N.Y., has been altered to accommodate a parent's complaints that the program would illegally spotlight a "religious" figure - Santa Claus.

    "Breakfast With Santa" has since been changed to "Winter Wonderland Breakfast," and -- in an effort to be inclusive of all beliefs.

    The parent, who did not wish to have her name used (obviously!), wrote a letter to the school board asserting that Santa represents Christmas -- a Christian holiday -- and by law, a public school is not allowed to promote religion.

    In the parent's letter, it said, "I look forward to sponsoring an event that is within the law and inclusive of all. This is not an argument about religion; it is about the law of our land. Discrimination is simply detestable."

    In the end, Santa Claus was finally allowed, after the school agreed to have Frosty the Snowman at the event too.

    Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, called it "just absurd." "My general reaction is probably the same as 95 percent of Americans when they hear about something like this," Johnson said. "It's ridiculous that we have to think twice about whether it's OK to celebrate Christmas in public."

    While acknowledging that Saint Nicholas, a Dutch bishop who had a reputation for giving gifts in secret, "clearly was the original figure that Santa is based upon," he noted that "most people would recognize Santa Claus himself as a secular-type figure."

    Honestly, Saint Nicholas is not mentioned in the Bible or any other religious texts. Clearly, the complaining parent is a bit too paranoid about discriminating someone or some group out there.

    Plus, the event was on a Saturday and attendance is optional, so how this is discrimination?

    Complaining Parent has been classified as a "Scrooge!"

    Hey, Merry Christmas and Bah Humbug to you too!

    CNSNews.com - Santa Claus Deemed Too 'Religious' for School Fundraiser

    Bimbo Star Update

    Paris Hilton:

    She has canceled her appearance at this year's Billboard Music Awards because she did not like the jokes written for her. Her PR spokesperson stated, "Paris did not want to say anything that could appear hurtful or embarassing about people she knows."

    Well, too bad. If you cannot take a joke, then why should you get to MC the event? Honestly, why did Billboard offer her the job in the first place? A D-list star, flopped her first album, and she charges expensive fees for her so-called "speaking" engagements. How about joking about the crotch shots? Britney is copying you. How about telling skinny Nicole to eat more? Maybe you can joke about K-Fed being a one-hit wonder.

    Actually, Fox would get better ratings if it was someone else besides Hilton.

    So good news for the rest of us.

    AP - Hilton quits Billboard awards over jokes

    Lindsay Lohan:

    Do not invite her to any GQ Men of the Year dinner events anymore. It would seem she flipped out at seeing her former assistant at the dinner event (who was with Jessica Biel). According to a witness, she started screaming, "If she stays, I'm outta here! I can't look at that girl! I can't believe you would allow an assistant in here - she doesn't belong in here!"

    Overhearing her tirade about Biel's assistant, Will Ferrell turned to DiCaprio, Gore and Affleck and said, "Who cares about that freak anymore, anyway?" - setting off laughter.

    A great star in Mean Girls, but now she's attending alcoholic meetings at 20? As for her mother, Dina Lohan, she did not do anything to rein her in. Is it possible that Dina and Lindsay think they are A-list stars and can demand anything they want? I surely hope not.

    Honestly, do not give them an invitation next year.

    Page Six on the NY Post - BOOZED-UP LINDSAY IN TIRADE


    Remember World AIDS Day!

    By the way, December 1 was World AIDS Day

    aids_front_big.jpg

    Immigration Protest at Michigan State Law School

    What is the best way to stifle free speech or an opposing view on a touchy subject such as immigration? Use violence.

    Last Thursday, protestors attempted to block a speech by Republican Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo on the subject of illegal immigration. They pulled a fire alarm prior to the speech. Than there were at least three incidents where students sponsors (members of the Michigan State University College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom) were attacked by them too.

    According to Tancredo in an e-mail: "One was spit on, one was kicked, and one was punched. Tires were also slashed."

    The Congressman leads the group that opposes legal status for illegal immigrants. Here's a YouTube video of Tancredo being introduced at the speech:

    Here's another video when the fire alarm is pulled:

    In addition to using loud shouting, they carried signs reading "Ignorant Racist." It was reported that about 40 people attended the lecture.

    DenverPost - Tancredo protesters turn violent

    Of course, Fox News - Hannity & Colmes carried the news:

    How to properly get out of a car (for Brit, Paris, Lohan)

    This is especially useful for Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. They need to be declared official D-list stars and banned from every awards show or party. I heard Brit and Hilton are hosting the Billboard Awards this year. OMG!

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