Archives for the Month of January 2007 on Through the Magnifying Glass

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Brandy-Full_Moon.jpgRecording artist Brandy got into a driving accident on December 30 when her Land Rover struck the back of a Honda driven by Awatef Aboudihaj. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), after the initial hit, Aboudihaj's car hit another vehicle, slid sideways into the center divider and was then hit by another car. She later died at a hospital from blunt-force injuries, according to the coroner's office.

The CHP concluded that Brandy be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. It would appear that she failed to prevent her Land Rover from hitting the car in front of her when traffic suddenly slowed.

A day after the police released their recommendation, the parents of Awatef Aboudihaj filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $50 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. The three-page form compliant stated that her death was caused by "reckless driving" by Brandy.

Now, what does "reckless driving" mean? According to law.com, it is operating an automobile in a dangerous manner which can include speeding, driving after drinking, cutting in and out of traffic, failing to yield, or any other negligent acts.

According to police reports, they have ruled out alcohol and drugs as factors in the crash and say there was no evidence that Brandy was using a cell phone or was otherwise distracted. She was alone in the car. It is very likely that her reaction skills did not performed quickly enough when the traffic immediately slowed down. This usually happens when there is a glut ahead when two major roads are merging, or some car way ahead decided to hit the brakes to screw th driver behind him. She was also driving at the posted speed of 65 mph when the accident occurred. In any case, it is difficult to justify her actions as "reckless driving."

So far, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office is currently reviewing the CHP's recommendation. The misdemeanour offense carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 dollar fine.

Yet, this news is what probably led to the wrongful death lawsuit. Strange enough, there was no definition found in wikipedia. Not to worry, many law firms have a section devoted to wrongful death lawsuits. On this particular injury law firm web site, a wrongful death is a claim in tort against a person who can be held liable for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close relatives. Under such a lawsuit, the defendant has fewer due process and Constitutional protections such as immunity or the right to refuse to give testimony. The standard or proof is typically preponderance of the evidence as opposed to clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt.

The web page goes on to suggest that it is easier for a family to seek retribution against someone for wrongful death in tort than a proper criminal law conviction. It also includes that on a technical matter, a wrongful death claim is not a tort claim. In most, if not all states in the United States, there was no common law right to recover civil damages for the wrongful death of a person. Of course, today is a different story. All states have enacted such statutes to correct this "deficiency" in the law so there is a right to such recovery.

I am sure everyone is wondering if the family knew about Brandy and her celebrity status. Of course, the family's lawyer, Lotfy Mrich, denies claims that from Project Islamic HOPE that Brandy is being used as a “political trophy” and being “unfairly” targeted “for prosecution because of her celebrity".

City attorney Rocky Delgadillo also criticised the claims in a news conference, insisting: "We will treat this case like every other case and treat it very seriously because someone has died. We look at cases without regard to anyone's status, whether it's an average Joe or someone more prominent."

Is $50 million fair? It looks to be Brandy's first-time offense and it would seem that the circumstances and evidence presented would suggest that in a criminal case, she will do alright. Of course, in a civil action, the sky's the limit.

Just imagine if Brandy was seriously hurt or also killed (just a hypothesis). Would the family go after her family in seeking compensation? I could also throw out more if's. If Brandy's vehicle was registered under her father or mother, they can file a lawsuit suggesting that her reckless driving is caused by the teachings and actions of her parents. I know it's ridiculous, but I would assume that any injury lawyers would try to think that way. Their ideal job is to maximise recovery for the victims.

Will you please not show my SSN?

I would like the campus newspaper, The Observer, to write an article about the difficulty in changing your social security number as your primary identifier. I want to see the reporter try to document his or her attempt to go to the Registrar's Office and submit a change for the Student ID number.

Does Ohio have any law in place regarding the use of social security numbers?

Waycross College has their project plan online on switching from SSN to unique ID's

Many other colleges and universities are implementing unique ID systems to replace the SSN as the primary way of identifying a student.

Pretty Even for Smoking Referendum

The results are in and a little over 1,100 Case students responded to the USG smoking referendum questions.

Resolution A calling for a smoke-free campus barely passed with 50.68% (562 yes to 547 no).

The other two resolutions B & C calling for designated smoking areas and limits on smoking around buildings failed, but it was pretty close. 51.67% against for C and 52.93% against for D.

Turnout was 27.69%, based on FTE equivalent of 4005.

Obviously, a complete smoking ban may not be possible. Would the campus police department be able to enforce such a ban and would that take away from their purpose of protecting students from robbery, theft, assault, and other more dangerous situations? I know smoking is bad for your health, but we could focus on counseling programs and offering support for smokers to kick the habit. Banning them to the suburbs is not the ideal way to foster community and unity. Would the ban cover all university-sponsored housing? Being able to smoke in your own residence hall room will be a thing of the past.

Smoking is a social ill. After this is done, alcohol will be next on the purists' target list.

US Taxes to double by 2040

We, the somewhat recent alums, recent alums, and current students will endure a country where the only way to balance the federal budget is to cut spending by 60 percent, or raise all taxes by 2 times.

Who sounding the wake-up call? Our Comptroller General, David M. Walker. He is the nation's accountant and is the Director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). His position is appointed to a fifteen-year term with the advice and consent of the Senate. Mr. Walker was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998. His term will end 2013.

Ever since 2000, he has warned the federal government that excessive spending will jeopardise the nation's economy and its national security. He has stated that net social insurance commitments and other fiscal obligations have surged from $20 trillion to $50 trillion, which is quadruple this country's total economic output. Much of it is attributed to rising health care costs.

Article Link

Also, here's the link to the current national debt, as calculated by the Dept of the Treasury. We just passed $8.6 trillion. It was a little under $8 trillion back in September 2005. Under $7 trillion in 2003. Under $5 trillion back in 1995.

Cheering Regulated

Student fans at recent Baraboo High School athletic games have been trying to sneak a few cheers with double meanings past officials, leaving administrators tightening enforcement of WIAA rules and some students and parents wondering what's wrong with a little team spirit.

WIAA policy states that only cheers supporting one's own team are permitted — no put-downs, no innuendos. Every BHS game has a contest manager, often an administrator, to reel in a rowdy crowd and put a damper on inappropriate cheers, signs or attire.

Article Link

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I would agree that a degree of civility is warranted in high school events, but can this be applied on a national level? Understandbly, Americans spectators are not creative enough. I have heard the usual chants of "Let's go " or "De-fense, De-fense" not to mention the songs of Cotton Eye Joe or We are the Champions during the break or when the home team wins the game. Add "U-S-A" to the mix when its an international sport.

"You suck" is a familiar phrase, or perhaps the other meaning of U Suck Ass is also used. We chime "airball" in basketball and we boo the official when he makes a bad call.

If we want real cheering, look to the Brits for help.

In the UK, there are over 15,000 football chants. Every song has been re-worded and use for a victory, defeat, praise or scorn for the player, the manager, or the team itself.

It has its own entry in Wikipedia too.

If the officials tried to regulate chanting during football (soccer) games in Britain or in Europe, you will get a riot.

With Beckham coming over to the states, we ought to freshen ourselves with some of his songs.

More songs

China avoids saying oink oink to the Muslims

China Central Television (CCT) announced it would ban all verbal and visual pork references from advertisements during Lunar New Year celebrations next month. The regulations are intended to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean animals. China has about 20 million Muslims, less than 2 percent of the population.

It already denied a commercial ad by Nestle SA featuring a smiling cartoon pig and the message, "Happy new pig year."

Is this a bit too sensitive? Shall we see Year of the Pig banned from the Chinese calendar?

Foxnews.com

Wall Street Journal (requires subscription)

Winning a Prize is not free - Uncle Sam

Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires winnings from lottery drawings, TV game shows, and other contests to be reported as taxable income?

According to Topic 419 covering Gambling Income and Expenses, gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your tax return. It also includes cash winnings and also the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.

Technically, students that win prizes at the RHA Casino game or that dinner at Sushi Rock or a gift certificate are supposed to be reported as income. But why would the IRS need to go after a student if he or she fails to report that Party for 25 certificate at Jillians? It does not seem advantageous for the agency to waste time and manpower to go after you. Would they go after a contestant on a radio show if he or she won a front row pair of tickets to see Justin Timberlake or Madonna?

Remember in 2004 when Oprah Winfrey gave away 276 Pontiac G-Six cars to the audience of her show, we saw images of people laughing, jumping, and crying after opening the box and finding a car key. It was talked about on the late night talk show hosts and newspapers. Of course, Uncle Sam had to ruin it for everybody. It told the 276 winners: Pay $7,000 in taxes or give up the car. The model given away had a sticker price of $28,500 so it would need to be claimed as taxable income, so depending on the individual's tax bracket, the tax could be as high as $7,000. This was the amount even with Pontiac agreeing to pay most of the local charges, including state sales tax and licensing fees.

For these people, they had three choices: they could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profits or forfeit the car.

Today, we turn to Brian Emmett. It was his childhood fantasy to go to outer space, and it almost came true for him when he won his ticket to the stars in a 2005 sweepstakes by Oracle Corp., in which he answered a series of online questions on Java computer code. He became an instant celebrity, giving media interviews and appearing on stage at Oracle's trade show.

Unfortunately, Uncle Sam said that the winning trip costs about $138,000 and must be reported as income, so Emmett would need to fork over $25,000 in taxes! Twenty-five thousand dollars!

Unwilling to sink into debt, the software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area gave up his seat.

Once again, the only people that can go on these future space orbital flights are the ultra-rich. If you win a trip, you gotta pay taxes on it. So much for the lower classes.

Honestly, the amount of taxes we pay for lottery and grand cash drawings are horrendous. Is it right for them to take so much out of our pockets?

So the next time you see a contestant on a TV show or listening to a contestant winning on a radio show, that grand prize they won is not free. It's taxable winnings. Another gift from Uncle Sam, and this is the same country and the only country to tax American citizens working abroad. Did I mention that the government raised taxes on them for this year?

NAACP / Democrats jumps on the Imams bandwagon

The repercussions of U.S. Airways' decision to remove a group of imams from a commercial flight in Minneapolis has now resonated in Congress this year. Civil rights groups are pushing the Democratic Congress to ban racial profiling.

I would remind everyone that the imams' behaviour attracted the attention of nearby passengers and the crew. If you can check my previous posts on this issue as well as blogs and news outlets, there is definitely more information that the major news networks fail to mention.

An arabic speaker near one of the imams told a flight attendant that the imams were invoking "bin Laden" and condemning America "for killing Saddam" in their prayers. The imam in first class asked for a seatbelt extension even though he looked too thin and he placed the belt extension on the floor. Another imam got up in first class and moved to the back of the plane in coach. Why would he do that? A married couple next to him tried to strike up a conversation, and he ignored them. Other factors included that three of them had one-way tickets. Between the six men, only one had a checked bag. They were spread out on the plane: two in first class, two in the middle, and two back in the economy section. It also looks like they were sitting in seats not assigned to them.

Also, consider this: in Islamic practice, praying is usually done once at sundown, not twice. For these six imams, they prayed at the gate, then on the plane.

If you ask me, the imams were deliberately trying to get kicked off the flight.

However, these facts are being ignored by civil rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution are introducing a ban on racial profiling.

Senator Feingold:
"Many law-abiding African Americans, Arab Americans, Latino Americans and others live with the fear of being racially profiled as they go about their everyday lives."

Hilary Shelton, director of NAACP's Washington Office
"I'm convinced that once the body of evidence of racial profiling occurring in our nation is presented before the U.S. Congress and the American people, that indeed they'll be compelled to do something about it."

Peter Gadiel, president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America
"The 9/11 atrocity was committed by 19 young single men from Arab nations. If you want to hand this country over to terrorists, why don't you say it right out front? We don't have to worry about 80-year-old ladies with bleach-blonde hair and southern accents."

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More exclusive info found on PajamasMedia

Previous Post: The Flying Imams II

Previous Post: The Flying Imams I

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I believe that if you see someone or several persons acting suspiciously on the plane, you have that right to speak up and tell the flight crew your concerns no matter what. I continue to advocate that these six imams are just an opportunistic group trying to elicit criticism on our law enforcement by trying to intimidate everyone with their ethnicity.

If you disagree, I invite you to visit the many sites that have analysed this incident from front to back, top to bottom.

Wow, another anti-Iraq protest

Yep, ten of thousands marched Saturday in another anti-Iraq protest at the Capitol. Hanoi Jane made her famous debut in her first anti-war protest in 34 years.

Organisers of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, said more than 100,000 attended, but capitol police said it was smaller than that.

Smaller rallies were held in San Francicso, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

iraq_protest.jpg

College Gamblers beware!

In both Atlantic City and Las Vegas, it always happens. The craps table is enjoying a hot streak, a bunch of college students or recently graduated comes along and start screwing up the table and upsetting the rest of the gamblers.

Last night, I spent several hours in Atlantic City playing the craps tables and the same scenario kept on happening. After a hot shooter scores a couple of points, a couple of college grads come to the table holding a paltry sum of chips, and they start throwing "seven" when the board is on-point. This happened about 4-5 times in a row! Their reaction, they laughed! They think it's a game, duh! Of course it is, but there were a few veteran players playing and they were damned upset losing several hundred and they left the table. Honestly, I think college-age players not willing to put forth more than a measley $10 minimum bet at the craps table ought to go to table reserved for the 21-25 age bracket.

I understand there is an odd chance of one of those guys go on a shooter streak, but if I see you roll the dice and you got no odds bet backing up your pass-line bet, then I know you are just playing for fun and not caring if you roll a "seven" when the board is on-point.

Really, I may have to take myself from the $10 craps table to the $15. At least it weeds away the wannabe players. I usually stay at $10 tables so I can put more on the board. Grrr, if this keeps up, if a young person comes up to the table and rolls a "seven" during the on-point phase on his/her first roll, I am finding another table.

ESPN - Outrageous Justice - Genarlow Wilson

Link to article

Genarlow Wilson, a honor student and promising football star, had consensual sex with a fellow teenager. However, he was 17, and she was 15. According to Georgia law, this constitutes aggravated molestation which carried a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

He was found not guilty on rape, but was found guilty on the molestation charge. Two other charges were dropped. The jury did not realised about the 10-year sentence until after the guilty verdict was made.

Because of his case, the law was changed by the legislature, but was not applied retroactively.

To add more salt to the wound, a white female high school teacher was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student -- a true act of child molestation. She received 90 days in prison. Wilson received 3,650 days.

"Freshmen" - is the word derogatory?

During the National Journal/NBC post-SOTU breakfast, attendees have learned that it is no longer politically correct in the House Democratic Caucus to refer to the newly elected members from '06 as "Freshmen."

This was discovered when House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn first referred to the "freshmen" and then corrected himself. Then he admitted the new policy.

According to Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) (also newly elected "freshman"), he "suspected" it had something to do with the word "new" being more appealing to the public than "freshman," which can be seen by some as derogatory.

Reported by The Hotline

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I guess at Case, it will be first-year students, or newly admitted, or fresh from high school, or the ones that can get freshman forgiveness... wait, that needs to change too!

Racism Accusations Fly at Daily Princetonian newspaper

After finishing the unjust gambling post and about to hit the bed, I did a refresh of Yahoo.com web site, and of course, I noticed the "Princeton newspaper stirs racism accusations" link. I kinda figured what could it be. Another cartoon making fun of a religious or ethnic group? A bad joke column. Some Op-Ed about a controversial article on some minority figure?

Well, it turns out to be a bad joke column. The Associated Press article basically talks about the Daily Princetonian issue which included a column that closely resembled Jian Li, an 18-year-old Asian man who filed a civil rights complaint against the university last summer after he was denied admission.

In the controversial column, "Princeton University is racist against me, I mean, non-whites," the author "Lian Ji" mocks the school with broken English and uses several racial stereotypes for his rejection.

The beginning of the article began with, "Hi Princeton! Remember me? I so good at math and science. Perfect 2400 SAT score. Ring bells?.... Just in cases, let me refresh your memories. I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me."

The rest of the column consists of "Ji" boasting about his extracurricular activities and racial reasons on why Princeton said no to his college application. There is one sentence about doing a better job in student government, another jab at Yale... sort of.

The content was quite satirical, but I think the humor kinda fell out by the fifth paragraph.

Well it seems that some students and alumni were not quite fond of it and are accusing those who wrote it of racism. Strange enough, the Editor Managing Board also has an asian editor on its team. They released an editor's note on the controversial column. "Using hyperbole and an unbelievable string of stereotypes, we hoped to lampoon racism by showing it at its most outrageous," the note said. "We embraced racist language in order to strangle it. At its worst, the column was a bad joke; at its best, it provoked serious thought about issues of race, fairness and diversity."

The real Jian Li was not happy with it either. He is currently attending Yale University. He said, "I think the article was extremely distasteful. Whoever decided to publish it showed an extreme lapse of judgment." Also, his complaint against Princeton for bias on his admission last year remains under investigation.

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Ok, truthfully, I find it a bit unfortunate that Jian Li chose to file a complaint against Princeton for not accepting him. The acceptance rate at this prestigious Ivy League school is 10.9 percent. For the Class of 2010, Princeton offered admission to 1,792 of 17,563 applicants. It also noted that of the 1,886 valedictorians who applied, only 17 percent were admitted!

Having a perfect score of 2400 on the SAT does not lead to automatic acceptance. There are many applicants like yourself (Jian Li) who have perfect grades, participated in student clubs holding leadership positions, or did some sort of noteworthy project that was mentioned in some local newspaper that did not get in. Forty-four percent of the ones that got accepted were of minority status. How can you file a civil rights complaint based on all of these facts?

Having achieved acceptance and enrollment at Yale University does not confirm your reasoning that Princeton should have given you admission. So if you got accepted at only one Ivy League school, should you whine and complain to the rest of them for not giving you the pleasure of attending their school?

Do I detect some hint of an ego trip here? Do I have to imagine you trying to apply for a job at some financial firm, and then start throwing racial bias if you did not get to work at Prudential, JP Morgan Chase, or Morgan Stanley? I can see it. A civil rights letter attesting that since you got into Goldman Sachs, the rest of the investment banks should offer you a job too.

I went and checked the civil rights compliant Jian Li made to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. He racked up the maximum 2400 points on the SAT I, and 2390 on the SAT II subject tests in physics, chemistry, and calculus. He also was denied admission to Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Office for Civil Rights initially rejected Mr. Li's complaint due to "insufficient" evidence. Mr. Li appealed, citing a white high-school classmate admitted to Princeton despite lower test scores and grades. The office notified him late last month that it would look into the case.

This is where I draw the line. Obviously, there is bound to be another applicant with a lower test score and grades and getting accepted to Princeton. Who knows... it could be one of Li's high school classmates. Honestly, what if it was a student that got a 2200 on the SAT, and also had high grades but a bit lower than Li's, is that really "strong evidence" for racial bias?

His complaint seeks to suspend federal financial assistance to Princeton until the university "discontinues discrimination against Asian-Americans in all forms by eliminating race preferences, legacy preferences, and athlete preferences." Legacy preference is the edge
most elite colleges, including Princeton, give to alumni children. The Office for Civil Rights has the power to terminate such financial aid but usually works with colleges to resolve cases rather than taking enforcement action.

Hmm, it looks like he wants to show that he is not doing it just for the Asian-Americans, but for the rest of the minorities. Maybe he wants to show that it is not all about him.

I did not find the joke op-ed column funny. It was really terrible. If this was a standalone column and you were reading it for the first time, you would have felt sympathetic for Jian Li. However, if you add in his civil rights complaint against the University for racial bias, he sounds more of a sore loser.

But was the column racist? For myself, the ability to determine whether the content was just satire or an attack on a specific ethnic group has been blurred by what we see in the media today. We laughed at Dave Chappelle's rendition of black culture as well as Borat's Kahzah impersonations. If a member of a ethnic or religious group makes fun of it, it is considered to be tolerable. If a member of a group makes fun of a different group, it's not tolerated. So the point is not whether the column was racist or not, it's to decide whether the people writing up the column were being stupid or not.

If this was an Onion article, Asian-American groups at Princeton would have criticised the editors' performance in using broken English. "Me would have done good better," they cried!

Some would privately tell everyone else - "So Jian Li got into Yale, well we did not get accepted there, so we had to go Princeton. Lucky him."

Sure, the column did not help smooth over things, but the reaction afterwards is just unnecessary. The evidence lies in a joint statement by the top editors and leaders of the Asian-American Students Association published in the campus newspaper on Monday saying they were all “frustrated that this episode has led some to believe that Princeton is an unwelcoming place for Asian-American students.” They said such an impression is “not validated” by their own experiences.


NY Times - At Princton, a Parody Raises Questions of Bias

Unjust Ban on Online Gambling

online_gambling.jpgIt is quite amusing to find the United States so intent on banning gambling on the Internet. While living abroad in the UK, the use of online betting sites is quite popular and provides a more immediate access for customers to use Ladbrokes, 888.com, PartyGaming, and SportingBet to place wagers on all sports and unique competitions.

The notion that revenues from online gambling are going to criminal or terrorist elements is an easy excuse to make the public fearful of them. I would not disagree that there are some gambling sites that may have links to unlawful groups, but there are also legitmate sites out there which are providing a lawful service to their customers. One thing for sure, certain criminal elements within the United States are pleased with the law. It means more customers resorting to local and street bookies to continue to wager on sports and you know who controls them.

I have to also thank the 109th Congress and the Republicans for inserting the legislation, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 as a rider to the port security bill. It would seem they wanted to avoid any explicit mention of their official position on the gambling bill. With the new law and using the flexible clauses in the Patriot Act, they are now labelling online gambling as a threat to the national security of the United States. Somehow, I have to wonder about the happiness emanating from Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV. Are they happy because this means Americans citizen must travel to their cities to gamble their money away and placed their sports wagers at their gaming arenas? Are they ecstatic that they do not have to worry about gamblers using the Internet to play table games, slots, or sports wagering and the loss of revenue from it? You can bet on that! =)

With the exit of online gambling companies (many of them based in London, United Kingdom) from the US market, they and their financial backers thought that they would not have to worry about the U.S. authorities anymore. This turned out to be a huge mistake.

On January 15, 2007, shares in popular payment processor, Neteller PLC were suspended when their founders, Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre were detained by U.S. authorities. The two men were charged with laundering billions of dollars in gambling proceeds. This was the beginning of a crackdown by the U.S. on the financial middlemen that sprung up after credit card companies and Paypal gave into pressure to stop processing online gambling transactions from U.S. customers in 2001. Neteller handled $7 billion in transactions in 2005, $5.1 billion in the first half of 2006, mostly from U.S. clients to and from online betting sites. The Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stated:

online_gambling2.jpg"Internet gambling is a multibillion-dollar industry. A significant portion of that is the illegal handling of Americans' bets with offshore gaming companies, which amounts to a colossal criminal enterprise masquerading as legitimate business. There is ample indication these defendants knew the American market for their services was illegal. The FBI is adamant about shutting off the flow of illegal cash."

After the arrests, British Columbia-based (Canada) payment processor Citadel Commerce Corp. announced Wednesday (Jan 17) that it, too, would withdraw from the U.S. market. Another company, Instadebit also pulled out. With the loss of Neteller, Citadel, and Instadebit as well as Paypal and major credit card companies, gambling users are finding other "safe, secure, and similar banking methods." Remaining payment processors are ePassporte, ATMonline, and CLICK2PAY. We do not know how long these payment methods will last, but the crackdown will lead to a rise of less trustworthy money dealers.

But it gets better. TimesOnline has now reported that the Southern District Court of New York has issued subpoenas to at least 16 banks, including HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank demanding e-mails, telephone records, and documents on their involvement with online gaming in the U.S.

It would seem the Department of Justice is going after the banks which helped float the online gaming companies over the last few years. With the passage and signing of the gambling ban last October, the DoJ has a valid law behind its actions. Here is one example:

Bettingmarket.com has a running blog on the latest events in the U.S. about online gambling. It mentions about a U.S. law, the Prohibition of Illegal Gambling Businesses Act of 1955. It clearly states that:

(a) Whoever conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an illegal gambling business shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

In the past, there was debate on whether online gambling fell under the jurisdiction of this law. Prior to the passing of the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, Fidelity, Blue Ridge Capital, Morgan Stanley, Prudential, and Merrill Lynch, all U.S. firms were all main institutional investors in SportingBet PLC. Are these companies now liable for prosecution?

It would seem so.

With the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, the DoJ is now going after any company or individual that has ever accepted a bet from a U.S. citizen, every bank that has promoted or invested in a US-facing online gambling company, every bank or payment processor company that ever faciliated a financial transaction to a US-facing online gambling web site, and every gambling portal that has ever advertised US-facing online gambling companies. (from an anonymous gambling industry analyst)

What about European banks such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank? They and other City banks in London are upset about the actions from the U.S. DoJ. The UK Treasury Ministry is monitoring the situation.

Some quotes from UK politicians:

Alan Duncan, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, said: “There is growing suspicion that the US Department of Justice is using its muscle in a highly unpleasant manner, and is targeting financial institutions beyond their own shores in a way that cannot be justified. I hope the Department will stop and review its approach so that its behaviour doesn’t sour relations between us.”

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and a former chief economist for Shell, said: “This appears to be another case of extra-territorial and retrospective action from the US authorities that goes against two basic principles of justice.”

Deutsche was co-broker to PartyGaming, the largest online gaming company. PartyGaming was advised by Dresdner on its IPO in 2005, which raised £5 billion and propelled the company into the FTSE 100. HSBC advised 888.com on its £590 million IPO later in the same year. Credit Suisse had advised the company’s former shareholders.

The UK Home Office has not commented on whether it had received a request from the United States for "mutual legal assistance," a statutory precursor to the U.S. authorities conducting an investigation in the UK.

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It may seem quite unfair for the federal government to go after U.S. banks and financial companies over their involvement in the online gambling industry before the passage of the 2006 law. Now it looks like everything before 2006 is now liable for prosecution.

As for targeting banks like Deutsche, HSBC, and Credit Suisse for their involvement in the IPO of several popular online gaming companies, it seems to be an overreach of U.S. jurisdiction and extra-territorial arrogance. Quite a difference when online gambling is illegal in America, but legal in Great Britain and pretty much the rest of Europe. It will be quite interesting to see how it plays out. Will the UK government cooperate with U.S. authorities?

Here is one site keeping tabs on what is available for gambling users with regards to online financing. No matter how many companies are closed or forced to cease their U.S. activities, there is always someone else to take over.

Here is another interesting article. It would seem Las Vegas casinos are looking into mobile gaming devices so customers in Nevada can still enjoy their gambling addiction wherever they are. It is not yet considered in New Jersey.

Also, government bureaucracy on the federal and state level need to be standardised. During the time when online gambling was vague on the federal law books, it was subject to intepretation by the 50 state attorney generals. I could assume that with the 2006 law, the federal can prosecute, but what about the states? How many potential lawsuits can be made out there?

A blanket ban on online gambling will not be the ideal solution in the long term. Regulate it, not ban it. You are forcing them to go underground with no legitmate tracing mechanisms in place. Bringing forth evidence will be a lot harder and no one will be following rules. Honestly, the ban will promote an underground gambling industry. The mob and crime syndicates will have a field day with this one.

A repeal of the gambling ban must be introduced as soon as possible.

Turkish-Armenian writer shot dead

If you do not like a person's viewpoint, there would be protests, a bit of physical intimidation, and other ways to suppress or deny the person from speaking. In Turkey, you get shot.

Hrant Dink, a prominent Turkish-Armenian editor, was shot dead outside his newspaper office in Instanbul.

He was given a six-month suspended sentence in October 2005 after writing about the Armenian "genocide" of 1915.

BBC News - Turkish-Armenian writer shot dead

Muslims criticise '24'

274px-24tv.jpgMuslims groups are once again criticising the hit Fox drama '24' for casting Islamic terrorists as the villians for Season 6. Two years ago, they protested when the plot cast them as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America.

The whining Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a conference call with Fox executives to protest the current plot line and request more positive portrayals of Muslims on the show.

Spokewoman for CAIR, Rabiah Ahmed, stated: "The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims."

The Fox network released a statement:

"24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism. After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical."

"Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States," the network said. "The show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints."

Engy Abdelkader, a member of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee from Howell, New Jersey, launched a campaign Wednesday to encourage Muslims offended by the program to complain to Fox.

"I found the portrayal of American Muslims to be pretty horrendous," she said. "It was denigrating from beginning to end. This is one of the most popular programs on television today. It's pretty distressing."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Obviously, since the Chinese kidnapped Jack Bauer at the end of last season, everyone should be pissed off at anyone of Chinese descent for putting him in prison for 2 years.

CAIR tell us that the show makes repeated links between Muslims and terrorism. A sign of paranoia? It would seem that '24' did not get that many complaints when other villians such as Germans, Russians, Europeans, Anglo businessmen, and the corrupt U.S. president were used.

Soon, CAIR will tell us to ban movies such as "Executive Decision," "True Lies," from movie rental stores. Remember Tom Clancy's novel, Sum of All Fears, the villians were actually Muslim fundamentalists, not disaffected Russian scientists and a former Nazi Austrian businessman.

If people are reacting because they saw it on '24' it goes to show that they need help in trying to distinguish between fiction and reality.

No Spanking

Only in California...

In the state Legislature, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, wants to outlaw spanking children up to 3 years old. If the law passes and is signed, it would make California the first state in the nation to explicitly ban parents from smacking their kids.

The bill, which is still being drafted, will be written broadly, she added, prohibiting ``any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that.'' Lieber said it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, although a legal expert advising her on the proposal said first-time offenders would probably only have to attend parenting classes.

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I am sure spanking a really young baby is not good, but do we really need a law on the books that explicitly states it? Soon, we will have parents being told how to read to their kids for at least 30 mins every night, or make sure their kids are not in the pool until one hour later after eating food.

As Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine puts it, "Where do you stop?"

Cingular to AT&T - A Colbert History

Colbert gives a great summary on Cingular's decision to rename its label to at&t

Border Patrol Agents to go to prison - Fair Justice?

Two Texas Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in the backside while on duty. They will serve 11 and 12 years in prison respectively for the February 2005 non-fatal shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.

Apparently they were found guilty of violating the civil rights of Davila when they shot him on Feb. 17, 2005, in Fabens, Texas, about 30 miles east of El Paso, then tampered with evidence by picking up shell casings from the shooting.

The U.S. government gave the Mexican drug smuggler IMMUNITY for his testimony against the two agents. It would seem the smuggler was trying to smuggle 750 POUNDS of marijuana - which had a street value of more than $1 million -- into the United States on the day he was shot. Better yet, he was then treated in a U.S. hospital and is now suing the federal government for $5 million.

Foxnews.com - 2 Border Patrol Agents to Turn Themselves in Today for Shooting Mexican Drug Runner

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Were the actions of the two border agents justified? At what point would the rule of law be supplanted in favor of removing known criminals from their routing drug activities? This drug smuggler has probably does many runs from Mexico to the United States transporting illegal drugs. We are not talking about a few ounces here and there, but 750 POUNDS!

Why did the government give this criminal immunity? Is it because he would have refused to testify against the two agents unless the feds offered something substantial to him? Then that would mean the agents would have gone free! Or the prosecution is assuming that these two men would try to do the same thing against another drug smuggler? Perish the thought!

The federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, is focused on the civil rights violations that the agents committed, not on the criminal activities of the drug smuggler. By common sense, this would have been absolutely wrong, but the rule of law must be upheld, no matter who is the person.

It really does suck to see an illegal alien with a drug criminal history being able to send two border agents to prison.

Currently, groups such as Friends of the Border Patrol, The Minutemen, and Grassfire.org are writing up petitions to keep the agents out of prison or through a presidential pardon from Bush.

Several lawmakers, including Poe; Rohrabacher; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.; and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., last week sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to allow Ramos and Compean to remain free on bond pending the appeal of their convictions.

A dozen rallies were held across the country in support of the agents last week.

Update Jan 23 2007

WorldNetDaily reports at least 70 Republican Congressional members are co-sponsoring a House resolution ordering that the convictions and sentences of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean be vacated and that they be released from custody immediately.

It would seem President Bush is not in any hurry to pardon these two Border Patrol agents.

How can you give immunity to a known drug smuggler who probably has criss-crossed the Mexican-U.S. border many times with illegal drugs?

Smoking Referenda at this stage not conducive

More work and discussion is needed before an attempt is made to present a referenda to the student body.

See past blog post on the Smoking Forum

$315 Million Powerball Winner is penniless

Remember Jack Whittaker? He was the West Virginia man who won the $315 million Powerball lottery on Christmas 2002, then the largest undivided lottery prize in U.S. history.

After the lump sum and taxes, he took home $113 million dollars.

Today, he is broke.

His fame and fortune went downhill after he received his winnings. He has faced his granddaughter's death by drug overdose; he has been sued for bouncing checks at Atlantic City, N.J., casinos; he has been ordered to undergo rehab after being arrested on drunken driving charges; his vehicles and business have been burglarized; and he has been sued by the father of an 18-year-old boy, a friend of his granddaughter's, who was found dead in Whittaker's house.

Now, thieves have used fake checks at 12 City National Bank branches and cleaned Mr. Whittaker out.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Can you feel sorry for him? The opinion is pretty much mixed. Historically, past lottery winners have not been doing so well. A survey taken a few years ago shows that over 75 percent of lottery winners end up poor or back to where they have started. Another survey tells us that lottery winners will go broke in less than 5 years. (I am looking for these sources, btw.)

Take another example. Juan Rodriguez, a parking attendant struck gold when he won the NY Mega Millions jackpot of $149 million. A month ago, he was filing for bankruptcy and had about 78 cents in his savings account. Shortly after, his wife sued for divorce and wanted his winnings.

In this article, Bankrate.com published an article on 8 lottery winners who have won the past and ended up broke or poor.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All of us have told ourselves that we will not repeat the same mistakes like those past lottery winners, but it seems impossible to escape from the instant fame and fortune of winning the lottery. Suddenly, the number of relatives that you think you know about have gone up a factor of 5. Friends from high school or college suddenly are in touch with you. Calls from entrepreneurs about rich profit-making projects will go up the wazoo.

The chances of losing your friends and family will become extremely likely.

How to avoid all of that mess, or to try to mitigate the impact?

1) There has to be some way to avoid being photographed with that large-sized paycheck the lottery officials will give you. It is also ridiculous for them to put the full total of the lottery jackpot since the net amount after the lump-sum option and taxes is much smaller.

2) Identity change? Sometimes it may be best to change that phone number or address to avoid the flood of spam calls that you will be getting.

3) Choose the annunity payout instead of lump-sum. This may seem reasonable if you want to give yourself a short-period salary instead of everything at once. It will give you a better deal of handling your funds.

4) If you do pick the lump-sum payout, put most of it in a trust fund and impose some sort of lockbox mechanism, and set some sort of withdrawal limit on yourself. Good for setting some sort of financial responsibility.

5) If you are married, a revised pre-nup or marriage contract to reflect the lottery winnings. In this time of age, love will not help you if you win the largest lottery jackpot in history.

6) Any friend that suddenly appeared out of the blue must undergo a background check.

Anything more to add?

Unnecessary Post: Paris Hilton runs out of gas

Isn't it a basic fact to always check your gas meter while driving? Well Paris Hitlon is the only person on the planet that does not follow it.

[Oh well, I guess their video site could not handle the bandwidth]

Will the U.S. lose the future space race?

Since Congress failed to pass the appropriation bill that covers NASA, the agency's budget is frozen at 2006 levels though Sept. 30. So it will be stuck at $16.3 billion and about $520 million short of President Bush's request as part of his vision for exploration of the moon and Mars.

Article

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has a choice on whether to lay off workers, gut science programs, or delay the development of spacecraft Orion to return astronauts to the moon.

Orion is intended to replace the aging space shuttle fleet and carry astronauts to the international space station, the moon and beyond. The spacecraft, being developed by Houston's Johnson Space Center, is scheduled for launch by 2014, four years after the planned retirement of the nation's three remaining space shuttles.

This four-year gap is worrisome to lawmakers and space fans. It is possible that domestic politics and foreign factors may threaten to expand that gap.

NASA was expecting to see a $1 billion increase in their 2007 budget. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, working last year with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., tried to add $1 billion to NASA's 2007 budget. They hoped the money would shore up all of the agency's programs, help NASA recover from the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy and repair damage to space facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi caused by Hurricane Katrina.

But after their amendment was approved by an appropriations subcommittee, it collapsed when the GOP-controlled Congress passed only two of the 11 federal spending bills for fiscal 2007 — those for the military and homeland security.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The concern is if the United States falters in the manned space race, it will leave a vacuum for other spacefaring nations to take over.

Should the space program go private? Or should private industry get involved in the space effort? Or maybe NASA should start issuing space licenses to companies that want to develop and implement space exploratory programs?

Euro Beats Dollar in the Bond Market

The euro has displaced the US dollar as the world’s pre-eminent currency in international bond markets, having outstripped the dollar-denominated market for the second year in a row.

Outstanding debt issued in the euro was worth the equivalent of $4,836bn at the end of 2006 compared with $3,892bn for the dollar, according to International Capital Market Association data.

Is the US dollar's popularity under threat?

Financial Times - Euro Displaces Dollar in Bond Markets

New Jersey: Debate over remembrance holidays

A legislative proposal that has passed both the House and Senate of the state legislature and is waiting for the Governor's signature will no longer require New Jersey schools to teach about Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Other holidays includes Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, Arbor Day, and Commodore Barry Day, which commemorates Revolutionary War hero John Barry.

Currently, NJ has a 1967 state law which requires schools to promote "the development of a higher spirit of patriotism." Other states that have a similar law to this are Florida, Nebraska, and Washington.

The sponsor bill, state Senator John Adler, cited a 2004 report by a state commission that schools should be given more flexibility to decide holiday observations. Plus he does not think schools would take the effort to recognise such holidays.

Unfortunately, New Jersey school officials support the bill.

The New Jersey School Boards Association:
It's simply time and flexibility," said Mike Yaple, spokesman. There's nothing in the legislation that can undermine the amount of pride and honor a community feels toward their veterans."

CNN Article - Veterans fight to save school remembrance mandate

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Now, I am curious why Martin Luther King is not mentioned. I am really sure we all have reasons why MLK should be recognised and we should apply that reasoning to the other holidays that will no longer be required if the Governor signs the legislation.

Giving the schools more flexibility seems to me like a very poor excuse to reduce the teaching of our civic history to our students. Sometimes these requirements are needed to ensure that students know about our country's foundation, its history, and their Founding Fathers.

On a side note, it would really screw up the vacation schedule. A lot of people do travel during Memorial Day wknd, Thanksgiving Day wknd, and Washington's Birthday wknd since it's a 3-day holiday. I know, a petty excuse, but I really think these days are quite important and should be remembered.

While some are against the Iraq War conflict, our military and our veterans have done their duty to protect this country during the world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf conflicts. Days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day are tributes to their sacrifice.

Update 16 Jan 2007

This is the time for action against a law which is unjust for our military veterans.

Contact Governor Jon Corzine

Contact John Adler, NJ state senator, democrat who co-sponsored the bill to end the recognition of Memorial and Veterans Day.

Legislation that will repeal the holidays (see section 5)

Senator Boxer Attacks Sec State Rice

Sen. Barbara Boxer verbally attacked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Capitol Hill yesterday during a heated line of questioning with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looking into Iraq policies.

Boxer:
"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young," Boxer said. "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

Apparently, it was to suggest that since Rice did not have any kids or a husband, she did not understand the concerns of military families that do have them.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow:
"I don't know if she was intentionally that tacky, but I do think it's outrageous. Here you got a professional woman, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Barbara Boxer is sort of throwing little jabs because Condi doesn't have children, as if that means that she doesn't understand the concerns of parents. Great leap backward for feminism."

Boxer released a statement:
"I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation. My point was to focus attention on our military families who continue to sacrifice because this Administration has not developed a political solution to the situation in Iraq."

Secretary Rice kept her cool during questioning:
"And let me just say, I fully understand the sacrifice that the American people are making, and especially the sacrifice that our soldiers are making, men and women in uniform. I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it," Rice said.

Boxer shot back:
"Madam Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it. "That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions."

Dress Code Violation - Penalty: Bodily Harm

17-year old student Sabrina Herndon has been charged with a felony over what appears to be a dress code violation with a strap. She was wearing a jacket and strapless top and was changing in the girls' locker room at Palm Beach Gardens High School.

A teacher noticed that the strapless top is a dress code violation though Sabrina countered that with the jacket, it was within the rules.

Then a male assistant principal allegedly put Sabrina in a chokehold twice.

Apparently, the school district says the student is a juvenile and her behaviour warranted physical force and felony battery charges.

So what's next? Ripped jeans is 10 lashes? Wearing a sexy t-shirt requires an arm to be cut off? Oh, maybe a guy wearing a studded earring will be shot and killed?

Link

Update-1

Palm Beach Post reports that the school has denied that the student was choked.

Assistant principal Mike Chamberlin said gym teacher Cheryl Green called him to the girls' locker room after 17-year-old senior Sabrina Herndon refused to comply with school dress code policies.

The actions afterwards are in dispute between the student and the asst prinicpal and gym teacher.

So right now, she's recommended for explusion and she would have go to an alternative school for students with discipline problems. Plus, the district has referred charges of assaulting a school board employee, a felony offense, to the state attorney's office.

She's in her final semester of high school.

Just let her finish her last year and she's gone. Plus, the dress code really needs a dose of common sense added to it.

LA Dodgers Provide Fast Approach to Obesity

The Los Angeles Dodgers will offer "all-you-can-eat" seats next season. The right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium will be converted into a special section, giving around 3,000 fans as many hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, and sodas as they want.

Tickets will cost $35 in advance, $40 on gameday.

Beer, ice cream, and candy will be sold separately at regular prices.

If people want a buffet, go to the restaurant and they can watch the game on TV.

The Beckhams are coming to America

beckham.jpgDavid Beckham signed a 5-year deal worth $250 million dollars with the US football (soccer) team Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Galaxy team had already announced that they have sold over 1,000 season tickets and could sell out their total allotment in about 30 days.

While Rodeo Drive would experience a substantial increase in sales with Victoria's shopping, will David Beckham help revive the Major Soccer League (MLS)?

Soccer, though popular among elementary schools, secondary, high schools, and colleges, has never reached the same level of popularity as baseball, basketball, and American football on the professional level. Being called "the beautiful game" to the rest of the world, Americans view it as "the boring game."

The MLS was formed in December 1993, U.S. Soccer's promise to FIFA to establish a "Division One" professional football (soccer) league in exchange for the staging of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. It is still a young league (13 years) compared with England's (over 100 years).

Before the MLS, there was the defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) which operated from 1968 to 1984. Its most popular star was Brazilian superstar Pele who played for the New York Cosmos, who drew upwards of 40,000 fans per game. It folded because Americans were no longer interested, overexpansion, and finances. The failure of NASL led to FIFA's decision to award the 1986 World Cup to Mexico after Colombia withdrew.

The MLS currently has thirteen teams in two divisions. One team, San Jose Earthquakes, is currently on hiatus. The 2007 season starts in April and ends in November. Toronto FC is the newest team added for that season. Three more expansion teams are to be added by 2010.

Even though most Americans may think MLS is just a niche sport, it slowly doing pretty well in terms of profitability and media coverage. Most of the teams have moved into or in process of moving into soccer-specific stadiums. Playing in stadiums specifically for NFL or NCAA football games places MLS in a disadvantage. It becomes expensive if attendance levels are small and poor lease deals. If you have a few thousand people attending a New York Red Bull game at Giants Stadium, it feels depressing seeing all that open space.

Media coverage is also growing with the Fox Sports Soccer Channel, and tv rights on ESPN/ESPN2 and prime-time channels. With more coverage coming in from Europe on their football (soccer) leagues, it will help promote MLS. It will help erase Americans' perception of MLS as being a league of a "niche" sport.

Over the last year, over $1 billion of investment money has poured into the league in the form of new stadiums, owners, and teams, to the Adidas shirt/soccer promotion sponsorship. Fan support is slowly strengthening, with some season ticket sales growing at least 20%. With the addition of 6 more stadiums by 2010, MLS will finally have a solid majority of its teams in venues that will allow them to earn more, create a better atmosphere (and more die-hard fans), and will be able to expand in a more careful manner because the league will be much more financially stable and may make a profit for the first time.

Beckham's arrival may help provide a boost to this. Now if we can get some football (soccer) songs going and more quality players, we can get ourselves off our feet, and actually plan to do better nex time.

The 2010 World Cup is only 3 years away.

Accuser changes story AGAIN! in Duke lacrosse case

The accuser in the Duke lacrosse rape case has changed her account again about when the alleged gang rape occurred, who attacked her, and how.

The News Observer report that the defense attorneys representing the three Duke players have filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The same is reported in the abc11tv web site.

Honestly, it is time to end this. Prosecutor Nifong should concede defeat and just let the case die right there.

If the reliability of your star witness, the accuser herself, is completed destroyed, then how can the case proceed?

Yale all-male a cappella group beaten up in San Francisco

(Updated 25 Jan 2007)

bakersdozen.jpgThis is quite shocking and it is very disturbing to know that politics is dragging the police investigation there.

During New Years' Eve, Yale University's renowned, all-male a cappella group, The Baker's Dozen were beaten outside of a party after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The incident was first reported by Dan Noyes, an investigative reporter from local ABC affiliate KGOTV.

Basically, the all-male singing group were invited to Reno Rapagnani's home for a NYE party. It would seem that a few local young men came to the party uninvited and proceeded to taunt and berate the choir group. These young individuals were graduates from a local college prep school, Sacred Heart Cathedral. Now, it is known that Rapagnani's daughter Rose and Yale student Stephanie Soderborg '09 were alumni of another prep school, St. Ignatius. Both schools were local rivals. It is not fully known whether the rivalry played a major factor into the incident.

Apparently, the graduates from Sacred Heart were jealous of the Yale choir group. They proceeded to harass the singers for their "conservative" formal dress and that they were not from San Francisco. It also seems that their singing of the national anthem got them even more angrier, so the Yale students decided to leave the party to avoid further conflict.

Witnesses stated that one of the Sacred Heart graduates, 19-year-old Richard Aicardi, took out his mobile phone, and called in reinforcements saying "I'm 20 deep, my boys are coming." Soon after, assailants arrived in two vehicles and proceeded to attack the choir group. There were reports of five, six, or seven men attacking each singer.

Several students sustained injuries including concussions, black eyes, sprained ankle, and other bodily bruises. One group member, Sharyar Aziz '10, suffered a broken jaw in two places, requiring surgery. His jaw would have to wired shut for eight weeks. Reports indicate that it was pretty much a one-sided fight where the Yale students tried to defend themselves and none of the assailants showed any noticeable injuries.

When police arrived on the scene, there were probably over 20 people fighting in the street outside of the party.

Here's the shocker... police detained four of the attackers that were identified by The Baker's Dozen, but they were not arrested! They were later released!!! Now, you tell me, if there two groups of gang members, blacks or Latinos, the police would arrive and arrest everyone they caught on the spot! No offense, but that would be the expectation. Same goes for college riots or any thing resembling a major fight. Anyone that is caught would be arrested, booked, and later release. These four individuals that attacked the Yale students were released because police felt there was no substantial proof that they had assaulted them. WTF! Excuse my language, but they were clearly identified. Also, notice there were no injuries on the attackers, and quite a lot on the Yale singers.

Here is another interesting note. It would seem the police knew who were the assailants. Some of the suspects were sons of a local prominent area pediatrician. It was mentioned that the pediatrician was "quite connected" with the local political establishment.

Now, for about three days after the incident, while the Yale singers were still in San Francisco, police investigators never attempted to contact any of them for statements. They did not even photograph the injuries to The Baker's Dozen. The Rapagnani couple had to do that.

A week after the incident, no arrests have been made.

Today, S.F. police investigators have asked the choir group, who are now in Los Angeles, to return back to the city for questions and statements. A bit of common sense here. Would it be more sensible to have one or two investigators fly to Los Angeles and interview the choir members there instead of the other way around? The police department did not even consider paying the airfare for the group to return, suggesting that the Yale students were affluent or financially well-off to take care of it themselves. Come on here, not all students at Yale are rich and politically connected. What an insensitive assumption to make here.

Before the incident broke upon the national media, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had no comment about it or refused to talk about it. Afterwards, he convened a meeting of the top brass of the police department and is pushing for a thorough investigation. Maybe he was waiting for some poll results on what would happened if he did not do anything.

Yale University issued a statement saying they hope the "perpetrators will be apprehended and prosecuted."

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Interested about this "politically connected" pediatrician Eileen Aicardi?

From what you can find on the WWW, she is serving as Secretary for the California Chapter 1 of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It would seem her influence is quite substantial since her office handles quite a lot of upper-income patients.

Involvement with Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep - the Aicardi family has two named trophy cases and the SHCP Connection newsletter.

A substantial donor to the Salesian Boys' & Girls' Club of San Francisco.

Clearly, a substantial donor to several major organisations, no listing of political groups yet. Maybe she is a major donor to Mayor Newsom?

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11 Jan 2007

San Francisco Chronicle Article

yalestudentinjured.jpgSan Francisco's police chief Heather Fong defended the investigation saying they made no arrests because they are unable to find anyone who could substantiate any charges.

Excuse me? First, I am sure the attackers were identified when they entered the NYE party un-invited, and some of the singers were able to identify them after police arrived to break up the one-sided fight. What about the car that was seen on the security tape from the church? Did it match?

Their police dispatch log suggests that the incident was minor. So bodily bruises, sprained ankle, and a busted jaw is not a big deal??? I would say that the police officers probably knew who the attackers were (either by association or reputation).

Finally, Mayor Newsom has responded by saying he was "deeply concerned for what happened to the students from Yale." So eleven days after the vigilante attack, the mayor promised a "swift and fair" investigation.

No comment from the Aicardi family in this article.

I was wondering if the police went ahead and submitted a subponea for Richard Aicardi's mobile phone records. Who did he call that night?

The choir families have hired the law firm of Gonzalez & Leigh.

The Examiner has reported that two SanFran police inspectors will fly to Southern California and show a photographic lineup to the singer group. That is good news.

Of course, it will lead down to a word vs word play. The singers will say that the Aicardi boys and others were responsible, and I am sure the alleged attackers will deny this and have their "friends" vouch for whatever alias they can think of. Rapagnani and Dawydiak, who co-hosted the party should be able to provide more information on who came to the party un-invited.

ABC KGO TV has a follow-up article (they were the first to report this heinous incident).

It includes a link to a picture of 19-year-old Richard Aicardi at the party (part of slideshow)

Slideshow of injuries that the Yale singers received

Former San Francisco prosecutor Jim Hammer has joined the team of attorneys for The Baker's Dozen.

The local news station is keeping an I-Team blog on this.

14 Jan 2007

San Francisco detectives have completed their interviews with 15 members of the Yale choir group in a police station in Southern California.

I am still a bit perplexed by their police chief, Heather Fong. Her excuse on why there were no arrests: Yale students, after pointing out the alleged attackers to police on the night in question, were unavailable to make positive identifications and formal statements or to explain exactly who did what to whom.

According to the Yale choir, they DID identify the ones that assaulted them, and the police officers on the scene thanked and told them they can go.

The San Francisco Chronicle takes the assumption that because this popular and well-known a cappella group was beaten up after singing the national anthem, the national media thinks it is all about politics and the city being un-American.

But I would say that the incident would still have been reported on the national circuit if the choir group did not sing that song. They are still a well-known historical music group, and I think they impressed the local girls, much to the disgust of the guys who attacked the group on that night.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Scott Herhold gives a rundown on the current scene.

Update 25 Jan 2007

ABC KGO News Affiliate has an exclusive interview with Hunter Fairman, one of the hosts of the party. Also, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris decided not to take action at this point.

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More News Articles

Yale Daily News

ABC 7 News (had video)

Washington Post

News Ch 3 Palm Springs Station

Fox News

SFGate.com

Hartford Courant

Salon.com

Ch 17 KGET

Ten Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses

Link

Whoa....

1) Occidental College's The Phallus

2) University of California-Los Angeles's Queer Musicology

3) Amherst College's Taking Marx Seriously: "Should Marx be given another chance?"

4) U PENN's Adultery Novel

5) Occidental College's Blackness (Feminist New Black Man)

6) Universty of Washington's Border Crossings, Borderlands: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration

7) Mount Holyoke College's Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism

8) University of Michigan's Native American Feminisms

9) Johns Hopkins University's Mail Order Brides: Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context

10) Cornell University's Cyberfeminism

11) Duke University's American Dreams/American Realities

12) Swarthmore College's Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism

Dishonorable Mentions

UC-Berkeley's Sex Change City: Theorising History in Genderqueer San Francisco

Cornell University's Sex, Rugs, Salt & Coal

Hollins University's Drag: Theories of Transgenderism and Performance

UC Colorado-Boulder's Introduction to Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Literature

Swarthmore College's Peace Study in Action

Swarthmore College's Renaissance Sexualities

Oberlin College's She Works Hard for the Money: Women, Work, and the Persistence of Inequality

Hollins University's Lesbian Pulp Fiction

Black Duke University Professor Resigns from Race Relations Committee

Dr. Karla Holloway, Professor of English and Law at Duke University, has resigned from the university committee on race relations in protest against Duke's decision to readmit two of the accused lacrosse players back on to campus.

Her official statement:
“The decision by the university to readmit the students, especially just before a critical judicial decision on the case, is a clear use of corporate power, and a breach, I think, of ethical citizenship. I could no longer work in good faith with this breach of common trust.”

Holloway, who is black, had agreed to head one of the four committees formed by Duke President Richard H. Brodhead late last spring. She says she’d hoped to improve the racial climate on campus after a Black exotic dancer accused members of Duke’s men’s lacrosse team of rape and racial slurs — prompting a media frenzy and nationwide accusations of racism against the university and its students.

Diverse Online article

Durham-in-Wonderland blog on the Duke/Nifong case

It would seem some have welcomed Holloway's departure. Her comments have not been fruitful in the past nine months such as below.

With regards to male athletes:
“The ‘culture’ of sports seems for some a reasonable displacement for the cultures of moral conduct, ethical citizenship and personal integrity,” reinforcing “exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those ‘othered’ by their sports’ history of membership.”

To those that defended the lacrosse players:
Those who defended the players targeted by Nifong? They believed that “white innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt.”

To the women's lacrosse players who supported the male players:
She denounced their “team-inspired and morally slender protestations of loyalty that brought the ethic from the field of play onto the field of legal and cultural and gendered battle as well.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Such a strange with human nature. It does wonders when most of the student body, professors, staff and administrators initially supported the women, and placed the presumption of guilty on the Duke lacrosse players.

Now with the case falling apart and the dropping of rape charges, the administration is doing an about-face. Support among the student body and professors have switched sides to the lacrosse players. Even with the kidnapping and assault charges, the evidence is pretty weak, and it is very likely that the three players will see all charges dropped against them. Now some profs and students are blaming those that thought the players were guilty.

Then all we have left are the individuals who are so steadfast confident that the lacrosse players are ultimately guilty and that the black exotic dancer is now the target of some big-schemed conspiracy.

Quite an unfair debacle. That's human behaviour.

OSU - Florida Wager

Governor Crist and Strickland placed a friendly wager and with Florida winning the BCS National Championship, Crist gets:

1) Some of Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili

2) candy buckeyes

3) some Ohio wine

4) Strickland has to fly the Florida Gators' flag over the governor's mansion.

Congrats to Caltech!

A round of congratulations go to Caltech. Not for their brainy students or for some breakthrough in some academic or science field. For their basketball team.

On Saturday, the Beavers won their first NCAA basketball victory since 1996. They defeated Bard College of NY by a score of 81-52. This ended their run of 207 consecutive NCAA Division III losses.

What's next for this team of smart and intelligent players? To end another bad record. 245 consecutive defeats in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, and this one goes back almost 22 years!!

The California Institute of Technology has about 850 students.

Good luck to them!

CNNSI Link

Update: Columbia President Charges Student Protestors

The New York Times has reported that Columbia University has notified students that were involved in disrupting a program of Minutemen speakers in early October that they were being charged with violating rules of university conduct governing demonstrations. The University has not released how many students were given notice.

Possible sanctions include disciplinary warning, censure, suspension, and dismissal (a bit less painful than the word 'expulsion'). Mr. Bollinger noted, as president, he is the "final avenue of appeal for those found to be in violation of University Rules."

Most likely the students involved with be given light sentences due to the political nature of the incident. If the University cracks down on the protestors, then liberal and socialist groups would respond negatively. If he does not do anything, he would have condon violent behaviour in suppressing controversial speakers. It's a shame really.

If there is concrete evidence such as video and certified statements by witnesses, a censure should be placed on the student's record. Detention or community services without any negative blot on their record is just an empty punishment.

Of course, there should be harsher punishments for non-Columbia students who try to incite violence at their events. Banning them from campus is not enough. If they show up on campus again, criminal action should be swiftly taken.

The Columbia Spectator article (dated 12/22/2006) also indicates that the notified students were charged with "simple" violations of the Rules of University Conduct. The next level of violation would have been labeled "serious."

The University also decided to move all student groups from the jurisdiction of the Student Governing Board (SGB) to Student Affairs.

A Sense of Humor: Required for Student Govt Officers

Apparently, the USC (University of South Carolina) Vice President was not happy when he returned back to campus to see his office a target of an April Fools' prank. He initially assumes the staff uses student activity funds to pay for the balloons, but students happily payed for them out of their own pockets. He then accuses them of using the oxygen tank in the closet to blow up the balloons. Last, he declares that if the balloons were not cleaned up from his office, he will take photos of the prank and will use them to cause some major problems.

One will surmise that he will tell the student newspaper about the lack of seriousness among the staff at the USC student govt office. But of course, due to the closeness of the date, April 1, his efforts would be futile.

Thus, as a reminder to student government officers, it is best to have a sense of humor. As we have seen from this video, the officer has shown his "true feelings" to everyone. Come on now, you are serving as Student Body Vice-President and President of the Student Senate, there's a time to be serious, and there's a time to take everything in stride.

He is currently serving his first year in law school at USC.

Related Link

Here's a Up Close & Personal with the officer off their student newspaper (dated 9/18/2006)

Roundabouts should be banned

I hate roundabouts. Really, they should be banned and forever be removed from every traffic construction workbook out there.

In Xiamen, South China:

china_468x312.jpg

Understandbly, with China experiencing a huge increase this year in the sales of cars, driving etiquette is probably something most drivers over there do not have.

Hilton-Owned Hotel in Oslo says no to Cubans

The 140-hotel Scandic Edderkoppen Hotel chain has banned the Cuban delegation, who are visiting Oslo for a travel fair, from booking the hotel after it was bought by U.S.-based Hilton Hotel Corp. Since the hotel is now owned by an American company, it must abide by the United States' trade embargo against Cuba.

In the previous five visits to Oslo, the Cuban delegation was able to stay at the hotel all five times. When the hotel chain was bought out by Hilton in March, the Cubans were informed in December that they would have to find another hotel due to the American boycott.

As a result, the 300,000-member Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees announced a boycott of the Scandic hotel chain. The Anti-Racist Center in Oslo has filed a police complaint citing Norwegian law that "no one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin."

The Foreign Ministry has stated that companies operating in Norway have to obey Norwegian law, regardless of their home base.

The 830,000-member Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions have demanded that "the government take steps so that companies like Scandic, which clearly abide by the United States' illegal boycott and blockade and not Norwegian law, are barred from doing business in Norway."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Does a Norwegian company, owned by an American corporation have to follow U.S. law in addition to Norwegian law?

Would it make sense if an American company bought out one of the national rail companies in the UK, then force it to bar Cuban nationals from travelling the trains because of U.S. law?

Since when did U.S. law supercede the laws of a foreign country? An American company operating on foreign soil would ultimately have to follow the laws and regulations of the foreign country, correct?

Besides, the Cuban embargo is a farce and should be repealed. It is likely that Castro has only, but a few more years to live, and his brother seems a bit more receptive with the U.S. This is an opportunity for the embargo to be lifted and start a new beginning with Cuba.


MoveOn.org to use "mob tactics"

It would seem that MoveOn.org has a plan for politicians that supported sending troops to Iraq - mob violence!

Well, not exactly like what the Columbia University protestors did, but almost similar. MoveOn plans to urge their supporters to "crash" the Iraq Forum featuring Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Link

Chanting anti-war slogans and disrupting forums and speeches have lost their creativity. Does this mean MoveOn and their members are unsure or perhaps unable to argue and debate constructively with Iraq war proponents?

My guess is that the protestors just want to be shown on CNN and FoxNews being dragged off by security officers. Ahh, a few seconds of fame! =)

YouTube cracks down on Bowl Videos

youtube_copyright.jpg
youtube_copyright2.jpg

Setting aside the reasoning that the videos violated the copyright of organisations such as Collegiate Images, LLC, 20th Century Fox, and ESPN, it is absolutely displeasing to see them cracking down on users that were posting videos such as the great and exciting 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl where Boise State defeated Oklahoma in overtime, or the winning field goal by Boston College over Navy in the Meineke Car Bowl.

The bowl postseason is something that most people want to remember, either at the stadium where the game is being played, or in front of the television set, or sitting in front of the computer. Any of these users trying to sell these videos for profit? Of course not. Everyone knows that on espn.com, you can see the full highlights for about a week, then it gets put in their archive section, where you need to pay a subscription fee to access it.

Perhaps ESPN, Fox, and other collegiate groups want you to pay them to watch those exciting games again online or force you to wait till the DVD disc comes out.

Imagine if it will lead to independent video takers going to the bowl games and being able to show raw footage of these games without censorship or pressure? Sure, it lacks the sound effects of the Fox theme song or the multiple-view angle, but it will preserve the spirit and passion of the fans themselves.

If these groups are busy cracking down on illegal bootlegs of these wonderful games, how about posting them on YouTube under their official accounts? If they want to get users to visit ESPN.com, FOX.com, or anywhere else, they should post these videos. All in the name of good publicity.

What's next? It will promote users to rip the videos from TiVo and other DVR recorders into Divx or Mpeg format, burn them to disc or file, and distribute via friends, or DC++, or BitTorrent. It's nothing new, and this will always happen.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dead?

As reported on Pajamas Media, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has apparently succumbed to the cancer that hospitalized him last month. He was 67. He has been Iran’s most powerful figure since replacing Ayatollah Khomeini in the role of Supreme Leader in 1989.

Any confirmation?

Some Vindication for Accused Duke Lacrosse Players


Sorry, one more...

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting much brighter.

Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann have been invited to return to Duke University and be placed in good standing. Duke has said it has asked the both of them to return for spring semester starting next week.

While the rape charges have been dropped, the kidnapping and sexual assault charges are still there. The university could still punish them if they are convicted of any of the charges, Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, said in a letter to Duke's president.

However, university officials made it clear that their estimation of the prosecution's case has changed.

"As circumstances have evolved in this extraordinary case, we have attempted to balance recognition of the gravity of legal charges with the presumption of your innocence," Moneta said in a letter to Seligmann and Finnerty dated Tuesday.

How soon before the rest of the charges are dropped? Could the accuser be charged with lying to police or a civil lawsuit by the lacrosse players?

Would longtime coach Mike Pressler see some sort of apology by the University?

Paris Hilton Fired

One more for this morning...

It seems there are two nightclubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, FL named Club Paris that were using Paris Hilton as their "official" face.

It turns out that Paris Hilton has not been keeping up with her obligations in showing up for certain events. As a result, the club's owner, Fred Khalilan, has "fired" the hotel heiress.

We do know she is very fashionably late, showing up six hours late for the grand opening of the club in downtown Orlando.

Since she is charging about $1 million for showing up at parties and other events, why bother with these two clubs? Plus, we should never expect Paris to come to an event on-time or even remember her next speaking engagement.

One less thing for her to deal with.

She's already giving herself a bad name while in Australia. Turns out she has been leaving a cafe and a restaurant without paying. A symbol of being a D-list celebrity.

32nd Annual List of Cliches Deserving Banishment

Lake Superior State University's 32nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use, and General Uselessness

Gitmo

undocumented alien

pwn

TomKat

awesome

Brangelina

gone / went missing

gone bad

truthiness

sounds healthy

boast

Republicans Complaining about Minority Rights - themselves!

CNN's article about the Democrats taking over Congress also includes concerns by Republicans that they will be cut out of setting House rules and is urging Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to adopt the same "minority bill of rights" that the Democrats had urged in 2004.

Republicans want guarantees that they will be able to offer substitute legislation and amendments to bills as they move through the chamber.

Didn't Democrats wanted the same thing after the Republicans won Congress back in 1994 and again in 2004?

Obviously, I understand the euphoria for the Republicans after they ousted their counterparts after 40 years of power, now after 12 years of being in the majority, the Republicans are now back in the minority. They are now fearing that the Democrats will put them down just like what they did to them.

Also, Republicans are complaining about Democrats pushing through their 100-hour legislation without their input. If they can remember back in 1994, Newt Gingrich's Republicans pushed their Contract with America through Congress during the first 100 days. Of course, implementation of the Contract did not do so well since most of the bills died in the Senate. In the end, it was pretty much a mythical than material role in their victory.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat said they will treat the Republicans much better after their 100-hour legislation has been passed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here's some more. In the House TV gallery yesterday, Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry (North Carolina) demanded that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.

"The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert," declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. "We're submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new majority."

Cindy Sheehan Disrupts Democrats' Press Conf

So Democrats get their turn at being shouted down by anti-war protestors with their usual leader, Cindy Sheehan. She led the group to Capitol Hill and disrupted the House Democrats' press conference chanting "de-escalate, investigate, troops home now."

Sheehan's Statement:
"We didn't put you in power to work with the people that have been murdering hundreds of thousands of people since they have been in power. We put you in power to be opposition to them finally and we're the ones who put them in power."

What is this? She's claiming that because of her and the anti-war movement, the Democrats should thank them for restoring them to power in both houses of Congress. The war in Iraq certainly played a factor, but Miss Sheehan should really stop thinking about taking in all the glory. The voters were also concerned with the economy, high government spending, immigration, and the Republican's bad record on ethics. The Democratic Party cannot be hijacked by the anti-war arm of their organisation.

The Washington Business Journal has an article on the disrupted press conference too.

Attention-Grabbing Cindy Sheehan


Lawsuit Paranoia: Omaha Bans Sledding

KETV News reports that the city of Omaha, NE has banned all types of sledding activities at two area parks: Cunningham and Zorinsky.

This action was taken after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that public entities, such as parks, are not protected by law, so they could be liable if a person gets injured on park property.

Ok, so in an extreme case example, a kid using a sled down a park hill and directs himself into a tree, can sue the city for failure to protect kids from harming themselves while sledding.

In addition, activities on frozen ponds and lagoons are also banned. So slip and break your back on the frozen pond, sue the city. Jump and break the ice on the lagoon and hurt yourself, sue the city.

How about banning snowball throwing too? Or maybe all running and walking? Who knows if a person slips on an icy patch on the walkway, he or she can lodge a lawsuit against the city.

Imagine booths at the park entrances where people have to sign a waiver. So sad...very, very sad.

Scandalous Texas Cheerleaders

Newsweek has published a "Mean Girls" article on five cheerleaders from McKinney North High School in Texas.

It would seem that these girls were going through some sort of "Girls Gone Wild" period. But during their high school years, not college. It has been alleged by photos on MySpace and witnesses they have committed acts of raunchy behaviour. Known as the "Fab Five," they were an elite social clique that flagrantly flouted school rules but faced few sanctions. Perhaps the reason was that the ringleader was the daughter of McKinney North's principal, Linda Theret.

While it would seem that these girls have been caught boozing and found to have sent dirty pranks to their cheerleadering coach, their punishments was pretty much a slap on the wrist. For one example, when the condom-store photos hit the Internet, the principal wanted to kick the five girls off the squad, a committee of administrators from the school and district recommended 15-day suspensions for the girls in the drinking photo and 30-day suspensions for those in the condom-store snapshot. After parents protested that the latter picture shouldn't be treated more harshly than the former, the superintendent of schools agreed and reduced the penalty for the condom-store photo to 15 days. Reduced to 15 days??? After hearing this, it would seem the adults are condoning the girls' behaviour.

As an end result to all of this, the principal resigned after accepting a monetary settlement. All five girls are no longer members of the cheerleading squad.

But is the whole thing over? Wait till these girls go into college. Could their behaviour still be an issue of concern for future students, professors, and administrators?

Could this elite social group be the same in every high school? Is there a group of affluent kids in each school breaking the school rules, and because their parents have some sort of connection in the town, their disgusting actions are accepted?

They should join the Paris Hilton & Britney Spears Club for the Socially Crazed and Inept.

ATM card scams

Tech Yahoo has an article on ATM scams.

Obviously, exercise a bit of common sense, and if someone wants to help you fix your card, do NOT show that person your PIN number.

If you want to be cautious, remember to call the bank immediately after your card becomes stuck in the ATM machine so they can cancel the card in case someones manages to pry it out. It is probably better to find slide-card ATMs instead of those insertable ones.