Friday, August 31, 2007

Where do you want the lei?

Missouri prides itself on being the "Show Me" state and that evidently was exactly the plan on August 18 2007. It may have sounded like an excellent plan for distraction when they thought it up, unfortunately, it didn't prove to be that excellent in the end.

Store clerk Vicky Gaines knows that you can get just about anything at Fish's Quick Stop in De Soto, Missouri, where she works. Thanks to the 5:30 am robbery recently, she now knows you also have the chance for a free "big island" experience.

"Basically, a guy coming in, standing there naked and doing the hula," Gaines stated.

Gaines said that he was just standing there and asking her if she'd like some of "this." Evidently she didn't want any of it because she told the police that she had a naked man in her doorway with a mask on and could you come over here.

What she didn't know at first, was that the man was part of an enterprising trio. He was supposed to distract the clerk while another partner in crime was going to grab a case of beer in the back and run. The whole episode was over in less than a minute with both the beer toting buddy and the naked guy running to a waiting car. One customer, evidently not in awe of his equipment or "Dancing with the Stars" potential, followed and jotted down the license plate number.

The three men, two nineteen year-olds and one 23, were caught several days later by the police. They face charges of shoplifting, minor in possession of alcohol and indecent exposure.

Gaines stated she hadn't gotten anxious over it or even got a thrill out of the free show........ she said that it didn't bother her at all. After this, I can understand why she said she's not thrilled about anything anymore.... seen one naked hula, seen them all I suppose.

For the hula caught on the surveilance camera, go here.

Update: posted September 3

Brian Spangler has stepped forward to state that his recent naked hula dance was not an audition for "Dancing with the Stars" but rather........... a dare.

"My buddy's sitting there. We're all drunk, and he's like, 'I bet you 30 bucks you won't go in the station nude,'" stated Spangler.

His buddy had dared him to distract the clerk while he was nude so that they couls steal a case of beer. Spangler and his friend did get away with the case of beer but the authorities caught them several days later and they face misdemeanor charges.

"I will tell you this much, it won't be happening be happening again -- not with all publicity," stated Spangler.

I would point out to Lt Graham again............ you can get drunk enough to lose more than your pants.

What island are they on?

"It's like Lord of the Flies, with adults encouraging it," stated Neil Williams, an Eastern Connecticut State University phys ed professor.

There are school shootings, cliques, drugs, alcohol, too many hours of homework assigned and now one more schoolyard terror looms to the forefront..........running games and games with balls. This school year, Discovery Canyon Campus's elementary school, in Colorado Springs CO, has joined the growing list of schools that are banning that "dangerous" practice from the playgrounds.

That's correct......... the game of "Tag" and any other form of chasing, is now officially banned from the playground there. Cindy Fesgen, Assistant Principal there stated that the game was causing a lot of conflict on the playground and it was banned within a few days of school starting. She did add that running is still allowed as long as students don't run after each other.

This appears to be a growing trend within schools. In 2005, two elementary schools in the same region adopted a "Trouble-Free Playground" that did away with games like tag and replaced them with activities that reduced physical contact. Neil Williams created the P E Hall of Shame and placed dodge ball in the number one spot, claiming that it allowed the stronger kids to target and pick on the weaker kids.

Opponents of dodge ball state that the whole premise of the game is to hit someone as hard as they can and pick on those who can't. They also feel that it leaves the weakest and overweigth kids on the sidelines and there is a possible danger to the verbal abuse that may arise in a game.

"If we were going to ban dodge ball for aggressiveness, then we have to look at a whole gamut of sports---such as football, wrestling and kickball." stated Martha Kupferschmidt, director or personnel and student services at the Murray school district in Uta..

It has been reported that two-fifths of American elementary schools have either eliminated recess or are considering doing so. At many of those who still have reces, it is an overegulated playground where "Tag", tall slides, swings, teeter-totters and unsupervised running games, or just plain running is banned. The reasons cited for this include promoting safety, providing more learning time, avoiding litigation and protecting feelings.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that undirected play allows a child to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts and learn how to stick up for themselves. Rick Hanetho, a parks manager in Schomberg IL, states that dodge ball is a favorite among the geekiest kids, the ones who won't make the school teams. He says that the game teaches quick decision making, concentration, agility and incredible hand-eye coordination.

At what point are we going to stop over-protecting kids. I don't know anyone who is in continued psychiatric care from losing at dodge ball or tag when they were a kid. If tag and dodge ball are banned........ what next? Would we also see foot races run completely inside a laned track, so that students aren't chasing each other. Why are footballs still allowed, since the object of that game is to take out a weaker opponent and the ball certainly could break a nose when thrown. Not only are children losing out on the opportunity to exercise but they are missing the chance to "grow up."

That would be the part where they learn to become a better person, work out a conflict in an acceptable manner and not become the whining adult who suffers from "road-rage" because there are 4 other "slow" people in front of them at Starbuck's. What will they ban next? ........ "Tiddly-Winks"...... because you might put an eye out, or worse, lose?

Of note:

It has come to my attention, from an anonymous source, that Bill Clinton, in his Oxford days, had in fact lost at Tiddly-Winks to Professor of Celtic Literature, Cyril Edwards. I am not sure of the long-term ramifications that this may have had upon him but I do know that he hadn't lost an eye from it......... go figure.

It isn't our job

"Illegal aliens should not have a sanctuary in the commonwealth of Virginia. We don't need to provide them with an incentive to cut the line and break the rules," stated Republican delegate Jeffrey M Frederick.

Frederick, whose mother is from Columbia and who says that he is the first Latino elected to state office in Virginia, plans to introduce legislation that would cut state funding to local governments that do not check on the immigration status of residents who receive public assistance. He has stated that the legislation would toughen a 2005 Virginia law that prohibits local governments from providing some social services to illegal immigrants.

He plans to call for every locality to prove its compliance with the law by adopting policies similar to those proposed in Prince William and Loudoun counties. Frederick feels that those that don't comply should lose all their state funding, including transportation and economic developement dollars.

The northern Virginia counties voted this summer to deny services to illegal immigrants and step up law enforement efforts against them. Fairfax county declined to participate in a training program that allows police to gain access to federal immigration databases and quickly deport criminals. Officials in both Fairfax and Arlington stated that they do not support increasing the cooperation between local police and local immigration authorities. They feel that it will lead to even legal immigrants being afraid of reporting crimes and helping with investigations.

Officials in Fairfax state that it isn't their mission but rather, immigration status is a federal mission, they are focusing on the neighborhood problems. Frederick had his harshest criticism for Arlington, alleging that the county goverment there is knowingly providing housing subsidies to illegal immigrants. Paul Ferguson, Arlington Board Chairman, denies the charge but had added that the county doesn't actively seek information about a resident's immigration status unless required by law. I do believe that is what Frederick is trying to do, make it the law.

I can agree with Frederick....... we should not be offering benefits to illegal immigrants because it is an incentive to jump the line and is unfair to those who have immigrated legally and may need those benefits. As for the counties feeling it isn't their job to check immigration status, one only has to look to the recent killings in New Jersey and the recent arrests made in Virginia of fugitives.... all involving illegal immigrants. Making it easier to stay here illegally by giving benefits and looking the other way is not the way to approach the dilemma faced within the U S.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

But I got up this morning....

Three years ago, Lisa Kohlhagen, 22, of Colbert GA, was almost through basic training in the Army when she had a bad fall. She was discharged for a stress fracture in her knee and the VA approved her for a 10 percent disability.

"I can't stand for long periods, I can't bend down, I can't jump. I can't do any exercise that involves my legs," stated Kohlhagen.

Her knee still isn't what it used to be but she has managed so far with the additional $115 a month she received in disability. Two months ago, her checks stopped coming with no explaination, so she called the Army to find out why. Kohlhagen was in for a shock when the Army explained why her checks had stopped.......... they told her that she was dead.

She said that it only took them a couple of days for the VA to realize that she was, in fact, alive. A couple of days in which she had repeatedly told them that she was alive and they kept trying to convince her that she was dead. I know, it sounds like a line from a "Monty Python" movie and I kept waiting for the punchline as I read the report....... VA heads out with frying pan, to make sure she is dead, one way or another.

It was a couple of months ago that she convinced the VA she was alive but she still has not begun receiving her disability checks. Every time she had called, she has been told it would be another two weeks until three weeks ago. Now she has been told that it would be six months before she saw a check and in the meantime, she has bills to pay that she has needed that check to cover monthly.

In what seems to be routine business for the VA, they took a very short time to declare a young, non-combat involved veteren dead and now are dragging their feet to correct their mistake. As so many using the VA now, she is facing the same cover-ups, mistakes and very slow and at times, inept service..... service that has been declining rapidly in recent years. I suppose it is a good thing that Kohlhagen wasn't actually in a VA hospital when they began the debate as to whether or not she was actually "dead."

Looks like he did it

Earlier this year, O J Simpson had a publisher, HarperCollins, and his book titled "If I Did It," a novel he co-wrote about the death of his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman, was set to be released. Fred Goldman, Ron's father, led the very vocal protest to it's being released.

Even though there had been thousands of books pre-ordered, there were almost as many who felt that the Goldman and Brown families should not have to watch Simpson profit from a work of fiction with that specific subject matter. The book was pulled from distribution and many felt that it was gone for good. A federal bankruptcy judge has awarded the rights of the book to the Goldman family in July 2007 and instead of being burnt and permanently disappearing, it will be published.

Denise Brown has stated that she was shocked and horrified to learn that Beaufort Books, a small publisher in New York, will be publishing the book. The plan is to publish the book with O J's original manuscript intact and include commentary within the book. She also accused the Goldman's of hypocrisy for publishing a book that he had called disgusting and dispicable when Simpson had planned to publish it. It doesn't seem like just a case of hypocrisy to me, it seems like a continued case of greed canceling out commonsense.

I agree with Denise, why publish a book that Goldman had led the charge to destroy and never let it get published, to now, make a deal to sell it in it's original state? Fred Goldman has stated that portions of the sales will go to the newly formed Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice that is designed to help victims of violent crime. Strange that some of the money will go to a newly formed foundation......... and even stranger that Goldman seems so desperate to recoupe any money he can from Simpson, that he will publish such a "disgusting" book himself.

Update: posted August 31

Barnes & Noble had cited a lack of customer demand as to why it would not stock the soon to be re-released Simpson book, "If I Did It." In a reversal, which seems to be happening a lot in regards to the possibility of making money off what had before, been considered a horrible book, they have now stated that they will be stocking it on bookshelves.

I have never been a person to believe in banning any book and I am not in favor of banning this one either. What I don't enjoy is the "outrage" that came along with Simpson having the book published and now, suddenly, even though the book will not be re-edited, it is quite acceptable by the same people who were outraged by it but will now possibly profit from it.

It's just capitalism

The wilds of Montana are calling, not just to those who enjoy the miles of wide open space. It seems that they are calling to almost anyone who wants to work as well.

Montana and it's neighboring states hit record double-digit unemployment figures in the 1980's with the recession of the timber and mining industries. Those numbers have slowly been receeding over the past two decades, helped by an aging work force and a booming tourist economy.

"This is actually the biggest economic story of our time and we don't quite grasp it because it is 15 years in the making," stated Larry Swanson, economist and director of the O'Connor center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.

The U S Department of Labor has reported that the mountain West region, which includes eight states along the Rocky Mountains, has the lowest overall unemployment rate in the nation of 3.4 percent. Montana, is reported to be as low as 2 percent and is seeing people moving in to build second homes and as copper prices go up, higher paying jobs as well.

What the area is facing is a shrinking pool of workers, newspapers carry page after page of help wanted ads. Some cities have considered hiring underqualified people in positions of department managers and training them on the job. Jobs that are tyipically lower paying are facing compition from higher paying jobs and in some places, have resorted to paying bonuses of hundreds of dollars or more for finding workers.

Some such as John Francis, owner of a Montana McDonald's has even adveritsed for employess offering $10 an hour. The only calls he stated he received for his offer, were from other business owners, complaining that they might have to raise their own wages to compete.

"You get into these 2 percent and less unemployment rates and you are moving into a seller's market with the seller being the worker," stated Swanson.

That's correct... for all the whining that they had not expected this tight a labor force until at least 2012, this is a capitalistic country. When wages rise, it is not the fault of the employeee to look elsewhere and want to make more money. Then, strange as it may seem to some of those businesses, it is a market based on what the potential employee wants to make and if they want that person, they would be forced to pay more than the competition.

I know of no company, when faced with a glut of potential employees, that will offer more than the going rate for wages............ in the capitalistic mode, they will find someone who will work for the low wages, there are plenty looking. This just happens to be one of those times where the companies will have to pay a bit more than they want to, in order to keep employees. That is just the way it works here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Expresslane to God and charity

A lot has happened since Michael Vick suddenly remembered that he was guilty of pretty much everything the federal authorities had accused him of. His three co-defendents quickly pleaded guilty with no specific sentences promised to them but had promised to testify against Vick.

Even before Vick had a sudden bolt of memory, there were many who found creative ways to register their dislike for Vick's then, "alleged" participation in dog fighting. Animal shelters began seeing a rise in donations, not just in money but in clothing with Vick's official number on them. Rather than just burn the items in protest, a small movement had begun to discard items related to Vick and still find a good and ironic use for them..... homeless pups are now sleeping on them.

Rochelle Steffen, of Cape Girardeau MO, posted a collection of Michael Vick football cards on eBay recently, in hopes of receiving maybe $100 that she would donate to a local shelter. When her auction of "special" cards ended Wednesday, August 29 2007, she found that 31 bidders had fought their way up to a winning bid of $7,400.

The 22 cards in the collection up for bid had been special for a reason....... Steffen had given her 6 year-old Weimaraner, Monte and her Great Dane puppy, Roxie, every card she owned to destroy. The cards, which were originally valued from $1 to $10, were now custom chewed, crunched, slobbered on, torn and in pretty sorry condition.

The success of Steffen's auction has led to at least 25 similar offerings on eBay but her original post so far, has been the only one to get that many bidders. They are also the most expensive Vick item on eBay, with well preserved collectables and autographed jersey's going for far less. The money Steffen will receive from the Vick cards is expected to be donated to the Humane Society.

Michael Vick though had been steadfast for months in his innocence of the charges. He still has his supporters, some of whom stood outside the courthouse when he entered and pleaded guilty to almost everything he claimed he had nothing to do with. In a statement immediately afterwards, he stated that we all make mistakes and that he had turned his life over to God.

I doubt that will do much to sway Judge Henry E Hudson, who is known for handing down tough sentences and reminded Vick when he pled, that he was not bound by any agreements made by the attornies. Vick managed to remember that he had something major to do with the charges he faced...... except the gambling bit and he found Jesus faster than Paris Hilton did in prison.

Vick didn't make a "mistake" or was led on by "the wrong crowd" and anyone who chooses to believe that is foolish I believe. He has loved dogfighting for years, he funded completely the dog fighting operation of BadNewz Kennels since 2001 and would still be fighting, gambling, funding and killing dogs to this day, if authorities hadn't discovered the dogs on a drug raid.

He claims that he used poor judgement and bad decisions........ poor judgement? He broke the law, enjoyed the rush he got from watching dogs kill and no one forced him at gunpoint to kill the dogs that only he seems to be unable to remember how many there were. Vick also was the only one of the quartet that was lobbying hard and fast for a definate sentence, strange since his earlier statements made it sound as though he expected the others to take the fall for him.

What I do have a problem with is, the attornies on both sides working to an agreement of 12 months to 18 months for what he has pled guilty of. He has paid good money it seems to get a possible sentence that is less than half what Andrew Burnett received for snatching Leo, a bichon frise, from his owners lap in a moment of road rage and throwing him to his death in traffic. Vick helped kill dogs violently and personally not in a fit of road rage but because they "didn't do well."

Vick should really wake up and smell the roses........... worried about his public image and possible future in football? He has now admitted almost everything he was charged with is true, I fully believe that the gambling charges are true as well, it's all part of the rush of the "sport." No one will believe that he had a sudden change of mind because he has suddenly found God, he was looking at 3 against 1 in the courtroom and a possible 20 years from the possible new federal racketeering charge.

I expect that we will see many more creative uses for Vick's memorabilia, now that he has fallen hard and fast through his own, admitted actions.

For my previous Vick posts, go here.

Ran silent, resting deep

"It's an amazing story. And it's still unfolding," stated Bruce Abele.

Sixty-five years ago, in July 1942, she disappeared without a trace and left 70 families grieving and searching for answers. The USS Grunion's Commander, Mannert "Jim" Abele left three sons, ages 5, 9 and 12 to grow up on their own, when he disappeared. They built lives of their own but they never forgot their father Jim, a Newton MA resident.

Over the years, his sons Bruce, Brad and John, have pored over Navy documents, any shipping records from the area they believed the Grunion went down in and contacted anyone else that may have been interested in the Grunion's fate. John, the billionaire director, youngest brother and co-founder of the medical equipment company, Boston Scientific Corp, has funded much of the search. Thursday, August 23 2007, at approximately 2 am, they received the first in a series of underwater pictures that may prove that they have found their father's ship.

The USS Grunion was a Gato-class attack submarine commissioned in the early part of WW II and was on it's maiden operational voyage, patrolling the seas between Alaska's tip and Japan when she disappeared. In July 1942, the submarine made several transmissions reporting that it had sunk three Japanese destroyers. On July 30, it reported heavy antisubmarine activity nearby and that they were down to 10 torpedoes. It was never heard from again and warplanes sent out to search for wreckage, never found any evidence of the sub's fate.

A break came to the brothers in 2002, when a Japanese man, Yukata Iwasaki, posted a translation of an article in an obscure Japanese shipping journal on one of several websites dedicated to the Grunion. The article, written by a military officer on board the armed Japanese merchant ship "Kano Maru", described an exchange of cannon fire and torpedoes with an American submarine in the area of where the Grunion was patrolling.

That article gave the brothers a location that would make the search in the dangerous and brutal seas near the Aleutian Islands a bit easier. Any search though was still going to face 100 mile an hour winds, huge waves and ocean depths of 1,800 feet and deeper. The brothers decided though to expand their search to include the two Japanese sub-chasers, SC-25 and SC-27, that the Grunion had sunk and to find the Japanese destroyer "Arare" that had gone down in the same area.

After four years of research, they felt they had narrowed the location down enough to have John fund an exploration. They spoke with Robert Ballard, Titanic explorer, who declined to take it on and finally hired a Seattle ocean surveying firm, Williams and Associates. They chartered a crab fishing boat, the Aquila, skippered by veteran Kale Garcia. Peter Lowrey, a former Newton MA resident and crab fisherman, is recording the search with a pair of high-resolution video cameras and sending back frequent updates to the Abele's.

The search began over two weeks ago and found little but sonar images of the ocean floor while traversing the grid. Then came the image on the screen of a smooth, oblong object that had features that could be a tower and periscope mast. No other submarines had ever been reported as missing in that area, so they have concluded that they have indeed found the USS Grunion, lying 1,000 feet deep north of Kiska Island.

The photographs taken by a robot sub only seem to confirm their conclusion and show massive damage from implosion according to Cataumet MA based search team, Deep Seas International. The Grunion was known to have an unusual configuration for a propellor guard, which was rare on sub's at that time and it seems to be on the wreck they found as well. The Navy is well aware of the search by the Abele's and will not assist in the search unless there is positive proof that what they have found is indeed the long lost Grunion.

"We're doing this as much from a desire for a connection to my father as to learn the answer to a mystery," stated John Abele.

To date, the relatives of 69 men lost on the Grunion are following the progress of the continuing search. Maybe now these families can make the same connection and the mystery of what happened on that fateful day can be discovered.

To visit the Abele brother's USS Grunion web site, go here.

Of note: USS Grunion as she was in 1942 and from recent 2007 underwater photos.

Gosh, it really is a supercenter

In the "wild west" of West Bend WI, they circled the carriages and kept him cornered. Even though it is a Wal-Mart Supercenter, they had not recently expanded their pet supply section to the parking lot.

On Monday, August 27 2007, the employees there were rounding up the shopping carts at approximately 6 am. It wasn't the ordinary cart round-up either, they were circling them around a wayward emu. According to police, the manager there continued to feed the emu grapes and apples in the makeshift pen, while the suspected owner was contacted. Richard Takacs, owner of Meadowbrook Market and Pumpkin farm, wasn't all that surprized when police told him that they suspected they had his bird.

"They can run 40 miles an hour, so that was just a quick sprint for Myron," stated Takacs.

Myron, a three year-old emu had escaped during the night with two other emus. they had been found in a nearby pumpkin field. Takacs speculated that Myron had been chased by a coyote and ran the two miles north to the 24-hour Wal-Mart store. He did retrieve the visably upset bird and put him a field by himself to let him feel safe and relax.

Emus can grow up to six feet tall and do not fly. They can weigh up to 100 pounds so fencing him in with shopping carts could not have been the easiest thing to do. It may have been the falling prices that had Myron on the run.......... I just hope none of the early morning shoppers think that Wal-Mart was running a special sale on really big birds for a holiday barbecue in the parking lot.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't tread on me

In the stoic, freedom fighting manner of New Englanders, Merrimack NH has led the charge again. In July 2007, town counselors there, voted to declare August 27 2007, Merrimack Tax Revolt Day.

"This has never been about chaos, this is about an orderly protest," stated Council Chairman David McCray.

Merrimack residents were urged to pay the 50-cent tolls at the three Merrimack exits with pennies to protest the toll system that costs them more than the average New Hampshire resident. Studies have shown that drivers pay $3.5 million a year at exits 10,11 & 12, which is approximately 5 percent of the turnpike revenue. The residents there only make up 2 percent of the state's population though and other studies have shown that they pay an average of as much as 42 cents per mile traveled compared to an average of 3 cents per mile for other users.

"It's on the forefront of every Merrimack resident's mind when you have to put an entire line in your home budget or work budget for the Merrimack tolls," stated Rep Maureen Mooney.

In what seems to be New Hampshire tradition, the council asked that people drive safely and courteously, follow all the directions of state employees and police officers and pull their transponders from vehicles involved in the protest. They set up a penny exchange at the transfer station on Saturday and distributed about 800 rolls of pennies to drivers in the first three hours. They also planned to distribute pennies at Abbie Griffen Park grandstand beginning at 9 am.

About 80 Merrimack residents hit the road Monday, armed with rolls of pennies and heading for each of the three toll stations. There were some traffic problems among the honking horns and "Don't Tread On Me" flags flying from vehicles. The state police received calls of slow moving vehicles and pedestrians on the higheway ramps. The damage from the good-natured protest.......... two vehicles cited for traveling under the minimum 45 mph speed limit and several pedestrians near the off-ramps were warned not to enter the highway.

The protest organizers had hoped that this orderly protest would get the attention of Concord lawmakers. The town council had felt that there was no symapathy for them before and now, they just look and say it isn't fair. They also are prepared to consider a class-action suit against the state if this protest doesn't change any minds of their lawmakers.

If anything, consistantly and quietly paying the tolls with pennies will wake somebody up to the issue.. even if it starts with the employees who are stuck dealing with all those pennies.

At least he has been consistant

Timothy Wade Pinkston, 47, may be considered mentally ill and homeless but he does seem to be a bit consistant. Secret Service agents were called out to the psychiatric unit of St Joseph's Hospital in Tampa FL to interview him there recently.

Pinkston had been brought there on an involuntary commitment order and while he was there, he told the hospital staff that he planned to go to Washington to shoot the president. He repeated the same threat to the agents who arrived there. According to the affidavit filed by the Secret Service in U S District Court, Pinkston stated that he didn't like the president's foreign policy or his handling of the war in Iraq.

The agents also stated in the affidavit, that Pinkston had previously been charged with threatening the president in 1991 and had also sent threatening letters to the governor of Georgia. This past Friday, Pinkston was again charged with threatening the president, a federal crime.

I do have to wonder, just how mentally ill Pinkston is.......... it seems that he is consistant in disliking the current president and at least it isn't because he thinks Bush is a "little green man from Mars."

Monday, August 27, 2007

I worked for free?

On April 16 2007, some of the strippers at Deja Vu in Nashville TN, became suspicious of a particular customer. In the line of work, it certainly pays to be careful of the customers.

This wasn't your ordinary drunk or creepy acting guy, Damon Armagost was in fact, quite a big spender that night. He had spent $600 which would be a good deal for the ladies if they hadn't begun to question how "real" his money was. They called the authorities and when the police arrived at the club, he had a ready answer for them. Armagost told the officers that the $600 was part of the $1,400 he had gotten when he sold gold coins to an unidentified person.

The U S Secret Service later determined that there had been other $100 bills passed throughout the country with the same serial number on them. A family member at Armagost's home told the authorities when they arrived, that there had been and image of a $100 bill on the computer there.

It was only after that evidence was discovered, that Armagost admitted to the authorities that he had in fact, downloaded the image from the internet and then printed off 14 copies. Unfortunately for him, when he printed his bills, he did not think to change the serial number or even use them in different locations.

On Friday, August 24, Armagost pleaded guilty to manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency and now faces a sentencing date of November 5. There was nothing mentioned as to whether he had to repay the strippers for the lapdances he received....... with real money this time.

One can only hope that he will learn from this arrest and not print all of the license plates in prison with identical numbers on them as well.

A tranquil ride in the woods

The unicycle is believed to have emerged in the late 1800's and has now expanded into several varieties. It has moved out of the circus ring and out on the open roads and campuses of America.

They have always required a greater degree of balence than a traditional bicycle and depending on the wheel size, they average from 3 mph to 22 mph. Recent developements in design have expanded the interest in them for more than just performing for a crowd. One of the fastest growing form of unicycling is called MUni or mountain unicycling.

I have enough trouble keeping a bike on a rough trail, trying to keep a seat on just one wheel........... seems crazy to me.

For a view of MUni on video, go here and try and enjoy the scenery.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chicken-on-a-stick, maybe

A friend once explained to me that if you wanted to sell food at a fair, put it on a stick. There are plenty of choices there as well, including: candy apples, shish-ka-bobs, chicken, steak and corndogs.

In Springfield IL now, they are planning to have "breakfast on a stick." Visions of mini donuts lined up on a stick, possibly a chocolate covered waffle or maybe a muffin skewered by a stick ran through my mind. The Illinois State Fair's newest culinary contest though, requires mixing one egg with any other ingredients and putting it on a stick.

Now I might take the "easy" way out and stuff a hardboiled egg carefully on the stick and maybe add a creative touch of sausage balls on either side of it. In comparison to the winning entries, I would be left far behind in the dust. The state's agriculture department and the American Egg Board chose two entries for first prize on Saturday, August 18 2007.

Beverly Cutler's "sensational sunrise dippers" which consisted of sausage, egg and cheese, wrapped with a bisquit and served with a side of gravy shared the top prize with Anthony Karas's entry. His creation was made from buttermilk crepes wrapped in bacon and I'm not sure where the egg was in his recipe.

It took Rachael Eden in the junior division to create a more healthy breakfast stick. Her winning entry included curry, snow peas, bean sprouts and eggs, wrapped in a won ton wrapper. Karen Fraase, a marketing representitive for the department of agriculture, stated that the entries were judged according to taste, creativity and ease of preparation.

The winnng adult stick breakfasts will enjoy the local spotlight as well, Cutler's will be available in the Illinois Department of Agriculture tent at the 2008 fair while Karas's stick will be available at local restaurants. Nothing was said about the junior winners creation, which is quite alright with me, I am still trying to grasp how it could have been chosen as a "yummy" breakfast.

Snap, you lose

Everyone loses at some point with an arcade game, crash you car and you walk away from the machine, lose a video fighting match, you walk away, lose at arm wrestling, you can walk right to the emergency room. That is at least what they have found in Japan recently.

On Tuesday, August 21 2007, the Japanese company, Distributer Atlus Co., stated it will remove all 150 "Arm Spirit" arm wrestling machines from arcades in Japan. Atlus spokeswoman Ayano Sakiyama stated that the recall is just a precaution after three players received broken arms while playing on it. The company will investigate the incidents and check the machines for malfunctions. They believe the problem may lie with some players getting overexcited and twisting their arm in an unnatural way.

"The machine isn't that strong, much less than a muscular man. Even women should be able to beat it," stated Sakiyama.

The arcade game, which isn't distributed overseas, has players advance through ten different levels. They must advance through matches with a Chihuahua, a french maid and a drunken martial arts master before finally battling a professional wrestler. No word was mentioned as to what level the players were at when they broke their arms but I am hoping for their own dignity, they didn't lose to the dog.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What were you thinking?

"I never had a naked man run to my house bleeding, you know what I mean," stated Tony Ballard.

That is exactly what he saw Tuesday, August 20 2007, as Juan Carlos Gonzales, 26, ran to his West Stanford Ave home in Gilbert AZ. He had fled from his own home near the 300 block of West Stamford Ave after being stabbed in the chest.

According to Maricopa County court documents, Falon Gonzales's husband, Juan, had filed for divorce a month ago and moved out of the family home. The couple met Tuesday at approximately 4:30 pm to have it appraised. After the appraiser left, Juan showed his wife dissolution of marriage papers. As could be expected, Falon, 21 started to cry and it was then that Juan was reported to have comforted her.

Things went more than a little off the beaten path from there, as the couple then proceeded to have intercourse. I would think that proved how good Juan was at "comforting" his very upset "wife." The reports then state that during this comforting intercourse, Falon pulled a knife out of her duffle bag and then stabbed Juan in the chest.

Authorities then state that Falon removed the knife from his chest and told him that she was sorry. They struggled over the kitchen knife and then Juan fled to the neighbors house, bleeding where they called 911. Juan was taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital where he was treated for a collapsed lung and is listed in serious condition.

Falon was found by police about two miles from her home and taken to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center for treatment of a hand injury. She was later booked into a Maricopa County jail and is awaiting a court appearance on August 29.

I am still trying to understand what Juan was thinking...... he files for divorce, waves the dissolution papers in front of her and then, they somehow end up having sex. I have heard of "make-up" sex before but maybe next time, Juan won't be in such a rush to do any "comforting."

Reality usually means work

The CBS reality show "Kid Nation" has come under heavy fire recently, for possibly violating child safety and labor laws. According to the contract parents signed, they had to agree to do whatever they were told, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or risk expulsion.

CBS had envisioned "Kid Nation" to be an inspiring story of 40 kids making it on their own in the wild west. They had the children on an old movie lot in New Mexico, near Santa Fe and it has been reported that the location was chosen to skirt child labor laws. The kids, 8 to 15 years-old, were there for 40 days with very little contact with their parents.

Now it has been revealed that one parent has complained to New Mexico authorities that conditions were abusive and that several children were harmed. CBS does state that there were some minor injuries during production but that they were treated promptly by professionals. They also stated that the kids were in good hands and had safety procedures that rival any any school or camp in the country. Most of the parents have expressed no problems with their child participating in the program.

I won't debate the legal questions that have arisen, I haven't seen the 22 page contract the parents all signed, nor am I familiar with the laws cited. What I do know is that this is a "reality show" and as such, there isn't the coddling and hand holding of many programs. The children spent a little over a month away from their parents, much as children would do in a summer long camp program or at a boarding school. I would like to know though, what is so wrong with the idea of children learning to do on their own, become independent and actually spending 40 days away from the television and video games? It may actually be a good family show to share, one where parents can see that they don't have to do every little thing for their children, every day and kids might see that there is a lot out in the world to enjoy that doesn't need batteries.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I don't want to go back

It occured during a four hour span on Tuesday August 7 2007, in Hawkeye, Iowa. Police found not one, not two but six cars smashed into street signs or driven into ditches just outside of town.

The cars all had their seats pulled forward, all the way to the steering wheel and all apparently, had been left with their keys in them. When the authorities came upon the twelve year-old boy walking on a gravel road, they had their answer to the sudden crime spree. He told the deputies that he was running away from a foster home and that he didn't want to go back there.

He was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries and then to a youth shelter in Waterloo. He also has been charged with six counts of operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent, six counts of driving without a license, burglary and other driving violations.

It would seem that the days of packing your things in a blanket and hanging it from a stick when running away, are long gone. I would hazard a guess as well, that this young man discovered that driving a real car is a lot more difficult than it is in video games.

Just when you thought it was safe......

"It behooves people to be aware of the fact that when they go swimming, they're entering a non-native environment and there are wild animals," stated John Mandelman, assistant research scientist at the New England Aquarium.

They have examined the carcess, interviewed witness and according to a state environmental official, the animal spotted in the first week of August 2007, eating a seal off North Beach, Chatham MA, probably was a great white shark. In 2004, a great white made the news when it was trapped in a lagoon on Naushon Island off Falmouth MA, for two weeks and it had been an estimated to be 1,700 pounds.

The huge, bloodthirsty sharks featured in so many movies including the famous "Jaws" tend to be lone creatures and can travel 30 to 50 miles a day. They also have a slow metabolism so that it is felt that they can go several weeks or even up to a couple of months between feedings.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium stated that they tend to stay off-shore and sightings of them in that area are rare but not unheard of. He also added that any large shark is a potential threat to humans but we aren't on their typical menu plan. He did caution though, that if you see sharks in the surroiunding water, you should head for the beach and listen to local officials. The last known shark related death in New England was in 1936.

The number of shark attacks worldwide has been consistanly dropping, from 79 attacks and 11 fatalities in 2000 to 62 attacks and only four fatalities in 2006. Much of the decrease has been attributed to fewer sharks swimming near shore, as more sharks and their prey are killed each year, people becoming more informed about swimming and many Third World countries making strides in medical care and beach safety.

"It really is quite remarkable when you have only four people die in the mouth of a shark and it puts in perspective how small shark attack is as a phenomenon," stated George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File.

The United States is the world leader in shark attacks and Florida leads all the states with it's numbers. Of the 62 attacks worldwide in 2006, 32 were in the U S and Florida was home to 23 of them. The balence of the states with attacks were four in South Carolina, three each in Hawaii and Oregon, two in California and one each in North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas. Australia was a distant second with seven attacks and South Africa was third with only four in the year.

John Mandelman stated that sightings of great white sharks are very, very rare in New England and the recent sighting doesn't mean that there are more sharks in the waters, on the prowl. He did caution though, that people should always swim a partner, avoid swimming at night or dawn and dusk, when sharks are most active amd to always be cautious.

If sharks were not enough to have you thinking next time you step into the water, the Australian spotted jellyfish may. Though they are harmless to humans, the creatures that were first spotted in the Gulf of Mexico in 2000 have what is termed a "vigorous reappearance." That would be a more scientific phrase I believe for, "they are all over the place."

The spotted jellyfish is not known for getting much bigger than fist-sized in their native Australia but in the waters of the Gulf, with plenty to eat, they can reach 25 pounds. While they are not dangerous to humans in the water, they could be dangerous to the fishing and shrimping industries by fouling nets and eating the larvae and eggs of other fish. They had bee restricted to the Gulf, in small numbers since 2000 but they have been seen as far north as North Carolina this year.

Once again, shipping traffic may to be the blame for them hitching a ride over here and many scientists view jellyfish as opportunists. Studies have shown that jellyfish will move in and take over areas that have been overfished by humans.

I'm not so sure I would really enjoy a day at the beach having to dodge 25-lb jellyfish, even if they won't hurt me. I am also not going to be out in the waters pretending to be a seal, just to increase the great white attack numbers. Besides, who really does swim in the "frozen" waters off of Cape Cod anyways, shark or no shark?

Of note: Officials ask that spotted jellyfish sightings be reported on the Dauphin Island Sea Lab's website.

Special thanks to the Globe for the file photo.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's toast

On Friday, July 13 2007, it was reported missing from outside the store in Greer SC. The police received a detailed description: it was 4 feet tall, 6 feet wide and weighed approximately 200 lbs.

The "Bloomberry" muffin had been constructed two years before as part of an advertising campaign and had been stolen from outside a Bloom grocery store that night. Lt Chris Varner stated that during the investigation of the theft, they had checked the surveillance video from the Bloom store and they had also received an anonymous tip as to its location.

"We're very disappointed that it wasn't recovered intact, but the mystery is solved," stated Karen Peterson, spokeswoman for Lion LLC, which owns Bloom.

The "Bloomberry" muffin was located finally on August 8 2007 but according to the police press release, it had been burned beyond recognition. Varner stated that they had investigated some vehicles, located some kids in similar vehicles and finally, one juvenile told police he knew where the muffin was.

Police have said that they will continue to interview the suspects who confessed that they thought it was a cute thing to steal the muffin. For lack of anything else to do some stated, they stole the muffin and that night, poured gasoline on it and burned it.

The suspects are all juveniles so the police will not release any names but they will continue to investigate because the muffin, valued at $4,500, could lead to grand larceny charges. Bloom has stated that they will not press charges against those responsible and if the anonymous tipster does come forward, they will receive the $300 reward and Bloom will donate $300 to the Loaves and Fishes food bank as well.

Peterson said that Bloom is hoping to replace their signature muffin, since it was a unique marketing tool. She also stated that nothing ever could replace the original.

The police are fairly certain that the remains found are what is left of the giant Bloomberry but it will have to remain an educated guess since DNA testing is not an option on it. I'm wondering if they will put a call in for the "Muffin Man" as an expert witness.

She won't be silenced

"It's tragic when a mother is seperated from her son," stated Luis Cabrera, Mexico's general consul in San Diego.

Elvira Arellano, 32, had been in the safety of the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago IL for over a year now, defying a deportation order. She has become an activist and a national symbol for illegal immigrant parents and last week she announced that she was going to try to lobby U S lawmakers.

Arellano, who has said that she is a single mother, was arrested outside Our Lady Queen of Angels Church right after speaking at a Los Angeles rally SUnday, August 19 2007. She had left her 8 year-old son, Saul, in the care of Rev Walter Coleman, pastor of the church she had been staying in.

"They were in a hurry to deport me because they saw I was threatening to mobilize and organize the people to fight for legalization," stated Arellano in Spanish outside a Tijuana apartment.

Cabrera stated that Arellano wasn't given access to Mexican officials until hours after her arrest and she was at San Diego's Otay Mesa immigration detention center. She was given extensive access to them in San Diego Sunday night according to reports and at 10 pm, she was deported at San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing, after it was determined that she had exhausted her legal recourse.

Mexican authorities state that they don't know the identity or the whereabouts of her son's father. Saul's godmother drove him from Los Angeles to Tijuana to be reunited with his mother but he will be returning with her to start third grade in public school in the U S. Arellano may claim that the U S acted swiftly to deport her because of her views but opponents of illegal immigration have said that her arrest is long overdue.

This is not the first time Arellano has been deported. She first arrived in Washington illegally in 1997 but was soon deported and returned to Mexico. She returned to the U S in 2000 and moved to Illinois where she took a job cleaning planes at O'Hare Airport. In 2002, she was arrested there and convicted of working under a false social security number. Arellano was to surrender to authorities a year ago for deportation but instead, she sought refuge in the church on Aug 15, 2006.

Jim Hayes, director of ICE in Los Angeles has said that her case should be viewed in the proper perspective. She had been using a false identity, convicted of using someone else's social security number and that is a threat to national security. She has been a criminal fugitive in violation of the law until her arrest. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform added that just because the woman had gone public and made an issue of defying the law, doesn't mean that the law and government has to stop doing it's job.

Arellano had been safely defying her second deportation order within the security of the church for a year and the authorities weren't in a hurry to silence her, they were doing what the law stated. It is no ones fault but her own that she came to the U S illegally, had a child born here and when she stepped out of the church, she had to know that she was going to be arrested. There is no law seperating her from her son, she has chosen to leave him here and take advantage of all the benefits he may receive even though his mother had come here illegally before he was born. If as others say, it is a terrible thing to be seperated from him, she is free to live with him in Mexico, anytime she chooses.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

They should give a hoot

"No one was on official duty and no police cars were taken. It was a group of adults being adults," stated Police Chief Bill Werner.

The trip was schedualed to begin at 6 pm August 16 2007 from Port Jervis NY and was intended to "build camraderie." Someone outside the police department had planned the trip and circulated the flyer to the male police officers within the Deerpark NY department.

Three carloads of offduty Deerpark officers, residents and outside law enforcement officials, headed off on what the flyer claimed was a "Hooters Run." The destination was a Hooters restaurant, known for it's popular wings and scantily clad waitresses, in Franklin NJ, about 35 minutes away.

While it isn't known if any female officers went on the outing, the issue that was discussed by town officials in a closed meeting Monday, August 20, was how the town had been left with no police. There was only one state trooper on call that Thursday evening to cover the second largest land municipality and no town officers.

"Well the chief made a mistake in schedualing," stated Supervisor Mark House.

House stated that schedualing in the department that has 18 officers, three of which are female is a day-to-day challenge. Two officers were schedualed to work that evening but one couldn't work because of a suspension and the other officer schedualed did not feel comfortable working the shift alone. House also stated that state troopers take over coverage of the town after midnight.

Werner stated that no patrols were cancelled so that people could go on the "Hooters" trip and no patrol cars were used for the trip. That does make me wonder, if using patrol cars was an option. Town officials were concerned about the lack of coverage the town had that evening and plan to investigate the matter further. House stated that the choice of destination "doesn't look good," but the real issue was a lack of town coverage because they had been left with no on-duty town officers.

Certainly, there are a few issues to be investigated. Why the flyer was not passed to female officers, why that restaurant was chosen to "build comraderie," and definately, how do you make a mistake of schedualing an officer to work who is suspended at that time? Were there visions of buckets of wings clouding the schedualing roster?

King of more than the sidewalks now

Louis Marx toys introduced the nation to the "Big Wheel" children's tricycle in 1969 and soon, competitors were offering their own version of the "sidewalk master." The familiar roll of plastic on concrete could be heard throughout neighborhoods for more than three decades. It was believed to have died out with the introduction of slicker, battery operated sidewalk monsters but it has returned to roll again.

Now I have discovered that those kids who enjoyed the thrill of owning the sidewalk all those years ago, have fashioned their own sport involving them. Yes, you heard me correctly.... adults riding "Big Wheels." These modified tricycles aren't a recumbant bicycle but are a quicker, longer lasting, road hugging, adult sized version of the thrills and chills the "Big Wheels" brought as one flew down the largest hill you could find nearby.

It seems that, if there is a steep road on a huge hill...... someone will find a way to enjoy the terror of running full-bore down it.

For a chilling view of what a "grown-up" can do with a Big Wheel, go here.

Tag sales are a lot of work

Last week, Christy Newlin,45, of Waterford Township MI, was arraigned in two district courts and Monday, August 20 2007, she faces a preliminary examination. Sheriff Michael Bouchard began his investigation of Christy this summer but would not provide any specifics of the probe.

Bouchard did state that he receives anonymous tips from citizens regarding the criminal activities of residents and unfortunately, her alleged activity was true. Unfortunately, it also involved the wife of one of his own officers. Christy, married to sheriff's department veteren Randy Newlin, is free on bond after being arraigned on charges that include running a house of prostitution and using a computer to commit prostitution.

Assistant Prosecutor Edward Cibor has stated that investigators believe that her activities have occured over a 12 year period. She advertised that she was available three days a week for $250 an hour and appointments could be made through a Web site. He also stated that she met her customers at several suburban motels and told workers there that she was a pharmaceutical sales representitive who would have clients visiting her there.

Randy has not been disciplined according to Bouchard and no one else has been charged in the incidents. Just doing some simple math..... if she worked 4 hours a week, she brought in $1,000, less expenses, which certainly beats out all the work entailed with weekly tag sales. Randy though, it seems, was getting quite a bargain.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not so foxy

According to a recent report, Foxy Brown's arrest on Wednesday, August 15 2007, has added to her "legal woes." I believe that is a nice way of saying her life is becoming a public trainwreck as so many others have recently.

Brown, the 27 year-old rapper, was stopped in Mahwah NJ for talking on a handheld phone and for running a stop sign. The police found that the SUV she was driving had it's registration suspended and Brown, who's real name is Inga Marchand, gave the police a variation of her name and a birthdate that was off by a year.

It wasn't until a search for the name she had given turned up no record that she gave police her correct name and date of birth. The officers then discovered that her license had been suspended as well and she was taken to police headquarters. Brown was then issued seven tickets and told that she was to appear in municipal court in Mahwah on Sept 4.

This latest arrest comes right on the heels of her arrest in New York City's Brooklyn borough Tuesday, on suspicion of assaulting a neighbor. Police there state that the two women got into a fight over Brown blasting her car stereo too loud and when the two passed each other on the street a couple of days after the fight, it escalated. Brown allegedly tossed her BlackBerry device at the other woman, cutting her lip and knocking a tooth loose.

Brown is still on probation after guilty to assault in a 2004 dispute over paying for a manicure. These are far from her first run-ins with the law. Brown was first arrested in Jan 1997 for spitting on two hotel workers in North Carolina. She failed to appear in court, had a warrent issued for her and finally turned herself in that April. Brown received a 30-day suspended sentence and 80 hours of community service.

That didn't seem to make much of an impression on her, though. In 2000, she crashed her Range Rover in New York and was ticketed for driving while her license was suspended for two unpaid parking tickets. July 2002 found Brown arrested in Jamaica for fighting with a policewoman and after she failed to appear in court two days later, was informed that she would arrested if she returned to the island.

In March 2004, she allegedly attacked two manicurists in Manhatten over a $20 bill she refused to pay but she wasn't charged in the incident until 2005. Brown refused a misdemeanor plea and was sentenced to three years probation, anger management counseling and orders of protection were given to the two manicurists.

In Feb 2007, Brown was arrested in Broward County FL for an incident that occured in a beauty salon there. She refused to leave the salon when she had been told it was closing, threw a beauty product at an employee and spat on a man who called 911. When police found her in the parking lot, she resisted the officer's escort back to the store, they were forced to use a "take down maneuver" to gain control of her.

This led to a March 2007 guilty plea of leaving New York without permission which was in violation of her parole and later in the same month, Broward County Judge Joel Lazurus issued an arrest warrent for her failure to appear in court there in February.

Manhatten Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson told Brown in March, that her sentence for the parole violation would be the six month's of probation she was already serving. Jackson also warned Brown then that if there were anymore parole violations. "I am reserving the right to resentence you to jail for one year."

It would seem to be that all the probation, anger management counseling and courtroom visits, have done very little in helping Foxy Brown stop the impending trainwreck. Maybe she does need the better part of a year in jail to find the error of her ways and maybe some much needed common sense. She certainly would have plenty of time then to work on her "street cred," anger issues and write a lot of new music.

Update: posted Aug 22

Manhatten Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson is a woman who keeps her word and it seems that Foxy Brown will have a few nights in the cellblock to remember Jackson's promise. Last time she saw Brown in court she had reminded her about further parole violations and the consequences of that action.

Judge Jackson has ordered Brown remanded to state custody and oredered held in jail until her September 5 2007 court hearing after her latest two brushes with the law. That would be the consequences of her recent arrests. Not only will having some time in jail to think about her recent misadventures, Brown will at least be, for the moment, locked away from causing anymore harm in public and will certainly be able to attend her next appearance, since her past track record is poor there as well.

The New York Times has reported that Brown announced that she is getting married in September and that she is pregnant, after she was spotted shopping at a New York City Bed, Bath & Beyond recently. The local New York ABC station is reporting that she is three months pregnant.

I am wondering though, is bright orange considered a fall wedding color?

This makes it better?

On Friday, August 17 2007, John Acerra, 50, pleaded guilty to drug charges. He had been accused of selling crystal methamphetamine out of his office and home.

Acerra was the principal of Nitschmann Middle School in Bethleham PA and had been arrested in his office there on Feb 27 during a police sting. He did resign his position two days after the arrest. Friday, he pleaded guilty to two counts of felony delivery of methamphetamine and one count of felony possession with intent to deliver and he faces at least two years in prison when he is sentenced October 18 2007.

The prosecutors have said that there was no indication that Acerra sold the drugs to students.

On Thursday, August 16 2007, Charles L McCardie, 47, pleaded guilty in Platte County Cicuit Court MO, to a misdemeanor count of invasion of privacy. Judge Owen Lee Hull then sentenced him to the maximum of one year in prison.

The case began in June 2006, when the victim's mother reported that her 16 year-old daughter had found a camera hidden in the smoke detector in her room. Investigators found a wireless camera and wireless recievers in the downstairs living room and office of the home.

McCardie, the former chairman of the Farley Board of Trustees, originally denied knowledge of the camera and claimed that it must have been installed when the family was out of town for a weekend. Prosecutors though, stated that McCardie had installed the camera so that he could watch his stepdaughter without her knowledge.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the child pornography charge.

I do wonder though, how it is better that a school principal who is dealing out of his office in the school, didn't sell to students there? He was selling to someone and it may be that person who is selling to the students. As for a stepfather putting a hidden camera in a girls room..... why drop the child pornography charge? I am sure that he wasn't watching to see if she had picked up her room when she was supposed to.

A great escape

Thursday night, August 16 2007, another record was set in the Monterey Jet Center CA. The auto that was purchased with an anonymous phone bid smashed the previous record that was set last year for a similar car.

More than 800 people attended the auction that night and witnessed the 1963 Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso offered for sale there, sell for much more than the estimated pre-sale price of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The auto, which had been a favorite of Steve McQueen, had been a gift to him from his first wife, Neile Adams. McQueen, who also raced cars, had special ordered the brown metallic paint and beige leather interior.

Mike Regalia had purchased the car for what he claims, is less than the cost of a new Lexus and spent hundreds of hours restoring it to pristine condition. He stated that he believed that it brought $2.31 million because it had been owned by McQueen. He didn't feel that it would have brought that kind of a price if it had not been owned by the actor who died in 1980.

McQueen's Lusso did indeed smash the previous record for a similar car. In May 2006, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTL Berlinetta Lusso sold at the Bonham's Monte Carlo auction for a mere $595,000. The Lusso has been described as the most beautiful of Pininfarina's creations on that particular chassis. It was high performance with contemporary elegance in the fewer than 500 a year for the few years that model had been built. While many do enjoy racing their cars, the Lusso was not considered a competitive auto, being too well trimmed and heavy for the racetrack. While it is described as a wonderful ride, on the racetrack, you might win only if all your competion drove off a nearby cliff.

It is widely accepted that the Lusso that sold in Monte Carlo, sold for approximately $200,000 than it should have because it possessed a very light racing career. McQueen's Lusso most definately sold for the price that it did, on the strength of it's past ownership. It would be a great escape to motor along in it, knowing who had enjoyed being behind the wheel in it's youth.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It wouldn't have been less expensive

"They expressed concerns about the bridge, but at no point, as far as I know, did anyone ever say 'close the bridge'," stated Gov Tim Pawlenty.

The search continues at the site of the I-35W bridge collapse for the eighth and last person listed as missing, Greg Jolstad, 45, who had been part of the construction team doing surface repairs to the bridge when it collapsed. While no cause for the collapse has been found yet, more details have been uncovered in the bridge inspection documents. These discoveries may shed light on the cause and lead other states to seriously review their own bridge repair plans.

Much of the attention has been on the consultant reports from 2006 and 2007 that had expressed serious reservations about the bridge. The Star Tribune has reviewed the older reports from inspectors and they show that concerns about that bridge had been growing since the 1990's. In most cases, the reports simply list a growing list of problems found with the bridge but don't rate their severity.

By the 1996 report though, the inspectors began to use a more urgent tone in their reports. They had noted that a pier supporting steel spans had titled towards the north and they warned that it should be an area that is inspected closely as it wasn't going to be repaired in the near future.

In 1998, they wrote that they had found numerous fatigue cracks in the three decades old north and south approach spans. The report did note that the cracks had been drilled out and the fractured beams had been reinforced with steel plates. Each susequent report mentioned the cracks found in 1998 and by 1999, they reported that the cracks were a major concern and so widespread that they would need to be inspected every six months.

No further cracking was noted by 2000, so the inspection cycle was increased. A state sponsored study performed by the University of Minnesota concluded in 2001, that fatigue cracking of the deck truss is not likely and the bridge shouldn't have any problems in the foreseeable future. MnDOT concluded as a result of that study, that they did not need to prematurely replace the bridge because of fatigue cracking and could then avoid the high cost of such a project. The earliest possible date for replacement suggested by the MnDOT was in 2020.

The state bridge inspectors almost a decade ago were stating that the I-35W bridge had severe and extensive corrosion of it's beams and trusses, widespread cracking in it's spans and missing or broken bolts. They noted that the superstructure was in poor condition and that certain components were beyond tolerable limits. By 2000, they had written that replacement of the entire structure would be preferable to redecking the bridge but if replacement was significantly delayed, redecking should be done.

That particular recommendation was repeated in subsequent reports but had not been done. The MnDOT inspectors were still concerned, enough to ask an engineering consultant URS to review the bridge's condition. In 2006, URS expressed concerns that a serious fatigue crack might go undetected because of the difficulty in inspecting parts of the bridge. They had recommended steel plating as a fix for the problems.

Again it seems that cost was the largest factor involved because MnDOT asked URS to come up with other solutions and the department chose what URS called the "cost efficient" alternative that included increased inspections and repairing visable faults. URS had warned though that the critical issue with that method was to insure that inspectors didn't miss any measureable flaws.

Chief bridge engineer Dan Dorgan stated that previously, MnDOT had chosen an option that included drilling to add plates that he felt might weaken the structure. Roberto Ballarini, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, stated that a crack could grow very little in a year or it could grow rapidly almost overnight and Dorgan agreed that there was a potential for that to happen. I would have thought that what had happened to the Mianus River Bridge in CT was warning enough of what will happen when difficult to view parts of a bridge structure fail.

As tragic as this collapse is, I would hope that towns and states look to the I-35W bridge collapse as a serious warning. Not the fact that our nation's bridges are aging but that what seems to be the view of cost effectiveness versus the correct fix could have led to this collapse. The inspection reports detail an older bridge that continued to develope additional, serious problems, problems that would not just disappear on their own. I do not understand the logic of saving money now on replacement..... did the state actually think that replacing a bridge was going to get any cheaper, twenty years into the future?

For my previous post, go here.

You could have just sued

There was a time when a simple threat, a glimpse of a baseball bat or a whisper mentioning you had friends to help you, would solve payment deliquencies. This week, two Lakewood CO men were arrested after they were alleged to have taken debt collection into their own hands.

The investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation began when the victim contacted them about receiving threatening emails. On Wednesday, August 15 2007, Christopher Lee Steelman, 36, was arrested in Lakewood and Herbert Paul Beck, 56, was arrested in Raton NM and bail was set at $500,000 for each man. What investigators uncovered went far beyond the threatening emails.

Beck had claimed that he had invested $36,000 in Matthew Sowash's company, the Amatuer Poker Tour in Wheat Ridge in December 2006. He also claimed that the company that stages Texas Hold'em-style poker games in Denver area bars, owed him $60,000 now with the interest added. Evidently, instead of just filing a lawsuit against Sowash, both men began devising plots to kill him.

The plan they chose was to build a wooden box for Sowash to stand in that would hold rattlesnakes. The lid of the box was to be built so that his legs could be put into it but not removed by him. They then planned to leave the rattlesnake-bitten Sowash along the side of a hiking trail. Beck even managed to disturb his own partner in crime by suggesting that they kidnap Sowash's children and use them as leverage to get the money from Sowash.

Both men have extensive criminal records and have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and extortion. Beck is being held in Raton and Steelman is being held in the Jefferson County Jail in Golden.

Sowash, who had tipped off the CBI, was shocked to find out the extent of the plot against him but stated that he was glad that the CBI had "taken care" of the men. While I do have think they used a bit of creativity in trying to pull off their crime, I think it would have just been a lot less difficult to file a lawsuit.

"Hooked on Ponics"

A seven-month investigation recently has resulted in federal indictments against 25 people and it involved dozens of upscale homes in suburban Atlanta. The case began in February 2007 after Forsyth County deputies chased down a tip from Miami and it expanded to include 14 metro counties before the indictments.

The Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami had passed along a tip that a major pot grower was operating in the Atlanta area. In a matter of weeks, the investigators found marijuana farms in about 35 homes connected to the alleged kingpins of the operation, married couple Merquiades Martinez, 36, and Blanca Botello, 35, of Fayetteville GA.

Botello is alleged to have arranged for the real estate deals of the homes used in the operation and Martinez allegedly oversaw the growing and based it at a Fayetteville garden supply store. Jack Killorin, director of the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, stated that the operation required elaborate heating, air-conditioning, lightingirragation systems and stolen electricity in roder to produce four crops a year of pot twice as potent as outside grown crops. Authorities said that the operation, which earned the name "Hooked on Ponics," in reference to it's hydroponic growth systems, produced about 11,000 pounds of highly potent $5,000 a pound pot.... a crop they estimate was worth approximately $50 million.

Police departments all over the country are increasingly raiding marijuana McMansions, homes in surburban America that have been purchased specifically to stuff full of hydroponically grown plants. These operations usually require enough electricity to power an entire block and were easily found through electric company usage records. These days though, they have the sophistication to rig and reroute the power lines so that if they are tested, they will shut the meter down to the power usage of a normal home.

Police began uncovering homes like these when area residents began complaining about hoimes that had been purchaed and then the exteriors were left to go wild, lawns uncut, garbage never taken to the curb. As with any criminal operation, they have taken steps to try and stay ahead of the law which includes moving a family into the homes and taking care to make it look as though they fit into the neighborhood.

A recent raid on a home in Rancho Cucamonga CA, yielded 634 plants in various stages of growth, having an estimated street value of approximately $4 million. The house had sold for $695,000, with a $556,000 mortgage and with operating costs estimated at $50,000, it is fairly easy to understand why this method is becoming increasingly popular. The hydroponic method also allows it to be grown in any neighborhood and throughout the whole year.

Authorities have also reported that growth operations like this are not limited to any one particular ethnic group either. While they have reported that Asian groups seem to be on the rise, they have found operations organized by whites, Hispanics, blacks and organized crime groups as well.

"We never saw them. This is a really friendly neighborhood. Everyone knows each other. We are always outdoors and we never saw them," stated Joan Howell, California resident.

Based on the profits that can be had for this kind of operation, it would seem that they aren't going to disappear anytime soon and more residents of America's suburbs will awaken to the sight of another marijuana crop being dragged out of an upscale home.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

High stylin'

Some people choose to walk, others drive, a few choose some rather unique modes of transportation. Evonne D Maurice, 22, of Westbrook CT chose to go in high style it seems.

Maurice hired a limo in December 2006 to take her to T F Greene Airport in Warwick RI. While they were on the way there, she mentioned that she had missed her flight and told the driver that they needed to go to a bank. She claimed that she wouldn't have enough to pay the driver unless she could withdraw some money there.

The driver drove her up to the drive-up window of a Citizens Bank branch while they were in Rhode Island. She exited the limo and walked up to the drive-up window and handed the teller a note. Her note demanded the teller give her money and that there were bombs hidden in the bank. Unfortunately for Maurice, the teller triggered an alarm and she ended up heading back to the limo with no cash. The driver of the limo didn't know what she had done though.

Maurice was arrested in Tampa FL last year and pleaded guilty in May to the botched robbery of the bank. U S District Judge Mary Lisi sentenced Maurice on August 10 2007 to three years and one month in prison and I bet she isn't looking at a limo ride to jail either.

Is that a fly in my soup?

"We would go to a restaurant, and I'd say I had glass in my food. Then I would go to the hospital and say I was in pain," stated Ronald Evano, 49.

The scheme began when Ronald's wife went to the hospital claiming she ate glass at a Boston restaurant in 1997 and the Evanos settled with the restaurant's insurer for $22,000. In the years that followed, one or both of them claimed to have eaten glass at establishments in Braintree and Quincy MA, Bethesda and Gaithersburg MD, Washington D C , Providence RI and Midlothian VA.

Assistant U S Attorney Jack Pirozzolo stated that the two had been treated at hospitals for glass ingestions at least a dozen times. They collected payments from insurance companies and one time even accepted a $45,000 payment directly from the restaurant. All told, the couple filed false claims for $200,000 and left behind a trail of unpaid medical bills that amounts to approximately $100,000 between 1997 to 2005.

Ronald stated that the couple had intentionally eaten glass because they needed the money. They also had used false names, false social security numbers and identity cards to make their numerous claims.

On Wednesday, August 15 2007, Ronald pleaded guilty in U S District Court to 20 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, identity fraud, making false statements on health care matters and Social Security fraud. Authorities must have been feeling a bit kind though because they agreed to drop four counts of health care fraud and identity fraud in the agreement. Ronald is being held at Norfolk County Jail awaiting what could be a 100 year jail term when he is sentenced next month.

As for his "lovely" wife Mary, an arrest warrent was issued last year for her on the same charges as her husband and she is still being sought.

"I thought if I was making it up, it wasn't illegal. Now I know it is," stated Evano.

I do have to give the Evanos credit, at least they went to the extreme of actually eating what they claimed had been in their food. His wife Mary, may well be on a beach somewhere, ingesting whatever else she can to pay the bills.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

No questions asked.......

They sat outside the Citrus Bowl in Orlando FL, on Friday, August 17 2007, as they have periodically over the past eight years. Some were busy handing out gift certificates and sneakers while others were checking the state and federal lists.

"Anytime we can sit out here and have people bring us guns it's good for the community," stated sheriff's Cmdr Al Rollins.

Residents turned in 250 guns to the deputies at the Pine Castle Woman's Center on South Orange St and to the Orlando police officers outside the Citrus Bowl. Each of the guns came with a story, many of the stories would never be known, unless it was discovered to be listed as stolen or in later test firings, be found to have been used in a crime. All of the guns were destined to never be able to reach criminal's hands after they were torched and melted down.

What turned out to be the most successful gun exchange saw ancient guns, zip guns, shotguns and assault riflles start to arrive at 7 am. Four of the guns turned were classified as "hot" as they had their serial numbers filed off. One gun that was exchanged by an older biker was described as a portable crime scene. He checked to make sure there were no questions asked and after being told that absolutely, no questions......he returned with the gun in a plastic bag. The homemade, 40-shot assault pistol, which had been made from a cut down rifle and possessed a illegally short barrel, would have carried a mandatory 5-year minimum sentence in a federal prison.

"That would scare the pants off you." commented Rollins as the biker walked away with a $50 gift certificate.

Many of the guns turned in could not be traced, as they had been manufactured before 1968 when serial numbers became mandatory. A 1903, .32-caliber Colt pistol in pristine condition, was turned in and a knowledgable officer quickly checked the internet to find it's value at $1,400. There were a number of obvious "crime guns" as well, including .45-caliber pistols, late-model 9mms and sawed off shotguns, many similar to what has been used in the more than 100 murders in Orange County last year.

Shortly before noon, one man turned in three rifles, dropped them off saying he didn't want anything in exchange and left. The three military-style target rifles had an estimated value of more than $3,000. While holding a .308-caliber M1A Springfield rifle, estimated to be worth $1,500, Officer Kevin Williams, an assistant rangemaster commented that he would have loved to be able to own it or at least have a father that would have given it to him.

At a little before 6 pm though, an Ococee man turned in the eye-opener of the day. He stated that he didn't know what to do with a weapon he said he had found when taking a shed apart. He had tried taking it to three dumps before and they had told him to get lost. The man exchanged a 4 foot-long, surface-to-air missile launcher for a pair of size 3 Reebok sneakers for his daughter and drove off.

Orlando's program and many others like it nationwide are designed to allow people to dispose of unwanted guns, safely. Last year's "Kicks for Guns" sneaker exchange in Orlando brought in 113 firearms and 20 BB pistols and toys guns that had been modified to look like real weapons. At 1 pm Friday, Rollins had stated that this year's event, held with the assistance of Clear Channel radio stations and local media, was a huge success with 200 guns being exchanged already.

Programs like this do take a number of guns off the street and out of closets where they can be used in crimes or lead to personal harm.......... a missle launcher though, designed to take a jet out of the air is indeed an uncomfortable thought. If there is one turned in, how many more are out there in sheds and basements?

Special thanks to Red Huber, Orlando Sentinal for the photo of Orlando Police Sgt Barbara Jones.

All for "not"

The legislature in Arkansas may now have to have their govenor call a special seesion, now that someone realized how important just one word can be. What they had intended with the new law is not what it has now been revealed to be.

They had intended was to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry but also to add a provision that would allow pregnant teenagers to marry with their parents permission stated bill sponser Rep Will Bond. The bill reads: "In order for a person who is younger than eighteen (18) years of age and who is not pregnant to obtain a marriage license, the person must provide the county clerk with evidence of parental consent to the marriage."

"It's clearly no the intent to allow 10 year-olds or 11 year-olds to marry. The legislation was screwed up," stated Bond.

An extraneous "not" in the bill allows anyone who isn't pregnant, to marry at any age. A code revision commission, which fixes typographical or technical errors in the law had tried to fix it but a group of legislators said that it had gone beyond its power. They feel that you either are or aren't pregnant and that isn't a typographical error.

"I am concerned about pedophiles coming to Arkansas to find parents who are willing to sign a very young child's consent," stated Sue Madison.

The Arkansas Legislative Council has asked an independent commision to reverse it's correction and several lawmakers have stated that it may be necessary to have a special session. Another issue is that the Legislature formally adjourned its session and isn't schedualed to meet again until January 2009, unless Gov Mike Beebe calls for a special session.

Before the new law took effect July 31, girls could get married with parental consent and boys at 17. Now, thanks to an overlooked "not," kids in Arkansas can marry before they know how to tie their sneakers.

Update: posted Sept 1

Gov Mike Beebe has stated that he is not inclined to call a special legislative session to correct the error that exists in a new law that would allow even toddlers to marry with parental permission. He added that he would do so if legislative leaders pushed for one but he would rather avoid the expense of it.

Beebe also stated that for the time being, he feels most clerks feel that they do not have to issue a marriage license if they feel that the children would be in a situation that would make them vulnerable. It is more than strange to me........ Beebe wants to avoid the extra cost of fixing the law and would instead take the risk of being sued. Yes, in this sue-crazy nation, he has stated that he feels that clerks will do what is "right" but that may not be what is on the books for law. I would bet that there is going to be someone who will challenge the decision a clerk makes in the near future.

The show must go on

"Things are taken too far. It's about time they drew the line and got real," stated Val Clarke, Exmouth Operatic Societychairman.

The Exmouth Operatic Society, England, is searching for that one special actor to fill a part in their upcoming schedualed play. He can be of any size and shape, should be able to sing, dance and move and be willing to do a brief striptease on stage. That sounds fairly simple it would seem, except that he has to be black by law.

The rehearsals for the play are set to begin next month and the group is determined that "the show must go on." regardless of the temporary roadblock. The Race Relations Act of 1976 stipulates under Section 5(2)(a) that a black actor should play a black man and was imposed at a time when theatre groups often overlooked black actors.

Clarke feels that those days are long gone but she also stated that they would not be allowed to use a white actor in black-up. They have been trying to find an actor to fill the part of Horse but if they can't, she said that they would try all other possible ways including going back to the license holder.

The Commission for Racial Equality has said that it could not say if it was correct to use black make-up on an actor and whether people would find that offensive is subjective. A CRE spokesman had suggested that organisers of events like that may wish to consult with members of the community to guage their views on the subject.

With all the frivalous lawsuits lately, I can understand the concern that they might offend someone with black-up. It's acting though, the telling of a story and to demand that they remain entirely faithful to the colors of the characters and I am sure races, seems a bit excessive. Does this mean that an Asian theatre group would not be allowed to perform the play? They are performing, let them tell the tale with whatever actors have volunteered for the parts.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We're not funding that

The Japanese government recently dropped the subsidies for a program for the hearing impaired. It seems that if you are hearing impaired there, you will also have to be humor impaired.

The program in question is a Japanese version of the Canadian show "Naked News" and it has evidently angered the Japanese communications ministry. Part of the ministry's budget supports programming for the hearing impaired and they felt that a program such as this wasn't what they wanted to fund.

The Japanese version was to feature a Japanese anchorwoman stripping off her clothing while reading tabloid news in sign language. Shinichino Fukuyama, a spokesman for the show's producer, Paradise Television Inc, stated that they won't give up. They may now just air it live with some improvisations by the anchorwoman and a have a higher level of sign language. Fukuyamam stated that the principle of their company was to entertain their audience, regardless of whether they are hearing impaired.

I do wonder what in particular is the problem for the ministry, especially in a country that has brought us some very bizarre programming, strange game shows and seems to offer someplace for every weird interest in their residents. It could be rather interesting watching an anchorwoman try to strip, read the news and sign, all at the same time.