Friday, July 01, 2005

Police Probe Alleged Radio Confession on 'Boortz'
Associated Press
"A man in custody in Texas called in to a radio talk show and told the show's producer that he killed a store clerk in Atlanta more than a decade ago, authorities said. Authorities issued a warrant Thursday for Cheo Ash, 30, who had called the 'Neal Boortz Show' on Wednesday from a pay phone in a state mental hospital in San Antonio, where he is awaiting a competency hearing in a burglary case," reports the AP's Greg Bluestein. Says Boortz Show executive producer Belinda Skelton, who fielded the call: "My biggest fear was for him to get agitated with me and hang up. Luckily, he was a willing participant. Most people that call me don't confess to murders."

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O'Connor to Retire From Supreme Court
Associated Press
"Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty, said Friday she is retiring. O'Connor, 75, said she expects to leave before the start of the court's next term in October, or whenever the Senate confirms her successor," writes the AP's Gina Holland. Possible replacements are said to include: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, federal courts of appeals judges J. Michael Luttig, John Roberts, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Michael McConnell, Emilio Garza and James Harvie Wilkinson III, former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, lawyer Miguel Estrada, former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson, and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge Edith Hollan Jones. UPDATE: President Bush has scheduled an 11:15 press conference to discuss the O'Connor retirement. UPDATE 2: Bush hails O'Connor's service; no successor named.
> Sandra Day O'Connor Says Goodbye: 'The Game's Afoot'
> O'Connor is retiring: 'Yes, it's true'
> 'Get ready for the mother of all political battles'
> 'Kristol called it on O'Connor retirement'
> It's inevitable: Roe is going to go
> Gonzales: unseemly campaigning (Via Balloon Juice)
> Expect Bush to 'play to the right' on nom

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Howard Beach suspect has gone batty before
New York Daily News
According to the Daily News, Nicholas Minucci, the "Howard Beach hooligan charged with beating a black man with a bat, was once arrested for another bias bat attack — allegedly assaulting a turban-wearing man just hours after the Sept. 11 attacks. ... During the beating, Minucci allegedly screamed, 'F-----g Arab! Why don't you blow this up!' a source familiar with the incident said." Minucci was arraigned yesterday on hate crime charges for his alleged assault on Glenn Moore, who remains in critical condition at Jamaica Hospital.

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New da Vinci picture discovered
BBC
Using infrared technology, experts at London's National Gallery have discovered a new painting by Leonardo da Vinci in a surprising place: underneath one of his existing masterpieces, the Virgin of the Rocks. According to BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones, "da Vinci was probably planning a picture of an adoration of the Christ child, but abandoned the idea before drawing Jesus as a baby."

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Brooke Shields blasts Cruise's 'ridiculous rant'
Reuters
"Actress Brooke Shields on Friday fired back at Tom Cruise after the actor criticized her for having revealed she had taken an antidepressant to cope with post-natal depression," reports Reuters. Says Shields: "If any good can come of Mr. Cruise’s ridiculous rant, let’s hope that it gives much-needed attention to a serious disease."
> SHIELDS: WAR OF THE WORDS

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Teens Charged With Opossum Torture
Associated Press
Three Iowa teens have been arrested for animal cruelty after authorities discovered a videotape depicting them "laughing and jeering as they set opossums on fire." One Animal Rescue League official calls it "the worst animal torture" he's ever seen.

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Virginia Beach woman wins lawsuit against 'Girls Gone Wild'
The Virginian-Pilot —> The Obscure Store
"A jury on Wednesday ordered the company that produces the 'Girls Gone Wild' videos to pay $60,150 for filming and using the image of a Virginia Beach woman without her written consent," reports Jon Frank of the Pilot. Debbie Aficial, 26, had told jurors earlier in the week that, while she had given the producers verbal permission to film her as she kissed fellow Bar Norfolk patron Aimee Davalle, she was drinking alcohol at the time and didn't realize that the film would be widely distributed. Says Aficial's attorney, Kevin E. Martingayle: "They needed a smack-down, and they got one. Maybe they should stay in California from now on."

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Ex-Hostages Say New Iran President Was a Captor
Associated Press
Five former hostages have stepped forward to say that Iran's newly elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was one of their captors 25 years ago. "I can absolutely guarantee you he was not only one of the hostage-takers, he was present at my personal interrogation," says former hostage, David Roeder. Adds retired Army colonel Chuck Scott: "This is the guy. There's no question about it. You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."
> UPDATE: IRANIAN PRESIDENT NO HOSTAGE-TAKER, LEADERS SAY
> IRANIANS IN BELGIAN ALCOHOL ROW

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ABC pulls 'Neighborhood' series after protests
Hollywood Reporter
"Under pressure from a broad coalition of advocacy groups ranging from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to the conservative Family Research Council, ABC has decided to shelve its six-episode reality series 'Welcome to the Neighborhood,' which had been scheduled to debut July 10," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Cynthia Littleton. Says ABC: "Our intention with 'Welcome to the Neighborhood' was to show the transformative process that takes place when people are forced to confront preconceived notions of what makes a good neighbor, and we believe the series delivers exactly that. However, the fact that true change only happens over time made the episodic nature of this series challenging, and given the sensitivity of the subject matter in early episodes, we have decided not to air the series at this time."

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Mexican Postage Stamp Sparks Outrage
LA Times
"A newly issued series of postage stamps showing a once-popular black comic book character with exaggerated thick lips has reignited controversy over racial attitudes in Mexico, six weeks after President Vicente Fox was forced to apologize for remarks perceived as insensitive toward black Americans," reports the LA Times. Based on the Memin Pinguin character created in 1947 by Yolanda Vargas Dulche, the stamp is sparking outrage on both sides of the US-Mexican border. Popular Afro-Mexican singer Johnny Laboriel says, "Of course people are going to be offended by the caricature. The idea to put out this postage stamp is the biggest stupidity. They do this without thinking of the consequences." Adds the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who contends that the "Sambo-type" stamp is demeaning: "I called the Mexican ambassador in Washington and asked him to call President Fox and ask him to apologize and to take the stamp off the market." But Mexican Postal Service director Gustavo Islas says there are no plans to do so. "Whoever sees the character as something offensive is looking at things completely wrongly," he says.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Study: Relax, big fella, you're probably 'average'
Reuters
"Men worried about having a small penis are usually pretty average, but have a false idea of what the normal size is, according to a report in the medical journal Urology," reports Reuters. What's average? "1.6 inches or more when flaccid or 2.76 inches when stretched out," says the report. Men in the study estimated that the "normal" flaccid length should be just over 5 inches.

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Report: Putin pockets Patriots owner's Super Bowl ring
Associated Press
Russian news sources are reporting that "President Vladimir Putin walked off with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring" after trying it on during a Saturday meeting at Konstantinovsky Palace. What's still unclear is whether Kraft actually intended to give the ring to the Russian leader, or simply meant to show it to him. Says team spokesman Stacey James: "It's an incredible story. I just haven't been able to talk to Robert Kraft to confirm the story."
> UPDATE: I GAVE RING TO PUTIN, KRAFT SAYS (VIA OTB)

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California imam fired for alleged bin Laden support
Associated Press —> Captain's Quarters
Shabbir Ahmed, 39, "one of two imams detained on immigration charges as part of an FBI investigation into alleged terror activities in the Islamic community in Lodi, [CA]" has been fired by the Lodi Muslim Mosque for "speaking out against the United States and supporting Osama bin Laden in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks," reports the Associated Press. "We don’t want that kind of person who has spoken against the United States," explains mosque president Mohammed Shoaib.

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Iraqi security forces plagued by infiltrators
LA Times
Insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security forces in large numbers, and their activities are being coordinated by former regime elements, or FREs, reports the Times' Patrick J. McDonnell. "We believe part of the FRE strategy is to infiltrate the security forces with elements under their control and to get them into positions of influence," says Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines. Adds one high-ranking but unnamed US officer: "I think it is the greatest long-term threat to the security of the country."

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Secret report: Milk supply vulnerable to terror; 'hundreds of thousands' of deaths possible
Washington Post
"About a third of an ounce of botulism toxin poured by bioterrorists into a milk truck en route from a dairy farm to a processing plant could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in economic losses, according to a scientific analysis that was published yesterday despite efforts by federal officials to keep the details secret," writes the Post's Rick Weiss. Says one of the scientists involved in the study: "It was clear the dairy people were nervous about this paper coming out."

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Congress Gives Itself a Raise
Associated Press
"The House agreed Tuesday that members of Congress should earn $3,100 more next year, bringing their salaries to $165,200," reports the AP. Only one member, Democrat Jim Matheson of Utah, opposed the measure.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

CA State Guard forms anti-terrorism intelligence unit
San Jose Mercury News —> Balloon Juice
"Three decades after aggressive military spying on Americans created a national furor, California's National Guard has quietly set up a special intelligence unit that has been given 'broad authority' to monitor, analyze and distribute information on potential terrorist threats," reports the Mercury News' Dion Nissenbaum. Civil libertarians are concerned — particularly about reports that "top National Guard officials have already been involved in tracking at least one recent Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers." Says former Army intelligence officer Christopher Pyle: "The National Guard doesn't need to do this. Its job is not to investigate individuals, but to clear streets, protect facilities and help first responders." But the Guard's Col. Stan Zezotarski says the new unit isn't investigating citizens. "We do not do any type of surveillance or human intelligence or mixing with crowds. The National Guard does not operate in that way. We have always had a policy where we respect the rights of citizens."

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Trafalgar show a poke in the eye for Nelson kin
Reuters
A descendant of British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson thinks the decision to feature red and blue teams in today's official reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar is an example of political correctness run amok. "I think the idea of the blue team fighting the red team is pretty stupid. I am sure the French and Spanish are adult enough to appreciate we did win that battle," says great great great granddaughter Anna Tribe. Alex Naylor, the historian playing Nelson in today's event, agrees, and adds: "If you obliterate history for the sake of political correctness, you can’t learn from the past. Nelson thought politicians were cowards. I tend to agree."
> BLUE FLEET EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY
> RED VS BLUE 'MENTALLY ILL'

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Night of the Living Dogs
New York Post
"In a series of nightmarish experiments straight out of a horror flick, scientists at a leading university have killed dozens of dogs — then brought them back to life," writes the Post's Bill Hoffmann. The experiments, which involve removing the dogs' blood and replacing it with an cold saline solution that drops their body temperatures to near freezing levels, and then "reanimating" them three hours later by replacing the blood and administering electric shocks to restart their hearts, have angered animal right activists, but the scientists are defending their work. "From our standpoint, we believe it's a very important area of research," says the University of Pittsburgh's Dr. Patrick Kochanek. Counters PETA's Mary Beth Sweetland: "These experiments are indefensible nonsense and the results for humans will be negligible. I would also imagine there are serious consequences for these animals that aren't discussed."

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WHO: 5,000 birds dead of avian flu in China's northwest
Associated Press
According to the World Health Organization, 5000 birds have died of Avian flu in China's northwest — five times as many as the Chinese government had previously reported. With twenty birds a day dying in Qinghai province alone, concerned WHO officials are calling for more testing.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Gene Hunters Flock to Amish Country
Associated Press
Some of the most important genetic research in the world today is being done in a "tidy clapboard structure" in the middle of a Pennsylvania cornfield that houses both the Clinic for Special Children and the Amish Research Clinic. Why? Because, in exchange for providing advanced care for Amish children, "who are disproportionately afflicted by rare and sometimes fatal genetic-based diseases because of 200 years of inbreeding," scientists have been able to "spend countless hours rooting through a rich genetic trove that only an insular genetic pool like the Amish can offer" -- which has led to major breakthroughs in areas like diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome. Says Terry Sharrer, medical curator of the Smithsonian Institution: "It's weird and it's wonderful. I have never seen anything like this."

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Killer Nurse Admits Killing Five More Patients
Associated Press
Charles Cullen, 45, a former nurse who had already "pleaded guilty to killing 24 patients admitted Monday to killing five more people by injecting them with lethal doses of drugs, ... bringing to 29 the number of victims he has confessed to slaying in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," reports the AP. Cullen was arrested in 2003, and has told investigators that he may have killed as many as forty people.

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Pakistan: Gang-rape victim appeals acquittal
CBC News
Gang-raped on the orders of a traditional village council in 2002 because of her 12-year-old brother's alleged affair with a local woman, Mukhtar Mai has traveled to Islamabad to appeal her attackers' acquittal to Pakistan's Supreme Court. "I am expecting the Supreme Court to give the same kind of ruling that was given by the special court," says Mai, referring to the defendants' original convictions, which were overturned by a Pakistani high court in March of this year. Adds her attorney, Aitzaz Ahsan: "Our case is that the high court in acquitting has misappreciated and misread the evidence." Though Mai was not allowed to travel to the US earlier this month to discuss her case, she tells CBC News that her passport has now been returned.
> UPDATE: PAKISTAN RAPE ACQUITTALS REJECTED

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You've Read the Gossip; Still Want to See the Movie?
New York Times
With Tom Cruise's "War of the Worlds" set to open this week, Hollywood executives are starting to wonder whether the intense focus on movie stars' private lives is beginning to take its toll at the box office. Says Exhibitor Relations president Paul Dergarabedian: "It's a slippery slope. Once everything starts becoming about the celebrity and not the movie, it could be problematic, but it's difficult to quantify what impact that has."
> ARE THE MOVIES DYING?
> US BOX OFFICE HITS LONGEST MODERN SLUMP
> 'BATMAN' SWOOPS PAST 'BEWITCHED'

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New website to make government reports available
Associated Press
With a staff of 700 and a budget of $100 million a year, the Congressional Research Service produces in-depth reports on topics ranging from terrorism to Social Security which are currently only distributed to members of Congress. But a new website aims to change that. OpenCRS.com has indexed more than 8000 of these reports (none of which are classified) and is making them available to the public on their site. Says Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists: "This initiative ought to embarrass the Congress into changing its policy and making these documents universally available."

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

'At least 70' suspects secretly detained since 9/11
Newsweek
The Department of Justice has secretly detained at least 70 terror suspects on "material witness" warrants since 9/11, nearly 90% of whom "were never linked to any terrorism acts, resulting in prosecutors and FBI agents issuing at least 13 apologies for wrongful arrest," according to a new report in Newsweek magazine. Says a member of one civil rights group: "The law was never designed to be used this way." But Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden argues that material witness warrants are a "critical" tool for the war on terror, and notes that every warrant has been "based on 'probable cause' and approved by a federal judge."

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John Keitz: Mr. Big
Washington Post
John Keitz, 625 pounds and 39 years of age, has not walked since his weight took him to the floor as he was preparing a macaroni and cheese dinner on August 1, 1998. But with the support of family and friends (if not the local Maryland media, which has on occasion gone out of its way to make him a figure of fun), he has lost 156.8 pounds in bed, and hopes to walk again one day. "Don't underestimate the fat man," he says.

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Fighting West Nile: One man's near-death experience
San Jose Mercury News
Ten months after his life was almost ruined by a mosquito bite, Max del Hierro is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of West Nile virus. "I think I've been given a chance to live again," del Hierro tells the Mercury News. "You see life totally differently. I've been given a chance to educate people. I feel strongly that people not get this virus. My getting sick was one too many."

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'Clueless cops' blew it as kids died
New York Post
"The three boys who suffocated in the locked trunk of a car in Camden were likely gasping for their last breaths as clueless cops searched the car interior — but inexplicably failed to pop open the trunk," reports the Post, while noting that "periods of hard rain Wednesday night may have muffled any noises they made from the insulated trunk." Says Anibal Cruz Sr., father of one of the boys: "I give them a million thanks, but basically all they did was check over the car with flashlights and never opened the trunk. They were negligent."

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