Archive for July, 2012

For many, the last country to raise an allegation of drug doping would be China — a country repeatedly accused of cheating on everything from the ages of gymnasts to the doping of athletes. Drilling down a bit further, the last Chinese official to raise such an allegation would be China’s Chen Zhanghao who, according to one of China’s reporters “is arguably tainted by his own role in sports doping in the ’80s and ’90s.” Yet in the wake of questions raised by China’s Ye Shiwen’s record performance, it was Chen Zhanghao who went public with the suggestion that Michael Phelps must have been drugged up to win so many gold medals.

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The fencing competition came to a halt yesterday after South Korea fencer Shin A-Lam sat weeping on the piste for over an hour after a controversial ruling in the semi-final. As the father of a couple fencers, I was not surprised by the controversy but I was surprised by one of the reasons for the delay — a lack of cash.

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Twitter appears to be claiming more athletes than drugs or injuries this year. We recently discussed the decision to remove a Greek jumper from the Olympic team over a couple of tweets that were considered offensive. I disagreed with that decision, though many have supported it. Now, Swiss Michel Morganella has been sent home for making insulting remarks on Twitter about South Koreans after the South Korean soccer team beat the Swiss, 2-1, on Sunday.

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This happy picture is Margaux Tocci, 19, after she was arrested for allegedly arranging for her former boyfriend to come to a New Jersey schoolyard to be beaten and robbed.

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This video has caused a stir over alleged use of excessive force by a Transit police officer in New York city.

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The mystery woman who has caused such an international stir from the opening games has been found. Fingers have been pointed in every direction after a mysterious woman was shown walking with the Indian athletes in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. People demanded to know who could possibly walk to the front of a team and participate in the almost sacred progression for elite athletes. The answer is Madhura Nagendra, a graduate student from the southern city of Bangalore.

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This week’s lesson from life comes from Chicago where we are celebrating my mother’s 85th birthday and my daughter’s 7th birthday. They share the same day. I took the kids and our dog Molly to the Montrose Beach Dog Park on the Northside. It is the ultimate dog park where you can swim with your dog on a beautiful beach. It was then that the kids decided to make a sand castle . . .

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This would have seemed a good case for prosecutorial discretion. Wallace Weatherholt, 63, was operating a tour boat when he allegedly dangled a fish in the water to feed the alligators and give his passengers a good picture. The alligator took the fish . . . and his right hand. It was a stupid and illegal act if true. However, I would put the act of having one’s hand bitten off by a nine-foot alligator as sufficient punishment without the need to add a second-degree misdemeanor.

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There is an interesting case in Granbury, Texas where two middle school students created a fake Facebook page for a 12-year-old classmate. That would normally result in a serious sit down with school officials and parents for the students, aged 12 and 13. In this case, however, the two were arrested for online impersonation, a third-degree felony. The case raises another example of how we have criminalized so much of our society. The over-criminalization of our society has taken misconduct that was once a matter of private or school discipline and converted it into felonies.

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We have another fresh outrage from a Sharia verdict: a couple in Mali was stoned to death by extreme Islamic activists in Northern Mali.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that the Kentucky State Bar violated the rights of John M. Berry Jr. who was threatened with an ethics charge after criticizing the state Legislative Ethics Commission. In an important victory for free speech, the panel found that the bar violated the first amendment rights of the attorney.

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A study by a former skeptic of global warming — and funded in part by the Koch Brothers — has confirmed that human activity is likely causing the Earth to warm. Prof Richard Muller was once a critic of global warming but now says the evidence is clear in establishing the connection to human activity.

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The family of Bryan Lee Glenn, 30, is suing IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi Mississippi in a case of over serving. Usually such cases involve dram shop crimes by a third party being injured or killed by a drunk driver. In this case, the family alleges that the casino kept serving Glenn until he returned to his hotel room and collapsed and died.

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by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” – Sigmund Freud

“One man’s ‘magic’ is another man’s engineering. ‘Supernatural’ is a null word.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Words are magic . . . or so it seems. Words can make people change their minds. Words can make others take actions even against their own best interests. Words can shape the world, determine the fate of nations and people, create and destroy. However, as Robert Heinlein noted, one man’s magic is another man’s engineering and in the modern world, propaganda is the most engineered form of communication possible.

Magica verba est scientia et ars es.

The magic of words is science and art.

The science is in the methodology and psychology of execution. The art is in making the message appealing. This is the essence of rhetoric. How is this so?  Let us first consider the methodologies of propaganda as a form of rhetoric before we look at the psychology behind these tactics. Although the psychology applies to both negative (black), positive (white) and value neutral (grey) uses of propaganda, in the context of this portion of the discussion, the word “propaganda” should be viewed with its maximum possible negative value load, i.e. the kind of bad propaganda designed to get you to act against your best interests or to harm others. Why? Because many of these tactics favored  modern political polemicists are rooted in logical fallacies and outright lies. Knowing “snakes” as a category isn’t as useful as knowing “pit vipers” as a sub-category when the survival of the species can be at stake so we’ll consider the dangerous kinds of propaganda first. Why? Because if you treat all snakes like they are dangerous, then you are less likely to get bitten.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw) Guest Blogger

I have discussed the Second Amendment and the difficulties I have in allowing citizens to own semi-automatic weapons and large capacity clips of ammunition in the past, but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a recent Fox News interview, just took my concern over semi-automatic weapons and shot it down.. with a shoulder firing rocket!  (more…)

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Well, who could have seen this coming? Brenda Honeycutt was an employee at the Duluth, Georgia, Chick-Fil-A, when, according to the complaint,  her supervisor, Jeff Howard, fired her so she could be a “stay home” mother. Honeycutt was promoted to General Manager by the previous management and performed her duties in a satisfactory or above satisfactory manner, according to the complaint filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.

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Dumpster Diving Bears

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Some baby bears got stuck in a dumpster overnight while their mother waited nearby. Ruidoso, New Mexico couple Tom and Shirley Schenk had an idea. Read more here.

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A Tale Of Two Busts

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

To deflect attention away from the Romney fiasco that his trip to England has become, Charles Krauthammer resurrected an old story: “Obama started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.” The inference is that this story demonstrates animus between Obama and Britain. The bust had been loaned to then-President George W. Bush from the U.K.’s government art collection, for the duration of his presidency.

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Find The Kitteh Contest

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Click to enlarge. Bonus points available. Solution below the fold.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Well, Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells couldn’t do it but Pastor Dr. Stan Weatherford of the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Mississippi could. Weatherford informed Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson that members of his congregation wouldn’t allow them to be married in the church and thus catapulted them back in time to Mississippi circa 1962. Seems the Wilsons violated a cardinal sin of this church — they are African-Americans. On the day before the wedding, the Wilsons were told that “The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if he went on to marry her, then they would vote [Weatherford] out the church.”

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A lawsuit has been filed against what many consider to be the nation’s top public high school, The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virginia. Coalition of The Silence, an advocacy group led by former county School Board member Tina Hone, and the Fairfax chapter of the NAACP have filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson has resulted in too few minority students.

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There is a bizarre rape story out of Nigeria where Uroko Onoja, a wealthy businessman, reportedly died after being raped by his multiple wives. Polygamy is common in Nigeria and the wives reportedly became jealous with the husband’s focus on his sixth and youngest wife.

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Various former Scientologists have accused the Church of heavy-handed tactics of harassment and threats after they went public with accusations of cult-like activities or fraudulent practices. The most recent, however, is the great grandson of the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. Jamie DeWolf held nothing back recently in accusing the Church of harassing him — describing his great grandfather as a “portly red-headed charismatic lying con-man pseudoscience self-help author.”

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The fallout from the controversial interview given by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy over anti-gay comments continues to build. While most business leaders work hard to keep their political and religious views from affecting customers or their business, Cathy came out swinging with comments saying that he runs the company according to Biblical commands and that he views gay marriage as a sin. The result has been national boycott, store protests, and most recently moves in major cities like Chicago to bar the restaurant. The suggested legislation in Chicago would be in my view unconstitutional. Despite our disagreement with Cathy, civil libertarians should defend his right to do business without harassment or censure from the government for his views. His company is subject to anti-discrimination laws. Those laws protect his employees from “Biblical” harassment.

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The swimming community in the Washington area has been rocked by news that a prominent swimming coach, Rick Curl, has been accused for having sexual relations with an underaged girl in the 1980s. The report below details a settlement under which the girl agreed to remain silent about the allegations — allowing Curl to continue to coach and participate in the U.S. Olympic team staff. USA Swimming has issued a statement on the controversy.

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Greek Triple jumper Voula Papachristou has been expelled from Greece’s Olympic team this week for mocking African immigrants and expressing support on Twitter for the far-right Golden Dawn party. Despite the obnoxious content of these views for many of us, I believe that the move raises serious free speech concerns.

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Since prospective law professors are suing law schools on the basis of age discrimination, it did not take long for law students to follow suit. C. Michael Kamps of Rockwall, Texas, is suing Baylor Law School for age discrimination on the grounds that he went to college before the use of grade inflation — resulting in a discriminatory impact based on his age.

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This cat appears to love a good vacuuming — though we recommend the shag carpeting setting. The ultimate example of multitasking for the busy pet owner.

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I am in Salt Lake City today for the hearing on the government’s second motion to dismiss the challenge to the state’s bigamy law by the Brown family — the cast of TLC’s Sister Wives program. As always in dealing with my own cases, I have to be circumspect in any public comments on the case. [Update: The court has promised a decision soon on whether it will proceed to rule on the constitutionality of the state law]

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We have previously discussed the role of former General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin in the disastrous handling of the Sandusky scandal by Penn State. Baldwin is cited in the Freeh Report for her alleged failure to fully informed university officials and her opposition to an independent review that might have protected the university from the scandal and recently imposed heavy penalties against the school. Now former Penn State president Graham Spanier is joining in that criticism, saying that Baldwin failed to hire an experienced law firm during the grand jury probe.

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We have been discussing for years how the United States and other nations continue to underfund preparations for the next pandemic. While spending billions for wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has not done enough to fund medical research in anticipation of a worldwide killer that is now overdue from a historical standpoint. MIT researchers, however, have at least given citizens some help in planning for their pandemic travels. The researchers found that Kennedy and LAX are the leading risk airports. The third airport to avoid? Honolulu International. The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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Donald S. Dobkin, 59, has taken an unconventional approach to getting on a law faculty. Dobkin has repeatedly sued the University of Iowa and the College of Law after they turned him down for a faculty position — alleging age discrimination. Dobkin has sued Iowa before after he learned that an allegedly younger and less qualified lawyer was hired over him.

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The University of Illinois College of Law has had a tough run in recent years. The school was hammered by an admissions scandal after it allegedly admitted unqualified or less competitive students to secure jobs or to please powerful politicians. Now it has been hit with a public censure and $250,000 fine by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar for intentionally reporting and publishing false admissions data in six out of the last 10 years.

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There is a fascinating defamation case out of Fairfax Virginia this week. A Fairfax jury has found Hong Kong financier Eric Hotung guilty of defamation and awarded his son $1.2 million. It is an award that seems difficult to square with the conventional definitions of defamation as well as the reaction of some of the jurors.

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Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., reportedly wanted to leave work early. Not an uncommon desire in the American workforce. However, Fury acted on his desire by setting fire to a nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Miami attack submarine — causing $400 million in damage. He now faces life in prison for allegedly seeking a day off through arson. One fire was reportedly set after Fury was dumped by his girlfriend.

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The Kitty Claude Rains

Why do most cats seem constantly shocked by human behavior? They are often “shocked, shocked” by everything from a suggestion that it get off the couch to the accusation that the feathers all over the floor indicate that it finally ate the family’s pet cockatoo.

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Indiana University Southeast near Louisville, Kentucky is at the center of a free speech controversy over a school code that bars students from expressing opinions on campus except in designated free speech zones. The code flips the presumption of higher education: students must generally refrain from free speech and even apply for the right to express opinions. The code, first promulgated in 2004, is being challenged as an example of how universities are cracking down on free speech.

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Tony Robbins is facing a series of potential lawsuits after at least 21 people were treated for burns after a late-night firewalking event. The fire walking resulted in second- and third-degree burn injuries at the motivational speaker’s event at the San Jose Convention Center. He called the event “Unleash the Power Within” — it was not clear if the burns were caused by the unleashing of the inner power or the superheated coals that they were walking on.
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Dominick L. Verducci, 69, may be the first person arrested for an aggravated raspberry. Verducci was arguing with his apartment manager when he say he would would “knock the nose” off his face and then blew a raspberry. The Gainesville police officer determined that a particle of spit hit Sunrise Villas Apartments property manager Thomas Stommel’s face. Accordingly, he was charged with battery.

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Michael Ben-Ari, a member of the National Union Party in the Israeli Knesset, wanted a staff member to film him recently for his constituents to see. While most politicians go for the baby kissing scene or memorial day speech, Ben-Ari wanted to be shown tearing out the New Testament from a bible and throwing it into the garbage — a despicable act of religious intolerance and hate.

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We previously discussed the case of Paul Chambers who was arrested for a tweet joking about blowing up an airport after his flight was canceled in England. Now a New Jersey man, Bill Miller, is in a similar situation after he joked to a friend in a text message that his catamaran had capsized. His friend notified the authorities and he is now charged with felony charge of causing a false public alarm — a charge that comes with a potential five year jail sentence.

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Marketing is everything on adoption day at the pound

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

I have written in the past about corporations dodging taxes, but this latest story out of Washington takes the cake. Susan Ford, an executive with Corning, Inc. testified recently at a House Ways and Means committee meeting and made the following claim.  “American manufacturers are at a distinct disadvantage to competitors headquartered in other countries. Specifically, foreign manufacturers uniformly face a lower corporate tax rate than U.S. manufacturers, and virtually all operate under territorial systems which encourage investment both abroad and at home.” Think Progress  That is a very strong statement coming from Ms. Ford.  What is really interesting is that her claim that foreign companies face a lower corporate tax rate would be important issue,  if it only was true! (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

(Updated below.)

I think the following story out of Kentucky is an interesting one. Savannah Dietrich, a seventeen-year-old, is the victim of a sexual assault. Last August, she was assaulted by two boys she knew after she passed out at a party. It wasn’t until months later that Dietrich learned that pictures of her assault had been taken and shared with other people.

The victim told a newspaper that she cried herself to sleep for months. She added, “I couldn’t go out in public places. You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?”

According to the Courier-Journal, Dietrich felt frustrated by what she thought “was a lenient plea bargain for two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident.” She took to Twitter and named her attackers. She also tweeted, “There you go, lock me up. I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell” and “Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.”

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by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

“Non-violence” by Swedish sculptor Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
U.N. Visitor’s Plaza, New York, New York
A gift from Luxembourg.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last forty-eight hours, you have no doubt seen the coverage concerning the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. If you possess even a minimal level of empathy for your fellow human beings, twelve dead and fifty-eight wounded when their only crime was wanting to see a movie can only be properly described as tragic. Among the dead accounted for up to this point are a man who had been celebrating his twenty-seventh birthday (Alex Sullivan), a member of our Navy (Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer), a twenty-four year old aspiring sports journalist (Jessica Ghawi), and a six year-old girl. Some less responsible outlets are reporting this little girl’s name (Huffington Post, looking your direction), but other more responsible outlets are not. I will not post her name for the same reason others have declined: the little girl remains unidentified because her mother, also a victim of this horrific crime with gunshot wounds to the neck and abdomen, remains paralyzed in hospital and has not yet been told of her daughter’s death. Even in reporting on events, sometimes a little discretion goes a long way and does not impair the “public’s right to know” in any substantive manner.

Over the next few days, you will see many attempts by people with various political agendas trying to monopolize on this shooting to promote their pet causes. In fact, it has already started and in a most heinous manner. During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” show, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” . . . and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter. Gohmert in one fell swoop illustrated that not only is he a base political opportunist, but that he apparently doesn’t understand the 1st or 2nd Amendments very well – a common affliction among Texas pols. Others pols are already using this as a way to promote their anti-gun agendas, their pro-gun agendas and the Twitter-verse is filling with statements from “our leaders” about this tragic event and all of them in some way self-serving.

I urge you to ignore these opportunists for a moment and to think about something else related to the Aurora shooting.

Multiple outlets are reporting that the accused gunman, James Holmes, had dyed his hair red and told the police he “was the Joker”.

There is the fantasy of violence. There is the reality of violence. They could not be more different in outcome. This presents the issue of instances like this where the line between fantasy and reality have clearly been crossed in some meaningful manner. Does this problem exist in the individual or in society itself? I submit the answer might be “a little of both”.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

This past week Professor Turley had two posts regarding the innocent victim of a police shooting: http://jonathanturley.org/2012/07/17/florida-police-pound-on-wrong-door-looking-for-suspect-without-identifying-themselves-thenves-then-shoot-and-kill-innocent-man-who-answers-the-door-with-weapon/#comments  and http://jonathanturley.org/2012/07/20/report-police-allegedly-increased-suspects-alleged-crime-after-shooting-third-person/#more-51907  These can fairly be called the latest installments of an ongoing series that details deaths and injuries sustained by people who are the victims of policing errors. There were a fair number of comments all lamenting yet another example of careless police work, in tandem with a propensity to shoot first and hope for the best. After awhile the comments petered out because this instance is but one of many that have been publicized by Professor Turley. He tries to focus attention on what seems to be blatant disregard for the rights of individual citizens. After all, what does one say after expressing their outrage at egregious behavior and impotently raging against the expected ensuing cover-ups? Emotionally, I personally feel horror and outrage when something like this happens and I desire justice in the form of stiff punishment for the avoidable errors that took an innocent life. Yet this occurs time and again as outrage simmers and yet another story captures our attention. It seems that nothing is ever really done with the macro-cosmic problem, even when on the individual level, though very occasionally, the people responsible are held to account. When I thought about the issue of police killing the wrong person it occurred to me that this is not something that has recently developed in our country, or indeed the rest of the world. In fact it seems to me that such occurrences represent a norm of human history that stems from how the entire concept of policing first came about. Policing had its origins in protecting wealth, property and the status quo of autocratic authority.  (more…)

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Michael Salman, a pastor from Phoenix, Arizona, is currently serving 60 days in prison. He was also sentenced to three years probation and was ordered to pay a $12,180 fine. Salman’s crime? hosting weekly Bible studies on his 4.6 acre property. Salman is being represented by John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, who has petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Author note: This is the fifth in a series about the child sexual abuse scandal at The Pennsylvania State University that helped bring down iconic football coach Joe Paterno and three top officials at the premier public college in Pennsylvania.  

The Magician

Penn State’s ousted president and amateur magician, Graham Spanier, enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for secrecy while leading the state’s flagship public university. In one instance, Spanier became incensed when he learned that the Harrisburg Patriot-News had obtained the salaries of the top PSU officials –  including Joe Paterno  – from the state pension board.  (Paterno had consistently made mention of the fact that he received around $500,000 per year as a coach, donating much of it back to PSU. Many prominent FBS football coaches make up to ten times that amount and it appears Paterno was fudging a bit on his salary.) Spanier embarked on a five-year fight to block publication of the salaries, taking the case through the entire appeals process and up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Spanier lost at every level. Undaunted and against the odds, he successfully lobbied Pennsylvania state lawmakers to reject closing the loophole which exempted college employees salaries from the state’s “right-to-know” law. With that legislative prestidigitation, he just made the problem disappear.

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There are millions of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia. However, the Interior Ministry has warned non-Muslims that they are expected to respect Islamic restrictions during Ramadan and refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan. Thus for a full month, non-Muslims are expected to act as Muslims in public in the ultimate denial of religious freedom.
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We have been following the case of Andrew Scott who was fatally shot by Lake County Deputies looking for a suspect in his apartment complex. Police did not identify themselves when they knocked on Scott’s door around 1:30 am. When Scott came to the door armed and allegedly pointed the gun at the officers, they killed him. Now, there is an allegation that officers increased the alleged crime of the suspect after the shooting.

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