Archive for January, 2013

130130054219_Naomi McKinneyBoozer PhotoWhile they are arresting seven-year-olds in New York, South Carolina schools are expelling a six-year-old girl for bringing her brother’s toy gun into school. We have been discussing the steady stream of absurd actions taken by school officials under “zero tolerance” policies. For a prior column, click here. This is yet another example. This little girl picked up her brother’s toy gun. Rather than call the parents into the school and reprimand the girl, these school officials chose to expel her from Alice Drive Elementary in Sumter, South Carolina. It is bizarre that Principal Sheree T. Boozer (right) could not simply see a child’s mistake for what it is.

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800px-New_five_dollar_billWilson Reyes is one of those hardened criminals who are hard to break. Police handcuffed Reyes, threw him in a cruiser, and interrogated him for a reported ten hours. Yet, Reyes insisted he was innocent and had to be released . . . to his mother. The seven-year-old boy was accused of stealing $5 on a playground at his school.

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220px-USS_Guardian_aground_in_January_2013While we often criticize our government on this blog, it is important to remember that there remains great differences between this government and those around the world in areas like the environment. In an extraordinary decision, the United States Navy has decided to disassemble the $277 million USS Guardian, an important minesweeper, rather than further damage a coral reef by pulling it off the reef. This follows an equally impressive approach to drilling in the Antarctic by U.S. explorers.

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220px-Sperm_whale_podOk, this has nothing to do with the law or politics, but I cannot resist. Brit Ken Wilman, 50, is a wealthy man after his dog Madge starting playing with a smelly rock on the beach. It turned out to be a rare piece of whale vomit. However, that is not the interesting thing about the story. What is interesting is that the whale vomit is worth more than £100,000.

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460px-49ers_Logo.svgI would expect that of all of the NFL teams to espouse homophobic views, the San Francisco 49ers would probably be the least receptive forum. That did not appear to deter 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver who raged against gays in the locker room just days before Super Bowl XLVII. In contrast, Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo has used the Superbowl to advocate the rights of same-sex couples. (Conversely, Ravens center Matt Birk came out opposing equal rights for gays in marriages). Suddenly, the Superbowl has become a debate on gay and lesbian rights.

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diaper3After a DEA dog alerted agents at an airport, they found a diaper filled with powder. The problem is that it was being worn by an adult woman, Priscilla Pena, and the powder was cocaine. They then found a similar diaper on her friend Michelle Blassingale on the same flight from the Dominican Republic.

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Carmen-Ortiz-144x150We previously discussed the ignoble role played by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after being relentlessly pursued by her office in a questionable prosecution. As critics around the world questioned her methods and judgment, Ortiz issued a less than credible defense of the case. Now her office is again the subject of allegations of excessive prosecution of a small motel owner where her staff sought to seize his property.

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rashadgreenecourtroom-assultThere was a highly disturbing scene in a Domestic Relations courtroom this month after a judge left a woman with her ex-boyfriend in a room despite her saying that she was fearful of him and seeking protection. In the video below, Rashad Greene, 30, proceeded to attack Dominique Morrow, 28, in the courtroom.

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200px-mugabecloseup2008280px-Sparschwein_Haspa02We have previously discussed the corrupt regime of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his globe-trotting wife. So Mugabe and his friends and family have reportedly stolen hundreds of millions (particularly from diamond mining), but they decided to leave $217 in the bank for the rest of the country — that is far more restraint than they have been known for in the past. Now In the meantime, many are celebrating the world’s first female billionaire. She is Isobel Dos Santos. A considerable achievement to be sure until you learn that she is the daughter of Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, the second longest-serving leader on the continent and like Mugabe has been openly draining the country of wealth for decades for his family and friends.

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Sailorsarticle-2270105-173BCBED000005DC-566_306x423Phillip Walker Sailors, 69, has been charged with malice murder in the killing of Rodrigo Abad Diaz, a 22-year-old Cuban immigrant who mistakenly pulled into his driveway due to faulty GPS directions.

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220px-MohamedMorsiP350px-Selection_Birkenau_rampFathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior aide to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, has tackled a key problem for Holocaust deniers: where did all of the Jews go? His answer? America, of course.

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India flagWe have continued to follow the abuse and killing of women in countries like India, including so-called “honor killings” where parents murder their children to maintain their honor. Now Indian caste leaders have given a glimpse into the perverse perspective in such cultures with a submission to their Supreme Court.

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220px-Sergei_Magnitsky225px-Vladimir_Putin_official_portraitVladimir Putin has worked hard to maintain his carefully constructed image of a macho authoritarian figure, including sending away the members of Pussy Riot for speaking out against him and his alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. However, he continues to distinguish himself among budding dictators. For example, anyone can prosecute whistle-blowing lawyers. China continually does it. Iran does it. However, Russia is prosecuting a whistle-blowing lawyer after he died. Now that is a tough guy.

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The-Facebook-message-from-a-Skyline-father-that-started-a-police-investigation-Facebook-via-KATUWe have previously seen parents who appear less mature than their children in responding to sporting events. We would have to add a father of a student with Vancouver (Wash.) Skyview High basketball team who responded to a contentious game with a call for someone to massacre students at Camas (Wash.) High. There are calls for criminal charges and the father, who has not yet been identified, is barred from the school grounds.

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200px-Anatomymurder_trailer_2Who said law was boring? In the trial of shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in Tampa, an attorney has alleged that he was set up by the opposing law firm in a DUI arrest in the midst of the high-profile trial. The story has everything: an obnoxious defendant, a castrated pig, an attractive young female legal assistant, a missing briefcase filled with trial papers, and a double set-up plot. It is a DUI version of Anatomy of a Murder except the James Stewart never finishes the trial because he is found in a car inebriated with Lee Remick.

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220px-Large_bonfireWe have another shocking act of cultural destruction by Muslim militants in Mali. As Islamist insurgents retreated from Timbuktu, they set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts — some dating back to the thirteenth century. They also destroyed statues and temples in the name of Allah.

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PresObamaDuring President Obama’s first term, I represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s unilateral intervention into the Libyan civil war without authorization of Congress. Our case was dismissed on standing grounds and, once again, an undeclared act of war went by without any opportunity of judicial review. Now, Obama is reportedly debating whether to intervene in yet another civil war — undeterred by the now superfluous constitutional limits on his war-making authority. Israel has also publicly stated that it is considering a preemptive strike on Syria and reserves the right to make such an attack if it feels threatened by events in that civil war. [Update: I discussed this issue as part of my column on the imperial presidency this morning on C-Span]

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Kirill+Bartashevitch290px-AK-47_type_II_Part_DM-ST-89-01131In St. Paul, Kirill Bartashevitch, 52, was up in arms over President Obama’s possible gun control laws. To protect himself from such laws, Bartashevitch went out and bought an Ak-47 rifle. Soon thereafter, he was arrested for pointing the weapon at his high school daughter after she got two B’s instead of straight A’s.

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20653505_BG1s-FIFTH-GRADER-PAPER-GUN-largeWe have been discussing the steady stream of absurd actions taken by school officials under “zero tolerance” policies. For a prior column, click here. The Philadelphia school district is adding its name to this ignoble list after standing by the decision to not only scold but to search a 5th grade student after Melody Valentin was found in possession of a paper gun.

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Three Bridgeport police officers are suspended after a video was posted on YouTube showing them beating a suspect who had already been brought down with a stun gun. The ten-year-veterans — Elson Morales, Joseph Lawlor and Clive Higgins — are now under investigation.

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By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger

Dear Rep. Stam:

Two days ago I came across a story in The Huffington Post concerning your co-sponsorship of a bill to prohibit the sale of lottery tickets to North Carolinians who are bankrupt or on welfare.  Since I am certain that your proposal will generate a great deal of criticism in the liberal media, I am writing to lend my support to your idea and to commend you on your political courage.

As we all know, the misuse of welfare assistance is widespread.  In my state of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott attempted to address the problem by securing passage of a bill mandating drug testing of welfare applicants, only to have the will of the people thwarted through an injunction issued by an activist federal judge.  There always seem to be corrupt forces opposing efforts to prevent our tax dollars from supporting drug addicts and gamblers. (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

I just saw this article and I had to report on it here.  A Chicago woman is grieving the loss of her 4th child to gun violence.  Her child was one of Five people shot and killed overnight in Chicago.  (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

Last week we read Prof. Turley’s article concerning a bill proposed in New Mexico that attempts to make it unlawful for a rape victim to have an abortion because it would be akin to destroying the “evidence” of the rape claim.  While that bill is an insult to women and right thinking men everywhere, I submit that it is further evidence that the longest “war” on record, is still going strong in this country.  One of the most controversial examples of how women in general and rape victims in particular,  can be turned into the criminals by the public and even the police and prosecution is the case of an alleged gang rape in August, 2012,  in Steubenville, Ohio.

The victim was a 16-year-old girl who after passing out at a party from drinking and/or date rape drugs was allegedly repeatedly raped and abused by members of the Steubenville Big Red football team. The details of what the victim endured are both heartbreaking and disgusting.  I apologize in advance for the lurid details, but they are necessary to fully understand how egregious the attacks were and how egregious the post crime attacks on the victim and her family were. (more…)

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The Revisionaries On PBS

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

the_revisionariesThe Revisionaries, a documentary about Texas, textbooks, and the state’s Board of Education’s attempt to inject creationism into schools, will be shown on Monday, tomorrow, on the PBS show Independent Lens. Check your local listings.

H/T: NCSE, The Panda’a Thumb.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

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The stat line read: MIN PLAYED: 2  3FGA: 4  3FGM: 2 PF: 0  TP: 6. Not bad for a basketball player but hardly Lebron-esque.

But for former equipment manager turned basketball player Owen Groesser it was indeed remarkable. Owen plays for Coach Jeff Howell’s Van Hoosen Middle School seventh-grade team in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In the final home game of the season, Howell asked Owen to put down his stat sheet and suit up for the game that would decide the city championship. Owen was ecstatic especially  since he’d been practicing at home with his dad all year just to enjoy shooting around with the guys during the practice sessions. Now he had a chance to play in a real game before his friends and teachers.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The Quake of 2012

earthquake We had a  big earthquake in Virginia last November. No,  not the famous one about a year earlier that almost swamped poor Louisa County and  rattled walls all the way to Washington, D.C.  This one was political not seismic and it sent Barack Obama back into the White House for round two of a historic presidency. Once a reliably Red State, the Oldest of American Dominions and former Capitol of the Confederacy hadn’t voted for a Democratic candidate for President since ol’ “Put a Missile in the Kremlin Bathroom” Barry Goldwater scared his way out of  the 1964 election to molasses-mouthed Texan, LBJ.  2008 seemed to break the trend, but the close election was explained away  by Virginia Republicans as a sort of a once in a lifetime reaction to the nation’s first viable African-American presidential candidate  and some incredibly magnificent missteps by John McCain. Read that as picking Sarah Palin and the senator’s disjointed response to the fiscal crisis.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

HK_Central_Statue_Square_Legislative_Council_Building_n_Themis_sOne of the main concerns we Americans should have is about the state of our criminal justice system. How a society deals with the issue of criminality is one of the ways that we all can judge its freedom from oppression. This country has been selling our “democracy” to the world for 8 decades now as an example of how a modern nation should operate. (more…)

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The Limits Of Catholic Morality

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

catholic healthOn New Year’s Day 2006, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill, seven months pregnant with twin boys, was vomiting and out of breath. She called her obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, and he instructed her to go to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. Her husband Jeremy, drove her to the hospital where Lori later suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing due to a pulmonary embolism. Staples never ended up coming to the hospital. Lori’s unborn sons stayed with her.

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Dolphin Seeks Help From Diver

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The dolphin had a hook embedded in its mouth and fishing line wrapped around one of its pectoral fins, and it was wound so tightly that it had cut into the creature’s tissue. The dolphin seems to know the diver is helping it.

H/T: Raw Story.

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PresObamaA year ago, I testified in Congress that the recess appointments of President Barack Obama were unconstitutional. Those four appointments by President Obama included Richard Cordray, who had been denied confirmation to a consumer protection board in a Republican filibuster. While I liked Cordray, I testified that the appointments were in my opinion clearly unconstitutional. The D.C. Circuit has now agreed with that view and the panel unanimously ruled that Obama violated the Constitution with his circumvention of Congress.

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BaldknobcrossThe U.S. Supreme Court this week refused to hear a challenge by an Illinois atheist to the use of public funds to renovate the 111-foot-high Bald Knob Cross of Peace on the highest mountain in Southern Illinois. The court never considered the merits because Robert Sherman was found to have no standing to bring the lawsuit. I have previously written about my opposition to the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of standing — rulings that effectively insulate some constitutional violations from review as in our lawsuit against the Libyan war.

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thumb_computer_assault_2For our torts lovers, there is an interesting case out of Fort Worth. We have been following the increased litigation over websites that trash former boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses or even strangers (here and here and here). In the latest case various girlfriends are suing over what is described by some as a “revenge porn site” called Texxxan.com where men revenge on their ex-girlfriends by publishing revealing pictures of their former lovers.

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15744_187310782365_1464670_s180px-Qantas_Airways_Limited_logo.svgWe have been following the increasing crackdown on passengers wearing T-Shirts on airlines deemed offensive or threatening. These cases often raise free speech questions, but also raise serious questions of the increasing irrationality of airline staff and some passengers. The t-shirt of Wynand Mullins is a good example. Mullins wore a t-shirt on a Qantas flight from Sydney with the well-known quote from Princess Bride by character Montoya (played in the film by Mandy Patinkin): “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.” Some passengers became alarmed by the t-shirt, presumably convinced that a terrorist would not only advertise his intent but choose a fictional character from a children’s book to represent his deep homicidal beliefs. Flight staff insisted that he change his shirt. Presumably, there was a passenger with five fingers that felt personally threatened by the quotation.

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article-2267368-171FF7F3000005DC-464_634x602We have a new example for our criminal defense lawyers (and budding criminals) on the blog of how not to respond to an arrest. Faron Thompson, 29, was arrested after he tried to force his fiancée (now presumably his former fiancée) to swallow their engagement ring after she said she wanted to call off their wedding. Given his statements after the arrest, one can understand how she decided to let this gem go.

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Screen-shot-2013-01-25-at-10.21.08-AM220px-İstanbul-AyasofyaAustria’s Turkish community has launched an international campaign against Lego because it insists that a Lego model sold as “Jabba’s Palace” is based on the sacred Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul. It is a curious argument since the only similarity is the use of a classic domed palace structure. I have been to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (which is spectacular) and I fail to see the clear duplication. Ironically, the original church was dedicated to the Logos not the Legos, which might be the source of the confusion.

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HBROWNew Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R) has introduced House Bill 206, a bill that would make it a crime a rape victim to get an abortion as destruction of evidence of a crime. Brown is a lawyer and a member of the judiciary committee. She is also an ardent pro-life legislator who has made eliminating abortion (and “debunking” global warming) a mission. and, after a national outcry, says that the bill was poorly drafted will be changed to address the public concerns.

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gavel2We have previously discussed the horrific gang rape of a 23-year-old student. The trial is now beginning. However, the court has ordered that it be conducted behind closed doors despite the fact that the victim is dead. In addition, the judge has imposed a gag order on the lawyers. It is a poor decision by the judge and denies the public’s interest to view such trials. While India may not have the same right to public proceedings that we have in the United States, the denial of public access to the trial in such an important case is a terrible judgment on the part of the Court. This case has galvanized public opinion and forced Indian officials to deal with a long-ignored problem of rape in the country. Those officials would prefer for the trial to be conducted in secret.

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FirstfootballgameWe have previously discussed how Congress and the White House have yielded to demand for increasing copyright and trademark restrictions, including criminal prosecutions of ordinary citizens. One of my longest complaints is how people and businesses now claim ownership of common symbols and phrases. (here and here). This week we have two parties in a fight to claim trademark over a common expression. Roy Fox of Pendleton, Indiana secured a copyright to the term “Harbowl” last year to make money off of a Superbowl with the Baltimore Ravens under coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers under coach Jim Harbaugh. He was then muscled out of his trademark by NFL lawyers claiming to own the term “Superbowl.”

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220px-Plastic_roman_collarAustralian Catholic priest Thomas Byrne, 80, pleaded guilty in court this week to a rather shocking case of laying hands (and teeth) on another priest. Byrne bit off the ear of fellow priest, Father Thomas Smith, 81, in a parking space dispute.

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220px-NileCrocodile250px-Male_Lion_on_RockWe have previously discussed the cruelty shown by Chinese to animals in zoos and circuses. The article below offers a further glimpse into this national and cultural disgrace after a man strangled an ostrich to death in a zoo. Another report shows that a zoo in Shenzen is down to just two crocodiles from a dozen because people are killing them by throwing rocks at them and garbage into their pools.

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301px-Seal_of_Alexandria,_VA.svg220px-MichauxjunWe have previously discussed the counterproductive increases in taxes that have been implemented recently without consideration of their impact on behavior or revenue. France’s ridiculous 75 percent tax on the rich is an obvious example (now even the former French president is reportedly planning to flee the taxes for England). So is our high tax on corporations while Canada continues to lower its tax just next door. There are also reports of high earners like Tiger Woods leaving California and New York in the face of high increases. A smaller but even more moronic tax is being contemplated by Alexandria, Virginia where the city council is considering a law forcing people to register bikes so that they can be forced to pay a fee.

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220px-Beyonce_Knowles_with_necklaces220px-The_Star-Spangled_Banner_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_21566We previously discussed the insulting decision of Beyoncé to lip sync the national anthem at the Inauguration.  The story has only gotten worse with time.  First, it turns out that the Marine band also faked playing to match her fake singing.  Second, and more recently, we have learned that Beyoncé decided to lip sync the day before after showing up late and not rehearsing. It appears that gig was not important enough to her to either show up on time or work a bit later. It is not the Superbowl after all.

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PresObamaAfter the Inauguration, I shared my thoughts on President Barack Obama’s address. I liked the speech but, as with many civil libertarians, I do not share the faith in his commitment to principle — at least not the principles behind civil liberties. Below is today’s print column that touches on some of the same themes with a few additional observations.

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mqdefaultThe California Highway Patrol has agreed to a settlement of the recent case of a pregnant driver, Tamara Gaglione, 30, being hogtied by police after being stopped for talking on her cellphone. Gaglione will receive a $250,000 settlement.

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220px-Marasuchus170px-Ministry_of_Interior_Saudi_Arabia.svgThe Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is a religious police force that has been a constant presence in the Kingdom arresting woman having coffee with colleagues or forcing young girls to burn to death in fire rather than run out without their scarves. Now the religious police in Dammam marched into a popular dinosaur exhibit and shut it down without any explanation of why the dinosaurs threatened the virtue of good Muslims.

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200px-Porsche_917CJournalist Mark Hales is facing bankruptcy after he blew the engine of a £1.3million replica Porsche 917 during a test drive. Hales says that the owner, veteran Formula One ace David Piper, told him that he would cover any damage. However, Piper denied the oral agreement occurred and a court ordered Hale to pay $76,000 to cover repairs to the car, plus $100,000 in legal costs.

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teacher_244x183In Bolivia, North Carolina, former teacher Leah Gayle Shipman, 42, was spared a criminal trial on statutory rape of a student on a rather novel ground: she married the student. Shipman married Johnnie Ray Ison, 17, after divorcing her husband of 19 years. Ison married with the consent of his mother.

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220px-The_Star-Spangled_Banner_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_21566220px-Beyonce_Knowles_with_necklacesRemember the moving rendition of the National Anthem by Beyoncé at the Inaugural? Not only does it now appear that she lip synced but it took a British newspaper to uncover the truth. The Times is reporting that the spokesperson for the Marine Corp Band Kristen DuBois confirmed that Beyoncé did a Milli Vanilli with the National Anthem.

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chi-schaumburg-officers-and-female-companion-20130117Three police officers in Schaumburg, Illinois (outside Chicago) have been indicted for allegedly teaming up with a drug dealer to sell narcotics. Matthew Hudak, John Cichy, and Terrance O’Brien were all members of the tactical unit and charged with a female companion, Nicole Brehm, 44.

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225px-Nagin2June2006In perhaps the world’s least surprising news item, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been indicted on federal corruption charges. Nagin was a disgrace during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was notorious for bizarre and self-absorded conduct. His reelection in New Orleans soured many on the idea of giving additional relief to a city that would retain such an utter failure as a mayor. Now, Nagin will face 21 charges including bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns.
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