I have to say that a story in the New York Observer (from Reddit) caught my eye for a reason other than the account of cockroaches falling on people eating at Blue Ribbon Sushi in Soho in New York City. People eating said that the insects dropped from the ceiling and one crawled up the leg of a diner. Here is the thing I thought was most amazing: the owners of Blue Ribbon Sushi reportedly addressed matter by offering to charge only half for the meals of the affected customers. Really? Cockroaches fall around the plates of your customers and crawl on the tables and floors and you offer a half-off meal? Please tell me that this is a false report by the Observer.
Archive for the ‘Society’ Category
Various countries, including the United States, have been choking under China’s air pollution which is circling the globe. While China has steadily diminished the health of its own people with a disastrous priority on production at any cost, it is now effecting not just the pollution levels of other countries but, according to a new report, weather in the United States. New data released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese pollution is altering weather patterns in North America and causing the recently intense weather patterns from cyclones, heavy rains, and other erratic weather events.
I recently wrote a column on the expanding scandal over General Motor’s release of the Cobalt and other vehicles with a defective ignition switch that may have killed over a dozen people and injured scores of others. The defect was reportedly found during testing and constituted the perfect storm of negligent designs: it would first shut off the car; cut the steering; and disable the airbags. Mary Barra, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of GM, told Congress that GM never puts costs ahead of safety (even though documents show GM pricing out the fix and rejecting it as too expensive). Now Barra and GM have quietly asked a federal court to protect it from product liability lawsuits due to its bankruptcy. It is like a second bailout from the government — this time through the courts — so that the company can keep billions in the federal bailout while barring recovery of billions for deaths and injuries caused by the company.
Our government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people. Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.
Dallas attorney James Lee Bright faced a dilemma: he had to appear in court but he recovering from knee surgery with a large leg brace and an ice machine attached to his leg to stop swelling. He could not fit his pants over the hardware so he wore a shirt, tie, jacket, and shorts. That did not go over well with Judge Etta Mullin (left) who refused to hear his motion to dismiss a weapons charge for a client because he was wearing shorts. It was a rather unsympathetic and inflexible decision but it was not the first for this particular judge. However, it is the mounting criticism of Mullin that raises the question of why the Democratic party has pushed for her reelection and why the state bar has not investigated allegations of injudicious conduct.
Judge Richard Posner has crushed the appeal of Catherine “Banana Lady” Conrad who sued for copyright infringement over the publication of her photograph in her costume after appearing at parties for children. Posner not only dismissed her case, he encouraged a lower court to bar her from new filings and published a picture as part of the opinion. The picture is now part of an official opinion and court record. As discussed below, The Banana Lady fared much worse than did The Human Cannonball in an earlier analogous case brought under the common law as opposed to copyright.
We have previously discussed the use of shaming punishments by judges around the country — a practice that I have previously denounced in columns and blog postings. I discussed a new case this week on BBC involving Edmond Aviv, 62, in South Euclid, Ohio. Aviv pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. Aviv, 62, had been feuding with his neighbor for 15 years, particularly over the smell of her dryer vent when she did laundry. He retaliated by hookup up kerosene to a fan to blow the smell on to the property of Sandra Prugh. Municipal Court Judge Gayle Williams-Byers (left) decided to impose her own brand of justice and ordered him to demean himself in public and wear a signing reading “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.” For those of us who view this type of novel or shaming punishment to be unprofessional and abusive, it is Judge Williams-Byers who is in serious need for corrective measures. Indeed, many view judges who entertain the public with shaming sentences to be the ultimate bullies.
Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has written a controversial guide for journalists on how to cover stories without insulting Muslims. “Islam for Journalists” is an effort to educate reporters on the sensitivities of Muslims to avoid triggering protests or violence. Pintak writes that “Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen . . . can be just as lethal.” That line captures the controversy because it seems to suggest that reporters are a cause of violence when they fail to adhere to the demand of religious values or orthodoxy in their publications.
MSNBC host Al Sharpton has long been controversial from his involvement in the Tawana Brawley scandal to questions raised about his pressing companies to give “love offerings” and associations to his legal problems. Nevertheless, his position at MSNBC is viewed as secure while President Obama continues to honor him at official White House meetings and public events, including an event three days ago. This teflon reputation with liberals appears to be holding even after news reports surfaced that Sharpton was an FBI snitch and an associate accused him of seeking to cash in on the drug trade before he became a national figure. Sharpton has been somewhat guarded in answering detailed questions about the stories about his wearing a wire in meetings with the mob, but recently confirmed that he “cooperated” with the FBI. He proved testy with 60 Minutes in refusing to acknowledge that he was an informant. According to reports, the FBI designated Sharpton as “Confidential Informant No. 7″ and used him with a bugged briefcase to incriminate mob figures in discussions of criminal enterprises. Sharpton insisted “I’m not a rat, I’m a cat.” He certainly has nine lives given the range of his past scandals. The mayor of New York and other Democratic leaders lined up to praise Sharpton in the aftermath of the story.
Usually the selection of a state bird or state song is not particularly divisive or even notable. The same goes for a state book (though it seems a bit odd to select a single book for a state unless it is written by a native son or daughter). Louisiana however could find itself in court as it moves to make the Bible the state book. Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, proposed the official adoption but insisted that it should not be viewed as any type of state endorsement. It is simply the selection of one faith’s religious book as the official book for the entire state. Who could possibly view that as a state endorsement?
Below is a slightly expanded version of my column that ran today in the Los Angeles Times on the growing scandal over the defective ignition switches on the Cobalt and other cars produced by General Motors. Just this weekend, it was reported that CEO Mary Barra received a memorandum on a steering problem with the Saturn Ion on a different problem as early as 2011, but did not order an immediate recall. What is now clear is that the company spent years discussing the defect. Two engineers were recently put on paid leave by the company — a move viewed as too little too late by many, including some who want to see criminal charges. Ironically, I have been teaching the Pinto case in my torts class this week and today I will be teaching my new material on the GM Cobalt as an extension of that material.
Some have charged that GM was aware of this defective design before it lobbied the government for a massive bailout in 2009. The government handed over $49.5 billion to the automaker and the public ultimately ate a $10.5 billion loss when our shares in “Government Motors” were finally sold off in 2013. In addition to billions in losses, the public got cars that could put their lives in danger the moment they turned the ignition key.
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
Kevin Swanson, a pastor and host of Religious Right, voiced his criticisms of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen on his radio program last month. Swanson claimed that the animated movie pushes an agenda “to indoctrinate homosexuality and bestiality in children.” He told his co-host Steve Vaughn that Satan was using the movie “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.” Both men posited some theories about the film’s “progressive” agenda even though neither had actually seen the film.
Disney’s Frozen Official Trailer
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an ongoing series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes live among us and that their service is quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward – and ours, too.
Ten-year-old Adrian Grajeda wants to become a professional soccer player someday. And he wants to do it for love of the game — not to be a hero. Adrian can’t become a hero because he already is one. Six months ago the diminutive midfielder lost part of his leg when an inattentive driver crashed through a playground chain link fence and headed straight for one of Adrian’s schoolmates on the recess field. Without thinking, Adrian threw himself into a young girl standing directly in harm’s way and pushed her to safety but subjecting his right leg to a trauma that would require four surgeries and seven blood transfusions to regain just minimal use of the battered and mangled limb.
Three witnesses recounted Adrian’s deed but, in perhaps the cruelest aspect to this story, the young boy has no recollection of his heroism. Still Adrian remains an inspiration. “He’s inspiring and he’s helping other people with challenges,” his mother Brandy Grajeda said. As for Adrian, he’ s not asking for any special favors. “I hope I can get better with my legs, so I can shoot better and get better at running,” Adrian said, “if you just sit inside all day feeling bad for yourself, you won’t get anything done.”
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Well, will miracles never cease? In a church known for compelling confession from its followers, a remarkable one from its chief advocate came across the wires on Friday. That’s right, after decades of lying, obfuscating, blocking, destroying evidence and covering up in the most un-Christian way, Pope Francis has done what many Catholics hoped his predecessors would have done years ago — apologize AND beg forgiveness. Oh, lots of Popes apologize but it’s always with a condition … a term … a little euphemism about one bad apple not spoiling the great work of the barrel, or that the church’s pedophile problem isn’t really any worse than anybody else’s. (Really, every church has a decades old issue of unmarried priests molesting little boys and girls on an institutional level?) Or that it’s just American culture fueling the problem. (Damn justice seekers reading those beatitudes so literally!)
As many have been discussing, the rampant crime in Brazil has led many to avoid the country as tourists and many others to criticize the selection of Rio de Janeiro for the next summer Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and other huge venues. The local media was covering the growing crime wave in interviewing this woman . . . who was promptly mugged on television as if to bring home the point.
Previously, our contributor Charlton Stanley wrote about Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants in a controversial foreclosure matter. Now, Plants is back in the news as the subject of a criminal case as opposed to the charging prosecutor. Plants is charged with beating his son with a belt and leaving a considerable bruise. He is claiming a constitutional right to such beatings as a parental choice on discipline.
If you recall, there was a bit of a dust up 18 months ago when Harvard Professor Karen L. King released the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” that detailed the contents of the text of an ancient Egyptian papyrus referring to Jesus being married. A Vatican newspaper and other experts denounced it as a forgery but a new article in the respected Harvard Theological Review says that there is no evidence of a forgery after the application of various tests. King believes it was part of a debate over the role of women among early Christians.
We have long discussed the plight of young girls in Muslim nations who have been handed over as child brides in arranged marriages. Wasila Umaru, 14, however, decided not to go quietly into a marriage with a 35-year-old man. She made a meal for the groom and three friends and poisoned them all to death.
McDonald’s recently pulled out of the Crimea after the takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula by Vladimir Putin. While Putin’s authoritarian move did not appear to appeal to McDonald’s, it is only fitting that Burger King would be attracted to the imperial tendencies of Putin. The chain has announced that it will fill the void and expand into the Crimea.
There was an extraordinary moment on a Swedish flight this week taking off from Frösön airport in northern Sweden. The government was deporting Ghader Ghalamere back to his native Iran. A man on the flight stood up to tell the passengers about the deportation and told them not to fasten their seat belts to stop the flight. The passengers did precisely that and the flight could not take off in an extraordinary act of peaceful protest.
A new report concludes that Los Angeles police officers have widely tampered with voice recording equipment to block monitoring of their actions on duty. Officers have been tearing off the antennas of their cruisers to prevent transmitting signals. Yet, there is not a single reported case of a single officer been disciplined, let alone fired. Indeed, none will be investigated.
This week, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was faced with the scandalous release of a security video to his kissing his married aide, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, at his office in Louisiana. That would normally be the stuff of scandal, but it is even worse when you are married and ran as a religious conservative. McAllister went public with an apology to everyone (except personally to Peacock’s husband who is now divorcing his wife). He asked forgiveness but is now demanding an investigation to potentially jail whoever revealed his conduct: a curious path for a self-proclaimed redemptive sinner.
We have another example of the power of the Internet in fighting crime. After Ahryun Moon, 29, had her laptop stolen in Joy’s Place, a San Francisco coffee shop, the security video was placed on YouTube. Sure enough, someone spotted the women in the video still wearing the same distinct outfit. She is Pawl Raynal, 32, and fittingly enough was arrested in another Bay Area coffee shop.
Sen. Elbert Guillory (R., Opelousas) appears to like poultry pugilism. Chicken boxing, that is. Guillory left a number of his colleagues scratching their heads when he raised the distinction between cockfighting and “chicken boxing,” the latter involving chickens wearing little gloves as opposed to razors to fight.
Charlotte School of Law professor Brian Clarke has written a series of articles that I hope all of my students and colleagues and blog mates will consider reading (here and here and here). Professor Clarke has written about his own struggle with depression and supplied statistics on the high number of students and lawyers who grapple with this illness. He is the latest in the line of attorneys to come out to discuss depression and has made a particularly insightful and personal case for those who are struggling with the condition. (I am emailing the links to Professor Clarke’s writings to all of my students this term)
In New Jersey, Glen Meadow Middle School has added its own bizarre entry in the ever-lengthening list of zero tolerance insanity. According to Ethan Chaplin, he was suspended for twirling a pencil in math class. He says that a student (who had been allegedly bullying him) yelled to the teacher that “He’s making gun motions, send him to juvie.” The school responded by suspending Chaplin and the Vernon Schools Superintendent Charles Maranzano insists that it is the only appropriate response because he must investigate any time that a student claims to be uncomfortable or threatened by another student.
The politics over illegal immigration has radically changed as both parties see the issue as key to attracting the hispanic vote in the next election. A measure of that change was evident on Sunday when Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said Sunday that many who illegally come to the United States do so out of an “act of love” for their families while Democrats are pushing to stopping deportations all together.
There is an interesting story about this month that shows the success of the Church of Scientology in pursuing its signature litigation abuse by hitting critics with lawsuits and injunction motions. One of the chief targets of Scientology lawyers has been “Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard,” a British book that has been hounded by the Church in an alleged attempt to keep it out of the United States. If that was the motivation, it worked for 27 years. However, that book has now been published in print this month in the United States and joins “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright as a “new” account of the life and controversies surrounding Hubbard’s life and creation of his own religion.
I guess you don’t have to be from Chicago or Illinois to know who Rahm Emanuel is. The current Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is the former chief of staff to President Obama and a former Congressman. He is also a former investment banker. It has been alleged that this former investment banker has been crying poor since he entered office and proposing that city workers must pay more into their pension funds and get less pay and benefits.
“If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.
You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.” Pandodaily (more…)
There is an interesting story below on the nationwide trend of Native American tribes to exclude potentially thousands from membership on the basis of their not being “Indian enough.” Critics charge that the move comes as casino profits have increased and tribes are seeking to increase per capita payouts by reducing their membership rolls. Tribes insist that they are simply trying to police their ranks and reinforce their tribal identities. This has left it as a fight over whether the rejections are driven by casinos or culture.
We have been following stories of how European courts have been hammering Internet companies in stripping posters of anonymity and limiting speech (here and here). Now, Google has been hit again with a major fine of $1.4 million for failing to have cars that are readily identifiable in its Street View program in Italy. Italians complained that they were not given sufficient notice to get out of the way to avoid being filmed.
As many on this blog know, I have long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and gay rights. However, I have qualms about a story this morning that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has been forced to step down after a campaign by an online dating service. The campaign revealed that Eich had made a donated $1,000 in 2008 in support of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state before it was struck down in the federal courts. The controversy raises again the tension between free speech and corporate identity.
Israel’s Second Authority for Television and Radio has banned the Hoodies commercial below as containing “too many sexual insinuations.” The commercial shows a supermodel with Red Orbach, a famous puppet character, in bed with not so veiled references to puppet-human relations. It raises again the ongoing controversy over censorship in commercials to protect younger or more sensitive viewers.
We have been discussing the horrific rollback of environmental protections in Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Now, Abbott’s government and industry allies are pushing for a change in competition laws to ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment.
I must be missing something. English prosecutors are heralding the sentencing of Mohammed Khalid Jamil as a “landmark case” in their campaign against computer fraud. Jamil ran an international conspiracy to defraud people of millions in a Microsoft scam. However, he received just a four-month sentence and that sentence was promptly suspended. As for the fine, he was told to pay £5,665. How exactly is that a landmark?
Angela Timmons, 54, an employee at Virginia College in South Carolina, appears to have carried out an April Fools’ Day prank that few in her family will soon forget. Timmons, 54, send an email to her daughter that there was a gunman on the loose at the school and the daughter called police — triggering a massive response. It was a stupid prank. However, the range of charges against Timmons is a bit disconcerting.
The Albuquerque police have long been criticized for a high rate of shootings and the increasing militarization of their operations. This month, many have joined in that criticism after the release of a videotape of police shooting a homeless camper, James Boyd, in the foothills outside of the city.
As the United States continues to grapple with openly corrupt officials and businesses in Afghanistan and Iraq who have stolen billions in aid, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian system appears eager to outdo their counterparts. The poster boy of Ukrainian corruption is Vladimir Belonog who has been openly selling meals ready to eat (MREs) that were shipping only days before to the country to support its besieged military. Belonog is selling the MREs with the U.S. markings still on them and the warning “U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful.” What is most remarkable is that he has not been arrested after selling the aid in plain view of the government. Diplomats and experts have described Ukraine under Presidents Kuchma and Yushchenko as a virtual kleptocracy, or government of thieves.
We previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.
While the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.
Not that long ago, we discussed a case where an elderly couple was pulled over by Tennessee police because they had Buckeye leaf decal as Ohio State football fans — including a leaf image that police mistook for a marijuana leaf. They were told to be more careful in showing such images in the future. It seems that the entire state of Colorado could receive the same treatment after Darien Roseen, 70, was stopped when he was returning from a baby shower. He says he was searched because he had a Colorado plate. Since the state recently legalized marijuana, Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch allegedly stopped his car in what is being called a case of “license plate profiling.” He is now suing over the stop and search.
It is not unknown for medical researchers in history to make themselves a test subject to avoid endangering others in their experimental treatments or medicines. Russian history professor Andrei Zubov took the same approach recently with his own field. As with many intellectuals in Russia, Zubov was convinced that Vladimir Putin has long worked to reestablish a dictatorship in Russia. He decided to put this theory to the test by writing an article comparing Putin to Hitler. The experiment was successful in a curious way. Zubov was immediately fired for the “immoral act” to criticizing the supreme leader.
Poverty and hunger continue to be a major problem across the country. However, in a decision that baffles and outrages many, Costco has decided that it will not allow millions of dollars worth of peanut butter to be given away. Instead, the company has ordered that the food be dumped in a New Mexico landfill.
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
On the YouTube page that includes the following video, political cartoonist Mark Fiore said that it has been “amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover.” He said that when no one was watching what they were doing, “the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views.” He added that since many people have become aware of and are “appalled” by Uganda’s new anti-gay law—which could mean life imprisonment for homosexuals—“the ‘evangelical’ right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.”
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries, is a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts. Lively is a controversial evangelical pastor known for having a homophobic agenda. He “specializes in stirring up anti-gay feeling around the globe.” When he was a young man, Lively said he had a “live and let live” attitude toward gays. Once a liberal, he admits that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict until he “got saved” in 1986. He says that since then his “focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality.”
Jack Rodolico (Latitude News) says that after coming to Christ, Lively began to view social issues “from God’s perspective”—and his “faith began to fuel the fire of his activism.” According to a report in the National Journal, “Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause.” In 1992, Lively got involved in Oregon’s Ballot Measure 9. That measure “would have amended the Oregon Constitution to summarily recognize ‘homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.’” Rodico reported that Oregon voters denied Lively and his anti-gay colleagues a victory—but only after “an ugly political battle ensued.” Rodico said that the defeat left a lasting impression on Lively.
BALLOT MEASURE 9