Wednesday, November 30, 2005

CASE OF THE BUSTED EMBARGO

There is a quaint practice in journalism known as the embargo. It works this way: An organization wishes to release news to all media outlets at once, but wants reporters to have some advance word for planning purposes. Organization releases info with a specific release time and/or date. In theory, the news is embargoed until then; early release is "busting the embargo" and is considered bad form.

At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the Community Foundation released its Community Focus report. But that was old news to readers of the Springfield News-Leader; the paper had a front-page package on Wednesday morning, and its website included a .pdf copy of the complete report.

Gary Funk, president of the Community Foundation, was quite angry with the newspaper's decision to bust the embargo, sources tell CHATTER. Funk was especially peeved because the Community Foundation had worked with the paper, prior to publication, on the best way to present the report to the public.

News-Leader Editor Don Wyatt tried to downplay the incident as a "miscommunication" between the paper and Funk. "I don't know that we agree on it," Wyatt told CHATTER late Wednesday. But, he added, "no promises were made" to honor the 2 p.m. embargo.

Wyatt also said the paper wasn't the first media outlet to break the news early. "KY-3 had something on the 10 p.m. news (Tuesday) night," Wyatt said. Generally speaking, once an embargo is busted, it's fair game to publish. That said, no one should believe the newspaper decided to run its story only after KYTV ran its report; the paper's front page is almost always locked down by 10 p.m., and the Community Focus centerpiece was too elaborate to be a last-minute placement.

However it happened, the Community Foundation's embargo was broken. Wyatt said there are no repercussions: "I think (Funk's) very satisfied with the outcome, and we're very satisfied with the outcome."

Wyatt may be satisfied, but we hear Funk is far from pleased. Our sources say Funk believed Wyatt had agreed to the embargo, and that Funk felt misled by the News-Leader. Will it mean strained relations between the city's biggest philanthropic organization and the city's biggest media outlet? We've got a call in to Funk for comment. Stay close.

THIS IS WHAT'S UP

Stewart Jenkins, 33, may be the stupidest man alive.

Here's the proof:

A plainclothes police officer in Des Moines, Iowa, is checking license plates in an alley. Typical grunt work.

Jenkins walks up to the officer and asks, "What's up?"

The officer replies: "What's up?"

Jenkins says it again: "What's up?" To which the officer, once more, replies: "What's up?"

Jenkins is mad. "I'll show you what's up," he says, before storming into a nearby house and coming out with a pistol in his hand.

The police officer, Patrick Hickey, whips out his own gun. And a badge. Jenkins is arrested. That's when cops find he's carrying some crack. They search his house and find 15 more grams. They also learn he's wanted in Michigan for parole violation. Bond is set at $130,000.

MAN HAS SEX WHILE SLEEPING

And because a judge ruled it was so, the man was acquitted of sexual assault in Scarborough, Ontario.

Really.

Jan Luedecke has "sexsomnia," according to Justice Russell Otter. The Toronto Sun picks up the story:
Luedecke, a 33-year-old landscaper, met his victim at a party on July 6, 2003. Both had been drinking.

The woman, who can't be named, had fallen asleep on a couch. She woke up to find him having sex with her. She pushed him off, then reported the rape to police.

She didn't know Luedecke before that night.

Luedecke claimed he fell asleep on the same couch and woke up when he was thrown to the floor.

He only suspected he had had sex after using the bathroom and discovering he was still wearing a condom, court heard. He confessed to police.


During his trial, sleep expert Dr. Colin Shapiro testified Luedecke had parasomnia -- a disorder with symptoms such as sleepwalking. Shapiro testified Luedecke suffered from sexsomnia, which is sexual behaviour during sleep.

It was brought on, he said, by alcohol, sleep deprivation and genetics.

Luedecke previously had sleep sex with four girlfriends, court heard.
The judge ruled that Luedecke doesn't have a mental disease, so he's off the hook. His doctors say he's cut down on his drinking, and is taking meds for his condition. Whatever it is.

SPITTING CONTEST LEADS TO DEATH

Dateline: Mount Prospect, Illinois, former home of one Bartosz Drobek, 23.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, where this freaky death only rates a four-graf brief:
A Mt. Prospect man died Tuesday after he fell from a second-story balcony during a spitting contest, police said.

Bartosz Drobek, 23, of the 1700 block of West Palm Drive was on the balcony of his apartment smoking cigarettes with his brother and a friend about 12:30 a.m. Monday. As Drobek was getting ready to spit, he lost his balance and fell about 20 feet, hitting his head on the pavement, said Mt. Prospect Police Officer Dirk Ollech.

Drobek was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge in critical condition. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon Tuesday.

Although his fall is believed to be accidental, police are investigating it. An autopsy will be conducted Wednesday.
Yeah, but did he win?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

WALGREENS SUSPENDS PHARMACISTS OVER 'PLAN B'

To which we say: Way to go, Walgreens. KSDK tells the story this way:
Walgreens put four Illinois pharmacists on unpaid leave Monday for refusing to fill prescriptions for the "morning after pill."

The pharmacists say they're standing up for their beliefs. Walgreens says they're violating state law.

The "morning after pill" is also called Plan B. It is often prescribed to prevent or terminate pregnancy.

But pharmacist John Menges says it is the one prescription he won't fill. "I can advise people what pharmacies to go to. I mean, I can help them in every way. But I can't actually fill them because of my religious belief."

For this reason, Walgreens has put Menges and three other pharmacists on indefinite unpaid leave.

One of them asked that we hide his identity since he'll soon be searching for a new job. "I'm not imposing my beliefs on someone else, I'm telling them I choose not to participate in what they're going to do. Now that's not imposing my will on them, it's just saying leave me out of this. On the other hand, they're telling me I have to do this, so they're imposing their will on me."

Illinois has a new law relating to this type of emergency contraceptive. It says that pharmacies must fill these prescriptions and in a timely manner.

Walgreens says this law is forcing them to take drastic action. Spokesman Michael Polzin says, "If a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription in Illinois, they are putting the pharmacy's license at risk, as well as the pharmacist in charge at that store."
A pharmacist has the responsibility to ensure that the patient's health comes first, according to the SIUE College of Pharmacy. If someone feels they can't dispense meds prescribed by a physician, they shouldn't be a pharmacist. Pretty simple solution, no?

Menges says "my faith and my religion" are more important than a job at Walgreens. We hope he sticks to his guns, because Walgreens has offered him a job at another of its pharmacies. This one's in Missouri.

PAPERS, PLEASE

If you've done nothing wrong, the smug man said, you've got nothing to hide.

Do you agree?

If you're riding on a public bus, minding your own business, can a government agent demand to see your ID? If you've done nothing wrong, after all ...

Deborah Davis, a 50-year-old woman in Colorado, thinks the U.S. is dangerously close to becoming a "papers, please" society. She has taken a stand that all of us should study and discuss.

The Rocky Mountain News has this lede:
Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against an Arvada woman who refused to show identification to federal police while riding an RTD bus through the Federal Center in Lakewood.

Deborah Davis was ticketed for two petty offenses Sept. 26 by officers who commonly board the RTD bus as it passes through the Federal Center and ask passengers for identification. ...

Davis said she commuted daily from her home in Arvada to her job at a small business in Lakewood ... She said the bus always passed through the Federal Center and some people got off there.

Guards at the Federal Center gate always boarded the bus and asked to see all passengers' identification, she said.

She said the guards just looked at the IDs and did not record them or compare them with any lists.

When she refused to show her ID, she said, officers with the Federal Protective Service removed her from the bus, handcuffed her, put her in the back of a patrol car and took her to a federal police station within the Federal Center, where she waited while officers conferred. She was subsequently given two tickets and released.
Davis wasn't getting off the bus at the Federal Center. She had a right to mind her own business. Is she a rabble-rouser? Probably. Does she have a legitimate complaint? Most likely. Review it for yourself here.

Watch this case. The outcome will help determine what kind of country we live in.

NEW CITIZEN, BAD SPELLER

Here, the complete text of an e-mail invite from Journal Broadcasting's KSGF to CHATTER:
Your Invited...

KSGF and Journal Broadcast Group would like to invite you to attend a reception recognizing Vincent David Jericho's naturalization as an American citizen 5-6:30PM Thursday, December 8th at The Knights of Columbus building at 2340 West Grand.

Come hungry- we will have a catered Taco Bar set up from Qdoba Mexican Grill! If you're planning a holiday party for your workplace or friends and family, keep Qdoba in mind!
Note to Vince: Y-o-u-apostrophe-r-e. Protect the endangered apostrophe.

FCC CHAIR: TOO MUCH SMUT ON TV

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told Congress on Tuesday that cable and satellite providers must work harder to Protect the Children from Evil. Of course he instead used the language of the bureaucrat, muttering about the need for more "family-friendly" channels like Nickelodeon. Apparently Spongebob is no longer gay and thus not a threat to America's children.

Martin said programs with sex and profanity -- you know, the good shows -- are meant for adults, and the parents among them need help to keep the kiddies away from the smut. "Parents need better and more tools to help them navigate the entertainment waters," Martin said, "particularly on cable and satellite TV."

If that doesn't happen, Martin warned, the government might come on with the smackdown. From The Associated Press:
If providers don't find a way to police smut on television, Martin said, federal decency standards should be considered.

"You can always turn the television off and of course block the channels you don't want," he said, "but why should you have to?"
Umm, maybe because you're an adult and a responsible consumer and if you gave a rat's ass as a parent you would make time to block the channels that you, the parent, don't want your child to watch.

Or maybe that's asking too much. Some lawmakers, after all, said the TV ratings system was "too confusing."

The usual accomplices in a congressional sex hearing -- the social conservatives -- came out in force. The Christian Coalition asked Congress to stiffen the penalty for indecency on the airwaves: from a relatively limp $32,500 to a towering erection of $500,000 per violation. Man, that would hurt.

Democrats disappointed with their piling on. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), co-chair of the panel, told the entertainment industry that it must protect children: "If you don't come up with an answer, we will."

Of course you will, Mr. Inouye. You and Hillary and Joe Lieberman will join hands to stop the smut, and maybe you can resurrect Tipper Gore and her Jihad Against The Jams for some cheerleading. Team up with your political enemies on the right and do it all in the name of the Children. While you're at it, maybe you could denounce crime and say you're against killing kittens.

DO SOUTHERN MONKEYS SPEAK IN TWANG?

When we see one, we'll ask. Until then, ponder the findings of scientists in Kyodo, Japan. They have determined that monkeys have regional accents. From UPI:
Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute analyzed two groups of the same species of primates, the Japanese Yakushima macaque, between 1990 and 2000.

One group consisted of 23 monkeys living on the southern Japanese island of Yakushima, and the other was comprised 30 descendants from the same tribe which was moved from the island to Mount Ohira in central Japan, in 1956.

Professor Nobuo Masataka told Sky News the monkeys on Yakushima Island have an accent about 110 hertz higher on average because tall trees on the island tend to block their voice.

"On the other hand, monkeys on Mount Ohira do not have to gibber with a high tone as trees there are low," he said.
oo-oo-oo-AH-AH-AH.

CATHOLIC LIMBO IS IN ... LIMBO

CHATTER's chief typist is a lapsed Catholic convert, so the concept of limbo isn't unfamiliar. We had a monsignor tell us limbo was where the souls of unbaptized babies go when they die. Another priest, this one a little more hip, told us to think of limbo as the bus station in Des Moines; you're simply waiting to complete the journey from Point A to Point B.

Alas, limbo may be no more. Italy's ANSA reports:
Limbo has been part of Catholic teaching since the 13th century and is depicted in paintings by artists such as Giotto and in important works of literature such as Dante's Divine Comedy.

But an international commission of Catholic theologians is meeting in the Vatican this week to draw up a new report for Pope Benedict XVI on the question. The report is widely expected to advise dropping it from Catholic teaching.

The pope made known his doubts about limbo in an interview published in 1984, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's doctrinal department.

"Limbo has never been a defined truth of faith," he said. "Personally, speaking as a theologian and not as head of the Congregation, I would drop something that has always been only a theological hypothesis."

According to Italian Vatican watchers, the reluctance of theologians to even use the word limbo was clear in the way the Vatican referred in its official statement to the question up for discussion.
When it comes to limbo, how low can you go?

BUSH IN THE BUBBLE

Seymour Hersh has an excellent story in this week's New Yorker about President Bush and the Iraq War. The thrust: Bush is shielded from all bad news about the war and does not want to hear anything that pierces his optimism. From Hersh's story:
Many of the military’s most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers. The Administration has “so terrified the generals that they know they won’t go public,” a former defense official said. A retired senior C.I.A. officer with knowledge of Iraq told me that one of his colleagues recently participated in a congressional tour there. The legislators were repeatedly told, in meetings with enlisted men, junior officers, and generals that “things were fucked up.” But in a subsequent teleconference with Rumsfeld, he said, the generals kept those criticisms to themselves. ...

“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”
Fear a man who does not know and does not care to know.

HO HO HOSED

Our friend Doc Larry at Lost Chord has an early entry for our Holiday Horrors contest and it's not even December (it's also not even a contest, but we couldn't pass up sharing Doc's tale from his 'hood:
Would you believe some cheap bastard stole some of my Christmas lights? I had nice blue rope light strong from my house to a tree to my mailbox, then curled to the ground. Neat effect, very pretty. It was up for two nights. Whoever took it had to undo all that work, including disconnecting the rope light from my house, right next to my front door! Cheap bastard dropped a nearly full pack of Swisher Sweets marked with a buy one get one free coupon. Bastard.
As we noted to Doc in our e-mail swap, the guy's not only a bastard, but this is a creepy crime.

Monday, November 28, 2005

SUBSCRIBE TO CHATTER

Just your semi-regular plug to remind you that subscribing to CHATTER is simple, free and relatively painless. You get the daily stuff sent to your e-mail box, so you don't have to worry about the boss -- what a tool -- putting some lame filtering system on the company computers to keep you from accessing all corners of the Internet. You also don't have to worry about being caught peeking at CHATTER, especially if you're a worker bee at the News-Leader, IP address 63.171.177.#

For those of you who have subscribed: many thanks. For those who haven't, subscribe today by entering your e-dress in the box on the upper right of this page -- the one with the button that says "Subscribe to CHATTER." Told you it was simple. This whiz-bang technology brought to you by Feed Blitz.

STILL GOING STRONG

Yeah, we're space geeks. Have been since the 1960s, when the United States was in hot competition with the Soviet Union to get to the moon and back. Both countries tried in 1969. Apollo 11 made it. The unmanned Luna 15 did not.

From that point to this one, and we're still advocates of sending machines and humans into space. Why the U.S. hasn't landed men and women on Mars, we'll never know. For now, we'll settle on Spirit and Opportunity, the rovers that landed on Mars in January 2004.

Coming up on two years, and the rovers still rock, sending back images that make us want more. Their missions were supposed to last about six months. Next time someone tries to tell you how the government never does anything right, point out the Martian rovers.

PORN TAX DEBATED IN KANSAS

Conservatives are in a conundrum. Agree to a tax on sales from sex businesses and be a hypocrite, or stand by a no-new-taxes pledge? The Associated Press reports:
A proposal to impose a special tax on sexually oriented businesses is creating a dilemma for some legislators. They're socially conservative and would like to combat pornography and discourage the opening of new shops that sell X-rated videos and magazines and other products, such as sex toys. But some also have signed a pledge not to raise taxes. That has a few talking about tying the proposed porn tax to proposals to cut taxes elsewhere.

Among them is Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, who told the Lawrence Journal-World she would like to support a tax on sexually oriented businesses because, "We shouldn't make life too terribly easy for them." But, she added, "A pure tax increase, I would have to vote no."

Earlier this month, a legislative committee agreed to draft legislation modeled on proposals in Oklahoma and Utah to impose a 10 percent tax on products and services sold by sexually oriented businesses. Backers argue the tax could raise $1.5 million a year.
That "pure tax" business -- hilarious, isn't it?

BOOK BURNERS BUSY IN KANSAS

Damn those obscenities! Damn that vulgar language! Damn the sex stuff! In one Kansas school district, 14 books are endangered because some parents say they're filthy. Agape Press has this blurb:
The effort is being led by parents with the group Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools, which believes students in Blue Valley schools are being required to read some novels that are pornographic in nature. However, the Blue Valley Board of Education is refusing to remove the controversial books from the district's high school curriculum.

Greg Motley, a spokesman for the parents group, says the board has a troubling moral worldview -- "and they're extremely sure that our worldview is not correct," he adds.

Still, he encourages parents to take action on behalf of their children. "I think what it's going to take for [the board] to get the message that they need to listen to parents, is for more parents [to make] a stand," says Motley. "It's going to take more parents opting their kids out of the classes that are requiring these books to be read."

But according to the group spokesman, money may be the reason that some parents are hesitating to do anything. He says the economic climate in the community is such that some business-owning parents are taking a financial hit for publicly taking a stand against the books.

"It's a very difficult line to draw in the sand to say I'm going to make my kid walk out of this classroom," he says, "[because] I'm going to cause my kid to be ostracized by the group of peers that he values -- and secondly, that my business might suffer because of the adverse publicity that I receive."

Steve Abrams, chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, recently stated that "superintendents and local boards of education in some districts continue to promulgate pornography as 'literature,' even though many parents have petitioned the local boards to remove the porn." Motley says his group currently has 800 people on a petition saying the 14 books should be not read by any students in the Blue Valley School District.
What's porn in the eyes of the book burners? Here's the list:
1. All the Pretty Horses
2. Animal Dreams
3. The Awakening
4. The Bean Trees
5. Beloved
6. Black Boy
7. Fallen Angels
8. The Hot Zone
9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
10. Lords of Discipline
11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
12. Song of Solomon
13. Stotan
14. This Boy’s Life
Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools has an interesting web site. The group is offended on this page about descriptions of oral sex -- but nary a concern about the word "nigger" in Toni Morrison's "Beloved." Guess the book burners don't mind the N-word, so long as nobody's getting or giving head.

They're really hung up on bestiality, too. One wonders how many sheep they've scared.

TEEN KISS TURNS FATAL

Killer kiss for a Canadian couple, according to CTV:
A Quebec teenager with a peanut allergy has died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich hours earlier.

Fifteen-year-old Christina Desforges died Monday. She went into anaphylactic shock and in spite of being given an adrenalin shot, could not be revived.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, NATALIE WOOD

Twenty-four years later and it's still true. Unlike balsa, Natalie Wood did not float.

Frank Olson did not fly on this date in 1953. MK-ULTRA saw to that.

Jeffrey Dahmer died on Nov. 28, 1994. Some would say he got what he deserved. We would not argue with that sentiment. Happy Monday.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

NEWSHOLE TO BURN

The Sunday Springfield News-Leader boasts one of the best Page One shots in recent memory. Played huge, it made for a compelling visual. But was it -- and the stories about Hmong in the Ozarks -- worth the space?

We read it all, not because it was especially riveting (it wasn't) or because the topic made it a must-read (again, no). We read it all because we were amazed at the use of three-quarters of the front page, and two full inside pages in the A-section, to discuss an estimated 200 Hmong families living in "the region." Who's doing the estimating? Apparently no one; this is the fourth graf of the mainbar:
Today, it is estimated that 200 Hmong families, or at least 1,000 people, have moved to the area from across the country, especially Wisconsin and Minnesota, where tens of thousands of Hmong sought refuge after the Vietnam War.
Reporter Didi Tang writes of people who moved "here," but where is here? A specific boundary is never drawn, but it extends at least as far south as Gravette, Ark. Glad to see the News-Leader covering Arkansas with vigor.

Good graphics, nice layout, helluva photo report from Noppadol Paothong. But the stories? A lot of words, not much depth. Absolutely no mention that we could find of the 2004 slayings of six deer hunters in Wisconsin by a Hmong immigrant from Minnesota. That story is relevant because it revealed racial tension between white locals and Hmong immigrants. Many of the people quoted in Tang's News-Leader package were from Wisconsin and Minnesota. We're certain the case -- settled just this month -- was discussed by local Hmong immigrants. Why no mention?

And why no discussion of serious cultural issues? Tang quotes locals fawning over things introduced by Hmong immigrants -- like chopsticks, new foods, ginseng tea. Mighty trite. How will local law enforcement deal with inevitable tensions between foolish Ozarkers and freshly arrived immigrants? If there aren't any tensions or incidents, that's a helluva news angle that should have been covered. If there are such tensions, who's dealing with them? And how?

Have local social service agencies had to change strategies to deal with new Hmong families? What's the impact of local churches sponsoring new families? Is interracial dating an issue among the Hmong and native Ozarkers?

Beats us. Everything is peachy in the News-Leader report. To quote the city clerk of Wheaton: "I had a shrimp and fresh bean dish and stir-fry chicken. It's really good."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

COULTER CALLS MURTHA 'GUTLESS TRAITOR'

We are amazed that Universal Press Syndicate actually employs Ann Coulter to spew her venom. And don't start with that "freedom of speech" straw-man argument. Coulter is free to believe and speak about anything she wants on her dime. So is the greeter at Wal-Mart, but you can bet he wouldn't be employed for long if he started shouting about a decorated Vietnam War veteran -- Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania -- being a gutless coward who wants to see U.S. soldiers killed.

Yeps. That's what Coulter writes
It is simply a fact that Democrats like Murtha are encouraging the Iraqi insurgents when they say the war is going badly and it’s time to bring the troops home ... [T]hey long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle. They fill the airwaves with treason ... These people are not only traitors, they are gutless traitors.
Coulter also offers this cute name for Democrats: "The Abortion Party." Using her lack of logic, the GOP should be called "The Teen Killer Party" for its policy of sending young men and women off to die in a war of choice.

William Randolph Hearst had Universal News and paid Adolf Hitler for his rantings. Universal Press Syndicate proves history indeed repeats itself.

PICK UP YOUR TRASH OR DIE

Boners is an occasionally humorous site run by Rotten.com, one of the godfathers of bad taste on the Internet.

But a weekend Boner -- heh, heh -- made us laugh, even though we couldn't read the sign. If you can, enlighten us. The graphic seems to speak volumes. Click here to go there; you'll also find it under the Nov. 26 listings.

LOTTERY LUCK LEADS TO LONELINESS

Money can buy you friends, bliss, an incredible array of drugs. It can make dreams come true.

It cannot save you from dying a lonely death. Kurt Cobain was cold for a couple days before his body was found. Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice in Chains, had been dead for a couple weeks before someone noticed a smell coming from his apartment.

An accidental celebrity from Kentucky met a similar fate this week.

Virginia Metcalf Merida, 51, won $65.4 million playing Powerball in 2000. They found her body in her 5,000-square-foot geodesic dome home. She had been dead for days.

The Associated Press reports:
Her husband, Mack Wayne Metcalf, died in 2003 at age 45 while living in a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate built in Corbin. His death followed multiple run-ins with the law in the days following the lottery win.

When they won the jackpot, the couple refused dozens of interview requests but told lottery officials they were going separate ways to fulfill lifelong dreams. Merida was quitting her job making corrugated boxes and planned to buy a home. Metcalf, a forklift operator, wanted to start a new life in Australia.

The couple split the winnings of the $3 ticket bought at a Florence truck stop and opted to take a $34.1 million lump sum instead of annual installments. Merida took 40 percent, or $13.6 million, while Metcalf moved to Corbin with the remaining $20.5 million.

Neighbors said Merida shunned attention successfully until last December, when a body was found in her home.

Campbell County Deputy Coroner Al Garnick confirmed that a man died of a drug overdose at the home, but he couldn't recall the person's name. Official records were unavailable because of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Sometimes wishes do come true.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

LAFAVE SHAVE

CHATTER's favorite perv teacher may still be hot, but she's off the hot-news radar.

We were saddened to see Debra Lafave accept a deal that let her off with three years house arrest and seven years probation -- saddened because we won't see another luscious nutball like her anytime soon, saddened because we won't get to read more how Lafave had an "eating disorder, was obsessed with cleanliness and was taking medication for bipolar disorder and depression." Though the accounts of the sex she had with a student paint Lafave as a dead fish ("moaned a couple of times, then laughed") with a landing strip. And a black thong with roses on it? Egads.

NOW IT'S A CUTE STORY

But only because 70 years have passed since Ron Ramey, 19, ran off with his girlfriend, Marcella, 14.

The Associated Press gives you the feel-good lede for Thursday, from Boise, Idaho:
When 19-year-old Ron Ramey fell in love with 14-year-old Marcella, doubters said it would never last -- they were just too far apart in age. But the young couple didn't listen, spiriting from Nezperce to New Meadows to get married in secret. On Saturday, the Rameys will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

He's 90 and she's 85, both in good health. And the romance that began so long ago is far from losing its luster.

"I still love him so much," Marcella told The Idaho Statesman. "When we go to bed at night, we always hold hands. 'I love you' are the last words we say to each other."

Their wedding anniversary has fallen on Thanksgiving seven times since their wedding in 1935.
In today's hypersensitive climate, Ramey could well be charged with statutory rape and forced to register as a sex offender. Yes, we know today's 14-year-old boys and girls are much less mature than their counterparts from the mid-1930s. They're also much more worldly.

MURDOCH: NEWSPAPERS ARE DOOMED

Not because of declining readership, but from dried-up ad revenue, says Rupert Murdoch, owner of much of the free world's media. The Guardian reports:
Rupert Murdoch has forecast a gloomy future for newspapers with the growth of the internet, saying he doesn't know "anybody under the age of 30 who has ever looked at a classified ad".

The owner of the Sun, Times, Sunday Times and the News of the World, who once described newspaper classified advertising revenue as providing "rivers of gold", now says: "Sometimes rivers dry up".

"This is a generational thing; we've been talking about a 15- or 20-year slide on this," the News Corp chairman and chief executive tells trade paper Press Gazette in a rare interview.

"Certainly I don't know anybody under 30 who has ever looked at a classified advertisement in a newspaper. With broadband they do more and more transactions online."
They can get porn on broadband, too. Take that, newspapers.

POLITICIZING THE HOLIDAYS

The other day we ran across a one-sheeter of alleged humor, this one about holiday differences between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps you've seen it; if so, our sympathy at the insult to your intelligence.
Republicans say "Merry Christmas!"
Democrats say "Happy Holidays!"
Adding insult to injury, the local person peddling this copied tripe was a Democrat. Nothing like proving a stereotype and showing your ass at the same time.

Many Democrats just don't get it. They think identifying "Merry Christmas" with Republicans proves the GOP is narrow and cares only about Christians.

Pardon the blasphemy, but Jesus Christ. What political wizard pulled this from his rectum and proclaimed it sage advice?

The radical right -- current administrators of the Republican Party -- see the words "Merry Christmas" as under assault. They point to imagined slights as proof that Christ is going the way of Montgomery Ward, only without the going-out-of-business sales.

Is it true? Who knows, really? Mass merchandisers are certainly switching over to the generic "happy holidays" greeting, a bow to their increasingly diverse customer base. That rankles many devout Christians who don't bother to appreciate the difference between a person's private beliefs and a company's mission statement.

Hardcore liberals might guffaw about it, but they do so at their own peril in a country where more than eight in 10 adults identify themselves as Christians.

(By the way, a parenthetical aside about the L-word that so many Democrats shun. There is nothing wrong with being a liberal. Most people are liberal; they want clean air and water, sturdy roads and safe streets. They want good schools. They favor reform over more of the same. They're open to new ideas. They care for the least among us. They don't like bigotry. Democrats may be afraid of the word, but only because they let Republicans bastardize it into something ugly. Time to take it back, wear it proudly and quit being afraid.)

You don't have to be Jewish to say "Happy Chanukah." You don't have to be black to wish someone a solid Kwanzaa. Come Dec. 11, you can wish people a glorious Republic Day for Burkina Faso -- and you don't even have to find the place on a map (especially goofy types will wait until Dec. 18, when they can serve yellow cake and honor Niger's Independence Day).

You don't have to be a Christian to say "Merry Christmas." Most Democrats are Christians, just like most Republicans. If someone wishes you "Merry Christmas," be cool. If someone flips you a "Happy Holidays," be cool. At least someone is speaking to you. And Happy Parfait Day Eve.

SIMPSON-LACHEY SPLIT

Never let it be said that Jessica Simpson, the busty singer, does not have a sense of news judgment. She and husband Nick Lachey announced their separation on Wednesday, guaranteeing the public will soon forget about their three-year experiment in matrimony.

From our decidedly dude-like perch, we feel immense relief for Lachey, who came across as a likeable sort in "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica." Perhaps he can gather up the remnants of his life and launch a nostalgia tour for 98 Degrees.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NOVAKULA, UNPLUGGED AND UNHINGED

The writer Bob Novak -- also known as Novakula, Prince of Darkness -- had himself a little weekend dust-up while boarding a plane. The Washington Post says:
Novak, the enigmatic center of the CIA leak scandal, was headed to Hawaii Saturday morning to watch his beloved [Maryland] Terrapins play in the Maui Invitational tournament when he tangled with a fellow traveler.

According to our unofficial mascot on the flight, Novak was boarding an American flight to Chicago when he cut in front of another passenger while entering first class. The guy protested and laid a hand on Novak -- who responded by socking him and threatening to knock his teeth out.

Not mild-mannered Bob? We reached Novak in Maui, just minutes into yesterday's game.

"Some guy pushed me and I pushed him back," he said, shouting into the phone from the stands. "That's all there was to it." Both offending parties were scolded by airline staff and huffed to their respective seats.
You can't keep a bad man down.

A FINE FAREWELL TO TED KOPPEL

The reporter and anchor retired from ABC on Tuesday. Tom Shales of the Washington Post has written an especially solid piece on the occasion. A few grafs to whet your appetite:
Present via videotaped greetings at the party were a few of the show's former guests. Former president Bill Clinton recalled walking across a bridge in Prague with Koppel in 1994 and wondering what the post-Cold War world would be like. "I can't wait to see what your second act will be," he said to Koppel. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was seen in a separate clip, as were Bishop Desmond Tutu ("You have become a legend in your lifetime") and Koppel's longtime friend Henry Kissinger ("You overcame my efforts to ruin your career").

For laughs, actor Henry Winkler appeared and told Koppel, "You were so good on 'Cheers,' " pretending to confuse the anchor with Ted Danson. Koppel also was presented with a statue of Donald Duck, because that is the standard gift from the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, to employees with 40 years of service.

"Now," Koppel said, "my life is complete."

--snip--

Koppel has for years chided this critic for having panned the premiere of "Nightline" -- on March 24, 1980 -- calling it "at best a great leap sideways and at worst a pratfall backwards for television news." When it began, the show seemed to be mainly a staging ground for confrontations between opposing sides of a given issue. The next day, Koppel phoned the writer and, in a firm but friendly way, suggested it was unfair to review a nightly news program after one edition. The critic promised to revisit it at a future date.

Another review ran 10 months later. The critic raved that Koppel had emerged as a first-rate interviewer, not just a referee, and hailed "Nightline" as all but a godsend. Koppel himself likes to tell the story about the critical flip-flop. ...

By and large, the relationship between the critic and the anchor was friendly, even though Koppel's first words upon hearing the writer's voice at the other end of the line were almost always, "Shales, you sleazy bastard."
Our encounter with Koppel gave us first-hand knowledge of his love for the needle.

We met the man in 1987 at the Radio-Television News Directors Association national awards, in Orlando. A story for KSMU won the national investigative award for radio that year; Koppel was the keynote speaker. We had just departed KSMU to start work at the News-Leader.

As we shook hands he offered congratulations on the award, then leaned in for the dig: "You're leaving broadcasting for print? You traitor."

Not as good as "sleazy bastard," but we still treasure the memory.

BUSH DOCUMENT: NO LINKS BETWEEN SADDAM, AL-QAEDA

A presidential daily briefing from Sept. 21, 2001 explicitly informed President Bush that there was "no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."

Reporter Murray Waas writes in National Journal:
The administration has refused to provide the Sept. 21 President's Daily Brief, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.
A month before the attacks, Bush knew Osama bin Laden was "determined to attack inside the United States." Two weeks later, Bush knew Saddam had no links to bin Laden.

MAN PULLS TRUCK WITH PRIVATES

We would have used the hed "What A Dick," but those pesky Internet filters. Feh.

The Oakland Tribune offers a Thanksgiving Eve story guaranteed to make the boys crawl home.

Tu Jin-Sheng has the nickname "Iron Crotch." This week he lashed his penis to a moving truck and pulled it across a parking lot.

From the story:
In lace-up leather boots and a black tank top, the 50-year-old tied a strip of blue fabric around the base of his penis and testicles and tugged to make sure it was on tight. An assistant kicked him hard between the legs before he lashed himself to the vehicle.

He groaned, grunted and pressed against two men for resistance.

Then, slowly, the truck began to roll forward.

About 20 people, most of whom study Qigong, the ancient Chinese art of movement and breathing to increase energy, gathered for the truck pull in an unassuming office park just off Interstate 880.

A documentary film director and producer from London were on hand to shoot the jaw-dropping feat for a three-part series called "Penis Envy," scheduled to air next year on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. Footage from the truck pull will be used for the series' piece on building the perfect penis.

"He's very special. Powerful. Superman," said an awe-struck Shawnee Wang, who studies Qigong with Jin-Sheng at his gym in Cupertino. "I just came here to watch my master perform" ...

Jin-Sheng's performance Tuesday drew a hearty applause (and only a few gasps) from the sparse crowd. He wrapped a piece of fabric around his waist to conceal his genitals, but in the heat of the second truck pull, when he tied the cloth around his testicles only, it was pushed aside to reveal a ball of flesh that looked ready to burst.
The guy's got balls, all right. Balls ready to burst.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DO THIS IN MEMORY OF RUTH

If you eat the flesh of fowl or swine next week, and give thanks while doing so, please prepare a box of Stove Top stuffing. You will further the memory of Ruth Siems, the General Foods home economist who invented the instant comfort food.

Siems -- pronounced "Seems" -- died Nov. 13. She was 74. The New York Times reports:
In 1975, General Foods was awarded United States Patent No. 3,870,803 for the product, generically called Instant Stuffing Mix. Ms. Siems is listed first among the inventors, followed by Anthony C. Capossela Jr., John F. Halligan and C. Robert Wyss.

The secret lay in the crumb size. If the dried bread crumb is too small, adding water to it makes a soggy mass; too large, and the result is gravel. In other words, as the patent explains, "The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb employed in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared."

A member of the research and development staff at General Foods, Ms. Siems was instrumental, her sister Suzanne Porter said, in arriving at the precise crumb dimensions -- about the size of a pencil eraser.
Stuffing instead of potatoes? We heartily endorse both.

JEAN SCHMIDT CAUGHT IN BIG, FAT WRINGER

The new congresswoman from Ohio -- Wednesday marks her 80th day in office -- stuck both feet in her mouth last week when she took to the floor of the House of Representatives and flung the word "coward" in the direction of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a retired Marine who served with distinction in Vietnam.

Schmidt claimed the C-word came from a Marine Corps colonel now serving in the Ohio House. Specifically, she said the colonel "asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: That cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

The Cincinnati Enquirer tracked down Schmidt's source. His name is Danny Bubp. And he says Jean Schmidt is full of ... well, read on:
Danny Bubp, a freshman state representative who is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, told The Enquirer that he never mentioned Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., by name when talking with Schmidt, and he would never call a fellow Marine a coward.

"The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House - I don't know, she's a freshman, she had one minute.

"Unfortunately, they came out wrong," said Bubp, R-West Union ...

Bubp, who has served in the Marine Corps Reserve for 27 years, including three years of active duty, said he called Schmidt on Friday afternoon to discuss the resolution that called for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq - not to talk about Murtha.

The House nonbinding resolution failed by a 403-3 vote.

"There was no discussion of him personally being a coward or about any person being a coward," Bubp said. "My message to the folks in Washington, D.C., and to all the Congress people up there, is to stay the course. We cannot leave Iraq or cut and run - any terminology that you want to use."
Schmidt could say her source is wrong, but that would be calling a Marine a liar. She could claim responsibility for the Murtha remark, but that would be calling a Marine a coward. Checkmate.

MANNEQUIN SEX

John Stone, the frightening force behind Curbstone Critic, sends along this culled skinny from SkyNews. Seems a teen has been trying to make it with a mannequin:
Security guards found Michael Plentyhorse, 18, sprawled with the dummy on the floor with his trousers and pants down.

Police spokesman Loren McManus said: "There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin. That's the only way I know how to put it."

Guards said they had noticed several times before that the dummy's clothes had been removed at the centre in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

If convicted, Plentyhorse may be registered as a sex offender.

Hope Matchan, of the prosecutors' department, said: "People might say it's relatively harmless. But I certainly would want to know if this person was my neighbor."
Police say drugs and alcohol were not involved. That may be the creepiest fact of all.

ACCUSED PERV FALLS TO DEATH

The California minister was at Sequoia National Park on Monday when he somehow fell 400 feet to his death at Moro Rock. From The Associated Press:
The Rev. Santos Teixeira's fall Sunday was under "uncertain circumstances," requiring the Park Service to notify the FBI of its investigation, said Alexandra Picavet, a Sequoia National Park spokeswoman.

Picavet said park investigators have yet to determine the manner of death and cautioned it was standard procedure to notify the FBI about the case, which occurred on federal land.

Teixeira, 56, fell to his death late Monday afternoon from the summit of Moro Rock, a 6,500-foot-tall granite dome. Picavet said a person believed to be a parishioner and other bystanders were in the area, adding those eyewitnesses have been interviewed.

Teixeira's family has asked the Park Service to look into the pastor's death, Picavet said. A telephone number for the family could not be located.

Teixeira, who was the pastor of Iglesia Del Nazareno church in Porterville, was ordered last August to stand trial on charges of rape and sexual assault. The allegations involve two teenage sisters who attended his church.

Prosecutors said Teixeira befriended the girls and their mother shortly after the family moved to the area from Mexico.
Handy that a parishioner happened to be in the area.

Monday, November 21, 2005

OPRAH TO DO DAVE'S SHOW ON DEC. 1

One of Hollywood's most-known chills has ended. Oprah Winfrey will appear as a guest on "Late Show" with David Letterman.

The Associated Press reports it as breaking news:
Letterman made the announcement during a taping of his show on Monday. Winfrey's appearance will coincide with opening night of the Broadway musical "The Color Purple," which she is producing.

"What a big night that is going to be - not only for us, not only for Oprah, but for Broadway," Letterman said. "You have the big `Color Purple' Broadway opening, and then right across the street here in this theater, you have Oprah appearing here. I mean, that's what Broadway is all about - it's a street of dreams."

It's Winfrey's first visit to "Late Show," although she was twice Letterman's guest on his NBC show before the late-night comic moved to CBS in 1993.

The origin of their "feud" was murky, although Letterman has frequently joked about her through the years. Letterman's failed 1995 stint as Academy Awards host is best remembered for his awkward "Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah" introduction.

Winfrey told Time magazine in 2003 that she wouldn't go on Letterman's show because she's been "completely uncomfortable" as the target of his jokes.

"This just gives you an idea of what a big, big star this really is," Letterman said on Monday. "She's huge. Put bygones behind us, the water under the bridge, over the dam, wherever water goes - standing in your basement - she's going to be here on this show and it's going to be fantastic."
Of course you should wake the kids.

PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Last Friday we told you about Amanda White, the 27-year-old wife of a youth minister who stands accused of having phone sex with a 15-year-old boy.

The Smoking Gun has posted White's mug shot. Mystery trumps reality, indeed.

GARY GLITTER COULD FACE FIRING SQUAD

Nuh-NUH-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh. Updating you on a blurb from last week, the former glam-pop one-hit semi-wonder singer is in trouble for allegedly having sex with a 12-year-old girl in Vietnam. Among other things. From the Telegraph:
Gary Glitter could face death by firing squad after he was accused of having sex with a girl aged just 12, Vietnamese police have said.

Two girls, aged 12 and 18, told police they had sex with the former singer - real name Paul Francis Gadd - at his rented home in the southern resort of Vung Tau in Vietnam.

Under Vietnamese law, sexual contact with a minor carries varying degrees of penalties, depending on the charge.

"Obscene acts with a child can lead to up to 12 years in prison while child rape carries the maximum penalty of death before a firing squad," a Vietnamese police officer said.

"Having sex with a 12-year-old girl, regardless of whether he had her consent, is still considered child rape under Vietnamese law".

The 61-year-old former singer was arrested two days ago at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City as he tried to flee the country.

He left his rented home in Vung Tau a week ago amid allegations about his relationships with two teenage girls.

Glitter was convicted in Britain in 1999 of possessing child pornography and served half of a four-month jail sentence before being released.
A firing squad means no "Rock and Roll (Part 3)" and that's probably for the best -- the song, that is, not the execution.

BRAIN IN VAIN

Constance Louchery of Aurora, Mo., wins Monday's prize for hyperbole and offensiveness -- and she only needed five paragraphs to accomplish this mighty feat.

Louchery has a letter to the editor in the News-Leader that defies comprehension. It's almost as if a White House flack had taken control of her hands and forced them to bang out all of Dick Cheney's darkest fantasies. Lookit:
I'm tired of President Bush having to justify the Iraq war to the media. The loss of lives is sad. The last count I heard was just at 2,000 — far short of the millions lost in the first and second World Wars, both here and abroad.

There was much sadness over the loss of life at the towers on 9/11, but what if we had bombings daily like other countries do?

Saddam Hussein had a driving force to take over the world, as Hitler did. Hussein claimed to be King Nebuchadnezzar reincarnated. Like Hitler, he had to be stopped.

Why can't people see that our president is trying to keep terrorism and war out of our country?

The death toll in the first and second World Wars was in the millions and millions, and the loss of property a staggering amount. Did our military men all die in vain? (I think not, we are still free.) People, please be proud of your family members that gave their lives for our freedom in all the wars that have been fought. It was a great sacrifice on their part. Let us be proud of them and honor them forever. Don't dishonor them by suggesting they died in vain.
Translation: Don't dishonor dead soldiers by suggesting they died in vain -- but those 2,000 in Iraq? Sad, but hey, nothing compared to millions and millions, so quit your bitching. Saddam is Hitler.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

JEAN SCHMIDT: MEAN, UNDERHANDED, DIM

The Ohio member of Congress caused quite the meltdown last week when she took to the floor and flung the word "coward" while referencing Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).

Schmidt later apologized -- for terminal ignorance, apparently. The New York Times has this eye-opener:
Several Republicans who were on the House floor said afterward that Ms. Schmidt did not appear to know she was referring to a much-decorated veteran.

"The poor lady didn't know Jack Murtha was a Marine -- she really just ran into a hornet's nest," said Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Representative David Dreier of California said, "Very clearly, she did not know that Jack Murtha was a Marine."
Don't you love the innocence being radiated by Kingston and Dreier? Poor baby didn't know Murtha was a Marine.

They knew. They knew damned well, and they let Schmidt make her speech and slam a decorated veteran, only to fall back on their pitiful "we didn't know" excuse.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

INNOCENT MAN PUT TO DEATH IN TEXAS

Funny. We were just talking about the death penalty before coming across this piece from the Houston Chronicle.

The lede from the Chronicle's story:
Texas executed its fifth teenage offender at 22 minutes after midnight on Aug. 24, 1993, after his last request for bubble gum had been refused and his final claim of innocence had been forever silenced.

Ruben Cantu, 17 at the time of his crime, had no previous convictions, but a San Antonio prosecutor had branded him a violent thief, gang member and murderer who ruthlessly shot one victim nine times with a rifle before emptying at least nine more rounds into the only eyewitness — a man who barely survived to testify.

Four days after a Bexar County jury delivered its verdict, Cantu wrote this letter to the residents of San Antonio: "My name is Ruben M. Cantu and I am only 18 years old. I got to the 9th grade and I have been framed in a capital murder case."

A dozen years after his execution, a Houston Chronicle investigation suggests that Cantu, a former special-ed student who grew up in a tough neighborhood on the south side of San Antonio, was likely telling the truth.


Cantu's long-silent co-defendant, David Garza, just 15 when the two boys allegedly committed a murder-robbery together, has signed a sworn affidavit saying he allowed his friend to be falsely accused, though Cantu wasn't with him the night of the killing.

And the lone eyewitness, the man who survived the shooting, has recanted. He told the Chronicle he's sure that the person who shot him was not Cantu, but he felt pressured by police to identify the boy as the killer. Juan Moreno, an illegal immigrant at the time of the shooting, said his damning in-court identification was based on his fear of authorities and police interest in Cantu.

Cantu "was innocent. It was a case of an innocent person being killed," Moreno said.

These men, whose lives are united by nothing more than a single act of violence on Nov. 8, 1984, both claim that Texas executed the wrong man. Both believe they could have saved Cantu if they had had the courage to tell the truth before he died at 26.

Presented with these statements, as well as information from hundreds of pages of court and police documents gathered by the Chronicle that cast doubt on the case, key players in Cantu's death -- including the judge, prosecutor, head juror and defense attorney -- now acknowledge that his conviction seems to have been built on omissions and lies.

"We did the best we could with the information we had, but with a little extra work, a little extra effort, maybe we'd have gotten the right information," said Miriam Ward, forewoman of the jury that convicted Cantu. "The bottom line is, an innocent person was put to death for it. We all have our finger in that."
Reason enough to abolish the death penalty? No. There are already plenty of reasons to ban executions in the United States. Ruben Cantu's case just makes it more obvious.

SERIAL KILLER SENTENCED TO LIFE

Robert Shulman, 51, admits he murdered and dismembered five women in New York. One jury convicted him of three murders in 1999; another panel found him guilty of the other two slayings. Shulman got death.

But on Thursday a judge downgraded the sentence to life in prison without parole (an L-Wop, as railbirds like to say).

The reason, according to The Associated Press:
In a 4-3 ruling in June 2004, the state's highest court declared a sentencing provision of New York's capital punishment statute -- enacted in 1995 -- violates the state constitution. The court ruled that jury-instruction provisions in the statute could coerce some jurors into voting for death against a defendant.

"The deadlock instruction gives rise to an unconstitutionally palpable risk that one or more jurors who cannot bear the thought that a defendant may walk the streets again ... will join jurors favoring death in order to avoid the deadlock sentence," Judge George Bundy Smith wrote for the majority of the court.

Since the Court of Appeals ruling, the state Legislature has been unable to agree on a bill to correct the problem. No one was ever executed under the 1995 death penalty law.
Death-penalty proponents will make their usual noises about "activist judges" and how terrible it is that a serial killer was spared the Big Squirt. They like to exploit easy cases to make their bloody point. Shulman's a slam dunk.

Let Shulman rot in prison; it's the proper punishment. But killing him? Why would anyone want to stoop to his level?

MISSOURI ANGLER ACCUSED OF CHEATING

In a professional bass tournament, to boot. KMBC reports:
Paul Tormanen, 39, of Lee's Summit, faces a felony charge of contest fraud. He's suspected of catching bass before the competition and tying them to a stump, then submitting them during a competition in Louisiana last week.

Another competitor found tethered bass and informed authorities, who marked the fish, the television station reported. Tormanen was then questioned when he allegedly turned one of the marked fish in to be weighed at the Bassmaster Tournament on the Red River.

Fisherman who know Tormanen are shocked by the accusation.

"I just talked to him a couple weeks ago and personally congratulated him on such a successful season last year," pro bass fisherman Shane Voyles said. "He won, you know, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 last year just in the Heartland ProAm circuit -- that's a local circuit around here."

"It's a sad thing ... I get phone calls from friends, 'Man, can you believe this?' We all knew the guy," he said ...

Tormanen has posted bond and was released.

KMBC went to the address listed on Tormanen's arrest record and found the front door ajar. A sign on the door read, "Welcome Home Dad, We Miss You." When KMBC rang the bell, someone slammed the door shut.
What is the reel truth?

Friday, November 18, 2005

FREEPER CALLS FOR FITZGERALD SHOOTING

The not-so-nice types at Free Republic are acting out again. One particular poster, Bloody Sam Roberts, on Friday posted an angry response to news that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is serving up info to a new grand jury:
Is this guy on CRACK?!

He's wasted huge amounts of OUR money on a frackin' witch hunt and now he wants round two?!
And then a blank white line. Highlighted, it reads:
Shoot him. Shoot him now. He's nothing but a DNC butt boy.
No kidding. The entire thread can be read by clicking here. Read it and weep. The wicked are close to victory.

STUDENT URINATES IN ICE MACHINE

Thirty-one people later got ice from the machine in Carlisle, Ky. Yes, they're pissed. The Associated Press reports:
Ben Buckler, chief of police for Nicholas County Schools, said another student dared the boy, who told officials he relieved himself in the ice machine in the gymnasium lobby just before physical education class Wednesday.

School law officials say charges will be filed, although officials were still trying to decide Thursday what to charge him with. He was suspended for 10 days, pending an expulsion hearing.
Charge the kid with nothing. Just make him take iced drinks from the 31 people who used the school ice machine.

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

Much navel gazing since Wednesday, when we last opined about Bob Woodward's bombshell that he'd testified under oath in the CIA leak scandal. This isn't a clone of the Judith Miller case, but its rumble could shake the Washington Post in the same way Miller rattled the New York Times.

Same way? Hell. Woodward's disclosure could bring down the House of Graham, especially if Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald keeps the heat on. Woodward isn't helping his case any by continuing to lip off about what really happened.

Latest example: Time magazine answers one burning question -- why did Woodward's secret source spill his/her guts?
In the final weeks before the grand jury indicted vice presidential aide I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby on Oct. 28 for perjury and obstruction of justice, Woodward says he was asked by [Post Editor Len] Downie to help report on the status of the probe. In the course of his reporting, Woodward says, "I learned something more" about the disclosure of Plame's identity, which prompted him to admit to Downie for the first time that he had been told of Plame’s CIA job by a senior administration official in mid June 2003.

In his press conference announcing Libby’s indictment, Fitzgerald noted that, "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson." Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.

According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor.
I said, 'If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.
Woodward as little fact-checker, calling back his source to remind him/her of their conversation that had escaped the prosecutor's spotlight? Doesn't that seem a bit beneath the man who brought down Nixon?

REVOLT ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE

Friday was an interesting day in the House of Representatives. That's putting it mildly. At one point shortly before 4 p.m. Central, the House was in open revolt, with Democrats screaming in protest at an Ohio congresswoman who dissed Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania as a "coward."

The congresswoman, Jean Schmidt, claimed she was quoting a Marine colonel. Tell it to the Marines, Ms. Schmidt.

Democrats got Schmidt to withdraw her comments, but as she swallowed the mic and attempted to outshout the outraged Dems, Schmidt outed herself as a hateful climber who didn't seemingly care that Murtha was a decorated war veteran.

Later, on CNN's "Situation Room," Wolf Blitzer interviewed Rep. Roy Blunt, the acting majority leader and southwest Missouri's congressman. Shockingly, Blunt said Murtha, while a fine public servant, was sending his "message through al-Jazeera."

With more shock we saw Blitzer challenge Blunt, telling him Murtha's opinion was on the front page of the Washington Post, the New York Times, "even your hometown newspaper in Missouri." 'Bout time Wolf found his testicles.

And shame on Roy Blunt. Disagreeing with his colleague Murtha is fine. Saying a decorated war vet is sending a "message through al-Jazeera" -- well, that's nothing but slime, the sort produced by slugs.

DOING HER OWN YOUTH MINISTERING

The 15-year-old boy must have been thrilled; he was having phone sex with a 16-year-old girl. She sent him hot letters, asking him for sex. He even invited "Mandy" to the homecoming dance, but she stood him up.

She probably had other plans. Turns out "Mandy" is Amanda White. She is 27. Her husband is a youth minister at Victory Baptist Church in Burnet, Texas.

She is now charged with felony solicitation of a minor. According to the Austin American-Statesman:
Along with letters and cards, Mandy — as she called herself — left him gifts of bras, underwear, condoms and K-Y personal lubricant, the affidavit said ...

Police confiscated 50 to 75 handwritten letters and cards that White wrote to the boy, according to the affidavit. Nelson said the letters were written in the last half of the summer.

White told police she started writing the letters as a game after she had seen a photo of the boy on a friend's cell phone, the affidavit said. White told police that the letters were "very dirty" and that she knew it was wrong to write them, according to the affidavit. White also told police that she knew the boy was a minor, the affidavit said.

The boy said he would go to White's house to pick up the letters that he thought Mandy had left for him, the affidavit said. He thought he was going to meet with Mandy and have sex with her, the affidavit said.

He told police that Mandy called him all the time and that they had phone sex, according to the affidavit.
The teen eventually found out that White and Mandy were one and the same. He told his mother, she called police. No, we don't have a photo to share.

CAN'T KEEP A BAD WOMAN DOWN

Debra Lafave is in the news again and we are exceedingly happy. The Florida teacher, accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student, has a new boyfriend, Andrew Beck.

He, in turn, has an ex-girlfriend who is also mother to their 2-year-old son.

The ex-girlfriend is not happy.

WTSP in Tampa Bay explains:
In a motion for protection, the ex-girlfriend says Lafave came to the restaurant she works at and told her, 'I’m Andrew's first love and he would do anything for me."

The ex-girlfriend, Lisa York, says "Lafave boasted, 'If I wanted I could take him away from you.'"

The documents say “Lafave came back again and said he still loved her and she has him now." Although Beck says Lafave would be a good influence on the two-year-old child he had with York as well as the 12-year-old daughter York has, she doesn't want the children to be around Lafave.

York says if Lafave were a man, she wouldn't be allowed to be around young children, and she doesn't want her kids to be around Lafave.

However the court order granting bail made no mention of staying away from children.

Lafave's attorney declined to comment. Some court house observers say it sounds more like a motion filed from a scorned lover.

The judge refused to grant an order to keep Lafave away from the children.
Nothing good can ever come from knowing Debra Lafave. Andrew Beck. Poor sumbitch.

FITZGERALD USING NEW GRAND JURY

Traitorgate is alive and well, according to Reuters:
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Fitzgerald did not elaborate in the document. For two years he has been investigating the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. The grand jury that indicted Libby expired after the charges were filed late last month.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged.
Not a surprise, nor a good sign for the Bush Administration.

PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC, DEAD BOY

In Britain, if you want a styling funeral for a loved one, cue up some pop music.

One of Britain's top funeral homes reported that more than 40 percent of services included modern music, according to AFP. From the story:
Topping the list of modern songs was crooner Frank Sinatra's signature tune "My Way", followed by Bette Midler's rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" and Robbie Williams' "Angels".

Next on the list were Celine Dion's weepie "My Heart Will Go On" and the rousing "Simply the Best" by Tina Turner.


The top three hymns remained unchanged with "The Lord is My Shepherd" at number one, followed by "Abide With Me" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful".

Classical tunes meanwhile accounted for less than five percent of funeral music: "Nimrod" from Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations" was the firm favourite, followed by Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" and "Largo" from George Handel's opera "Xerxes".
To us the Brit list shows grieving survivors have terrible taste in music. "Simply The Best"? "Wind Beneath My Wings"? And "My Way" only seems appropriate for suiciders.

Funny, but not one of these songs makes the CHATTER 50, the playlist for our wake. For the service, please remember to play "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by The Clash. Digame!

THE ANSWER TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, EVERYTHING

It's 37. See for yourself.

Make a daily habit of checking the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Thanks to JJ, we do.

IN VIETNAM, TROUBLE FOR GARY GLITTER

The old British glam rocker is best known for the annoying "Rock and Roll (Part 2)," played at nearly every sports arena in the United States and used to great effect in a Starbucks commercial about a drone named Hank.

But in Vietnam, the 61-year-old Glitter is known as a wanted man. A person of interest. A perv, if you must. The Associated Press reports:
"At present, relevant authorities Ba Ria Vung Tau province are trying to trace this gentleman, and clarify the relationship between this gentleman and a Vietnamese juvenile," Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said.

Dung said authorities have conducted interviews with a 15-year-old girl who they found in the home rented by Glitter. The spokesman said Glitter, whose real name is Paul Francis Gadd, had applied for permanent resident status in Vietnam.

"If evidence of a (legal) violation is found against Mr. Paul Francis, and especially evidence of sexual child abuse, I believe that very strict legal measures will apply to him," he said.
Glitter was popped in 1999 for having child porn and served two months in jail. For alleged child-porn offenses, he's not allowed in Cambodia.If caught in Vietnam, he could face the death penalty. Hey!

WOMAN SENTENCED TO NIGHT IN WOODS

Her crime? Abandoning kittens in two Ohio parks.

Michelle Murray is 26 and clearly clueless. She told a reporter that someone abandoned the kittens at her door. The shelter wouldn't take them. So Murray said she took them to two city parks and dumped them "to force the humane society to do something."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
Municipal Judge Michael Cicconetti said Lake Metroparks rangers will take the 26-year-old Painesville Township woman into the forest at dusk Wednesday and pick her up at dawn on Thanksgiving Day.

Rangers also will monitor Murray to make sure she is safe and does not freeze. The National Weather Service forecast for next Wednesday night is for a chance of snow with a low of 23 degrees.

"At least she gets the choice to bundle up for the night," Cicconetti said in a Thursday interview. "The animals she left never had that choice."

Murray pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of abandoning animals after identification collars on the kittens led investigators back to her. The kittens, some as young as 4 weeks, were found by hikers in mid-September in Mason's Landing in Leroy Township and Indian Point Park in Perry Township.

Nine later died or were euthanized because they couldn't be saved.
The judge gave Murray a choice of a night in the woods or three months in the hoosegow. He also told her she can never own pets.

Murray finished with a whine: "[I]t's inhumane for the judge to send me out in the cold with nothing but the clothes on my back." Fine. She should leave the clothes behind.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

AP: NO DICK FOR WOODWARD

The Associated Press reports that the vice president was not Bob Woodward's source, as we suspected. From the latest dispatch:
Vice President Dick Cheney is not the unidentified source who told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about the CIA status of the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, a person familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

Woodward did not talk with the vice president that day, did not provide the information that's been reported in Woodward's notes and has not had any conversations over the past several weeks about any release for allowing Woodward to testify, said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Cheney isn't Deep Throat II, according to this new Deep Throat (DT 3?). But David Shuster reported on "Hardball" Thursday eve that all other "senior administration sources" denied being Woodward's secret source -- all, that is, save for Cheney, who "wouldn't comment on the ongoing criminal investigation blah blah blah." The veep didn't actually say "blah blah blah," but his dull snarl evokes the same feelings of boredom and terror.

Ari Fleischer, perhaps? Or -- horror of horrors -- could President Bush be the source? We know Woodward's been tight with the guy; the reporter's books prove it. It would dovetail with Woodward's claim that the source tossed off the info with a casual air. And yes, we know we've used "tossed off," "dick" and "wood" in this posting. Who said Traitorgate wasn't sexy?

TASHA HENDERSON UPDATE

This is the way news moves:

•On Nov. 5, Tasha Henderson made her 14-year-old daughter stand on a street corner in Edmond, Okla., after the girl brought home bad grades. Mom promised she would do this, and when her daughter failed to do homework and bring up her marks, Tasha Henderson felt she had no other choice (Daughter Coretha, by the way, blamed lying teachers for the bad grades).

•On Nov. 6, the Oklahoman published a story and we brought you the link.

•This week, talk radio started discussing Henderson's unique parenting style.

•Wednesday, we noticed an appreciable uptick in visitors to CHATTER, largely through Google searches on Henderson that listed this site as No. 1.

The Associated Press has glommed onto the Henderson tale. Its story features a quote from a Tufts University "expert" on children:
Donald Wertlieb, a professor of child development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University, warned that such punishment could do extreme emotional damage. He said rewarding positive behavior is more effective.

"The trick is to catch them being good," he said.
Sorry, Doc, but the "trick" is to raise your children to believe that good grades are important, that blaming teachers isn't cool, that the only way to get ahead in this world is by busting your rear and making opportunities happen.

The world's sometimes harsh, very harsh. Coretha Henderson's punishment was harsh, too. But it seems to have made an impression; Tasha Henderson says she's seen "a turnaround" in her daughter's behavior since Nov. 5.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BOTH SIDES AGREE: WOODWARD IS A SHILL

Bob Woodward, the hero of Watergate and an inspiration for countless journalists since 1974, lost his soul, it was announced on Wednesday.

Under questioning from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Woodward acknowledged under oath that a senior administration official told him about Valerie Plame's employment at the CIA.

In an interview with Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, Woodward on Wednesday apologized to the paper's senior editor for holding back that nugget of information until last month -- about two years after the fact.

From Kurtz's fingers to your eyeballs:
Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's Job No. 1 in a case like this. ...

"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."
Bravo, Bob. You laid low till the heat was off, till that pesky Fitzgerald -- and yeah yeah, he's heard the joke -- was almost finished with his case. Almost made it, too. Until somebody ratted out Big Bob and the feds came calling.

Only that's not true. Woodward didn't lay low. He dismissed the CIA leak scandal as much ado about nothing on Oct. 27. He was pushing buttons on this scandal without full disclosure -- without any disclosure, really. On Oct. 27 he denied he had any "blockbuster" to report in the next day's paper; he said he didn't even have a firecracker to offer. That turns out to be a pantload.

Woodward has managed to do the impossible and unite the fringes of America's political broadcloth. Posters at Free Republic and Democratic Underground agree that Woodward is a shill.

OK, the far right believes Woodward hates Bush and is pushing a leftist agenda. The far left thinks Woodward is a Bushbot. They are at least united in their disdain for the once-great God of Journalism, who now suffers from karma. A prosecutor asked the dreaded question: What did Bob Woodward know, and when did he know it?

We ask: Where have you gone, Bob Woodward?

SEN. COBURN: GIVE UP YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS

The senator from Oklahoma shows off his tyrannical tendencies in a Tuesday speech, insisting that civil rights aren't that damned important:
This is war! For the duration, we are going to have to give up some of the civil rights we have become accustomed to. We had better be prepared to lose some of our civil rights temporarily, or we will most certainly lose all of them, permanently.

And, don't worry that it is a slippery slope. We gave up plenty of civil rights during WWII, and immediately restored them after the victory, and in fact, added many more since then.
What is wrong with men like Coburn? He rants about "Muslim terrorists" being to blame for Sept. 11, 2001, and says all of us have to hand over freedoms to remain safe and secure.

We won't quote Ben Franklin. Our choice is H. L. Mencken:
I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.
Tom Coburn may wish to be a tyrant, but we have no desire for slavery.

ANOTHER FAILED BUSH TALKING POINT

Wednesday's USA TODAY includes a column by former Ozarker J.D. Crouch, now the deputy national security adviser to President Bush. Crouch is trying to justify the war of choice in Iraq.

We know the guy and know he's smart. So we're disappointed when we read such an obvious lack of logic in Crouch's column:
Coalition forces did not find WMD. That in no way minimizes the threat Saddam posed. Weapons inspector David Kay testified that Iraq “certainly had the intentions at a point to resume their programs.” As his successor, Charles Duelfer, later explained, Saddam was purposefully gaming the sanctions system with the intent of restarting his weapons programs when the world looked away.
The threat posed by Saddam, of course, was directly tied to whether he had weapons of mass destruction. Someone with nukes is much more dangerous than someone without them. For Crouch to argue otherwise is disingenuous, at best.

As for the weapons inspectors, they concluded Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Did he have the intention to resume such programs? Sure, the same way North Korea has the intention of being a nuclear bully. But that doesn't mean it will come to pass.

THREE SHORTS

Hello. Happy Wednesday. Colder than a well-digger's kneecap, as the old man used to say. Before plunging into the rest of the day, a trio of briefs for your consideration:

•A Neanderthal posing as a human writes a foolish letter to the editor, claiming secrets prisons keep America safe. You will know the mark of the anti-patriot when he tells you not to worry, the secret prisons will keep you safe.

•Our little blurb on Tuesday about a new local cable news show was met with gratifying support. We'll tell you more about "Street Talk" as soon as we get the OK from those In The Loop. But really, this is going to be a fun (and fine) show.

•This being Wednesday, The Onion has a new online issue, complete with a fine piece of Photoshopping and a killer hed: Long-Awaited Beer With Bush Really Awkward, Voter Reports

And, of course, we have Woodward in the news, sounding suspiciously like he's gone over to the dark side. So depressing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WOODWARD LINKED TO TRAITORGATE

HOLY HELL. Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward -- Mr. Watergate -- testified Monday in the CIA leak scandal. He had a source, a "senior administration official" who told him about Joe Wilson's wife. The source wasn't Karl Rove.

Here's the story that will become Wednesday's talker. Some grafs:
In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday ...

Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the source freed Woodward to testify but would not allow him to discuss their conversations publicly, Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the official's name or provide crucial details about the testimony. Woodward did not share the information with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place ...

Woodward's testimony appears to change key elements in the chronology Fitzgerald laid out in his investigation and announced when indicting Libby three weeks ago. It would make the unnamed official -- not Libby -- the first government employee to disclose Plame's CIA employment to a reporter. It would also make Woodward, who has been publicly critical of the investigation, the first reporter known to have learned about Plame from a government source ...

It is unclear what prompted Woodward's original unnamed source to alert Fitzgerald to the mid-June 2003 mention of Plame to Woodward. Once he did, Fitzgerald sought Woodward's testimony, and three officials released him to testify about conversations he had with them. Downie, Woodward and a Post lawyer declined to discuss why the official may have stepped forward this month.
This is bigger than a big deal. Sounds like Woodward's source was Dick Cheney.

CLINTON 'MOST INFLUENTIAL MAN IN THE WORLD'

Haters of the former president will hurry to say such intelligent things as "barf alert" and "typical MSM crap." But in the next second they will heap scorn on Bill Clinton, proving their enduring fixation with the man.

Actually, Esquire magazine has crowned him The Man -- the most influential one in the world.

As Reuters reports:
The magazine has designated him as "the most powerful agent of change in the world" despite his lack of electoral standing and the fact he was laid low by a heart attack ahead of last year's presidential election.

The magazine highlights Clinton's accomplishments in its December issue, which goes on newsstands on Thursday, profiling the world's "Best and Brightest" men and women.

Since leaving office, Clinton has been so active that his post-presidency amounts to "a third term" for the Democrat who held the White House from 1992 to 2000, the magazine said. He has tackled global issues from AIDS, poverty and global warming to the recovery from last December's Indian Ocean tsunami.

Esquire editor David Granger argued that Clinton was poised to become "something like a president of the world or at least a president of the world's non-governmental organizations."
Like Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton will be beloved and despised until the day he dies.

TEACH THE CONTROVERSY

Proponents of so-called "intelligent design" say they're only trying to create better students by "teaching the controversy" over evolution.

Fine. We've found just the place for the second wave of attacks on science.

Geocentricity insists that the Earth is the center of the universe. Common sense -- and astronomy -- dictate that this is not true. But Geocentrists have a web site that casts doubt on heliocentrism. A graf:
The Copernican Revolution, as this change of view is called, was not just a revolution in astronomy, but it also spread into politics and theology. In particular, it set the stage for the development of Bible criticism. After all, if God cannot be taken literally when He writes of the "rising of the sun," then how can He be taken literally in writing of the "rising of the Son?"
We can't wait for the Geocentrists to piss on Copernicus' newly found grave.