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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dad gets 18 months for forcing girl to kill cat

A man was sentenced to 18 months in prison after admitting that he forced his 7-year-old daughter to kill the family cat by holding a knife in her hand and making her stab the pet.

"I am extremely sorry for what I did," Danield J. Collins said during his sentencing Thursday. "Everything is my responsibility."

Collins, 39, pleaded guilty to a felony count of animal cruelty and two felony counts of neglect of a dependent. In exchange, prosecutors dropped three other felony charges.

"This is not civilized conduct," Judge Robert Barnet Jr. said as he sentenced Collins.

Under the plea agreement, Collins must receive counseling and attend parenting classes and substance abuse treatment. The judge also prohibited Collins from owning a pet.

Collins was arrested March 13 after police said he forced his daughter to stab Boots, the family's 8-month-old cat. The girl and Collins' 11-year-old son said their father ordered them to stab the cat because he wanted them to "learn to kill."

Police said the boy tried to hide the cat from his father, but Collins found the animal and strangled it as his children watched.

Collins said he was intoxicated at the time and remembered little about what happened that day.

Deputy Prosecutor Judi Calhoun said she was outraged by the crime but agreed to the plea deal so that the children would not have to testify against their father.

Defense attorney Steve Bruce said Collins, a Navy veteran, has no previous felony convictions.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bite reveals 51 poisonous snakes in apartment

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A nearly fatal bite by a poisonous snake led to the arrest of a man Wednesday for keeping 51 deadly cobras and mambas in his Tokyo apartment without permission, police said.

Among the deadly cobras and mambas found in the apartment, one of the snakes was about six feet long.

Among the deadly cobras and mambas found in the apartment, one of the snakes was about six feet long.

The illicit collection was discovered when Nobukazu Kashiwagi called for an ambulance after being bitten on a finger by one of his snakes, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said Wednesday on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

Kashiwagi, aged 41, was trying to feed the snake when he was bitten in mid July. He was seriously ill in a Tokyo hospital for several weeks, but subsequently recovered. Police arrested Kashiwagi after he was discharged, the spokesman said.

Kashiwagi kept the deadly snakes without permission from the Tokyo metropolitan government, the police spokesman said.

Video footage by public broadcaster NHK showed the snake cases were piled up in his small apartment room. One of the snakes was about six feet long.

The police spokesman could not say where the snakes have been moved.

Original here

Is your kid really gifted? Probably not

By Paula Spencer

Did your child walk and talk early? Does she have a brain like a sponge? Scribble magnificently? Love learning? Ask questions that leave you marveling (and scrambling to Google an answer)?

You can't make your child be gifted, but you can help your kid reach his or her potential.

You can't make your child be gifted, but you can help your kid reach his or her potential.

Wow, clearly she's a genius!

Or, um, maybe not.

"Gifted" has become one of the most tossed-about words in the parenting lexicon. Unfortunately -- sorry, but let's get this out of the way right up front -- it's also one of the most misused.

The vast majority of children are not gifted. Only 2 to 5 percent of kids fit the bill, by various estimates. Of those, only one in 100 is considered highly gifted. Prodigies (those wunderkinds who read at 2 and go to college at 10) are rarer still -- like one to two in a million. And despite the boom in infant-stimulation techniques, educational DVDs, learning toys, and enrichment classes, those numbers haven't been increasing. You can't build giftedness; it's mostly built in.

Still, it's hard to resist scrutinizing your child for signs of greatness. (Those "signs" in the first paragraph, by the way? Not one guarantees an intellectual giant.) The growing fascination with giftedness is part natural impulse to see our offspring as special, part wanting to be sure a child's needs are met and maybe a bit of hoping for a competitive edge in the increasingly cutthroat school-admission process -- or bragging rights.

"There are no average kids anymore," noted Devra Renner, a clinical social worker and coauthor of "Mommy Guilt." "The word 'good' is like the new 'bad.' Why settle for even 'smart' when you could instead call your child 'gifted'?"

True giftedness may be as rare as Einsteins and Mozarts, but the good news is that there's loads you can do to help your child reach her full potential. Even better: Whether young children are truly advanced or happily average (where they have lots of company), in the early years they need pretty much the same things. To raise a happy, emotionally healthy kid, follow these five steps to success:

1. Forget about the "g" word

There's plenty of wishful thinking about giftedness because there's no standard definition of it. Broadly speaking, a gifted child has special abilities in a particular area. The five main ones outlined in a popular 1993 U.S. Department of Education report are intellectual, academic, creative, artistic and leadership, none of which is normally associated with the performance of babies and toddlers.

" 'Gifted' is often misunderstood," said Julia Roberts, director of the Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University. "People don't always recognize a gift because they're expecting a prodigy." And parents whose kids are "highly capable" or "advanced" in one area or another may not feel satisfied until somebody official labels it "gifted."

Many parents of kids under 5 look to IQ tests for a number that will "prove" their child's ability. In truth, IQ testing doesn't tell you much before the school years and even then is generally considered unreliable. Why? Because "giftedness" is typically concentrated in one area and doesn't refer to overall intelligence, the focus of an IQ test. (If you're going to use it for academic placement -- as many schools do, among numerous other factors -- testing between ages 4 and 9 is optimal.)

2. Start with the basics

In the first three years of life, all children need to feel a sense of security and attachment. Being held, being loved and having one's basic needs met are all critical for future learning.

The growing brain next needs stimulation in order to change and develop. One thing it loves: novelty. Every time your baby is exposed to new toys, words, sounds, textures, tastes, smells, faces and places, she's learning. You don't have to work overtime to make this happen; everything in everyday life is new to a baby.

By late infancy and toddlerhood, some kids do dart way ahead on milestone charts, and some don't. Whether your kid does or doesn't, experts say, all babies, toddlers and preschoolers will thrive as long as they are:

• Provided a predictable life with a reasonably ordered environment.

• Held and touched often.

• Talked to (or sung to) often.

• Read to frequently.

• Exposed to interesting experiences.

• Given many opportunities to learn through play.

3. Play's the thing

What even chart-busting toddlers and preschoolers don't need are special "gifted" programs or learning tools such as flash cards, educational DVDs or brain-building computer games. There's no evidence that this "edu-tainment" does anything to boost children's intellectual ability. Parenting.com: Will your preschooler need a tutor?

Most educators believe that kids don't benefit from academically oriented preschools, either. Far more important is having opportunities to explore without constraint -- and teachers and parents who know how to keep learning fun.

"When it's fun and playful, that's when it gets into your head," said Robin Schader, Ph.D., parent resource advisor for the National Association for Gifted Children. Neuroscience research confirms that pleasure is what makes our brains want to repeat and remember an activity, and it's that kind of natural repetition that fuels learning. Parenting.com: What babies learn through play

This helps explain why play is everything to young children. It's how they learn, experiment, tinker, express creativity, work through feelings, practice socialization, develop language and math skills, and see the world in new ways. Pre-schools should mainly be play schools, centered on this kind of discovery learning and the teaching of basic social skills. Many parents want their kids to start kindergarten being able to read Dr. Seuss, write their names and count to 100.

But a kid who can do all that is actually going to have a harder time than his peers in school if he can't also sit still and listen, take turns, share and follow directions. Those are the real skills teachers expect kindergartners to have.

4. Tune in to your kid

If, for example, your child is very verbal, "you can make your language a little more complex, use more adjectives," said Nancy Robinson, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Expand a little on where the child is."

That's what Jackie Brezinski of Apple Valley, Minnesota, did. She credits talking to 21-month-old Seth and reading to him from infancy for his big vocabulary. "I talk a lot. I tell him what we're doing, what we're eating, where we're going," she said. Now he wants to "read" the books to her. Parenting.com: 10 smart learning games

Building on ability is known as "scaffolding." It means presenting experiences that are challenging but not overwhelming and doing it in a positive, supportive way to help the child reach the next level, higher than she could on her own, explains Schader.

For example, if your child asks about a stop sign, you can describe the sign and explain its meaning. Point out the letters S-T-O-P. Later, you can point out an "S" on a store name and then ask if she can find some more.

Another idea for a curious, verbal child: Make Question Books. Scatter three or four notebooks around the house. If your child asks a question you either don't know the answer to or are too busy to answer, say, "Let's write it down." Later, you can explore the question together: find a book, go online, visit the library or a museum. Parenting.com: The magic of play

Enrichment doesn't have to cost money. There's learning in practically everything you do with a young child.

5. Be a guide, not a coach

Ultimately, the relationship between a child and his parents and teachers shapes his attitude toward learning. Aim to be a gentle guide, not a high-pressure coach.

"Rather than ask, 'Is this kid counting better than others?' ask, 'Am I supporting what's interesting and exciting to my child?' " said Alison Steier, Ph.D., director of clinical training at the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development.

Cecilia Jerkatis says her son Kyle, 3, keeps her on her toes as she looks for stimulating activities for him. Yet at the same time that the mom in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wonders whether her clever, verbal boy is gifted, she also wonders whether the label matters. "I think we're here to support their development, whatever their interests are," she said.

Just don't think you have to drive yourself (or your kid) crazy signing him up for teams and classes to find activities he loves. Simply exposing him to different experiences will spark things that "click." Build on his interests. If he likes dinosaurs, find books and movies about them, or visit a museum. You don't need to sit down and "teach" anything.

Above all, don't overfocus on cognitive abilities. "You also want your child to be resilient, empathetic, and creative," Schader said.

And you both want to enjoy his childhood. "I do forget Kyle is 3," Jerkatis said. "Then once in a while, he gets a little whiny, and I remember."

So relax. The best gift your child can have is the gift of time with you. Reading, singing, playing, dancing, catching fireflies -- it's all good. The rest is gravy.

Original here

Urinating on building leads to big trouble for parolee

A tip for parolees: Don't want to go back in the clink? Just be careful where you take a leak.

One man who ignored that advice today was chased down and arrested after San Francisco police spotted him urinating on a building, and now faces several possible felony charges, authorities said.

The incident began about 2:30 a.m. when Officers Michael Tursi and Phillip Gordon saw Desean Bailey, 21, of Brisbane urinating against the building at Sixth and Market streets, police said. The officers approached on foot, but Bailey ran away and threw a handgun on the sidewalk while doing so, authorities said.

Another officer responding to a call for backup saw Bailey about a block away and chased him down, police said.

Officers discovered that he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest and booked him on suspicion of being a felon in possession of body armor. He was also booked on suspicion of possessing a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, resisting arrest and public urination.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfhcronicle.com.

Original here

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Proof That Dolphins are Bad Ass

Silver fog blanketed California's Monterey Bay on a late August morning last year. For Todd Endris, it was a perfect end-of-summer day for surfing. The lanky 24-year-old aquarium technician zipped into his wet suit and headed to Marina State Beach, two miles from his apartment. As he waded into the surf, a pod of dolphins played in the waves just ahead of him. Other than a few dedicated surfers, the dolphins were the only creatures visible in the bay. Endris paddled strenuously and caught a wave in, then headed out to find another.

Resting on his board 75 yards from shore, he turned to watch his friend Brian Simpson glide under the curve of a near-perfect wave. Suddenly Endris was hit from below and catapulted 15 feet in the air. Landing headfirst in the water, he felt his pulse quicken. He knew only one thing could slam him with such force. Frantically paddling to the surface, he yanked at the surfboard, attached to his ankle by a leash, climbed on, and pointed it toward shore. But within seconds he was hit again. An enormous great white shark had him in its jaws, its teeth dug into his back.

The vast aquatic wilderness known as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches from Marin County, north of San Francisco, to the rugged Cambria coastline south of Big Sur, encompassing 5,322 square miles of ocean. One of the most diverse protected ecosystems in the world, it includes the Red Triangle, an area that earned its ghoulish nickname for its history of shark attacks, particularly in the period from late August through November, when great whites come to feed on young seals and sea lions. Almost every surfer who visits California's wild coastline has heard the horror stories: In 1981 a surfer was found just before Christmas south of Monterey, his body bearing bite marks from a great white; in 2004 an abalone diver was killed by a great white near Fort Bragg; and in 2006 a 43-year-old surfer was dragged underwater by a great white off a beach in Marin County -- and escaped without serious injury when the shark spit him out. Just last April, a 66-year-old man died after being attacked by a great white while swimming far south of the Red Triangle, in waters north of San Diego. "It's always in the back of your mind -- you know they're out there," says Endris.

Shark-human encounters make headlines, but they're rare; fewer than 50 people were attacked in the Red Triangle between 1959 and 2007. Humans may be mistaken for prey, but some experts say that great whites just don't care much what they eat. "Anybody who surfs or dives where seals and sea lions are prevalent could be asking for trouble," says George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Florida, a group that tracks shark incidents worldwide. "You wouldn't walk through a herd of antelope on the Serengeti, knowing you could be attacked by a lion."

Despite the warnings, Endris routinely surfed in such waters. From the time he was a toddler in San Jose, he'd looked forward to weekend excursions to the beach with his parents and older sister, Julie. As soon as he was big enough to straddle a board, he took up surfing. More than once over the years, he'd been called out of the water when someone thought they'd seen a shark. "But it wasn't something I dwelled on," Endris says. "As a surfer, if you did that, you'd never go into the ocean."

In Monterey Bay that August morning, the great white dragged Endris below the surface. Attempting to force the shark to release him, the surfer slugged it on the snout over and over. "It was like punching a Chevy Suburban covered with sandpaper," he says. "I was getting nowhere."

The 16-foot shark had clamped down on his back with three rows of razor-sharp teeth. Endris felt no pain, only a tremendous pressure as the shark dipped him beneath the roiling water and shook him back and forth in its powerful jaws.

A few feet away, Joe Jansen, a 25-year-old college student from Marina, was relaxing on his board when he heard a loud splash. Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted a gray creature rising 12 feet out of the water with Endris and a blue surfboard in its mouth. At first, Jansen thought the creature was a whale, "the biggest thing I'd ever seen." Then he heard Endris scream. "My immediate thought was to get the hell out of there," he says. He paddled as fast as he could toward shore, looking back every few seconds. When he made eye contact with Endris, he paused. "Help me!" yelled Endris, disappearing beneath the water again. The shark now had the surfer by the right thigh and appeared to be trying to swallow his leg whole.

Another 20 feet beyond the chaos, Wes Williams, a 33-year-old Cambria bar owner, stared from his surfboard in disbelief. Six bottlenose dolphins were leaping in and out of the water, stirring up whitecaps. When Williams saw Endris surface, he believed the dolphins were attacking him. "He was shouting like he was being electrocuted," he says. "I thought, What did this guy do to piss off the dolphins?"

Williams watched as the dolphin pod circled Endris, slapping their flukes in agitation. It was then that he saw the bright red ring of Endris's blood staining the water.

With a burst of adrenaline, Endris thrust his head above the surface, gasping for air. The great white still had a hold on his upper thigh. "I figured my leg was gone," Endris says, "but I couldn't think about that right then." He used all his strength to kick the shark repeatedly in the face with his free leg. The great white shot out of the water, thrashing Endris like a wet towel. The surfer swung his fists, hoping he'd get lucky and hit an eye. "Let me go!" he shouted. "Get outta here! Somebody, help me!"

He barely noticed the dolphins leaping over his head. Suddenly the shark released him. Fighting to stay afloat, Endris thought he saw the dolphins form a protective wall between him and the great white.

Scientists Learn How Nemo Finds His Way Home

How does the orange clownfish — aka Nemo from the movie "Finding Nemo" — really find its way home?

It turns out the colorful saltwater fish can sniff for leaves that fall into the sea from rainforests growing on the islands near their coral reef homes.

After clownfish hatch from their eggs, they spend 10 to 12 days in the open sea, likely carried out by prevailing currents. But they then often return to the near-shore reefs where they were born. How these young fish know where to swim back to has been a mystery.

To find out, scientists investigated coral reefs surrounding offshore islands in Papua New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. There, orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and the sea anemones they inhabit are especially abundant in shallow water beneath overhanging rainforest vegetation.

The researchers dove down to gather young clownfish that had recently returned to the reefs.

"The clownfish like to protect their anemones, so if you startle the anemones, the clownfish come right out, and you can really get them quickly," said researcher Danielle Dixson, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

The fish were then brought to a lab on a boat and tested with streams of seawater containing different scents — say, from a bucket holding a sea anemone or leaves from island rainforests. The clownfish strongly preferred swimming toward flows scented with leaves and sea anemones compared to other scents.

"No one ever predicted that clownfish would be attracted to the scent of leaves. I just figured they might like beach water." Dixson said. "I saw the islands had heavy vegetation, and I said, 'Let's give it a shot.'"

The scientists also tested clownfish that were born and raised in an aquarium, and had never lived on the reefs or the open sea. These were strongly attracted to the scents of leaves and anemones as well, suggesting these preferences are innate.

"This shows that you can't separate the marine and terrestrial environments — you have to consider them working together," Dixson said. "I would really like to see if this is happening in other fish."

These new findings also suggest "that you can't protect reefs without protecting the surface," Dixson said. "It's really easy to speculate that without the leaves, clownfish might not be able to find their homes."

It remains to be seen just how far out clownfish can detect the scent of rainforests. "Off any island, there'll be eddies and currents that pull leaves out a fair ways from islands," Dixson said.

The World's Most Wanted White-Collar Fugitives

It didn't take long for the feds to get their hands on Samuel Israel III after he faked his death on the Bear Mountain Bridge just north of New York City. Israel, a former hedge fund manager sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding $400 million from investors, just walked into a Southwick, Mass., police station in July after a month on the run. Other white-collar thieves have proved much harder to catch.

White-collar crime is serious business, and some fraudsters are able to elude facing the consequences of their actions. Commodities trader Marc Rich fled the U.S. for Switzerland in the 1980s to avoid tax evasion charges and an allegation of illegally doing business with Iran. He will never be brought to justice after securing a pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Robert Vesco bounced around Latin America for more than 30 years, managing to evade, among other things, U.S. securities charges for stealing $200 million. He did get imprisoned in Cuba in 1996 and is believed to have died there last year.

Now a new breed of financial fugitives is on the run, epitomized by Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the stock scammer who is currently living well in Namibia. Many white-collar fugitives, like Russian Boris Berezovsky, are controversial because the charges against them are believed by some to be driven more by politics than anything else. Either way, financial fugitives can live free and prosper if they are smart, like Ghaith Pharaon, the wealthy Saudi wanted by the FBI for 17 years.

"These individuals show high intelligence and tend to put together very complex schemes," says Sharon Ormsby, the Federal Bureau of Investigations' financial crimes section chief. "They understand international markets--some have multiple passports--and are familiar with the laws."

Pharaon was indicted for fraud charges by the U.S. government in 1991 for his alleged role in the mammoth collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A large shareholder of BCCI, Pharaon was accused of being a frontman for unlawful purchases of American banks. The Federal Reserve fined Pharaon $37 million for his role in secretly taking over banks, and the Harvard University graduate lost his legal challenge of that fine.

Still, Pharaon has had little trouble operating his business empire, which includes a luxury resort hotel in Jordan and the Attock Group, made up of refinery and cement companies in Pakistan. Attock Refinery was even able to snag an $80 million contract from the U.S. government, ABC News reported in June.

The members of our list of white-collar fugitives have followed different paths. Chinese financial fugitives have made a bee-line for Canada, taking advantage of liberal entry rules and refugee laws. Lai Changxing is wanted in China for allegedly masterminding a $6 billion fraud, while Chinese banker Gao Shan is on the hook for allegedly embezzling $150 million. Both men are living relatively unencumbered lives in the Vancouver area.

London also seems to be a destination of choice; it's currently home to Berezovsky and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to avoid accusations of financial crimes back home. American telemarketing scammer James Eberhart is just sailing round the world in his boat.

Forbes.com consulted with law enforcement agencies to identify the top 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives, who are listed in no significant order.

Distinguishing white-collar criminals from organized criminals remains challenging 69 years after sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term "white-collar crime." But we tried to stick to Sutherland's definition of "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation." All of the Forbes.com top 10 white-collar fugitives are criminally indicted, convicted or have arrest warrants outstanding--and are wanted by a national government.

America Needs To Have A Superficial Conversation About Race

The people of America need to put aside their differences and come together on common ground. Especially at this crucial moment in our history. How better, I ask, to achieve this goal than to engage in an inconclusive, protracted, ignorant, and superficial examination of the issue of race?

The time for vagueness is now.

Over the past 20 years, our country has become intensely polarized. The gap between rich and poor has grown ever more vast. Voters on both sides are desperate for alternatives. If we ever hope to move into a new era of enlightened multicultural exchange, we must foster, on a national scale, a second-grade-level look into the most painful and difficult issue in America's cultural history.

Black, white, yellow, green, or brown— we can all be callously summed up in a trite statement of unity.

Like it or not, the U.S. needs a stupid conversation on the issue of race relations. Perhaps more importantly, we need this stupid dialogue to be couched in the most self-righteous, know-it-all attitudes on the part of those involved, as if they have no idea whatsoever of how much more complicated the issue is, and how little their one-dimensional approach to it brings to the table.

It's our duty to put aside the complexities of cross-cultural communication and focus on the first idea that comes to mind. Then, after we've wasted 20 minutes discussing whether the term black is offensive, we can repeat the first idea over and over until we have alienated all listeners who did not already agree with us at the beginning.

Is that so very hard?

I'm talking about ill-informed citation of unconfirmed statistics on affirmative action programs. I'm talking about patronizing notions of ethnic identity. I'm talking about multisyllabic, intellectual-sounding terms like "victimization" and "social responsibility" and "self-actualization."

The time has come to start saying foolish, foolish things about the O.J. trial once again.

It's been too long since we sat down and shared long-discredited arguments about welfare mothers eating steak with each other. Terms like "reverse discrimination" should be put back in the spotlight. And while we're being open and honest, why not trot out that old chestnut about the unfairness of black-only usage of "the N-word."

I dare one of our presidential candidates to blanket the media with buzzwords like "Americanism," without ever examining the underlying implications of what they might mean. That would be the day.

Liberals and conservatives alike, hear my plea: We can all say incredibly silly things about who does or does not have the "right" to "act" either black or white, or both.

The Information Age has opened the gates to free and unfettered communication. If we take advantage of that incredible opportunity and technology, we could, in theory, get every single political comment posted on the Internet to relate an embarrassingly simple-minded opinion on some aspect of race in America. We could have every political video clip greeted with literally hundreds of foolish and inane comments from citizens who appear never to have thought about the issue of race beyond their first naïve presumptions, or caricatures they've seen in the media. We could generate blogs—not just hundreds, not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands of blogs—all saying one version or other of the same basic three to five ill-informed viewpoints on this nuanced cultural issue.

Imagine it, if you can!

Since the civil rights movement, race has been our nation's "dirty little secret"—an ugly, shameful reality swept under the rug of polite discourse, emerging only in isolated, angry outbursts about airport profiling, police brutality cases, and gangsta rap. Let's take that issue out from under the rug—keeping that initial phase of ignorance, lack of mutual understanding, and fear—and make sure it dominates American politics for the next century.

Only by opening an embarrassingly one- dimensional dialogue on the most simple and wholly ignorant level can we ensure that we, as a nation, never get down to the deeper issues about race and identity that truly threaten to tear this country apart.

Original here

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Delayed by her bra, air passenger is indignant

When Berkeley resident Nancy Kates arrived at Oakland International Airport to board JetBlue flight 472, she thought she was heading off on a routine journey to visit her mother in Boston. Instead she ended up in a standoff with Transportation Safety Administration officials over her bra.

In the post-Sept. 11 world of heightened airport scrutiny, Kates, like most travelers, is familiar with the drill: Take off shoes and belts, open the laptop, carry shampoo in 3-ounce bottles.

For Kates, on Sunday, though, the security check got too invasive. A big-busted woman wearing a large underwire bra, she set off the metal detector. She was pulled aside and checked by a female TSA agent with a metal-sensitive wand.

"The woman touched my breast. I said, 'You can't do that,' " Kates said. "She said, 'We have to pat you down.' I said, 'You can't treat me as a criminal for wearing a bra.' "

Kates asked to see a supervisor and then the supervisor's supervisor. He told her that underwire bras were the leading item that set off the metal detectors, Kates said.

If that's the case, Kates said, the equipment must be overly sensitive. And if the TSA is engaging in extra brassiere scrutiny, then other women are suffering similar humiliation, Kates thought.

The Constitution bars unreasonable searches and seizures, Kates reminded the TSA supervisor, and scrutinizing a woman's brassiere is surely unreasonable, she said.

The supervisor told her she had the choice of submitting to a pat-down in a private room or not flying. Kates offered a third alternative, to take off her bra and try again, which the TSA accepted.

"They tried to humiliate me and I was not going to be humiliated over this," Kates said. "If I was carrying nail clippers and forgot about them, I wouldn't have gotten so upset. But here I was just wearing my underwear."

So she went to the rest room, then through the security line a second time. Walking through the airport braless can be embarrassing for a large-chested woman, not to mention uncomfortable. The metal detector didn't beep on the second time through, but then officials decided to go through Kates' carry-on luggage, she said.

The whole undertaking took 40 minutes, Kates said, and caused her to miss her flight. JetBlue put her on another one, but she was four hours late getting to Boston.

"It's actually a little funny in a way, but a sad, sad commentary on the state of our country," Kates said. "This is bigger than just me. There are 150 million women in America, and this could happen to any of them."

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said Monday that he wasn't familiar with the incident. But he said in all circumstances, "we have to resolve an alarm."

That's the case for bras, artificial hips or anything with metal that sets off an alarm, he said. "Unfortunately, we can't take a passenger's word for it."

Melendez said he didn't have any statistics on how many times passengers are screened because of bras. But he said, "we do everything we can to ensure that a passenger doesn't feel humiliated."

Kates said she plans to talk to her family lawyer as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women and decide how to pursue the incident.

Barry Steinhardt, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, said Monday of federal security officials: "They can't find bombs in checked luggage, and they're essentially doing a pat-down of private parts. This is a security apparatus that is out of control."

Kates said that although she flies about once a month, the only other time her bra has set off alarms in an airport was while she was being "wanded" in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When she explained to the security agent that the wand was picking up the metal in her bra, she said, that was the end of the matter and she was allowed to go on her way.

Original here

Police: Intruder strangled by nurse was hit man

When Susan Kuhnhausen returned home from work one day earlier this month, she encountered an intruder wielding a claw hammer. After a struggle, the 51-year-old nurse fended off her attacker by strangling him with her bare hands.

Neighbors praised the woman for her bravery, and investigators said they believed the dead man — Edward Dalton Haffey — was burglarizing Kuhnhausen’s home.

But after an investigation, police now say the intruder Kuhnhausen strangled was apparently a hit man hired by her estranged husband — Michael James Kuhnhausen Sr. — to kill her.

The 58-year-old husband was taken into custody Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.

Haffey had worked as a custodian under Kuhnhausen at an adult video store, according an affidavit filed by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office.

Kuhnhausen and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce, and she told officers “her husband was distraught about the divorce and wanting to reconcile but that she was insisting on the divorce,” the affidavit states.

A background check showed Haffey had served lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and convictions for robbery and burglary.

Inside a backpack Haffey left at the scene was a day planner with “Call Mike, Get letter,” scribbled on the week of Sept. 4, the affidavit said. Michael Kuhnhausen’s cell phone number was jotted on the inside of a folder, it said.

An emergency room nurse who lives in a southeast Portland neighborhood, Susan Kuhnhausen arrived home on the evening of Sept. 6 to find Haffey coming at her with a claw hammer.

She was struck in the head and wrested the weapon away, but the struggle continued and Haffey bit the nurse, according to police. A large woman, she was eventually able to get the slight Haffey into a chokehold and police later found him dead in a hallway. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation.

Police say she acted in self-defense.

There was no sign of forced entry into the home, but according to the affidavit, Susan Kuhnhausen offered an explanation for the lack of evidence of a break-in: Her estranged husband had the security codes for the home’s alarm system, and would have been able to disarm it.

Michael Kuhnhausen denies any involvement, the affidavit states.

Susan Kuhnhausen was out of town attending a nursing conference and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

She left this message on her voicemail: “I’m not able to answer all the calls that I’ve received in the past few days. I’m being comforted by your concern and your support. I want you to know that our lives are all at risk for random acts, but more likely random acts of love will come your way than random acts of violence.”


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Motorist goes to the aid of a dying crash victim only to find it is his wife

James Peters, president of Twickenham Rugby Club, was on his way to pick up his wife Susan when he came across the wreckage of a crash in the street.

Not realising who it was he ran to the aid of the dying woman who had been knocked down just seconds earlier as she crossed the street.

It was only when another passer-by handed him a handbag that discovered the awful truth that it was the mother of his three children lying in the road.

"I didn't realise it was her for five, six even seven minutes," Mr Peters, who runs his own heating business, said.

"I had just stopped to help as I saw there had been an accident. Then another person who had stopped handed me a handbag and I recognised it. I couldn't believe it.

"It's no reassurance to me that I was there at her final moments, there's not much reassurance anywhere, I'm devastated. My wife was perfect."

Mr Peters, who had just celebrated his 40-year ruby wedding anniversary two days before the crash last Friday in Leatherhead, Surrey, was yesterday being comforted by his family.

He was making the short five minute drive from the couple's home in Leatherhead to a nearby bus stop where he picks his wife up so she does not have to walk home.

She was travelling back from work at Surrey County Council's offices in Kingston, Surrey, as normal when tragedy struck his 60-year-old wife.

Mr Peter's good friend and chairman of Twickenham Rugby Club e-mailed club members about the tragic incident.

He wrote: "It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that Sue Peters, Jim's wife, died last night as a result of a road traffic incident.

"Jim himself was not involved in the accident, but tragically came upon it when on his way to pick up Sue.

"Our thoughts are with Jim and his family."

The couple's home sits at the end of a private road and is surrounded by dense forest and a golf course.

A close neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "They are such a lovely couple.

"They were getting to that age where they could really start to enjoy what they had achieved in life.

"It's taken my breath away I cannot believe it. Jim must be destroyed."

A Surrey Police spokesman, said: "A 25-year-old man from Fetcham was arrested and has been released on police bail until 7 November in connection with this incident."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

War on Terror boardgame branded criminal by police

It may not be fun for all the family – well, not in the same way as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Mousetrap, say. The themes of empire building and terrorist-style attacks on opponents would probably provoke an outbreak of spluttering over the Christmas sherry.

It is rare, however, for a board game to be seized by the police. This week that distinction befell War on Terror: The Boardgame; a set was confiscated from climate protesters in Kent.

Following a series of raids on the climate change camp near Kingsnorth power station, officers displayed an array of supposed weapons snatched from demonstrators: knives, chisels, bolt cutters, a throwing star – and a copy of the satirical game, which lampoons Washington's "war on terror".

For the game's creators, Andrew Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, web designers from Cambridge, the inclusion of their toy was a shock.

"When I saw the pictures in the papers I was absolutely baffled," said Mr Sheerin, 32. "I thought: surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

You won't find the game in high street stores; retailers have all declined to stock it. The high street chain Zavvi bought 5,000 sets but strangely withdrew them for sale after one day, citing "poor sales". But since its low-key launch two years ago, War on Terror: The Boardgame has sold 12,000 copies online and through independent stockists, prominently featuring in student bedsits.

Distribution deals have been set up to sell the game in Europe and the United States, where war fatigue has ensured a keener reception than in Britain.

Much like games such as Risk or Diplomacy, War on Terror revolves around players creating empires that compete and wage war against each other for resources and land. The controversial twist allows them to "train" terrorist cells that either attack your enemies or, if you're unlucky, turn against you – like some anti-Western terror groups have done.

There is an "Axis of Evil spinner" intended to parody international diplomacy by randomly deciding which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.

Kent police said they had confiscated the game because the balaclava "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act". Mr Sheerin was unconvinced. "That's absurd," he said. "A beard can conceal someone's identity. Are the police going to start banning beards?"

The game's slanted political overtones were fostered in the build-up to the Iraq war. "When we watched the news there was this endless sense of frustration and disbelief that, despite the mass marches and protests, we were off to war," Mr Sheerin said. "We thought it was a ridiculous process that needed to be ridiculed."

After two years of tinkering Mr Sheerin and Mr Tompkins were ready to find a producer; friends helped raise the £30,000 needed to order the first 5,000 copies from a factory in China.

Most high street stores and toy fairs declined to stock the game; those managers who expressed initial interest were overruled by head office.

"The manager of the local Borders bookshop in Cambridge thought it was a great idea and wanted to trial it," said Mr Sheerin. "A day before it was due to appear, head office said not to stock it. That happened time and time again." Zavvi was on the verge of becoming the first major high street store to stock the game and ordered 5,000 copies last year. But a subsequent decision was made to withdraw it, forcing the store to return the order.

A spokesman for Zavvi said the group had bought the game when it was part of the Virgin Megastore network. "We don't censor our products. The game just wasn't selling."

Rules of the game

The game is for two to six players.

All players begin with fledgling empires on a world map which they expand through the acquisition of land, oil and cities. At any time players can abandon the "pursuit of liberty and oil" in favour of becoming a terror state – or they are designated a terror state by a random "Axis of Evil" spinner.

Empires can also train their own terrorists to target rival empires, although these groups often turn on you later in the game. Terrorists can use special cards such as "suicide bomber", "plane hijack" and "WMDs" to advance themselves. Empires rely on tactics such as "espionage", "regime change" and forcing other empires to sign up to the Kyoto protocol to bankrupt their competitors. "The idea is to encourage the sort of short-term, selfish thinking that led us into war," says Andrew Sheerin, the co-creator of the game.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Panda from Apocalypse Now

Petrol pump pilgrims keep faith

By Greg Wood and Sandra Shmueli


Rocky Twyman (left) leading a prayer vigil at a Shell station
Rocky Twyman says God, not market forces, brought prices down

A prayer group in Washington DC is claiming the credit for the recent sharp drop in the US price of petrol.

Rocky Twyman, 59, a veteran community campaigner, started Pray At The Pump meetings at petrol stations in April.

Since then, the average price of what the US calls gasoline has fallen from more than $4 a gallon to $3.80.

"We don't have anybody else to turn to but God," Mr Twyman told the BBC. "We have to turn these problems over to God and not to man."

His first pilgrimage to the pump was prompted by fellow volunteers at the First Seventh Day Adventist Church in Petworth, a working-class neighbourhood of the US capital, who were struggling with higher gasoline prices.

He led them down the block to the local Shell gas station to pray. And over the months since then, he has held similar prayer meetings at pumps all over the US.

Prayer warriors

"We were down in Huntsville, Alabama. We finished praying," Mr Twyman said. "Immediately the owners came out and changed the gas prices. They brought it down. We had marvellous success down in St Louis, Missouri."

This week the group returned to the site of their first prayer meeting to celebrate. Singing "We shall overcome," they changed the words of the well-known hymn to "We'll have lower gas prices".

Mr Twyman is sceptical that market forces might be responsible for the lower prices. But he and his prayer warriors have changed their motoring habits.

"We believe not just in prayer - because we believe that faith without works is dead. So we've encouraged people to car-pool more and organise their days more, because it's a combination of faith with these other factors."

Pray At The Pump plans to build on its success and drive gasoline prices even lower. In the words of Rocky Twyman: "We just thank God for blessing us with small victories and we expect greater things to come."

Original here

The Creative Personality

By: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity. What makes us different from apes--our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology--is the result of individual ingenuity that was recognized, rewarded, and transmitted through learning.

When we're creative, we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes dose to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do. Perhaps only sex, sports, music, and religious ecstasy--even when these experiences remain fleeting and leave no trace--provide a profound sense of being part of an entity greater than ourselves. But creativity also leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future.

I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual," each of them is a "multitude."

Here are the 10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they're also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. This suggests a superior physical endowment, a genetic advantage. Yet it is surprising how often individuals who in their seventies and eighties exude energy and health remember childhoods plagued by illness. It seems that their energy is internally generated, due more to their focused minds than to the superiority of their genes.

This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive, always "on." In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control their energy; it's not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

One manifestation of energy is sexuality. Creative people are paradoxical in this respect also. They seem to have quite a strong dose of eros, or generalized libidinal energy, which some express directly into sexuality. At the same time, a certain spartan celibacy is also a part of their makeup; continence tends to accompany superior achievement. Without eros, it would be difficult to take life on with vigor; without restraint, the energy could easily dissipate.

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question. It is probably true that what psychologists call the "g factor," meaning a core of general intelligence, is high among people who make important creative contributions.

The earliest longitudinal study of superior mental abilities, initiated at Stanford University by the psychologist Lewis Terman in 1921, shows rather conclusively that children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point IQ does not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Later studies suggest that the cutoff point is around 120; it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity

Another way of expressing this dialectic is the contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness. As Howard Gardner remarked in his study of the major creative geniuses of this century, a certain immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights. Mozart comes immediately to mind.

Furthermore, people who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.

Yet there remains the nagging suspicion that at the highest levels of creative achievement the generation of novelty is not the main issue. People often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career, but each idea was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, filling out, elaborating, and applying.

Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn't go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance.

Nina Holton, whose playfully wild germs of ideas are the genesis of her sculpture, is very firm about the importance of hard work: "Tell anybody you're a sculptor and they'll say, 'Oh, how exciting, how wonderful.' And I tend to say, 'What's so wonderful?' It's like being a mason, or a carpenter, half the time. But they don't wish to hear that because they really only imagine the first part, the exciting part. But, as Khrushchev once said, that doesn't fry pancakes, you see. That germ of an idea does not make a sculpture which stands up. It just sits there. So the next stage is the hard work. Can you really translate it into a piece of sculpture?"

Jacob Rabinow, an electrical engineer, uses an interesting mental technique to slow himself down when work on an invention requires more endurance than intuition: "When I have a job that takes a lot of effort, slowly, I pretend I'm in jail. If I'm in jail, time is of no consequence. In other words, if it takes a week to cut this, it'll take a week. What else have I got to do? I'm going to be here for twenty years. See? This is a kind of mental trick. Otherwise you say, 'My God, it's not working,' and then you make mistakes. My way, you say time is of absolutely no consequence."

Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: "What a beautiful thing is this perspective!" while his wife called him back to bed with no success.

4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas. as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality At the same time, this "escape" is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.

Most of us assume that artists--musicians, writers, poets, painters--are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.

5. Creative people trend to be both extroverted and introverted. We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in current psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead. Yet there are good reasons why this should be so. These individuals are well aware that they stand, in Newton's words, "on the shoulders of giants." Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, putting their own in perspective. They're also aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements. And they're usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are no longer very interesting to them. At the same time, they know that in comparison with others, they have accomplished a great deal. And this knowledge provides a sense of security, even pride.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality. But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it's difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to what has been valued in the past rarely leads to novelty that is accepted as an improvement. The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design. This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:

"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'--that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."

But the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: "I'd say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They'll play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it's going to be interesting. It's not predictable that it'll go well."

9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it:

"I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can't be so identified with your work that you can't accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help."

10. Creative people's openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Most would agree with Rabinow's words: "Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them." A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.

Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and often vicious attacks. When an artist has invested years in making a sculpture, or a scientist in developing a theory, it is devastating if nobody cares.

Deep interest and involvement in obscure subjects often goes unrewarded, or even brings on ridicule. Divergent thinking is often perceived as deviant by the majority, and so the creative person may feel isolated and misunderstood.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out.

Yet when a person is working in the area of his of her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss. Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.

From Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published by HarperCollins, 1996.

Original here

Funny Sign

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Texas police say 12-year-old girl drove mom to bar

A 35-year-old Texas woman has been jailed after police say she made her 12-year-old daughter drive her to a bar. Police in Longview say they watched a minivan turn into a driveway without signaling on Wednesday and bump into a home at a low speed. They say the car was driven by Jennifer Lynn Rosenberg's daughter.

Police say the girl told an officer she had just dropped her mother off at a bar. They say they found Rosenburg at the bar and that she admitted having her daughter drive her there.

Rosenburg remains in the Gregg County Jail on a $2,500 bond. A jail official declined to say whether she had an attorney.

A spokeswoman for Child Protective Services told the Longview News-Journal that the agency is investigating.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ex-cop sentenced for pulling over woman for number

A former part-time Pennsylvania police officer has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for pulling over a woman while he was off duty — just to give her his phone number. Steven Klinger, 32, was charged with official oppression, or acting outside his authority as an officer.

Police said he used red and blue lights mounted on the dashboard of his pickup truck to pull over a woman in Berwick in eastern Pennsylvania in April 2007. The woman became suspicious when he began asking her if she was married or had a boyfriend, police said.

Klinger was also sentenced Tuesday to three additional days in jail and fined $1,000 for driving drunk in July 2007. Police said he had a blood-alcohol level of .40 percent, five times the legal driving limit.

Klinger last worked for the Dallas Police Department in northeastern Pennsylvania. He is currently unemployed.

He apologized for his actions, and told the judge he had checked into treatment for alcohol abuse.

Proof or Hoax? Bigfoot Said Found in Georgia

Two Georgia men claim to have found in the northern woods of that state something that has been often reported but never proven to exist: a Bigfoot.

They say they have a body, photos of the body, and DNA evidence — some or all of which will be revealed this Friday, Aug. 15, at a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif.

If the group does have a Bigfoot carcass (and if they actually show the body, instead merely displaying photographs of a supposed body), then perhaps scientists will take note. Still, it's not clear how, exactly, the group will prove that what they have is a Bigfoot. Because there is no comparison specimen, there is no DNA analysis that can definitively identify Bigfoot tissue.

Readers may recall the much-hyped press conference held on May 30, where a man claimed he would provide "definitive proof" of alien visitation. His "proof" turned out to be a short fuzzy video clip of what he said was an alien head outside his window trying to ogle his teen daughters. Needless to say, top scientists were not awestruck by his evidence.

History repeats?

This is not the first time a Bigfoot body has been claimed to have been found. A man named Tom Biscardi, founder of something called the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization, once claimed he had captured a Bigfoot. On Aug. 19, 2005, Biscardi appeared on the radio show "Coast to Coast with George Noory." Biscardi claimed his group had captured a Bigfoot a week earlier, a male beast that weighed over 400 pounds and stood 8-feet tall. He said he would be presenting photos of it several days later. It turned out to be a hoax.

Interestingly, Biscardi is also involved in the new Bigfoot body discovery.

Speaking on behalf of the Georgia men this week, Biscardi said, "Extensive scientific studies will be done on the body by a team of scientists including a molecular biologist, an anthropologist, a paleontologist and other scientists over the next few months at an undisclosed location" under armed guard.

If it all sounds very cloak-and-dagger, it is. Unnamed experts? Undisclosed location? Sounds more like "The X-Files" than real science.

Marketing scheme?

In 2005, Biscardi promoted a pay-per-view cable TV show in which he offered viewers the chance to see a Bigfoot captured on live television for only $59.95. That never happened, but Biscardi did recently direct and produce a film called "Bigfoot Lives."

Surely the publicity from this press conference might boost his film's sales...

Bigfoot researcher Loren Coleman, while stopping short of authenticating the claims, wrote on the Web site Cryptomundo.com, "I feel, in all honesty, this, indeed, may be the real deal, and I say this carefully after reviewing information that has been shared privately with me."

So has a Bigfoot finally been found, after all these years? Or is this just the latest hoax to embarrass Bigfoot believers and bring further ridicule to a field sorely in need of science?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

lobster


lobster by Zuan.

Polar bear eaten by shark: who's top predator?

Photo

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Already threatened by a thaw of ice around the North Pole, the polar bear's title as the top Arctic predator may under challenge from a shark.

Scientists researching how far sharks hunt seals in the Arctic were stunned in June to find part of the jaw of a young polar bear in the stomach of a Greenland shark, a species that favors polar waters.

"We've never heard of this before. We don't know how it got there," Kit Kovacs, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, told Reuters of the 10 cm (4 inch) bone found in a shark off the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

"We can't say whether or not the shark took a swimming young bear" or ate a carcass, she said. "We don't know how active these sharks are as predators."

Most shark experts contacted said it was likely the bear was dead before the shark found it. Even a young, two- or three-year-old bear would be a ferocious opponent for a Greenland shark, which can grow to up to 7 meters (23 feet) and weigh more than a tonne.

"It sounds like a scavenge," said Steve Campana, head of the Canadian shark research laboratory at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

He said he had not heard of a shark eating a bear before and it was a "million dollar question" for researchers as to whether Greenland sharks attack live bears.

Bits of animals including caribou have been found in Greenland shark stomachs in the past -- scavenged or attacked swimming. Campana said there was even a myth that the sharks could leap out of the water and seize caribou standing on ice.

"There's no possibility a Greenland shark could predate a live adult white bear unless it was injured or seriously ill," said Jeffrey Gallant, co-director of a Canadian-based Greenland shark education and research group.

Sonja Fordham, deputy chair of the shark specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said more research was needed into the Greenland shark's habits.

"Greenland sharks do seem quite sluggish ... but they have been known to move very quickly when they are eating," she said.

The United States this year listed polar bears as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their sea ice habitat is shrinking, apparently due to global warming. A thaw may mean that bears spend more time in the water.

But less chill waters are unlikely to lure other big sharks, except perhaps the porbeagle, to polar regions, Campana said. Most sharks favor much warmer conditions.

Killer whales, however, have been spotted further north in recent years. "Both walruses and polar bears are powerful in the water. Both could handle most potential predators, but not killer whales," Kovacs said.

Gallant said warming was unlikely to help the Greenland shark catch bears.

"The Greenland shark simply cannot afford the risk of injury nor the expenditure of energy required to kill such a large and dangerous animal, with or without the help of global warming," he said. "There is far easier prey to be found."

Kovacs also said: "For polar bears the greater risk is a loss of habitat. These other things will be ancillary."

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

Original here

What If Your Wife Were A Porn Star?

Life with a XXX actress has its perks—hearing about her day isn't one of them.

-By Michael Kaplan
-Photographs by Dana Lixenberg

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Rusty, 34, says that when his wife, Mikayla Mendez, started working as a porn star, their sex life improved.

It's a Wednesday night in late May, and Ryder Sky and her husband, Bill, are celebrating their third anniversary. They keep it simple and order in pizza. The next morning, Sky heads to work at a boxy, modern house in the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles. Before long, backdropped by a floor-to-ceiling window, she lowers her mouth onto the erect penis of a sideburned actor who calls himself James Deen.

"That's beautiful," says a scruffy-faced director. "Now give me a jawbreaker."

Sky adjusts Deen's penis so that its head causes her left cheek to bubble. "Do you ever do anal?" the director asks her.

Nine hours later, Sky, a 24-year-old porn actress, pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way, returns to the cozy house near Studio City that she shares with Bill, who works as a driver for a talent agency. Inside their neatly organized home, mainstream DVDs are racked near a flat-screen TV and remnants of supper cool in a pot on the stove. Husband and wife are sprawled across the sofa. Bill, in his mid-thirties, muscular and handsome, wears jeans and a pullover; Sky's in plaid pajama pants and a tank top. If it weren't for the handblown glass dildo artfully displayed on their coffee table (Sky's name is etched on the bottom), this would be a standard picture of American domesticity.

Sky and Bill met in 2002 while working together at an independent film-production company. They have a seemingly solid marriage. It's only when Bill thinks too hard about what his wife's been doing in the year since she quit her job as an executive assistant to become a full-time porn star that things get difficult. Occasionally, he can't keep from mulling over the fact that he's home alone while she's getting it on with another man. "Sometimes I think about it when she works late and I'm going to bed," he says. "It's not negative, though. It's more like, eh . . . " He trails off with a what-can-you-do groan.

This is what it's like to be married to a porn star. While you toil away at a conventional job during the week, your wife spends eight hours a day getting plowed by guys with nicknames like Thug of Porn. There are the indelible mental images. There is the awkwardness of explaining to friends and colleagues—let alone to your parents—what she does. And then there's the fact that you don't even get to have sex with her all that often—intercourse is off-limits before a shoot, and afterward she's too tired and sore.

Bill describes his sex life with Sky as vanilla; "We schedule sex," he says. But that bothers him less than his wife's habitually telling colleagues she's "in a relationship" rather than married. "She hardly ever wears her wedding ring, even off-set," Bill says. "Why be ashamed of being married?"

Sky insists that it's not a matter of shame. "I don't want to get typecast as a MILF," she says.

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At Bill's last job, a colleague recognized his wife, Ryder Sky, from her movies.

Otherwise sanguine as Bill seems about their arrangement, he shows some discomfort when he explains that his family doesn't know what his wife does for a living and admits that he doesn't go out of his way to tell coworkers about her occupation. At his previous job, a colleague saw a picture of Sky on Bill's desk and recognized her. "He said, 'Hey, that's Ryder Sky,'" Bill says. "I said, 'Yeah, she's my wife.' He said, 'You're a lucky guy.'" This hangs in the air for a beat before he continues. Being a porn star is what Sky wants. She makes good money, she doesn't get bossed around by a suit, and she has time to attend college (majoring in women's studies). He isn't going to stand in her way. "I want her to be happy. And it's a turn-on, in a way. On the downside, though, there are guys having sex with your wife."

But rather than avoid seeing her work, Bill watches Sky's movies religiously and stealthily posts positive sentiments on porn sites, occasionally attacking critics. "I don't look at it as sex," he says. "I look at it as a guy with his dick in my wife, but they're working and it's not emotional. She never orgasms in porn. That's for us. If it happened on the set, it would be a little weird."

Ryan Brown is standing in the doorway of a room at a Motel 6 in Van Nuys, California. The 23-year-old car detailer, in training to be a firefighter, and his just-legal fiancée, Kelly Skyline, are down from Sacramento while she shoots a movie. Inside, arranged around the TV, are a container of body butter, a bag of Runts, and a DVD of Be My Bitch 6 (Skyline's considering a role in 7). Skyline wears low-slung jeans that expose a suntan tattoo of two hearts just above her hip line. Brown (not his real last name), an easygoing, nerdy-looking kid, appears mellow and doting. They're discussing a recent on-the-job injury that Skyline suffered—one that Brown, usually at peace with his fiancée's occupation, found troubling. "I got a text message from her that said 'I've been ripped,'" he recalls. Skyline had been shooting a scene with Billy Glide, a porn star who's nicknamed the Human Wine Bottle, and his oversize penis tore the inside of her vagina.

Brown knew the drill. "Get that text and you know it's no sex for a few days," he says, rolling his eyes. "I constantly made Epsom-salt baths and forced her to get in. It burns the cut but also helps it to heal faster."

Brown and Skyline met a few years ago. She was a student at the high school where Brown was the pole-vaulting coach for the track team. They began dating after she graduated, and he told her that he wanted an open relationship. Skyline agreed. A few months later, trained by Brown's sister-in-law, the porn actress Trina Michaels, Skyline entered an amateur-night contest at a strip club and won. Soon after, she decided to try her hand at the X-rated-movie business. "My feeling was, if she does it, cool," Brown says. "It wasn't a big deal either way. But once you start, you can't undo it." Brown sees it as beneficial to their open relationship. He and Skyline recently had a threesome with a boyhood friend of his (he ranks as a hero among his pals), and she occasionally brings home costars. "Girlfriends of mine call and say that they want to come by for a swim," Skyline says. "I say, 'Yeah, it's okay. You can fuck him.'"

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Kenneth Austin says porn actress Charmane Star is the sanest woman he's met in L.A.

Rusty, a 34-year-old bouncer in L.A. married to a porn star named Mikayla Mendez, leads a slightly less charmed domestic existence. It's not so much dealing with his wife's occupational hazards or with the guys at work—"They always ask if it bothers me," Rusty says. "It doesn't"—it's a future of contending with soccer moms. Rusty and Mendez, 28, have a 3-year-old son. This month he'll be starting preschool, and there will inevitably be questions about what his parents do for a living. "I'll play it off," Mendez says vaguely. Rusty, crooking his shaved head, says he'll run interference: "I'll play Mr. Mom. I'll go to school and interact with the parents."

The couple met through friends in 2002. Mendez, a former patients' advocate in the health-care industry, stumbled into porn five years ago after answering a newspaper ad for figure models. She now drives a Mercedes Kompressor and, between acting, stripping, and personal appearances, earns a six-figure income. But she hasn't knitted her porn career into her personal life: She avoids discussing scenes with Rusty.

That policy is more for her own emotional well-being than for Rusty's—he insists that he'd happily talk shop. "Porn has improved our love life—we do it every day and it turns me on that she's with other people," he says, though he admits he has concerns about STDs and expresses relief that Mendez now has a contract with a company that does condom-only movies. "She's an animal, and I am very unusual. What can I say?"

Kenneth Austin, who grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, has no compulsion to talk shop with his girlfriend, eight-year porn veteran Charmane Star—or to see any of her films. For Austin, a clean-cut 32-year-old who works in interactive marketing, the only way for the relationship to work is for the details of Star's professional life to remain walled off from their personal life.

But one drunken night about a year ago, not long after they started dating, that boundary was crossed. "We went with a couple of my girlfriends to hang out in their hotel room," Star says, sitting on the terrace of a Japanese restaurant overlooking the Sunset Strip. "Then this music-producer dude showed up and all of a sudden these girls were running around in their panties." She shrugs. "My friends are porno. That's the way it is."

"I happily left," Austin says. "Those girls were trash."

Having lived in Hollywood for three years, Austin insists that Star, a petite Filipina with an exuberant laugh, is the sanest girl he's met here. He doesn't lie to his friends about what she does, and they've been mostly supportive. "One told me that he erased all her movies from his hard drive," he says. Even his parents have been accepting. Still, Austin looks relieved when the conversation turns to Star's decision last month to stop shooting porn with men and to focus exclusively on women.

She maintains that the switch has nothing to do with Austin. "He's lucky and his timing is good," she says, excusing herself to go to the bathroom. Austin watches her leave. "When she did do it [with guys]," he says, "it was hard for me to deal with. But my attitude is that if you can find a cool girl . . . good for you."

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