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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Petty thief caught red-handed ... The Consumerist red-faced

Our apologies to the Brooklyn, Ohio police department. New security camera footage released by the Brooklyn police department shows that the man who claimed he "forgot" the case of pop under his shopping cart actually grabbed it on his way out of the store! Now the man admits that he lied to reporters.

Brooklyn police gave NewsChannel5 surveillance video of Sturgis at the Giant Eagle the day of his arrest.

Police said Sturgis is shown with his stepson, who was bagging the groceries at the checkout line.

But the video shows nothing beneath the cart. Sturgis paid for the groceries in the cart, but police said as he left the store, he stopped at the pop display in the vestibule, loading his cart with Pepsi.

He then left without paying for the new additions to his cart, police said.

Brooklyn Chief Mark Tenaglia said that security video shows Sturgis using a self-checkout with no items on the bottom of his cart.

Tenaglia said a second video camera shows Sturgis loading six 12-packs of Pepsi into his cart before he exited the store. The total value of the soda was $21.54 with tax.

Sturgis was arrested and charged with petty theft.

He told NewsChannel5, "It was a total lie. I did try to steal the Pepsi at Giant Eagle." Sturgis also said that he plans to plead guilty at his arraignment.

Oh, shoplifter guy. Why did you lie to the media? The truth will always come out. The Consumerist apologizes to the Brooklyn, Ohio police department for teasing them and hopes we can remain friends. Congratulations on preventing pop theft in your area.


Surveillance Shows Man Taking Pop After Store Check-Out
[NewsChannel5]

UPDATE: Consumerist has sent the following email to the Brooklyn, Ohio police department.

Dear Chief Tenaglia,

We picked up the story about the pop thief and thought it had been more thoroughly vetted by the news station that sent it to us. In retrospect, I feel my teasing was pretty mean and I hope the Brooklyn police department will accept my apology.

Stopping crime is awesome. Keep up the good work.

-Meg

Original here

6 Restless Corpses: Heads of State Edition

The reason for exhuming, mummifying, or otherwise displaying the deceased bodies of heads of state is to either 1. continue to pay your respects, or 2. to make sure they are really dead, depending on your end of the political spectrum.

Eva Perón

435Evita.png

Eva Perón was first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death from cancer in 1952. A monument was to be built where her body could be displayed, but when president Jaun Perón was overthrown by the military, he fled the country without making arrangements for his wife’s corpse. Evita’s body was missing for 16 years, until the military government revealed she had been buried in Italy. In 1971, Juan Perón had her body exhumed and delivered to his new home in Spain. He returned to Argentina in 1973 to begin his third term as president. After his death in 1974, his successor (and third wife) Isabel Perón arranged for Eva’s coffin to be brought back to Argentina, where she was displayed beside her husband’s body for a time. She was finally buried in Buenos Aires in an extremely secure tomb to guard against further “disappearance”.

Juan Perón’s grave was desecrated in 1987, and his hands were stolen.

Nicholas II

435_RomanovBones.jpg

The last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II was executed in Yekaterinburg in 1918, a year after he abdicated the throne. His wife, four daughters, son, the family’s doctor, and three servants were also killed. The bodies were hidden in a mine shaft, then later taken to the woods and dismembered. Nine skeletons were found in 1991. DNA tests revealed that five were of the same family, and four were unrelated. The related bones were found to match DNA of various royal families that were related to Nicholas or his wife Alexandra, leading scientists to conclude they belonged to the tsar and his family. The bones of the Romanov family were reburied in July of 1998 in the Saint Catherine Cathedral in St. Petersburg, despite reservations from the church, as skeptical officials cited the two missing children. The remains of what is believed to be the other two children were found in 2007.

Ho Chi Minh

435HoChiMinh.jpg

Ho Chi Minh was the leader of North Vietnam for 24 years, as prime minister and then president until his death in 1969. He had wished to be cremated, but his body was instead put on display in a mausoleum in Hanoi. The Soviet Union, which had founder Vladimir Lenin on display, made a gift of a crystal coffin, and lent technological expertise in the embalming procedure. “Uncle Ho’s” tomb is open for visitors every day.

Mao Zedong

435Mao.png

Mao Zedong led the Communist party in China and was the leader of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 until his death in 1976. Like Ho Chi Minh before him, he wished to be cremated, but was instead placed on public display. A mausoleum was built right after his death at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, on the site that was once the main gate of the Imperial City. Since Mao’s internment, there have been at least three vandalism attempts, all thwarted by police.

Ferdinand Marcos

435marcos.jpg

Ferdinand Marcos was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. His body was refused entry into the Philippines, so his wife Imelda arranged to keep it in refrigeration at a mausoleum in Oahu. In 2001, Marcos’ corpse was allowed to return to the Philippines during the administration of president Ridel Ramos, who is distantly related to Marcos. However, plans to bury the former president anywhere in the Philippines brought instant protest. Imelda Marcos refuses to bury her husband’s body until he is given full military honors, so he remains in a glass-topped coffin, on display at the Marco’s family mausoleum in the village of Batac.

Abraham Lincoln

435Lincoln.jpg

President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin was moved 17 times after his funeral, mostly for construction and renovation of his tomb in Illinois, and the coffin itself was opened five times! A gang of counterfeiters attempted to take Lincoln’s body from his tomb in 1876. The plan was to hold the corpse for ransom, but they only moved the coffin a few inches when they were interrupted by police who were alerted by a Secret Service agent who had infiltrated the gang. Lincoln’s coffin was removed from the tomb during reconstruction of the tomb in 1900-1901. Before the reburial, the coffin was opened for witnesses. 23 people took a look and agreed that the body, with its still-recognizable features, was indeed Abraham Lincoln. Afterward, Lincoln’s coffin was buried for the final time, and covered with 4,000 pounds of concrete.


Further reading: 6 Restless Corpses and 6 More Restless Corpses

Original here

Angry Parents Ask About Jailed Principal At Board Meeting

The Nippersink school board took about an hour's worth of questioning from angry parents on Wednesday night concerning the arrest of Spring Grove Elementary principal.

The principal was in a Wisconsin jail Tuesday night on charges of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl. Daniel Markofsky, 47, of Richmond, was caught over the weekend in Glendale, Wis., at a Super Motel 8 with two teen sisters, 15 and 16, according to police.Parents wanted to know why Markofsky was allowed around their children. Police alleged Markofsky and the two girls were smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and watching pornographic material."They need to be drug tested," said Spring Grove parent. "I guarantee this is not the first instance this guy smoked marijuana."

Patty Anderson of Nippersink School Board stressed to parents that Markofsky showed no sign of ill behavior at the time of his hire."I just want to assure everyone that at the time Mr. Markofsky was hired, we never in a million, millon years could have anticipated that this would have happened," said Anderson.Other parents were upset about not being informed until three days after the arrest."It would have been nice to have a phone call;they have an all district phone call," Becky Johnson, a Spring Grove Parent. "But in hindsight, you can't have a plan for everything."The board voted unanimously to suspend Markofsky without pay. They also promised to inform parents immediately if Markofsky posts bond.The sisters were from the Milwaukee area, according to police.The Chicago Tribune reported that on Saturday a Glendale police officer knocked on the door of his room after smelling marijuana, according to the report. The report said Markofsky answered wearing a shirt and boxer shorts.Neighbors near the school in Spring Grove were shocked by the news and feel Markofsky should not remain as the principal."You wonder how long that kind of stuff has been going on with the kids," said Jamie Mason, a neighbor in Spring Grove. "I don't think any man should have the authority to be around kids when he does stuff like that."A meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday to vote on his permanent dismissal.

Original here

Student arrested for defrauding Yale

When he transferred from Columbia to Yale last spring and joined Morse College’s class of 2008, he seemed like many other Yale students: His admissions application boasted a rigorous course load, straight A’s and a glowing letter of recommendation.

There was only one problem: None of it appears to have been true, according to charges filed against him in Connecticut court.

The University rescinded his admission in June, and the student, 26 and a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was quietly arrested last September on charges of larceny and forgery for allegedly faking his application to Yale and stealing some $46,000 in financial aid to which he was not entitled, according to court documents obtained by the News.

If convicted as charged, the suspect, who currently resides in New York City, could face up to 25 years in prison under the Connecticut penal code. He could also face federal charges for scholarship money he allegedly stole. But the student has pleaded not guilty, said Glenn Conway, the New Haven-based criminal defense attorney who is representing him. He has a hearing at the state courthouse on Church Street on April 14.

The arrest followed an internal investigation by the Yale College Dean’s Office and Yale attorneys, and his alleged fraud has remained a matter discussed by top administrators only in hushed tones over the past few months, interviews with professors and administrators indicate. Most administrators contacted by the News said confidentiality rules preclude them from commenting on cases involving students.

In phone interviews with the News on Saturday, the student — whose name is being withheld by the News because of his documented history of emotional instability — said his birth date was the only part of his application that was not authentic. The University, he said, mishandled his case.

But court documents obtained by the News last week and interviews with individuals involved in the case tell a different story — a startling saga of a student who may have duped the Ivy League.

An affidavit and a hearing

When initially asked about the arrest of a former student on charges of forgery and larceny against the University, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey repeatedly told the News he did not know about the case. A sworn affidavit indicates that Salovey signed a letter rescinding the student’s admission, and he contacted at least one professor about the issue, that professor said.

When the News later obtained the affidavit and presented it to Salovey, he said he could not comment on criminal or disciplinary matters involving Yale students.

Rescinding a student’s application is the penalty for lying in an application, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel wrote in a statement to the News on Monday night. Asked how many students have had their admissions revoked after they started attending Yale, the University did not respond directly.

After allegedly defrauding Yale’s admissions office, the student received $46,789 — by the Yale General Counsel Office’s calculation — in scholarships that he would not have obtained “had it been known that he provided false and misleading information during the admission application process,” according to an affidavit signed by Yale Police Department Detective Thomas Mullen, who declined to comment for this article, in the Connecticut Superior Court in New Haven.

That figure includes $31,750 in Yale financial aid, as well as $7,400 in federal scholarships, $6,739 in federal loans and $900 from a federal work-study program.

The News has submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the student’s case.

The student, who said he moved to the United States in 2001, is applying for accelerated rehabilitation, a pre-trial diversionary program that gives first-time offenders a chance to have the charges against them dismissed and their criminal records expunged if a court determines that the offense was not serious and is unlikely to be repeated, Conway said.

The motion is not an admission of guilt, Conway said, and the facts of the allegations will not be contested at next Monday’s scheduled hearing.

The student told the News he expects the charges to be dismissed at the hearing. He said he thinks everything will be resolved and he will return to Columbia in the fall, although his plans are not yet final.

But if the motion is rejected, and subsequent negotiations between Conway, the judge and the prosecution break down, his case would proceed to trial, Conway said.

An aide to the state’s attorney in New Haven, Michael Dearington, declined to comment.

The YPD’s spokesperson, Sergeant Steven Woznyk confirmed the details of the arrest and directed all further questions to the Yale College Dean’s Office.

A break-up and a birth date

The case began to unravel after the YPD began investigating the student for a harassment complaint and stumbled upon his alleged deception of Yale’s admissions and financial-aid offices, according to the affidavit.

Last June, according to the document, the YPD was called to the Asian American Cultural Center, where the suspect’s ex-boyfriend told officers that the suspect had threatened to kill him.

The ex-boyfriend, who still attends Yale, had broken up with the suspect after discovering that he had lied to him about his age “and other issues relating to his identity,” the affidavit says. The suspect allegedly responded by threatening to kill himself, and the boyfriend took him to a New York City hospital.

The suspect then allegedly threatened his ex-boyfriend, who filed a complaint with the YPD. He was then admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital for psychiatric evaluation at the YPD’s request, according to the affidavit.

The ex-boyfriend, who did not respond to numerous messages left on his cell phone seeking comment, tipped off Associate Dean of Yale College Rosalinda Garcia, the director of the Latino Cultural Center, about apparent inconsistencies related to the suspect’s identity, the affidavit says. That prompted an internal investigation that uncovered extensive discrepancies in his application to Yale.

Garcia said she could not comment because of rules governing student confidentiality.

The suspect told the News he lied about his birth date because he was embarrassed about being older than most of his classmates. But he denied forging any documents.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” he said of the accusations. “Everything I submitted to Yale was authentic.”

But Yale Associate General Counsel Susan Sawyer’s review of his file concluded that the matriculation dates, transcript and letter of recommendation that the student submitted as part of his application were not valid, according to the affidavit. She contacted the YPD about initiating the criminal investigation that resulted in his Sept. 7 arrest.

The student claimed in his application that he attended Columbia University from the fall of 2003 until the spring of 2005, took a medical leave in fall 2005 and spent the spring 2006 semester volunteering in Sri Lanka, according to the affidavit.

He told the News that he attended Columbia for two years, but declined to say when he matriculated. He repeated that he had taken the 2005-’06 academic year off for medical leave and then to volunteer in Sri Lanka.

But New York University matriculation records indicate he attended the university from the fall of 2003 until the spring of 2004, according to the affidavit, and Columbia confirmed that the student was enrolled there only from the fall of 2004 until the spring of 2006.

The student told the News he was never in a degree program at NYU but that he sometimes received mail from the college. He said the registrar was confused because his identity had been stolen.

The courses and grades on the transcript submitted with his application also did not match Columbia’s records, according to the affidavit.

And his letter of recommendation from a Slavic Languages professor at Columbia was neither written nor provided by her, Yale’s internal investigation discovered.

That professor did not reply to an e-mail and could not be reached by phone.

The Columbia College Dean’s Office declined to comment, and the registrar could not be reached. Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs did not reply to a request for comment Monday. The NYU dean’s and admissions offices also did not respond to requests for comment.

A revocation and a denial

While the Yale College Dean’s Office scrutinized his documentation last summer, then-Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg and Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker questioned the student about the apparent discrepancies, according to the affidavit.

According to the affidavit, the student told the deans he had never “officially” attended NYU, but had just gone to classes with his friends and discarded tuition bills sent to him. He told them Columbia was confusing him with another student of the same name.

Trachtenberg said in a phone interview that she could not remember the case but would not have commented anyway because of confidentiality requirements.

“I can’t bring it to mind,” she said. “I don’t think I dealt with that.”

Schenker declined to comment.

Morse Master Frank Keil declined to comment and directed questions to the Yale College Dean’s Office.

“I can’t say anything about it,” he said in a phone interview in February.

Salovey informed the suspect in a letter dated June 28, 2007, that, because of the problems with his application, his admission to Yale was being revoked, according to the affidavit.

In an interview last Monday morning, when asked about the arrest of a former Yale College student for defrauding the University, Salovey repeatedly denied any knowledge or involvement.

“This is not a case that was brought to my attention,” he said.

When approached with details presented in the affidavit a day after his first interview, Salovey said he could not comment “on any student who’s a party to a judicial process both in the criminal-justice system or at Yale.”

English professor Leslie Brisman told the News that when he heard the student’s side of the story, he was concerned about how Schenker was handling the investigation. He expressed this concern in an e-mail to Salovey, he said, asking him not to leave the matter in Schenker’s hands.

Salovey did not respond to that e-mail, but someone in the Yale College Dean’s Office — Brisman declined to specify exactly who — told him not to inquire further, saying that “this is bigger than you could possibly imagine,” Brisman said.

When Brisman realized the enormity of the case, he said, he wrote Salovey to apologize for interfering. Brisman said Salovey replied with an e-mail thanking him.

Salovey declined to comment on the exchange with Brisman.

“Once again, as this is a disciplinary matter involving a named student,” he wrote in an e-mail last week. “I cannot comment on any aspects of the situation, including the conversation that the YDN had with Professor Brisman.”

The student responded to Salovey’s letter by telling Schenker that he had been the victim of identity theft and a records mix-up at Columbia, and he sent Schenker another transcript on June 29, according to the affidavit.

The Yale College Dean’s Office then consulted Columbia’s registrar, according to the document, and determined that this second transcript was also a forgery.

The student denied forging this transcript.

On July 6, 2007, Mullen presented a warrant to search the student’s admissions file.

The affidavit was signed July 30 and submitted with the application for the arrest warrant. After the student’s arrest, his brother posted a $20,000 bond to bail him out of jail a few days after his September arrest, he said.

Reached on his cell phone, his brother declined to comment.

“I would not like to be contacted about this matter ever again,” he said.

Original here

Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location


Cary Conover for The New York Times

Neil Neches, on a No. 5 train, underneath the placard that has earned him plaudits for his proper use of the semicolon.

Correction Appended

It was nearly hidden on a New York City Transit public service placard exhorting subway riders not to leave their newspaper behind when they get off the train.

“Please put it in a trash can,” riders are reminded. After which Neil Neches, an erudite writer in the transit agency’s marketing and service information department, inserted a semicolon. The rest of the sentence reads, “that’s good news for everyone.”

Semicolon sightings in the city are unusual, period, much less in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants. In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.

Americans, in particular, prefer shorter sentences without, as style books advise, that distinct division between statements that are closely related but require a separation more prolonged than a conjunction and more emphatic than a comma.

“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. “Old age is more like a semicolon.”

In terms of punctuation, semicolons signal something New Yorkers rarely do. Frank McCourt, the writer and former English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, describes the semicolon as the yellow traffic light of a “New York sentence.” In response, most New Yorkers accelerate; they don’t pause to contemplate.

Semicolons are supposed to be introduced into the curriculum of the New York City public schools in the third grade. That is where Mr. Neches, the 55-year-old New York City Transit marketing manager, learned them, before graduating from Tilden High School and Brooklyn College, where he majored in English and later received a master’s degree in creative writing.

But, whatever one’s personal feelings about semicolons, some people don’t use them because they never learned how.

In fact, when Mr. Neches was informed by a supervisor that a reporter was inquiring about who was responsible for the semicolon, he was concerned.

“I thought at first somebody was complaining,” he said.

One of the school system’s most notorious graduates, David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer who taunted police and the press with rambling handwritten notes, was, as the columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote, the only murderer he ever encountered who could wield a semicolon just as well as a revolver. (Mr. Berkowitz, by the way, is now serving an even longer sentence.)

But the rules of grammar are routinely violated on both sides of the law.

People have lost fortunes and even been put to death because of imprecise punctuation involving semicolons in legal papers. In 2004, a court in San Francisco rejected a conservative group’s challenge to a statute allowing gay marriage because the operative phrases were separated incorrectly by a semicolon instead of by the proper conjunction.

Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard and a staff writer at The New Yorker, pronounced the subway poster’s use of the semicolon to be “impeccable.”

Lynne Truss, author of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,” called it a “lovely example” of proper punctuation.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, praised the “burgeoning of punctuational literacy in unlikely places.”

Allan M. Siegal, a longtime arbiter of New York Times style before retiring, opined, “The semicolon is correct, though I’d have used a colon, which I think would be a bit more sophisticated in that sentence.”

The linguist Noam Chomsky sniffed, “I suppose Bush would claim it’s the effect of No Child Left Behind.”

New York City Transit’s unintended agenda notwithstanding, e-mail messages and text-messaging may jeopardize the last vestiges of semicolons. They still live on, though, in emoticons, those graphic emblems of our grins, grimaces and other facial expressions.

The semicolon, befittingly, symbolizes a wink.

Original here

As Prices Rise, Farmers Spurn Conservation Program


Will Kincaid for The New York Times

A field that has been in the Conservation Reserve Program in Sterling, N.D., for the last decade is plowed and ready to be put into production again.

Out on the farm, the ducks and pheasants are losing ground.

Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Environmental and hunting groups are warning that years of progress could soon be lost, particularly with the native prairie in the Upper Midwest. But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol and livestock groups say bigger harvests are a more important priority than habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. They want the government to ease restrictions on the preserved land, which would encourage many more farmers to think beyond conservation.

Kerry Dockter, a rancher in Denhoff, N.D., has about 450 acres of grassland in the program. “When this program first came about, it was a pretty good thing,” he said. “But times have definitely changed.”

The government payments, Mr. Dockter said, “aren’t even comparable anymore” to what he could make by working the land. He plans to devote some of his conservation acres to growing feed for his cows and some to grazing. He might also lease some land to neighbors.

For years, the problem with cropland was that there was too much of it, which kept food prices low to the benefit of consumers and the detriment of farmers.

Now, because of a growing global middle class as well as federal mandates to turn large amounts of corn into ethanol-based fuel, food prices are beginning to jump. Cropland is suddenly in heavy demand, a situation that is fraying old alliances, inspiring new ones and putting pressure on the Agriculture Department, which is being lobbied directly by all sides without managing to satisfy any of them.

Born nearly 25 years ago in an era of abundance, the Conservation Reserve Program is having a rough transition to the age of scarcity. Its 35 million acres — about 8 percent of the cropland in the country — are the big prize in this brawl.

Groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever want the government to raise rental rates to keep the same amount of land in the program or even increase it. While offering more money to farmers might be a difficult sell in a year of record farm profits, Jim Ringelman of Ducks Unlimited said, “There are overriding environmental issues here.”

The bakers and their allies have a different set of overriding issues: high commodity prices. The rising cost of feed is hurting ranchers, the rising cost of corn is hurting ethanol producers and the rising cost of wheat is hurting bread makers.

“We’re in a crisis here. Do we want to eat, or do we want to worry about the birds?” asked JR Paterakis, a Baltimore baker who said he was so distressed at a meeting last month with Edward T. Schafer, the agriculture secretary, that he stood up and started speaking “vehemently.”

The Paterakis bakery, H&S, produces a million loaves of rye bread a week. The baker said he could not find the rye flour he needed at any price. That gives him two unwelcome options: close half of his operations starting in July, or experiment with a blended flour that will yield a different and possibly less-than-authentic rye bread.

Such problems were never contemplated when the Conservation Reserve was conceived as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. Participants bid to put their land in the program during special sign-ups, with the government selecting the acres most at risk environmentally. Average annual payments are $51 an acre. Contracts run for at least a decade and are nearly impossible to break — not that anyone wanted to until recently.

“Older farmers put their land in the program rather than renting to a younger farmer or selling,” said Dale Schuler, who grows wheat in Fort Benton, Mont. That made it difficult for farmers who wanted to expand as well as farm equipment dealers, supply co-ops and other services, which suffered declines in business.

“It’s certainly been a polarizing issue,” Mr. Schuler said. “Half the people love it and half the people hate it.”

While few urban dwellers ever heard of Conservation Reserve, it found support among two important constituents: hunters had more land to roam and more wildlife to seek out, with the Agriculture Department estimating that the duck population alone rose by two million; and environmentalists were pleased, too. No one disputes that there are real environmental benefits from the program, especially on land most prone to erosion.

The program peaked late last summer, with more than 400,000 farmers receiving nearly $1.8 billion for idling 36.8 million acres. Put all that land together and it would be bigger than the state of New York.

The group doing the most to undermine this amiable coexistence is the farmers themselves. Last fall, when five million acres in Conservation Reserve came up for renewal, only half of them were re-entered. While the program has gained some high-priority land in the last few months, in part from an initiative to restore bobwhite quail habitats, the net loss is still more than two million acres.

That is just the beginning, warns Ducks Unlimited, a politically potent organization with more than half a million members in the United States. Ducks Unlimited is concerned about the three-quarters of a million acres of grassland that were removed from the program last year in the so-called duck factory in the Upper Midwest.

“We foresee a dramatic reduction,” said Mr. Ringelman, a conservation director for the association.

Ardell Magnusson, a farmer in Roseau, Minn., shows the changing mood. He said the program was “a godsend” when he put 300 of his 2,300 acres into it eight years ago. “I needed some guaranteed income or my banker was going to tell me to find another occupation,” Mr. Magnusson said. It is not exactly a bonanza: he gets about $12,000 a year.

He calculates he can make more than that by farming sunflowers or wheat or soybeans. When his contract expires in two years, he plans to withdraw about half his land. It would not be a shock if the Agriculture Department cut him loose sooner. “Another nine months of wheat at today’s prices and there will be political pressure on this program like you wouldn’t believe,” Mr. Magnusson said.

That pressure is exactly what the bakers and their allies are aiming for, saying the Conservation Reserve costs taxpayers and hurts consumers.

“This program is taking money out of your pocket twice a day,” said Jay Truitt, vice president for government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Do you think it’s right for you to pay so there’s more quail in Kansas?”

The cattlemen and bakers argue that farmers should immediately be allowed to take as much as nine million acres out of the Conservation Reserve without paying a penalty, something they say would not harm the environment.

“The pipeline for wheat is empty,” said Michael Kalupa, a bakery owner in Tampa, Fla., who is president of the Retail Bakers of America. Mr. Kalupa said the price he paid for flour had doubled since October. He cannot afford to absorb the cost and he cannot afford to pass it on. Sales have been falling 16 percent to 20 percent a month since October. He has laid off three employees.

Among farmers, the notion of early releases from conservation contracts is prompting sharp disagreement and even anger. The American Soybean Association is in favor. “We need more food,” said John Hoffman, the association’s president.

The National Association of Wheat Growers is against, saying it believes “in the sanctity of contracts.” It does not want more crops to be grown, because commodity prices might go down.

That is something many of its members say they cannot afford, even with wheat at a robust $9 a bushel. Their own costs have increased, with diesel fuel and fertilizer up sharply. “It would decrease my profit margin, which is slim,” said Jeff Krehbiel of Hydro, Okla. “Let’s hurt the farmer in order to shut the bakers up, is that what we’re saying?”

Mr. Krehbiel said his break-even last year was $4 a bushel. This summer it will be $6.20; the next crop, $7.75.

In the struggle between those who would shrink the program and those who would bolster it, the Agriculture Department is leaning toward the latter. When Mr. Schafer spoke recently before wildlife and hunting groups in Phoenix, he opened the door to significantly raising rents on new land.

Randy Schuring, a dairy farmer with 200 acres in the program, said there was no possible solution that would make everyone happy.

“If the government lets the land out and then crop prices fall, that’s going to hurt a lot of farmers,” said Mr. Schuring, whose farm is in Andover, S.D. “If it doesn’t let the land out and prices keep going up, that will hurt a lot of consumers. If only we had a crystal ball.”

Original here

#62: A Field Guide to Internet People: Guidos

A lot of people use the Internet these days. Although it used to be an exclusive haven for shut-ins and the socially inept, the Web is now home to all segments of the societal landscape.

That’s why today, The Panda Page wants to break down the anonymity of the Web with a new series called, A Field Guide to Internet People.

This week’s subject: New Jersey Sicilians. More specifically, the Guido species.

Let’s get to know them, shall we?

1. What They Look Like

The New Jersey Guido can be identified most easily for its distinctive hairstyle, the Blow-Out. Which consists of shaving off the sideburns and gelling the hair into spikes [shown below in Fig 1.1].

The Guido can also be spotted for its noticeably dark, spray tan [pictured below in Fig 1.2].

Other common traits of the Guido include wife beater t-shirts, steroid-enhanced muscles, and a large jaw-line [see Fig 1.3 below].

2. Where To Find Them

When the Guido is not posting pictures or videos of himself and his friends on the internet, he can be found in the dance clubs of the New Jersey Shore [pictured below Fig 2.1].

Other locations to spot Guidos include construction sites, plumbing services, and clubs (as bouncers)

3. Hobbies

Among the most popular hobbies of Guido include dancing erratically at clubs, drinking Jager Bombs, being racist toward black people, lifting weights, objectifying women, and wearing lip gloss [pictured below in Fig 3.1].

4. Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen who they are, why not say “Hi” when you see one online? Although, a warning: the Guido does not like to be approached. At first he will ask, “What the f*&k you looking at?”, or “You f&*king looking at me?” So it is important that you present yourself as a Guido, so he can relate to you.

And most importantly: Have Fun

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Police Officer Caught Dancing

Everyone's guilty of singing in the car or the shower when we think no one is watching. This police officer, however, got caught by a security camera in a convenience store -- dancing himself silly. He's got some pretty good moves, we think; it also seems as though he's a Michael Jackson fan -- maybe he was an instructor for the 'Thriller' dance inmates.


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The 5 Most Ill-Advised Dating Sites on the Web

As jet-setting, high-life-living internet comedy writers, we here at Cracked are pretty much awash in chicks. Even those of us who are chicks do alright with the ladies. So honestly, we don't have much use for internet dating sites. But we understand not everyone is so lucky.

So please realize, when we recently visited several dating sites and found that some of them were, to put it mildly, less than a good idea, it was just in the name of research. You know, for your benefit. You're welcome.

#5.
Women Behind Bars

Find It Here:

http://www.womenbehindbars.com/

In Their Words:

"Prison inmates are in desperate need of friends on the outside!"

In Our Words:

"Prison chicks so desperate they might even have sex with a loser like you!"

How It Works:

Before our resident conservatives get all indignant about how the prison system is like a big country club, we'll have you know that women in prison, for the most part, don't have internet access. So in order to use this site, these lovely gals apparently anticipated a prison stay ahead of time, and had the wherewithal to research the best options for meeting men once there. Dude, she totally wants it!

To post a profile, they have to mail a handwritten bio, including date of birth, the state where they are currently incarcerated and expected release date. They also have to send what one can only hope is a recent picture. What they don't send are the details about what got them locked up.

To find that out, you'll have to click the "add to cart" button next to your lady love's profile. For a nominal fee, you get her mailing address so you can send her a letter. It's like 1985 up in this piece!

Why It's a Bad Idea:

Let's get the obvious out of the way here. There are some high-end dating sites that actually check for criminal backgrounds before allowing people to sign up. At Women Behind Bars, the criminal background is the only prerequisite. This means most dudes will find themselves way in over their innocent little heads, no matter how tough they make themselves out to be on their MySpace page.

But believe it or not, it gets more ominous than that. Look through the profiles on Women Behind Bars and you'll notice a disturbing trend. Most of the ladies ... well ... look like criminals. And they have release dates to match. But as "luck" would have it, the handful that happen to be kind of attractive also happen to be getting out soon. In some cases, real soon.

Now would be a good time to mention a fun fact about Women Behind Bars: they don't even try to verify that the pictures they receive are actually of the inmate.


Release date ... just in time to fuck your shit up.

Here's what we like to call a recipe for disaster:

1. Get to know said hottie via mail.

2. Fall in love. If you're bright enough to strike up a budding love affair with an inmate, you ARE the type that will fall in love in a couple of months. Have no doubt.

3. Don't bother visiting, she'll be out soon!

4. Upon release, send money for a plane ticket.

5. Find yourself face to face with the 300 pound prison-tattooed she-beast who posted the fake picture on Women Behind Bars and is now standing at your door.

6. Continue relationship or/and be bludgeoned to death.

#4.
Motodate

Find It Here:

http://www.motodate.com/index.cfm?index.cfm

In Their Words:

"Many of us have used numerous ways to meet people, and now you can do it while you're on the road or stuck in traffic!"

In Our Words:

"Finally, hit on that chick in the car next to you without all the unwanted police intervention ... at first anyway!"

How It Works:

Motodate.com works just like any other dating site, with one stalkertastic difference. Members are sent adhesive labels to apply to their car windows. These labels have the Motodate.com website address and a four digit code printed on them. When a woman's potential suitor (and likely abductor) sees her in traffic, all he has to do is remember that four digit code until he gets home or, more likely, to the public library, and head to Motodate.com.

Once there, he can enter the code to find out more info on his potential mate/victim and, presumably, unleash a torrent of increasingly threatening emails.

Why It's a Bad Idea:

If you're a dude that happens to think you're hot enough that chicks will actually regret not flagging you down in rush hour traffic, putting one of these labels on your window will have but one result. You will look like a conceited douchebag. This is a step away from airbrushing a photo of your abs above the words, "Which of you bitches wants it?" on the side of your car.

For the women, we've already discussed the unwanted serial killer attention aspect. But if there's one thing attractive women don't need any help with, it's getting harassed by pervs in traffic. If you think that's the girl of your dreams sitting in traffic with the Motodate sticker on her car, rest assured, that four digit code is eventually going to tell you something you really didn't want to know. Don't say we didn't warn you, Romeo.

#3.
No Longer Lonely

Find It Here:

http://www.nolongerlonely.com

In Their Words:

"Find friends or seek romantic relationships knowing that everyone on this site has some form of mental illness!"

In Our Words:

"Know about your new guy or girl right away what you normally don't find out until it's much too late!"

How It Works:

On the bright side, it's absolutely free! Register, fill out your profile, upload a photo, go nuts! Sorry, poor choice of words there.

But really, there isn't much to how it works. It's a pretty standard dating site. It's once you start meeting people that, presumably, things get more interesting.

Why It's a Bad Idea:

Something about 9,000 bipolar/schizophrenics assembled on one dating site just seems like a problem waiting to happen. Don't get us wrong, it would be more than awesome if scientists discovered that when two crazy people mated, each person's crazy canceled out the other person's crazy thus rendering both of them uncrazy. If that was the case, NoLongerLonely.com would be one big e-cure for mental illness.

Unfortunately, our extensive experience with suicide cults and supervillain cabals indicates that it doesn't work that way. Generally, when you put crazy in the room with more crazy, you get a sort of multiplication of the crazy that winds up creating a whole clown shit-and-bananas flavored milkshake, greater than the sum of its just regular parts.

So with that in mind, it's hard to imagine how this site is a good idea for anyone. If you had a mental illness, would someone else with the same problem really be the best dating option?

But forgetting that for a moment, what happens when people without mental illness start popping up on NoLongerLonely.com? What happens when some lonely soul has no luck on regular dating sites and decides that maybe the vulnerable-minded ladies of NoLongerLonely might make for easier pickings? No need to answer that. We know what happens. This happens ...


#2.
Tallmingle.com

Find It Here:

http://tallmingle.com

In Their Words:

"A place where you could meet new friends and mingle with other tall singles or admirers!"

In Our Words:

"Quit spamming us you lanky bastards!"

How It Works:

Tallmingle.com works like any other dating site, except all of its members are tall. Finally, someone levels the playing field. Now maybe it won't just be short dudes scoring with the ladies for a change.

Why It's a Bad Idea:

On the surface, Tallmingle.com is no better or worse than any other goofy niche dating site. But if you read the comments section of Cracked's daily articles, (and you should because they're often every bit as hilarious as the articles themselves), then you're already familiar with Tallmingle.com and you know where we're going with this.

For those of you unaware, Tallmingle.com is the dating site that insists on dispatching their grammatically challenged spambot to inundate us with bizarrely rambling comments every single time we post a damn article. So what does that have to do with you and your love life? Well before you go to Tallmingle looking for the Ralph Sampson to match your Hakeem Olajuwon, consider this. When you visit a dating site, you would like to think that it's run by people with expertise in the area of attraction, right? Well here is what the folks at Tallmingle.com consider a worthy come on when it comes to getting people to visit their site ...

You don't see Neil Clark Warren pulling stunts like that, do you?


Neil Clark Warren, eHarmony founder, infrequent Cracked comment spammer

#1.
STDMatch.net

Find It Here:

http://stdmatch.net

In Their Words:

"Got an STD? Join today, be dating again tomorrow!"

In Our Words:

"Like Match.com with a more honest website address!"

How It Works:

STDMatch works like any other dating site in that everyone has an STD. The only real difference is nobody is lying about it.

Why It's a Bad Idea:

You probably think we're going to say going to STDMatch.net is a bad idea because you could catch an STD. Negatory good buddy, if that was the issue we'd tell you going to the bar is a bad idea. In fact, if you already have a "gift" of your own, STDMatch is probably right for you.

Otherwise, do not, we repeat, do not out of some sense of curiosity go poking around STDMatch.net. Why? Because if any dating site anywhere on the internet has a higher concentration of smoking hot chicks than STDMatch.net, we have yet to find it. Hell, even the dudes are pretty fly.

And then the realization will hit you. Anyone who has been to a regular dating site and pored through the pages and pages of average Janes and Joes and then suddenly stumbled across some drop dead gorgeous type always has the same thought right away ... "Wow, they look great, I wonder what's wrong with them?" After a trip to STDMatch.net, you'll know. You'll never be able to go to another dating site again without saying, "Wow, they're hot, too bad they have genital warts."

And seriously, the ugly folks are few and far between at STDMatch. It's a damn goldmine. It puts that herpes commercial with the "Living the life I want!" jingle into a whole new perspective.


Not an actual STDMatch.net user ... but not far from it.

If you think we're lying, you're welcome to check it out for yourself, but we wouldn't recommend it. If you don't want to shatter the fantasy that the perfect 10 you met on Chemistry.com really isn't too good to be true, just take our word on this one.

Read more from Adam at ScenicAnemia.com.

If you liked that, you'll probably enjoy our look at The 10 Creepiest Craigslist Casual Encounters. If you decided to go ahead and test your resolve at STDMatch.net, you're probably going to eventually laugh knowingly at this spoof ad. Then find out about the crack team of roller blading commandos the French have put in charge of guarding the Olympic torch. This in addition to their primary duties: answering yes when asked if anything is more humiliating than being a bike cop.

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