Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! Inspirational people, extraordinary giving

$11.2 million in lottery winnings, a kidney, half your paycheck and more gifts that make a difference

"If everyone who considered his income 'ordinary' decided not to give, many of the most important causes could go unfunded," Beckstead added, also by e-mail. "Moreover, people of even modest income can make a significant difference in the lives of large numbers of people if they give a portion of their income to the right charities."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve: Secret Santa, NORAD mum on how it tracks St. Nick

Image: Official NORAD tracking of Santa Claus

'Ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras,' radar, satellites and Canadian fighter jets all play role, insiders say

Lots of military secrets are hidden behind the gleaming walls of NORAD'S headquarters building, including this one: Just how do they get Santa's flight path onto their computer screens every Christmas Eve?

Tracking Santa's travels is a celebrated tradition at the North American Aerospace Command, and it unfolds Friday for the 55th year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

As It Stands: Recent Visitor Map for Dec. 23rd at 12:53 PST


Wishing all my viewers a Merry Christmas no matter where you are!

Holiday Grinch Bust 13-year Old Boy For Illegal Marker Possession

A 13-year-old boy was arrested Friday for using a permanent marker while in class at his Oklahoma City middle school, a violation of an obscure city ordinance…are you kidding me?

Sharpie possession was a misdemeanor...So I suppose if he had displayed a can of Krylon spray paint it would have been a felony? What if he had taken the can out of his pocket in an aggressive manner? Tasered or Pepper Spray? I don't care what the details are behind this. This country has gone nuts!

According to an Oklahoma City Police Department report, the boy was spotted “in possession of a permanent marker” by Roosevelt Middle School teacher DeLynn Woodside. The 50-year-old educator told cop Miguel Campos that the student was “writing on a piece of paper, which caused it to bleed over onto the desk.”Woodside, pictured at right, reported that the child, whose name was redacted by police from the report, attempted to hide the marker when she asked him for it. Strangely, Woodside’s Facebook page reveals that her “likes and interests” include the official “Sharpie Permanent Markers” page on Facebook.

Campos reported that he allowed Woodside, a seventh grade math teacher, to “sign a citation” against the boy, who was then transported to the Community Intervention Center, a juvenile holding facility. A police sergeant subsequently “booked the marker into the property room.”

A police spokesman referred to the student’s bust as a “citizen’s arrest” effectuated by Woodside.

The marker ban--which apparently is aimed at curbing graffiti--stems from a city ordinance making it illegal to possess spray paint or a permanent marker on private property (without the owner’s permission). (2 pages)


A great gift idea just in time for Christmas…

Two days left: Last-minute gifts that take seconds to deliver

Don't ship overnight, don't even leave the house — these gifts are instant and impressive

By Wilson Rothman and Winda Benedetti

  • One of the nice things about living in the future is that you can give meaningful gifts without ever getting up from your computer. No, we're not talking about gifting FarmVille livestock in Facebook — though those might get some people choked up with gratitude. But we're also not talking about anything you have to ship in advance or anything you even have to go to the store to buy.

    If you are in a ridiculous hurry, but you still care what your cherished friend or family member thinks about you, look into the following gift ideas. These are gifts that can be delivered in a matter of minutes or even seconds. And while they may be digital gifts, they'll mean as much as something tangible — and hopefully a whole lot more than some old virtual pig.

    Just be sure to follow up. If the e-mail notifying your loved one of your gift gets lost in the spam filter or some other back channel, all those generosity points will go to waste!

Anarchist plot? 'Wave of terrorism', Blasts hit Rome embassies

Twin blasts target embassies in Rome

Explosions at Swiss, Chilean missions injure two people

“Package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, injuring the two people who opened them. The interior minister said anarchists were believed responsible and linked the attacks to similar bombings at embassies in Greece last month.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Decades on, EPA on verge of curbing use of rat poisons

Image: d-CON rat baits

Activists hope new rules will slash number of U.S. kids being sickened each year

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has known for a generation that kids have too-easy access to these super-toxic rat poisons. Every year, more than 10,000 kids are getting hold of them, and virtually all of the resulting calls to U.S. poison control centers concern children under the age of 3.

Black and Hispanic children living below the poverty line are disproportionately affected. For example, a study in New York found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison from 1990 to 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

31 cities’ tap water has cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, study says

The Environmental Working Group released a report Monday indicating that millions of Americans are regularly drinking hexavalent chromium, made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich" as a carcinogen, through their tap water.

The group -- whose study was first reported in a story Sunday by the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton -- tested water from 35 U.S. cities and found that samples from 31 cities contained hexavalent chromium. The highest concentrations were found in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif. The substance had been a widely used industrial chemical for decades and has evidently leached into the groundwater in many areas.

[Related: Drilling ban follows concern over flammable water]

[Related: Leaking ice raises tricky climate issue]

[List: America's most polluted cities]

The list of cities found to have hexavalent chromium in the municipal water supplies

Strange Holiday Traditions Around the World in a few clicks…

"Krampus" (Austria and Hungary)
Krampus, Austria and Hungary

St. Nick’s devil-like counterpart has one task: to punish bad children before Christmas. In other words, he’s no jolly fat man. Instead, picture a red devil with cloven hooves, horns, and a long tongue (though he can take the form of a bearded wild man or huge hairy beast). Instead of a bag full of toys, Krampus carries chains and a basket for abducting especially bad children and hauling them to hell. Experience this holiday tradition at Krampusnacht parties and Krampus Runs, during which rowdy revelers cavort through town in beastly costumes.

There’s more here.

Feel Good Time: Bow to Wow roundup: Lucky dogs in new homes

If you're interested in finding information on how to adopt dogs like the ones seen on TODAY, please visit the Animal Care & Control of New York City's site at or call 212-788-4000.

I was looking for some positive news items this morning and found this story.

If you’re an animal lover, these dogs stories will warm your heart on this rainy day.

I shared this video with my Pug Millie, who approved of it.

'Rubber Man Syndrome' turns man into real-life Gumby

Stacy Lipson writes: Todd Shaeffer of Philadelphia can bend his fingers completely backward, fold his ears forward so they stay that way and perform other cringe-worthy feats that would be impossible for most of us.

“I see it as a blessing,” says Shaeffer, 27. “I used to think I was a superhero.”

As a kid, Shaeffer impressed his friends with stunts like spinning his head around 180 degrees to look over his back and wrapping his arms around his entire waist and touching his fingers together. While it sounds like something out of a circus show, Shaeffer suffers from Type 1 Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder also called Rubber Man Syndrome that affects the connective tissue. .

Monday, December 20, 2010

‘As It Stands’ Scum Of The Month: Pedophilia author arrested

Image: Philip Ray Greaves II

Philip Ray Greaves II, author of pedophile how-to-guide (?Pueblo County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Philip Ray Greaves II, of Colorado, has been awarded the un-coveted Scum of The Month Award for December 2010. That puts this scum bag in the running for ‘As It Stands’ Scum of the Year Award.

The self-published book was removed from Amazon's Kindle store after it generated online outrage…

“Florida officials filed an obscenity charge Monday against the author of a self-published how-to guide for pedophiles that was yanked from last month.

Polk County sheriff's deputies arrested Philip Ray Greaves II hundreds of miles away from Florida at his home in Pueblo, Colorado, and charged him with violating Florida's obscenity law.”

Not without my blow-dryer: Reality show uncovers strange addictions

I know some people who ought to apply to appear on this new series about strange addictions. How about you? Do you know some likely candidates who could tell their stories?

Joan Raymond writes:Most of us use our hair dryers to, well, dry our hair. But Lori Broady, 31, turns the dryer on, sticks it in her bed, and falls asleep to the soothing sound of hot air. She’s been doing this every night since she was 8 years old, despite knowing she may burn herself or start a fire. This, of course, raises the question: Why doesn’t she just buy a fan if she needs a little noise to fall asleep? Turns out, it's not that simple.”

Broady appears on the new TLC 12-part series, "My Strange Addiction," which premieres Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. Also featured are folks with other extreme behaviors like thumb sucking, toilet paper eating, "tanorexia" and even a guy in a relationship with a silicone doll.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As It Stands: Is Assange a Robin Hood trying to take the high road by thievery?

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 12/19/2010 01:28:25 AM PST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange opened the 21st century version of Pandora's Box. He spread illegally obtained raw classified information on his website for the world to view. As a result, the journalism world may never be the same again.

WikiLeaks has exposed secrets about corruption in governments and corporations; embarrassing stuff that makes a good read, and some humanitarian issues that call for action.

So, who is this crusader for justice, this Robin Hood who leads his merry band of hackers and other followers on behalf of humanity? Should we trust the motives of this convicted computer hacker and alleged sex offender? If so, why? Because he's been the darling of hackers, anarchists, and international journalists since 2007, when he started WikiLeaks?

Assange recently turned himself in to British authorities and is currently out on bail awaiting extradition to Sweden for questioning about sexual misconduct with two Swedish women. Hardly a ringing endorsement for his character.

The question is, “How much good and bad has come of releasing those secret documents?” Assange claims he's a champion for truth. Whose truth would that be?

I question why he didn't hide the identities of Afghan informants in his revelation revolution. The Taliban picked right up on their names and promised to “punish them.” Make that murder them. Collateral damage? OK. At what point do these lives start counting?

Still, Assange has supporters. Recently, a loose-knit group of hackers who gather on the website under the name Anonymous called for cyber attacks against those who worked against him. They successfully attacked Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, the Swiss bank PostFinance, the Swedish government website and others who criticized or tried to shut down WikiLeaks.

These cyber attacks were called “Operation Payback” and “Operation Avenge Assange.” So far, the damage has been temporary. Innocent consumers have suffered financially from these retaliatory actions. More collateral damage.

 Which leads me to wonder, what's next if the British send Assange to Sweden and he's convicted of a crime? How will international hackers respond to that? After all, he's one of their own and used to go by the nickname “Mendax” -- a classical Latin word for “liar.”

He and two other hackers called themselves the “International Subversives” and regularly broke into the computer systems of some of America's most sensitive government installations, including nuclear weapon labs, before forming WikiLeaks. He's never made a secret of his hatred for the United States.

This is where it gets scary. Unknown, unorganized hackers have flexed their digital muscles in the name of Assange. Authorities can expect more trouble if things go bad for him. His followers threaten governments and corporations with impunity.

It's hard for me to believe that a so-called whistleblower organization involved in international espionage may change journalism for the better. In a recent MSNBC interview, Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at American University, said, “It's quite clear that the Espionage Act applies on its face regardless of whether the individual who is distributing classified information is the initial thief or an intermediary.”

That initial thief, Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, is no hero. He's been arrested and charged with the unauthorized use and disclosure of U.S. classified information. Spreading that information on WikiLeaks makes Assange a co-conspirator in the theft.

I'm having a hard time joining some of my peers who still support Assange. Someone who provides a website for the dissemination of raw data is not an editor or reporter in my book. Even calling him a whistleblower is misleading, because he's pursuing a personal agenda against the United States.

According to numerous media reports, Assange is leading a troubled life. His wife and child left him. He lost his main supporter and confidant, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who is launching a rival website called “OpenLinks” which promises to be more transparent than WikiLeaks.

Is WikiLeaks a real journalistic organization devoted to truth and the betterment of mankind? Is Assange a modern-day Robin Hood stealing information for the masses? Or is WikiLeaks just a gathering of computer hackers, self-avowed humanitarians and assorted disgruntled individuals all pursuing personal agendas against the established governments of the world?

As It Stands, before people try to make Assange a legend, it might be a better idea to see how his story plays out.

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...