Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ICE officer arrested in pot smuggling

A deportation officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led Arizona state police and federal agents on a high-speed desert chase in his government vehicle, throwing bundles of marijuana out of the window as he fled, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

The deportation officer, identified as Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under surveillance for more than month after a known smuggler who had been arrested gave authorities a tip about the officer in an effort to get lenient treatment, Department of Public Safety Officer Carrick Cook told The Associated Press. Lowery, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, does not yet have an attorney.

DPS and federal agents tried to pull Lowery over Tuesday after he picked up a load of marijuana in the desert with his unmarked ICE pickup truck, Cook said. The officer fled, leading agents on a 45-minute chase at speeds of up to 110 mph as he threw 10 of the 14 bundles of pot that he had in the truck out of the window, he said. "He got pretty desperate," Cook said.

The chase began in the Vekol Valley about 45 miles south of Phoenix and ended just south of Sacaton, about 20 miles as the crow flies northwest from where the chase began. It ended when Lowery's truck rolled over and he gave himself up. DPS believes Lowery was taking the marijuana to a man working for a drug cartel whose house served as the nexus of the drug distribution.

Lowery was booked into Pinal County jail on charges of smuggling and felony flight and was turned over to ICE custody Wednesday morning. The sheriff's office also booked the man who was to receive the marijuana, identified as 33-year-old Joshua Duane Powell of Arizona City.

At Powell's home, police found 14 rifles and guns in the trunk of his car, seven of which had been reported stolen, according to a DPS document. The document also said that Powell had been out on a $25,000 bond stemming from a separate investigation last month in which multiple bulletproof vests, weapons, stolen night-vision equipment, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and various drugs were found in his home.

"Since his release only a few weeks ago, (Powell) has amassed a small arsenal of weapons and has proven to continue involvement in the illicit drug trade," the document said. Powell does not yet have an attorney and he has declined interview requests from the news media.

ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard declined to say how long that Lowery had worked for the agency or other details about him or the case. "ICE is cooperating with federal and state authorities in this matter," Picard said in a statement. "We hold our officers and agents to the highest levels of responsibility and are committed to supporting the agencies investigating this incident."

By AMANDA LEE MYERS The Associated Press

Time for change: The New US Government Symbol


The US government today announced that it is changing its symbol from an EAGLE to a CONDOM, because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance....

A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of dicks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually being screwed!

It just doesn't get more accurate than that!

Movie inspires splash-and-dash robberies, Ice cream vendor offers drugs with other goodies, and a woman survives a kangaroo attack

             Good Morning Humboldt County!

Coffee’s on. C’mon in and have a cup with me. It’s another day in paradise. After scanning headlines this morning, I came up with these three stories to share. Enjoy.

Silver-screen strategy nets New York robbers $217,000

Accused New York thieves have been using a Hollywood-born strategy to rob dozens of small stores, telling police they were inspired by the 2010 movie "The Town" to splash bleach on the crime scenes, according to the police.

In what were dubbed the "splash-and-dash" robberies, the suspects would throw bleach over cash machines and cash drawers in a bid to erase their DNA evidence, the New York Police Department said. They targeted dozens of corner stores, discount stores and pizzerias, netting $217,000 in the past year, police said.


Ice cream vendor gets prison for selling drugs with treats

An ice cream vendor who peddled prescription painkillers from the same truck he sold frozen treats to kids, was sentenced on Tuesday to three and a half years in prison.

The sentence was part of a plea deal struck by Louis Scala, 30, the head of a $1 million drug-trafficking ring run out of his Lickety Split truck, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance. Scala, 30, obtained the drugs with a prescription pad stolen by an accomplice from a Manhattan doctor's office. Through a network of more than two dozen runners, he was able to get nearly 43,000 oxycodone pills between July 2009 and June 2010, with a street value of $20 apiece, prosecutors said.

Scala drove his Lickety Split truck through neighborhoods in Staten Island, selling ice cream to children while inviting adults into the back to buy pills.

Australian woman survives attack by large kangaroo

An Australian woman said she thought she was about to die when a huge kangaroo attacked her while she was walking her dogs.

Janet Karson, of the southwestern Australian town of Deanmill, told The West Australian newspaper in a report published Wednesday that she was walking her dogs on Saturday when the kangaroo appeared. One of her dogs chased after it and she hurried to catch up. When she arrived, she said, the kangaroo had its claws locked onto her pet.

"I used a stick to lever its claws off my dog and then it reared up in front of me — it was huge," Karson told the newspaper. "All I can remember is its claws going to work on me and the smell of my own blood when my head fell on to its chest. I thought, 'That's it, I'm finished.' "It all happened so quickly — it was over in a few seconds."

Karson isn't sure if the dogs fought the kangaroo off her or if it decided to end the attack on its own. The mauling left her with cuts to her neck, ears and back. She said she needed 20 stitches to close the wounds to her ears. "I honestly believe it's a miracle I'm alive," she said.

Time to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It’s not to early to think about Halloween costume ideas…

Nate Beeler / The Washington Examiner,

As It Stands Book Recommedation: ‘Unlikey Freindships’

Birds of a (different) feather…

An orphaned Madagascar teal duckling (left) snuggles under orphaned kookaburra (a predator to the former).


Jennifer Holland is a senior writer for National Geographic magazine, specializing in science and natural history. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her husband, two dogs, and dozens of snakes and geckos; none of whom, to her dismay, have crossed the species barrier to befriend the others. More Photos Here

Was van Gogh murdered? Mexican drug cartels recruit children in Texas, and McDonalds’s new TV channel

gty vincent van gogh self portrait thg 111017 wblog Vincent van Gogh Murdered? New Book Presents Different Account of Artists Death

   Good Morning Humboldt County!

This great weather we’re having is really spoiling me. Every day seems nicer than the last one. C’mon in and celebrate another day in paradise with me over a cup of hot coffee and a trio of stories to get. Enjoy:


Vincent van Gogh Murdered? New Book Presents Different Account of Artist’s Death

Experts have said for more than 100 years that post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh walked to a wheat field on July 27, 1890, shot himself in the chest with a pistol, then died two days later in his room at the age of 37. But a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith — who were honored in 1991 for a biography about American painter Jackson Pollockargues the troubled artist might have been murdered.

Mexican drug cartels recruiting Texas children

Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations. "They call them 'the expendables,'" he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs -- including the violent Zetas -- have "command and control centers" in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be "easy money" for doing simple tasks.

McDonald's new TV channel: The wisecracks

The Golden Arches pairs fattening food and slothful entertainment with a new network just for burger-scarfing Americans

McDonald's has long tried to smooth the rough, garish plastic edges of its restaurants to make them nicer places to hang out. The burger giant's latest gambit to get customers to while the day away under the Golden Arches? A new television network that will be beamed to widescreen HD screens visible to almost all dine-in customers. Reality TV mogul Mark Burnett, BBC America, and ABC are on board to provide locally tailored news and entertainment programming. The McDonald's Channel is being tested in California, with a national rollout in the works. Of course, the idea of mixing unhealthy Big Macs and brain-numbing TV hasn't escaped the notice of the commentariat. Here, some of the best zingers:

First Oprah, now Ronald?
Between this and the Oprah Winfrey Network, "the reprogramming of America just keeps getting scarier," says Amy Scattergood at LA Weekly. "Maybe soon we can simultaneously watch television and eat fast food every single waking moment."

Speaking of odd bedfellows
McDonald's TV is the brainchild of "the man who brought us Survivor and the people responsible for the Chicken McNugget"? says Tim Kenneally at The Wrap. "I'm watchin' it"!

Call it suicidal synergy!
Arguably, "anyone who is in a McDonald's has already given up on life, so they might as well be forced to watch more company propaganda," says Chris O'Shea at Mediabistro. Maybe they'll have a show called Guess What? I'm Stupid! where contestants explain to their loved ones why "eating three Filet-O-Fishes for lunch is fine even if their hearts do stop beating 'sometimes.'"

What else will be on McTV?
"You know, besides Super Size Me"? says Aly Semigran at Entertainment Weekly. How about a crime-buster show starring the Hamburgler, or "campaign commercials with Mayor McCheese against Herman Cain. Pizza vs. cheeseburgers: Make your vote count!"

Time to walk on down the road….

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sign of the times: Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Coming Sunday: As It Stands takes a look at what President Obama has said about medical marijuana while campaigning for the presidency, and what he’s actually done since being in office. It isn’t pretty, but lies never are!

50 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana, up from 46 percent last year, according to a new Gallup poll.

It was the first time in the survey that the number of people favoring legalization was higher than those opposed.

The support for legalized marijuana use has continued to climb since Gallup first began asking questions about it in 1969. Then, only 12 percent of Americans supported legalization, with 84 percent opposed.

I’m just saying, you might be a Conservative If…

1: You’re irate over the president taking so many vacation days on the taxpayer’s dime (61 thus far), but you thought George W. Bush earned every minute of his leisure time (196 days at the same point in his presidency).

2: You’re happy with your 40 hour work week, paid vacations and company-provided healthcare, but you’re strongly anti-union, because those commies haven’t done anything for you lately.

3: You strongly support the First Amendment and it’s guarantee of religious freedom to all, but you don’t think Muslims have a right to build an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan.

4: You believe Ronald Reagan was a devout Christian, even though he hated going to church, but any president who spends twenty years going to the same Trinity United Church in Chicago must be a Muslim.

5: You believe when a Republican governor creates a healthcare package with an individual mandate for everyone in his state, that’s a good idea. But when a Democratic president does it, suddenly it’s unconstitutional.

6: You’re so enthused about demonstrating your Second Amendment rights, you can think of no finer place to brandish your pistol in public than at a presidential rally.

7: You believe Bill Clinton was responsible for Osama bin Laden’s escape ten years ago, but thankfully George W. Bush caught up with him and killed him in Pakistan.

8: You believe in putting American jobs first, except when president Obama rescued 1.5 million GM and Chrysler autoworkers, because that was socialism.

9: It angers you that you can’t communicate with the Mexican busboy at your local Olive Garden, but when you took a vacation to San Francisco’s Chinatown, you thought it’s quaint that so many Chinese-Americans are holding fast to their traditional language. Because that’s America!

10: You deny that the lunatic who tried to murder Gaby Giffords was a conservative, even though he targeted a Jewish, pro-choice, pro gay rights, Democratic Congresswoman.

11: You thought it was perfectly normal that every president in history had an untethered right to raise the debt ceiling when warranted, but when Obama asked the GOP held congress to do it, you thought it only natural that it be tied to cutting Social Security and Medicare.

12: When the new 112th Congress was sworn in, you swooned as they promised to focus on “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” But when they pivoted, and went after NPR, Planned Parenthood and gay rights, you cheered.

13: You accuse president Obama of raising your taxes to the highest point ever, even though they’re lower today than at any time since 1950.

14: You believe the wealthiest Americans are “job creators,” and they are — but it doesn’t bother you that all the workers in those positions are in India, China and Malaysia, and they’re doing the jobs that our fathers once did.

15: You believe gays are anti-American, because their lifestyle is a threat to the children… unless they’re married to Tea Party-backed presidential candidates from Minnesota.

16: You strongly defend individual freedom, but that freedom doesn’t include a woman’s right to decide her own healthcare needs.

17: You believe corporations are people too, and are deserving of the same rights as the rest of us. Just not the same obligations to pay personal income tax free of corporate loopholes, or penalties for massive criminal behavior and tax evasion. In these matters, corporations are deserving of special rights.

18: And since corporations are now people too, you must believe in their right to a driver’s license, the right to marry, to adopt children, etc. These rights shall not be denied to Exxon, Halliburton and BP (but still immune from the right of the People to try, convict and sentence to death any corporation that conspires to commit a felony… because at that point, they’re suddenly not people again.)

19: You still believe Climate Change is a myth, and the recent record highs, lows, floods and droughts around the world coinciding with climate scientist’s predictions are all an amazing coincidence. Oh, and Al Gore is FAT!

20: You believe when George W. Bush took the national debt from $5 trillion to $11 trillion, it was necessary for him to do so to keep America safe. But when Barack Obama added to it by trying to rescue the country from a second Great Depression, he was deliberately trying to destroy America!

21: You believe America is a God fearing country, and that the Almighty protects those who believe just as you do. But it’s never crossed your mind that the majority of tornados, hurricanes and floods all occur in the Bible Belt.

22: You believe that no matter who’s in the White House, the office, if not the man himself is deserving of your respect. The only exceptions to this rule, are if his middle name sounds Muslim, and if he’s not at least as white as that black guy who works down in the mailroom at the office.

First ran here.

How safe is your hospital? New website lets you check

Medicare has begun publishing patient safety ratings for thousands of hospitals as the first step toward paying less to institutions with high rates of surgical complications, infections, mishaps and potentially avoidable deaths.

The new data, available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, evaluate hospitals on how often their patients suffer complications such as a collapsed lung, a blood clot after surgery or an accidental cut or tear during treatment. The measures also include specific death rates for patients who had breathing problems after surgery, had an operation to repair a weakness in the abdominal aorta or had a treatable complication after an operation.

Photo left: Madd River Community Hospital – Photo right – St. Joseph’s Hospital (both in Humboldt County)

Banks back down on homeowner foreclosure, Sesame Street channel hacked & filled woth porn, lost De Vinci portrait controversy

Image: Rose Gudiel

Good Morning Humboldt County!

C’mon in and have a cup of coffee with me. I’ve got a few stories to start your day. The sun is struggling to pierce the morning haze and a determined woodpecker is hammering away outside. What a wonderful world!      


Homeowner taps 'Occupy' protest  to avoid foreclosure

Rose Gudiel and her family were squatters in their own home. They had lost a two-year battle against foreclosure, and the eviction date had arrived. They hunkered down in the house on Sept. 28, surrounded by dozens of homeowner advocates and friends, hoping to stave off forcible removal.

“(The bank) kept saying we can’t do anything. Your case is closed,” said Gudiel. “Our stand was, ‘No, we’re not leaving. This is our home. We worked hard for it and we’re just not going to leave.’”

But instead of the anticipated confrontation, there was a dramatic reversal of fortune. Fanny Mae canceled the eviction notice and offered the Gudiels a loan modification that could enable them keep their home.

Why? Fannie Mae and loan servicer OneWest won’t discuss the case. But nonprofit advocates say a series of bold protests — with reinforcements from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement — and a spate of media interest put Rose in the limelight and forced the banks to back down.

Sesame Street YouTube channel hacked, filled with porn

The official YouTube channel for children's television series Sesame Street was compromised this weekend. At that time, a hacker filled what could be considered one of the more the child-friendly corners of the Internet with videos so pornographic that they'd make Cookie Monster blush until he resembled Elmo.

Security blog Sophos reports that the incident occurred on Sunday and that it took about 20 minutes before the explicit content was removed. It wasn't just the pornographic material which disappeared from YouTube at that point though. The entire Sesame Street channel — and all of its original videos — are currently "not available" on YouTube.

Image: A recreation of what La Bella Principessa would have looked like as a page in the Sforziad.

'Lost' Da Vinci Portrait, and its origins, stir controversy

Christie's auction house may have sold a priceless piece of art by Leonardo da Vinci for a little more than $21,000, according to researchers who claim to have identified the origins of the hotly debated painting.

The painting appears to have come from a 500-year-old book containing the family history of the Duke of Milan. Art historian Martin Kemp, of the University of Oxford, believes the mystery painting, which appeared in 1998, is a portrait of the duke's daughter, created by da Vinci for her wedding book. [ See images of the portrait and book ]

"We knew it came from a book, you have the stitch holes and can see the knife cut. Finding it is a miracle in a way. I was amazed," Kemp told LiveScience. "When doing historical research on 500-year-old objects … you hardly get the circle completed in this way." In 2010, Kemp first suggested that da Vinci painted the portrait, and since then, art historians have debated over both its origin and the painter. In fact, several art historians contacted by LiveScience said they wouldn't comment on the piece or didn't return emails. An earlier examination of the artwork by a gallery in Vienna led the director there to say it was not a da Vinci, and they are unswayed by the new evidence.

Time to walk on down the road…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

As It Stands: Workplace reality - more robots, less humans


          By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
  Years ago I had a theory that cockroaches would inherit the earth. I still think there’s a chance, but now it looks like robots will, instead.
 There have been many troubling signs in the last few decades that robots are well on the way to making humans obsolete in the workplace. When I watched IBM’s Watson whip every human contender on Jeopardy, I knew our days were numbered. It’s hard to contend with a robot who makes fewer mistakes than you do and doesn’t get bored performing tedious tasks.
 Here’s something to consider; there will be 1.2 million industrial robots working worldwide next year according to Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works and author of Robotic Nation.
 You can’t go a day without seeing some form of robot. They analyze documents, fill prescriptions and work in checkout lines in stores nationwide. They handle many other tasks that were once performed by humans. Google has been working on automated cars. Seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles with human supervisors in the passenger seat. It’s just a matter of time before we get in the car in the morning, program it, and sit back and relax during our daily commute.
 ATM machines reduce the need for bank tellers, virtual assistants can answer the phone 24 hours a day. In 2008, Aeon Co., a major Japanese retailer, introduced a four-foot-tall yellow and white robot at a store whose job was to babysit children while adults shopped. Can full-time robot nannies be far away? 
 Robots can reach areas that are inaccessible to humans and provide crucial help in rescuing victims from natural disasters. The most useful robots could be aerial drones that  provide aerial inspections or ROVs, which can help locate underwater objects and determine the condition of bridges and pipelines, according to the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University. 
  Lawyers and paralegals must be concerned with the arrival of software that can do their job in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA provides software that helps analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000, according to a New York Times report.
 Guess who else will have new competition for their job? Astronauts. NASA and General Motors got together and built an android - Robonaut2 - who will initially handle menial jobs such as cleaning the space station and assisting humans in space operations. It won’t take long for them to take the next step and replace a human crew.
 In ancient Greek and Roman mythology there were stories of metal men that, through the use of godly magic, came to life. In the real world of the 21st Century there’s the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System), made by Foster-Miller, which has provided armed robots in Iraq. Drones and other machines are also increasingly used in reconnaissance and combat missions. 
 Especially troubling to an old journalist like me is the software developed by  Northwestern University Narrative Science that specializes in machine-generated stories. Robots writing stories! We must be headed for the end times.
 Why robots? That’s simple. They are cheaper than beat reporters. Look at the Big Ten Network, partially owned by Fox Cable. Their director of new media didn’t make any bones about telling Bloomberg BusinessWeek that they use the service for baseball and softball coverage because it’s less expensive. Yeah, but what about quality coverage for their readers?

  I’m not saying robots will start locking humans away like in the movies “The Matrix” or “I, Robot,” but I suggest we’re getting closer to a future when there will be no jobs for humans. Then what? The robots get tired of us stupid humans like in the movie “Terminator?”
   Artificially Intelligent machines have, to all intents and purposes, been around for years.  Take a look at traffic lights, computers that run hospitals, airports. shops and homes. Our world would come to a grinding halt without the robots that run our lives. But what will happen when there are no jobs for humans?
  As It Stands, I guess that’s what scares me. I also think robots will figure out a way to eliminate the cockroaches some day!

Spring Songs: Political Loons Are Tweeting Fresh Lies

As spring unfolds across the country making flowers bloom and right-wingers tweet gloom, we take the good with the bad. A recent book rele...