Dec 20, 2008

Defiant Blagojevich: will fight to last breath

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (pictured) claimed he is not guilty. He is not stepping down as governor and said he will "fight until I take my last breath."

He said he will not step down or resign from office and intends to address the allegations against him in court.

He said he expects to be vindicated.

"I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath," Blagojevich said. "I have done nothing wrong."

Blagojevich cast himself as a victim in the case and that he will not let a "political lynch mob" force him from office.

Will Blagojevich be vindicated or will he become just another in a long line of Illinois governors sentenced to prison terms?

Link here and here.

Santa group riding high

Men from the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade dressed in Santa suits take a trip on the London Eye as part of an event to support of the Linda McCartney Cancer Center.

Well seasoned roads in Ankeny Iowa

If the roads in this Iowa town smell spicier this winter it’s because a local company has donated 18,000 pounds of garlic salt to the city for use on its 400 miles of roads.

The salt was donated by Tone Brothers Inc., a top spice producer headquartered in Ankeny. The salt would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

After the storm last week, it was reported than slush has never smelled so spicy.


Four seater in the Congo

A Congolese man transports a red couch on a wooden scooter near Goma in eastern Congo.

Reuters photo

Dec 19, 2008

Congress gets pay raise while others get the boot

Corporations all around the country are laying off workers and state governments are cutting programs and raising taxes.

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

Currently the average lawmaker makes $169,300 a year, with leadership making slightly more.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured) makes $217,400, while the minority and majority leaders in the House and Senate make $188,100.


Wanna smell like a Whopper? Use Burger King body spray

If you’ve ever had a hankerin’ to smell like a hamburger, Burger King may have just the thing.

The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame."

The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

The fragrance is on sale at New York City retailer Ricky's NYC in stores and online for a limited time for $3.99.


Sudoku anyone?

Aerial view of contestants taking part in a sponsored Sudoku competition in a shopping mall in Singapore.

Sarah Palin to-do list for 2012 Presidential run

The writer of an article at the link below seems to think he has knows what Sarah Palin (pictured) needs to do if she wants to run for President in 2012.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has some important political decisions to make.

Republican insiders say that if she wants to maintain her viability as a presidential contender in 2012—after making such a big splash as the GOP vice presidential candidate this year—she needs to bring aboard some savvy political operatives who can help her decide what kind of events she should do and which she should avoid.

She's still a hot property, but she needs to put a system together. She doesn't have much in the way of political infrastructure up there [in Alaska]. It will be interesting to see how she allocates her time.

Sarah Palin relates to middle-America -- the response to her campaign last fall proved that.

Her biggest obstacle will be the media. From the day she was introduced by John McCain, the media gave her unfavorable coverage.

It is common knowledge that the media swooned over Barack Obama and tried very hard to elect him (successfully as it turned out). The media knew that McCain was a weak opponent. It was Sarah Palin, however, that anyone trying to elect Obama, including the media, were afraid of.

Just to give one small example -- ABC News online still has links to the story they called Troopergate which is an early version that showed Palin in an unfavorable light.


UAW going down with Detroit automakers?

John Hinderaker of Power Line says the United Auto Workers union is a lot like AARP, because it represents three times as many retirees and widows as actual auto workers.

(click on cartoon to enlarge)

Editorial cartoon by Michael Ramirez

Dec 18, 2008

Shooting victim goes to work with bullet in head

A Florida man was hit by a stray bullet in the back of the head but it didn’t keep him from work.

E.T. Strickland, 74, a commercial real estate seller, said the bullet hurts, but not enough to keep him from his job.

Strickland was told by his doctors not to have the bullet removed unless it was pressing on any arteries or causing health problems.

He does plan to see a neurosurgeon though because he wants it taken out if possible.

Police said Strickland was hit by a bullet Tuesday night from an attempted robbery outside a Walgreens store. A second person was also shot, several times, as he was leaving the store. Police said that person was listed in stable condition Wednesday.


Santa’s on scooters

Actors dressed in Santa suits race along Oxford Street on skate scooters during a photo call to promote Christmas shopping in London.

Reuters photo

Cashier laughs tells robber to get a job

A man approached a fast food cashier in San Antonio and demanded money.

The cashier laughed at the robbery suspect and told him to get a job if he wanted money

Police said the cashier apparently didn't realize the man was trying to hold up the place.

The suspect then pulled out a box cutter and demanded the cashier's wallet. The employee complied, but had no money in his billfold.

The suspect fled, but was caught by police who responded to the robbery call.


Russian treason bill a throwback to days of Stalin

The days of glasnost in the USSR, when there was less censorship and greater freedom of information, appear to be over.

New legislation backed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (upper picture) would allow Russian authorities to label any government critic a traitor—a move that rights activists said Wednesday was a chilling throwback to times of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Glasnost was put in place in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev (lower picture) in the 1980’s.

Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia in 2000 after Boris Yeltsin suddenly and mysteriously resigned.

Russians have gradually experienced less freedom and more government control Under Putin’s presidency.

This may be the final step back to the Russia of Josef Stalin.


Dec 17, 2008

On further review: Arena football cancelled for 2009

The Arena Football League has canceled its 2009 season, but will reportedly resume play in 2010.

A player for the Colorado Crush arena football team is shown here.

League officials could not be reached to comment, but have previously denied the indoor football league would cancel the 2009 season. The AFL, founded in 1987, has 16 teams after New Orleans folded in October.

The league claims it will be stronger and will be here for a long time because of the reorganization planned during the idle year of 2009.

Will the fans come back after one idle season?


New Yorkers to face 88 new fees and taxes

New York Governor David Paterson (pictured) unveiled a dire New York State budget that includes new taxes and fees as well as layoffs and cuts. Even iPod users are affected.

An "iPod tax" that charges state and local sales tax for "digitally delivered entertainment services" - in other words, that new Beyonce song you download.

State sales tax at movie theaters, sporting events, taxis, buses, limousines and cable and satellite TV and radio.

State sales tax at movie theaters, sporting events, taxis, buses, limousines and cable and satellite TV and radio.

Costlier driving with the repeal of the 8-cents-per-gallon sales tax cap on motor and diesel motor fuel, plus and increase in the auto rental tax.

Tuition increases at SUNY and CUNY, $620 and $600 a year respectively.

A 50 cent tax on cigars. The current tax is equal to 37% of the wholesale price, or 34 cents a cigar.

No more sales tax break on clothes and shoes worth $110 or less, except during two weeks a year.

Higher taxes on wine, beer and flavored malt beverages. He would also impose an 18% tax on non-nutritional drinks like soda.

The rich would pay more for luxury items through an additional 5% tax imposed on cars costing more than $60,000, aircraft costing more than $500,000, yachts costing at least $200,000 and jewelry and furs costing in excess of $20,000.

In addition, a host of a fees, including those related to motor vehicle licensing and registration, parks and auto insurance, would go up, as would various state-imposed fines.


Scientists reproduce face of Cleopatra

The face of Cleopatra has been digitally reproduced by scientists as shown below.

Scientists gathered historical evidence, including a ring bearing her image, to recreate her face.

Unlike previous recreations of Cleopatra, this likeness is shown in what scientists believe is the true Egyptian skin color. Most other recreations of Cleopatra’s face show her with white skin.

Hard to picture Cleopatra wearing her hair in cornrows. Who knew?


Obama’s e-mails raise cash and concerns

Did you think the Obama fundraising would end on Election Day?

Think again.

A report at the link below says:

In the five weeks since Election Day, Obama's once-cohesive Web presence has fragmented into a jumble of sometimes disparate-feeling fundraising pitches, YouTube videos and calls for activism spread across three websites.

Want a sleek Obama '08 coffee mug, a four-year calendar with pictures of Barack Obama on the campaign trail, or a blue T-shirt with "Change Can Happen" emblazoned under stylized photos of the incoming president and vice president?

You’ll have to hurry. But they all can be yours for the holidays, if you go to Obama's campaign website and donate $15, $35 or $30 to the Democratic National Committee.

So said a trio of e-mails sent since Obama's historic victory last month to the 13 million or so folks on his unprecedented campaign e-mail list, which has also been used to raise cash for Obama's non-profit presidential transition group and former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's insolvent presidential campaign.

That’s right, he even wants you to pay Hillary’s campaign debt! If not, she may be the first Secretary of State to assume office owing millions in presidential campaign debt.

And, of course, there are the fashion and novelty sale items — including the Obama fleece scarf being hawked this week with a deadline duly noted to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

With the country in a recession and an elaborate coronation I mean inauguration, coming next month, why is the begging hand still outstretched for donations?

Will Barack Hussein Obama be the first president to sell souvenir ashtrays from the Oval Office?


Dec 16, 2008

They were served legal documents - on Facebook

We always thought Facebook was a social networking site used mostly by kids to show off racy garments and maybe a new boyfriend, while insulting former boyfriends.


An Australian couple who defaulted on their mortgage have been served legally binding court documents via Facebook.

In what may be a world first, lawyers from Canberra law firm Meyer Vandenberg persuaded a judge in the Australian Capital Territory's Supreme Court to allow them to serve the documents over the internet after repeatedly failing to serve the papers in person.

Lawyer Mark McCormack came up with the Facebook plan after it became clear that the couple did not want to be found.

The pair had ignored emails from the law firm and did not attend a court appearance on Oct 3. Mr. McCormack said the pair had "vanished".

So he looked to Facebook, better known for its tendency to break up marriages and ruin careers, for inspiration.

"It's somewhat novel, however we do see it as a valid method of bringing the matter to the attention of the defendant.”


Florida sandwich attack was no baloney

Police said a Port St. Lucie, Florida man was arrested for throwing a sandwich at his girlfriend. It was the second food attack that sent a man to jail in about a month.

According to a police report released Monday, the 20-year-old man threw the sandwich at his girlfriend's face during an argument about auto insurance and then hit her head with his fist.

The man admitted to throwing the food but not hitting her. He was arrested Friday and faces a battery charge.

Last month, another man was arrested on a battery charge for hitting his girlfriend with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off and nearly causing a traffic crash.

Police reports did not say what type of sandwich was used in the attack but there was no baloney in the story.


Santa trades sleigh for an F-15

Santa says the F-15 is faster than a sleigh

Car key blocks cell phone use while driving

Two US inventors have devised a car key that prevents people from using mobile telephones for chatting or sending text messages while driving.

Once slipped into a car's ignition, the key sends a wireless signal to a driver's mobile phone blocking calls or texting.

The keys are being pitched as a way for parents to stop teenage children from focusing attention on mobile telephones instead of traffic.

Link here and here.

Irony of the week: anti kidnap expert kidnapped in Mexico

Felix Batista is a former U.S. army officer and a well-known U.S. anti-kidnapping expert who sometimes serves as a negotiator with kidnappers.

Now Batista has himself fallen victim to abductors in Mexico as unidentified assailants snatched him from a street in the northern state of Coahuila.

Batista is a consultant for the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC.


Dec 15, 2008

Not exactly a Harley

Government soldiers transport looted goods in Kayna, Congo.

Union founded nonprofit spent zero on its charitable purpose

A scandal-ridden Los Angeles chapter of the Service Employees International Union founded a charity called, Long Term Care Housing Corp.

Tyrone Freeman (pictured), then head of the SEIU’s largest California local, helped start the Long Term Care Housing Corp. in 2004. He is under investigation by the federal government.

The stated aim of the nonprofit was to provide housing to low-income workers.

The charity had total expenses of about $165,000 for 2005 and 2006, and all of the money went to consulting fees, insurance costs and other overhead, according to its Internal Revenue Service filings.

Nothing went to the charitable purpose of the nonprofit.


Shoppers dream car

She’s on her way to Wal-Mart

Obama following Clinton scandal footsteps

(click on picture to enlarge)

Illinois Senate seat was for sale

There is an article at the link below titled, Pssst . . . Wanna Buy a Senate Seat?

“Saddened and sobered” -- that was Barack Obama's first response to the corruption charges against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (upper picture), charges that include an attempt to sell Obama's old Senate seat to the highest bidder.

"Obviously, like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney's office," Obama said.

Wrong emotion. If someone had taken a poll of the rest of the people of Illinois that day I'd guess very few of them would have offered "saddened" in response to a question on their feeling about Blagojevich's efforts to make money on just about everything that happened in Illinois over the past six years.

Outraged? Certainly. Disgusted? Sure. Entertained ? Yep.

But "saddened" is the kind of reaction you have if a friend loses a spouse or if someone you trust lets you down. It's not the kind of reaction you have if you've run a campaign for a politician only to have him embarrass himself in wiretaps from a federal investigation into his six-year orgy of corruption.

This is Illinois politics where scandals are frequent and almost expected so “saddened” and “sobered” sorta fit.

Saddened because an Illinois Democrat was nailed and sobered because the scandal could reach his coattails just before his inauguration as president of the United States.

Look for Obama’s aides and a sympathetic media to work overtime putting out the fires and maybe getting U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (lower picture) removed from the investigation. After all, Fitz was a Bush appointee making him expendable.


VP roll shrunk: Obama will be hidin’ Biden

A report at the link below is titled, Biden to shrink VP role - big time.

Actually, a more appropriate title would be, Obama to shrink VP roll.

It will be Obama’s choice just as it was Bill Clinton’s choice to shrink Al Gore’s VP roll.

Biden won’t sit in on Senate Democrats’ weekly caucus meetings. His office will be on the House floor.

The report says Biden will not be pigeonholed. If that is true, why won’t he have an office in the White House?

Biden was selected because of his foreign policy experience yet it now seems that Biden will be biden’ his time in an office far from the White House.

Biden has offered Obama advice and recommendations for appointees he’s made so far, but the president-elect’s cabinet is certainly not stocked with Biden allies.

Barack Obama won’t rely on Joe Biden any more than Bill Clinton relied on Al Gore.


Dec 14, 2008

California adopts nations toughest rules for diesel trucks

The state of California has adopted the nation's toughest emission requirements on heavy-duty trucks.

Despite opposition from truckers, the state Air Resources Board votes unanimously to require retrofitting or replacement of older rigs.

Truckers are protesting saying they would be bankrupted in a sinking economy.

The state Air Resources Board, voting unanimously for the measure, declared that the health benefits far outweigh the financial pain in a state that has the dirtiest air in the nation.

Diesel trucks are responsible for a third of the smog in California.

More of the story here.

All talk but little action at UN climate change summit

Former U.S. vice president Al Gore (pictured) warned delegates from over 190 countries at the UN climate change summit in Poznan Poland, that the time for idle talk on global warming was over.

He warned delegates from over 190 countries that the time for idle talk on global warming was over.

Gore’s dire warning about increased CO2 emissions are a threat to the integrity of this planet's climate balance everywhere.

Mr. Gore received warm applause from the crowd, but it's not clear his message really got through.

Perhaps it because many of those in attendance were preoccupied with the global economic change to be swayed by Al Gore’s interpretation of climate change.


Illinois Democrats reeling in wake of Blagojevich scandal

A report at the link below says:

The scandal surrounding Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has sent shockwaves through Illinois political circles -- not only casting a spotlight on the state's reputation for corruption but also potentially tainting the field of likely Democratic contenders for President-elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Who is the principal contender?

The most prominent name on that list of contenders, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.(pictured), is literally facing howls of protests from some of his constituents. About a dozen protestors stood outside his Chicago office Saturday shouting, "Ho ho ho, Jesse Jr. gotta go."

Not only Illinois Democrats, but party leaders in Washington will be in full damage control to prevent a special election to determine a successor to Barack Obama’s senate seat.

Democrats worry that a special election, in the middle of this corruption, would send a Republican to the U.S. Senate to replace Obama.

"I think anybody who's been mentioned up to now -- Jesse Jackson, Tammy Duckworth, Valerie Jarrett -- I think they're all pretty tainted and they're not going to get it," said Democratic consultant William Bike, who is based in Chicago.