Thursday, September 29, 2011

Would-be terrorist planned to use toy airplanes to bomb Washington

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State Department warns of terrorist plans to abduct Westerners in Saudi Arabia

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September 28, 2011

The Embassy requests that wardens pass the following message in its entirety to members of the
U.S. citizen community:

U.S. Embassy in Riyadh advises U.S. citizens in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that we have
received information that a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia may be planning to abduct Westerners
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reminds all U.S. citizens to exercise
prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times.

Regardless of where you are, it is always advisable to keep your security and situational
awareness levels high.

Please follow these good personal security practices:

Do not be time and place predictable. Vary your routes and times to and from work. Do not
frequent the same shops with regularity;

Know where you are going and have a plan of what to do in the event you encounter
demonstrations or violence;

Identify safe areas (for example police stations, hospitals, Saudi Government buildings) in
your area and how to get to them quickly;

Avoid crowds or large gatherings when traveling in public;

Tell co-workers or neighbors where you’re going and when you intend to return;

Minimize your profile while in public.

Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into
your phone such as the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh (01-488-3800), U.S. Consulate General in
Dhahran (03-330-3200) and U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah (02-667-0080). The
emergency number for the Saudi Police, Fire, and Rescue is 999.

Be prepared to postpone or cancel activities for personal safety concerns.

Report all concerns you may experience to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the Consulates
General in Dhahran and Jeddah.

U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Department of State's, Bureau of
Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts,
and Country Specific Information can be found. The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S.
citizens to review "A Safe Trip Abroad,” which includes valuable security information for those
both living and traveling abroad. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page
on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel
information at your fingertips. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain
up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United
States and Canada, or outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-
4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through
Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

U.S. Embassy Riyadh
Telephone: (966) (1) 488-3800
Fax: (966) (1) 483-0773.
No .14/2011
Earlier Messages to U.S. Citizens are available at
ACS Website:

Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law Survives First Legal Challenge

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United States District Court,
N.D. Alabama,
Southern Division.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
STATE of Alabama; Governor Robert J. Bentley, Defendants.

No. 2:11–CV–2746–SLB.
Sept. 28, 2011.

Joyce White Vance, Praveen Krishna, U.S. Attorney's Office, Birmingham, AL, C. Lee Reeves, II, Joshua Wilkenfeld, Varu Chilakamarri, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.


*1 On June 2, 2011, the Alabama Legislature approved House Bill 56 (H.B.56), the “Beason–Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act,” Ala. Laws Act 2011–535, hereinafter H.B. 56. On June 9, 2011, Governor Robert Bentley signed the Act into law, with the majority of its provisions to become effective on September 1, 2011. On August 29, 2011, this court temporarily enjoined the Act until September 29, 2011.

On August 1, 2011, the United States filed a Complaint against the State of Alabama and Governor Robert J. Bentley seeking declaratory and injunctive relief contending that various provisions of H.B. 56 are preempted by federal law, and, therefore, violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. (Doc. 1.) FN1 On the same date, the United States filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, (doc. 2), seeking to preliminarily enjoin the following sections of H.B. 56: 10, 11(a), 12(a), 13, 16, 17, 18, 27, 28, and 30. The Act declares it “a compelling public interest to discourage illegal immigration by requiring all agencies within [Alabama] to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” H.B. 56 § 2. The term “alien” is defined in the Act as “[a]ny person who is not a citizen or national of the United States, as described in 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq., and amendments thereto.” H.B. 56 § 3.

FN1. Reference to a document number, [“Doc. ____”], refers to the number assigned to each document as it is filed in the court's record. References to page numbers in this Memorandum Opinion refer to the page numbers assigned to the document by the court's electronic filing system, not the page number at the bottom of each page.

H.B. 56 includes a severability provision, stating that “If any part of this act is declared invalid or unconstitutional, that declaration shall not affect the part which remains.” H.B. 56 § 33. Therefore, the court will address the challenges to H.B. 56 on a section-by-section basis. The following sections are challenged by the United States:

H.B. 56 § 10, which creates a criminal misdemeanor violation under Alabama law for willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document if the person is in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) or 8 U.S.C. § 1306(a) and is unlawfully present in the United States.

H.B. 56 § 11(a), which makes it a misdemeanor crime for an unauthorized alien to apply for, solicit, or perform work.

H.B. 56 § 12(a), which requires a law enforcement officer to make a reasonable attempt, when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.

H.B. 56 § 13, which makes it unlawful for a person to 1) conceal, harbor or shield an alien unlawfully present in the United States, or attempt or conspire to do so; 2) encourage an unlawful alien to come to the State of Alabama; or 3) to transport (or attempt or conspire to transport) an unlawful alien.

H.B. 56 § 16, which forbids employers from claiming as business tax deductions any wages paid to an unauthorized alien.

H.B. 56 § 17, which establishes a civil cause of action against an employer who fails to hire or discharges a U.S. citizen or an alien who is authorized to work while hiring, or retaining, an unauthorized alien.

*2 H.B. 56 § 18, which amends Ala.Code 32–6–9 to include a provision that if a person is arrested for driving without a license, and the officer is unable to determine that the person has a valid driver's license, the person must be transported to the nearest magistrate; a reasonable effort shall be made to determine the citizenship of the driver, and if found to be unlawfully present in the United States the driver shall be detained until prosecution or until handed over to federal immigration authorities.

H.B. 56 § 27, which bars Alabama courts from enforcing a contract to which a person who is unlawfully present in the United States is a party. This section does not apply to contracts for lodging for one night, contracts for the purchase of food, contracts for medical services, or contracts for transportation for an alien to return to his or her country of origin.

H.B. 56 § 28, which requires every public elementary and secondary school in Alabama to determine if an enrolling student was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an unlawfully present alien and qualifies for assignment to an English as second language class or other remedial program.

H.B. 56 § 30, which makes it a felony for an alien not lawfully present in the United States to enter into a “business transaction” with the State of Alabama or any political subdivision thereof.

As discussed more fully below, “[a] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy.” Ne. Fla. Chapter of the Ass'n of Gen. Contractors of Am. v. City of Jacksonville, Florida, 896 F .2d 1283, 1285 (11th Cir.1990) (citations omitted). Moreover, as the Eleventh Circuit has noted

When a federal court before trial enjoins the enforcement of a municipal ordinance adopted by a duly elected city council, the court overrules the decision of the elected representatives of the people and, thus, in a sense interferes with the processes of democratic government. Such a step can occasionally be justified by the Constitution (itself the highest product of democratic processes). Still, preliminary injunctions of legislative enactments— because they interfere with the democratic process and lack the safeguards against abuse or error that come with a full trial on the merits— must be granted reluctantly and only upon a clear showing that the injunction before trial is definitely demanded by the Constitution and by the other strict legal and equitable principles that restrain courts.

Id. (emphasis added).

Upon consideration of the Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the memoranda submitted in support of and in opposition to the Motion, the arguments of counsel, the Amici briefs accepted by the court, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion, as more fully discussed below, that the United States has not met the requirements for a preliminary injunction on its claim that Sections 10, 12(a), 18, 27, 28, and 30 of H.B. 56 are preempted by federal law. Therefore, the motion for preliminary injunction as to these sections will be denied. However, the court is of the opinion, as more fully discussed below, that there is a substantial likelihood that the United States will succeed on the merits of its claim that Sections 11(a), 13, 16, and 17 of H.B. 56 are preempted by federal law. The court further finds that the United States will suffer irreparable harm if these sections of H.B. 56 are not enjoined, the balance of equities favors the entry of an injunction, and its entry would not be adverse to the public interest. Therefore, the Motion for Preliminary Injunction will be granted as to these sections.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This sounds like a really bad Italian joke

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Seven Italian scientists are on trial for manslaughter because they failed to warn of a possible earthquake.

Here's what the Seismological Society of America (yes, there apparently is such a thing) had to say:

We are deeply concerned to learn that members of our society and their colleagues have been indicted by the Prosecutor’s Office in L’Aquila in connection with the tragic L’Aquila earthquake of 6 April 2009. The occurrence of this disastrous earthquake unfortunately brought into the harsh light of public scrutiny both the high level of uncertainty in the science of short-term earthquake forecasting and the lack of a public policy framework in Italy (and, for that matter, many other parts of the world) for providing short-term guidance to the communities, populations, and infrastructure at risk.

Rather than pursuing unprecedented legal action against members of the seismological community, SSA urges public officials and community leaders to work to improve the way earthquake risks are communicated to the public. We also urge continued proactive efforts to support earthquake science and engineering and to establish and implement local and national programs in earthquake preparedness and risk mitigation. Education, awareness, and preparedness of the public officials and the general public, coupled with sound construction practices and retrofitting of older structures are currently the best available approaches for mitigating the effects of future earthquakes.

A Call for Papers: Analytrics Conference - Paris

4ème Conférence Internationale Education Economie Société/ 4th Paris International Conference on Edu

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Call for contributions

4th Paris International Conference on Education, Economy and Society
23-28 July 2012, Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Paris (France)
Contributions in all areas of educational research are invited
Deadline for submission: 30 October 2011
More here. Conference website:

Paris International Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences Research
24-28 July 2012, Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Paris (France)
Contributions in all areas of humanities and social sciences research are invited
Deadline for submission: 30 October 2011
More here. Congress website:


Appel à contributions

4ème Conférence Internationale Éducation, Économie et Société
23-28 juillet 2012, Hôtel Concorde La Fayette, Paris (France)
Conférence généraliste ouverte à toutes les thématiques en lien avec l'éducation
Date limite pour proposer une contribution : 30 octobre 2011
Plus d'informations ici. URL du site de la Conférence :

Congrès International de Recherche en Sciences Humaines et Sociales
24-28 juillet 2012, Hôtel Concorde La Fayette, Paris (France)
Congrès généraliste ouvert à toutes les thématiques relevant de la recherche en sciences humaines
et sociales
Date limite pour proposer une contribution : 30 octobre 2011
Plus d'informations ici. URL du site du Congrès :

Sneaking a peak behind defendant's screen saver did not require suppressing evidence of his "rant"

United States District Court,
E.D. Wisconsin.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
Michael L. MUSGROVE, Defendant.

No. 11–CR–24.
Sept. 16, 2011.

Erica N. O'Neil, United States Department of Justice, Milwaukee, WI, for Plaintiff.

Daniel W. Stiller, Joanna T. Perini, Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin Inc, Milwaukee, WI, for Defendant.

C.N. CLEVERT, JR., Chief Judge.

*1 The defendant, Michael L. Musgrove, filed two motions to dismiss the indictment pending against him, as well as a motion to suppress evidence seized during the search of his home. (Docs.# 14–16.) Musgrove argues that the indictment which charges him with communicating a threat in interstate commerce does not contain a description of the alleged threat or the person said to be threatened, and violates the First Amendment because it does not state that the words he is accused of transmitting constitute a “true threat” unprotected by the United States Constitution. Moreover, he asserts that the government executed a warrantless and non-consensual seizure of his laptop computer, and, therefore, the evidence obtained in the search of that computer should be suppressed.

Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph issued her report and recommendation on April 20, 2011, finding that the indictment tracks the statutory language of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), and the government's issuance of a bill of particulars on March 4, 2011, cured the indictment of any technical insufficiency. Judge Joseph further found that, under Seventh Circuit precedent, the determination of whether a communication constitutes a “true threat” is to be made by the trier of fact, not the district court on a motion to dismiss at the indictment stage. Moreover, Judge Joseph found that police officers had probable cause to seize the defendant's laptop computer, but did not have the legal authority required to manipulate the mouse or touch a key so as to perform a search, however minimal, that revealed Musgrove's Facebook page. Nevertheless, she determined that this unauthorized search did not vitiate Musgrove's later consent to the search of his computer after he was taken to the police station.

A district court reviews de novo the recommendations of the magistrate judge to which a party timely objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Crim.P. 59(b)(2), (3). Portions of a recommendation to which no party objects are reviewed for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir.1999). Because Musgrove only filed objections to the rulings on his motions to dismiss, they will be reviewed de novo. The portion of the recommendation addressing the motion to suppress evidence obtained from his laptop computer will be reviewed for clear error.

The facts underlying the motion to suppress, which were largely stipulated to by the parties, are set forth on pages 12 and 13 of Magistrate Judge Joseph's recommendation. Briefly, two citizens contacted authorities after viewing a post on the “Rants and Raves” section of Craigslist. Craigslist provided authorities with the email address, phone number, and IP address of the user who posted the message, and they quickly linked to Musgrove. Musgrove answered the door of his basement apartment and officers entered. He admitted to officers that he “did it on a dare,” and was placed under arrest. Although Musgrove consented to the search of his home for weapons or contraband, Officer Shultz seized a laptop computer which was in screen saver mode. Officer Shultz either touched a key or moved the computer mouse and revealed Musgrove's Facebook page with a posting related to the Mayfair Shopping Mall. Later, at the police station, Musgrove waived his Miranda rights, signed a consent form, and gave a full confession.

*2 There is no dispute that the officers were lawfully present in Musgrove's home, that the laptop was located in plain view, that the apartment belonged to the individual who voluntarily made incriminating statements about the crime, and that officers were investigating a threatening post made via the internet. That Musgrove's Facebook page became apparent prior to waiver of his Miranda rights and full confession did not taint the subsequent search conducted with his consent inasmuch as his behavior at all times—in the apartment and later at the station—was cooperative. Finding no plain error, the court will adopt Judge Jospeh's recommendation to deny Musgrove's motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search of his home.

Turning to the motions to dismiss, the defendant asserts that the recommendation is erroneous because it fails to account for the fact that the “trueness” of the alleged threat is a constitutional element of the offense. Without that element, the statute would be constitutionally overbroad because it would essentially criminalize constitutionally protected speech. Not only does the omission of “trueness” run afoul of Rule 7(f), it suggests that no grand jury has deemed Musgrove's speech to be unprotected.

“An indictment is deemed sufficient if it: (1) states the elements of the offense charged; (2) fairly informs the defendant of the nature of the charge so that he may prepare a defense; and (3) enables him to plead an acquittal or convictions as a bar against future prosecutions for the same offense.” United States v. McLeczynsky, 296 F.3d 634, 636 (7th Cir.2002) (citing Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 117 (1974) and United States v. Anderson, 280 F.3d 1121, 1124 (7th Cir.2002)). The Seventh Circuit has stated that when determining the sufficiency of an indictment, the court looks “at the contents of the subject indictment ‘on a practical basis and in its entirety, rather than in a hypertechnical manner.’ “ McLeczynsky, 296 F.3d at 636 (citing United States v. Smith, 230 F.3d 300, 305 (7th Cir.2000). Moreover, “[f]acial sufficiency is not a high hurdle.... Generally, an indictment is sufficient when it sets forth the offense in the words of the statute itself, as long as those words expressly set forth all the elements necessary to constitute the offense intended to be punished.” United States v. Bates, 96 F .3d 964, 970 (7th Cir.1996) (citing United States v. Hinkle, 637 F.2d 1154, 1157 (7th Cir.1981)).

Title 18, Section 875(c) of the United States Code reads as follows:

(c) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

The Seventh Circuit has set forth the elements of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) as follows: “[f]irst, that the Defendant said or transmitted a communication in interstate commerce; second, the communication contained a threat to injure another person; and third, the Defendant did so knowingly.” United States v. Stewart, 411 F.3d 825, 827 (7th Cir.2005) (emphasis omitted).

*3 Here, the indictment charges that “[o]n or about January 14, 2011, in the State and Eastern District of Wisconsin, Michael Musgrove knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure the person of another.” (Doc. # 6.) This language, albeit bare-boned, sets forth the offense in the words of the statute and the elements as stated by the Seventh Circuit in Stewart. Id. Hence, the court finds that the indictment withstands Musgrove's attack.

However, any deficiency in the indictment regarding the details of Musgrove's alleged threat was cured by the filing of the bill of particulars, which was the relief requested in the alternative by the defendant in his motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 21.) The government's bill of particulars recites the Craigslist posting:

Title: Mayfair mall gonna make da news dis weekend again (da hood)

Date: 2011–01–14, 7:15 PM CST

Posting ID: 2161131197

Text: thats right snitches, ... ya all herd me ... ya all thought I was done...... but I was layin lo ..... listenin to ya all crakas talk you shit about how ya all punks gonna take it back all ya all was talkin about was waaaa waaaa what happenin to ya alls mall and how ya all pussy azz bitches gonna do sumthin specifically that big ufc wanna be pussy talkin about how he own the mall an how tough that punk azz is thuth is big pussy ..... you aint tougher then my 9 which ill be bringing dis sat glock glock motherfucker .... when I put that glock upside yo head you aint gonna do shit ....cept beg fo you life bithc ya all though few weeks ago was bad .... watch dis shit sat.... I gots mi shit together an organized crakas an no non of ya all gonna do shit cause me an my boys OWN dat mall

[SIC]. At a minimum, a reasonable jury may determine that the posting threatens that Mayfair Mall is going to make news over the weekend (Saturday), when the individual brings his Glock firearm and puts it to people's heads to make them beg for their lives. In addition, the government maintains that it is complying with its open file policy, thereby providing Musgrove with discovery, and that the posting was accompanied by a picture of a Glock. Hence, it simply cannot be said that Musgrove is not aware of the specific conduct at issue when he has been provided materials the government may use at trial, including the Craigslist posting. Ultimately, the indictment tracks the language of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), sets forth the elements of the offense and has been supplemented by the bill of particulars as Musgrove requested. The motion to dismiss for technical insufficiency will not be granted.

Next, turning to Musgrove's assertion that the recommendation is erroneous because it finds that the trier of fact must determine whether the alleged threat was a true threat. The government responds that the “issue of whether it is a true threat, as opposed to constitutionally-protected speech, is a heavily fact-dependent, context-driven determination which numerous courts have held must be reserved for the trier of fact.”

*4 Because this court finds that the indictment in this case, as supplemented by the March 4, 2011, bill of particulars, complies with Fed.R.Crim.P. 7(c) and the prevailing case law of this circuit, it cannot conclude that the recommendation contains any error of law regarding the First Amendment issue. The Seventh Circuit has held that the determining whether a statement constitutes true threat is question which should be left to the trier of fact. See United States v. Saunders, 166 F.3d 907, 912 (7th Cir.1999) (holding that “whether the statement [contained in the defendant's letter to Judge Manning] constitutes a threat was an issue of fact for the jury to decide,” in a case involving 18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)(B)); United States v. Schneider, 910 F.2d 1569, 1570 (7th Cir.1990) (holding that “[t]he threat in this case was ambiguous, but the task of interpretation was for the jury ...” in a case involving 18 U.S.C. § 876); United States v. Parr, 545 F.3d 491, 500 (7th Cir.2008) (discussing the possible change in the threat doctrine after the Supreme Court's decision in Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003) and stating that if the doctrine had changed “the factfinder” would now be asked to answer an additional question regarding subjective intent); United States v. White, 610 F.3d 956, 962 (7th Cir.2010) (reversing a district court's dismissal because the defendant's argument was not whether the indictment was valid but whether the posting on the website was a solicitation or speech deserving of First Amendment protection, which was an issue for the jury to decide). Other circuits have similarly held that whether a statement is a “true threat is to be decided by the trier of fact. See also United States v. Howell, 719 F.2d 1258, 1260 (5th Cir.1983). Although none of the cases deal directly with § 875(c), they discuss situations where a defendant's speech is under scrutiny as threat or some other means by which it loses its First Amendment protection. And in all of these cases, the appellate courts have found that it is a question of fact, not law, whether the speech was a threat or worthy of First Amendment protection. Now, therefore,

IT IS ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Joseph's recommendation (Doc. # 27) is adopted.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant Musgrove's motion to dismiss the indictment for its technical insufficiency, or in the alternative, for a bill of particulars (Doc. # 15) is denied.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Musgrove's motion to dismiss upon substantive first amendment grounds (Doc. # 14) is denied.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion to suppress evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Doc. # 16) is granted in part and denied in part.

U.S. v. Musgrove
Slip Copy, 2011 WL 4356515 (E.D.Wis.)

The Heaviest Pol of All?

New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie is certainly in the hunt for this accolade:

Back in '09, when he was running, the question was asked, is he too fat to be governor.

Obese?... so it seems. But just how heavy is he? It takes some searching on Google to get an answer.As he started sniffing out the GOP 2012 race, the governor also began dropping some poundage.

Bill Maher raised the issue of who has the greater self-control problem, Weiner/sex or Christie/food.

"Three-hundred pounds plus" is the best I could find.

If so, then Christie is giving the White House's heaviest hitter a run for his money. I'm referring to William Howard Taft, who reputedly weighed in at 335. Taft was a mountain of a man who managed to serve both as President of the United STates and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (not at the same time, however). Although he was undistinguished in both roles, that's still quite a resume.

Since we seem to be reverting to the age of the Robber Barons --- a new Gilded Age in which the middle class is beleaguered and shrinking, jobs are either eliminated or exported, and unions are harassed toward extinction --- in which the top 1% of Americans controls an obscene share of the national wealth and is damned if it will be taxed --- well, perhaps the time is right for another 335-pound Republican blimp in the Oval Office. A goal for which the Garden State's Gov might well aim.

What goes around comes around... and there is indeed nothing new under the sun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are Canadians anti-cleavage?

Image: Charisma /

Surely Santa feels differently on the issue.

Texas governor said to doubt evolution, global warming. What a surprise!

Image: Marc Aert /

The City of Brotherly Love? Not for this Philly mom!

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Bet she won't do that again!!

Slimy college presidents... Part II

While one college president is eating worms to make his point about Jesus and sin (see my blog below), another just received five years of probation --- avoiding by the skin of his teeth a prison term --- for cheating his institution out of $300,000 to feed his gambling addiction.

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He was also ordered to do 1000 hours of community service. Maybe the judge should have ordered him to eat worms, so his worm-eating colleague could take a break and buy some mouthwash.

Only in America: College president eats a worm

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Remember Sara Palin's "squirmish" SNAFU? Well, now the president of a religion-affiliated college is eating worms to make his point about Christ and sin. (There ought to be an easier way.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is another election debacle in the making for 2012?

Depending upon which side of the aisle you're sentiments are on, the 2000 presidential election was either an unfortunate SNAFU or the disenfranchisement of thousands of Florida voters, resulting in the 5 conservative members of the US Supreme Court throwing the election to their man.

Since then, balloting "reforms" have included the introduction of computers. But, while the old-time voting machines might last half a century, computers typically have a ten-year life span. Those introduced in the wake of the 2000 travesty are now more than a decade old (duh). They need replacing, and the money isn't there.

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Feeling the heat of the Arab Spring, House of Saud enacts reforms

Back in March it was a $93 billion jobs program:

Image: Witthaya Phonsawat /

Now, the king has announced the vote for women... albeit some four years hence:

California jury convicts 10 Muslim students who interrupted Israeli's speech at UC-Irvine last year!

Image: Getideaka /

Creeping Sharia on College Campuses?
Jim Castagnera
Oct. 28, 2008

In a handful of instances, at least, our institutions of higher learning have gone perhaps a bit too far in adapting to the demands of diverse campuses, where pro-Muslim views and values seemingly must be accommodated. Some have called this arguably excessive tolerance “creeping Sharia.”

“Sharia is the body of Islamic religious law. The term means ‘way’ or ‘path to the water source’; it is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence and for Muslims living outside the domain. Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.”i

Beginning in February 2008, Harvard University’s Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center began setting aside 8:00-10:00 AM and 3:00-5:00 PM for women only. The reason… to accommodate Muslim women, who typically cover their heads and most of their bodies, but who wanted to dress more appropriately for their workoutsiiNot surprisingly, views varied in response to news of Harvard’s trial policy.

“It’s about expanding the range of choices. Women, for all kinds of reasons, don’t want to exercise in front of men. It’s a minority of women, but there are. This modesty business sometimes comes from religion, sometimes from culture. They just don’t want to be ogled by men when they’re working out,” Hussein Ibish, executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer.iii

Retorted author Michael Smerconish,iv“Political correctness has run amok again at Harvard. Six individuals out of 6,000 [students] complain,” Smerconish told Lauer. “Those six had access [to the campus gyms] and Harvard’s response is to institute a discriminatory practice where now half are closed out of the gym.”v

A few months earlier, the University of Michigan touched off a small firestorm of protest, when it installed footbaths in some washrooms to accommodate Muslim students wishing to perform ritualistic ablutions prefatory to daily prayer.viPrior to the project’s completion, for example, one critique complained,

DEARBORN -- The University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to spend $25,000 for foot-washing stations, making it easier for Muslim students to practice their religion but sparking questions about the separation of church and state.

The university claims the stations are needed to accommodate Muslim students, who must ritually wash their bodies -- including the feet -- up to five times each day before prayers. But critics hit conservative blogs and radio airwaves Monday to argue public money shouldn't cover the cost.

I have been in airport bathrooms when someone will come up, paying no attention to right or left, and start performing his wudu, while water flies all over the place as that person places his feet, one after the other, in the sink and washes them. While these -- to many -- nauseating public ablutions take place, most people hasten away without going near even the empty sinks.

There is no god-given right to come to other countries and inflict one's behavior, in fulfilling some kind of faith-based mandate, in public places. The nurses who were arrested for singing Christmas carols behind closed doors, in their own apartments in Western apartment complexes, in Saudi Arabia, were not inflicting this on anyone: it was the religious police checking up, as they do everywhere they can. But, for example, the slitting of a sheep's throat, and letting it bleed to death on the street, can and should be banned -- whether or not this is considered "part of Islam."

If Muslim students wish to have foot-washing sinks available, then they can certainly pay for them. After all, there is hardly a mosque or a madrasa in this country that does not receive, when it needs it, all kinds of financial support from those who, across the seas, batten on the unmerited oil trillions, and by this point have used, collectively, more than one hundred billion of it (the estimate for Saudi Arabia alone) to pay for mosques, madrasas, armies of Western hirelings, and propaganda of every sort.vii

Whether the critics are correct or not, one is hard pressed to perceive a non-sectarian school setting aside such accommodations for Mennonite or Orthodox Jewish constituencies.

Case pending before the Supremes could give religious schools wide latitude to discriminate

Image: dan /

Here's the Obama Administration's brief in the case:

The high court has never before ruled ont he "ministerial exception" to the jurisdiction of federal anti-discrimination law. SOme of the US COurts of Appeals have, most recently:

United States Court of Appeals,
Eighth Circuit.
Maureen McNEIL, Appellant,
MISSOURI ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH; Heartland South District, United Methodist Church; Robert Schnase; Sally Haynes, Appellees.

No. 10–3291.
Submitted: March 4, 2011.
Filed: March 11, 2011.

Background: Candidate for ministry, who had been denied employment at church, filed state court suit against church alleging discrimination in violation of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Following church's removal of action, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, 2010 WL 3732191, Nanette K. Laughrey, J., dismissed. Plaintiff appealed.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that ministerial exception applied to bar ministry candidate's suit.

In so holding the Eighth Circuit panel reasoned, "Ministerial exception to the general rule that churches must adhere to state and federal employment laws applied to bar ministry candidate's employment discrimination claim against church brought pursuant to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); personnel decision by church or religious institution affecting clergy was a religious matter per se, which could not be reviewed by civil court, since doing so would implicate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our counter-intuitive choices in November 2012

[Source: Wiki Commons]

In addition to his works on ethics, which address the individual, Aristotle addressed the city in his work titled Politics. Aristotle considered the city to be a natural community. Moreover, he considered the city to be prior in importance to the family which in turn is prior to the individual, "for the whole must of necessity be prior to the part".[46] He also famously stated that "man is by nature a political animal." Aristotle conceived of politics as being like an organism rather than like a machine, and as a collection of parts none of which can exist without the others. Aristotle's conception of the city is organic, and he is considered one of the first to conceive of the city in this manner.[47]
The common modern understanding of a political community as a modern state is quite different to Aristotle's understanding. Although he was aware of the existence and potential of larger empires, the natural community according to Aristotle was the city (polis) which functions as a political "community" or "partnership" (koinōnia). The aim of the city is not just to avoid injustice or for economic stability, but rather to allow at least some citizens the possibility to live a good life, and to perform beautiful acts: "The political partnership must be regarded, therefore, as being for the sake of noble actions, not for the sake of living together."


As I see it, the Democrats offer the opportunity to reinvigorate and sustain the American Republic. By doing so, we sustain the civil liberties, civil rights, and rule of law that have been the hallmarks of America for 250 years.

The GOP offers a world in which international corporations and the super-rich, free from regulation and taxation, move their capital to where labor is the cheapest. Although only out for themselves,ironically, they raise the standard of living in Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, as well as Latin America... who knows, maybe even Africa someday. But if the world is to be relentlessly flattened, we Americans must watch our boat sink lower, as others see their boats rise.

Is this what we want? Is it pure selfishness to say "no"? I think that, if the American standard of living, and by implication its middle class, dramatically decline to some new world average, our civil liberties and civil rights will suffer, perhaps irreparably and dramatically.

Thus, the Dems --- deemed the socialists on the political spectrum --- may present policies more likely to preserve those rights that conservatives claim to be most important, while Republicans --- deemed the champs of individual rights --- may be poised to do the worst possible damage to those rights, where most of us ordinary Americans, clinging to middle class status by our fingernails, are concerned.

If you believe that everyone on earth should be equal, then, believe it or not, the GOP is the right party for you. If you believe --- like Aristotle --- that only some can live the life of the full-fledged citizen, and only by insisting upon more than what might seem their fair share of the world's wealth, then --- ironically --- the Democrats may be your better choice.

Speaking of Internet scams...

... this one hit my office email account this afternoon:

Hi Dear,

Compliment s of the season !!

Um, i am josephina by name, i wish
to have you as my friend so shall we be good friends ? I want us to base
on mutual friendship because A 'Hello' today can mean a friendship tomorrow. Friendship is a word, the very sight of which in print makes the heart warm. A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet; we got to take time to be friendly because it's the road to happiness so reach me at

My best regards,

Would you reply to "Josephine"? How many curious males out here would? And why? Because this is what they see when they read that email:

Image: Roland Darby /

A call for papers: International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

Call for Papers

International Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IJHSS)
ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221- 0989 (Online)

International Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IJHSS) is an open access, peer-reviewed and refereed international journal published by Centre for Promoting Ideas, USA. The main objective of IJHSS is to provide an intellectual platform for the international scholars. IJHSS aims to promote interdisciplinary studies in humanities and social science and become the leading journal in humanities and social science in the world.

The journal publishes research papers in the fields of humanities and social science such as anthropology, business studies, communication studies, corporate governance ,criminology, cross-cultural studies ,demography, development studies, economics, education, ethics, geography, history, industrial relations, information science, international relations, law, linguistics, library science, media studies, methodology, philosophy, political science, population Studies, psychology, public administration, sociology, social welfare, linguistics ,literature, paralegal, performing arts (music, theatre & dance), religious studies ,visual arts, women studies and so on.

The journal is published in both print and online versions.

The journal is now indexed with and included in Cabell’s, Ulrich’s, DOAJ, Index Copernicus International, EBSCO and Gale. Moreover the journal is under the indexing process with ISI, ERIC, Econlit, Scopus and Journalseek.

IJHSS publishes original papers, review papers, conceptual framework, analytical and simulation models, case studies, empirical research, technical notes, and book reviews.

IJHSS is inviting papers for Vol. 1 No. 15 which is scheduled to be published on October 31, 2011.

Send your manuscript to the editor at, or

For more information, visit the official website of the journal

With thanks,

The Chief Editor
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IJHSS)

Texas governor suffers from hoof-in-mouth disease


Internet scams persist: dumb and dumber

[SOurce: Wikimedia Commons]

Here's an email that I received as recently as September 20th:

Dear Friend,

Greetings to you & your Family, I did not forgot your past efforts and attempts to assist me, now I’m happy to inform you that I have succeeded in getting those funds transferred into my new partner's account. Now Contact my secretary ask him for US$1.200, 000.00 (In Certified Draft) being your compensation. His Name is : Mr. Paul Flink. his contact information is as given below.

E-mail: (
Phone: +229-991-356-38

Also proceed to reconfirm your personal information as below:

You’re full Name: __________________

Delivery address: __________________

Mobile Telephone __________________

Age: _____________________________

Sex: ______________________________

Occupation: ________________________

Mrs Grace Kader

Who is dumb enough to respond to this stuff? Well, someone must be, or they wouldn't keep coming.

The FBI offers this cautionary guidance:

Other useful information can be found on these sites:

Here's a typical story, one that crossed my desk at the university where I work, a couple of years ago:

One of the university's Chinese MBA students came to see me. She had been sharing a rented townhouse with her husband, their baby, and the husband's mom and dad. They had returned to China. She was completing her final semester. She ran an ad on Craig's List, seeking someone to sublet from her. She received an inquiry via email from someone claiming to be a New York designer finishing a project in Nairobi and planning to return home. When the student expressed interest, the "designer" sent her American Express money orders sufficient for the security deposit and first month's rent. The student deposited these.

A few days later, the "designer" sent another email, this time asking if the student could send here back a couple of thousand dollars, so that she could settle some bills before departing Nairobi. Having deposited the money orders, the student wired the fund from her account... only to learn later that the money orders were forgeries and she had wired the "designer" money she could never recover... not from the bank and certainly not from the scammer.

My advice is a whole lot simpler than the FBI's. It's simply this: If it seems too good to be true, it is!

News, images from last week's "Occupy Wall Street" activities

Image: thephotoholic /

We'll be making history again in 2012... as an era ends and a new one begins

Here's what I wrote in 2008, as election day approached:

Image: taoty /

In November, We Make History… Let’s Do It Right!
By Jim Castagnera
Barring the unforeseen, in January 2009 America will have either its first black president or its first female vice president. Either way we will have made history.
For this writer, the 2008 national election has the main qualities of a great rollercoaster ride. For me it feels both exciting and scary.
Making history is always exciting, unless one is an utter coward. Come on, admit it. As we mark the seventh anniversary of the Nine/Eleven terrorist attacks, can’t you recall at least a bit of excitement blended with the shock, fear and sadness the attacks engendered? That survivors of tragedies experience a mix of relief, elation and guilt is an historical cliché, so commonly has it been recorded.
But Obama and Palin scare me, too. I put the odds at 50-50 whether one or the other will be our chief executive. If Obama wins, well then he’s in the Oval Office. If McCain wins, then let’s hope that brave old heart keeps beating for at least four more years. If not, well then…
Palin contended in her unforgettable convention speech that being mayor was like being a community activist, only with real responsibilities. Awe, c’mon, Sarah. Neither you nor Barack bore much responsibility until you became a governor and he became a senator. You will both end 2008 with only about two years of meaningful experience. (I don’t count the past two years in Obama’s column, since he spent it all running for president.)
These two political neophytes have been firing off some real zingers, while the two grand old boys on the tickets, McCain and Biden, have conducted themselves in a more restrained, statesman-like manner. Palin’s comparison of a hockey mom to a pit bull with lipstick led Obama to repeat the old saw that a pig with lipstick is still a pig. Personally, I think Palin is kind of cute. But never mind that. What fascinates me most at this juncture is how close Barack and Sarah are on the issue of big oil.
Obama says he wants to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil barons. He says he would invest this revenue in researching alternative energy sources. McCain commented that this was Jimmy Carter’s idea during the first oil crisis, which occurred in the Seventies, implying the idea was bad then and is bad today.
Now get this. On September 12th, “USA Today” ran a front-page story on Palin’s gubernatorial record to date. If you missed it the first time around, read it now: “This year, she rebuffed religious conservatives who wanted her to add two abortion restriction measures to a special legislative session on oil and gas policy, even though she supported the bills. Former aide Larry Persily said she didn’t want to risk offending Democrats, whose votes she needed on energy legislation.”
The newspaper story continued, “In her 21 months as governor, Palin has taken few steps to advance culturally conservative causes. Instead,… Palin pursued a populist agenda that toughened ethics rules and raised taxes on oil and gas companies.” So who is Sarah Palin, really? We need to know.
In 1984 Geraldine Ferarro was Walter Mondale’s running mate. Before becoming a Congresswoman, Ferarro was a teacher, a lawyer and a district attorney. She was also the first Italian-American on a major party’s presidential ticket. Mondale’s choice gave the Democrats a short-lived bounce in the polls. The bounce lost its momentum well before November. Reagan and Bush buried the Dems, amidst some nasty sexist and ethnic slurs. Some sexists derided the Democratic ticket as “Fritz (Mondale’s nickname) and T___s” Others impugned Ferarro’s reputation, suggesting her husband had Mafia ties.
Whatever else happens during the next month and a half, here’s hoping that neither racism nor sexism is permitted to play a role in the remainder of this campaign cycle. Enough about lipstick on animals of any sort, thank you very much. We voters need to understand, as best we can, what are the leadership qualities and policy positions of these two mavericks. Since there’s a good chance one or the other will, sooner or later, occupy the Oval Office, we need to get as firm a fix on them as humanly possible.
And that’s never an easy trick from a seat on a roller coaster, in the midst of all the fright and excitement.

This time around, barring a 9/11-like terrorist attack, foreign affairs and the War on Terror will be way, way in the background. The debate will revolve, as it is in Washington right now, around two competing views of how we deal with not only the national debt, but America's fading economic clout in the world arena.

My own view: Let's look for a leader who can bring both sides together, not one who will divide the nation, politically and economically, even more than it already is.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Looking for a miracle in 2012

A while back in this space I suggested that three books, read sequentially,
together traced the downward trajectory of the American workforce:

1. The New Industrial State by J.K. Galbraith (1967)

2. The Work of Nations by Robert Reich (1991)

3. The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman (2005)

I'd like to expand on that suggestion here. I want to do it by quoting from the
conclusions of each book.


" Knowledge for the intellectual is what skill is for the artisan and capital
for the businessman. In all, the instinct is to fear obsolescence. But he
intellectual is in a far better position to resist obsolescence than the
craftsman or businessman. The machine that replaces the craftsman is wholly
tangible. His only line of resistance is overt --- a strike or a sledgehammer
to smash the thing. Both encounter social disfavor. The out-of-date machine of
the businessman is equally objective. His modes of recourse --- to regulate or
suppress innovation --- are equally reprehensible. But the intellectual can
deny that there has been any change. The factors making for his alleged
obsolescence, he can insist, are the figment of an undisciplined imagination.
He can be a Luddite without violence and indeed without knowing it. It would
be surprising indeed were such opportunity to be unexploited."

Image: nuttakit /


"The direction we are heading is reasonably clear. If the future could be
predicted on the basis of trends already underway, laissez-faire cosmopolitanism
would become America's dominant economic and social philosophy. Left to unfold
on its own, the worldwide division of labor not only will create vast
disparities of wealth within nations but may also reduce the willingness of
global winners to do anything to reverse the trend toward inequality --- either
within the nation or without. Symbolic analysts (aka Galbraith's
"intellectuals"), who hold most of the cards in this game, could be confident of
'victory.' But what of the losers?
"We are presented with a rare historical moment in which the threat of
worldwide conflict seems remote and the transformations of economies and
technology are blurring the lines between nations. The modern nation-state...
is no longer what it once was: Vanishing is a nationalism founded upon the
practical necessities of economic interdependence within borders and security
against foreigners outside. There is thus an opportunity for us... to redefine
who we are, why we have joined together, and what we owe each other and the
other inhabitants of the world. The choice is ours to make. We are no more
slaves to present trends than to vestiges of the past. We can, if we choose,
assert that our mutual obligations as citizens extend beyond our economic
usefulness to one another, and act accordingly."

Image: graur razvan ionut /


"I cannot tell any other society or culture what to say to its own children, but
I can tell you what I say to my own:The world is being flattened. I didn't
start it, and you can't stop it, except at a great cost to human development and
your own future. But we can manage it, for better or worse. If it is for
better..., then you and your generation must not live in fear of either
terrorists or of tomorrow.... You can flourish in this flat world, but it does
take the right imagination and the right motivation... the generation of
strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the
generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can get
better but also acts on that imagination every day."

Image: digitalart /

Let me suggest that Reich and Friedman were either hopelessly idealistic or
incredibly cynical... depending upon whether or not they actually believed their
hortatory messages. Galbraith by contrast, writing more than 20 years before
Reich and some three and a half decades before Friedman, recognized that the
balanced, prosperous American national covenant of the 1950s ands 1960s was in
decline... and that only the intellectuals would emerge intact.

By 1990, Galbraith's intellectuals --- abandoning their sixties idealism for the
avarice of the Reagan era --- had morphed into Reich's symbolic analysts:
MBA/CEOs, investment bankers, media mavens, big-time lawyers, world-class
entertainers, etc. Reich --- either naively or cynically --- after filling 300+
pages with his gloomy picture of the rise of his symbolic analysts at the
expense of the drones in the service and manufacturing sectors, exhorts the
"winners" in this global race to the top to reach down and pull up their less
fortunate brothers and sisters.

Friedman is no different. He ends his cautionary tale of a flat world in which
the new "hot" business major is global supply chain management with his own
exhortation to the younger generation to make things better and better by acts
of imagination.

Meanwhile, during the four and a half decades between Galbraith's book and
today, the trend noted by Galbraith, traced by Reich,and depicted in full flower
by Friedman has been a widening of the gap between the super-rich and most of
the rest of humanity. During the Great Recession, which Friedman didn't
imagine, an estimated 2.5 million American jobs disappeared... some overseas,
some erased by increased efficiencies.

Two tenacious facts put the lie to Friedman's faith in imagination to pulls
through: First, unlike the technologies of the Industrial Revolution, the new
technologies of our Information Age wipe out more jobs than they create.
Second, the innovations imagined in America too often are operationalized in
India, China, Southeast Asia, and South America.

The profound question of 2012 is should we Americans embrace globalization and
guard against it? Is the way to win the globalization game to be more
imaginative than the competition... or to decline to play? Should our borders
be open, or should we be building that wall along the Rio Grande as rapidly as

Arguably, neither major party is proposing any suitable solution. The GOP
adamantly argues that taxing the wealthy more heavily will result in lack of job
creation. But the job market was far more vibrant in the Clinton era, when
taxes on the rich were higher, than now. Will the wealthy, if allowed to keep
their money, create American jobs? That doesn't seem very likely. More likely,
capital will continue to flow downhill, pursuing the lowest-priced, yet
competent labor markets. And that's not us.

The Dems want to create jobs: rebuilding the country's infrastructure, investing
in new technologies, supporting education. These are all ideas that have good
track records in times past. Certainly, the nation's infrastructure needs
rebuilding. This is not a long-run solution. But it puts people to work now
--- providing, as I pointed out about the San Francisco Bay bridge a few weeks
ago, the structures or their components aren't fabricated overseas. The new
infrastructure is a lasting benefit... a good investment. But the workers will
need to move on to other jobs, unless this revitalization becomes a perennial
series of successive projects.

New technologies? Well, the solar-panel company that failed recently, costing
the taxpayers half-a-billion bucks --- also noted elsewhere in this Blog --- is
not an encouraging tale. Not when, like the components of our national
infrastructure, the solar panels (or you name the technology) can be fabricated,
and is jobbed out, overseas.

Education? Not when the jobs are lacking and students graduate with massive
mortgages on their diplomas. Not when for-profit universities are permitted to
entice students into programs that don't lead to gainful employment, but which
divert billions in veterans' benefits and federal loans into these so-called
"free enterprises." Not when our great public, land-grant university systems
are starved by state legislatures. Not when private, non-profit universities
remain models of inefficiency in their delivery of instruction.

No simple solution suggests itself. And so long as we Americans are divided
along twin axises --- rich v. poor with a void where the vibrant middle class
used to be, and right v. left with a void where the political moderates users to
rule --- the chances of our reaching a national consensus are slim to none.

Why is this the great American tragedy? Because it isn't so important which
direction we go --- into full fledged competition on the playing field of the
flat earth or behind high walls of protectionism --- as it is essential that we
reach some consensus and commit as a nation to some such plan.

9/11/2001 forged a rare moment of national unity. George Bush and Dick Cheney
lacked either the patriotism or perhaps --- yes --- the imagination to take full
advantage of that moment. Ten years later, it may be too late for either an
Obama or a Hilary Clinton, for a Rick Perry or a Rick Santorum to articulate and
sell such a plan, and with it to forge a consensus and energize a new national

But, perhaps, a miracle is possible in 2012. After all, the Cold War ended
without a nuclear exchange; the South Africans and the Northern Irish managed to
find their way to relative peace without a genocide; the Arab Spring persists,
at least for the moment. Miracles do sometimes happen. So perhaps Reich and Friedman will be vindicated... against all the odds.

[Source: Wikimedia Commons]

More about "Anonymous"

The "Anonymous" trademark is a Guy Fawkes mask:

[Source: Wikimedia Commons Guy_Fawkes_by_Cruikshank.jpg‎ (327 × 384 pixels, file size: 44 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)]

Here's the back story on Guy Fawkes:

The Guy Fawkes masks work=n by Anonymous activists are copies of the one worn in the Time-Warner film "V for Vendetta." Consequently, the giant multinationally makes money on every one of those masks.

Herewith, some general background information about "Anonymous":

The Anonymous "Day of Vengeance" press release

Cyber-terror group "Anonymous" threatens Day of Vengeance today


From: FBI Headquarters, Cyber Division
To: All InfraGard and LEO users
Date: 23 September 2011, 17:34 EDT

For situational awareness, the following message (in italics) was posted online by the hacking group Anonymous:
Anonymous announces a nationwide “Day Of Vengence” to take place in dozens of cities across the USA on Saturday – September 24, 2011 at High Noon.
In coordination with these protests across the USA on September 24th, Anonymous and other cyber liberation groups will launch a series of cyber attacks against various targets including Wall Street, Corrupt Banking Institutions – and the NYC Police Department. We encourage the media to follow the Twitter feed @PLF2012 for ongoing reports throughout the day.
Additional public source information has identified possible targets of these attacks, to include entities in New York (state and city), public and private entities associated with the recent execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia, and law enforcement in general.
No further information is available at this time in regard to the specific nature, means, or potential targets of Anonymous’ plans for September 24th; however, in the past, Anonymous has engaged in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, utilized SQL injection to gain unauthorized access to computer systems, conducted social engineering to gather personal identifying information, and released both personal information (i.e. “doxing”) and the contents of compromised systems (e.g. e-mail message content, passwords, etc.).
InfraGard members are encouraged to engage in information security best practices, such as using strong passwords, not reusing passwords, updating software to protect against known vulnerabilities, and ensuring that web-based applications are not at risk to attacks, such as SQL injection.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Georgia executes convict, found guilty 20 years ago of cop killing

Troy Davis maintained his claim of innocence to the bitter end.

History of the Davis case:

A new Op-Ed from Professor Ely Karmon

Please find below my op-ed in Haaretz.

Ely Karmon

Published 20:14 23.09.11
What makes him tick?
By Shaul Kimhi and Ely Karmon

Clearly, the dramatic changes the Israel-Turkey relationship have undergone over the past three years have a lot to do with the man who has been prime minister of Turkey since 2003. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been especially outspoken in his criticism of Israel, and has pushed what were until recently close diplomatic and military relations to the verge of a complete break. What makes Erdogan tick?

Wikileaks documents originating in the U.S Embassy in Ankara contain a series of observations about Erdogan’s personality and the way he functions, based on information from various sources. Using material from the years 2004-2010, and with due caution, it is possible to shed light on some psychological traits that influence the premier’s ideological and political conduct.

With his charismatic and persuasive personality, Erdogan has the ability to present himself to a large part of Turkey’s citizenry as a leader who cares about them and who is worthy of being followed. At the same time, he has also impressed world political leaders.

The prime minister is arrogant, viewing himself as an important leader, selected by God to lead the Turkish people − a point he made in a 2003 speech to the congress of his AKP party when he made Koranic-based allusions about his divinely appointed mission. He also sees himself as having a leadership role for the Muslim world. Yet, because he is determined to remain in power, he also has a strong pragmatic streak, as evidenced by the way he has distanced himself from his past radical Islamism, and taken care not to push the political Islamic agenda too hard.

Similarly, even though he does not want to be perceived as pro-American, he acknowledges the importance of good relations with the United States, as when he accepted the deployment in Turkey of a NATO radar system to defend Europe from the Iranian missile threat.

Once Erdogan arrives at a decision or a belief, he does not back down, nor, judging by the Wikileak documents, is he prone to compromise. He relies on only a small circle of advisers and does not seek effective dialogue with either leaders of his own party and government, or the parliament in general. Indeed, it is he who serves as the glue that keeps his party’s leaders, who represent a wide range of viewpoints and positions, together.

Observers say that Erdogan plans his political steps in advance, with the goal of increasing his control over various institutions. These include the higher-education system, where he ensures that professors with an Islamic orientation be appointed; the judicial system, where he has augmented government supervision by appointing many pro-AKP prosecutors; and even the municipal level, where he has promoted an Islamic agenda ‏(banning alcohol in areas under the auspices of the municipality, and establishing parking lots for women only, and prayer rooms on public ferries‏).

When it comes to Israel, it’s Erdogan who calls the shots, and as such, it is he who is personally responsible for the deterioration in bilateral relations. One source noted that Erdogan has strong anti-Israeli sentiments, based on deeply rooted religious beliefs.

American diplomats reported that sources both inside and outside the Turkish government confirmed the sense that Erdogan simply abhors Israel.

By declaring that any improvement in relations with Israel is conditioned on an end to Israel’s embargo on Gaza, Erdogan has demonstrated his desire to strengthen Ankara’s links with Hamas, and thus to bolster one of the main obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Erdogan’s repeated threats to use the Turkish navy to challenge not only that embargo, but also Cyprus’ plans to drill for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, had to be clarified several times by statements from his own office that his remarks had been “quoted out of context.” His threats have elicited a strong rebuke from the European Commission, while Greek Cyprus vowed recently to keep Turkey’s EU entry bid on hold as long as Ankara provocatively challenges the island’s rights.

Last week’s highly publicized trip by Erdogan to the Arab Spring countries also was accompanied by several faux pas on his part. He pressed a reluctant Egyptian government to allow him to visit Gaza, where he expected to be received like a latter-day sultan. The Egyptians, unwilling to further inflame already strained relations with Israel, turned him down. Nor was he permitted to speak in Tahrir Square, and his fiery Cairo Opera House speech was not broadcast on TV. Though he was initially received like a hero by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, his call on Egyptians to adopt a secular constitution drew an immediate rebuke from Essam al-Arian, the No. 2 man in that organization’s Freedom and Justice Party: “We welcome ... Erdogan as a prominent leader, but we do not think he or his country alone should be leading the region or drawing up its future.”

In Tunisia, Erdogan declared that Turkey’s cooperation with Iran against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party ‏(PKK‏) is “going well” and that the two countries “may act together at Qandil [the northern Iraq region where PKK guerrillas are entrenched].” Iran’s ambassador to Turkey immediately ruled out such a possibility. Even the pro-government, Islamist paper Today’s Zaman published an article criticizing Erdogan for his “gunboat diplomacy.” A September 8 editorial in the Cyprus Mail noted that the leader who was not long ago a champion of regional stability has suddenly turned into its biggest threat. Indeed, Erdogan’s government seems to have moved from a “zero problems” policy in the Middle East to − to paraphrase Charles de Gaulle − a strategy of “all-azimuth hostility.”

Prof. Shaul Kimhi is head of the psychology department of Tel Hai Academic College. Dr. Ely Karmon is senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and a fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Image: Suat Eman /

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences seeks abstracts for March meeting

FINAL REMINDER: ACJS 2012 Annual Meeting: Abstract Submission System CLOSES OCTOBER 1, 2011

The ACJS 2012 Annual Meeting online submission system for presentations is available on the ACJS website at: The 2012 Annual Meeting will take place in New York City beginning on March 13, 2012, and continuing through March 17, 2012. Please note that the submission system will close at Midnight EST, October 1, 2011. No submissions will be accepted after this date. Program topic and sub-topic areas have been expanded again this year to reflect the broad range of research interests and needs of our membership and attendees.

Please be sure to enter your abstract before the deadline. The New York City 2012 meeting will be very special and you will want to be involved!

Heather Pfeifer, ACJS 2012 Program Chair,

Image: digitalart /

"E-News You Can Use" from the Council for Opportunity in Education

September 23, 2011

Dear Institutional Members and Subscribers:

The September issue of e-news you can use is now available. To read about a new Census report showing that education has a greater effect on earnings than race or gender; findings from the latest data on poverty; articles from publications such as Education Week, the New England Journal of Higher Education, and the Worcester Telegram; TRIO students in the news; and much more, go to


Arnold Mitchem

Image: digitalart /

The Quixotic Quest for the Perfect College for Your Kid

[Source: Wikimdia Commons]

FEASTING AT THE FEDERAL TROUGH: 8 For-profit universities shared more than a billion bucks in veterans' benefits

Image: Tom Curtis /

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Justine Sessions / Kate Cyrul
September 22, 2011 202-224-3254

New Data on Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Benefits Show Disproportionate Share of
Taxpayer Dollars Going to For-Profit Colleges with Concerning Outcomes

Federal taxpayers are making a huge investment in educating our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans through the
Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. In the 2010-2011 academic year, the Department of Veterans Affairs disbursed $4.4 billion
in benefits to 5,985 institutions. 1 In order to ensure that veterans are receiving the opportunity for success that
they have earned it is important to understand where these taxpayer investments are going and the track records
of the schools that are profiting most from this largesse. New data obtained from the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs and analyzed by the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions reveal a stunning increase in the amount of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits going to for-profit colleges
– an amount out of proportion to the number of students at those schools. Following are some key findings
from the data analysis.

A Disproportionate Share of Valuable G.I. Bill Dollars is Being Paid to Expensive For-Profit Schools with
Dubious Outcomes

Overall, eight of the ten biggest recipients of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds are for-profit companies. [Chart 1].
The Apollo Group, Inc. (which runs the University of Phoenix) had the largest share, taking in $210 million in
federal G.I. Bill funds last year. Education Management Corporation, principally owned by Goldman Sachs2
and currently facing a civil fraud lawsuit joined by the U.S. Department of Justice,3 took in $173 million in
Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds last year alone. Together, the for-profit schools in the Top-10 collected $1 billion
Post-9/11 funds, almost one-quarter of the total disbursed. A full 20 percent of all the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
benefits went to just five for-profit companies. Indeed, only two public state university systems were among
the Top-10. The entire University of Maryland system (which includes the primarily online military-oriented
school, UMUC), was the 8th highest recipient, receiving $51 million, and the entire University of Texas system,
receiving $45 million was the 9th highest. The huge University of California system and California State
systems ranked 18th and 19th by comparison.