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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Girl left in taxi; driver avoids punishment
Boston cabbie gets off with warning; union says fault lies with family
The Associated Press

Taxi driver Joseph Cohen faces a three-day suspension. The Boston Police Hackney Division — which regulates taxis — cited him for violating rules requiring drivers to inspect their cabs for forgotten items after dropping off a fare.
Faith Ninivaggi / AP

BOSTON - A family picked up by a taxi at the airport left a sleeping 5-year-old child behind in the back of the minivan — and the cabbie almost took the blame for it.

Joseph Cohen, a taxi driver for 39 years, picked up the family at Logan International Airport on Sunday, drove them to their home in the city's Mattapan neighborhood, and helped them unload their luggage.

"They paid me, thank you very much, everything was nice, and I left," he said.

Minutes later, Cohen got a call from the cab pool at the airport. State police, who have jurisdiction over Logan, were looking for him.

He was told the family left a child in his cab.

"I said, 'What?' So I looked in the back and I see the baby sleeping. I said, 'What should I do?' So you know, I take the baby (back) to the family," he said. "The father came out. He was very happy."

He even gave him a $50 tip.

A warning but no suspension
The following day, Cohen was ordered to report to the Hackney unit, where police told him his license was being suspended for three days because he didn't do a thorough check of the van. He appealed the suspension and was allowed to keep his license pending a hearing. On Tuesday, he visited the police station with an attorney and learned he would only get a warning.

"We are very happy that the baby was safely returned to mom and dad," said Elaine Driscoll, a police spokeswoman. "That said, it was an important opportunity to remind cab drivers why we have a rule that dictates they must check the back of their cab after every fare."

Cohen said the girl had been in the back of the van behind another seat and he could not see her from his rearview mirror or from the outside of the vehicle.

The cabbies' union expressed outrage at the proposed suspension, saying the fault should lie with the child's family, not the driver.

Police would not release the names of the parents but said they were not being investigated.

"I think the sad piece here is that the police are not recognizing the responsibility of the adults and are now saying this driver also has to be responsible for passengers who forget their children," said Donna Blythe-Shaw, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers Boston Taxi Drivers Association.

Boy pierces brain with antler, but miraculously is fine
Meet the lucky lad who learned, the hard way, not to run with sharp objects
By Mike Celizic contributor

Nov. 30: In a TODAY exclusive, 5-year-old Connor and his parents, Bob and Melissa Schick, recall the scary accident, his surgery and recovery.

Like most 5-year-old boys, Connor Luke Schick gets very shy when he finds himself sitting in a television studio surrounded by people he doesn’t know and cameras and bright lights. But if you start a sentence by saying, “Never run with …” in a flash he fills in the blank: “... with sharp objects.”

Around the Park City area in Utah where he lives, Connor is known as the “Deer Antler Kid.” He even brought the antler with him when he visited the TODAY show on Friday with his mom, Melissa Schick, and his stepdad, Bob Schick, to talk about the day last July when he found the antler on a camping trip.

While bringing it back to show his parents, he fell and had it penetrate his eye socket and his brain.

Thus started a story that has his doctors still shaking their head in amazement, a story whose happy ending his mother calls a miracle.

Connor's eye socket swelled because of bacteria introduced into his system by the antler.

Melissa Schick told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira that she was making sandwiches for her family while her children were walking back to camp. Connor was carrying the antler in one hand and holding the family dog’s leash in the other.

“You tripped?” Vieira asked the boy, who sat in his mother’s lap.

He shook his head emphatically no. “My dog tripped me,” he corrected her.

From then on, he mostly nodded to confirm the other details. The antler poked him in the eye. He yelped and pulled it out. A man who saw him fall swept him up and was carrying him to his parents when his mother turned around and saw him.

“We jumped up and rushed over and grabbed him,” she told Vieira. “There was just a lot of blood at that point is what we saw.”

Her first reaction was terror that her baby was going to lose his sight.

But when she wiped the blood off with a rag, all she could find was a small cut. Connor said he felt fine and had no trouble seeing.

Just to be safe, Melissa and Bob Schick took Connor to an emergency room in Park City, where doctors examined him, put antibiotic ointment and a patch on the cut, and said Connor would be just fine.

“I said, ‘Oh, this is good. We’ll go back home and everything will be all right,’ “ she told Vieira.

The next morning, Connor was full of fun. “Running around, teasing all the kids, having a good old time,” is how Bob Schick described him.

The good feelings would not last. Back at the emergency center, doctors took the patch off his eye and found that it had swollen to what Melissa Schick said was “the size of a baseball.” Realizing that this was more than just a small cut, the Schicks rushed Connor to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

This graphic depicts how the antler pierced Connor's brain.

He was given a CT scan, which revealed a fracture in his eye socket. Looking for soft-tissue damage, Connor was then given an MRI, and what doctors saw astonished them: The antler had penetrated at least an inch into the frontal lobe of his brain, leaving a wedge-shaped gap behind when Connor pulled it out.

“I sat there in disbelief for a long time,” Melissa Schick said in a pre-taped interview. She kept telling herself the pictures lied: “‘They’re so wrong. They got it wrong.’”

The antler had been lying on the forest floor, and doctors knew it was loaded with dirt and bacteria that had caused a pus-filled abscess in Connor’s brain. If it continued to grow, it could threaten his life and necessitate surgery.

The medical staff decided to put Connor on massive doses of antibiotics and keep close tabs on the infection. For two months, the treatments continued, with another MRI taken at each visit to the medical center.

Medical miracle?
As if by magic, the abscess kept shrinking and the hole growing smaller as the brain healed itself.

“The very last MRI I went to, I couldn’t believe it. The hole was gone,” Melissa Schick told Vieira. “It was just a normal 5-year-old little brain. I was so happy. It was kind of like, ‘Wow, this is really happening. All of our prayers have been answered.’”

She hugged Connor to her as she spoke, telling Vieira that her Deer Antler Boy, who shows no signs that he was ever injured, had taught her an important lesson.

“It makes you appreciate your children even more,” she said. “You want to hug and hold them every day and kiss them, because in a second, it can change.”

Toddler is OK after key lodged in his eye — and brain
17-month-old fell on car key; parents hail ‘miracle’ that he didn’t lose vision
By Mike Celizic contributor

Nov. 25: 17-month-old Nicholas Holderman has completely recovered after getting a car key lodged into his eye. TODAY’s Meredith Vieira talks to the Holderman family about the scare.

The image from the CAT scan of little Nicholas Holderman’s head is enough to make the strongest person shudder. A car key is stuck to the hilt in his right eye, the shaft penetrating into his brain.

When Nicholas’ parents look at the image today, all they can think is one thing: “A miracle.”

Staci Holderman, Nicholas’ mother, presented the evidence for that belief to TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday in New York. Less than three months after her youngest son fell on the key, the 20-month-old toddler was fussing on her lap, showing no sign whatever of any lingering damage to either his brain or his eye.

Nicholas has recovered so completely, the family is now able to joke about it by challenging any and all to look at Nicholas and guess, “Which eye was it?”

Staci’s husband, Chris, joined her on the show along with the family’s two other boys, Isaac, 8, and Caleb, 5, to talk about the accident and their personal miracle.

A cry of alarm
The family, who live in Perryville, Ky., where Chris is a school principal, had returned from an outing on the evening of Sept. 2 and were preparing to turn in for the night. The boys were bouncing around as they normally did when Chris heard a cry from Nicholas that wasn’t like the normal ones he was accustomed to.

“It was different,” Chris Holderman told Vieira. “I said to Staci, ‘You might want to check on him; I think he hit the recliner.’ When she went in, she realized he had fallen on a key. From there on, it was an emergency.”

Caleb had seen his brother fall, and at first he just thought that it wasn’t anything unusual; boys fall all the time. But, he told Vieira, “when I looked closer I saw that he had a key in his eye.”

The family of Nicholas Holderman are calling the toddler’s recovery “a miracle.”

The key had punctured Nicholas’ eyelid and looked as if it had also punctured his eye. The parents didn’t dare try to pull it out. Instead, Chris enlisted the older boys to help hold Nicholas’ hands to keep him from pushing or pulling at it.

Meanwhile, Staci called 911. Until Tuesday, she had never listened to the tape of the call.

'We need help fast’
“We need help. We need an ambulance. My son is injured very bad,” Staci shouts into the phone on the recording, her voice frantic. “A key has gone through, through his eye. We need help fast. A key has gone through his eye or his head. A key like — that you put in a car.”

“Is he bleeding?” the 911 operator asks.

“Yes. It’s stuck through so far, ma’am, that he can’t …” she continues before the operator cuts in to ask Nicholas’ age.

“He’s 17 months old,” she responds. “We need an ambulance, OK? We need one fast.”

The first responders were almost as shocked as the parents when they saw what had happened. “It was pretty horrifying. Not something I ever want to see again,” Boyle County firefighter Chris Coffman told a local newspaper.

The responders called in a medevac helicopter to rush Nicholas to UK Hospital while his parents and brothers followed in a car. UK is a teaching hospital, and the emergency room was staffed by interns who had never seen anything like it. Unwilling to do something that might cause permanent damage, they called in an experienced ophthalmologist to assess how to proceed.

‘The eye is flat’
Nicholas had been crying before the first responders arrived, but he slept in the helicopter. For four hours in the emergency room, as staff waited for experts to arrive, he would wake up occasionally, then fall back asleep when his mom sang him a lullaby.

This CAT scan shows the angle at which the key lodged in Nicholas’ eye.

Nicholas’ eye was flattened by the key and the first report the parents received was that the eye was ruptured and he would probably lose vision in it. Finally, a highly experienced surgeon removed the key in a procedure that took 20 to 30 minutes.

When he was done, he told the parents, “It doesn't look like there is any brain damage, but the eye has been ruptured. It looks pretty bad. The eye is flat.”

“We were like, ‘Yep, there’s a key in it,’ ” Chris Holderman deadpanned.

The hospital’s “eye team” was called in to try to save the eyeball so that it would at least look normal, even if Nicholas had no vision through it. As an eye surgeon went to work, the deeply religious parents prayed.

Nicholas Holderman, age 20 months, is recovering well after having a key lodged in his eye three months ago.

“The doctor comes out 15 minutes later. She busts through the door and she has a confused look on her face, but a happy look,” Chris Holderman told TODAY. “She says, ‘There is nothing wrong with his eye; it is not ruptured.’ When she started looking at it, it just pumped back up.

“Not to take anything away from the doctors, but we thought it was the Lord, and our prayers were answered.”

After a hospital stay that confirmed there was no lasting damage, Nicholas came home with a black eye. Today, he doesn’t even seem to remember what happened.

“You can just watch him this morning and see that he is a normal, healthy 20-month-old baby,” Staci Holderman said.

Boy, 10, OK after being impaled on bike handle
Brake handle lodged 6 inches deep near vital organs: ‘I started to freak out’
By Mike Celizic contributor

June 10: 10-year-old Alex Romero has recovered from his injuries after being impaled by the brake handle on his bike. TODAY’s Matt Lauer checks in with Alex and his mother, April.

A 10-year-old Colorado boy has sworn off wheelies, bunny hops and other stunts he used to do on his BMX bike.

Getting stabbed in the gut and barely avoiding major organ damage from a 6-inch brake handle can do that to a guy.

As it is, Alex Romero told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Wednesday in New York, he is still sore from being impaled by his own bike eight days ago near his Wellington, Colo., home.

A hop that went wrong
In a prerecorded report, Romero told NBC News that he and his friend, Tyson Ihfe, were practicing stunts on their bikes in the parking lot of a church three houses down from his home.

“We were on the curb and I did a wheelie, and then Alex did a wheelie and landed sideways,” Ihfe told NBC.

“I tried to bunny-hop this curb and it was raining and my foot slipped off,” Alex added.

He landed on the bike and felt the brake handle poke him in the right side, just above the hip. Alex didn’t realize it was anything serious right away.

“At first I thought it just poked me, and then I looked down, and I saw my skin like stretching out,” the 10-year-old recalled. “And then I started to freak out.”

He had good reason to. The brake handle had punctured his abdominal wall and penetrated 6 inches inside him.

Friends in need
As Tyson ran to Alex’s home to get his friend’s parents, Ronnie and April Romero, a neighbor who is also a volunteer firefighter drove by, saw Alex, dialed 911, and stopped to help. Other firefighter neighbors also came to help.

Alex’s parents ran to the parking lot. April Romero, who accompanied her son to TODAY, admitted she didn’t handle the sight of her son’s plight with a great deal of composure.

“I instantly went into panic mode,” she said. “So the firefighters asked me to step away.”

But when Ronnie Romero saw the situation, he reacted calmly; as he told a local newspaper, he didn’t want to panic his son. As he reassured his son that he would be OK, Ronnie realized that it would not be a good idea to pull the brake handle out of the wound. Instead, acting on the advice of the firefighters, he got a tool kit from a neighbor and detached the handle from the handlebar, using a pair of pliers to cut the brake cable.

“We are very lucky to have some of our neighbors be firefighters, and they were out at the scene prior to my husband and I,” April said. “My husband was the one that detached the bike while the ambulance was en route.”

The brake handle of his bike lodged six inches deep into Alex’s side near his hip — a few inches’ difference could have injured him gravely.

Alex, meanwhile, was not in excruciating pain, he recalled. “I was just mostly in shock,” he told Lauer.

Stitches in time
Alex was put in an ambulance and transported to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. His father rode in the ambulance while his distraught mother followed in a car driven by a friend.

At the hospital, trauma surgeons rushed Alex into a CAT scan, fearing that major organs had been damaged. But by great good luck — a miracle, his mother says — the handle missed his internal organs by mere centimeters.

According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, while waiting for surgery, Alex, still in shock, asked his dad, “Can I just get some stitches so I can go play baseball tomorrow?”

It took 45 minutes of surgery to extract the brake handle and sew Alex back together. He spent several days in the hospital, and there won’t be any baseball — or bike riding — for another six weeks.

April Romero said that from now on she intends to follow her son Alex in her car when he rides his bike.

In the meantime, according to the newspaper, Alex has been researching his favorite book, “Guinness World Records,” to see if there’s a category for biggest bicycle part embedded in a human body.

Alex brought the bike handle in a plastic tub to the TODAY set to show Lauer. A close-up revealed that it still has dried blood on it, and Lauer suggested sending it on a trip through the dishwasher. Ronnie Romero told reporters in Colorado he’ll get the handle engraved with Alex’s name and the date of the accident, June 2.

Lauer asked Alex if he’s going to do any more bunny hops and wheelies when he’s cleared to get back on his bike.

“No,” he said, shaking his head.

Added his mother with a laugh, “We decided I’ll follow him in the car when he rides.”

Boy is OK after tree branch skewered his neck
12-year-old fell off dirt bike; could have bled to death if he’d pulled it out
By Mike Celizic contributor

June 17: 12-year-old Garret Mullikin is recovering from injuries after a tree branch went through his neck during a bike crash. NBC’s David Gregory talks to Garret and his mother, Carol, about the incident.

It was no twig the 12-year-old boy held up, but a thick stick, about 9 inches long and as thick as a broom handle. What made it astonishing is that the full length of it had been driven into his neck and down into his chest — through his lung, past vital arteries and his heart.

Yet now Garret Mullikin was sitting with his mother in Houston telling TODAY’s David Gregory about the dangers of learning how to ride a dirt bike without adult permission or supervision. He said he was feeling “pretty good — a lot better than I was when I got the stick in my neck.”

Tempting offer
It was just over a week ago, on June 9, when Garret and his parents were visiting friends in Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles outside of Houston. They spent the day swimming, then came home to clean up for dinner. Garret and his friend, 10-year-old Seth, got done first. With time to kill, Seth asked Garret if he wanted to learn to ride a dirt bike.

Garret wasn’t allowed to ride a bike, but Seth’s offer was too tempting to pass up.

“I really wanted to,” he told Gregory. “He said he’d teach me how to. I guess I put the throttle on too much or I didn’t hold down the brakes, but I kind of shot forward, I bounced off the tree and I had the wreck.”

Garret flew off the bike and hit the ground. “There were a bunch of snapping twigs,” he said. “I hit the ground and then I looked and there was something sticking in my neck.

“It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. It’s kind of a hard feeling to explain, because I was pretty scared.”

Life-saving decision
His friend Seth helped him stagger back to the house. His mother, Carol Mullikin, went into panic mode on seeing her son with a stick protruding vertically from his neck. His father, a former Eagle Scout, assessed the situation and rejected advice to try to pull the stick out, calling 911 instead.

That action, doctors said, saved Garret’s life. If the stick had been extracted, he probably would have bled to death.

If the stick had been removed from Garret's neck before he got to the hospital, he could easily have bled to death.

Paramedics arrived, broke off the end of the stick, put Garret in a neck brace, and called for a Life Flight helicopter to transport the boy the 40 miles to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston — the only Level I pediatric trauma center in the Gulf Coast.

Carol Mullikin followed in a car driven by a friend. While they were still 20 minutes from the hospital, doctors called to tell her that the stick had missed all vital organs, but that the boy had a collapsed left lung. They wanted permission to crack his chest open to get the stick out.

Surgeons were able to wait until Carol Mullikin got to the hospital. She doesn’t remember exactly how long the surgery took, but thinks it was a relatively short 60 to 90 minutes.

When it was done, Garret had bandages all over but was out of danger.

One lucky boy
Dr. Richard Andrassy, who performed the surgery, told the Mullikins that he had to push the stick out a quarter inch at a time. He talked to NBC News’ Janet Shamlian after the surgery and joked, “I’m going to take him to Las Vegas and put some money on him. He was very lucky and very well behaved and a real gentleman through a very stressful situation.”

This X-ray shows the tree branch driven through Garret Mullikin's neck and into his chest, barely missing vital arteries and organs.

After a week in the hospital, Garret was discharged and was staying with his mother and relatives in the Houston area before going home to complete his recovery in Longview, Texas.

“The doctors told us that he’ll fine,” Carol Mullikin told Gregory. “He’ll probably take the rest of the summer to recover from the surgery, but no lingering effects from the accident at all.”

So, Gregory asked Garret, is he a lucky boy?

“Yeah,” the boy agreed.

Earlier, when he was in the hospital, Shamlian had asked Garret what lessons he learned from his unauthorized dirt-bike lesson.

“Wear your helmet, ask permission and don’t run the wheel of the bike into a tree,” he said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good times of the animal kind
There are many signs of fun-loving land and aquatic creatures
By John Roach,

Getty Images

Who knows what's causing this cohort of cubicle warriors to buckle over in laughter, but few humans would disagree that a good chuckle every now and again feels good. Monkeys, dogs and fish get a kick out of life as well, says Jonathan Balcombe, a senior research scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. He has written several research papers and books on animal pleasure, including "Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasures," due out next year. Click the "Next" arrow above for an overview of good times in the animal kingdom.

Man's best friend is full of expression
David Bolton / Morguegfile,com

Dogs, a slate of research suggests, are full of expression. "Those who live with dogs know that by looking at the body posture and the tail movements and the facial expressions and the sounds they make, we can sort of divine how they are feeling – whether they are feeling up or down, excited or grim or guilty, or what have you," Balcombe says. Even people who haven't lived with dogs, studies show, are able to read dog behavior, he adds. "We can only imagine how well dogs can read dogs, but dogs 'dogamorphize,' I suppose, and being dogs [with their keen sense of smell, for example] they get a lot more information than we do."

Horses' heart rates drop when groomed
Reed Saxon / AP

Look to horses for biological evidence that animals can feel pleasure. Balcombe notes that studies have found, for example, that horses' heart rates drop when they are groomed on parts of their necks and withers. A drop in heart rate "is known to be a response to feeling good and feeling relaxed," he says. In this image, Mike Polder comforts his horse Rowdy who was recovering from a West Nile virus infection.

Rats like to be tickled
Brandi Saxton

When young rats – the rodents that some humans love to hate – are seen running around wrestling with each other, they are actually in what equates to a tickle fight, according to research led by Jaak Panskeep at Washington State University. The rats, it appears, love to be tickled. His work, cited by Balcombe, shows that rats that have been trained to expect a belly tickle will approach a researcher's hand much more quickly than a rat that knows it'll just receive a neck rub.

Monkey massages are calming
Arthur Sevestre

Observations indicate that monkeys like to cuddle, such as those shown here, and give massages. Balcombe says these rub downs cause monkey blood chemistry and hormone levels to change in ways "that are consistent with what we would find in ourselves when we are receiving a massage." The biochemical finding, he adds, is another window into how animals experience pleasure.

Sexual activity not always for procreation
Mitch Reardon / Lonely Planet Images

As many humans know, sexual activity isn't always for the purpose of making a baby. The animal kingdom is full of examples of creatures that get it on just 'cause, says Balcombe. Among giraffes, for instance, homosexual activity is often more common than heterosexual activity. And even when the act is in the direction of procreation, Balcombe says that most animals probably don't connect the dots between their pleasure seeking and babymaking.

Fish go in for a cleaning
Gerry Allen / The Swedish Research Council

Balcombe's studies on animal pleasure are, in part, a pushback against the scientific community's penchant for parsing animal behavior in strict evolutionary terms. For example, the relationship between cleaner fish and their clients is often described as one of mutual benefit. The cleaners get food from the parasites on the clients' bodies and the clients get cleaned. "But I think the reason the fish go there is because it feels good. I don't think the fish clients are aware of any health benefit," he says. "So I do think that's a pleasure driven interaction."

Squirrels chase each other for fun
Arthur Sevestre

The squirrels shown here chasing each other around a tree are just playing around, according to Balcombe. While play behavior may have evolutionary underpinnings such as learning to escape from predators and tackle prey, Balcombe argues in a recent review paper in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science that animals "do not consciously play for ultimate reasons: they play because it is fun to do so."

Dolphin looks can be deceiving
Chris Gotshall / Reuters file

Is this bottlenose dolphin happy to be bonding with her newborn calf? Despite a vast scientific literature on dolphin intelligence and scant doubt that they can feel pleasure, Balcombe says little can be gleaned from their facial expressions. Dolphins, he notes, have fairly fixed expressions. "The important thing with interpreting other animal's feelings is to know the animal, to know their biology, to know how they work," he says.

A calf runs free
Connie Pugh

Whitaker, a calf freed from a factory farm operation, enjoys a good run in this image. Balcombe, who has been a vegetarian for 25 years, says he grew up eating meat and "grew to love it." He stopped his carnivore ways out of concerns for animal welfare and thinks the growing body of research on animal feelings along with research showing adverse effects on the planet's health from animal agriculture will motivate other people to change their diets too.

Woman sued over tweet about mold
An apartment management company is seeking $50,000 in damages in one of the first libel lawsuits involving the social-networking site Twitter.
Posted by Mai Ling
MSN Real Estate

Be careful what you tweet about.

A Chicago woman is being sued by her apartment management company, accused of writing a Twitter post that "maliciously and wrongfully" criticized her apartment and the management company.

Although Amanda Bonnen's Twitter account no longer seems to be activated, the lawsuit filed by Horizon Group Management boldly states her May 12 comment: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay." Gawker includes a copy of the tweet in its entirety.

Ewww, who wants to live in an alleged moldy apartment! Which, I suppose, is Horizon's point. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Jeffrey Michael, whose family has run Horizon for more than 25 years, said: "The statements are obviously false, and it's our intention to prove that."

Unfortunately for Horizon, the damage that Bonnen's tweet to her 20 followers would have caused the company is probably much less than the effect of this lawsuit. Now the company will forever be linked to a tenant's comment about her alleged moldy apartment, regardless of whether Horizon can prove the statement was false.

From The Real Estate Bloggers:

What was a fairly anonymous statement by one person is now going to reverberate throughout the media and get exposure far beyond what the management company ever thought. The PR fallout will surprise the company and odds are the overzealous attorney who filed the lawsuit.

The Sun-Times article further quotes Michael, who says Horizon has a good reputation. Lemme just say, the company is suing Bonnen, who no longer even lives at the apartment, for $50,000 in damages. I'm not one to judge, but I think that alone might tarnish Horizon's reputation.

And so might this other comment from Michael to the Sun-Times:

"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."

Who knew 140 little characters could cause so much trouble?

Surprise! Wife's face used in Facebook singles ad
By Bob Sullivan

Hot-singles-edited"Hey Peter," the ad said. "Hot singles are waiting for you!!" He might have dismissed the advertisement, which appeared on his Facebook page, but for one thing.

The woman pictured in the ad was his wife.

The Lynchburg, Va., man had no doubts that his marriage was a happy one, so he figured some other kind of mischief must be at play. There was: privacy mischief.

A brief investigation uncovered this uncomfortable truth: Cheryl Smith's picture had been swooped up by a company advertising with the social media giant and used to generate an advertisement. She had no idea her image could be used that way, and until her husband spotted the ad, she was unaware that she'd become a model for an online dating company.

"Fortunately, he has a sense of humor. Otherwise it could have played out very differently," Smith, 44, said.

Facebook has a long and tortured history of attempting highly targeted advertising by mining data and usage habits from users. In 2007, the site began tracking user purchases and sharing the information with other Facebook users. After a protest, the practice was quickly abandoned. More recently, a flap over changes to Facebook's terms of service led to an online eruption, and another reversal.

In this case, first spotted by Smith on July 13, Facebook blames the incident on the third-party company, which it says was violating its policies.

"The ads that spooked people were from rogue networks that have been dealt with," said spokesman Barry Schnitt. "The ads were removed, some ad networks were banned from Facebook, and developers were warned."

Schnitt wouldn't reveal what company created the Smith ad, but said it had received a warning.

Focus on privacy settings
The Smith incident, which got some traction on blogs and first attracted mass media attention last week from, has again focused attention on Facebook's privacy settings. A hard-to-spot toggle switch now in Facebook users’ settings page grants the firm, by default, permission to use consumers' information in advertisements to their friends. Users who want out of the arrangement must manually switch the setting, called "Appearance in Facebook Ads," to "No One."

But even if her toggle were set correctly, Smith wouldn't have been able to prevent her brief stint as a dating site model, Schnitt said. The toggle only control special “social” ads that are directly under Facebook's control. These ads essentially rebroadcast items that users have already agreed to place on their public wall space. The most common social ad takes this format: "Bob has recently become a fan of's Elkhart Project. Do you want to become a fan?" Those ads have been on the site for about a year, according to Facebook.

But ads that appear in third-party applications, or in other places on the site, aren't governed by the toggle, Schnitt said. That means users who are concerned about the Schnitt incident shouldn’t bother changing their settings.

Schnitt agreed the Smith advertisement was disturbing, and said the company took it down as quickly as possible. While another “rogue” third party could pull a similar stunt, he said the firm is “aggressively enforcing” its terms and conditions with advertisers. The site will not permit any ads that mislead consumers or misuse user data or photos.

“We’re not going to let people misuse the Facebook platform,” he said.

Free comes at a cost
The company is trying to walk a fine line between creating relevant ads, while avoiding ads that are spook or anger its users.

"This is absolutely new territory. There aren't long established policies and procedures for this. So we're going to have to continue to educate people about it," he said.

Ironically, Smith -- who runs, where she is blogging about the experience – gives advice on social media for a living. She thinks these kinds of incidents are simply part of life for consumers who use "free" Internet sites.

"The fact that it's free, meaning it comes at no financial cost, doesn't mean there aren't other costs associated with it," she said. "This is one of those potential costs."

That's why consumers need to focus extra attention on privacy settings for all free sites they use. It's difficult, if not impossible, to control what information a company may grant to third parties, and whether or not those third parties will follow agree-upon rules.

If you still want to change the privacy toggle and prevent your actions on Facebook from appearing in ads to other users, follow this click trail: Settings=>Privacy=>News Feed and Wall=>Facebook Ads. Then select "No one."

Facebook says consumers who think ads are invasive ads should either click on the thumbs down arrow near the ad, or click "report this" and tap out a complaint.

Hungarian carpenter serves Pope on throne

Master carpenter Arpad Rostas uses a special chemical-mix on an old wooden-chair for restauration in his workshop of Marcali, south-west of Budapest

BUDAPEST (AFP) - – Master carpenter Arpad Rostas would like the pope to sit on his chair: a high, gilded throne carved out of oak with a pair of angels, the coats of arms of Hungary and the Catholic Church and a poem by Rostas himself.

"One night in my dream I saw a big light and three thrones: in the morning I jotted them down in no time and sent a letter to the Vatican that I had a calling to carve a seat for the pope," the 47-year-old Rostas recounts.

His dream came true, and the project will culminate on December 22 with an official handing-over ceremony at the Vatican.

"On the throne, I will carve a hidden message that the Lord shall protect Benedict XVI," says this slim, moustachioed man, showing a draft of the 2.5 metre-high (eight feet) chair he is crafting out of a 200-year old oak tree.

The Vatican is not the only prestigious location to benefit from the magic touch of this small-town carpenter from Marcali in southwestern Hungary. His skill in masterfully restoring and preserving woodwork that others would have cast away has won him contracts in Austria, Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Rostas worked on the parquet of the Hall of Mirrors and Louis XIV's console table in Versailles, on the restoration of wainscot panels at Paris's Louvre museum, and in refurbishing antique furniture in several private chateaux in the Calvados region.

He takes pride in repairing items others have given up on, and has given new life to the inlaid doors of the Hungarian embassy in Vienna and worked on furnishings at Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.

"The French and the Austrians, they want to preserve the last single nail if it is old... Germans prefer spotless functionality," he observes.

But his native Hungary proved a harder nut to crack.

"All they want is a certificate. If I am not certified, I cannot do the job in my own right," he complains.

And despite references from Hungary's own parliament, the country's biggest synagogue and the Swedish embassy here, a professional certificate is something the talented carpenter still lacks.

Born to Roma parents, Rostas was abandoned in hospital and raised in a state institution, an unlikely start for an ambitious man who since childhood had wanted to become "the best restorer in the world".

But he bears no grudge against his unknown parents.

"Had I grown up in a gypsy slum, I would have never known art and become a restorer," he reckons.

His large workshop in Marcali, covered with wood dust, abounds with new furniture parts waiting to be assembled as well as a range of real antique pieces, all in a sorry state.

These worm-eaten, mouldy cabinets, consoles and beds are in for a new life, however.

After thorough research in libraries and consultations with museums, Rostas cleans the parts, carves out the decaying bits and replaces them with meticulously selected and treated pieces before finally soaking the wood in an organic mordant.

"It has ingredients including horse dung water and human urine," Rostas says, listing the uninviting substances already used by ancient Egyptians and even Leonardo da Vinci.

Taking his cue from earlier masters, Rostas adds berries, potatoes and garlic to create the appropriate colour, and finally cooks the wooden piece in perfumed oils.

"My restored cabinets do not smell bad, old or stuffy," he boasts.

One of Rostas's finest accomplishments is the winding staircase at Marcali's Szechenyi Palace. Erected in 1880, it was about to be demolished when Rostas turned up to restore it to perfection.

The painstakingly precise inlays change shade with the light, the carved banisters show rich ornamentation, and the solid structure seems immovable -- although, apart from a refined system of tenon and mortise joints, a simple but strong system used for thousands of years, it is held together by one single screw.

"I spent a night here, meditating on the stone floor, praying to discover where that crucial screw was," Rostas recounts.

"Then the enlightenment came and I just knew where to look for it."

In gratitude and to leave a trace, he hid a bottle of wine and a letter in one of the banister columns.

Probably Hungary's single most talented restorer, Rostas is not a man of wealth: he never received any money for the majestic staircase that consumed his life 14 years ago.

But he shrugs it off, saying his mission is now to finish his gift to the pope before seeking work abroad where his desire to preserve and restore is more appreciated.

"My goal is not to get rich. What I want is to save as much beautiful old woodwork as possible."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BREITBART: Obama's accidental gift on race
By Andrew Breitbart

Less than a month after being confirmed as the nation's attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr. called out the American people as "essentially a nation of cowards" for refusing to talk openly about race.

So, thank you, professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and President Obama, for starting the long-awaited national discussion on black and white identity - while averting our attention from the cockamamie scheme to nationalize health care.

And kudos to the professor and the president for choosing Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department as the representative of the Caucasian-American side of this difficult and much-needed historic debate.

Poetry was at work as the archetypal racist white cop who, according to the admittedly fact-challenged president, "stupidly" arrested his "friend." Sgt. Crowley waged a swift and effective public relations campaign that quashed the racism meme that Mr. Gates was recklessly pushing.

Sgt. Crowley, as it happens, is the Cambridge police force's hand-picked racial profiling expert and was selected by a former black police commissioner. He also performed CPR on black basketball star Reggie Lewis, whose widow praised the public servant for doing everything he could to save her husband. Sgt. Crowley's own police department immediately jumped to his defense in a picture-perfect multiracial photo op and press conference.

Even though Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley are poised to put their individual grievances to rest - over a beer negotiated by the president of the United States - the scope of the problem that brought them international attention lingers, underscoring the need for continued robust public dialogue.

We're finally talking, Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama. Why stop now?

Of course, the attorney general is essentially right in his assessment. Much of America is petrified to bring up race, especially in public forums - the media, in particular. But for exactly the opposite reasons Mr. Holder, the Obama administration and the brain trust of modern liberalism assert.

Americans, especially nonblacks, are deeply fearful that the dynamic is predicated on an un-American premise: presumed guilt. Innocence, under the extra-constitutional reign of political correctness, liberalism's brand of soft Shariah law, must be proved ex post facto.

Think not? Ask the Duke lacrosse team, which had 88 of the school's professors sign a petition that presumed their guilt before their side of the story was known. Even though the white athletes were exonerated and the liberal district attorney who pushed the case was dethroned, disbarred and disgraced, the professoriate that assigned guilt to its own students still refuses to apologize.

Those signatories constituted 90 percent of Duke's African and African-American Studies Department, the subject-matter domain of Mr. Gates, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West and other tenure-wielding, highfalutin, iambic-pentameter-filibustering race baiters, and 60 percent of Duke's women's studies department, another hotbed of victimology posing as intellectualism.

While the media was front and center in preparing for the public executions of the three Duke lacrosse players, they scurried away when they were proved innocent. The Democratic Media Complex, in its pursuit of Orwellian hate-crime legislation, reparations and sundry non-ameliorative resolutions to America's troubled racial past, pursues its victims with blood lust. But it cannot act in good faith to redeem those it has destroyed in countless rushes to judgment. (Richard Jewell, R.I.P.)

The mainstream media choose to flaunt story lines that make white America appear guilty of continued institutional racism, while black racism against whites is ignored as an acceptable disposition given our nation's history. This double standard provides a game board on which the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can thrive in perpetuity and ensures racial progress is slowed.

And that is why the Case of Sergeant Crowley vs. Professor Gates is so important. As is expected from professional race baiters, Mr. Gates instigated a public brouhaha over race. And Mr. Obama, a man who attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's racist sermons for 20 years, used the bully pulpit to grant his friend a national platform to condemn a man for doing his job.

Sgt. Crowley, a proud and defiant public professional, played the moment perfectly and stopped his own assassination by media. Talk about a postmodern hero. Whether he likes it or not, Sgt. Crowley is a potent symbol of how the union has managed to become more perfect, a Rosa Parks of rush-to-judgment "reverse racism."

Now that the facts of the case show that his friend the professor was the man doing the racial profiling, the president wants to end the discussion.

Now we see what the attorney general meant when he spoke of cowards.

Sweater helps man win Hemingway contest
David Douglas, 55, beat out 139 others as the author's best look-alike
The Associated Press

David Douglas, center, celebrates at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Fla., after winning the 2009 "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike contest late Saturday, July 25, 2009. Douglas, who won the competition after eight tries, is surrounded by previous Hemingway look-alike winners.
Andy Newman / AP

KEY WEST, Florida - Wearing a wool fisherman's sweater in 90-degree Fahrenheit (32-degree Celsius) heat, a Texas man won an Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest at a Key West festival honoring the late Nobel prize-winning author.

White-bearded David Douglas, 55, bested 139 other contenders at the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, staged Saturday night at Sloppy Joe's Bar, the author's favorite watering hole.

Douglas' attire emulated Hemingway's appearance in a famous 1957 photograph by Yousuf Karsh.

"It's very possible the sweater did it," said a perspiring Douglas of his victory. "It's about 120 (degrees) inside the sweater, but it's worth it."

Douglas, from Cypress, Texas, won the competition on his eighth attempt after originally entering on a dare.

The mechanical contractor said he shares Hemingway's fondness for fishing and cocktails, but has no literary aspirations.

"I haven't written any books, but I'm good writing checks and text messaging," Douglas said.

Other Hemingway Days events included literary and theatrical presentations, a marlin tournament and a short story competition coordinated by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway. The festival began on July 21, the 110th anniversary of Hemingway's birth, and ended Sunday.

Judged by a panel of former look-alike winners, 30 prospective "Papas" made Saturday night's contest finals to parade across the stage at Sloppy Joe's. Finalists included Denis Golden of Rockport, Mass., who sang a parody of "Hello, Dolly" onstage with lyrics pleading for victory.

While living in Key West during the 1930s, Hemingway wrote some of his most famous works, including "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "To Have and Have Not" and "Death in the Afternoon."

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Saint Must Walk Alone
By A.W. Tozer

MOST OF THE WORLD'S GREAT SOULS have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.

In the morning of the world (or should we say, in that strange darkness that came soon after the dawn of man's creation) that pious soul, Enoch, walked with God and was not, for God took him; and while it is not stated in so many words, a fair inference is that Enoch walked a path quite apart from his contemporaries.

Another lonely man was Noah who, of all the antediluvians, found grace in the sight of God; and every shred of evidence points to the aloneness of his life even while surrounded by his people.

Again, Abraham had Sarah and Lot, as well as many servants and herdmen, but who can read his story and the apostolic comment upon it without sensing instantly that he was a man "whose soul was alike a star and dwelt apart"? As far as we know not one word did God ever speak to him in the company of men. Face down he communed with his God, and the innate dignity of the man forbade that he assume this posture in the presence of others. How sweet and solemn was the scene that night of the sacrifice when he saw the lamps of fire moving between the pieces of offering. There alone with a horror of great darkness upon him he heard the voice of God and knew that he was a man marked for divine favor.

Moses also was a man apart. While yet attached to the court of Pharaoh he took long walks alone, and during one of these walks while far removed from the crowds he saw an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting and came to the rescue of his countryman. After the resultant break with Egypt he dwelt in almost complete seclusion in the desert. There while he watched his sheep alone the wonder of the burning bush appeared to him, and later on the peak of Sinai he crouched alone to gaze in fascinated awe at the Presence, partly hidden, partly disclosed, within the cloud and fire.

The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness. They loved their people and gloried in the religion of the fathers, but their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their zeal for the welfare of the nation of Israel drove them away from the crowd and into long periods of heaviness. "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children," cried one and unwittingly spoke for all the rest.

Most revealing of all is the sight of that One of whom Moses and all the prophets did write treading His lonely way to the cross, His deep loneliness unrelieved by the presence of the multitudes.

'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow

The star is dimmed that lately shone;

'Tis midnight; in the garden now,

The suffering Saviour prays alone.

'Tis midnight, and from all removed

The Saviour wrestles lone with fears,

E'en the disciple whom He loved

Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.


He died alone in the darkness hidden from the sight of mortal man and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw.

There are some things too sacred for any eye but God's to look upon. The curiosity, the clamor, the well-meant but blundering effort to help can only hinder the waiting soul and make unlikely if not impossible the communication of the secret message of God to the worshiping heart.

Sometimes we react by a kind of religious reflex and repeat dutifully the proper words and phrases even though they fail to express our real feelings and lack the authenticity of personal experience. Right now is such a time. A certain conventional loyalty may lead some who hear this unfamiliar truth expressed for the first time to say brightly, "Oh, I am never lonely. Christ said, `I will never leave you nor forsake you,' and, `Lo, I am with you alway.' How can I be lonely when Jesus is with me?"

Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real. It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience. This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society. The sense of companionship which he mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people. Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. "They all forsook him, and fled."

The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His Godgiven instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find. But he should not expect things to be otherwise. After all, he is a stranger and a pilgrim, and the journey he takes is not on his feet but in his heart. He walks with God in the garden of his own souland who but God can walk there with him? He is of another spirit from the multitudes that tread the courts of the Lord's house. He has seen that of which they have only heard, and he walks among them somewhat as Zacharias walked after his return from the altar when the people whispered, "He has seen a vision."

The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Saviour glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and overserious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd that Christ is All in All, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life's summum bonum.

Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his griefs to God alone.

The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it. Meister Eckhart taught his followers that if they should find themselves in prayer as it were caught up to the third heavens and happen to remember that a poor widow needed food, they should break off the prayer instantly and go care for the widow. "God will not suffer you to lose anything by it," he told them. "You can take up again in prayer where you left off and the Lord will make it up to you." This is typical of the great mystics and masters of the interior life from Paul to the present day.

The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful "adjustment" to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama ‘stupidly’ remark disappoints sergeant
White officer who arrested Harvard professor won't apologize over incident staff and news service reports

NATICK, Mass. - A white police sergeant who arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. said Thursday he's disappointed President Barack Obama said officers acted "stupidly," despite acknowledging he didn't know all the facts.

Sgt. James Crowley responded to Gates' home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. Police say Gates at first refused and accused the officer of racism.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped Tuesday, and Gates has since demanded an apology from Crowley.

In an interview on WEEI on Thursday morning, Crowley said it was "disappointing that he waded into what should be a local issue."

Obama, during a prime-time news conference Wednesday, said he didn't know what role race played in the incident but added that police in Cambridge, a city outside Boston, "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates even after he offered proof that he was in his own home.

"I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said. "Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three — what I think we know separate and apart from this incident — is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact."

Obama said Gates' arrest was a reminder that the race issue "still haunts us" and that federal officials need to continue working with local law enforcement "to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias."

'There will be no apology'
Crowley said he's grateful he has the support of his police force. He said he's not worried about any possible disciplinary action.

"There will be no apology," he said outside his home Wednesday.

The Boston Herald reported that Crowley gave dying Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in 1993. The 27-year-old forward suffered a fatal heart attack during an off-season practice at Brandeis University, where Crowley was a campus police officer.

"I wasn't working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star," Crowley told the newspaper. "I wasn't working on a black man. I was working on another human being."

Crowley, 42, said he harbored no "ill feelings toward the professor."

The Boston Herald reported that Crowley is an 11-year veteran of the force who oversees the evidence room, paid details and records unit. He also coaches youth basketball, baseball and softball.

Steven Senne / AP
Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley speaks with the media at his home in Natick, Mass., on Wednesday.

In a statement expressing its "full and unqualified support" for Crowley, the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association called him a "highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record", the newspaper said.

But there was plenty of blame being spread around by the public, through talk shows, blogs, newspaper online forums and watercooler chats. Even the hosts of a sports radio show in Boston spent much of Wednesday morning faulting Gates.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who is black, said he was troubled and upset over the incident. Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, who also is black, has said she spoke with Gates and apologized on behalf of the city, and a statement from the city called the July 16 incident "regrettable and unfortunate."

Gates said he was "outraged" by the arrest.

"This isn't about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America," Gates said.

He said the incident made him realize how vulnerable poor people and minorities are "to capricious forces like a rogue policeman, and this man clearly was a rogue policeman."

Police supporters charge that Gates, director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting.

Racial profiling?
Gates' supporters cite Boston's history as a city plagued by racism as an underlying reason why this could still happen to an esteemed scholar, at midday, in his own home.

"That stain on this city — as far as persons of color are concerned — is a real one," television and radio commentator Callie Crossley said.

Black students and professors at Harvard have complained for years about racial profiling by Cambridge and campus police. Harvard commissioned an independent committee last year to examine the university's race relations after campus police confronted a young black man who was using tools to remove a bike lock. The man worked at Harvard and owned the bike.

Richard Weinblatt, director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College, said the police sergeant was responsible for defusing the situation once he realized Gates was the lawful occupant. It is not against the law to yell at police, especially in a home, as long as that behavior does not affect an investigation, he said.

"That is part of being a police officer in a democratic society," Weinblatt said. "The point is that the police sergeant needs to be the bigger person, take the higher road, be more professional."

* * *

"For a Harvard-educated law graduate to make this kind of a pre-judgement is embarrassing. For our American president to say it is shameful.

"These police officers put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call from you and me. To condemn them as "stupid" shows an elitism from a man who has never gotten his hands dirty with anything that taught him some basic principles of life: namely, that police have an enormously hard job and you don't backtalk them or give them any of your attitude. They are ready to die for you and me, and they surely don't get paid as much as a Harvard professor who has made a lifetime of arousing black suspicions about whites, police brutality, unfair justice practices, and overall victimhood for blacks in America.

"Poor Barry here is associating Gates' arrest with the fact that Gates showed his credentials of identification and address, as if that's why Gates was arrested [with an African American police officer assisting during the entire episode, by the way]. The racemonger president knows better, but is choosing to further endanger the Cambridge Police officer's lives with these reckless statements.

"Just to refresh Barry's beleagured mind a bit: Gates wasn't arrested for not being who he said he was, or for breaking and entering his house. He was arrested for disorderly conduct for mouthing off [even Gates' lawyer admitted that his client acted thusly: ] and acting beligerent during a routine response call from a neighbor.

"It takes a couple of Harvard-educated idiots to not know that you answer politely and comply completely with the police or you suffer the consequences, no matter how important you think you are." ~ comment posted with the video by the uploader, USArgos.

* The Associated Press, Reuters and staff contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dad links son's suicide to 'The God Delusion'
Says atheism-promoting book hidden under mattress, last page bookmarked
By Bob Unruh
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Richard Dawkins

A New York man is linking the suicide of his 22-year-old son, a military veteran who had bright prospects in college, to the anti-Christian book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins after a college professor challenged the son to read it.

"Three people told us he had taken a biology class and was doing well in it, but other students and the professor were really challenging my son, his faith. They didn't like him as a Republican, as a Christian, and as a conservative who believed in intelligent design," the grief-stricken father, Keith Kilgore, told WND about his son, Jesse.

"This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, 'The God Delusion,' by Richard Dawkins," he said.

Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he'd been debating for years.

Discover how atheism and immorality are being cleverly sold to Americans in David Kupelian's controversial best seller, "The Marketing of Evil."

After Jesse's death, Keith Kilgore learned of the book assignment from two of his son's friends and a relative. He searched Jesse's room and found the book under the mattress with his son's bookmark on the last page.

A WND message seeking a comment from Dawkins or his publisher was not returned today.

The first inkling of a reason for the suicide came, Keith Kilgore told WND, when one of Jesse's friends came to visit after word of his son's death circulated.

"She was in tears [and said] he was very upset by this book," Keith Kilgore said. "'It just destroyed him,' were her words.

Jesse Kilgore

"Then another friend at the funeral told me the same thing," Keith Kilgore said. "This guy was his best friend, and about the only other Christian on campus.

"The third one was the last person that my son talked to an hour before [he died,]" Keith Kilgore told WND, referring to a member of his extended family whose name is not being revealed here.

That relative, who had struggled with his own faith and had returned to Christianity, wrote in a later e-mail that Jesse "started to tell me about his loss of faith in everything."

"He was pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong," the relative wrote. "I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn't wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences - that was all there was - just social consequences.

"He mentioned the book he had been reading 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and how it along with the science classes he had take[n] had eroded his faith. Jesse was always great about defending his beliefs, but somehow, the professors and the book had presented him information that he found to be irrefutable. He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react. ... and that he knew most of your defenses of Christianity because he himself used them often. Maybe he had used them against his professors and had the ideas shot down."

He then explained to Jesse his own personal journey of seeking "other explanations of God's existence" and told of his ultimate return.

"I told him it was my relationship with God, not my knowledge of Him that brought me back to my faith. No one convinced me with facts. ... it was a matter of the heart."

Keith Kilgore believes it was a biology class that raised questions for his son, and a biology professor at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y., where his son was attending, who suggested the book.

A school spokeswoman told WND that the "God Delusion" was not a part of the biology curriculum, and several of the professors she contacted said they had not even read the book. However, the spokeswoman was unable to contact all of the professors in the department and could not state that none of them had suggested the book to Jesse.

Local police also did not respond to WND inquiries about the investigation into the death.

"One of his friends, and his uncle (they did not know each other) both told me that Jesse called them hours before he took his life and that he had lost all hope because he was convinced that God did not exist, and this book was the cause," Keith Kilgore told WND.

Keith Kilgore, a retired military chaplain who has dealt with the various stages of grief and readily admits he's still in the "anger" stage over his son's death, said his son apparently had checked the "Delusion" out of the college library.

"I'm all for academic freedom," Keith Kilgore said. "What I do have a problem with is if there's going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.

"They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son]," he said. "They ought to be held accountable."

He suggested the moral is for Christians simply to abandon public schools wholly.

"Here's another thing," he continued. "If my son was a professing homosexual, and a professor challenged him to read [a book called] 'Preventing Homosexuality'… If my son was gay and [the book] made him feel bad, hopeless, and he killed himself, and that came out in the press, there would be an outcry.

"He would have been a victim of a hate crime and the professor would have been forced to undergo sensitivity training, and there may have even been a wrongful death lawsuit.

"But because he's a Christian, I don't even get a return telephone call," the father told WND.

He said he tried to verify the book assignment himself several times, without getting a response from the school.

Jesse Kilgore blogged on NetPotion and Newblog, and the writings that remained mostly addressed social ills and how anti-Christian many of the world's developments appeared to be.

He used the pen name JKrapture because, his father said, "He believed in the rapture, the evangelical concept of the Lord coming back."

On the Web, Jesse described himself as "conservative and mainly independent. I am a culture warrior and traditionalist. I have been debating since I was in 5th Grade, and never looked back. It is a habit I can't let go of."

One of Jesse's uncles, writing on the same website as Jesse, wrote: "While I knew he was having struggles with his faith, I had no idea that it ran that deep. … There are not enough words to describe how devastated I am at his loss. I know that some of you got to know him pretty well and (since I already started getting some questions about him) felt that you all should know that he is no longer with us."

From among the online community came these responses: "I am shocked and so sorry for your loss – our loss. My prayers are with you and all of your family at this difficult time," and "I AM at a loss of words.....I am sooooo sorry to hear your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family."

Keith Kilgore told WND he feels, by allowing his son to move into the atmosphere of a secular school, like "I put a toddler in the front of my car."

"My son is the Adam Walsh of the culture war. That's who my son is," he said, referring to the child abduction victim whose case was used to create a wide range of amber alert and other programs to protect children.

He said he has a wake-up call over the anti-Christian agenda of public education. And he has some goals.

"I want to hold schools accountable for what they're teaching our kids. This was malpractice," he said.

Dawkins, considered one of the world's most outspoken atheists, is a professor in the United Kingdom. He came to prominence in 1976 with his book "The Selfish Gene," promoting evolution.

In his "Delusion" treatise he claims that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that faith qualifies as a "delusion" – a fixed false belief.

The Star of David appearing in yesterday's solar eclipse (starting at 2:20).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Poll: Great hopes for Obama fade to reality
He still has a solid approval rating, but doubts grow on scope of his agenda
The Associated Press

The problems Obama is confronting domestically and internationally are legion, and his ability to blame them on his predecessor is fading.
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

WASHINGTON - The hope and optimism that washed over the U.S. in the opening months of Barack Obama's presidency are giving way to harsh realities.

An Associated Press-GfK Poll shows that a majority of Americans are back to thinking that the country is headed in the wrong direction after a fleeting period in which more thought it was on the right track.

Obama still has a solid 55 percent approval rating — better than Bill Clinton and about even with George W. Bush six months into their presidencies — but there are growing doubts about whether he can succeed at some of the biggest items on his to-do list. And there is a growing sense that he is trying to tackle too much too soon.

The number of people who think Obama can improve the economy is down a sobering 19 percentage points from the euphoric days just before his inauguration. The same for expectations about creating jobs. Also down significantly: the share of people who think he can reduce the deficit, remove troops from Iraq and improve respect for the U.S. around the world, all slipping 15 points.

On overhauling health care, a signature issue for Obama, hopes for success are down a lesser 6 points.

Add it all up, and does it mean Obama has lost his mojo? Has yes-we-can morphed into maybe?

‘He's not Superman, right?’
"I think it's just reality," said Sandy Smith, a 48-year-old public relations worker. "He's not Superman, right?"

Indeed, it's not unusual for approval ratings to slide once presidents actually get to work. They're pulled down by things going on in the real world, by people who don't agree with the ways they're addressing problems, by criticism from political opponents.

In Obama's case, the problems he's confronting domestically and internationally are legion, and his ability to blame them on his predecessor is fading. Challenges still abound in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unemployment, at 7.6 percent in January, hit 9.5 percent in June and is expected to keep rising well into next year. Almost 4 percent of homeowners with mortgages are in foreclosure, and an additional 8 percent are at least a month behind on payments — the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The president is deep into the debate over how to overhaul the U.S. health care system, and people are nervous about how their own health insurance could be affected. Obama's critics are accusing him of conducting a risky "grand experiment" that will hurt the economy and could force millions to drop their current coverage.

It is all taking a toll on expectations. The number of people who think it is realistic to expect at least some noticeable improvement in the economy during Obama's first year in office dropped from 27 percent in January to 16 percent in the latest survey.

There's been slippage, as well, in how people view the president personally, although he is still well regarded. About two-thirds now think he understands the problems of ordinary Americans, down from 81 percent in January. Sixty-nine percent think he's a strong leader, off from 78 percent before the inauguration.

"He doesn't know enough about any of this," says Michelle Kelsey, a 37-year-old student, who gives Obama a three for leadership on a 10-point scale. But then again, Kelsey says, "Nobody could have done better."

"I just feel like people haven't given him enough time. It's going to take longer for the economy to come around."

It's not just Obama who is feeling the drag. Approval of Congress — already low — has gotten lower, slipping 6 percentage points to 32 percent.

Wrong direction
Overall, the number of people who think the country is going in the wrong direction hit 54 percent in the latest AP-GfK poll, up from 46 percent in June.

That is not necessarily surprising. In years past, the public has tended to be more pessimistic than optimistic about the country's future. Recent exceptions have been short-lived, at the start of the Iraq war, after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, after the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and late in the Clinton administration.

Perhaps most troubling for Obama may be where he is losing ground. His approval rating was down 9 points among Americans overall but 20 percent among independents. Similarly, the increase in those who think the country is headed in the wrong direction came mostly from independents and Democrats.

Dissatisfaction among independents grew disproportionately on Obama's handling of a range of issues, including the economy, taxes, unemployment, the environment and more.

Independents are "the ones to watch," according to Professor Robert Shapiro, a Columbia University expert on public opinion. "The Republicans were more pessimistic from the outset. The Democrats are going to be more resistant to negative information."

Overall, Obama still can feel good about a 55 percent approval rating, Shapiro said, but "the fact that it is on the downswing is something to be concerned about. That's going to affect how members of Congress, and in particular people in his own party, may respond to him."

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 16-20 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. It involved interviews on landlines and cell phones with 1,006 adults nationwide. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

* Vote: Do you think the country is headed in the right direction?