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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit for a pair of pants

The United Stated probably has one of the most developed legal system of the world. Cases move fast over there, and people are able to get justice quickly (if you leave out the inmates of the Guantanamo prison camp). However, as with any system, there is always scope for misuse, and when there is scope for misuse, there will be always be people who will try and exploit these possibilities. A lot of laws were raised in the past, and may contain clauses or loopholes that have not yet been filled, and people may be wanting to fill these gaps. So, here is a gentleman who has filed a case that wants to claim $54 million from a dry cleaner over a missing pair of pants:

A court Thursday rejected an appeal filed by a former administrative law judge who sued a dry cleaners for $54 million over a missing pair of pants. Pearson initially sought $67 million from the Chungs, calculating the amount by estimating years of legal violations, adding nearly $2 million in common law claims for fraud. The saga began in May 2005, when Pearson took several pairs of pants to Custom Cleaners for alteration as he prepared to start his new job as an administrative law judge. He alleged that among them was a pair of pants from a blue and maroon suit. When he came to collect his clothing, he said, the Chungs tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants that were not his.
He claimed millions of dollars in attorney fees and millions more in punitive damages for what he called fraudulent advertising under the law. He also claimed that a sign in the store's window promising "satisfaction guaranteed" was an unconditional warranty that required the defendants to honor any claim by any customer without limitation. The Chungs' attorney argued that no reasonable person would interpret the signs to mean an unconditional promise of satisfaction. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff agreed, ruling that Custom Cleaners did not violate the city's Consumer Protection Act.

Such cases do have an impact on people. Legal fees can be fairly high, and in the past, it has been seen that even important personalities have had to raise money for feed to attorneys; so there is always a cost to frivolous cases. The United States does not seem to have a way to defer such frivolous cases, and because of legal feed, even if a person wins a case, the amount of money involved could end up harming them immensely.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coming home after 44 years

One has heard of separation in the past, but this particular event takes the cake. This is a story of separation not causing the relationship to break apart, with the relationship resuming after a gap of 44 years. There are still many hidden stories in this, but given that the man seems to be suffering from amnesia, those stories are not likely to be fully told. The surprising part in this whole story is that the lady was willing to be a faithful wife and support her husband (although he had been given up for dead and his last rites performed):

A 92-year-old man, who was believed to be dead for the last 44 years, has now returned to his home in Kolkata and remarried his wife, the couple's son said Monday. Panchkari Hazra left his residence in Behala in south Kolkata in 1964 and was missing since then. He didn't inform his wife Annapurna and two sons - Arun and Tarun - why and where he was going.
"When my father didn't return home for 12 years or send us any information about his whereabouts, my mother performed his last rites under social pressure and started living the life of a widow," Tarun said. "On Wednesday, a friend at Behala informed me that a very old man had been living in our old home for the last few days and was claiming to be Panchkari. "I rushed to Behala and brought him to Jagatdal on Saturday. I was only three years old when he left home so don't remember his face clearly. But my mother recognised him at once," Tarun said. However, Hazra seemed to be suffering from loss of memory.

44 years is an extremely long time, but when the family recognized him and was willing to re-establish relationships, all ends well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Imagine explosives on your desk

People have a fascination for something that looks different, so it was no wonder that the Managing Director of a company in England was using a different paper-weight. A friend of his had gone for a dive and found an interesting looking object on the sea bed, he gave it to the Managing Director Jeff Hayes, who found the object interesting and kept it on his desk as a cool looking paperweight. What he did not know was that the paperweight was actually a long unexploded bomb, a foot long object that was still capable of causing a lot of damage if it burst:

However, his office landlord, Clive Parks, and his friend Jon Williamson, a keen shooter, realised the detonator on the shell was still live and the TNT was showing.
They carefully moved the bomb out of the building and into a flower bed before calling the police who then contacted the army's bomb disposal unit.
Mr Williamson said: "I saw it on the desk and thought 'that looks dangerous'. "I shoot so I know about firearms, it still had a live detonator and the explosive TNT was exposed.

If by accident the bomb had been severely shaken or otherwise jostled, the bomb could still explode and would have affected not only this office, but even other offices in the same building. On the other hand, it may have never exploded.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Woman leaves mother covered with cats (to keep warm)

As people get older, they need more care. In winter, having adequate facilities and heating is an important part of that need. So what do you think about a lady who took her 84 year old mother out of a nursing home, and put her in a home alone where there was no one to take care of her, where the toilet facilities were not working, where there were a huge number of animals and the old lady was depending on the heat from the huge number of cats to keep warm:

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- About 50 cats, 20 ducks and 15 turkeys were taken from a New Smyrna Beach home, and a woman was arrested after her 84-year-old mother told authorities that she kept warm by covering herself with the animals, according to Volusia County sheriff's deputies. Mary Bosket, 54, was arrested on a charge of neglect to the elderly after her mother was found on Thanksgiving Day at the Glencoe Road home, which was in deplorable conditions and did not have a working heater, deputies said.
In one of the bedrooms, the deputy said he found caged turkeys, although one was wandering freely around the room. In another bedroom, ducks were found, along with an empty kid's swimming pool. A dog was in a third bedroom, where its feces had piled up, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office. Several geese, ducks and chickens were found in the back yard, deputies said. The only toilet in the home did not work and the sinks would not drain water, deputies said.

The lady could not answer questions as to why she had taken her mother out of the nursing home, and kept her this way, and was eventually arrested. It was good that deputies found the old lady, else there was a good chance that she could have died.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Droppings from train crossings

How many people have looked at train crossing, especially in the third world, where there is a higher concentration of people, and wondered about the metal plate that covers the tracks in these crossings. The reason why the crossings are covered with a metal plate is to prevent accidents; not the type where a train collides with something, but the type where a person used the restroom of the train when it is on a crossing, and the refuse drops below the train:

Ahmedabad: Two-wheelers come to a screeching halt at the incline when a train passes over Madalpur underpass, near Gujarat college. These riders are afraid of a spoiling their clothes with the droppings from the train above. If a train takes long, there is a near traffic jam with approximately 50 to 60 vehicles waiting on both sides.
This happens at least 10 times a day and the volume of the vehicles doubles at peak hours. The metre gauge tracks on the top don't have a cover to protect the two-wheeler driver from the disgusting showers.

It is simple task to ensure that a metal plate is available, but it sometimes takes some amount of media attention to ensure that such provisions are available.

Don't suddenly jump into a zoo cage

A zoo / Park is a place where animals are kept, for scientific observation, for protection, and for people to get a look at these animals. A lot of these are wild animals, who can be dangerous for humans if they come in close unsupervised proximity to these animals. There have been cases of wild bears / tigers / lions, and others causing harm (including death) to humans who have suddenly jumped into their cage. However, there are always humans who apply their own thoughts in their dealings with animals. Take this case where a person jumped into the enclosure of a panda, because the animal was so cute after all:

BEIJING (AP) -- A college student in southern China was bitten by a panda after he broke into the bear's enclosure hoping to get a hug, state media and a park employee said Saturday. The park in Guilin, a popular tourist town in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, houses a small zoo and a panda exhibit. It was virtually deserted when the student scaled the fence surrounding the panda, named Yang Yang, the employee said.
He said the student was bitten on the arms and legs. Two foreign visitors who saw the attack ran to get help from workers at a nearby refreshment stand, who notified park officials, the employee said. "We cannot make it like a prison. We already have signs up warning people not to climb in," he said. "There are no fences along roads but people know not to cross if there are cars. This is basic knowledge." Pandas, which generally have a public image as cute, gentle creatures, are nonetheless wild animals that can be violent when provoked or startled.

There is a reason that wild animals are kept in cages or away from humans; it is only those humans who are expert in dealing with animals who can do this unsupervised.

Malaysia Islamic body bans Yoga for Muslims

Yoga is a form of exercise that has found many fans and devoted practitioners all over the world. It has developed many variants as well, and the number of people practising Yoga all over the world would number in the 10's of millions. However, Yoga has derived from Hindu practices (or more accurately, Yoga developed at the same time as the early Hindu religion, and has been seen as linked together). However, this is not necessarily so, and a number of people have shown how one can enjoy the benefits of Yoga without seeming to undergo the Hindu practices. However, this has not stopped Islamic and Christian denominations from rejecting Yoga, as this Malaysian Islamic body did:

Malaysia's top Islamic body on Saturday ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims. The National Fatwa Council's non-binding edict said yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship.
The Malaysia fatwa reflects the growing strain of conservatism in Malaysia, which has always taken pride in its multi-ethnic population. About 25 percent of Malaysians are ethnic Chinese and 8 percent ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus. The Fatwa Council took up the yoga issue after an Islamic scholar last month expressed an opinion at a seminar that it was un-Islamic. But yoga teacher Suleiha Merican, who has been practicing yoga for 40 years, called yoga "a great health science" and said there is no religion involved. "We don't do chanting and meditation. There is no conflict because yoga is not religion based," Merican, 56, told The Associated Press.

This is another example where a religious opinion has prevented something beneficial from happening. There is no logical reason, instead, it is more about some apprehensions.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Man shoots himself in the head during an interview

One can read all about shootings, deaths, and so on, and it all seems very detached. You can even view movie scenes of the ultimate horror (such as the shootings depicted in the war-holocaust movie, Schindler's List), and yet remain unconcerned since these happen in reel life, not real life. However, it is scary when something like this happens in real life, as happened in the case of this person who was pursued by the police and was giving an interview in real time:

BUENOS AIRES: An ex-police chief charged with abuses during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, shot himself in the head on Thursday during a television interview on the roof of his home, as police were closing in for an arrest. Mario Ferreyra, 63, died on his way to hospital in northern Tucuman province, where he was charged with human rights violations when he worked at a secret weapons-depot-turned-detention centre in the same region during the dictatorship.
His house was surrounded by police on Thursday, but Ferreyra clambered atop a water tower in his building where he was interviewed on Friday by a reporter and camera crew of Cronica TV. After denying taking part in any prisoner abuse in the past and claiming instead he was the target of persecution by the government, Ferreyra unexpectedly drew a gun from his pocket, put it to his head and fired. The shocked camera crew kept rolling as the man lay bleeding on the water tower.

Even if it was a colorful personality, accused of many crimes, for something like this to happen in real time is always distressing for the people watching this on TV.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Man and associate shot by 8 year old son

How does one get over an event like this ? A 29 year old man and his associate (39 years old) were both found shot to death at this home. Now this is a tragedy, but what makes it really sad is the fact that both of them were shot by the 8 year old son of the 29 year old man. The father had apparently wanted to be responsible about the use of guns by his son, and had looked to get the son some gun training. He was from a family of hunters and wanted to make sure that his son was comfortable about the use of guns, and had even consulted a Roman Catholic priest about whether it was right for the 8 year old son to get training, or should it wait for later ? Read this story.
ST. JOHNS, Ariz. -- A man who police believe was shot and killed by his 8-year-old son had consulted a Roman Catholic priest about whether the boy should handle guns and had taught him how to use them, the clergyman said Saturday. The father, Vincent Romero, 29, was from a family of avid hunters and wanted to make sure the boy wasn't afraid of guns and knew how to handle them, said the Very Rev. John Paul Sauter of St. Johns Catholic Church. The boy's stepmother had suggested he have a BB gun, the priest said.
The boy, who faces two counts of premeditated murder, did not act on the spur of the moment, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said. Police are looking into whether he might have been abused. "I'm not accusing anybody of anything at this point," he said Saturday. "But we're certainly going to look at the abuse part of this. He's 8 years old. He just doesn't decide one day that he's going to shoot his father and shoot his father's friend for no reason. Something led up to this."
This is a case that you wish never happens. How do you treat an 8 year old, a child who is not even mature, as a killer ? How does the police handle such a case, how does a judge handle such a case ? Experts have to wonder what could lead a small child to take the cold blooded action of murder ?

Little Known Illnesses

AFROPHOBIA: Fear of the return of the 70's hair styles.

DEJA FLU: The feeling that one has had this cold before.

HYPOCOINDRIA: Fear of not having correct change.

HAIRPIECE SWIMPLEX: Rash caused by wearing a toupee in a pool.

HERPES CINEPLEX: Rash caused by movie tickets priced at $9.50.


VISACARDITIS: The heart-stopping sensation brought on by exceeding your
credit limit.

SONSTROKE: An attack during the reading of a will.

ROSWELL-BABY SYNDROME: Irrational fear that one's infant might be an alien.

OREOPOROSIS: Disorder caused by too many cookies, not enough milk.

Unusual phobias

Alektorophobia - fear of chickens

Aulophobia - fear of a flute

Clinophobia - fear of going to bed

Ecclesiaphobia - fear of churches

Eisoptrophobia - fear of mirrors

Eeniophobia - fear of chins

Genuphobia - fear of knees

Gymnotophobia - fear of nudity

Ichthyophobia - fear of fish

Levophobia - fear of the left side

Linonophobia - fear of string

Meteorophobia - fear of being hit by meteor

Nephelophobia - fear of clouds

Odontophobia - fear of teeth

Ouranophobia - fear of heaven

Pediophobia - fear of dolls

Pogonophobia - fear of beards

Siderophobia - fear of starts

Stygiophobia - fear of hell

Triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13

Friday, November 7, 2008

Police dog in ad causes Muslims to protest in Britain

Dogs are called a man's best friend. Dogs, because of their keen sense of smell, are used for investigative work in police forces all around the world - from finding explosives and drugs, to being used at crime scenes to detect blood signs, smells, and eventually find traces that can help find criminals. At the same time, dogs are considered unclean by Muslims, and when these 2 situations clash, things can get messy. Refer to this story -,2933,374564,00.html
" Muslims in the Scottish district of Tayside are outraged by the appearance of a wide-eyed, 6-week-old puppy on postcards distributed by the local police force, according to the Daily Mail. Postcards showing police dog-in-training Rebel, a German shepherd born in early December, are causing a furor among the region's Muslims who believe dogs are "ritually unclean," the Daily Mail reports.
The Tayside police force said the police puppy, the force's "newest recruit," was not intended to cause offense. "His incredible worldwide popularity - he has attracted record visitor numbers to our Web site - led us to believe Rebel could play a starring role in the promotion of our non-emergency number," said a police spokesperson. "
As the world gets more globalised and there is a greater integration of different communities from all over into hitherto areas not touched by minorities, there will be more such issues where people are not used to having to make the effort to be a part of cultural diversity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lost at sea without food: Eat the dead

This is a story of what humans can do for survival, and is also a pointer to the moral challenges that people face. In October 2008, a group of 33 Dominican immigrants were trying to reach Puerto Rico by boat when they were reported missing by relatives in mid-October. Survivors said they lost their way after the captain abandoned the ship. Slowly, these immigrants, wracked by hunger, thirst and the vagaries of the sea, started dying. As people died, their bodies were thrown in the sea. This trip is something that is repeated many times every year, with Dominican immigrants trying to reach Puerto Rico in the hundreds every year, making their way through a treacherous passage called the Mona Passage.
Near the end, the remaining 5 survivors, reaching their limit, finally gave up on the distaste they would have felt, and survived on the flesh of their last died member. Eating human flesh is considered a taboo in almost all human cultures, and there are severe punishments for people found doing that; but it has been known to happen before when, faced with survival problems, people have resorted to eating the flesh of their dead companions.
Eventually, the last 5 survivors were rescued by the US Coast Guard, too late for one of them, the last woman in the group, who died shortly after the rescue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Women kills husband in an online game, arrested

Online games where people live in a virtual reality using 'avatars' have become wildly popular, with millions using such games. But if people think that online worlds are a more utopian alternative to the real world, they are mistaken. There are the same kind of emotions, same kind of strange behavior, same weaknesses that exist in real life; they are making their existence felt in such online games as well. Consider the case of this lady who was married in virtual reality to a person who actually lived more than 620 miles away. One day she found herself divorced, and this unnerved her so much that she decided to kill the 'avatar' of her online husband (no implication in real life, but his online character died):

A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband's digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday. The woman, who is jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May.
"I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations.

There have been other cases like this, with people swindling virtual money (with this virtual money capable of being converted into real currency, this is a crime), people objecting when their spouses spend too much time in these games or get married in the virtual world to somebody else, and so on. As time passes by, the probability of such incidents happening would increase.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cannibal jailed for 30 years: Irony, he was a chef

In this time and world, it is hard to imagine the concept of cannibals. There are umpteen religious, moral and legal restrictions against the consumption of human flesh. In fact, the mind would get all disgusted with the thought of eating human flesh. So, when somebody is observed doing it, it gets all the more repulsive:

A British chef who killed a man with a knife and cooked and ate his flesh was sentenced Monday to minimum of 30 years in prison. Judge James Stewart said Anthony Morley, 36, showed no remorse for the killing of Damien Oldfield.
Morley attacked Oldfield, 33, during a night the pair spent together in April at Morley's home in the northern city of Leeds. Morley slit Oldfield's throat as he lay in his bed, stabbed him repeatedly and cooked some of his flesh. Stewart rejected Morley's claim that he had been provoked when Oldfield unexpectedly initiated sexual contact after the pair watched "Brokeback Mountain," a film about two cowboys who try to conceal an affair. Morley claimed Oldfield's actions reawakened traumatic memories of childhood sex abuse and that he feared he was going to be raped.

It is always strange to try and visualize as to why somebody would do something like this ? What thoughts were going on in their head when they did something like this ? In such cases, even the judges must be horrified. They would have to look at photos of the victim, and hear detailed information about what happened, something that would shake even the most hardened of people.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Text from elephants warns of danger

The title of this post seems a bit misleading. This is an interesting innovation, trying to address a problem when elephants (or other animals) live in a sanctuary or compound that is close to human habitation. In such cases, there can be many cases of conflict between the humans and the animals; such conflict is typically where either the animal is foraging for food, or moving out of the current territory. However, this causes problems when humans are nearby - this can lead to the humans treating the animals as a danger, with poisoned food, or with weapons. In some cases, especially when dealing with larger animals, humans have also lost their lives:

The text message from the elephant flashed across Richard Lesowapir's screen: Kimani was heading for neighboring farms. The huge bull elephant had a long history of raiding villagers' crops during the harvest, sometimes wiping out six months of income at a time. But this time a mobile phone card inserted in his collar sent rangers a text message.
The race to save Kimani began two years ago. The Kenya Wildlife Service had already reluctantly shot five elephants from the conservancy who refused to stop crop-raiding, and Kimani was the last of the regular raiders. The Save the Elephants group wanted to see if he could break the habit. So they placed a mobile phone SIM card in Kimani's collar, then set up a virtual "geofence" using a global positioning system that mirrored the conservatory's boundaries. Whenever Kimani approaches the virtual fence, his collar texts rangers. They have intercepted Kimani 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer's field four months ago.

This is very interesting, and may help a long way in resolving the tension that comes in when humans and wild animals interact in the open, outside their traditional boundaries.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Man kills in-laws with flamethrower

In this bad world of ours, there have always been people doing things which normal people cannot understand. Why somebody would do mass murder, or torture other people, or commit incest, or many other such things. You must have also read jokes somewhere about the normally strained relationship between a husband and his in-laws, but would you ever imagine a man burning his aged and infirm inlaws to death ? Read on about this guy in Austria (the same country where a man confined his daughter for 18 years and had 7 forced children through rape with her):

A man in eastern Austria used a homemade flamethrower to kill his wife's elderly parents, police said Saturday. The incident happened at 10pm (4pm ET) Friday in Hartberg, a town in Austria's Styria region, about 22 miles (35.5 kilometers) from the Hungarian border, said Chief Anton Kiesl of the state police homicide division.
Kiesl said the man first spread gas in the room of his 84-year-old in-laws, then lit a homemade propane gas bottle and threw it at them, burning them alive. The mother-in-law suffered from diabetes and her legs had previously been amputated, so she was unable to flee and died in her bed, Kiesl said. The father-in-law was able to flee but died soon afterward; police found his body on a garden bench near the family's apartment, Kiesl said.

Police are investigating as to a motive, but there can be no motive that would justify the murder of elderly people, unable to prevent harm to themselves; and to do this against an elderly lady whose legs have been amputated and who is unable to run to safety must require a horrible mind.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Minister resigns after underwear dance

Why do politicians get caught doing things their middle support base would never be caught doing ? Imagine the career and public image of a politician who is evicted from office for dancing in his underwear at a parliamentary office party ? Dancing in his underwear ? And why was he forced to resign ? Because he had lied about it and his leader had no choice but to ask him to leave because of the initial denial:

An Australian state government minister was forced to quit following reports that he danced in his underwear at a parliamentary office party, the state premier said Thursday. Matt Brown resigned late Wednesday, only three days after he was sworn in as police minister of Australia's most populous state, New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees said.
Rees said he demanded Brown's resignation Wednesday night because the former lawyer and university lecturer -- a state lawmaker for nine years -- initially gave assurances that "absolutely nothing untoward" had happened during the party. "I subsequently put it to former minister Brown late last night that there are too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore," Rees told Fairfax Radio Network. "He conceded he'd been in his underwear and that gave me no option but to demand his resignation."

Such a situation is incredible gossip mill for journalists, and such a news is even covered by serious media (and not only the tabloid press); it would have been very embarrassing for both the minister and his leader, the Premier.

Preacher with 86 wives

The standard joke among men is that 'Why would somebody want to marry more than 1 wife ? Handling one itself can be a big task.' In earlier times, before laws and morality settled on marriage being between one husband and one wife, both polygamy and polyandry were permissible. In fact, in the United States, Mormons were initially allowed polygamy, and it was only about a century back that the Mormon Church outlawed polygamy. Islamic practices the world over however allow a man 4 wives at a time, with the injunction that he has to treat them equally, and not more than 4. This is allowed for Muslims in a huge number of countries in the world, even though this may be disliked in many of the Western countries. However, a preacher in Nigeria has thrown this limit to the sky, having 86 wives and is opposing local efforts to get this number down to 4:

A Nigerian court has granted temporary reprieve to an 84-year-old Muslim preacher with 86 wives after local leaders threatened to force him to leave the area unless he divorced all but four of them. Mohammed Bello launched a legal challenge after local chiefs and Muslim leaders in Bida, a town in central Niger state where he lives with his wives and some 170 children, gave him until Sept 7 to comply with Islamic sharia law, which allows a man to have no more than four wives at a time.
The ruling gives Bello temporary protection from banishment while the court decides whether his rights have indeed been violated. The judge adjourned the case to September 18.

This is a tricky case. Even though the Sharia allows 4 wives, the word of the Sharia is treated as the word of god by devout Muslims, and having more than 4 wives would be going against the word of God. In addition, 86 wives would mean that neither can be discharge his proper husband duties to them, and may not even remember the names of all of them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mom sentenced for killing baby in microwave

I was horrified when I read this. How can a mother do something like this ? There must be some level of insanity that must be running through this lady, else how could a person actually put their own flesh and blood, their own baby into a microwave and kill the baby that way ? This lady has now been convicted of this crime, and sentenced to life in prison:

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A woman has been sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole for killing her baby daughter in a microwave oven. Arnold was convicted of aggravated murder in the 2005 death of month-old daughter Paris Talley. She was spared the death penalty because jurors could not reach a consensus on the punishment.
Arnold was accused of killing month-old Paris Talley in 2005. A judge declared a mistrial in February, and the retrial began August 18. The jury found Arnold guilty Friday of aggravated murder.

It is shocking that anybody could put a defenceless 1 month old infant into a microwave, and then proceed to actually go ahead with the task of putting the microwave on and killing the baby.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Radioactive woman sparks scare in Airport

In these heightened times of high security, especially after planes were used as instruments of mass killing in the WTC attacks, the state of checking at airports is very intense. And the talks of a dirty bomb comprising of dispersal of radioactive substances make checking for radioactive substances a necessary action. So imagine the state of panic at an airport in Vladivostok where a security alarm was set off after detection of radioactive substances:

Authorities evacuated the airport terminal in Vladivostok, in Russia’s far east, after a flight arriving from Seoul set off a radiation alarm.
The alarm was called off when security officials pinpointed the source -- a woman who had just received radiation therapy, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

Treating with radioactive substances for medical reasons is not unknown nowadays, so this was not something totally out of the world. However, it may be possible that the airport was not prepared for something like this. Maybe the next time, advance information should be sent so that such panic does not ensue.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Protester sticks himself to British PM to show protest

In a unique protest, a protester, part of a group that protests against airport expansion and climate change, wanted to make the protest known to the world. What better way to do this than to use the occasion of a meeting with the British Prime Minister. So, the protester, who managed to get himself invited to 10, Downing Street for a small ceremony with the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was to be invited for receiving an award from a charity. He used the traditional hand-shake for good effect, putting super-glue and causing the British Prime Minister to have his hand stuck for around 30 seconds more:

A protester who wanted his message to stick managed to superglue himself to the British prime minister Tuesday evening. Dan Glass was at 10 Downing Street to receive a charity's award for his work on transportation issues when he staged the unusual protest. Just before Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented him with the award, Glass squirted superglue in the palm of his left hand. He shook Brown's right hand and then grabbed the prime minister's sleeve.
"I've just superglued myself to your arm," Glass said he told Brown. "Don't panic. This is a non-violent protest." "I just wanted a few more minutes of his time to get the message across, because he's not listening to communities affected by airport expansion," Glass told CNN on Wednesday.

This was an interesting way of protest, non-violent. Glass was not immediately arrested or evicted, which just shows how a protest can cause embarrassment enough that the Prime Minister could not get him evicted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cutting open a woman to take her baby

This is an incident that you can only read about, and even then you wonder as to what drives people to do something like this. One explanation is that the urge to have a child is so strong that a person is willing to do anything for a baby, including breaking up the bond between another woman and her child through a barbaric way of opening the belly, taking the baby and killing the other woman:

A Pennsylvania woman has been charged in the slaying of an 18-year-old woman who was found with her uterus cut open and her fetus removed, authorities said Sunday. Andrea Curry-Demus, 38, of Wilkinsburg was charged Sunday with criminal homicide kidnapping and unlawful restraint in connection with last week's death of Kia Johnson, Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.
Johnson's eviscerated body -- which police said they found after receiving calls about a foul odor coming from the apartment -- "was in a state of moderate decomposition," and she had been dead about two days, Medical Examiner Karl Williams said. The cause of death hasn't been determined, he said. Police said Curry-Demus arrived by ambulance at a local hospital with a newborn boy Wednesday, claiming that she had just given birth. Hospital personnel determined that she hadn't given birth, so they contacted police, authorities said.

It is hard to believe that such barbaric events can happen; especially to break the bond between a mother and child.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Imagine shooting live bullets when fake ones were supposed to be used

This is the worst nightmare of most people in the defence services, especially during shows meant to showcase the abilities of the military. It is often necessary to stage events that are very realistic, such as the simulated saving of hostages from terrorists, fights with terrorists in urban landscapes, etc. In many such situations, the public can be very close by, having been already informed that the bullets being used are fake. Now imagine the panic and horror when these bullets are fired, but they are not fake, and are instead real ones. Such an incident happened recently in France, and resulted in punishments for many of the soldiers involved, including the moral-grounds resignation of the head of the French Army, General Bruno Cuche:

Paris: The head of France's army has resigned following a weekend shooting at a military show that injured 17 when real bullets were used instead of blanks, the French presidency said on Tuesday.
The defence minister, meanwhile, suspended the use of blank munitions at military shows for the public. Investigators are looking into Sunday's display of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks in southern France. Most of those injured were civilians, and three were children.

This was apparently a mistake when the ammunition was being loaded; it however seems a clear case of negligence at the minimum since the concept of having live ammunition nearby when fake ammunition was supposed to be loaded (along with no cross-checking) seems a bit strange.

Toddler survives for 6 days without food, his mother dead nearby

This is like a miracle straight out of child heaven. Imagine the sorry state of a toddler when his mother, the one who provided for a baby who cannot meet his own needs, died. The baby, even if not very perceptive, would have missed his mother, and been unable to understand as to why the nourishment that he needs was not available. Thankfully, the crying of the baby, was heard by an aid worker after 6 days, and the baby was rescued:

Sacramento, California: Police in California say a 2-year-old boy survived on dry cat food for up to six days after his mother died.
The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported that a social worker heard the toddler crying while making a visit to check on the family Thursday morning. The worker called police after no one answered the door.

This is a heart-rending story, with the plight of the toddler being difficult to imagine or understood.

Jennifer Lopez sued for dog flight

It is presumed that the rich and powerful (especially celebrities) can get away with anything, but sometimes they run against people who are ready to challenge them. Especially for celebrities, the public is far more likely to accept that a celebrity has been at fault, and the story is also highlighted by the media as a juicy morsel that more people will want to read. Consider this case:

The perception may be that anything goes for private jet travelers, but as Jennifer Lopez is finding out, there are some limits to what you can get away with aboard a private jet. As first reported in the New York Daily News, NetJets flight attendant Lisa Watson filed a suit against the Latin diva seeking $5 million in damages from an alleged bite made by Lopez’s guard dog aboard a flight from Farmingdale, NY to Burbank, CA on July 3, 2006.
According to Wilson, 90 minutes into the flight, the dog attacked her and bit into her pant leg as she walked down the cabin of the Gulfstream G-IV. As she tried to get away, Wilson says she twisted and fell, injuring her back in the process. The injuries she sustained would eventually require surgery, and prevented her from being able to work since the incident.

Being a celebrity gets you many benefits, but also comes with its own problems, as Jennifer Lopez is finding out, and many other celebrities already know.

News about poop

Imagine a site where you get all your questions about shit answered. You would never have believed that there would be a site that specializes in talking about poop, but you have it, here is this site, very appropriately named (link). As the site says, you have all these here:
Stories about poop.
Essays about poop.
Consumer reports about poop.
Comics about poop.
In addition, you can subscribe to Poop News.

Being able to prevent cancer in your babies

For some years now, science has been promising many changes in the field of medical sciences. This includes determining problems in many different areas, trying to find solutions for them, and so on. One area that has raised ethical issues is about the field of applying genetic cures in the field of embryos. There is a fear that eventually, without resolving such ethical debates, these advances in the field of science will be used to select 'designer' babies. The following is an example of a case where advances in medical science were used for a good cause:

A woman has conceived Britain’s first baby guaranteed to be free from hereditary breast cancer. Doctors screened out from the woman’s embryos an inherited gene that would have left the baby with a greater than 50% chance of developing the cancer. The woman decided to have her embryos screened because her husband had tested positive for the gene and his sister, mother, grandmother and cousin have all had the cancer.
The 27-year-old British mother, who asked not to be named, says that after seeing all her husband’s female relatives suffer from breast cancer, she felt she had to take action to save their children from the same plight. Any daughter born with the gene would have had a 50% to 85% chance of developing breast cancer. The couple’s doctor, Paul Serhal, medical director of the Assisted Conception Unit at University College London hospital, said the breakthrough gives parents the option of avoiding passing a high risk of breast cancer on to their children.

This is very good news, letting people avoid the pain of not being able to prevent the chances of an enhanced risk of the disease passing onto their children.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Romania allows 11 year old girl to have an abortion

Imagine the moral dilemma. An 11 year old girl, one who is so young and expected to lead a life where school, friends and games are the main ingredients of life, is struggling with the concept of bearing a life - being pregnant due to being raped by somebody known to her - her 19 year old uncle who is now on the run. Romania is a country that does not allow abortion after 14 weeks, but what do you in such a case where the girl is 21 weeks pregnant, but does not even know. Allowing the victim to give birth will essentially ruin her life, changing her life totally (and as can be seen, she was already being seen as different from her friends who were avoiding her), further, for an 11 year old, carrying a pregnancy to full term can be dangerous. Thankfully the Government relented:

BUCHAREST: The Romanian government has allowed an 11-year-old pregnant girl to undergo an abortion on exceptional grounds. The country had been divided in its opinion on the case of the 11-year-old who been raped by her uncle. On Thursday, 20 anti-abortion Orthodox groups had called for her to continue with her pregnancy offering to raise the child.
The girl is 21 weeks pregnant, more than the 14-week limit allowed by Romanian law. Abortions can be carried out later than 14 weeks in Romania, but only to save the life of the mother.

Thankfully, better sense prevailed, and the girl was allowed to terminate her pregnancy, no doubt offensive to pro-lifers, but something that should have been done.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Selling off a live army shell

Corruption takes many strange forms, and can cause very strange situations. However, this incident takes the cake. The Indian army has policies for disposal of its ammunition, and those do not allow letting its soldiers walk off with these shells and sell them for their personal benefit. So how do you account for the stupidity of this armyman and the scrap dealer to whom he sold it to?

Three people, including an Armyman, were killed and three others seriously injured when a shell exploded at a scrap dealer's shop in Punjab’s Muktsar district on Thursday.
Muktsar police chief Gurpreet Singh Gill said the Armyman had taken the shell to the scrap dealer in Mehna village to sell. “When the shopkeeper hit the shell with a hammer, it exploded, killing three people on the spot,” he said.

Shells have been known to be volatile. Bombs that were dropped during World War 2 in Europe are still seen as dangerous, and treated with as much care as live shells. How does one explain the concept of this army soldier trying to sell off a shell; one wonders about the caliber of our soldiers if she did not realize that a shell is volatile. And the policies of the army where a soldier could walk off with a shell during peacetime, and it is not missed.

Adultery and corruption in China

As China prospers, it is seeing a resurgence of the common problems of a rapidly prospering society. The incidence of corruption in the society has increased rapidly to the extent that it is impacting the growth; China has launched a major campaign against corruption and is cracking down severely on corruption (with death penalties being enforced for people caught in corruption cases). The other major issue that has surfaced is that many of these richer people have adopted the practise of having mistresses. The Chinese Government seems to have tried to break both of these tendencies by using one against the other:

Corruption and mistresses don't make good bedfellows. Authorities in southern China are using information obtained from mistresses of government officials to crack down on corruption, state media reported Thursday. At least 80 percent of government officials arrested for corruption in the city of Dongguan in Guangdong province were exposed thanks to their mistresses, the China Daily said.
Beijing has been trying to rein in corruption for several years. A law that went into effect last year mandates that government officials found to have mistresses be dismissed from their posts. In recent years, the country has seen several highly publicized corruption cases involving officials who steal -- in part to provide for their mistresses.

Seems like an interesting way to ferret out this information; it also seems to be apparently working.

Crocodile inside a bar in Australia

Imaging sitting in a bar, enjoying your drink with your plans, and having the fun that you are sitting there for. And then suddenly, you find that you have another companion, a baby salt water crocodile. This could only happen in Australia. In this case, patrons at a bar found a baby crocodile outside the door of the bar, and pulled him inside the bar for photos (and this bar located some distance away from the remote city of Darwin in Australia's North has hosted many strange animals in the past). Read more:

It sounds like the setup to a joke: A crocodile walks into a bar...
Drinkers at a watering hole in the Australian outback found themselves toasting a baby saltwater crocodile that wandered up to the pub's door Sunday. No one knows how the two-foot long (60 cm) crocodile ended up outside the Noonamah Tavern, located off a dusty highway about 25 miles (40 km) from the Northern Territory capital of Darwin.
But unusual creatures are all in a day's drinking for the tavern, said bartender Leila Naray. "We've had a lot of horses pop up. We've had cane toads, which are yukky," she said. "We have had a big buffalo come in, wander around. There's a photo of him with a beer." Two women who work at a gas station outside the bar first spotted the creature. Incredulous bar patrons then rushed out. A couple of men brought the crocodile inside the pub, taped its mouth and Naray snapped photos.

Seems interesting; the concept of picking up a crocodile without fear and then pulling it inside to take photos of it is either very brave or very foolish.

Abortion of a 11 year girl

Catholic countries have a strict injunction against abortion due to religious principles. As a result, abortion is either illegal or under some constraints; these constraints could be related to the terms and conditions under which abortion is legal; or it could be that abortion is illegal after a certain time period. And this is what happened in Romania recently where an 11 year girl was pregnant (after she was raped by her own uncle). Read this story:

Romanian authorities plan to decide Friday whether to allow an 11-year-old girl to have an abortion after she was raped by her teenage uncle, the Romanian Ministry of Health said Thursday. The girl is now 20 weeks pregnant -- too far along to have an abortion in Romania -- and her parents have said they'll take her to Britain for an abortion if the Romanian authorities deny her one at home, a spokeswoman at the health ministry said.
If the girl were to have an abortion, however, she would have to pay for a private doctor rather than using the state-run National Health Service, said the spokesman, who declined to be named in line with policy.

I think that in this case, the girl was allowed to have an abortion on humanitarian grounds. Good, but this was a one time case, one wonders as to what happens in many other cases.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Prisoners strike for more sex

The need for sex is a basic need for people, and there is no better example for this than what happened in a Paraguay prison. The prison allows visits for conjugal purposes, and the regulation was they had to happen during the daytime. But after a riot by the prisoners, this rule was relaxed and such conjugal visits were allowed after daytime work hours (thus letting partners from outside come more frequently without missing work):

Paraguayan officials have put down a prison riot by agreeing to inmates' demands for more sex. Justice Minister Derlis Osorio said Friday the riot at the Esperanza industrial prison ended after four hours without deaths or injuries.

This also means that prisoners can continue to do the work they are doing at the prison during these hours, and not worry about disturbance to their regular schedule.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Teacher brands students hand with a cross

The difference between state policy and religion is a matter of deep controversy in the United States, and also a policy that is enshrined in the US constitution, reinforced by many court rulings in the past. Hence, for a teacher to try and enforce his Christian beliefs (however fundamental these beliefs would be) on impressionable students is something that a number of people would disagree with. The teacher used to keep a copy of the Bible in class, carried the Ten Commandments, and also preached that evolution was flawed (against the education board policy):

The school board of a small central Ohio community voted Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and burning the image of a cross on students' arms, according to the Associated Press.
Freshwater also displayed the Ten Commandments in his classroom and taught creationism, according to an independent investigation launched after the parents of the student who was allegedly branded filed a lawsuit. The suit alleges that he regularly discussed Christianity in his science class, even "teaching the meaning of Easter and Good Friday," and kept at least one and sometimes several Bibles in the room.

If teachers started teaching as per their own personal beliefs, then the entire education system would get flawed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pact to have underage pregnancies

Teenage pregnancies are something that are frowned upon by parents groups, by health officials, and by politicians of all stripes. In addition, the concept of a teenager getting pregnant stems from an unlawful act whereby having sex with a teenager is actually illegal. So, it was all the more worrisome for officials in the state of Massachusetts in the US when 17 teenage girls (all of them younger than 16 years) became pregnant. Now teenage pregnancies have happened before, but this figure was 4 times the previous year's figure for the school, and let officials to worry that this was all part of a pact:

There are reports that some of the girls - none of whom is older than 16 - entered into a pact to have their babies together. The girls and their families have so far made no comment. Officials are also investigating the ages of the fathers. Some are believed to be in their twenties and could face the possibility of being charged with having sex with minors.
"Some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Gloucester High School principal Joseph Sullivan told Time magazine. Local officials say that nearly half of the girls had entered into a bizarre pact to have their babies together. Dr Elizabeth Guthrie, a paediatric psychiatrist at New York's Columbia University, told the BBC that some girls might be viewing pregnancy as a fast-track to adulthood and independence. "It may give you an opportunity for unconditional love and attention from the baby," she said.

Such a happening will really cause a lot of worries for health officials. How do you deal with such a situation; the girls are obviously not ready to have babies when they are so young.

Famous media person / doctor suspended for copying

Over a period of time, people do get caught using other people's work. This is seen as serious when it deals with places where original research or thought is required, such as medical research, writings in journals, pieces of fiction, and so on. In all such cases, people are credited with having done something unique and new, and they are credited with the fame and money for this originality. So, it is shocking in such cases when it is discovered that this was not actually new and they are copying from somebody else (unless it is credited). And yet people keep on doing it, and many of them get caught:

LONDON (Reuters) - Psychiatrist and broadcaster Dr Raj Persaud was suspended for three months after being found unfit to practice for plagiarising other people's work, the medical watchdog said on Friday. The celebrity psychiatrist was suspended after his conduct was found to be "inappropriate, misleading, dishonest and liable to bring the profession into disrepute", the General Medical Council said.
During the disciplinary hearing in Manchester this week he had admitted copying pieces from four research papers for his 2003 book "From the Edge of the Couch". He had also admitted copying passages from two other academic pieces of work in a series of newspaper articles and journals.

It is the world of blogs (especially reporting on some occurrences where there is some relaxation on the rules of copying), so for example, this blog is using a referenced story from another publication.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

'How to kill with a knife' seach on the internet used in court

Over a period of time, researches who deal with privacy issues have proven that it is possible to identify a person just from being able to look at their search records. If this required proof, then one need no look further than this case. In a case in the United States where a father was accused of killing his wife and daughter with a knife, it was revealed that he searched for the words 'How to kill with a knife' on six days before he actually carried out the murder:

A Briton accused of murdering his wife and baby daughter made an Internet search on 'how to kill with a knife' just six days before their bodies were found, a US court heard. "A search was made on Search was made with six words. 'How to kill with a knife,'" Lawrence James, a forensic computer expert and 20-year police officer, testified in Neil Entwistle's double-murder trial.
James told the court that the Google search was made January 16, 2006, six days before Rachel and Lillian Entwistle were found shot dead at their home in an upscale Boston suburb on January 22, 2006. On the eighth day of Entwistle's trial, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett told the court that records showed the suspect had searched the Internet for female escorts only hours before the murders.

It is now wrong to think that searches on the internet are anonymous. ISP records, home computer records, all such evidence can be found and inspected based on court orders and used to build a stronger case.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2 day priests marry in England, touching off stir

The Anglican community has been in the throes of a major heated discussion the world over due to a dispute over the status of homosexuality, especially among priests and whether it was permitted. This discussion has often pitted priests from the developing world (who are faster growing) against priests from England the United States, and has been very heated at times. At such a time, the happening of a marriage between 2 gay priests at one of England's oldest church is akin to adding a lot of heated oil to the fire:

LONDON: The Church of England said Saturday that two gay priests may have broken its rules, after a newspaper report that they exchanged vows and rings in Britain's first ever church "wedding" ceremony. The Sunday Telegraph said clerics Peter Cowell and David Lord "married" at one of England's oldest churches -- Saint Bartholomew the Great in London -- last month, using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites.
A Church of England spokesman told reporters they had "no reason" to believe that the ceremony did not take place but added: "What we seem to have here is a fairly serious breach of the rules by an individual or groups of individuals." News of the ceremony could not come at a worse time for the worldwide Anglican communion, which risks a damaging split because of member churches' diverging attitudes towards homosexuality, particularly amongst clergy. Conservative churches, mainly in Africa, have been odds with their more liberal, Western counterparts since the ordination of an openly gay US priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop in 2003.

Seems a bit strange that the ceremony, to be carried out at one of England's oldest church was not known in advance.

Kerala book shows frog in place of Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is revered as the father of the Indian nation. He has a special place in the Indian polity, with many politicians and social workers using his name and legacy in their actions, and making a name for themselves by called themselves 'Gandhians'. His birthday is celebrated as a National Holiday in India on October the 2nd. So it was a shock and a very surprising thing that school book in one of the states of India showed a frog in a place where Mahatma Gandhi's photo was to be depicted:

Causing extreme embarrassment to Kerala government, a school workbook features the picture of a frog in a chapter on Mahatma Gandhi. The "goof-up" appears in a workbook distributed to students of classes V to IX in Kasargode district of the state. The workbook mentions Gandhi Jayanti and has the picture of a green frog under the heading. Below the picture is a quote by Gandhi on the importance of work.
Education officials were quick to dismiss it as a technical error. They claimed that it happened due to a mistake in handling the printing plates at the press. Officials have also started efforts to collect back the 'erroneous' books so that it can be set right.

Now mistakes happen, but it also seems to be that there was nobody who actually verified the book after it was printed to see whether there was any mistake or not. There would have been somebody whose job it was to verify this, and they must have been goofing off.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Princess caught without clothes on school grounds

What is it with the Royalty in Europe. Europe has one of the last remaining royalty of any stature in this world, and yet, from time to time, the Royals indulge in some behavior of the other that is liable to get them a notorious image in the public eye. So, here, you have Princess Stephanie, sixth in line to the British throne, caught on school grounds without any clothes on. And Britain still has a live and existing royalty, so this is all the more shocking:

Britain's Princess Eugenie has been reprimanded by her school after being caught frolicking naked on college grounds, it was reported Saturday. The 18-year-old daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson, was apprehended for her involvement in end of term "high jinks" at the exclusive Marlborough College, west of London, the UK Press Association said.
The tabloid Sun newspaper reported that a college staff member woke to playful shrieks and found several young women dancing around without clothes. It said there was no suggestion boys were present or that drugs were involved but claimed a pupil said the students had been drinking. Princess Eugenie, the sixth in line to the British throne, is studying art, history of art and English at the $46,000-a-year college, PA said.

These are people with a lot of privileges, something that offsets the concept that even royals are normal people. Such kind of behavior in a normal family would have earned the daughter some reprimands.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Singer hoaxes threat

What happens when a singer has to resort to strange tactics in order to generate publicity ? You get all kind of strange things happening, as evident in this case where the singer tries to spin a story about a death threat:

It's not everyday that I get death threats, so naturally I freaked, clicked on the link and up popped a news report about a series of copycat murders that had been inspired by the R&B singer Ashanti's video "The Way That I Love You," a song about a woman who discovers her boyfriend has been unfaithful. Clutching a butcher knife and dressed in beaded gown, she cries and croons about betrayal. The cheater ends up dead in bathtub.
Turns out the entire thing was a hoax, a publicity stunt created to help Ashanti sell her latest album, "The Declaration." Visitors to her Web site were invited to fill out a "gotcha-gram" questionnaire, which would allow one to personalize the news report. The target would receive an ominous e-mail from a "detective" and the name scrawled in blood at the fictional crime scene would be theirs. It's a great stunt if you're pushing a slasher flick, but isn't R&B music supposed to be about love and romance and not serial killings?

In many cases, such stunts do nothing great for the person, but showcase that the performer is reduced to doing stunts to drum up publicity.

Hunting for witches

The most famous hunting for witches were the Salem witch hunts in the early United States where a number of women were accused of being witches, and burnt at the stake. However, there are still many cultures where there is a belief in witches and ghosts; this turns out to be ghastly in many situations where somebody is accused of being a witch, and in a mob situation, the hapless person is killed in one way or the other; this can actually be used for person retribution against the accused - what better way to get someone out of the way and yet not be accused of anything:

In late May, news outlets in Kenya told the story of 15 people, mostly elderly women, who were murdered in a witch hunt near the town of Kisii. The killings shocked the nation. Villagers said more than 100 people gathered machetes and knives and stormed the village of Kegogi after midnight.
Belief in witchcraft is strong in this part of Kenya. A few days before the incident, a group of schoolchildren reportedly found a book in their school that listed all the people in the community who would soon die and the witches who would be responsible. The area is one of the most populated rural areas in Kenya. Over the years, farming plots have been divided and subdivided. Omache and others say they believe witch hunts are about greed and vendettas in a place where almost everyone struggles to survive.

In all cases, the reason has either to with a fear that turns into a mob action, or with the attempt to get somebody out of the way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Over-weight means you are grounded

This must be extremely humiliating. Having to be told that you are over-weight and hence can no longer be an air-hostess. It is always controversial, the conditions that are imposed for certain jobs. So if a person is working as a model, or as an actress, or as a hostess (whether that be in a hotel, or in a cafe, or in an airlines), there are certain conditions that are imposed in terms of looks and youthfulness. It gets further complicated when the organization is a Government run enterprise and rules against discrimination come into play:

Flight attendant Sheela Joshi is 5 feet, 4 inches and 148 pounds. Her employer, Air India, says she is too fat to fly. Joshi, 50, has been an air hostess -- as they are still called in India -- for the national airline for 26 years. But she's been grounded because the airline has done away with its wiggle room on weight.
"Weight is always on my mind," she added. "They can tell you, 'You look overweight. Please go.'" Joshi and 12 other grounded attendants sued the airline for weight discrimination. Air India fought back, saying the employees knew the job requirements when they signed up and didn't express concern. Furthermore, it said, appearance and physical fitness are vital parts of an attendant's job. The Delhi High Court recently sided with Air India in the case.

Always controversial because they play to the thought that you need to be slim to look attractive to passengers, something that US carriers have had to drop because of too many discrimination suits in the past.

The Pink Hotel in Hawaii

I wonder how many people know about this hotel ? In Honolulu, there is a hotel known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific (too many P's !). It was a wonder in pink, with pink towels, pink tablecloths, pink umbrellas; and was a ultra luxury hotel that cared to the high and mighty and the famous, catering to celebrities such as Rockefellers, Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Dean Martin, etc, and was THE place. However, it fell on bad times, and is now going for a major face-lift, in which it will keep the pink interface, just de-emphasize it a bit:

The last time this iconic pink hotel was closed for renovations, World War II had just ended and the barbed wire that stretched along the shore of Waikiki had been removed. Owners want to return the so-called "Pink Palace of the Pacific" to its heyday several decades ago when it was considered the ultimate in Hawaiian luxury, hospitality and class. The hotel's distinctive rosy exterior and eye-catching Spanish-Moorish architecture won't change. But the interior is slated for a major facelift and -- gasp -- will become less pink.
Gone will be the pink tablecloths, pink napkins, pink towels, pink bed sheets and even the trademark pink-and-white umbrellas at the Mai Tai Bar will become history. It's a bold move by the hotel, which opened in 1927. But hotel managers say they're not entirely getting rid of the pink, just accentuating the pink they have.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Having to attack the Komodo Dragon to live

Imagine having to fight off a Komodo (wikipedia) dragon in order to save your life. A Komodo Dragon is a massive lizard, as much as 3 meters long; so imagine getting caught in an island that is part of the Komodo National Park and having to face this dangerous animal. This is what happened to a group of 5 divers on a trip who went missing, and were eventually rescued after spending 2 nights on the island that does not have people living on them:

Five Europeans rescued Saturday after an Indonesia diving trip went wrong had to fight off a Komodo dragon while they were waiting to be found, according to reports. The divers -- three Britons, a Frenchman and a Swede -- spent two nights on the deserted island, which is home to the large Komodo dragon, before rangers found them Saturday. "On the beach a Komodo dragon came amongst us [Friday] afternoon," Pinel said, describing how the group had to pelt the dangerous reptile with rocks to scare it away.
They were one of two groups of divers who entered the water off Komodo National Park on Thursday and were supposed to be gone for an hour, said an employee of the dive company, Reef Seekers. The second group came back after the hour passed, but the first group failed to resurface, she said.

They were diving in seas that are dangerous because of fast tides, and that could have been a reason for their initial disappearance. The dragon is the top hunter on the island, and can attack humans and has been known to eat human corpses.

Van does 120 miles to escort a prisoner for 200 yards

Taxpayer groups that monitor Government expenditure to ensure avoidance of wastage and tracking expenditure were horrified at this recent case in the United Kingdom. A prisoner was to be moved between courts for a hearing; the distance between the courts was 200 yards. The police washed their hands off the matter since the prisoner was in the custody of the courts system, and it was deemed inappropriate to the rights of the prisoner (since he was an accused and not convicted) to make him wear handcuffs for the 200 yard journey across the road. So what was the solution ? A van was called to take him, and the van was called from a place more than 60 miles away:

Local Tory MP Brian Binley said: “I’ve never heard such nonsense. Quite frankly I don’t care about his human rights in this situation and I’m sure he wouldn’t have either. To get a matter like this mixed up with human rights is nonsense.” Labour MP Sally Keeble said: “This seems to me like a complete waste of public money and a breakdown of common sense.”
The “dilemma” arose when Mark Bailey, 35, appeared at Northampton Crown Court to answer theft charges. After a short hearing, he was told to report to the magistrates across the road. Rather than walking, a vehicle was dispatched from Cambridge almost 60 miles away.

It is quite normal for tax payers to respond in outrage to such a case. In times of such high oil prices, and when people are struggling with bad economic situation, such wasteful expenditure should have been avoided. A compromise should have been found.

Police find drunk mother has child at the wheel

Seems like a scary scenario; imagine the horror of police when they stop a car and find that the car is being driven by a drunk lady. Finding a drunk driver already is a bad offense because of the danger to other drivers on the road, as well as to the person driving the road. And when this happens in the case of lady who already has a suspended license because of a prior drunk driving offense, it gets even more worrisome. And to compound matters, there is a 1 year kid sitting on the mother's lap and steering with the other children in the back of the car:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A patrol officer stopped a car for suspicious driving and found to his surprise that a drunk mother had let her one-year-old son take the wheel, the Ohio state police department said Thursday. Marya Green, 29, of Goshen Township, near Cincinnati, was arrested late Tuesday and found to have a 0.11 percent blood alcohol level -- well above the 0.08 percent legal limit.
Green had put her infant son behind the steering wheel, while two other children aged eight and five were also traveling in the car, she added.

This was very dangerous, given that in the case of any impact, the infant would have taken the impact of the steering wheel, with the lives of the other children in the car also at risk.

Eye-Fi card tracks down camera thief

This is a story seemingly out of science fiction, but in reality happened. People unfortunately have a recurring tendency to forget their belongings; remember the times when somebody claimed that they lost their laptop or phone in the cab or train, or left the purse or wallet in the restaurant / hotel. By the time you remember, it is too late, it is only rarely that you get your belonging back. And of course, if it has been stolen, then the chances of getting it back is almost nil.
Well, here is a case where the camera that was stolen (and from which previous personal photos had not yet been retrieved) phoned back through the medium of the Eye-Fi card and even sent back photos of the thieves (the precious personal photos were also sent back). This happened through some coincidences, but is still remarkable:

Here's a new use for the Eye-Fi wireless SD card that we hadn't considered: A virtual private eye. Eye-Fi user Alison DeLauzon lost $1,000 worth of photo gear while on holiday in Florida. The Eye-Fi SD card, once plugged into your camera, hooks up to the internet and sends your photos to either an online sharing site or directly back to your home machine. In this case it was the latter, and the hapless thief not only sent the precious vacation shots back to Alison's computer, but -- according to the email we received from Gadget Lab reader Joe Volat -- "pictures [of] the thieves proudly displaying Alison's lifted camera equipment."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Having sex in space

As the industry of commercial space travel starts to take off, with tickets being sold for sub-orbital space travel, there would be a number of people who would want to expand on the concept of the mile-high club (having sex when in an plane). The sheer thought of being able to have sex in space must be sending many couples on a high, after all, James Bond has done it in the movies. And there would be the thrill of having your name in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first couple to actually do it when in space. But Doctors are not so sure about how much it would be possible:

LONDON: An increasing number of couples expressing their desire to have sex in space have become a cause of concern for scientists, says a report. The experts do not think that it would be possible to have intercourse in space. "We've had a variety of people inquire about it," Daily Star quoted Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, whose boss Richard Branson hopes to put tourists into space next year, as saying.
Experts guess that realising sex in space would require spacecraft like the Shuttle to be installed with special "love handles" that would control astronauts floating around.

Of course, it is going to happen sooner or later, so it makes sense for people to start thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


It is widely suggested that computers improve efficiency.

Lovers of vintage chaos might remember the computer installed in 1975 by Avon County Council to pay staff wages.

The computer's spree started off in a small way, paying a school caretaker 75 pounds an hour instead of 75 pence.

Then it got ambitious and did not pay a canteen worker at all for seven weeks. Before long it got positively confident and paid a janitor 2,600 for a weeks work.

He sent it back and received another for the same amount by return post.

There was now no stopping it.

A deputy headmistress received her year's annual salary once a month; heads of department earned less than their assistants, and some people had more tax deducted in a week than they earned in a year.

In February 1975 two hundred and eighty employees on the council payroll attended a protest meeting. Of these only eight had been paid the correct salary. They all went on strike.

Robot climbs up a peak in the Grand Canyon

Climbing up mountains has always been seen as a challenge for adventure minded humans; the more tough, the more challenging and attractive it seems to want to conquer the peak. However, it seems that in a matter of some time, there could be competition in the arena of climbing mountains, with the demonstration by a robot climbing up a half a kilometer peak in 6 hours. This was just a beginning, given that this was the 6th attempt and the climbing was done by ascending on a rope, but this was just a start:

Neither rain, sleet or hail could stop a Japanese robot from climbing the Grand Canyon, with the hand-sized "Evolta" scaling a 530 meter cliff in just under seven hours.
Powered by two AA batteries on its back, the blue robot inched up a thin rope with its hands and feet over four days late last month, hampered by rain and heavy wind, but making it to the top on its sixth try. The final feat took six hours and 46 minutes.

What could happen in the future ? Indestructible robots carrying humans as they climb the toughest and largest peaks ?

Turning rubbish into a tourist spot

Imagine turning a part of the sea into a landfill by dumping ash (generated from burning garbage) into it, and eventually this turns into an island. Sounds gross, does it not ? Imagine the smell such a place would have, you would want to be as far away from such a place as possible. So then does it seem possible that such a landfill actually becomes a place where birds come to make their resting ground, many varieties of sea creatures flock here, and people throng the place for getting some good roaming places ? Don't believe me, then read this ?

SINGAPORE: Once there was a dirty bit of sea next to the world's busiest port here. Today it is an island where birds nest and people play, though the entire island is made of rubbish. You wouldn't know unless you were told. There's no sight or smell at Semakau landfill to indicate it is the last depository of Singapore's garbage. The corals and all the animals of the beach have been fooled too - they think it's a natural island, and they have grown in droves around it.
The place is so clean it has turned into a new holiday spot. Students come in droves for inter-tidal walks where they gawk at mangrove roots, seagrass, coral reefs, crabs, starfishes, sponges, shrimps and many other forms of life that thrive in the belt between high and low tide marks. Birdwatchers come to glimpse at some of the 66 species recorded at Semakau, sport-fishermen love its artificial lagoon and even amateur astronomers prefer it because they can get away from the glare of the city lights.

The good point is that the authorities believe that the quantity of ash being generated is getting reduces due to the citizens becoming more concerned about the environment.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New York lawyer sues Delta for mistreatment

You know the concept, never mis-treat a lawyer unless you want to be dragged through a whole trial that could be very damaging to the public relations for Delta Airlines. A New York lawyer has filed a case against Delta for causing his vacation to turn into a nightmare, with having to spend a long time in the airport, and being treated very rudely by the staff of the airline. The man had planned a trip to Buenos Aires to celebrate his mom's 80th birthday; instead he ended up spending many days in the airport, being without luggage and being treated very rudely by the airline staff:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York lawyer is suing Delta Air Lines for $1 million, saying his family vacation turned into a nightmare after they were stranded in an airport for days and treated disdainfully by airline employees. Roth, his two teenage children, his wife and mother spent three days in airports, went days without their luggage, were treated rudely by airline employees and were forced to spend $21,000 on unused hotel rooms in Argentina, replacement clothes, and other costs.
After the initial flight from New York was delayed by more than two hours, the family was not allowed to board their connecting flight in Atlanta, Roth said. A Delta employee "literally walked away chuckling that he had left them stranded," he said.
After waiting in the airport for hours, Roth was told the next available flight would depart more than two weeks later. He then booked a flight through a different airline and arrived in Argentina three days later than planned. The family was not reunited with their luggage for more than five days.

This would be yet another horror story about airlines and their staff; unfortunately, there are many such stories that are common place nowadays.

California man on trial for torture of family

In the recent past, due to the 2 incidents where fathers have kept their daughters under duress and even had forcible incest with them (leading to the birth of children), it is not surprising any more to read stories where fathers have mistreated their families; but it still causes some distress to read about such painful incidents. Take this case in California (yep, you read it right, California) where a father mistreated his 19 children, including stories of torture and starvation over a period of years. He even managed to manipulate his children to mislead social workers when they came to investigate (although it would seem that the social workers accepted everything at face value):

MURRIETA, Calif. - For weeks, the three wives of Mansa Musa Muhummed and most of their 19 children have been telling a jury countless stories of torture and starvation that they kept to themselves for years. Muhummed sat in a desert courthouse with a hand over his face, shaking his head in denial as family members described being beaten, strung up by their feet and forced to eat vomit and feces.
The trial delays may have hurt his case because his children — once reluctant to talk to authorities — are now telling strangers of extreme deprivation, physical abuse and starvation. Standing just 4-foot-6 and weighing about 98 pounds, Sharon Boddie, 27, told jurors last week that she had grown and gained weight since her father was arrested nine years ago and the children were sent to foster or group homes.
But she still has scars from beatings and burns. She said she was taken out of school in second grade because she kept running away and teachers no longer wanted her there because she stole other children's lunches. "I'd go like a week without eating, not even water," she said in a flat, unemotional voice. She said she would be beaten when she tried to steal food from the refrigerator.

Such incidents are a blot on the concept of a civilized world, and it is shocking that such things can happen in a country as advanced as the United States.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Unknown woman living in closet

Very creepy, imagine if in your apartment, you find that stuff keeps vanishing without a trace and no one could have come from outside to do the stealing. Enough to make a person believe that the apartment is haunted; however, to the Japanese man who witnessed this happening, he used the wonders of modern technology to find the truth. This 57 year old man setup a hidden camera and found that a woman had been living in a closet that had not been used for quite some time:

A Japanese man who was mystified when food kept disappearing from his kitchen, set up a hidden camera and found an unknown woman living secretly in his closet, Japanese media said on Friday. The 57-year-old unemployed man of Fukuoka in southern Japan called police on Wednesday when the camera sent pictures to his mobile phone of an intruder in his home while he was out on Wednesday, the Asahi newspaper said on its Website.

what a concept; imagine not knowing that a woman had been living in your home for so long.

Man sues tourist company over bad hotel tour

It almost sounds racist, unless you put yourself in the shoes of the person who has undergone such conditions. A British holidaymaker, responding to a tourist brochure, booked rooms at a hotel in Greece, and when he went their with his family, he found that the hotel was full of Germans, with only 25 of the 700 families being English, and most of the other 675 being German. Now this was not a reason for the complaint that he made, but it was the fact that all the facilities, the reps over there, all of this communication was in German and he could not enjoy his stay:

A British holidaymaker was awarded compensation by a court because there were too many German tourists at the hotel he booked in Greece, newspapers reported on Saturday. David Barnish, 47, paid 4,000 pounds (5,100 euros, 8,000 dollars) to take his wife and three daughters to a resort in Kos, but the family were unable to take part in entertainment or children's activities because they were only organised in the German language, the Daily Telegraph and Sun reported.
Barnish sued holiday company Thomson for breach of contract, claiming it had failed to disclose that the Grecotel Park hotel was used almost exclusively by Germans. A court in the central English city of Stoke awarded him 750 pounds in compensation after a judge ruled that customers at a hotel featured in an English-language brochure should be provided for in their own language, the reports said.

This was an interesting case, and was substantiating the consumers cannot be taken for a ride. If they are not getting what they have paid for, then they can complain and get their complaints heard.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Couple puts 7 day old baby girl for sale on the internet

This is the second time this year that such a thing has been reported. The internet, especially classified sales lists such as Craiglist have been used by people to sell all sorts of things, essentially as a online flea market. But no one can expect such lists to be used to sell human babies; in this case, a couple battling drug problems put in a young baby girl for sale on the internet. They were only caught when another woman saw the listing and reported it to authorities:

A couple put their seven-day-old baby girl up for sale for USD 10,000 over the Internet, Canadian police has said. The baby was seized by social workers in an apartment in this Pacific coast city while the parents, who have a history of drug problems, are under investigation for human trafficking, said police Constable Tim Fanning, just days after a similar incident in Germany.
The ad read "Must have!!!!!!" and offered a baby girl for 10,000 dollars. It described the child as seven days old, "very healthy and very cute. Can't afford and unexpected, looking for a good home, please call ASAP."

For no fault of hers, this baby has parents who are looking to sell their baby. Even considering that this is a hoax and a prank, it is very difficult to convince people that parents of a 7 day old baby could go so far as to think about putting their baby for sale on the internet (this is certainly not humour).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UN peace-keepers accused of child abuse

The world has come to depend on peace-keepers (deputed by the United Nations) to step in where individual countries and their forces cannot step in. Over the past few decades, the peace-keepers have gone to so many countries (especially in Africa) where they have come to represent the commitment of the international community to help out the citizens of countries that are having leadership or governance problems and need help. So it is all the more shocking that these same peacekeepers have been pointed out in a report as being responsible for many crimes such as the exploitation of young children, pornography, and trafficking of children:

Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said. After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.
Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the "chronic under-reporting" of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence. In 2003, U.N. Nepalese troops were accused of sexual abuse while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six soldiers were jailed. A year later, two U.N. peacekeepers were repatriated after being accused of abuse in Burundi, and U.N. troops were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan.

Such incidents are very shocking, and need a detailed investigation. The peace-keepers operate in regions where there is very little authority, and where people are even otherwise subject to all sorts of conditions; and if there are fears that they will start behaving in such a manner, trust will be lost.

Horrific apartheid-era happening in South Africa

South Africa has been free of racial discrimination / apartheid for many years now, and no longer are there incidents of white vs. black allowed legally. In fact, the country is rules by a party that represented the aspirations of the black people fighting the white government. So it was all the more surprising to read of an incident where white students at a University tricked some black workers into having some meat stew laced with urine, something that sounds positively horrible:

A South African university said Tuesday it will close the dormitory where white students tricked black workers into tasting stew laced with urine, an incident that sparked protests when revealed earlier this year.
The school became the focus of protests in February, after video surfaced of white students at the dormitory urging at least five black housekeepers to eat what appeared to be beef stew in a plastic bowl. Before serving the stew to the housekeepers, the students urinated into the mixture. At the end of the video, recorded in September, a message appears on the screen in Afrikaans saying, "That, at the end of the day, is what we think of integration."

This essentially shows that there are racial feelings still present among people, and it will be a challenge to get rid of them.

Shopping, and getting bitten by a scorpion

This must not happen often. Imagine going off to a supermarket and having to watch your fingers to see what creatures are just waiting to bite into your hand when you are picking up some fruit or vegetables. This is not a horror movie, but actually happened to a 12 year old girl when she was trying to purchase a seedless watermelon from a bin in a Wal-Mart. This may happen rarely, but it no less dangerous, and something that people need to be careful about:

BARBOURSVILLE, West Virginia: One young shopper at a Wal-Mart in West Virginia had to watch out for more than falling prices. A 12-year-old girl picking up a seedless watermelon from a bin was stung Sunday by a tan, inch-long scorpion that had apparently stowed away in a shipment from Mexico.
Megan Templeton, of Barboursville, was taken to the hospital as a precaution but later released. Her father, William Templeton, said the pain was a little worse than a bee sting. He initially did not believe his daughter when she said she had been stung by a scorpion, but then he saw the it scurry underneath a box. It was captured by Wal-Mart employees.

This must have been a big shock for the girl, but thankfully it seemed to be a non-poisonous variety.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cat brings in passengers to Japanese railway station

In an interesting marketing spin, a Japanese company has used the cuddly pull of a cat to bring back customers to travel in trains. The company has been in a tight financial situation recently, and seems to have found an ideal solution to grow the business. So what does it do? It puts a nine year old cat in a railway uniform cap at the entrance of Kishi station, and revenue has actually grown by 10%. Cats are considered good luck in Japan:

All the nine-year-old cat does is sit by the entrance of Kishi station in a railway uniform cap and pose for photos for the tourists. Tama has done such a good job of raising revenue for the Kishikawa train line that she was recently promoted to “super-station-master”.
Appointing a cat to turn around fortunes makes cultural sense in Japan, where cats are believed to bring in business. People are snatching up postcards, notebooks and badges decorated with Tama's picture. There is even a ¥1,365 (£6.65) book of photographs called Diary of Tama, the Station Master.

If you click on the link of the article, you will see a cute photo of the cat.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Weird laws in Idaho

. Boise: Residents may not fish from a giraffe's back.
. Coeur d' Alene: If a police officer approaches a vehicle and suspects that the occupants are engaging in sex, he must either honk, or flash his lights and wait for three minutes before approaching the car.
. Idaho Falls, Idaho: If you're 88 years of age or older, it's illegal for you to ride your motorcycle.
. Idaho state law makes it illegal for a man to give his sweetheart a box of candy weighing less than fifty pounds.
. Idaho and other states allow members of the Native American church to use the hallucinogenic plant peyote in religious services.
. Illegal for a man to give his sweetheart a box of candy weighing less than fifty pounds.
. In Idaho walking along the street with a red-tipped cane is strictly prohibited.
. In Idaho, a citizen is forbidden by law to give another citizen a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds.
. It's illegal to hunt from the back of an animal.
. Non-married couples in Idaho who engage in sexual intercourse can be jailed for up to six months
. Pocatello: A law passed in 1912 provided that "The carrying of concealed weapons is forbidden, unless some are exhibited to public view"; A person may not be seen in public without a smile on their face.
. Riding a merry-go-round on Sundays is considered a crime.
. The town of Idaho Falls, Idaho, forbids anyone over the age of eighty-eight to ride a motorcycle.
. You may not fish on a camel's back.

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