Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dick Cheney to be charged with massive bribery.

From Huffington Post:
Nigerian authorities will charge former Vice President Dick Cheney over a bribery scandal that is alleged to involve Halliburton, BusinessWeek reports. An arrest warrant "will be issued and transmitted through Interpol," said Godwin Obla, the prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria.

The charges center on an alleged $180 million bribery payment used to secure a $6 billion liquefied natural gas contract. Prosecutors are also looking into international companies Saipem and Technip. Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, before becoming George W. Bush's running mate. "As the CEO of Halliburton, he has the responsibility for acts that occurred during that period," Obla told the AFP.

Nigeria arrested 12 employees of Halliburton earlier in the week, reports Reuters. The firm's offices in Nigeria were raided by anti-corruption police, although the company said that the detentions "had no legal basis and that its employees had since been freed."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Robbery foiled by bag of empanadas.

Is there nothing empanadas can't do? (Thanks Jen!) From AP:
DEMING, N.M. (AP) — Robbers, beware of clerks wielding pastries.

Police in Deming, N.M., say a clerk foiled a robbery last week when she hit the culprit on the back of the head with a package of empanadas, a type of Latin American pastry.

Police say the masked man didn't say a word when he grabbed the cash register at Amigo's Mexican Food and tried to flee.

Deming police Capt. Brandon Gigante says the man dropped the register when the clerk threw the pastries and hit him.

Barbara Orquiz, who owns Amigo's with her husband, Arnold, says the cash register's cord got caught when the man tried to take it. The clerk saw him grab it, screamed and got him with the empanadas.

Orquiz says the man was covering his head as he ran away.

Narcissism no longer a psychiatric disorder.

Yayy, I'm finally normal! As well as supremely awesome (like, duh). From NY Times:
Narcissists, much to the surprise of many experts, are in the process of becoming an endangered species.

Not that they face imminent extinction — it’s a fate much worse than that. They will still be around, but they will be ignored.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due out in 2013, and known as DSM-5) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition.

Narcissistic personality disorder is the most well-known of the five, and its absence has caused the most stir in professional circles.

Most nonprofessionals have a pretty good sense of what narcissism means, but the formal definition is more precise than the dictionary meaning of the term.

Our everyday picture of a narcissist is that of someone who is very self-involved — the conversation is always about them. While this characterization does apply to people with narcissistic personality disorder, it is too broad. There are many people who are completely self-absorbed who would not qualify for a diagnosis of N.P.D.

The central requirement for N.P.D. is a special kind of self-absorption: a grandiose sense of self, a serious miscalculation of one’s abilities and potential that is often accompanied by fantasies of greatness. It is the difference between two high school baseball players of moderate ability: one is absolutely convinced he’ll be a major-league player, the other is hoping for a college scholarship.

Of course, it would be premature to call the major-league hopeful a narcissist at such an early age, but imagine that same kind of unstoppable, unrealistic attitude 10 or 20 years later.

The second requirement for N.P.D.: since the narcissist is so convinced of his high station (most are men), he automatically expects that others will recognize his superior qualities and will tell him so. This is often referred to as “mirroring.” It’s not enough that he knows he’s great. Others must confirm it as well, and they must do so in the spirit of “vote early, and vote often.”

Finally, the narcissist, who longs for the approval and admiration of others, is often clueless about how things look from someone else’s perspective. Narcissists are very sensitive to being overlooked or slighted in the smallest fashion, but they often fail to recognize when they are doing it to others.

Most of us would agree that this is an easily recognizable profile, and it is a puzzle why the manual’s committee on personality disorders has decided to throw N.P.D. off the bus. Many experts in the field are not happy about it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bees in Brooklyn producing cherry syrup instead of honey.

These little guys need to bee-have! Har har. Oh, my stinging puns! From the NY Times:
Cerise Mayo expected better of her bees. She had raised them right, given them all the best opportunities — acres of urban farmland strewn with fruits and vegetables, a bounty of natural nectar and pollen. Blinded by devotion, she assumed they shared her values: a fidelity to the land, to food sources free of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial food coloring.

And then this. Her bees, the ones she had been raising in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and on Governors Island since May, started coming home to their hives looking suspicious. Of course, it was the foragers — the adventurers, the wild waggle dancers, the social networkers incessantly buzzing about their business — who were showing up with mysterious stripes of color. Where there should have been a touch of gentle amber showing through the membrane of their honey stomachs was instead a garish bright red. The honeycombs, too, were an alarming shade of Robitussin.

“I thought maybe it was coming from some kind of weird tree, maybe a sumac,” said Ms. Mayo, who tends seven hives for Added Value, an education nonprofit in Red Hook. “We were at a loss.”

An acquaintance, only joking, suggested the unthinkable: Maybe the bees were hitting the juice — maraschino cherry juice, that sweet, sticky stuff sloshing around vats at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company over on Dikeman Street in Red Hook.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” said Ms. Mayo, a soft-spoken young woman who has long been active in the slow-food movement. She found it particularly hard to believe that the bees would travel all the way from Governors Island to gorge themselves on junk food. “Why would they go to the cherry factory,” she said, “when there’s a lot for them to forage right there on the farm?”

It seems natural, by now, for humans to prefer the unnatural, as if we ourselves had been genetically modified to choose artificially flavored strawberry candy over strawberries, or crunchy orange “cheese” puffs over a piece of actual cheese. But when bees make the same choice, it feels like a betrayal to our sense of how nature should work. Shouldn’t they know better? Or, perhaps, not know enough to know better?

A fellow beekeeper sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in the maraschino cherry juice.

No one knows for sure where the bees might have consumed the dye, but neighbors of the Dell’s factory, Ms. Mayo said, reported that bees in unusually high numbers were gathering nearby.

Horror movie set mistaken for "most grisly murder in 35 years."

From Daily Mail:
Firefighters who responded to a hotel blaze stumbled upon a blood-splattered hotel room littered with liquor bottles and even a piece of a scalp.

Police Chief J.R. Blyth, who was called in to investigate, described the discovery at the George Washington Hotel in Pittsburgh 'the most grisly murder scene in his 35 years in law enforcement'.

Detectives had spent eight hours of overtime on the investigation before Chief Blyth realised the blood wasn’t real and that the murder scene was in fact the leftover set of a horror movie filmed two years ago with Corey Haim.

The film called New Terminal Hotel shot a scene in the hotel and the hotel owner decided to leave the room untouched in case the crew had to come back for re-shoots.

It is more likely, however, based on his laughter in the news report, that he just thought the room looked cool.

The police chief called in detectives for eight hours of overtime before realising that it wasn’t actually a murder scene.

He may have been influenced by the fact that 12 people have died in the George Washington Hotel since 1923, and that it has a reputation for being haunted.

Corey Haim, former Eighties teen heartthrob, died in March aged just 38 from a suspected accidental drug overdose.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spider-Man Broadway debut is a web of bugs.

From the Daily Bugle... err.. NY Post:
Not even Spider-Man could avert this disaster.

Last night's opening pre view of Broadway's most expensive production ever, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," was an epic flop as the $65 million show's high-tech gadgetry went completely awry amid a dull score and baffling script, theatergoers griped.

Stunned audience members were left scratching their heads over the confusing plot -- when they weren't ducking for cover from falling equipment and dangling actors at the Foxwoods Theatre on West 42nd Street, some said.

At various points, overhead stage wires dropped on the audience, scenery appeared on stage missing pieces -- and the show's star was even left swaying helplessly over them midair during what was supposed to be the climatic end to the first act.

The production -- directed by Julie Taymor of "Lion King" fame and with a score by U2's Bono and The Edge -- appeared cursed from the start, audience members said.

It opened with Taymor's personal creation, the eight-legged female character Arachne, taking the stage.

The spider is the radioactive arachnid that bites Peter Parker, giving the photographer his superhuman Spider-Man powers.

As the character, played by actress Natalie Mendoza, finished her big number "Rise Above" while suspended over the crowd, an apparent wire malfunction left her stopped in midair -- where she remained for an embarrassing seven or eight minutes as stagehands worked feverishly to figure out the problem.

The stage manager finally said over the loudspeaker, "Give it up for Natalie Mendoza, who's hanging in the air!"

The show had to be stopped four times in the first act alone for various snags.

Parker's love interest, Mary Jane, was supposed to be saved from atop the Chrysler Building. But part of the building was missing, and Mary Jane was no where in sight.

As puzzled theater patrons looked around, Spider-Man -- played by Reeve Carney -- suddenly flew in with Mary Jane in his arms and put her down on stage.

He was then supposed to fly off in a dramatic end to the first act.

Instead, Spider-Man got stuck in midair and swung back and forth over the crowd as three stagehands leaped up and down futilely trying to grab onto one of his feet to haul him back to earth.

Another sticky situation involved Spider-Man nemesis Green Goblin, said disgruntled audience members.

As the Goblin -- played by Patrick Page of "Grinch" fame -- sat down at the piano for a scheduled number, he was left to continue playing on . . . and on . . . as stage workers openly rushed around to fix faulty equipment.

Page finally started vamping it up for grateful audience members, riffing on the tune, "I'll Take Manhattan."

"This is the best part of the whole show," grumbled theatergoer Steve Poizner of California.

The production dragged on for nearly 3½ hours.

In its last 10 minutes, the show was completely stopped for at least half that time to work out kinks.

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like a guinea pig tonight!" one woman angrily shouted out from her orchestra seat during the down time.

"I feel this was a dress rehearsal!"

Taymor was at the preview, as was producer Michael Cohl, although Bono and The Edge were in Australia on tour with U2.

Football player blames God for dropped ball.

I love this guy. From CNN:
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a game-winning touchdown in the end zone Sunday in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Anyone who has ever tossed the pigskin around in the back yard dreams of that scenario - minus the drop, of course.

Johnson did not even have to work for the ball. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass was text-book perfect, landing squarely in Johnson's hands.

After the game, Johnson's twitter account filed this faithy tweet:



[...] This brings us to a larger theological question: Does God hate the Buffalo Bills? You may remember this is the very team that lost four straight Super Bowls.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dead: Leslie Nielsen.

Shirley, you can't be serious. From NY Daily News:
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Leslie Nielsen, who went from drama to inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in "Airplane!" and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in the "Naked Gun" comedies, has died. He was 84.

His agent John S. Kelly says Nielsen died Sunday at a hospital near his home in Ft. Lauderdale where he was being treated for pneumonia.

The Canadian-born Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York. With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a movie leading man.

He quickly became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

Priest solicited murder of boy he abused.

From CNN:
A Catholic priest, facing criminal charges and a lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused a teenage boy, is now charged with attempting to hire someone to kill the youth, authorities said Tuesday.

The Rev. John M. Fiala was in the Dallas County, Texas, jail on Tuesday, charged with one count of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the jail's website. He also is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. His bail totals $700,000.

Fiala, 52, of Dallas, was out on bond on other sexual assault charges involving the youth, now 18, when he allegedly attempted to negotiate the boy's murder, said Tom Rhodes, the teen's attorney.

He was arrested last week after he offered an undercover agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety $5,000 to kill the teen, according to department spokeswoman Lisa Block.

"This guy," Edwards County Sheriff Don Letsinger said, "is an evil man."

A call to Rex Gunter, the defense attorney listed in jail records for Fiala, was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The youth met Fiala in 2007, according to Rhodes. The attorney said the priest started "grooming him," buying him gifts including a computer and a car. In early 2008, when the boy was 16, under the guise of providing private catechism lessons, Fiala "gained access to him and began to sexually abuse him once or twice a month, including on church grounds," Rhodes said.

At the time, Fiala was administrator of Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings, Texas, which is in Edwards County. The alleged abuse occurred in two counties -- Edwards and Howard -- and included the youth's rape at gunpoint, the attorney said.

Fiala allegedly threatened to kill the youth if he told anyone -- threats he repeated in daily text messages, Rhodes said, and Fiala also threatened to kill himself, telling the teen they would "go to heaven together."

The teen, after struggling with the abuse, told a school counselor, who notified authorities, Rhodes said. He filed suit in April against Fiala, as well as the archdioceses of San Antonio, Texas, and Omaha, Nebraska -- where Fiala was before Texas -- and Fiala's religious order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, the attorney said.

Spanish woman claims she owns the Sun - and will start charging users.

Well, better her than Con Edison. From Daily Mail:
It has been up there in the sky in plain view for billions of years - and nobody seems to have thought of its earning potential - until now.

A canny Spanish woman from Galicia - a sun-drenched region on the boarder with Spain and Portugal - has decided that she owns the warming star, and has the registration papers to prove it.

Angeles Duran, 49, says that the Sun officially belongs to her now, having had the celestial body registered in her name at a local notary office.

Ms Duran told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our solar system.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.

'There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law.

'I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first.'

The document issued by the notary public declares Ms Duran to be the 'owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers'.

Ms Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government - and 20 per cent to the nation's pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 per cent to research, another 10 per cent to ending world hunger - and would keep the remaining 10 per cent herself.

She said: 'It is time to start doing things the right way, if there is an idea for how to generate income and improve the economy and people's wellbeing, why not do it?'

For those who might be a little too broke to venture out in the sunlight - and risk a large bill at the end of the day - Ms Dueran has not yet figured out a way of enforcing her sun charge.