Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meteor fireball spotted in skies over Britain.

From BBC News:
Stargazers throughout the UK have reported seeing a meteor-like streak of light in the darkened skies.

The BBC was contacted by people in Scotland, the Midlands, Wales, and northern and south west England who saw the display at about 1740 GMT.

One witness driving home from work in Coventry said the light was a bit scary because it was so "incredibly bright".

Astronomers said the brightness of the meteor, a chunk of space rock burning up in the atmosphere, was unusual.

Dr David Whitehouse, astronomer and former BBC correspondent, said: "It's a bright meteor called a fireball, extraordinarily bright.

"This a chunk of space rock perhaps the size of your fist, perhaps a bit larger, that is burning up as it comes through our atmosphere at an altitude of 60 or 70 miles or so.

"So it sounds extraordinary if you're very lucky enough to have seen it. It's quite rare."

Dr Edward Bloomer, an astronomer with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the fireball was probably part of the Geminids meteor shower, which happens every year, appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini and will peak on 14 December.

"We are passing through the trail of the comet, and the material that's in the tail burns up when it comes into contact with the Earth's atmosphere," he said.

"A fireball is rather exotic and because it is bigger, it glows brighter and takes longer to break up."

Bank of America to pay $137M for defrauding schools, hospitals.

From Raw Story:
Attorneys general from 20 states reached an agreement that will require Bank of America to pay $137.3 million for its part in a bid-rigging scheme, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The financial institution is accused of defrauding state agencies, municipalities, schools districts, hospitals and other non-profit organizations by rigging bids on municipal bond contracts.

According to a notice on its website, the company will pay restitution of $107.8 million to the counterparties affected by the practice and another $25 million to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An additional $4.5 million in legal costs will be paid to state attorneys.

The federal government showed leniency after Bank of America self-reported its potential wrongdoing.

"As previously disclosed, Bank of America was granted amnesty in 2007 by the Department of Justice for self-reporting evidence of possible wrongdoing before the industrywide investigation of these practices began and for continuing to cooperate with the Justice Department's investigation," a statement on Bank of America's website said.

"We are pleased that Bank of America came forward to take responsibility for its conduct and to pay restitution to those harmed by this fraud," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told the Boston Herald.

"Our office will continue to pursue others who were involved in the scheme to defraud cities, towns, schools and non-profits in Massachusetts. Today’s settlement and our ongoing investigations are particularly important given the financial constraints that many state entities, municipalities and non-profits are facing in these tough economic times," she said.

"Bank of America's disclosure of wrongdoing and cooperation has led to an aggressive, ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into anticompetitive activity in the municipal bond derivatives industry," Justice Department antitrust chief Christine Varney said.

"The Division's investigation of this matter continues, and the prosecution of anticompetitive conduct in the financial markets remains our highest priority," she added.

More than a dozen other firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, and Societe Generale were also noted as unindicted co-conspirators.

The $137.3 million paid by Bank of America is "likely the tip of the iceberg," Andrew Gavil, a law professor at Howard University, told Bloomberg.

"Stay tuned to this channel -- I think you will see a lot more activity in the coming weeks and months," DOJ's Varney told reporters. "We are committed to getting restitution, full restitution, to all the municipalities that were victims of this scheme."

WikiLeaks is expected to disclose a trove of secret information about Bank of America sometime early next year which the site's founder said would reveal "an ecosystem of corruption."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

High school wrestler arrested for legitimate wrestling move.

High school wrestling is so weird. From the Fresno Bee:
The Fresno County District Attorney's Office is having second thoughts about prosecuting a Buchanan High School wrestler for sexual battery.

Preston Hill, 17, is due to go on trial Thursday. Clovis police and the alleged victim said Preston rammed two fingers into the teammate's anus during wrestling practice in July. Preston's attorney says he used a legitimate wrestling move called the "butt drag."

Amid a public uproar over the case that began after The Bee reported it on Sunday, prosecutors met with Preston's attorney on Tuesday to offer a deal: The case would be dismissed if Preston -- who has been expelled from Buchanan -- stayed out of trouble for several months.

Unlike most such deals, it would not require Preston to admit guilt.

But Stephen Quade, who represents Preston, said his client will likely reject the offer because he didn't do anything wrong.

Quade said he is prepared to go to trial.

Complicating the case is an apparent disagreement within the District Attorney's Office about how to proceed.

A person with detailed knowledge of the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said prosecutor Elana Smith is resisting instructions from her boss, District Attorney Elizabeth Egan, to drop the case.

Egan declined to comment Tuesday. Smith could not be reached.

But the source said Smith, a 12-year-veteran of the District Attorney's Office, is willing to stake her reputation -- and her job -- on the case. "She believes a crime has been committed, and she won't back down," the source said.

If the case goes to trial, a key issue is whether the conduct meets the legal definition of sexual battery. That could hinge on the question of whether Preston had threatened the boy.

The boy told police that Preston made a threatening gesture -- he inserted two fingers into a circle formed by his other hand -- indicating "he was going to place his fingers up his butt," the police report stated.

Preston has denied making the gesture, and Quade has said no one else saw him doing it. But the source said Smith recently found a witness -- another student -- who can corroborate the 14-year-old's account about the gesture.

Quade said the offer to conditionally dismiss the case came from Assistant District Attorney Lisa Gamoian and Rudy Carrillo, a chief deputy district attorney. Gamoian and Carrillo are Smith's supervisors. Smith was not present at the meeting, he said.

Quade said the offer was better than the one made several months ago, but declined to give details. Preston rejected the earlier offer, Quade said.

The case against Preston has drawn widespread attention because Preston and his parents contend their son, a senior, was using a legitimate wrestling move on the boy, a freshman at Buchanan High.

They said Clovis wrestling coaches taught Preston the move, known as a "butt drag," and that he used the move during practice in front of coaches, teammates and parents.

In general, the butt drag requires a wrestler to grab a rival's butt cheek to get leverage. Local coaches say anal penetration can occur accidentally, but should never be done on purpose. The move is widely used at matches around the country and has been around for decades, authorities say.

Ross Rice, father of the alleged victim, said Preston is a bully who targeted his son because the boy stood up to Preston during an earlier encounter.

Because of the incident, Rice said, Preston's friends continue to tease his son at school. The boy also didn't go out for the wrestling team, his father said.

Rice said Tuesday that Smith contacted him and told him that the trial might be delayed, but she didn't say anything about dropping the case.

"She's a fighter," Rice said. "She's not going to give up on my son.

Man killed in freak gardening accident.

For once, a Darwin Award for someone who's actually from Darwin! Item!
A Darwin man has been killed while lopping a palm tree in his garden.

The 50-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died when the large foxtail palm came crashing down, striking him in the face, the Northern Territory News said.

It is believed the man's body lay unnoticed for several hours before he was found and the alarm was raised.

The freak accident happened at a property at Knuckey Lagoon on Friday. But it took police five days to release news of the death and yesterday they refused to give out any further details. Police Superintendent Daniel Sheen said the accident happened between 2pm and 5.15pm.

"We're not quite sure when (the man) died," Superintendent Sheen said. The man had lived at the 2ha residence for some time.

It is believed the property owner drove past the accident scene earlier in the day but did not see the man's body until later that afternoon. He dialled 000 to alert emergency services and paramedics and police rushed to the scene. But it was too late.

Many of his neighbours yesterday were unaware of the freak tragedy that had unfolded just next door.

The property remained deserted throughout the day.


Health: Quitting smoking may reduce depression.

Yipes: Kinky sex act with knife goes horribly wrong. (Not as bad as it sounds.)

Awesome: Luckiest man alive has whipped cream truck crash outside house - years after chocolate syrup truck crashes his house too!

Health: 4 fun ways to prevent prostate cancer!

Boozalicious: Brits get trapped in pub for 9 days.

Duh: Consumer Reports finds that AT&T is the worst carrier.

Rape victim framed for fake crimes by her attacker, serves 7 months in prison.

From Eyewitness News:
Investigators have arrested three people accused in an elaborate scheme to frame an innocent Far Rockaway woman.

She was accused in May 2010 of impersonating a police officer and robbing victims at gunpoint, but it has turned out to be all a lie.

Within the last week, an informant told the Nassau County DA's office that Seemona Sumasar, 35, had been framed by an ex-boyfriend. Sumasar was being held in the Nassau jail for crimes that never took place, the informant claimed.

After the district attorney's office corroborated the informant's account, Sumasar was released from jail On Thursday.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that Jerry Ramrattan, 38, of East Elmhurst, promised to pay off two "witnesses" in Nassau County to lie to authorities that Sumasar, along with a male accomplice, had conducted a number of gunpoint robberies while Sumasar and the accomplice impersonated police officers.

Investigators then questioned each witness, who they say separately confessed that Ramrattan promised to pay them to report false incidents regarding Sumasar. Ramrattan coached the false witnesses to give police partial license plate numbers of cars Sumasar was known to drive and to identify her in a photo array.

The witnesses, Terrell Lovell and Luz Johnson were arrested on Wednesday and charged with perjury.

According to Rice, Ramrattan also promised to pay off a witness in Queens to falsely report that Sumasar had robbed him at gunpoint back in September 2009 while in Jamaica, Queens. After corroborating the informant's story, the Nassau County DA's office immediately contacted Sumasar's defense counsel and the Queens County District Attorney's office to coordinate efforts in clearing her of the charges and setting her free.

Sumasar's lawyer says the motive was intimidation. Sumasar has accused Ramrattan of rape and was preparing to testify at his trial at the time of her arrest.

Ramrattan has been charged with two counts of Perjury in the First Degree; two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree; two counts of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree; two counts of Offering False Instrument; two counts of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.

He is being held on $1 million bond or $500,000 cash and returns to court on December 7.

In Nassau County, the false accusations targeting Sumasar began on March 2, 2010, when Lovell reported to police that he had been robbed at gunpoint by two suspects while driving in Inwood. He described the suspects as a woman and a man dressed as police officers. Lovell gave a partial license plate number of the getaway car to police.

Sometime in May 2010 police received an anonymous call from a man who claimed to have been the victim of a crime. The caller stated that he had been robbed at gunpoint by a female and male suspect impersonating police officers. The caller told police that he did not want to formally report the incident, but he did give police a full license plate number of the getaway car. Police traced the plate to Sumasar's sister, but when police showed Lovell a photo of the sister, he did not identify her as the person who robbed him in March.

On May 19, Johnson reported to police that she was robbed at gunpoint by two suspects impersonating police officers while she was driving in Inwood. Johnson gave police a full license plate number and also reported that some mail with her New Jersey address, along with a spare car key, had been taken by the suspects during the robbery.

Two days later Johnson called Nassau County Police from her New Jersey home to report that someone driving a black Nissan had attempted to steal her car. She reported the license plate number of the Nissan to police, who traced the car to Devon McDonald, Sumasar's boyfriend. Police believed that Sumasar had a connection to both cars that had been reported being used in the robberies, as well as the attempted car theft in New Jersey involving the black Nissan.

Sumasar was arrested by Nassau County Police on May 21 after police found her driving the black Nissan. Both Johnson and Lovell identified her in a photo array and Sumasar was charged with two counts of Robbery in the First Degree; two counts of Criminal Use of a Firearm and two counts of Criminal Impersonation and Unlawful Wearing of a Body Vest.

Robots wait tables at new restaurant.

Not only do we have to worry about robots taking our jobs, but now there's the added confusion of how much to tip them... From Orange:
A new restaurant where all of the waitresses are robots has opened in China.

The Dalu Rebot Restaurant, in Jinan, northern China's Shandong Province, has six robot waitresses and can cater for up to 100 diners.

The 21 tables are set in circles and the robots follow a fixed route to serve diners in rotation.

After serving, the robots return to the kitchen to refill their cart for the next round.

Restaurant spokeswoman Wang Xianwei said that all of the waiting on tables was done by robots.

However, the food, mainly the Chinese version of fondue, was prepared by humans in the kitchen.

And people were also employed to welcome customers and explain to them how the restaurant worked.

The restaurant was developed by the Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company which plans to further develop the concept.

Spokesman Zhang Yongpei said: "Next, we'll develop robots which can climb stairs and help with kitchen chores like washing the dishes.

"And our waitresses will become more sophisticated so they can go direct to a customer's table and even refill diners' drinks."