Texas town sued for racist highway robbery

Officials in the tiny east Texas town of Tenaha are accused in a federal lawsuit of stopping African-Americans driving through town and seizing their money and property by threatening them with criminal prosecution — or worse.

Tenaha, Texas, has about 1,000 residents and is about 60 miles southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Among the plaintiffs are two African-Americans who claim they forfeited more than $50,000 under threat of money-laundering charges, and a biracial couple who gave up more than $6,000 after officials threatened to put their children in foster care. No one was charged with a crime.

The lawsuit…has 10 plaintiffs, said attorney Timothy Garrigan, one of the attorneys. But he told CNN Wednesday that “we get more inquiries every day.” Attorneys are seeking class-action status for the suit, he said.

The suit names as defendants Tenaha’s mayor and deputy city marshal, plus several Shelby County officials, including the district attorney. It alleges that the officials “have developed an illegal ‘stop and seize’ practice of targeting, stopping, detaining, searching and often seizing property from apparently non-white citizens and those traveling with non-white citizens…”

You’d think this crap would have ended decades ago. When I lived in the Deep South the rule of thumb was you only had to be a backwoods sheriff for 2 years to make enough money to retire on.

Looks like some of these fumblebutts are still at it.

Wal-Mart to market medical practice management systems


Wal-Mart Stores is striding into the market for electronic health records, seeking to bring the technology into the mainstream for physicians in small offices, where most of America’s doctors practice medicine. Wal-Mart’s move comes as the Obama administration is trying to jumpstart the adoption of digital medical records with $19 billion of incentives in the stimulus package.

The company plans to team its Sam’s Club division with Dell for computers and eClinicalWorks, a fast-growing private company, for software. Wal-Mart says its package deal of hardware, software, installation, maintenance and training will make the technology more accessible and affordable, undercutting rival health information technology suppliers by as much as half.

“We’re a high-volume, low-cost company,” said Marcus Osborne, senior director of health care business development at Wal-Mart. “And I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health care industry.”

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How’d you like to live in “Ratville”?

Cycle clips, wellies and big sticks have become the temporary fashion trend for villagers on the Yorkshire coast, where a picturesque village has been invaded by rats.

Families in the Marine Road area of Flamborough, scene of an epic naval battle with the Americans during the war of independence in 1779, are fighting a fresh engagement against thousands of unusually bold vermin. Rat-runs criss-cross dozens of local gardens and drivers have been brought to a halt by up to 200 of the rodents crossing the road.

“We’ve been overrun with them – it’s been horrendous for residents,” said Steve Crowther of Flamborough parish council. “There were just a few to start with but now there seem to be thousands…”

Pest control officers are focusing on fields left waterlogged by winter rain and snow, which has stopped farmers carrying out their usual ploughing of stubble. The short stalks of corn are a rat’s ideal food supply, and breeding in hedgerow nests is thought to have doubled or tripled.

More than 30 bait boxes have now been laid, and carcasses of half a dozen rats at a time are being removed in relays. Villagers have sealed catflaps after reports of rats using them to get into houses, and nearby villages, always keen to get one-up on neighbours, have nicknamed Flamborough ‘Ratville’.

Julie Sanders, a resident, said: “It’s like the Pied Piper tale up here. I’ve been sat talking on the phone, watching out of my window as they’ve run along my garden wall. We’ve been asked by the council not to put food out for the birds because the rats eat it. They act like gangs. They really do swarm.”

Stand outside the Halls of Congress with a TV camera. Same result.

Castration of sex offenders: Deterrent or torture?

Raped and murdered
Daylife/AP Photo

Whether castration can help rehabilitate violent sex offenders has come under new scrutiny after the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee last month called surgical castration “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” and demanded the Czech Republic stop offering the procedure to violent sex offenders. Other critics said that castration threatened to lead society down a dangerous road toward eugenics.

The Czech Republic has allowed at least 94 prisoners to be surgically castrated over the past decade. It is the only country in Europe that uses the procedure for sex offenders. Czech psychiatrists supervising the treatment – a one-hour operation that involves removal of the tissue that produces testosterone – insist that it is the most foolproof way to tame sexual urges in dangerous predators…

Now, more countries in Europe are considering mandating or allowing chemical castration for violent sex offenders. There is intense debate over whose rights take precedence: those of violent sex offenders, who could be subjected to a punishment that many consider cruel, or those of society, which expects protection from sexual predators.

Poland is expected to become the first nation of the European Union to give judges the right to impose chemical castration on at least some convicted pedophiles, using hormonal drugs to curb sexual appetite; the impetus for the change was the arrest of a 45-year-old man in September who had fathered two children by his young daughter.

RTFA. There really are pros and cons. There also is bureaucratic rigging going on.

‘Fight club’ probed at home for disabled

Seven employees of a state-run home for the mentally disabled in Texas have been suspended for staging fights between residents who were forced to shove, punch and strike each other.

Police learned of the fights when someone gave a cell phone containing videos of the brawls at the Corpus Christi State School to an off-duty officer on Friday, police Captain Tim Wilson said by phone from Corpus Christi. “Workers were running their own fight club using clients. It’s pretty appalling that someone would think of this,” he said.

In the videos, which show several fights dating back to 2007, mentally disabled male residents can be seen fighting each other while the employees watch. In one video, a disabled resident raises his hands in victory after a bout, Wilson said.

“It’s pretty appalling. I’ve been in police work over 30 years and I’ve never anything like this,” he said. “These people who were charged with caring for these clients were exploiting them for entertainment.”

“Any abuse or neglect of residents placed in our care will not be tolerated,” said Laura Albrecht, spokeswoman for the state department in charge.

I wonder who were the responsible authorites who never noticed the hundreds of complaints against the “schools” – used to warehouse these folks.

Last year, the state system itself acknowledged 570 complaints of abuse in the thirteen schools they run. What was done?

Thanks, Mr. Justin

Apple unveils new iPod shuffle

Apple on Wednesday introduced the next generation iPod shuffle. The shuffle has always been Apple’s smallest iPod, but now it is nearly half the size of the previous model at 1.8 inches tall by 0.3 inches thin.

The new iPod shuffle bumps storage up to 4GB and features VoiceOver, which enables the iPod to speak your song titles, artists, and playlist names. The shuffle can speak 14 languages: including English, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing, told Macworld that the iPod shuffle will automatically recognize what language it should speak. If you have a preference of which language you would like, it can be changed in iTunes.

According to Apple, the third-generation iPod shuffle holds up to 1,000 songs encoded at 128 Kbps.

The next generation will be the size of an RFID chip – and injectable.

Michelle Obama’s political agenda includes healthful eating

The television cameras were rolling, the journalists were scribbling and the first lady, Michelle Obama, was standing in a soup kitchen rhapsodizing about steamed broccoli. And homemade mushroom risotto. And freshly baked apple-carrot muffins.

Mrs. Obama was praising the menu last week at Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit drop-in center serving this city’s homeless. And she seized the moment to urge Americans to provide fresh, unprocessed and locally grown foods to their families and to the neediest in their communities.

“You know, we want to make sure our guests here and across the nation are eating nutritious items,” said Mrs. Obama, who served lunch to several homeless men and women and delivered eight cases of fresh fruit to the soup kitchen, all donated by White House employees.

“Collect some fruits and vegetables; bring by some good healthy food,” she said. “We can provide this kind of healthy food for communities across the country, and we can do it by each of us lending a hand.”

In her first weeks in the White House, Mrs. Obama has emerged as a champion of healthy food and healthy living. She has praised community vegetable gardens, opened up her own kitchen to show off the White House chefs’ prowess with vegetables and told stories about feeding less fattening foods to her daughters.

RTFA. Interesting. Positive. It’s also about time our politicians learned this is stuff that interests all Americans.

Instead of wasting TV interviewers’ time – and ours – prating abut ideology and other failed religions, it might be time for some of the charity cases in Congress to understand why so many of us care for Michelle Obama as much as we do her husband.

Live TV in Iran: Ask a little kid for the name of their toy monkey?

Live television is hardly the most convenient setting in which to be reminded of the age-old proverb that only children and fools speak the truth.

So the father who nicknamed his child’s toy monkey after Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, must have been mortified to have his private joke cruelly exposed when the youngster took part in one of the country’s most popular TV phone-ins.

The embarrassing disclosure was made on Amoo Pourang (Uncle Pourang), a programme watched by millions of Iranian children three times a week on state TV. It came when the unsuspecting presenter, Dariush Farziayi, asked the name of the toy animal his young caller had been given as a reward for good behaviour.

Well, my father calls him Ahmadinejad,” the child replied.

Now the father’s discomfort has spread to the programme-makers after the state broadcaster, IRIB, responded by withdrawing it from viewing schedules.

The final episode will be screened next week after a successful seven-year run.


Giving homeless people a measure of pride and privacy

Brenda Gardenhire shows off her new home with pride. It looks like an oversized shopping cart covered with a khaki canvas. But to her, it’s “wonderful” — a stepping stone to get her off the streets and get her life back in order. “It’s like your own home, your own apartment, your own room,” she said, showing off the 7-foot-long living space on wheels. “No one else can come in here but me.”

Gardenhire is talking about her makeshift home called an EDAR, which stands for Everyone Deserves A Roof. The units are being distributed to homeless people in the Los Angeles area by the Everyone Deserves A Roof nonprofit organization.

It’s the brainchild of “Revenge of the Nerds” movie producer Peter Samuelson, who has spent much of his life working with charities to help impoverished children. He got the idea to help the homeless in recent years as he rode his bicycle from Los Angeles to the beach at Santa Monica.

On those bike rides, he began seeing more and more homeless people. But he didn’t just whiz by. He stopped to talk with them — 62 people in all. One by one, he listened to their needs and what they wanted most: a roof over their heads. And the idea for the EDAR was born.

“If you had to define the value of a civilization, it’s not how many SUVs you’ve got,” Samuelson said. “To me, I think it’s how well do we take care of our children, our homeless people, our mentally ill, those less fortunate.”

The four-wheeled home has an expandable base that stays off the ground and is covered by a canvas, giving it the feel of a tent. It extends 86 inches and is 32 inches wide, thin enough to fit through standard doorways. Each unit has a mattress and sleeping bag to provide comfort. It’s also flame-retardant and sturdy enough to keep its occupants dry during heavy rains. A braking mechanism prevents the unit from rolling away at night. They also come with a chain and padlock to prevent it from being stolen.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…

RTFA. Samuelson is “doing something about it” instead of playing at debate society with the ideologues of America.