Decorated Air Force officer sues to block homophobic discharge

In early 2008, just eight days before he was to deploy in support of the war in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a decorated Air Force flight officer, was told he was under investigation on charges of sexually assaulting a civilian and of violating the military’s ban on homosexuality.

He was placed on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Within three weeks, the sexual assault allegation was dismissed for lack of evidence. But the Air Force investigation into his sexuality continued. Now, just a year from completing his 20th year in the military, Colonel Fehrenbach, 40, believes he is about to be discharged under the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He would be among the highest-ranking service members discharged under the policy.

On Wednesday, Colonel Fehrenbach’s lawyers filed papers in Idaho federal court requesting a temporary order blocking his discharge. The petition contends that a discharge would violate Colonel Fehrenbach’s rights, cause him irreparable harm and fail to meet standards established in a 2008 federal court ruling on don’t ask, don’t tell.

For advocates of abolishing the ban against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals serving openly, Colonel Fehrenbach’s case has become something of a line in the sand. Though President Obama has called for ending the ban and Congress has begun moving in that direction, gay service members continue to face investigations and discharge, albeit at a lower rate than in past years.

Lawyers for Colonel Fehrenbach assert that his case is among the most egregious applications of the policy in their experience. The Air Force investigation into his sexuality began with a complaint from a civilian that was eventually dismissed by the Idaho police and the local prosecutor as unfounded, according to court papers. Colonel Fehrenbach has never publicly said that he is gay.

However, during an interview with an Idaho law enforcement official, he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser. Colonel Fehrenbach’s lawyers say he did not realize Air Force investigators were observing that interview; his admission led the Air Force to open its “don’t ask” investigation.

RTFA. Lots of backwards bureaucratic behavior by the Air Force.

Compound that with Obama’s reluctance to live up to his expedient campaign promises and Congress’ predictable mix of cowardice and homophobia. I sit here blogging about the progress made in equal rights around the world – while my homeland turns it’s collective back on our history of leadership in liberty and education.

I have a strong affinity for my friends in the American military and I haven’t yet heard one of them say that being gay made someone a lousy pilot.

Nuns sue banks for $5 million fraud

No banker is likely to risk describing what they do as “God’s work”, but they might hope at least not to get on the wrong side of His earthly followers. Unlucky then for Germany’s Deutsche Bank and US investment bank Morgan Stanley, who are facing a $5m lawsuit led by a group of Irish nuns.

The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, the Holy Faith Sisters and the Irish Veterinary Benevolent Fund are among a group of 88 Irish individuals suing the two banks.

The nuns allege the two banks profited at their expense by failing to redeem an investment linked to the debt of German financial group Dresdner Bank and in so doing cost them millions of pounds.

In 2005 the nuns and other Irish investors bought euro-denominated notes worth €5.88m linked to Dresdner Bank bonds, but accuse Morgan Stanley of failing to deliver on a contractual pledge to redeem the debt after the German bank’s credit rating was cut below an agreed point.

Instead, Morgan Stanley is alleged to have postponed redeeming the notes until the value of Dresdner Bank debt had recovered to a level whereby the US bank would incur no losses, but which the nuns say ended up costing them $4.7m, as well as $718,734.80 in lost interest payments.

Morgan Stanley is alleged to have made an estimated $11.2m gain by delaying the redemption of the notes.

Here comes that really big bolt of lightning. Hardly anyone deserves it more than Morgan Stanley.

Chinese police fightback against assault by fake monks

Police in northern China faced an unexpected and unholy menace last week when more than 100 fake monks besieged their police station, a Chinese newspaper reported today. Police from Baotou city, in inner Mongolia, told the North News that the incident began last Wednesday when what appeared to be a group of monks attacked a toll booth and escaped by bus.

Officers stopped the vehicle at a roadblock after a lengthy car chase and arrested 31 of the men – but the suspects fought back with steel bars and knives, allowing the rest to make their getaway on a double-decker bus.

The following day, more than 100 men, apparently monks, besieged the city’s Guyang police station to demand the release of those arrested.

The central public security bureau had to dispatch 500 officers, including 200 members of the armed police, to protect the building.

They arrested 178 fake monks, confiscating the sticks, knives, fake medicines and fake gold necklaces they were carrying.

Police said the group was an organised gang made up mostly of farmers from Hunan, who paid the leaders 20 yuan (£2) a day for the privilege of membership.

The men pretended to be monks so they could make money performing martial arts, claim to be able to cure people of illnesses and sell medications. Some also extorted money…

Genuine monks have repeatedly complained about people masquerading as lamas, often in or near the grounds of temples.

OK. What century is this – in which rural area of a mythical country ruled by Monty Python?

New technique for diagnosing Alzheimer’s

It may soon be possible to obtain a highly accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease by analyzing a sample of spinal fluid. A study released Monday found that a constellation of three substances in the cerebrospinal fluid was present in 90% of people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The test also showed the same markers were found in 72% of people with mild cognitive impairment, considered an early stage of the disease, and in one-third of adults who had no cognitive problems.

Many experts believe that biomarkers in spinal fluid may emerge as the most accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. At present, the disease is diagnosed using pencil-and-paper cognitive tests, which are subjective and may be inaccurate. The diagnosis can only be confirmed by examining brain tissue at an autopsy…

In an editorial accompanying the paper, two U.S. experts in the disease said that cerebrospinal fluid analysis should be put into wider practice. “There is now ample evidence that these measurements have value; physicians need to formulate when and how to incorporate cerebrospinal fluid measurements into practice,” they wrote.

Hopefully, the indicators will provide a pathway to a cure – at least symptomatic relief.

Chef’s body discovered in freezer two years after going missing

The body of one of France’s best-known chefs was discovered hidden in a freezer after his girlfriend revealed to her daughter that “something unfortunate” had happened to him, police said.

The frozen corpse of Jean-Francois Poinard, the retired restaurateur, was found by detectives at an apartment in Lyon, south-east France.

The body of the 71-year-old man – one of Lyon’s top chefs in the 1970s and 80s – is believed to have been concealed in the freezer for up to two years, officers said.

They made the discovery after Mr Poinard’s former girlfriend Guylene Collober, 51, told her daughter on a night out that “something unfortunate” had befallen her lover. The daughter informed police, who raided the apartment on Tuesday.

“A full post-mortem examination will be carried out to discover the precise cause of death.”

Mrs Collober had been taken into custody charged with hiding a body, but faced further charges depending on the findings of the autopsy, the spokesman said.

Lyon newspaper Le Progres described Mr Poinard as one of the city’s “great names” in gastronomy.

So, who’s been going to the freezer and taking out frozen snacks all this time?

iPhoners have more sex than Android or Blackberry users

In a deep and sonorous study by the dating site OkCupid, there seems to be no doubt: iPhone owners have more sex than BlackBerry owners and a lot more sex than the worthy, solemn, dedicated purchasers of Android phones.

The numbers for women might leave some readers breathless–as they rush to their local Apple store to buy an iPhone.

For this analysis of 30-year-olds with smartphones suggested that women with iPhones had an average of 12.3 sexual partners (I am sure the 0.3 knows exactly who he is), while their age-equivalents who had opted to put an Android into their purse scored a mere 6.1. (It was 8.8 for the BlackBerry owners, but some might feel these more businessy types would most likely be having sex while still on their BlackBerrys, so that hardly counts.)

For men, the disparity was only slightly more narrow, which perhaps merely reflected a proportionate reduction in the width of their minds. Interestingly, though, Android-owning men seem to have exactly the same amount of sex as Android-owning women…

OkCupid’s calculations also offered that the sexual attraction that seems clearly to be offered by the Apple logo stretches to all ages.

Android owners from 18-40 seem to consistently droop into relative sexless oblivion by comparison…

There will be those who believe that the iPhone makes them look and feel sexier. Others will claim that only sexy people purchase an iPhone in the first place.

Cripes! Apparently, there’s no need at all to count users of smartphones running Windows Mobile.

Hubble/NASA’s new image of spiral galaxy NGC 4911


Click to enlarge

A long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light-years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble’s cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details.

This natural-color Hubble image, which combines data obtained in 2006, 2007, and 2009 from the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys, required 28 hours of exposure time.

Bravo!