Ohio judge settles out of court over Web comments

An Ohio judge taken off a high-profile murder trial has dropped her $50 million lawsuit against a Cleveland newspaper and reached an undisclosed financial settlement with an affiliated company that runs the publication’s website.

Cuyahoga County Judge Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold and her adult daughter filed their lawsuit against The Plain Dealer, its parent company and the website operator in April over anonymous comments on the site that the newspaper said were traced to Saffold’s personal e-mail.

The inflammatory comments concerned the case of Anthony Sowell, a man who has pleaded not guilty to killing 11 women whose remains were found around his Cleveland home.

After the newspaper reported that the comments, including one critical of a Sowell attorney, had been connected to the judge, the defense team sought to have her removed from Sowell’s case. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed to do so, saying her removal was needed to avoid the appearance of bias.

The judge denied posting the comments and said they came from her daughter, Sydney Saffold, using a joint family account.

The Saffolds sued, claiming that the defendants released confidential information in violation of the website privacy policy. The suit was dismissed Thursday, said Brian Spitz, an attorney for the judge and her daughter. “We filed a suit that was for a very important cause and that my clients believed in very deeply and felt like fighting through until they got the resolution that they wanted,” Spitz told The Associated Press on Friday. “At the end of the day, my clients were very happy…”

An online editor decided to track down the e-mail address associated with the comments without consulting anyone, The Plain Dealer had said. Advance Internet later blocked editors’ access to the personal information of people who posted comments and said it never intended to make that information available to its affiliated newspapers.

Anyone here who comments regularly on the Web probably has a strong opinion about privacy rights – whether you avail yourself of them or not.

Site after site identifies email information as private. Violating that confidence is reasonably sleazy. An act for which the Plain Dealer has had to pony up an unpublished amount of money.

Arizona Mom – and daughter – accused of abusing same boy

County Supervisor Fulton Brock’s daughter has been arrested and accused of molesting the same boy her mother is charged with sexually abusing over a three-year period.

Rachel Katherine Brock, 21, the daughter of Fulton and Susan Brock, faces three counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one of furnishing obscene materials to a minor. The charges are related to incidents that began when the boy was 14 and she was 18, according to court papers.

Susan Brock, 48, faces 15 child abuse counts for allegedly abusing the same boy starting when he was 13 years old and she was 45, the court documents report.

Mother and daughter are both being held without bond

The reports do not say whether mother and daughter knew of each other’s alleged activities with the reported victim. However, the daughter’s alleged sexual contact with the boy took place within the time frame her mother is accused of molesting him.

County Supervisor Brock…said in a statement…”I have filed to divorce my wife. I cannot divorce my daughter. She is my blood. I will always be her Dad….As a person of faith I ask for your continued prayers.”

I guess that Family Values thing still works for vote-getting in Arizona.

Italy to ban plastic bags starting New Year’s Day

Italy is a nation known as much for its food as for the ubiquitous plastic bag, given out freely with every purchase around the country and often left to litter streets or landfills. A new ban coming into effect January 1, however, may change that.

The Italian Environment Ministry is banning shopkeepers from handing out plastic bags in order to help the environment. Even though the January 1 date is firm, the ministry says shopkeepers will be allowed to use up their existing stock of plastic bags without penalties.

“It is a great innovation,” Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said of the ban. It “marks a step forward of fundamental importance in the fight against pollution, making us all more responsible for using and recycling. For the law to give positive results, it is necessary that all the commercial entrepreneurs, large or small, and citizens get involved and experiment with alternatives to plastic bags.”

The environmental group Legambiente estimates each Italian consumes about 300 plastic bags a year, and that 180,000 tons of gasoline would be saved if everyone used just 10 bio-degradable bags a year for their shopping.
The tendency for shops and merchants to give out plastic bags for everything is a recent one. Paper bags — or no bags at all — were the norm just 30 or 40 years ago, when ladies would carry their own shopping carts or net sacks to the store…

Similar bans have been enacted elsewhere around the world.


No pardon for Billy the Kid

Hope he grows the beard back

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, on his final day in office Friday, did not pardon legendary outlaw Billy the Kid.

It was a very close call,” Richardson said from his office in Santa Fe when announcing he “decided not to pardon Billy the Kid,” one of New Mexico’s more infamous native sons, on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Richardson said his decision was based in part on ambiguity surrounding the record in which territorial Gov. Lew Wallace agreed to pardon Billy the Kid — real name Henry McCarty but also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney — in exchange for the outlaw’s testimony in a range war killing, but later reneged on his promise.

Billy the Kid testified but “Wallace didn’t keep his end of the bargain,” Richardson said, and the criminal, romanticized by oral tradition and Hollywood, later shot and killed two deputies…

Richardson said a decision about Billy the Kid’s fate in this matter was important because “this is America’s history” and the issue has festered since 1881.

Legend says Billy the Kid killed 21 men but it is generally accepted that he killed between four and nine before he was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett at the age of 21.

This is a special chuckle here in New Mexico. As well as Governor Bill plays the media in New Mexico, he games the national and international media-types even more thoroughly.

He’s been playing the Billy the Kid card for eight years and every time he gets coverage from the BBC to Pravda.

Meanwhile, the TV stations down in Albuquerque tried to climb on board with online polls for viewers – and got fewer than a thousand responses.

That’s OK, though. Next week our shiny new Republican governor takes office and she can start increasing the unemployment numbers with the state employees she will lay-off. Newspapers and TV will forget about the Lincoln County wars for another decade or so.

Cop killer had been freed by parole board from life sentences

Hundreds of police honoring slain Woburn officer John Maguire

State public safety officials acknowledged yesterday that the Parole Board failed to notify Middlesex County prosecutors of the 2008 hearing that prompted the panel to free Dominic Cinelli, who authorities say killed a Woburn police officer after a department store holdup during Sunday’s blizzard.

If prosecutors had been notified of the 2008 hearing, they would have opposed Cinelli’s release, as they did when they submitted a strongly worded letter of objection at his parole hearing three years earlier, said a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

But one of two Parole Board employees assigned to notify prosecutors before Cinelli came before the panel again in 2008 failed to do so, for reasons that are unclear, said John Grossman, the state’s undersecretary of public safety and security. Both employees left more than a year ago. One was a staff employee who left of her own accord, said Grossman. The other had a contract that was not renewed.

The oversight has prompted the Patrick administration to order the board to make sure it does not happen again…

The 6-0 vote to free Cinelli, who allegedly fatally shot Woburn police Officer John Maguire outside a Kohl’s store the day after Christmas, has come under intense scrutiny.

Cinelli, 57, was killed after exchanging fire with Maguire. Cinelli was a career criminal and habitual armed robber who had been serving three concurrent life sentences when he was granted parole…

The Parole Board members who voted to release Cinelli did not return phone calls seeking comment.

RTFA for this scumball’s history.

A cautionary tale about how easy it can be to fool people who just may believe everyone is capable of reforming.

Identifying the Gatekeeper for tomato pollination

Tomato plants use similar biochemical mechanisms to reject pollen from their own flowers as well as pollen from foreign but related plant species, thus guarding against both inbreeding and cross-species hybridization, report plant scientists at the University of California, Davis.

The researchers identified a tomato pollen gene that encodes a protein that is very similar to a protein thought to function in preventing self-pollination in petunias. The tomato gene also was shown to play a role in blocking cross-species fertilization, suggesting that similar biochemical mechanisms underlie the rejection of a plant’s own pollen as well as foreign pollen from another species…

Flowering plants have several types of reproductive barriers to prevent accidental hybridization between species in nature,” Roger Chetelat said. “We have identified one piece of this puzzle, a gene that helps control whether or not tomato pollen is recognized and rejected by flowers of related wild species…

In plants, as well as animals, breeding between closely related individuals is generally considered detrimental because it leads to the expression of harmful mutations and leaves subsequent generations genetically ill equipped to deal with environmental changes or diseases.

And crossbreeding with individuals from different species can be equally detrimental because it frequently results in hybrid offspring that cannot reproduce…

Their findings suggest that the Cullin1 protein is part of a biochemical gatekeeper: An active form of the protein is required for pollen to fertilize plants of another species, if that species is capable of rejecting its own pollen.

Since this research opens another door to preventing some of the events feared by opponents of genetically modified plants, no doubt this and following research will be denied and ignored by purists that fear – even more – success that might offer access to sound nutrition at lower costs.

Farming for profit, providing easier access to sufficient nutritious food to people around the world – without living up to the bible of some organic prophet – is still considered a sin by some. Do I eat organic? Of course. It makes good sense. Do I eat conventional? Of course. It makes good sense – often.

Chetelat and Wentao Li are members of the multicenter Interspecific Reproductive Barriers in Tomato research group…More information about the research group is available here. Their haiku is a kick, too.

Former president of Israel convicted of rape

Demonstrators supporting the women Katsav assaulted
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav has been found guilty of rape and sexual harassment following a year-long trial, largely held behind closed doors to respect the privacy of the three complainants, all former subordinates.

Political leaders and analysts praised the ruling, saying it showed that the law applied to everyone, including the president. But many expressed shame and embarrassment that a former head of state had been found guilty of such serious offences…

The sexual offences took place during Katsav’s terms as president and as minister of tourism. Complainant A accused him of raping her on two occasions, while complainants H and L accused him of sexual harassment. The verdict confirmed all the three accusations. Katsav was acquitted only of charges that he had harassed a witness…

The rightwing former president has portrayed himself as a victim of ethnic discrimination. Israeli political life has long been dominated by Jews of European origin, while Katsav and many of his supporters are of Middle Eastern origin.

Katsav became the eighth president of Israel in 2000 and was forced to resign in disgrace in July 2007, after the accusations emerged in 2006…

Outside court, women’s rights groups cheered…

The White House, Congress and the State Department ignored the event – as they do with anything negative about the government of Israel.

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects/cancers to US invasion

White phosphorus being used in Falluja

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports…

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias…

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known….”

The United States has owned up to nothing to help the victims of that environmental poisoning.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities…

An epidemic of birth defects is unfolding in Fallujah, Iraq,” said Savabieasfahani. “This is a serious public health crisis that needs global attention. We need independent and unbiased research into the possible causes of this epidemic.

RTFA. Having worked at thwarting the testing and development of DU weapons in New Mexico, I don’t need to be convinced of the dangers of depleted uranium ammo. It’s a pyrophoric metal that burns to dusty completion after ignition leaving it’s deadly structure blowing in the wind.

We lost Billy Taylor…

One of the few advantages of growing up in and around the Big Apple is the music. The most esoteric ethnic music, the world’s greatest classical musicians want to perform there, and more than anything – for me – it’s the center of the jazz universe.

I listened to Billy Taylor in clubs all over NYC, on the radio, the work he did on television. I was also fortunate to have a mutual friend who he’d visit a few times a year – and I would drop everything to hang out and enjoy whatever sessions and dialogue resulted.

Now, another part of the creative world has gone. We have Billy’s music forever. There just won’t be anymore added to that special catalogue of creativity.