Hindu guru paid off blackmailers to hide sex tape

It’s good to be the Swami

A revered Hindu guru paid £1.4 million to a blackmailer to stop the release of a video of him having sex with a popular Indian film actress, according to detectives investigating the case.

The broadcast of a sex tape showing Swami Nithyananda and Tamil actress Ranjitha last year caused outrage among his followers who rioted near his ashram retreat near Bangalore, Karnataka.

Nithyananda, 32, has built an international following for his ‘Life Bliss’ programme of yoga and meditation with devotees in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Guadeloupe and Singapore.

The programme takes followers through a ‘death experience’ for rebirth into a ‘new life.’ His youthful good looks and charismatic style brought vast wealth to his organisation and personal fame and celebrity, with television appearances throughout India and the world.

But his supporters felt betrayed when the sex tape was broadcast on India’s Sun Television channel, portraying him as ‘impure’.

A police investigation brought further allegations of sexual abuse within his ashram and claims of financial impropriety…

According to detectives, he told them he had had sex with up to 20 of his devotees and had won over many followers by hugging them. He said his success in attracting non-Hindus had caused some resentment.

In a video message to his supporters, Swami Nithyananda said he had been the victim of a smear campaign, but had not done anything illegal.

Swami, eh?

Nice work if you can get it. If you can afford to pay millions to squash a sex tape.

How the Brits plan on keeping uninsured cars off the road

The owners of a million uninsured cars face having their vehicles seized and crushed under a crackdown to be announced by the Government this week.

Mike Penning, the road safety minister, is expected to change the law to make it an offence for the first time to keep an uninsured vehicle rather than simply to drive while uninsured.

Sources at the Department for Transport (DfT) claim that the move will help reduce the £30 estimated annual cost to every responsible motorists in additional premiums to cover crashes involving uninsured drivers.

Under the new system the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will work alongside the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to identify uninsured vehicles, many of which are never taken out on to the road. Their owners will then be contacted by letter to warn them they face a £100 fine if the car or van is not insured by a certain date.

If the vehicle remains uninsured, regardless of whether a fine has been paid or not, it could then be seized and crushed, according to the DfT.

Around 4 per cent of British motorists -about 1.2million – drive uninsured. The penalty for doing so is a maximum fine of £5,000 and six to eight penalty points. Around 242,000 offenders are convicted every year.

Police gained powers at the end of 2005 to seize uninsured cars, but to use their powers they have to catch the driver at the wheel. Under the new offence of keeping a vehicle while uninsured, the onus will be on drivers to prove that they have insurance, or have completed a statutory off-road notification.

While there are differences in the history of licensing between the UK and US, I think this is a terrific idea. I live in a state where we finally got the number of uninsured drivers under 33%! I think.

What I’d like to do – and anyone who lives in northern New Mexico knows where this is heading – is apply the same law to anyone busted for drunk driving.

Take their car and crush it. Throw ’em in jail for a spell – to be determined by the number of DUI convictions. And, yes, that applies to whatever vehicle they’re driving – whether it belongs to them, their Uncle Ernie or the municipality that’s paying them to drive around drunk in a town pickup truck.

Congressional Dem shot, six dead in attack on community meeting

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot at a Tucson event Saturday morning; five others have been reportedly killed.

Arizona state Sen. Linda Lopez, who is at University Medical Center in Tucson, said she spoke to Giffords’ parents and that they said she is in the emergency room undergoing surgery and is in very serious condition…

At least four people are dead, University Medical Center spokesman Darci Slaten said. They were among five to seven people who were being treated.

The NBC affilliate in Tucson reports that the FBI has taken over the investigation…

Giffords, 40, a Democrat, serves the 8th Congressional District…

Giffords was re-elected to her third term last November. She was a member of the Arizona House and Senate before coming to Washington.

She first won election to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in 2006. In November, she edged a tea party favorite.

There never is a shortage of violent, ignorant thugs in this land who fervently believe they can enforce their political will upon the land by force of arms, assault and murder.

UPDATE: Jared Laughner is the name of the shooter, an Arizona resident.

You think conspiracy nutballs freak out over birds falling from the sky? What if it rains meat? Again?

Now, where the crap did Dad put Texas?

Flocks of birds falling en masse from the sky in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and even Sweden is strange, but these mysterious mass deaths don’t hold a candle to the “Kentucky Meat Shower” of 1876 when it comes to avian oddities.

“Flesh Descending in a Shower. An Astounding Phenomenon in Kentucky – Fresh Meat Like Mutton or Venison Falling From A Clear Sky,” read the headline in the New York Times on March 10, 1876.

A second Times article the next day provided more detail on the strange occurrence.

“Mrs. Crouch, of Olympian Springs, Ky., was employed in the open air and under a particular clear sky, in the celebration of those mysterious rites by which the housewife transmutes scraps of meat, bones and effete overshoes into soap,” it said. “Suddenly, there descended upon her a gentle shower of meat.”

For a couple of minutes, it continued, big pieces of meat, three or four inches square, fell all over Mrs. Crouch’s yard. The meat “appeared to be perfectly fresh.”

The incident was corroborated for the New York Times by two sources – one Mr. Harrison Gill “whose veracity is unquestionable” and a correspondent of the Louisville Commercial newspaper…

After examining several specimens of meat, one scientist determined what fell out of the sky was in fact of “animal origin” (apparently he didn’t trust the taste buds of the locals). Therefore “the Kentucky shower was a veritable ‘meat’ shower.” Beyond that, he admitted that he had no explanation.

However, he relayed the most popular local theory: a large pack of buzzards must have flown over the area after having eaten some dead horses, then one of the buzzards disgorged himself and the others followed suit, (as is their custom, according to the journal).

The scientist reported that similar occurrences with buzzards had been known to happen in the past, so “it would seem that the whole matter is capable of reasonable and simple explanation, and we may expect to hear of similar downfalls in other localities.”

If you add the religious fervor of some vegans to the festering sump of bible-thumping True Believers, you probably could come up with a revival movement to counter the KoolAid Party.

Simplifying life by rewriting editing “Huckleberry Finn”

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” angered respectable people when it came out and still stirs a fuss 126 years later. Twain’s most famous novel has been paired with “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in a volume to be published next month by NewSouth Books that replaces the “N-word” — an offensive but often-used expression in the 1880s — with “slave.”…

“He walked a line where you could fall off on either side, to be much too conservative or by going so far that what you think is funny is not funny,” says Robert H. Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California at Berkeley, where the autobiography was edited, then released by the University of California Press.

“He said early on that the only criticism he’s interested in is that of the great general public. He’s aiming at this big audience. He wasn’t a `Not Ready for Primetime Player,’ like on `Saturday Night Live.’ He was a `Ready for Primetime Player’ and was watching where he was on the line.”…

“`Huckleberry Finn’ and the use of `nigger’ is the ultimate teachable moment in American literature,” [Ron] Powers says. “It cries out for conversation between teachers and students….”

The book’s editor, Twain scholar Alan Gribben, writes in the introduction that he had taught Twain’s work for years and that students were relieved when he chose not to recite any troubling words…

“That’s ridiculous,” Powers said. “It’s like people who ask what would Mark Twain think of women’s lib? You can’t assume that and then use that as a pretext for eviscerating a work of art.”

Pretending that an author wrote what he didn’t write educates no one. But then, making students feel more comfortable is not what I consider a legitimate educational goal.

Bigotry divides Republican conference

Loonies line up in the lobby in their capes
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Leading Right-wing organisations in the United States have pulled out of a major conservative conference because of the participation of a gay Republican group, exposing a schism among conservatives over the direction of the movement.

At least half a dozen groups have announced they will not attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) next month, which will attract thousands of activists to Washington and feature most of the Republican hopefuls for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.

They have objected to the status of GOProud as a co-sponsor of the event, though the group does not advocate actively for gay marriage, believing it is an issue that should be resolved by states and not the federal government. GOProud, whose name is derived from the Republican Party’s nickname Grand Old Party, did however strongly support the recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on military recruitment of gay people…

The Family Research Council, which has participated in the conference for several years, said in a statement: “Organizations whose whole reason for existence is to promote the forced public affirmation of homosexual conduct should not be welcomed at Cpac, because that is not by any stretch of the imagination a ‘conservative’ agenda.”

It went on to accuse the American Conservative Union, which stages the conference, of “abandoning at least a third of the conservative movement”…

Do they realize they’re admitting a significant minority of their neocon family are homophobes?

The row underscores a rift between social and economic conservatives who have previously coexisted relatively happily under the Republican banner.

With the economy now the most pressing national issue, and the reason Republicans did so well in the recent midterm elections, economic conservatives are keen to play down social issues such as gay marriage and abortion that risk alienating swing voters…

But so-called “values voters” who place a premium on candidates who oppose abortion and gay rights contend that any kind of truce would mean surrender. “When you do that, you’re yielding the field to the forces of homosexual extremism,” Mr Fischer told the Washington Times.

It’s hilarious that these clowns who think they deserve the mantle of conservative only regard issues of human rights as something to be considered as points of opportunism. There was a time and a place where conservatives didn’t turn their backs on humanity altogether. Neither of which ever sounded or acted like today’s Republican Party.

It’s not the “values” of bigots that have changed. It’s their open acceptance in 21st Century politics.

Lice DNA shows when humans started wearing clothes

A new University of Florida study following the evolution of lice shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 170,000 years ago, a technology which enabled them to successfully migrate out of Africa.

Principal investigator David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, studies lice in modern humans to better understand human evolution and migration patterns. His latest five-year study used DNA sequencing to calculate when clothing lice first began to diverge genetically from human head lice…

“We wanted to find another method for pinpointing when humans might have first started wearing clothing,” Reed said. “Because they are so well adapted to clothing, we know that body lice or clothing lice almost certainly didn’t exist until clothing came about in humans.”

The data shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 70,000 years before migrating into colder climates and higher latitudes, which began about 100,000 years ago. This date would be virtually impossible to determine using archaeological data because early clothing would not survive in archaeological sites.

The study also shows humans started wearing clothes well after they lost body hair, which genetic skin-coloration research pinpoints at about 1 million years ago, meaning humans spent a considerable amount of time without body hair and without clothing, Reed said…

Lice are studied because unlike most other parasites, they are stranded on lineages of hosts over long periods of evolutionary time. The relationship allows scientists to learn about evolutionary changes in the host based on changes in the parasite…

Picture some True Believer accidentally wandering onto campus and bumping into an undergraduate student who knows more about the evolution of humans than some out-of-date book still copyright by the Royal family of England – since 1611.

I’m not certain I could keep a straight face long enough to discuss Apples, serpents and shame.