Beauty queen wins chubby case against Texas pageant officials

The “unusable” bikini photo

A US beauty contest winner who claimed she was stripped of her crown because she had gained weight has won her courtroom fight to regain the title.

Seventeen-year-old Domonique Ramirez claimed pageant officials in Texas had told her to “get off the tacos”. Organisers of the Miss San Antonio contest said she was dismissed because she had breached her contract.

After nearly 12 hours of deliberation, jurors in Bexar County, Texas, ruled in favour of Ms Ramirez…

“This is about principle, this is about what’s right,” the 5ft 8in, 129lb Ms Ramirez said after the verdict on Thursday…

During the week-long trial, pageant director Linda Woods said the teenager had turned up to a bikini shoot overweight, making the pictures “unusable”.

Ms Ramirez told the court that pageant bosses had said she “needed to lay off the tacos and the junk food“…

Jury foreman Jesse Sanchez told the local newspaper, the Express-News, that the verdict was a “a hard decision”. She declined to divulge what damages and fees were awarded to Ms Ramirez.

Now that she has her title back, Ms Ramirez is eligible to compete for the titles of Miss Texas and Miss America.

The judges appointed a replacement while all this was going on – but Domonique says she’s perfectly willing to move on and compete alongside the substitute, Ashley Dixon, in the follow-on contests that can lead to Miss America.

How much did you pay in taxes this year? GE paid less!

If I only had a heart…

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less.

In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back.

RTFA. Long, detailed, persuasive.

You can ignore the crappola from Republicans and their KoolAid Party flunkies about corporate taxes driving American corporations offshore. The reality is that our highest-in-the-industrial-world corporate tax rate ain’t something paid by anyone in the Wall Street club.

The other half of the equation is populated with former bureaucrats, members of Congress and similarly crime-inclined citizens with the connections to help bend, break and otherwise aid our corporate barons avoid any responsibility for funding this nation. Yup. It’s still just up to us.

The hunt for Rustock spammers continues after botnet takedown

The Rustock botnet, which sent up to 30 billion spam messages per day, might have been run by two or three people. Early analysis, following raids to knock out the spam network, suggest that it was the work of a small team.

Rustock was made up of about one million hijacked PCs and employed a series of tricks to hide itself from scrutiny for years.

Since the raids on the network’s hardware, global spam levels have dropped and remain relatively low.

It does not look like there were more than a couple of people running it to me,” said Alex Lanstein, a senior engineer at security firm FireEye, which helped with the investigation into Rustock…

He said that the character of the code inside the Rustock malware and the way the giant network was run suggested that it was operated by a small team…

Rustock evaded capture for years because of the clever way it was controlled, he said. Victims were snared when they visited websites seeded with booby-trapped adverts and links.

Once PCs were compromised, updates were regularly pushed out to them using custom written encryption. Those downloads contained the spam engine that despatched billions of ads for fake pharmaceuticals…

“When you are a programmer and you realise that you have the full force of the Microsoft legal department pointed directly at you, then you might say to yourself its time to try something else,” he said.

Any bets on whatever they do for grins, giggles and geedus, next – is legal? Once you get hooked on higher returns from crime it’s difficult to accept less.

Refused a kiss, 92-year-old woman shoots at neighbor

Helen Staudinger, 92, wanted a kiss.

But authorities say after her 53-year-old neighbor refused, the central Florida woman aimed a semi-automatic pistol at his house and fired four times.

“If my head would have been over just a little bit further, (a bullet) probably would have hit me in the back of the head,” the neighbor, Dwight Bettner, told Reuters.

Staudinger remained in jail on Tuesday, a day after being arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and shooting into a dwelling…

Bettner, a former law enforcement officer and boilermaker, said his elderly neighbor has seemed attracted to him since he moved in six months ago. He’s not sure why.

“I’ve taken her trash out for her, just neighborly stuff,” Bettner said. “I guess she just took that as something else…”

Just after noon on Monday, Bettner argued with Staudinger when she came to his house and refused to leave, according to an incident report.

I want a kiss before I leave,” Bettner said Staudinger told him.

No, he said. “Just go back to your property, and leave me alone,” Bettner recalled saying.

Bettner was on the phone with his father when he heard gunshots moments later. One bullet went through a window, spraying him with glass…

Bettner said on Tuesday that he would probably move out of his rented home. “I just don’t need the stress or the hassle,” he said. “I thought this only happened to younger people.”


Republican prosecutor suggests phony assassination attempt to build sympathy for Wisconsin governor

An Indiana prosecutor said one of his deputies resigned Thursday after admitting he sent an email to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suggesting the Republican fake an attack on himself to discredit the public employee unions protesting his plan to strip them of nearly all collective bargaining rights.

Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said Carlos Lam resigned in a phone call about 5 a.m. Thursday after acknowledging that he sent the Feb. 19 email to Walker suggesting “the situation in WI presents a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.”

“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions,” Lam wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Cooper said Lam initially denied sending the email and said someone had hacked into his email account. But Lam later acknowledged he had written the message, and resigned hours before the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported the contents publicly Thursday…

Lam is the second Indiana prosecutor to lose his job over volatile comments about the Wisconsin protests. Jeffrey Cox, a deputy attorney general, was fired last month after tweeting that police should use live ammunition against labor protesters.

Lam is commited to a society that hasn’t existed for decades. Fortunately.

The only thing I’d like to see clarified is how many other times he has suggested – or implemented – illegal means to support his ideology?

His personal slogan BTW is reliance on the 3 G’s: “guns, gold and gasoline”.

Buttermilk Creek artifacts predate Clovis culture by 2,500 years

Researchers in Texas have discovered thousands of human artifacts in a layer of earth that lies directly beneath an assemblage of Clovis relics, expanding evidence that other cultures preceded the Clovis culture in North America. This pre-Clovis toolkit appears to be between 13,200 and 15,500 years old and it includes biface and blade technology that may have later been adapted—and improved upon—by the Clovis culture.

The Clovis people, whose tools were known for their distinctive “fluted” points, were once thought to be the original settlers of North America about 13,000 years ago. Over the past few years, however, scattered evidence has hinted at several earlier cultures. But such evidence has often been disputed in part because so few artifacts have actually been recovered.

The new site in Texas, known as the Debra L. Friedkin site, documents a pre-Clovis settlement in the region and informs researchers about the transition to Clovis culture and technology, which is later seen across North and Central America (and also into northern South America). These new artifacts comprise what researchers are calling the Buttermilk Creek Complex…

The newly discovered tools are small and made of chert. The researchers suggest that they were designed for a mobile toolkit, something that could be easily packed up and moved to a new location. These tools are recognizably different from Clovis tools, although they do share some similarities, including the use of biface and bladelet technology…

The Friedkin site in Texas implies that Clovis tools could have eventually evolved from the tools found in the Buttermilk Creek Complex—and that the Clovis culture, including the use of fluted points, likely developed in North America.

This discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop,” said Michael Waters. “People [from the Buttermilk Creek Complex] could have experimented with stone and invented the weapons and tools that we now recognize as Clovis… In short, it is now time to abandon once and for all the ‘Clovis First’ model and develop a new model for the peopling of the Americas.”

Bravo. Science moves a few more steps forward, willing and able to debate and validate new information and add it to the sum of the whole.