Teacher writes novels on her own time – parents whine

Parental complaints have led Midd-West School District officials to investigate a veteran high school teacher who writes erotic romance novels under a pen name.

The teacher, Judy Buranich, of Selinsgrove, has taught at Midd-West for 33 years. Under the pen name Judy Mays, she has been writing novels for a number of those years. Her books include liaisons involving werewolves, aliens and vampires and can be found in the Romance section at Waldenbooks.

On her website, she refers to herself as “a mild-mannered tenth grade English teacher in a small public high school.”

Wesley Knapp, superintendent of the Midd-West School District, said he has received a few complaints…Knapp said he has told those making complaints “that we’d look into it.”

He declined to discuss the matter further. “When it’s a personnel matter, I can’t comment,” he said.

Deanna Stepp, mother of a district student, said: “We are not questioning Mrs. Buranich’s teaching credentials. We are not even questioning her ability as a writer … . What we’re questioning is that the two jobs are not compatible with one another…”

One of the usual crap excuses offered for censorship and blacklisting.

Writing as Mays on Facebook on April 22, Buranich said, “The world is full of idiots…”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled “Support Judy Mays (Mrs. Buranich)” hit 88 likes by Wednesday afternoon. Almost 6,000 likes by Thursday afternoon.

One of the whiners says kids at the school figured out Ms. Buranich was Judy Mays – and concludes she must be infecting their brains. History tells us that louts ready to blacklist people for talking about sex are the ones most in need of counseling on the topic. Parents who are astounded at kids smart enough to play detective should be kept away from curricula and teachers altogether.

Hopefully, Mrs. Stepp and Mrs. Apple will find a helpful local group for therapy and leave the school, the students and Judy Buranich to continue their normal daily activities.

Court rules for woman who was shackled while giving birth

Juana Villegas [L] and Maggie Hernandez with her lawyer Elliot Ozment [R]

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Nashville mother who triggered a national outcry after she was shackled during labor and after giving birth while in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office…

Nine months pregnant, Villegas was arrested July 3 and charged with careless driving and driving without vehicle insurance. She didn’t have a driver’s license. A check of Villegas’ immigration status found she had a previous deportation order to her native Mexico. Her water broke on July 5 and she delivered the baby at 1 a.m. on July 6.

In his decision Wednesday, Haynes wrote that Villegas was “neither a risk of flight nor a danger to anyone,” citing medical testimony. The judge concluded that shackling Villegas during the final stages of her labor and her post-partum recovery violated her civil rights…

She was separated from her newborn son for two days and was not allowed to have a breast pump or cream for lactating mothers in her cell…

The sheriff’s office declined to comment. In combating the lawsuit, it cited expert testimony on the danger of “illegal immigrants fleeing and engaging in illegal activities” to justify shackling the expectant mother to the bed…

Villegas, the mother of four U.S.-born children, has lived in this country for 17 years, returning quickly after a 1996 deportation to Mexico.

The fact of her undocumented status, of course, shouldn’t have had a damned thing to do with lousy treatment by Tennessee sheriffs. I hope the federal court throws the book at these thoughtless representatives of law and order.

Congress has discovered privacy as another issue for hearings

Try Preparation H

Mobile privacy safeguards should also extend to third-party application developers, two lawmakers said after reviewing the practices of four major U.S. wireless carriers.

Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, released on Thursday letters they received from Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile in response to their inquiries last month about the collection, use and storage of location data.

The letters showed the wireless carriers generally asked customers before accessing their location data.

But developers of popular mobile phone applications were less than forthcoming about their tracking.

“Third-party developers can access the location of customers any time they want,” Barton said. “They shouldn’t have free reign over your location data and personally identifiable information.”

Markey echoed this sentiment, saying consumer privacy protections must apply “across the entire wireless ecosystem — from wireless carriers, to mobile handset makers, to application developers.”

Markey and Barton grew concerned about location tracking after media reports found that Deutsche Telekom AG tracked the exact coordinates of a German politician using its service over a six-month period…

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller will hold a hearing in May on consumer protection and privacy in the mobile marketplace. Senator Al Franken said on Thursday both Google and Apple would attend his May 10 hearing, the first by the new Senate judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law.

It is unclear if this legislative scrutiny will lead to strict new privacy laws that will include app developers.

It is also unclear if this legislative scrutiny will lead to anything useful at all. Congress becoming interested in privacy for American citizens is the ultimate in hypocrisy after rolling over and sticking all four feet in the air, passing and re-passing the so-called Patriot Act. More likely they’ll try to add a provision requiring a backdoor for the NSA.

Criminal liars.

Got leprosy? Any armadillos in your life?

Every year, about 150 Americans are diagnosed with leprosy, a disease that disfigures the skin and affects the nervous system. Two-thirds of these people pick it up while traveling overseas, but the source of the remaining third has long been a mystery. Where did these patients, most of them from Texas and Louisiana, catch leprosy?

Research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine points strongly to an unlikely source — the armadillo.

In the NEJM study, Richard Truman and his colleagues…used several genetic markers to analyze strains of Mycobacterium leprae, the bacteria that causes leprosy, in humans and armadillos in the U.S. and South America.

Some of the American leprosy patients had familiar strains that have shown up in other countries, but others had a never-before-seen strain that was also found in American armadillos. The researchers concluded that wild armadillos and many patients with leprosy in the southern United States are infected with the same strain of M. leprae.

This discovery has led some to compare leprosy to other infectious diseases that leaped from animals to humans. Many speculate that flu came from water fowl, and it’s pretty well-established that HIV came from chimpanzees. But with leprosy, the opposite is true. We infected them.

Truman says there was no leprosy in the New World until European settlers arrived. Somehow armadillos contracted the disease, and now about 15 percent of armadillos carry it…

The more likely path to infection is by noshing on armadillo. “People become infected because of direct contact with raw armadillo flesh that has been butchered in some way or another,” he says.

In Texas and other southern states, barbecued armadillo and armadillo chili are folk favorites. Avoiding handling and consuming armadillo meat will drastically reduce the already small risk posed by armadillos, Truman says.

I hope those of you inclined to eat armadillo – road kill or otherwise – will be careful.

Chip satellites get test run on Endeavour’s final launch

A group of Cornell-developed, fingernail-sized satellites may travel to Saturn within the next decade, and as they flutter down through its atmosphere, they will collect data about chemistry, radiation and particle impacts.

Three prototypes of these chip satellites, named “Sprite,” will be mounted on the International Space Station after the space shuttle Endeavour delivers them on its final flight, which is scheduled to launch Friday, April 29…

The thin, 1-inch-square chips, in development for three years in the lab of Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will be mounted to the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-8) pallet, which will be attached to the space station, exposing them to the harsh conditions of space to see how they hold up and transmit data…

“Their small size allows them to travel like space dust,” said Peck. “Blown by solar winds, they can ‘sail’ to distant locations without fuel. … We’re actually trying to create a new capability and build it from the ground up. … We want to learn what’s the bare minimum we can design for communication from space,” Peck said…

The prototypes are physically identical, but each transmits differently. “They all emit at the same frequency … [but] they are different and distinct from each other in ways that we can recognize on the ground,” said Peck. “That’s very important because it’s a pathfinder for something we hope to do in the future. We want to launch a huge number of these things simultaneously but still sort out which is which.”

“We’re seeing such an explosion in personal electronics … all these components are super high performance, and they have far outstripped what the aerospace industry has at its disposal,” said Peck.

Bravo. Another first step in space exploration.

Join the Uterati – fight back against Republican censorship!

In Florida, “uterus” is a dirty word. A member of the state house of representatives drew a reprimand when he complained that while Republicans want to repeal rules and regulations on corporations, they are all hot to impose rules and regulations on individuals. Women, for example. The rightwingers who control both the house and the senate in Florida have introduced 18 bills to restrict abortion.

Representative Scott Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando, said that his wife had decided the only way to protect her rights was to, as he put it, “incorporate her uterus”. Maybe then the business sycophants of the Republican party would stop trying to micromanage it with laws circumscribing reproductive freedom. Speaker Dean Cannon said he was shocked – shocked! – at such language on the house floor, deeming it a breach of “decorum”. Stephanie Kunkel, Planned Parenthood’s Florida director, rolled her eyes: “If the speaker can’t bear to hear or say the word ‘uterus’, he shouldn’t be legislating it.” Newspaper columnists amused themselves concocting acceptable euphemisms: Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post suggests “baby garage”.

And that’s pretty much how Republicans see women – as a place to park a kid till he’s ready to pop out and go to Sunday School and learn that sex is filthy. Republican-controlled legislatures across the US are hell-bent on stopping women from exercising control over their own bodies. Florida is one of 13 states that would require women to have an ultrasound – which they would have to pay for – before terminating a pregnancy. In Indiana, Texas, Kentucky and four other states, a woman would be forced to look at the foetus. Doctors would have to describe to her, in great detail, the foetus and its physical functions. After all this, she would still have to cool her heels for several days before being permitted to actually have the abortion…

In Texas, where they’re trying to restrict RU-486, the “morning after pill”, the legislature also threatened to cut funding for low-income contraception programmes on the logic that birth control among the poor leads to increased abortion rates. That’s bad and stupid, but not as bad and stupid as what’s going on in Louisiana where Representative John LaBruzzo has introduced a bill to outlaw all abortions – no exceptions, even where the life of the mother is at risk – and charge doctors who perform abortions with “foeticide”. On 26 April, Mother Jones reported that LaBruzzo would also like to make criminals of women who have abortions, but that he may remove that provision in his bill, making it easier to pass.

As Gloria Steinem said, so many years ago: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

I’ve been following the serious attack on freedom of choice by Republikans – about right for self-titled Libertarians. Plus the absurd assault on language by Florida Republicans. You should RTFA in the Guardian for the best precis of what’s going on. Both the criminal and laughable elements of the tale.

As is customary, most of the news-as-media-and-entertainment crowd who own American journalism have paid little attention to the political struggle and fear possible retaliation by Republicans and their Kool Aid Party brown shirts. So, there has been little coverage of the uterati event. Though it would fit nicely in with their dedication to column inches about stupidity like birthers and other racist camouflage.

Blood of Pope John Paul II goes on display this weekend – WTF?

Blood taken from Pope John Paul II before he died is to go on display at his beatification on Sunday.

One of four small vials of blood removed from John Paul during his final days will be used, the Vatican said in a statement…

More than 50 heads of state and several hundred thousand pilgrims are expected to travel to Rome for the beatification, a step before full sainthood.

After the death of John Paul, two of the vials of blood were given to the late pope’s private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow, Poland. The other two – one of which will be used for Sunday’s beatification – were left in the care of nuns at the Vatican’s Bambin Gesu hospital.

The vial will be placed in a “precious reliquary” prepared specially for the occasion by the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.

After being extracted, the blood was mixed with an anti-coagulant in the container to ensure it remained liquid.

“The blood and hair, these are from of the pope’s body, so these are relics of the first degree,” Cardinal Dziwisz told AFP.

Remind me some time how organized religion is supposed to be more sophisticated and advanced than primitive shaman in some remote society without a written language or history.

Seems to me – laying out pomp and circumstances with leftover bits and pieces of a corpse is reasonably backwards. What body parts do we get to worship next?

Round 1 Goes to the FBI vs. Coreflood Botnet

The FBI’s unprecedented effort to behead the Coreflood botnet — comprising millions of hacked Windows machines — appears to be working, at least for now. The bureau has tracked a dramatic decline in the number of pings from the botnet since the takedown operation began earlier this month…

The government’s efforts have “temporarily stopped Coreflood from running on infected computers in the United States,” writes the government in its filing, “and have stopped Coreflood from updating itself, thereby enabling anti-virus software vendors to release new virus signatures that can recognize the latest versions of Coreflood.”

The Justice Department asked the court to extend authorization for “Operation Adeona” for an additional 30 days, through May 25, so the feds can continue to temporarily disable the malware as it reports in from infected hosts. The court approved the request on Monday.

Interestingly, the new filing also hints that the government may soon formally seek court permission to take the next step, and actually instruct infected computers to permanently uninstall the malware. It would be the first time a government agency automatically removed code from Americans’ computers.

“The process has been successfully tested by the FBI on computers infected with Coreflood for testing purposes,” writes FBI Special Agent Briana Neumiller in a declaration to the court…

At the beginning of 2010, Coreflood encompassed more than 2 million infected machines worldwide, the majority of them in the U.S. Coreflood is malicious software used by its controllers to steal online banking credentials from a victim’s computer to loot their financial accounts. In one case, the criminals managed to initiate more than $900,000 in fraudulent wire transfers from the bank account of a defense contractor in Tennessee before they were discovered. An investment company in North Carolina lost more than $150,000 in fraudulent wire transfers.

The culture of embarrassment continues to overlay most successful uses of malicious software. The firms and individuals who have infected computers are loath to admit their carelessness and loss. Many banks don’t want these tales publicized for fear of losing accounts – even though banks are rarely penetrated.

And software companies selling defenses against such attacks usually end up sounding like a commercial for their own products – when discussing such attacks.

Fear of offending Muslims allowed extremists into Britain

A fear of offending Muslims allowed extremists into Britain before the 2005 London Tube and bus bombings, a former Labour minister with close links to the intelligence services has admitted.

Kim Howells blamed “political correctness” for fostering a situation in which dozens of extremists being sent to fight the West after being indoctrinated in Britain.

The Daily Telegraph has disclosed this week how terrorist recruits from across Africa and the Middle East flocked to London to claim asylum.

According to leaked detainee files from the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph, at least 35 detainees were sent to fight against the West after being indoctrinated in Britain. Mr Howells, a former foreign office minister and chairman of the influential Commons intelligence and security committee, blamed “political correctness” which meant that the extremists and their views were not challenged…

Britain ignored repeated warnings to stop granting asylum to Islamic extremists wanted in other countries for terrorism offences before the 7/7 bombings.

According to the cable, also obtained by WikiLeaks, the politician asked: “Did the English consider the risks of allowing Londonistan to develop? The British thought that sheltering terrorists was a good solution, but they did not realise that one can never align oneself with the devil, and they did precisely that for years and years…”

Shake hands with the devil who wants to kill you.

Entry-level job market for college grads best in 3 years

Good news, college grads: the entry-level job market is the best it has been in three years — but you may have to settle for less money and a position outside your preferred career path, a new report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows.

“There’s lots of positive news out there, and we’re finally seeing some significant job creation,” says John Challenger, chief executive officer. But before you start daydreaming about the corner office, he adds one caveat: The job market isn’t what it used to be, and it may not provide the “ideal job situation” for everyone…

“There’s still a long way to go, but I think it’s going to be a much better year for graduates than it was two years ago,” says Challenger…

…New grads have two advantages that their older peers don’t, Challenger says: For starters, the next generation of workers are a “blank slate,” allowing potential employers to influence their skills and work habits. Secondly, they’re flexible.

“I think a lot of companies are looking for people who can go where the work is and give up some of their work-life balance to find a role they want,” says Challenger. “Companies need flexibility in their workplace.”

On the flipside, new grads aren’t just competing with their classmates — they’re also going toe-to-toe with those who graduated three or four years ago and still haven’t landed their ideal job. “These are people who have experience to add to their job candidacy — they’re out there fighting to land the job they didn’t get when they left school,” Challenger says.

So where are the jobs? Research from job search website Indeed.com shows the outlook is particularly good for recent grads looking for careers in healthcare (physical therapists, registered nurses and physician assistants) and information technology (software engineers, network administrators). In fact, job postings have climbed 53 percent overall from March 2010 to March 2011, Indeed finds.

Even more encouraging, competition for jobs in the 50 largest metro areas has improved significantly, with nine cities now having one online job posting per unemployed person.

Encouraging info. And the Prism blog at Reuters is one of the shiny features brightening the scene at one of the world’s oldest and most professional news services.

RTFA for the numbers behind the analysis.