Five French drunks – or a terrorist plot against Texas?

Rental RV ready to tow away from the courthouse
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

It’s one thing for tipsy teenagers to break into a county courthouse and clown around with a judge’s robe and gavel. If you’re a foreign national suspected of such behavior, you’ll get a whole lot more attention.

Five young men learned that Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas, after the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security joined an investigation that will determine whether the incident was an escapade or part of a terrorism plot.

So far, Bexar County officials said Wednesday afternoon, it appears to be a prank. “I think probably, if their mother found out, she wouldn’t approve,” Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the five men who had reportedly been traveling in an RV are from France. Luis Antu, a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, said the men, in their 20s, claimed to be French Moroccan…

Authorities say two of the men climbed a fire escape and entered through a fourth-floor window shortly before 1:30 a.m. A video image released by authorities shows two people walking or running down a hallway while wearing sombreros.

Alarms sounded. Police quickly had the place surrounded. But they bided their time during the 30-minute incident, authorities said…The pair exited the courthouse and, along with three others outside, including one sitting in an RV, were arrested…

According to the security surveillance tape, the two suspects “were playing with a judge’s gavel and robes,” the spokesman said. “They went into one of the libraries and put on sombreros and were walking around the halls…”

As a precaution, a bomb-sniffing dog was brought to the site and searched the facility.

There’s a distinct possibility they were plastered. Beer cans were found in their rental RV – and in the courtroom. It’s presumed the beer cans were theirs.

Will that be vanilla or chocolate with your OC’s?

An ice cream vendor who peddled prescription painkillers from the same truck he sold frozen treats to kids, was sentenced on Tuesday to three and a half years in prison.

The sentence was part of a plea deal struck by Louis Scala, 30, the head of a $1 million drug-trafficking ring run out of his Lickety Split truck, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Scala, 30, obtained the drugs with a prescription pad stolen by an accomplice from a Manhattan doctor’s office. Through a network of more than two dozen runners, he was able to get nearly 43,000 oxycodone pills between July 2009 and June 2010, with a street value of $20 apiece…

Scala drove his Lickety Split truck through neighborhoods in Staten Island, selling ice cream to children while inviting adults into the back to buy pills.

American entrepreneurs are truly special.

Unsanitary equipment blamed for deadly listeria outbreak

Cantaloupes rotting in the Jensen Farms fields in Colorado
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Potentially contaminated processing equipment and problems with packing and storage of whole cantaloupes at a Colorado farm likely led to the deadliest listeria outbreak in the United States in 25 years, which has so far claimed 25 lives in a dozen states…

Pools of water on the floor of the Jensen Farms packing facility in Granada, Colo., equipment that was not easily cleaned and sanitized and failure to cool newly harvested cantaloupes before sending them to cold storage all contributed to the outbreak, the first-ever listeria contamination blamed on whole melons, federal Food and Drug Administration officials said Wednesday…

Investigators tested fruit samples and equipment from Jensen Farms and confirmed the presence of four outbreak strains of the listeria monocytogenes bacteria confirmed in the illnesses and deaths.

The FDA said Jensen Farms, which is based in Holly, Colo., had recently bought used equipment that was corroded and hard to clean. For example, the equipment used to wash and dry cantaloupe showed signs of dirt and product build-up, even after it had been disassembled, cleaned and sanitzed, the FDA’s report said. The equipment had been previously used to process raw potatoes, officials said, which could have left listeria bacteria behind.

In addition, a truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked near the facility and could have introduced contamination to the facility, investigators said. Low levels of listeria in the field also could have introduced the bacteria into the packing facility. And the design of the plant allowed stagnant water to pool on the floor. The FDA had not inspected the farm before the Sept. 10 session that first detected listeria problems…

The outbreak has claimed lives in a dozen states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. They include six in Colorado, five in New Mexico, two each in Kansas, Louisiana, New York and Texas and one each in Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wyoming…

Four illnesses were related to pregnancy, including a newborn who fell ill. One miscarriage has been reported.

Rest assured our elected officials are on top of the situation. Between Congress, the White House, the bureaucrats within the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture — the company has been mailed a warning letter detailing violations.


The Occupy Wall Street protest has about as much music as MTV

“Every successful movement has a soundtrack,” the songwriter Tom Morello told reporters after he had tried to fire up the crowd at the Occupy Wall Street Protest last week with a Woody Guthrie tune and one of his own labor songs.

Perhaps he is right, but the protesters in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan have yet to find an anthem. Nor is the rest of the country humming songs about hard times. So far, musicians living through the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression have filled the airwaves with songs about dancing, not the worries of working people.

Where have all the protest songs gone?

To be sure, a handful of songwriters are tackling the issue. Ry Cooder, the blues and rock guitarist known for his exploration of roots music, lambastes bankers and conservatives in his latest album, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” (Nonesuch). Similarly, Mr. Morello, who began his career as the guitarist and chief ideologue for the band Rage Against the Machine, makes an unapologetic call for leftist revolution in his new album, “World Wide Rebel Songs” (New West Records)…

Yet none of these songs have been big hits, and none are likely to have the impact that a song like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” had in the early 1960s.

The scarcity of songs about the economic disaster stands in contrast to the flurry of pop songs in the mid-2000s blaming President George W. Bush’s foreign policy for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Antiwar songs came not only from stalwarts like R.E.M. and Neil Young but also from younger performers like Green Day, Bright Eyes and Pink…

“A Darth Vader-like president makes a great target,” Mr. Morello said. “One of the reasons the air has gone out of the balloon of protest songwriting is people hung their hopes on the Obama administration…”

The lack of a coherent message on the left has been evident at the Wall Street protest. “I have not heard a single song that sums up what we are trying to do here,” said Martían Hughes, a 24-year-old college student, after Mr. Morello’s performance. “Nor have I heard a single message.”

A couple of instant reactions to the article:

These are mostly middle-class kids griping about the availability of good jobs when they graduate from college. They will disappear from protests on the street as the economy very slowly improves – just as did their peers when the VietNam War ended and the draft dissolved. Educated self-interest is self-limiting for the middle-class declassé.

OTOH, serious protest in the statehouses and legislatures against Republican attempts to crush unions among state employees and teachers have lasted under a lot tougher circumstances than anything the collegiate crowd confronts. Those are families with mortgages to pay for and their own kids to try to send through college. They’re mommies and daddies whose own children have joined them on the picket line.

I’m afraid many of those sustained by the vague, generalized ennui and discomfort that sings about Occupying Wall Street – have parents who work down the street in one of the brokerage houses or are busy back home in Indiana selling life insurance. The occupiers will be around for what seems like a long time to TV talking heads. But, geeks who write games and sociology majors in Boston will find jobs – and vanish – before laid-off teachers do in Wisconsin.

Machine guns stolen from training site for Los Angeles SWAT unit

A cache of Los Angeles Police Department submachine guns and handguns was stolen last week from a secured building used by the department’s SWAT unit, raising fears that the weapons, which police had altered to fire only blanks, could be converted back to lethal use, police officials confirmed…

Members of the SWAT unit, which specializes in hostage rescues and other high-risk situations, were scheduled to train at the facility Thursday, Downing said. A police officer arriving at the building around 9 a.m. Thursday discovered the weapons were missing, according to Downing. The officer also found electrical equipment stacked near a back door, indicating the burglars may still have been working and fled when the officer arrived.

Downing said the building, although not a guarded LAPD facility, was considered secure. To get to the weapons, the thieves cut through bolt locks on an outside door and two internal doors and forced their way through a metal roll gate, he said.

I guess ‘secure’ is all relative now,” he said. “It’s embarrassing…. It’s a lesson learned…”

The building, which once housed textile companies, was donated to the department. Inside, the department put up walls and made other changes in order to create realistic scenarios for training exercises. They did not install an alarm system or surveillance cameras…

The obvious concern is that whoever stole the weapons will convert them from firing blanks to using live ammunition. Downing acknowledged that was “definitely a possibility” but said that to do so would require an understanding of the inner workings of the weapons.

Gun experts and online tutorials suggest, however, that the process is relatively simple and requires only a few parts. The company that manufactures the conversion kits used by the LAPD has an instructional video on its website that walks a viewer through the steps of returning an MP-5 to its original form in about five minutes.

Har. There’s a certain level of being “important” which conveys to some a conviction that they are untouchable. Who would dare to challenge their superior status not only in the community at large; but, among police officers.

So, you get careless.

Ex-CEO of Olympus says he was fired for whistleblowing

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Sacked Olympus chief executive Michael Woodford says he has contacted the UK’s Serious Fraud Office about the Japanese firm’s accounting practices.

Mr Woodford, who was dismissed last week, told the BBC that he believed the camera-maker had paid out excessive sums in relation to takeover deals. He says he was fired for raising the issue, but Olympus says his different management style was to blame.

The SFO confirmed that Mr Woodford had contacted it.

Olympus said it would “consider” taking legal action against Mr Woodford for disclosing confidential information.

Mr Woodford said he had commissioned auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers to look into an alleged $687 million payment by Olympus to a Cayman Island company. He told the BBC that he was ousted after he distributed a copy of the PwC report on Wednesday night…

He says he was called into a board meeting on Friday at which the agenda had been changed. The only new item to discuss was his dismissal as chief executive with immediate effect, for which, he said, no reason was given.

After the board voted for his dismissal, he left the meeting and was followed to his office by a colleague…He was asked for the key to his flat, 51% of which he owned, and was told to get the bus to the airport as they had taken away his car…

According to Mr Woodford, auditors were unable to establish who owned the company in the Cayman Islands. He said questions still had to be answered: “To whom and for what did we pay this money..?”

A perfectly legitimate question within any legal corporate structure. Whether that structure is manipulated by officers dedicated to criminal pursuits is an entirely relevant question.

Sounds like Mr. Woodford asked that question. His dismissal is the only answer, so far.