Georgia militia grayheads arrested for terrorist plot

Four elderly men from the US state of Georgia have appeared in court charged with plotting to murder officials using explosives and the lethal toxin ricin.

Court documents say the group scoped out federal buildings and asked a contact to produce ricin. The FBI used a confidential informant to record the group’s meetings. You have to wonder if this was the “usual” level of informant. Like, some drug dealer trying to get a reduced sentence.

The men were arrested on Tuesday days after a laboratory test found trace amounts of ricin in their possession, the authorities said.

The four were named as Frederick Thomas, Dan Roberts, Ray Adams, and Samuel Crump, all ranging in age from 65 to 73.

The bespectacled accused appeared to have trouble hearing the judge at the federal court in Gainesville, even though she was using a microphone…

Mr Thomas allegedly wanted to model the group’s actions on the online novel Absolved, which involves small groups of citizens attacking US officials.

The novel’s author, Mike Vanderboegh, wrote on his blog on Wednesday his book was fiction, and was sceptical the group could have ever carried out the attacks…He appears often enough on Fox News that he’ll probably make a bundle commenting on the case.

According to court documents, Mr Thomas told the group he had a “bucket list” of politicians, employees and others he felt needed to be “taken out”…

Mr Crump and Mr Adams were allegedly assigned to try to obtain or make ricin.

As a grayhead who has occasionally been accused of being a terrorist by the sort of dimwit who would be a willing volunteer in a Georgia militia, I will be following the case with the sort of skepticism an FBI sting involving “confidential informants” deserves.

Maybe the case is legit. Maybe not. It speaks volumes of how most folks disrespect official Washington that the only people enthusiastically covering the purported plot are TV talking heads.

French defend magazine firebombed over Muhammad cartoon

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The French government has rushed to the defence of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after an arson attack on its headquarters as it published an edition featuring a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on the cover as “guest editor”.

The Paris offices of the magazine were gutted after a fire broke out at 1am following reports of a petrol bomb being thrown through a window.

The blaze happened just before the special “Sharia Hebdo” edition hit newsstands on Wednesday morning in what the paper mockingly called a “celebration” of the victory of the moderate Islamist party An-Nahda in the Tunisian elections and the Libyan transitional executive’s comments on Islamic sharia law as a main source of the country’s law. On the front page a cartoon prophet Muhammad said: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter..!”

However, French politicians defended the magazine. The prime minister, François Fillon, said: “Freedom of expression is an inalienable value of democracy and any incursion against press freedom must be condemned with the utmost force. No cause justified violent action.”

The interior minister, Claude Guéant, said: “You like or you don’t like Charlie Hebdo, but it’s a newspaper. Press freedom is sacrosanct for the French.” He added that all French people should feel solidarity towards the magazine.

François Hollande, the Socialist presidential candidate, told Le Monde newspaper the incident demonstrated that the struggle for press freedom and “respect of opinions” was a permanent battle, adding that “fundamentalism must be eradicated in all its forms“…

The main representative body of the Muslim faith in France, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), condemned the fire, while its president pointed out that caricaturing the prophet was considered offensive to Muslims. “The CFCM deplores the deeply mocking tone of the newspaper towards Islam and its prophet, but reaffirms with force its total opposition to any act or form of violence,” it said.

I’ll probably never have an opportunity to live in a world where my repugnance for fundamentalist hatred and violence will come to rest. There doesn’t appear to a shortage in sight of bigots of any religious stripe who would gladly kill for their God or prophet.

I hope the French police are successful in catching these thugs. Lock ’em up and throw away the key.

Car dealer slandered as Taliban Toyota — wins $7.5 million

The owner of a large southwest Alabama car dealership derided as “Taliban Toyota” by a competitor has been awarded $7.5 million in damages after a jury trial for his slander claim.

Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani, owner of Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama, sought $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Bob Tyler Toyota, claiming employees at that Pensacola, Florida-based dealership falsely portrayed him as an Islamist militant to customers.

“The feeling I received in the courtroom for the truth to come out was worth a lot more than any money anybody can give me,” Esfahani told Reuters…

Esfahani’s lawsuit said that Bob Tyler sales manager Fred Kenner told at least one couple considering buying from Eastern Shore Toyota in 2009 that Esfahani was of Middle Eastern descent and was “helping fund the insurgents there and is also laundering money for them…”

A Bob Tyler salesman was accused of telling the same couple that Esfahani was from Iraq and calling him a “terrorist” who put soldiers including the salesman’s brother in harm’s way…

The jury deliberated for three hours before awarding Esfahani $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages on Monday evening…

Esfahani said the dollar amount awarded by the jury was irrelevant unless the case sets a precedent by which other business owners can seek recourse against tactics he considers “un-American.”

Slimeballs who perpetuate slander and discrimination against minorities – whether for business or demented pleasure – represent the sickest form of bigotry. They are so preoccupied with their Limbaugh-like hatred they pay no heed to ordinary standards of civility or public conduct.

A judgement like this one warm the cockles of my heart. Hitting these creeps where it hurts them most – in the wallet – is especially just.

Mississippi will vote on the personhood of fertilized eggs

On November 8, Mississippi voters will not only decide who should lead the state, but also indicate whether they agree with the candidates about the status of embryos. The Initiative 26 ballot measure proposes to amend the state’s constitution to redefine ‘person’ as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof”. If approved, the amendment would effectively bestow human rights on fertilized human eggs, making abortion illegal in the state in most, if not all, circumstances.

“The unborn child in the womb is scientifically proven to be a human being, and when it comes down to it we are a human-rights organization,” says Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA…Ms. Mason, like most of her peers, is deluded, a hypocrite, a liar.

By defining personhood so broadly, the measure would also have an impact beyond abortion—for example, it could rule out research using human embryonic stem cells and put doctors who offer in vitro fertilization (IVF) in a dubious legal position, because not all embryos created during fertility treatment survive the procedure.

“This is a dangerous and extreme government intrusion into women’s health, women’s rights and families’ health,” says Stan Flint, a consultant to Mississippians for Healthy Families, based in Jackson, which opposes the amendment.

Similar propositions have been put to voters in the United States twice before—during statewide campaigns in Colorado, where the personhood movement first emerged as a strategic challenge to abortion laws. But in both 2008 and 2010, personhood initiatives were roundly defeated, respectively winning only 27% and 29% of votes cast…Mississippi could be very different

The Mississippi vote itself will have little direct impact on human embryonic stem-cell research, because the state is not a major player in the field. The potential threat to reproductive technology is more immediate…

As the campaign for Initiative 26 heads into its final days…defeat of the Mississippi initiative would be a turnaround, but an increasingly vocal opposition movement has thrown predictions of an easy victory for the initiative into question. “Starting from a dead stop at two months out, we have put together a major campaign,” says Stan Flint. “The momentum has swung strongly towards the opposition to this amendment.”

Just as fundraising for organizations like Planned Parenthood were an absolute necessity in the days spent fighting for a woman’s right to choose an abortion, for everyone’s access to birth control – here we are, again, faced with religious nutballs trying to enforce their 14th Century ideology on the Land of Liberty.

That they choose to couch their intellectual backwardness in terminology that includes the word “science” sprinkled here and there is lip service to rare notice of what century we really live in. In truth, many of our politicians are as backwards as the people who elect them to “lead”. I expect as little from them as I do from the huddled clusters of fanatics who say Mississippi is God’s Country.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Christmas pudding sent off to the Boer war donated to museum

A Christmas pudding posted 111 years ago to cheer up a sailor fighting in the Boer war, has turned up in the back of a kitchen cupboard, and been donated to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth.

The museum experts believe it is a unique survivor of a batch of nearly 1,000 paid for by public subscription and organised by the formidable Agnes Weston – a Victorian philanthropist who became known as “the mother of the navy” – and sent to the Naval Brigade.

It may be the oldest surviving Christmas pudding anywhere, though a slightly younger pudding bag smuggled by Sir Ernest Shackleton to the Antarctic in the toe of a sock resurfaced a few years ago.

The Portsmouth tin still contains its original contents, with the instructions: “This pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot.” The conservation staff would not dream of destroying such a precious artefact – and also suspect that the contents of the corroded tin are by now highly toxic.

The pudding was donated to the museum following a phone call from a woman who found it at the back of a kitchen cupboard, where it had been stored since her husband’s death. She knew that it was in his family for years, but not how it came back from South Africa – or why it was never eaten.

I wonder if the reasons people refused to eat tinned Xmas pudding were the same in the 19th Century as they are, today. Among other things, health comes to mind. Digestion is another.

Defence cutbacks leave the UK undefended against invasion by sea

Threat as real as most MOD scenarios

The Navy normally provides a minimum coverage of a frigate or destroyer fulfilling the role of Fleet Ready Escort (FRE) in order to be able to respond quickly to a potential threat at home or abroad. However, slashed Defence budgets and the war in Libya has meant there hasn’t been a vessel available since the start of October.

The last ship to fill the role…was HMS Portland but that left for war games off the coast of Scotland in October, and it is now having a rest period in Plymouth on the south coast.

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord Alan West said: “…It’s a big problem. If we haven’t got a ship ready to do this role then it’s worrying. It’s a very unsatisfactory position to be in…”

Critics warned the cuts would leave the navy overstretched. Since February nine warships have been deployed to Libya, leaving none left to be on hand in the UK…

Lord West added: “What it shows is that the number of frigates and destroyers we’ve got now is insufficient. We need more ships as a matter of urgency.”

I’m certain my friends in the UK are trembling in their boots.

Hopefully, no one will notify the Duchy of Grand Fenwick of this opportunity for invasion.