Eating out at a posh New York City restaurant? Check your credit card statement daily!

I’ll bet Warren Buffett checks his credit card accounts

Diners at some of New York’s most popular restaurants had their credit card details stolen by waiters working for gangs who targetted American Express black cards then spent millions of dollars on luxury clothes and vintage wine…

The cards of wealthy customers at Smith and Wollensky’s, Capital Grille and Wolfgang’s steakhouses were allegedly “skimmed” and used to buy Rolex watches, Jimmy Choo shoes and Chanel handbags.

Almost 30 people have been charged with crimes including racketeering, conspiracy and grand larceny, after the alleged fraud ring was broken by police in Manhattan. Seven waiters at the restaurants are alleged by prosecutors to have been recruited by Luis Damian “D.J.” Jacas, the 41-year-old alleged ringleader, and equipped with card-copying devices.

They were instructed to focus on customers with premium credit cards including the American Express black card, so that large purchases would not trigger alerts to customers…

Police seized $1.1 million in cash and $1 million worth of designer watches, as well as 100 designer handbags and 35 cases of expensive vintage wine…

To protect the alleged scheme, Jacas is alleged to have only allowed purchases up to $35,000 and to have ordered that the cards be used for three days before being ditched.

His alleged second-in-command, a 51-year-old convicted killer called Gregory Portacio, 51, remains at large. All the defendants deny the charges. They each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Not a new practice. We all know that. But access to top-shelf clientele and high credit lines makes the scam more profitable than ever.

Top-rated restaurants had better check their hires with more accuracy. Consumers should be using accounts which allow a chance for you daily to check on illegal charges. It’s in your own interest, folks.

Is Obama preparing to copout on Birth Control?

Which Democrat is liable to copout on supporting birth control?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A dispute has erupted between President Obama and Democrats in Congress over a proposal to broaden the exemption from new rules that require health insurance plans to cover contraceptives for women free of charge.

The National Academy of Sciences recommended that the government adopt such a requirement. And Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, announced in August that she had done so. But after protests by Roman Catholic bishops, charities, schools and universities, the White House is considering a change that would grant a broad exemption to health plans sponsored by employers who object to such coverage for moral and religious reasons.

Churches may already qualify for an exemption. The proposal being weighed by the White House would expand the exemption to many universities, hospitals, clinics and other entities associated with religious organizations.

The prospect of such a change has infuriated many Democrats in Congress, who fought hard to secure coverage of birth control under the new health care law. Senators voiced their objections on Thursday in a telephone conference call with Pete Rouse, counselor to the president. House members registered their objections on Friday in a call with Valerie Jarrett, another member of the president’s inner circle.

House members have sent a letter to Mr. Obama urging him not to widen the exemption. Such a change, they said, would keep contraception out of reach for millions of women.

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said the broad exemption was “an outrageous idea.”

“Millions of women work for colleges, hospitals and health care systems that are nominally religious, but these folks use birth control and need coverage,” said Ms. DeGette, a leader of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus…

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said: “There is not a scintilla of legislative direction in the statute that requires the broadened exemption the administration is contemplating. This change would be a reversal of the progress made in favor of reproductive rights when President Obama took office…”

When the administration announced the requirement for contraceptive coverage, it said the decision was “based on science.” The resulting uproar has forced Mr. Obama to weigh competing claims of Catholic leaders and advocates for women’s rights, including some of his strongest supporters.

You can RTFA if you feel some compelling need to examine the claims of 14th Century ideologues. The National Academy of Sciences is about as safe as houses for any politician grounded in 20th Century progress – much the 21st Century.

Apparently Obama feels the need to give at least lip service to unconstitutional demands by churches and fundamentalist foolishness. Whether he’s silly enough to give up on men and women who support basic women’s rights to court voters who oppose freedoms agreed to by courts and legislation for most of the decades since World War 2 is beyond comprehension.

But, then, opportunism by just another Democrat instead of hard work and principled struggle ain’t exactly a new phenomenon.

Good Samaritans twice over — reunite

Sara Berg and Victor Giiesbrecht hugging

A motorist who had a heart attack but was kept alive by a stranger whom just minutes earlier he had stopped to help along a Wisconsin interstate has had a tearful reunion with that woman and the first responders who saved his life.

Victor Giesbrecht, 61, expressed his gratitude Wednesday to Sara Berg, the Eau Claire woman who performed CPR on him just a few miles further along the Interstate 94 from where he had helped her to change a tire.

He said `thank you’ and we hugged, then we both started crying,” Berg told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. First responders also attended the reunion at Giesbrecht’s room at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire…

Giesbrecht, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and his wife, Ann, were driving to Indiana Nov. 5 when they saw Berg, 40, and her cousin, Lisa Meier, stopped on the side of the interstate with a flat tire. Giesbrecht pulled over, retrieved a jack from his pickup and helped change the flat.

Minutes after driving away, Giesbrecht suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness. His wife brought their pickup to a stop and called 911. Then along came the women whom Giesbrecht had just helped. When Berg, a certified nursing assistant, discovered that Giesbrecht wasn’t breathing, she started CPR. First responders arrived a short time later and used an automated external defibrillator to restore a normal heart rhythm.

“If she wouldn’t have come along, I don’t think we’d be here right now,” Giesbrecht said.

What goes around, come around. Just usually not so soon.

U.S. conservatives offered lobbying support to Qaddafi

To a colorful group of Americans — the Washington terrorism expert, the veteran C.I.A. officer, the Republican operative, the Kansas City lawyer — the Libyan gambit last March looked like a rare business opportunity.

Even as NATO bombed Libya, the Americans offered to make Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi their client — and charge him a hefty consulting fee. Their price: a $10 million retainer before beginning negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi’s representatives.

“The fees and payments set forth in this contract are MINIMUM NON-REFUNDABLE FEES,” said the draft contract, with capital letters for emphasis. “The fees are an inducement for the ATTORNEYS AND ADVISORS to take the case and nothing else.”

Neil C. Livingstone, 65, the terrorism specialist and consultant, said he helped put together the deal after hearing that one of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, was interested in an exit strategy for the family. But he and his partners were not going to work for free, Mr. Livingstone said…

Mr. Livingstone, a television commentator and prolific author who moved home to Montana this year to try a run for governor, said…“The idea was to find them an Arabic-speaking sanctuary and let them keep some money, in return for getting out,” he said. The consultants promised to help free billions of dollars in blocked Libyan assets by steering the government into compliance with United Nations resolutions…

Now the confidential documents describing the proposed deal have surfaced on the Internet, offering a glimpse of how some saw lucrative possibilities in the power struggle that would end Colonel Qaddafi’s erratic reign. A Facebook page called WikiLeaks Libya has made public scores of documents apparently found in Libyan government offices after the Qaddafi government fell.

The papers contained a shock for the Americans: a three-page letter addressed to Colonel Qaddafi on April 17 by another partner in the proposed deal, a Belgian named Dirk Borgers. Rather than suggesting a way out of power, Mr. Borgers offered the Libyan dictator the lobbying services of what he called the “American Action Group” to outmaneuver the rebels and win United States government support.

Some of the American partners deny any knowledge of the lobbying part of the consultancy. Oh.

The other American partners – Neil S. Alpert, who had worked for the Republican National Committee and the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Randell K. Wood, a Kansas City, Mo., lawyer who has represented Libyan officials and organizations since the 1980s – didn’t respond to requests for comment…

Of the $10 million fee the group sought, Mr. Borgers said, “The aim was not to make money.” On the other hand, he added, “If you want to put up a serious operation in Washington, I think you need at least $10 million.”

The Treasury Department is about as up to speed as you would expect. They say the group’s application to be paid by the now-disappeared Qaddafi government is “still pending”. Which would be laughable if it wasn’t so typically stupid.

Teacher using school laptop to operate porn sites

A high school teacher is under investigation after school officials said she was maintaining a pornographic website from her school-issued laptop computer.

Lincoln High School teacher Heidi Kaeslin is on paid leave while the district investigates whether she violated its code of ethics…

The investigation also involves former Stockton police officer Richard Fields, who was assigned to the school as a resource officer. He told the newspaper he had acquired domain names including to develop them into websites…

Fields said the allegations are overblown. Kaeslin and her attorney declined to comment.

Kaeslin, a special education teacher and former girls soccer coach, has been with the district since 2002. Fields retired from the police department in May. The two are romantically linked…

Lincoln Unified School District has hired a computer expert to study the content on the laptop.

Conflict of interest? Running a business on school time, with school equipment? Bad taste [no reason for dismissal in California, certainly]? Titillating enough to get her on Fox Snooze?