Gaza athletes banned from Bethlehem marathon

Israeli military authorities have not issued travel documents to 21 men and one woman who had hoped to compete in this Sunday’s race in Bethlehem, despite an official request from the head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, Jabril Rajoub.

It means the athletes will have missed the chance to run in two marathons within weeks after the United Nations’s relief agency, UNWRA, last month cancelled its race in Gaza – scheduled for April 11 – in protest at a decision by the territory’s Hamas rulers banning women runners.

The controversy has opened the military to accusations of hypocrisy from critics who point out that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) posted a blog on its website criticising Hamas’ decision as a denial of human freedom…

Among the would-be Gaza runners are Sanaa Abu-Bahit, 29, a woman who has entered the 5km part of the race, and Nader Al-Masri, who represented Palestine in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

I wouldn’t expect anything less than hypocrisy, allegiance to Israel’s apartheid ideology.

Congress starts gutting the law prohibiting their insider trading

Obama signing the STOCK Act, last year. No fanfare, this week, for the change that hides transactions.

The legislative process on Capitol Hill is often slow and grinding. There are committee hearings, filibuster threats and hours of floor debate. But sometimes, when Congress really wants to get something done, it can move blindingly fast…

A year ago, President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act into law at a celebratory ceremony attended by a bipartisan cast of lawmakers…

The law wouldn’t just outlaw trading on nonpublic information by members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs. It would greatly expand financial disclosures and make all of the data searchable so insider trading and conflicts of interest would be easier to detect.

On Monday, when the president signed a bill reversing big pieces of the law, the emailed announcement was one sentence long. There was no fanfare last week either, when the Senate and then the House passed the bill in largely empty chambers using a fast-track procedure known as unanimous consent.

In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., shepherded the bill through. It was Friday afternoon at 12:52. Many members had already left for the weekend or were on their way out. The whole process took only 30 seconds. There was no debate…

“There were particular concerns about risks for those who either travel overseas on government business or work overseas,” says Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, who represents many of the 28,000 executive branch employees.

An independent study said there were also risks of identity theft, which she says the new law helps avoid…

The White House cited the independent report in explaining why the president signed the bill. And a spokesman for Cantor said the House and Senate were simply following recommendations of the study.

…Two major elements of the law remain. Insider trading is illegal, even for members of Congress and the executive branch. And for those who are still covered by the now-narrower law, disclosures of large stock trades are required within 45 days. It will just be harder to get to them.

Eric Cantor and his bubbas proved that legal chicanery is still the fastest and easiest thing to get through Congress. Making it difficult for voters to see what their elected representatives and staff are doing in bed with lobbyists is the opposite of transparency.

The president could have vetoed the bill and sent it back to the House and Senate for revisions that would have retained the original purpose – transparency in Congress and online access for voters. He chose to let the bill slide through as is.

I wonder what the next revision will be? After the 2014 elections, of course.

“‘People you may know” Facebook feature leads to bigamy charge

Alan L. O’Neill discovered another reason to keep your private life off Facebook.

A Tacoma, Wash., resident was slapped with a bigamy charge when Facebook suggested that his wife friend a woman who turned out to be his other wife, the Oakland Press reported Tuesday.

Court documents say that O’Neill changed his name after separating from his original wife in 2009. He then married another woman without divorcing his first wife

“I’ve never done anything intentionally wrong in my life,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill, due in court later this month, faces up to a year in jail.

Some of things folks do to save money – end up costing more than you ever can expect.

Make gridlock more fun – put a drum kit on the steering wheel

If you get regularly get caught in standstill traffic during your daily commute, Smack Attack could be for you. Pounding your fists on the steering wheel cover’s eight touch sensors produces drum sounds over the top of whatever music you’re listening to from your iPhone’s music library. While it may look like something of a dangerous distraction, its inventor claims that it could actually help prevent accidents by keeping drivers stimulated and alert.

Gregor Hanuschak says that he got the inspiration for Smack Attack during a trip across the US, where he often found himself having trouble staying alert. He found the lack of stimulation during long drives could result in a trance-like state, but managed to keep white line fever at bay by tapping away on the wheel to his favorite tunes…

In November 2007, he filed a patent for a steering wheel-based music generation system, which was subsequently approved in 2010. A few prototypes later, and the Smack Attack RITW (Re-Inventing The Wheel) steering wheel cover is being prepared for commercial availability.

Hanuschak says that the cover will fit any steering wheel, and features eight color-coded smack sensors, each making a different drum sound when tapped. It slides over the steering wheel, is secured in place with straps and then turned on. The device is powered by a small, user-replaceable lithium battery, and communicates with an iPhone over Bluetooth. The smartphone runs an associated app that can also make other sounds available to the system, should you tire of the supplied drum sounds…

Hanuschak is set to launch on Kickstarter in a few days. A pledge of US$99 will secure a Smack Attack wheel cover and iPhone app (projected retail value of $149). Bumping that up to $225 will get you the full package, including a mini speaker and a carrying case. The campaign target has been set at $200,000 and, assuming a successful outcome, delivery has been estimated for December.

Rev up your iTune playlist of Karaoke numbers and you’re set to offer a full-blown concert to everyone else stuck in the same traffic jam. I can think of a few occasions motionless for hours on Boston’s Southeast Distressway when this would have come in handy.