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Stormtrooper

Local police refuse to participate in 'voluntary' traffic checkpoints

police
© AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
The US government's use of traffic checkpoints to gather drunk and drugged driving information from motorists has come under fire recently, so much so that some police agencies are withdrawing their participation.

These checkpoints, established by a subcontractor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are co-manned by off-duty, uniformed officers and intended to ask people about their driving habits. Although participation is voluntary, the presence of uniformed officers has pushed many Americans to complain they feel compelled to comply with requests.

Fueled by mistrust of the government due to the burgeoning National Security Agency surveillance scandal, the fact that some checkpoint workers collect blood, saliva, and breath samples has only amplified concerns.

As RT reported in mid-2013, police in Ohio were criticized for setting up fake checkpoints in order to randomly stop cars and search them for drugs. Since it's illegal for police to stop and search vehicles without probable cause, the sham checkpoint system has been criticized as unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union is investigating the issue and considering taking legal actions.

Meanwhile, police and checkpoint workers in Reading, Pennsylvania raised eyebrows in December when reports began surfacing that they were asking drivers to provide DNA samples as part of the NHTSA survey. One resident said he was never told what the sample would be used for and had to refuse to hand one over multiple times before he was finally allowed to go.

Light Saber

TEDx speaker gives priceless talk about how TED talks are worthless


With all due respect to Lizzie Velasquez, the vast majority of TED and TEDx talks are complete bullshit, and it's high time someone called them out on it.

Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, has a huge problem with TED, and he isn't afraid to tell them so right to their face.

At a recent TEDx event in San Diego, Bratton delivered a talk called "What's Wrong with TED Talks?"

"The first reason is over-simplification," Bratton says at the start of his speech. "To be clear, I have nothing against the idea of interesting people who do smart things explaining their work doing in a way that everyone can understand, but TED goes way beyond that."

Gold Coins

Predatory Capitalism: Betting-shop machines sucking cash out of communities

Image
© Alamy
In a spin … virtual roulette is among a number of hi-tech games available in betting shops.
Midway through our chat, Abbas Marasli rolls off the sofa, yanks up his shirt and shows me a six-inch scar running up his chest. It is seven months old; a permanent reminder of a double heart bypass. Abbas is only 46, but could easily be mistaken as 10 years older. The father of three has lost two businesses, racked up tens of thousands in additional debts, been shunned by brothers and sisters, and gone through a divorce. The root cause of all this stress and misery, he says, is a machine that's spreading across high streets.

Until last spring, Abbas was addicted to betting terminals. That phrase used to mean fruit machines: clunky things with a lever and a coin slot and loud music. Not any more. Games terminals are now highly sophisticated devices for sucking up customers' cash. Walk into a bookie today and you'll be offered virtual roulette or blackjack, the chance to bet £100 every 20 seconds and easy payment by credit card.

It was virtual roulette that Abbas discovered about eight years ago. It soon swallowed up his life. On his way to work, he'd duck into a bookies. Any breaks would be spent running into a William Hill or a Ladbroke's; likewise on the way home. By the end of one day, he could have spent his week's wages, then borrowed from friends and family. He once lost £2,000 in 10 minutes; burned through £10,000 of savings in two days. After a bad streak, he'd attack the terminals or bash his head against a wall. At night, "these machines would be in my dreams".

He describes all this sat under a photo of a daughter's wedding. How did his family manage? "No holidays, no social life." They'd borrow cash from relatives just to buy groceries. Abbas's wife divorced him, only taking him back after he'd undergone therapy for addiction. After she smilingly hands out cups of tea, I'm told she's still on pills for depression.

Dollars

Recreational pot sales in Colorado surpass $5 million in first week

sample packs of marijuana in Northglenn, Colorado
© Reuters / Rick Wilking

Cheri Hackett, co-owner of BotanaCare, carries bags of the company's sample packs of marijuana in Northglenn, Colorado
The state of Colorado has survived its first week with legal weed, and the verdict is in: people really like marijuana.

Owners of the 37 just-launched dispensaries across Colorado tell the Huffington Post that they've already generated a combined total of roughly $5 million in sales since it became legal there on January 1 for adults to purchase and use marijuana for recreational reasons.

Some of the larger dispensaries unloaded as much as 60 pounds of pot each from their shelves during that first week, HuffPo's Matt Ferner reported on Wednesday, and combined sales on the first of the year alone totaled over $1 million.

"Every day that we've been in business since Jan. 1 has been better than my best day of business ever," Andy Williams, owner of Denver's Medicine Man dispensary, told the website.

Voters in Colorado approved a measure legalizing medicinal marijuana back in 2000, and dispensaries across the state had until just recently been barred from selling to those without a doctor's prescription. Denver's 3D Cannabis Center told the Colorado Springs Gazette that they averaged 25 clients a day in medical marijuana sales before the state's new law went into effect, but on Jan. 1 they served around 450 customers and before long were forced to close down in order to restock.

Heart - Black

Pregnant, brain-dead woman forced to stay on life support to incubate fetus

Marlise Munoz
© Unknown
Texas law requires that a pregnant woman be kept alive, regardless of the condition of the baby or her family's wishes.


A brain-dead woman is being kept on life support against hers and her family's wishes so her body can incubate her unborn baby, Huffington Post reported.

33-year-old Marlise Munoz from Fort Worth, Texas was 14 weeks pregnant when she died of a suspected pulmonary embolism, a blood clot to the lungs, the week after Thanksgiving.

Her husband, Erick, found Marlise at their home and performed CPR before she was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Electric shocks and drugs started her heart and it continued to beat with mechanical support, but her brain waves were completely flat, with no hope of ever recovering.

As her family planned to say their goodbyes to honor Marlise's wishes not be kept on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital would not comply with the directions, NY Times reported.

The hospital plans on keeping Marlise on life support until her baby is delivered based on an arbitrary law of the Texas Advance Directives Act which states that, "a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."

Handcuffs

Businessman who slapped crying toddler on Delta flight sentenced to Federal prison

Image
© Smoking Gun
Jonah Bennett
The businessman who last year slapped a crying toddler in the face on a Delta Air Lines flight--after using a racial slur when demanding that the child's mother silence him--was sentenced today to eight months in federal prison.

Joe Rickey Hundley, 61, was arrested following last February's incident aboard a plane heading from Minnesota to Georgia.

According to an FBI affidavit, Jessica Bennett's 19-month-old son Jonah (seen at right) began to cry as the aircraft began its descent into Atlanta. Bennett told investigators that her child was in distress "due to the altitude change."

Hundley, who appeared intoxicated, was seated next to Bennett (whose son was on her lap). As the child cried, Hundley demanded that Bennett "shut that nigger baby up." He then "turned around and slapped" the toddler in the face, leaving Jonah with a scratch below his right eye.

In October, Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. While prosecutors recommended a six-month prison term, a federal magistrate today opted for a harsher sentence due to Hundley's prior conviction for assaulting a girlfriend.

Che Guevara

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls sent packing by angry crowd doing 'la quenelle' at Rennes train station

Image
Translated by SOTT.net

Manuel Valls received a warm welcoming committee on Wednesday at a train station in Rennes. While traveling in the Breton city to present, among other things, results in the 'war against burglary', the Minister of the Interior was strongly heckled once he alighted from his train.

"Valls, resign!"

Greeted by shouts of "Valls, resign!", whistles, jeers and 'quenelles', the controversial Dieudonné gesture, were launched at the Minister.

It was quite a provocative demonstration against the man who sent a circular to all Department Prefects on Monday, paving the way for the banning of all performances by the controversial comedian.


Better Earth

Texas restaurant owner to sell business so teenage waitress can afford surgery on brain tumour

Brittany
© The Independent, UK
A Texas restaurant owner is selling his business so one of his waitresses can afford surgery on her brain tumour.

Brittany Mathis, 19, was diagnosed with the "ping-pong ball sized" tumour in December but does not have health insurance.

Manager Michael De Beyer told The Courier he will sell the Kaiserhof Restaurant, which he has run for 15 years, if that is what it takes to help her.

He said: "I'm not able to just sit by and let it happen.

"I couldn't live with myself - I would never be happy just earning money from my restaurant knowing that she needs help."

Brittany's mother, Barbara Mathis, who also works at the restaurant alongside older daughter Kay, called him a "blessing" to the family.

Her husband, John Mathis, died from a brain aneurysm caused by a tumour in 2000 aged just 33.

Brittany told The Courier she had not heard back from doctors after the diagnosis and one said the tumour would not affect her for "a few years".

Cloud Grey

Do we really want to be French? The French 'beauty' myth

french women
As a nation, we appear to be endlessly fascinated with how they live across the Channel. But it is particularly the female population that seems to be dazzled by our feisty, Chanel-wearing, red-wine swilling counterparts. Your local library could probably dedicate an entire corner to French lifestyle guides and there still wouldn't be enough room to house every book that advises on how to achieve the Parisian woman's je ne sais quoi. The subject practically deserves its own Dewey Decimal classification.

And now we are awaiting yet another addition to the genre. Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secrets of Ageing with Style and Attitude, published next week, is a sort-of sequel to her best-selling 2006 book, French Women Don't Get Fat.

X

Amtrak police force American homeless out into polar cold

New York homeless at Penn Station say officers threaten them with expulsion into deadly weather

homeless NYC
© Wilson Dizard/Al Jazeera America
Asa Lowe, 41, and Ray Cosby, 69, keep warm in Penn Station in New York City
As Rachel lay napping in New York City's Penn Station on Tuesday, an Amtrak police officer approached and banged on the wall next to her with his baton, startling her from sleep.

The officer told Rachel to get up from the floor or risk being removed from the station. She stood up and said, "Arrest me. I don't care."

Moving along the wall, the officer woke a homeless man by giving him a prodding kick to his feet, then roused several others.