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Los Angeles hotel where the body of Elisa Lam was found in water tank has 'long, dark history'

Cecil Hotel
© Robyn Beck /AFP/Getty Images
The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, which advertises "low monthly rates."
The gruesome discovery this week of a young woman's body inside a rooftop water tank at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is not the Cecil's first brush with such notoriety, as Southern California Public Radio's KPCC reports.

Chris Nichols, associate editor at Los Angeles Magazine, told KPCC about the hotel's "long, dark history."

"There were murders there in the '20s and '30s," he said, "and a woman jumped out a window in the '60s."

"Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, now on California's death row,was a frequent resident in the 1980s, Nichols said. Back then, KPCC writes, "room rates were as cheap as $14. It's reported that he stayed in a room on the 14th floor while killing 14 people [he was convicted of 13 murders]."

Austrian murderer Jack Unterweger, KPCC adds, also stayed there in the '80s. "He picked up some prostitutes nearby and they ended up dead," Nichols said. The Guardian reminds us that "between 1990 and 1993 Unterweger murdered 11 prostitutes in Vienna, Prague and Los Angeles, strangling them with a self-styled ligature constructed from his victims' bra straps." Unterweger killed himself in an Austrian prison in 1994.

Dollar Gold

Rich get richer with IRS loophole in sunny Bermuda

money bermuda
Billionaire hedge-fund moguls are getting comfortable with a US tax loophole to fatten their already plump bottom lines.

All it takes to avoid tens of millions of dollars in taxes is a short trip to Bermuda - not by them, but their cash.

Hedgies like John Paulson and Steve Cohen are forming reinsurance companies in tax-free havens like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands - and then transferring cash from their funds to the reinsurance companies.

The cash, classified as insurance company reserves, is then transferred back into the funds as reserves to be invested for future claims.

Thanks to an IRS loophole, profits from these insurance companies aren't taxed - until the stake in the fund is sold, and that could be years down the line.

And here's the kicker: The taxes, when paid, are at the lower capital-gains rate and not as ordinary income.

Comment: Google tax dodge: Sheltered revenues in no-tax Bermuda soar to $10 billion


Slavery-math questions cause uproar at New York City school

© Fotolia
A school principal said she's "appalled" by a homework assignment that used scenarios about killing and whipping slaves to teach math.

Adele Schroeter has ordered sensitivity training for the entire staff of Public School 59 in Manhattan following last month's assignment, the Daily News reported Friday.

Che Guevara

Crows attack Russian MPs' cars with stones


The crows had apparently been planning the attacks for some time
In a scene reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller The Birds, a murder of crows has stoned several expensive vehicles parked near a regional legislative body in the Russian Urals, prompting internet jokes about possible political motives.

"When leaving the office, I saw a group of drivers of ministers' and deputies' cars who were moving chaotically and swinging their arms," local lawmaker Maksim Ryapasov wrote in his blog.

The drivers told the MP that fuss was caused by crows that were grabbing rocks from the roof of the building and "bombarding" cars with them for several hours.

The MP noted that there is a "stone garden" on the assembly's roof, which was set up under the initiative of the legislature's chairwoman Lyudmila Babushkina. Apparently, it was those stones the crows used as weapons.

As a result of the "bird protest," the windshields of at least three cars were broken.

Comment: Well if the humans won't do something about the corrupt politicians, it looks like the animals will have to do it for them...


Reality Check: Growing national divide over guns and gun control

Alarm Clock

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a land of sinkholes: will cost trillions to fix


The outbreak of over 50 sinkholes all over Harrisburg began when this dumpster got stuck in the road...
Grandma's grandma was but a wee lass, and the quickest way to get from here to there had four legs when many of Harrisburg's water and sewer pipes were put in.

It should be no great surprise they're giving up the ghost.

Mayor Linda Thompson said the Cameron Street water main that broke Tuesday night dated back to the late 1800s.

1884 to be exact.

The leak that's believed to have started the massive Fourth Street sinkhole that opened its maw on New Years day appeared to have come from an old clay pipe.

For years, we've taken our aging infrastructure for granted - replacing bits here and there when they failed, but generally avoiding the political backlash that comes with the higher bills required to replace wholesale the increasingly frail systems.

And the older the pipes get, the more often they crack a joint.

According to the EPA, one large water utility in the Midwest went from 250 water main breaks per year to 2,200 per year in just under two decades as the system outgrew its useful life.

There will be more breaks and more sinkholes in Harrisburg.

Comment: The question is, why are sinkholes suddenly opening up all over the place? Burst water mains don't cause outbreaks of sinkholes
all by themselves...


TSA apologizes after picking wheelchair-bound child for security check

screenshot from youtube video by user alschultes
© screenshot from youtube video by user alschultes
Even though she passed through a security checkpoint at Missouri's Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, TSA agents picked a three-year-old girl in a wheelchair for additional screening. The agency is now apologizing for the incident.

Lucy Forck, who was on her way to Disney World, suffers from Spina bifida, a developmental disorder that prevents vertebrae and the spinal cord from fully forming. Lucy's spinal cord is partially exposed as a result.

"They specifically told me that they were singling her out for this special treatment because she's in a wheelchair," Nathan Forck, Lucy's father, told Fox News about the February 8 incident. "They are specifically singling out disabled people for this special scrutiny. It's rather offensive to me as a father of a disabled child."

Lucy's mother took out a video camera to catch the 45-minute incident on film after TSA agents insisted on patting the child down.

"It is against the law for you to record," a TSA agent is heard telling her at one point during the video. However, Nathan, who is a lawyer, knew this was untrue - so his wife continued to film the ordeal.

"You can't do touch my daughter unless I record it," she says in response.


Cardinal who covered up pedophilia says he forgives those who are mad at him

Cardinal Mahony
© latimes.com
The disgraced Cardinal Mahony
Documents from the 1980s have been unearthed which conclusively show Archbishop Roger M. Mahony purposefully and intentionally worked to cover-up the sexual abuses of children. Due to this vile revelation the public has scorned Mahony, to which he says he forgives them for their anger. How generous of him.

Taking to his personal blog to discuss the allegations, and how unprepared he was for the public backlash, Mahony writes:
I am being called to something deeper--to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many.
It is Mahony's apparent belief that God wanted him to cover-up the sexual abuses of children so that he could be humiliated in public.


Fish fraud widespread in US: Report

© Zenpix | Dreamstime
You might want to take a second look at that red snapper you ordered - it could be another fish entirely. Seafood is frequently mislabeled in supermarkets and other retailers, according to one of the largest studies to date.

The results, released today (Feb. 21) by the ocean conservation organization Oceana, found that one-third of 1,215 seafood samples purchased across 21 U.S. states were mislabeled. And 87 percent of the time, fish labeled as red snapper was something else entirely. Nearly 60 percent of the time, fish labeled as tuna was also another fish.

Several other studies, some by the same organization, have found frequently mislabeled fish in New York, but this is the largest study to date to look at the problem.

According to the report, 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and less than 1 percent of it is inspected for mislabeling or other fraud.


Las Vegas strip shooting leaves 3 dead, strip closed

© Dave Lawrence/FOX5
Two of the vehicles involved in the deadly multi-vehicle wreck that resulted from a rolling gun battle at the Las Vegas Strip.
A rolling gun battle at the famed Las Vegas Strip led to a multi-vehicle wreck that resulted in the deaths of three people on Thursday. Las Vegas Metro police said the shooting happened just before 4:30 a.m. on Flamingo Road near Las Vegas Boulevard.

According to a Metro sergeant, drivers in a Maserati and a black sport-utility vehicle were exchanging gunfire, approaching the intersection.

The sports car was then struck by a taxi cab, police said. The taxi burst into flames, killing the driver and the passenger inside, police said.

Police also said the driver of the Maserati was killed as a result of the shooting.

The wreck also involved three more vehicles at the intersection, and four others were injured, including a passenger in the Maserati, police said. Those people were sent to University Medical Center, where three were discharged following the crash, police said.

There was no word on the condition of the fourth injured person.

Metro said a black Range Rover with black rims was the other vehicle involved in the shootout. The SUV fled the scene.