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Tue, 31 Jan 2023
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Cameras at U.K. Gas Stations Will Block Uninsured Drivers from Refueling

© The Associated Press/Wong Maye-E
A new plan from the British government will use closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at gas stations that will automatically prevent uninsured drivers from filling up their gas tanks - that is, until their vehicle information has been logged in the system.

The Mirror reports that the plan is meant to address the 1.4 million uninsured motorists in Britain and act as a deterrent. That may not sound like a huge number compared with the estimated 13.8 percent of uninsured American motorists, but the 1.4 million figure represents four percent of all U.K. drivers.

The British government decided to make use of the CCTV cameras after hearing a presentation from accounting firm Ernst & Young, which will help implement the new system. And while the proposal comes from the private sector but will be used by the government, it's hard to not immediately think of British author George Orwell's seminal novel 1984.

"The key to this is simplicity. Connecting the existing technology ... is relatively inexpensive and wouldn't be a big information technology program" Ernst & Young partner Graeme Swan told the Telegraph. "There shouldn't be concerns about 'big brother' because there is no new database, no vehicles are tracked and no record is kept. It's simply a new rule of no insurance equals no fuel."

Alarm Clock

Goldman Banker Quits In Disgust, Blasts Firm For "Ripping Off" Clients

US - Another PR disaster is unfolding for Goldman Sachs (GS), the Wall Street investment bank that has already borne the brunt of popular wrath in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

A senior executive at the firm, Greg Smith, quit today in spectacular fashion, announcing his resignation in a scathing New York Times editorial in which he accused the firm of gleefully "ripping off" its clients and succumbing to short-term greed.

Within today's Goldman Sachs, Smith says, senior bankers often refer to the firm's clients as "muppets."

The firm has lost the culture of integrity, teamwork, and humility that once made it great, Smith says, and instead has become a place that is "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."

Heart - Black

Bus Crash in Swiss Tunnel Kills 28 People

© unknown
Geneva - A bus carrying Belgian students returning from a ski holiday crashed into a wall in a Swiss tunnel, killing 22 Belgian 12-year-olds and six adults, police said Wednesday.

Another 24 students were hospitalized with injuries, Valais cantonal (state) police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told The Associated Press.

The bus carrying 52 people, including 12-year-old students from two different Belgian schools, crashed around 9 p.m. local time Tuesday inside a tunnel on the A9 highway near Sierre, Switzerland, in the southern Swiss canton (state) of Valais, an area of popular ski resorts in the Swiss Alps.

Authorities were still identifying all the victims, said Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister.

"It is incomprehensible. There were three buses and only one was in (an) accident without any contact with another vehicle," Reynders said.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said this is "an extremely sad day for all of Belgium."


British Police Investigate Website of Cannibalistic Cult

A further insight into the extent of child abuse and exploitation published on the internet was revealed yesterday when British detectives said they were trying to close a website showing pictures of a man eating a dismembered baby.

Scotland Yard is liaising with the FBI in the US to close the website, based in California, which has been linked with the ritual abuse of children. Last night the website was still accessible.

The discovery of the site comes just a week after seven British men were jailed for their involvement in the Wonderland paedophile ring.

While this site was not specifically uncovered by Operation Cathedral which investigated the ring, British detectives are currently at the forefront of efforts to close it down. A second website showing similar scenes of sadistic and ritualistic abuse has been successfully


Texas Courthouse Shooting: One Dead, Four Injured

US - A shooting at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont, Texas, has left one person dead and four injured, according to the Beaumont Police Department.

Five people were shot, including the gunman. The gunman has been taken into custody, but police have not yet disclosed his identity.

Rod Carroll, a Jefferson County Sheriffs Department deputy, told ABC News the shooting was part of a hostage situation at the courthouse.

A county employee told ABC News' Beaumont affiliate KMBT that the victims were visitors, not courthouse employees.

2 + 2 = 4

Rock Group "Junkyard Prophet" Delivers Controversial Message at School Assembly

US, Iowa - High school students in Dunkerton, Iowa were expecting an assembly about bullying and making good choices. What they got instead was the Christian rap/hard rock band called Junkyard Prophet delivering an anti-gay and anti-abortion rant.

According to the La Crosse Tribune, after the band performed, they separated the girls, boys, and teachers into three breakout groups. "They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren't virgins," said Jennifer Littlefield, whose 16-year-old daughter, Alivia called her in tears after the event. Reportedly, one of the band members led the girls in a chant pledging purity and encouraged them to be submissive to their husbands after marriage.

The boys were shown images of musicians who died of drug overdoses. A video of the event shows a band member criticizing Elton John and Lady Gaga for encouraging "sexual deviancy" and supporting laws outlawing homosexuality.


Ugandan Gay Rights Group Sues American Evangelist

© unk
A Ugandan gay rights group filed suit against an American evangelist, Scott Lively, in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday, accusing him of violating international law by inciting the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda.

The lawsuit alleges that beginning in 2002, Mr. Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings that homosexuals would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.

The Ugandan legislature considered a bill in 2009, proposed by one of Mr. Lively's Ugandan contacts, that would have imposed the death sentence for homosexual behavior. That bill was at first withdrawn after an outcry from the United States and European nations that are among major aid donors to Uganda, but a revised bill was reintroduced last month.

Mr. Lively is being sued by the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda under the alien tort statute, which allows foreigners to sue in American courts in situations alleging the violation of international law. The suit claims that Mr. Lively's actions resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture and murder of homosexuals in Uganda.


Man stabs 4 near school in Ohio office building

Police say a man who stabbed four people near a technical school in a downtown Ohio office building before being shot by an officer had three knives.

Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner says the suspect confronted one victim in the admissions office of Miami-Jacobs Career College on Wednesday afternoon. He said other people inside intervened and took away one knife the suspect was using.

Weiner says those who intervened didn't realize suspect had a second knife.

He says two of the victims were either students or staff at the college. Two others were outside in the lobby area.

Police say one knife was recovered inside the school, and two knives were found near him outside.

Three male victims are in critical condition, and a fourth man has minor injuries. The suspect is in critical condition.

Heart - Black

3 Canadians Accuse U.S. Border Guards of 'Molestation'

© Brent Foster/Canadian Press
The Ambassador Bridge at the Windsor-Detroit international crossing is pictured in November 2010. Two lawsuits involving three Canadian women were filed Tuesday against female U.S. border agents, alleging aggressive and inappropriate searches.
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

Three Canadian women filed lawsuits Tuesday alleging "sexual molestation" by American female border guards at the Canada-U.S. border near Windsor, Ont.

Two separate lawsuits were filed, one involving two women travelling together and the other by a woman travelling separately who alleged incidents at the Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel.

Including a similar lawsuit filed by a Stratford, Ont., woman in February 2011, there are now at least four Canadian women accusing border agents of sexual assault at the Canada-U.S. crossing, according to the lawyer for all three cases, Tom Wienner.

"These were not pat-downs or limited personal searches, these were clearly in the nature of sexual molestation," the Rochester, Mich.-based lawyer told CBC News.

Leslie Ingratta, of Windsor, Ont., told CBC News she was heading into Detroit for a shopping trip in January 2011 when she was taken aside for further questioning.


Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation Part XX

"What struck both of us was that there were huge gaps in Houdini's life story and some puzzling inconsistencies. So we embarked on a journey to discover the real man. Early on, we discovered an important connection that most biographers seemed to miss."

From the Introduction to The Secret Life of Houdini, by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, 2006
As noted earlier in this series, there is considerable debate over the question of whether Harry Houdini ever lived in the Laurel Canyon home known locally as the "Houdini House" (the History Channel's Brad Meltzer's Decoded recently aired an episode on Houdini that included a segment filmed at the site, which was unreservedly identified as the former Houdini estate; the series, however, doesn't appear to be overly concerned with accuracy).
© Library of Congress
Harry Houdini, full-length portrait, standing, facing front, in chains in 1899.

Even if Houdini did live in the home that now lies in ruins, his story would seem to have little relevance here. After all, Harry Houdini, widely considered to be the consummate entertainer of his era, reached the peak of his career long before there was a Laurel Canyon - before there was even that magical place known as Hollywood. What then is there to gain through an examination of the life of Harry Houdini? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

What are generally claimed to be the basic details of Harry Houdini's life can be found in countless published biographies and web posts. Born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874, he was the fourth of seven children born to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and the former Cecelia Steiner. The family later changed the spelling of their names and Houdini became Ehrich Weiss, known by friends and family as "Ehrie," which ultimately became "Harry." His stage surname was an homage to famed French magician Robert Houdin.

In mid-1878, Rabbi Meyer, with his five sons and pregnant wife in tow, set sail for America, arriving on July 3, 1878. The family first put down roots in Appleton, Wisconsin before later moving, in 1887, to New York City. Four years later, Houdini launched his career as a magician, at first performing basic card tricks. He had little success and at times would make ends meet by performing in circus freak shows.

In 1893, he met singer/dancer Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, known as "Bess," who would become both his wife and lifetime stage assistant. The pair though, performing as "The Houdinis," continued to find success an elusive goal.

To say that Houdini's fortunes changed in 1899 would be a bit of an understatement. As recounted by Kalush and Sloman, "Within months, he had gone from cheap beer halls and dime museums to the big-time - vaudeville. In one year's time, he had gone from literally eating rabbits for survival to making what today would equal $45,000 a week." After finally hitting it big, however, Houdini then did something rather inexplicable - he abruptly sailed off to England to begin a lengthy European tour.