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Australian man pleads guilty to collar bomb extortion bid

Image
© Sam Upshaw Jr/AP
Paul Peters, left, used to work for a firm with links to Madeleine Pulver's family, yet it is still unclear why he targeted her.
Paul Peters admits he detained 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, locking her in a fake collar bomb at her home in Sydney last year

An Australian investment banker has pleaded guilty to chaining a fake bomb to a young woman's neck in a bizarre extortion attempt last year.

Paul Douglas Peters' lawyer Kathy Crittenden pleaded guilty on his behalf in a Sydney courtroom to a charge of aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence by knowingly detaining 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver.

Pulver was alone studying in her family's Sydney mansion 3 August when the 50-year-old Peters, wearing a ski mask and wielding a baseball bat, tethered a bomb-like device around her neck. It took bomb squad police 10 hours to remove it, but it contained no explosives and Pulver was not injured.

Pistol

Ohio high school shooting exposes America's dark fascination

ohio shooting
Chardon High School in Ohio this week became the latest school to suffer a multiple fatal shooting and the predictable media storm has ensued. Why does this type of violence fascinate us so?

On Monday this week, 17-year-old TJ Lane apparently walked into the cafeteria of Chardon High School, Ohio, just before 7:30. It was before first period, when students were eating breakfast. Allegedly producing a .22 calibre handgun, Lane shot 10 rounds of ammunition. Three students were killed and three more injured. Lane then fled the building, chased by a teacher, before being apprehended outside the school.

Lane told police he had targeted students at random, but witnesses said he had appeared to focus his ammunition on a group of students sitting at one particular table. There are now rumours that one of the students who died, Russell King, had recently begun dating Lane's ex-girlfriend, but this has yet to be confirmed. A student at the table who escaped serious injury told CBS that Lane "was silent the whole time. That's what made it so random."

In the aftermath of the shooting, the usual handwringing has begun in the US media about what prompts this type of violence. Students who knew Lane have said he was a quiet loner one of many of the characteristics we have come to associate with perpetrators of school shootings. In reality, though, it appears that there is no standard profile of someone more likely to shoot up a school. The specter of bullying is often raised as providing potential motives for this type of incident, but Lane did not even attend Chardon High School. He was a student at the nearby Lake Academy, a school for "at-risk" youths, though there was contact between the two schools because many Lake students caught a bus departing from Chardon High School.

Newspaper

British Court Throws Out Conviction of Autism/Vaccine Doctor

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© The New York Times
Andrew Wakefield with his wife, Carmel, in London, after a disciplinary-panel hearing of the General Medical Council in January 2010.
Andrew Wakefield's Co-Author Completely Exonerated

In a stunning reversal, world renowned pediatric gastroenterologist Prof. John Walker-Smith won his appeal today against the United Kingdom's General Medical Council regulatory board that had ruled against both him and Andrew Wakefield for their roles in the 1998 Lancet MMR paper, which raised questions about a link to autism. The complete victory means that Walker-Smith has been returned to the status of a fully licensed physician in the UK, although he had already retired in 2001 - six years before the GMC trial even began.

Justice John Mitting ruled on the appeal by Walker-Smith, saying that the GMC "panel's determination cannot stand. I therefore quash it." He said that its conclusions were based on "inadequate and superficial reasoning and, in a number of instances, a wrong conclusion." The verdict restores Walker-Smith's name to the medical register and his reputation to the medical community. This conclusion is not surprising, as the GMC trial had no actual complainants, no harm came to the children who were studied, and parents supported Walker-Smith and Wakefield through the trial, reporting that their children had medically benefited from the treatment they received at the Royal Free Hospital.

Comment: For a more in depth look at the obvious character assassination of British doctors researching the connections between vaccinations and autism in the 1998 Lancet MMR paper read the following articles:

Dr. Andrew Wakefield on The Poisoning of Young Minds
Pharma Propaganda Alert: 'Fraud' Study Linked Autism to Vaccine
Smoke and Mirrors: Dr Richard Horton and the Wakefield Affair
Big Pharma Smear: Dr. Wakefield Accused of Further Vaccine Fraud
Doctor who exposed MMR-autism link defends himself at General Medical Council


Stop

Facebook reports unexplained European outage

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© AP / Paul Sakuma
Workers are shown inside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011.
Facebook says that technical problems have made the site unavailable to some of its European users.

A statement released by the social networking site's London-based public relations agency says that the issue "has been resolved and everyone should now have access to Facebook."

Dollar

Detroit Mayor's New Plan: Sell City Lots for $200

Dave Bing
© unknown
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
US, Michigan - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, under pressure to stanch cash outflows, unveiled a new plan Wednesday night that would allow property owners in the city to buy vacant city-owned lots for $200.

The initiative, which Bing said is designed to "reduce blight in our neighborhoods," specifically targets 500 home owners who have vacant city land sitting adjacent to their own property.

Detroit has made headlines in recent years due to rock-bottom land values throughout much of the city, including in historic neighborhoods with stately homes and relatively solid safety records. Land carrying a minimum bid as low as $500 has gone unsold in recent auctions.

The $200-property sale was announced during Bing's annual state of the city speech. The mayor of Michigan's largest city is under intense pressure from the governor to cut costs and craft a plan that can help the company run out of money in May.

Document

Virginia Governor Signs Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Bill

Bob McDonnell
© Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
US - Abdominal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in Virginia will become mandatory under a bill signed into law Wednesday by the state's Republican governor, who had faced a national uproar when earlier versions of the measure had sought to make the exams medically invasive.

The law conservative Gov. Bob McDonnell signed requires all Virginia abortion providers to comply starting July 1 or pay a $2,500 fine for each violation. Patients living within 100 miles of the clinic where the abortion is performed must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound examination before having an abortion. Victims of rape or incest who reported the attacks to police are exempt. Women must be offered the chance to view the ultrasound images, but can't be forced to see them.

The measure initially had sought to mandate a vaginally invasive form of an ultrasound, triggering a national uproar that resounded across political talk shows and TV comedy shows. A target of national political columnists, the original measure also was lampooned on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

At issue in the measure promoted by anti-abortion lawmakers was an initial proposal requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal sonogram, in which a wand is inserted in the vagina to yield an image of the fetus. The procedure differs from an abdominal sonogram, in which a wand is rubbed over a woman's belly.

Soon after the uproar, McDonnell had his party remove the requirement for an invasive exam through an amendment. But regular protests continued at the Virginia Capitol complex, including a demonstration that prompted 30 arrests Saturday.

Pistol

Deputy, 2 Others Shot Outside Oklahoma Courthouse

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© The Associated Press/Tulsa World/John Clanton
A sheriff deputy is transported after being shot at the County Courthouse Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in Tulsa, Okla.
US: Tulsa, Oklahoma - A sheriff's deputy, a suspected gunman and a bystander were wounded Wednesday afternoon during an exchange of gunfire outside a Tulsa courthouse, sending people scattering from a crowded plaza as an employee at a nearby library used his camera to chronicle the events.

Police spokesman Leland Ashley said authorities responded to a report of a person firing into the air between the Tulsa County Courthouse and the library. Deputies, including the one who was wounded, exchanged gunfire with the shooter, Ashley said.

John Fancher, a communications coordinator with the library, told The Associated Press that he heard gunshots, then grabbed his camera and stood at his office window to take pictures.

"I see a guy barefoot nonchalantly just waving a gun in the air," Fancher said. "I'm thinking this is not the downtown I remember working in. I start snapping off some shots and he sits down, just casually sits down, gun in his hand and three sheriff's come out of the courthouse and I can't hear what they're saying."

Fancher said the man turned around and stood up with his gun.

"That's when (the deputies) did what they had to do," he said.

Ashley said injuries to the deputy and the bystander did not appear life-threatening.

Crusader

The Religious Right's Plot To Take Control of Public Schools

crying child
© yamchild
The people who brought you Jesus Camp are moving into your neighborhood school. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

The Good News Club: The Stealth Assault on America's Children by Katherine Stewart uncovers a right-wing conspiracy to infiltrate and destroy the nation's public school system, using recent Supreme Court decisions as a lever. It's a must-read for anyone who's seen public school kids, perhaps their own, targeted for proselytizing by peers, teachers and adult volunteers. And for those who haven't, it's a wake-up call.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote, "Religion is certainly a source of positive values, and we need as many positive values in the school as we can get." It sounds benign. But what if the particular brand of religion is coercive, and in conflict with the teachings and values of the family of the students being targeted? It doesn't matter. Because under the law as it stands now, evangelical churches have the right to gather, teach and proselytize in your neighborhood school.

Spiritual Warfare in Your Neighborhood

How did it come to this? If you haven't personally observed today's aggressive "spiritual warfare," it may be difficult to imagine that young children are being taught that their school is a battlefield and they are the warriors who must save their classmates from themselves. With a remarkable amount of grace and restraint, Stewart describes the havoc in communities around the nation as initiatives to evangelize public school students have increased. The effect is always the same: the polarization that results when the Good News Club shows up inevitably disrupts the ability of parents and teachers to work cooperatively as a school community. And the resulting dissension and loss of trust in the schools, says Stewart, is exactly the result the right wing has in mind.

Heart - Black

Texas Man Executed for Killing Wife, Her Boyfriend

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© The Associated Press/Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Keith Thurmond
US - A Texas man condemned for fatally shooting his estranged wife and the neighbor who became her boyfriend denied killing them Wednesday, moments before he was put to death by lethal injection.

Strapped to the gurney inside the death chamber, Keith Thurmond declared, "I didn't kill my wife. ... I swear to God I didn't kill her."

His execution for the 2001 slayings near Houston came about an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments to halt the capital punishment, the third this year in Texas. The 52-year-old Thurmond was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m. - 11 minutes after lethal drugs began flowing into his arms.

Thurmond's attorneys argued that lawyers representing him in earlier appeals were "grossly deficient" and that his execution should have been postponed until justices decide on a similar case in Arizona.

With his death nearing Wednesday, Thurmond blamed the shooting deaths on another man before telling prison officials, "Go ahead and finish it off."

As the drugs began flowing, he said, "You can taste it." He wheezed and snored before losing consciousness.

Stormtrooper

Montreal Police Use Tear Gas to Control Protesting Students

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© he Canadian Press/Marie-Esperance Cerda
Police clash with students during a demostration in Montreal, Wednesday, March 7, 2012.
Canada - Four people were injured during student protests as Quebec's battle over university tuition-fee hikes took a nasty turn Wednesday.

Clouds of tear gas wafted over downtown Montreal as riot police used billy clubs to slam their way through protesters who were blocking a public building. Some responded by tossing snowballs at officers.

Though the injuries were all minor, two people - one policeman and one protester - had to be whisked away by ambulance to have their wounds treated in hospital.

The scene in Montreal's streets illustrated the increasingly bitter battle over fees, pitting the Charest government against those who deem the province's rock-bottom tuition rates an inviolable right.

It also served to highlight the student pushback that in the past has dissuaded Quebec governments from increasing rates, which have remained frozen in the province for 33 of the last 43 years while authorities either avoided or abandoned plans for hikes.