Thursday, December 23, 2004

People Who Have Too Much Money (and are a little nuts).

I know there are poeple out there who love their pets and would do just about anything to keep them around forever, but would you pay $50,000 to clone your cat? While I'm not sure how I stand on this issue on a moral ground yet (I think I'm going to go against it), there is a great quote from David Magnus in the article (read below).

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the United States is named Little Nicky, a 9-week-old kitten delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years.
The kitten cost its owner $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved cat, named Nicky, who died last year.
"He is identical. His personality is the same," the owner, Julie, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Although she agreed to be photographed with her cat, she asked that her last name and hometown not be disclosed because she said she fears being targeted by groups opposed to cloning.

"It's morally problematic and a little reprehensible," said David Magnus, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. "For $50,000, she could have provided homes for a lot of strays."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

State, Not Wal-Mart, to blame in Suicide

If you've read some of my past posts you know I am 100% against most money-hungry Lawsuits. As much as I feel for the family of a 24-year-old Texas woman who committed Suicide, I think they are placing the blame on the wrong entity. Why? Because they know that entity has some money.
The family of the woman is sueing Wal-mart because their mentally disturbed daughter bought a shotgun from a Wal-Mart store which was located just 7 miles away from the Wal-Mart store where she gets her prescription mental health medication. At first glance you might think Wal-Mart should've shared information between pharmacies and known better. The problem is, because of today's anti-privacy laws, The stores could not communicate about the woman's health. In fact, Wal-mart did a complete background check and it came up empty. The reason? Texas is one of 38 states that does not report Mental Illness records to the FBI because of these, so-called, anti-privacy laws.
I for one hope Wal-Mart does not settle this case. They need to take it all the way so perhaps one day the blame which is getting placed on the chain of stores can be focused back to where it should be...the government entities which allow fact require happen.

DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Near the end of her short life, Shayla Stewart, a diagnosed manic-depressive and schizophrenic, assaulted police officers and was arrested for attacking a fellow customer at a Denton Wal-Mart where she had a prescription for anti-psychotic medication.
Given all those signs, her parents say, another Wal-Mart just seven miles away should have never sold her the shotgun she used to kill herself at age 24 in 2003.

The Bracys said Wal-Mart's gun department could have checked Wal-Mart's own security files or the pharmacy department's prescription records before selling her the weapon.
But pharmacy prescription records are confidential under a 1996 federal law, so stores cannot use them when deciding whether to sell a gun.

Also, Wal-Mart did a background check on Stewart, as required under federal law, but through no fault of its own, her name did not show up in the FBI database. The reason: The database contains no mental health records from Texas and 37 other states.
Texas does not submit mental health records because state law deems them confidential, said Paul Mascot, an attorney with the Texas Department of State Health Services. Other states have not computerized their record-keeping systems or do not store them in a central location for use by the FBI.
Federal law prohibits stores from selling guns to people who, like Stewart, have a history of serious mental illness. Would-be buyers must fill out a form that asks about mental health. Stewart, who had been involuntarily committed to an institution and declared dangerously mentally ill by a judge, lied on that form, according to her mother's attorney's office. Wal-Mart ran a background check anyway, as required by federal law.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holiday Version of Wacky Headlines

Preschool brawl gives Christmas spirit the heave-ho
A dispute over seats at an elementary school play erupts in a brawl that results in two arrests. Great Kills residents Venus Guerrieri, 59, and her 29-year-old son, Charles H. Balducci, are arrested on the grounds of St. Clare’s Preschool on Nelson Avenue in Great Kills after the disagreement escalates into violence that leaves one mom, the wife of a retired police officer, injured. Balducci once displayed his capacity for aggressive behavior on a popular TV show.

Mom: Toy Gun Utters Profanity
K-Mart Removes Toy From Store Shelves

A toy gun has been pulled from a store's shelves after a St. Louis woman discovered the gun apparently utters profanity when the trigger is pulled, according to a Local 6 News report.
Kim Gaiter said she bought a Burp Blaster gun for her 2-year-old son, Rico, at a K-Mart in St. Louis. However, when the toy gun is fired, instead of making a burping noise, it utters a profanity, according to the woman.
Gaiter said her son has been repeating the word everywhere that he goes, even in church.
"He goes over my parent's house, he's going to curse," Gaiter said. "What are they going to think about me, with a 2-year-old running around, saying BLEEP."
The St. Louis-area K-Mart where Gaiter said she bought the Burp Blaster gun has taken the toy of store shelves, Local 6 News reported.

Accident a 'unique experience'
A Hamilton Township man who had just purchased a 43-inch Samsung TV at Sears in Northumberland Mall had been transporting it home in the back of his pickup truck.
As the truck was traveling up a hill the rope holding the television in place released. The back gate of the pickup truck was down and the television slid out of the truck and onto the roadway. A woman driving a 1993 Buick southbound in the opposite direction struck the television with the front passenger side of her vehicle at approximately 80 km-h. When Const. Bellemare arrived on scene he said, “there were (television) parts all over the road. It was demolished.” Damage to the vehicle was approximately $2,000 and the $1,700 television was destroyed.

Neither driver was injured, but not only did the television not make it home, the owner of the set was charged with carrying an insecure load.

Oops! Film Canisters Go To Developer Filled With Cocaine
CUMBERLAND, R.I. -- A 17-year-old Lincoln, R.I., teenager thought he was giving a relative a few canisters of film to be developed. But there wasn't just film in these containers.
He's now under arrest for possession for cocaine.
"An adult female dropped off two rolls of film to be developed," said Det. Richard Champagne of the Cumberland, R.I., Police Department.
But the technician working in the film department of a Cumberland pharmacy spotted white powder in one of the containers.
"She called the police. We went by, identified the item as cocaine through a field test kit," said Champagne.
Police waited for the owner of the film to return. About an hour later an adult male came in.
"He stated he was picking the film up for somebody else and that it belonged to a male juvenile who was a family member," said Champagne.
Police said the suspect made this case a bit easier for them. One of the canisters allegedly contained cocaine, while the other one contained film of the suspect himself.
"Those kind of things happen," said Champagne. "People don't think things through. It helps out a little." The suspect is unknown to police. He will appear in family court on a charge of possession of a controlled substance.

& Last but not least, we end on a good samaritan note:

Cruise Leaves Big Tip For Accident Victim
LEXINGTON, Va. -- Actor Tom Cruise left a lot of cash in a tip jar for an accident victim.
Slideshow: Cruise Leaves Big Tip For Accident Victim
Cruise walked into a Virginia Dairy Queen and saw the jar with a photo of Ashley Flint and her story.
Flint was in a go-cart accident in September. It has left her family with a mountain of hospital bills.
So Cruise left $5,000 in cash in the jar.
Flint said she would love to meet Cruise and thank him for the gift.
Cruise is in Virginia filming his new movie, "War of the Worlds."
He was accompanied by director Steven Spielberg and an entourage of about 20 others when he made the stop at the Dairy Queen.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Here's a Gift For That "Special" Someone...

I think I'll go ahead and pick one of these up for my mom. The only problem is, she'll call me about a week after Christmas and ask me what type of batteries it takes!

My Little Guy Turned ONE!

Man this year went by fast. Just over one year ago I was just coming home from the hospital after my wife delivered our 2nd child together.

Logan Rodney Paredes celebrated his first birthday this past week. All though my sister & Niece, who live in California, couldn't be there, because of today's technology, they got to be there in video! Thanks Jet & Tina for making us all laugh! I bet you never send another video again!

Update: My Niece, Christina, said she didn't like the way she looked in the video & made me promise to post this picture she sent me. Enjoy!

America: The Land Of Supply & Demand...Even At Christmas

Christmas in Hawaii...

HONOLULU (AP) - A shortage of Christmas trees in Hawaii has raised prices to more than $200 each, drawing complaints from cost-conscious shoppers who are eager to buy trees before the holiday.
Tree buyers camped outside a shopping center hours before dawn on Saturday to await a shipment of 130 noble firs flown in from Oregon. A crowd of more than 200 people had gathered by morning, when a salesman announced the trees would cost $165 to $200 each.
Consumers complained that was at least twice the price charged just a few days earlier. In previous weeks, trees sold for $30 to $70.
Most Christmas trees sold in Hawaii have been delivered by cargo ships from farms in the Pacific Northwest. Last season, sellers suffered losses when hundreds went unsold, forcing them to give many trees away.
But this year, smaller orders caused a major shortage across the islands. Many major retailers sold out.
"Last year, a lot of places over-ordered," said Dasha Nixon, a manager at the Wal-Mart on Maui, which brought in 200 fewer trees this year. "This year, it looks like they under-ordered."
One man, in desperation, gave up waiting in line and used his cell phone to order a tree from Colorado for $80 plus $145 for shipping. Another shopper purchased a 7-foot fir for $215.
Mike Swenson paid $185 for a 5- to 6-foot tree.

Dream on - Samsung has 102-inch Plasma TV

We were at my In-laws house last night and got a peek at their newest toy...a very large flat panel TV that made me drool with envy. I've been telling my wife I want to get the new Dell Plasma TV, but now I might reconsider. I can do that since it's all a dream anyway!

Samsung Claims Largest Plasma Display
Company says it has developed a 102-inch high-definition flat screen.
Samsung SDI has developed what it claims is the world's largest PDP (plasma display panel), measuring 102 inches diagonally.

Lower Prices?
The production technology used to build the panels could potentially help to reduce prices for smaller PDPs. Rather than using a separate piece of glass for each panel it makes, the company can fabricate four 50-inch panels from a single, larger piece of glass, resulting in a lower cost per panel, Sohn says.
As well as being good for consumers, the lower prices would be a boost for electronics companies like Samsung Electronics, which has seen growing demand for
big-screen TVs, he says.

You Too Can Track Santa Claus' Progress

Want to track Santa's progress on Dec 24 with the little one's? This site, brought to you by NORAD, let's you do just that!

Are you ready to track Santa?Make sure that you have all the plugins needed for your browser to track Santa on Christmas Eve. Get ready to track Santa.

As You Rap Up Holiday Online Shopping, Beware Of the Scams

Security experts warn that there are plenty of traps awaiting unsuspecting buyers online. One of the classic examples of holiday fraud trades on shortages. A Web site advertises popular gifts that have become hard to find because of overwhelming demand, and then shuts down and disappears, leaving buyers without their items or their cash.
The spike in holiday traffic also brings a
20 percent rise in the number of attempted security breaches, estimates VeriSign, which provides authentication of Internet transactions.
That traffic plays a part in one fraud scheme, in which scammers use a large number of stolen credit card numbers to make purchases on one site, to make sure those numbers are valid. The fraudsters then use those cards to buy goods at another e-commerce business. Another credit card scam that is increasingly popular, noted Trevor Healy, VeriSign's vice president of payment services, has corrupt employees issuing refunds on numbers that don't exist.
If the threat to e-commerce isn't enough to conjure images of the Grinch in Whoville, then take a look at your in-box. The mass-mailing Christmas e-card virus Zafi.D is
clogging huge amounts of bandwidth and now accounts for one in 15 of all e-mails.
In addition, a
hoax e-mail circulating the Internet has millions of Americans scurrying to add their cell phones to a national Do Not Call list to avoid telemarketers.

Sub-$500 laptop? Wal-Mart/Linuk Can Deliver and Linspire on Monday unveiled a Linux-based laptop priced at $498.
The computer, dubbed Balance, comes loaded with the Linspire operating system and the office suite, the companies said.

The companies said Balance is the lowest-priced laptop currently available with an operating system and an office suite. It features a VIA C3 1-GHz processor, 128MB RAM, a 30GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and a 14.1-inch liquid crystal display. The software includes a built-in firewall to protect users from viruses, spam and pop-ups.
The laptop launch comes as part of Wal-Mart's efforts to market
low-priced consumer electronics. The retailer has sold other inexpensive PCs and notebooks, some of which come without operating systems.

Here's a photo of the laptop.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Heroes At Large.....

Most of you probably aren't aware there was a crash (video) that killed one driver and seriously injured 7 others near my home in MArysville on Wednesday. There are crashes every day we hear about on the roads. What made this one different is most police officers who responded to the seen, some 30 year veterens, say this was the worst wreck they had ever seen. One said, "When I arrived on the scene I couldn't imagine how ANYONE could have survived. I thought we were looking at multiple deaths."
This is just a reminder that basketball players, football players, musicians, actors....they are NOT heroes, they are icons. They come and go. Sometimes they leave their mark on society, other times we left them drift into a distant past. A hero is an ordinary person who does an extraordinary thing. This is one of those stories...and we should never forget people like this exist.
At the time of the accident a trucker happened to be driving home.
This is his story...

By Yoshiaki Nohara, Everettt Herald Writer
Children could be heard crying from inside the wreckage. Flames were licking the mangled cars. Plumes of acrid smoke filled the air.
Amid that chaos along I-5 near Smokey Point on Wednesday afternoon, about a dozen strangers came together to save four lives.
"It wasn't just me. It was everybody," said Jim Swett, 68, a truck driver from Sedro-Woolley.
The rescue was personal for Swett. He pried open a door on the destroyed Chevrolet Suburban. In the back seat were two children. Both had red hair.

Swett said his mind instantly went to the memory of his grandson Brandon, who died in a rollover accident four years ago in Whidbey Island.
The 15-year-old boy had red hair, too. He stood 6 feet, 1 inch. He was a bundle of energy.
His death left a hole in Swett's family. He would have given anything to be there to save him.
On Wednesday, the Sedro-Woolley man helped scoop the crying children from the Suburban.
But Swett insisted Thursday that he wasn't the only hero.
An off-duty firefighter hooked a towing rope to the Suburban. Others brought blankets and coats to warm the injured pulled from the four-vehicle wreck.
'Get me out of here!'
Swett was heading north on I-5 toward home. It was around 1 p.m. and he'd just delivered flowers and plants to a Woodinville nursery.
Near the Smokey Point exit ramp, Swett saw a few cars engulfed in flames and smoke. Immediately, he pulled into the center lane and put on his hazard lights. Swett, who wore a blue T-shirt and sweat pants, grabbed a crowbar and a fire extinguisher, and jumped out of the truck.
With a few men, Swett rushed to a burning car. He smashed the window with the crowbar, and they got a wounded woman out of the driver's seat.
"She was screaming, 'Get me out of here!'" Swett recalled.
Then, they rushed to the crumpled Chevrolet Suburban with five people trapped inside. A woman in the passenger's seat was dead. He heard two children crying in the back seat.
Swett used the crowbar to pry open the door to help the children. He doesn't remember whether they were boys or girls - (it was two boys, 9 and 12) - but their red hair caught his eyes.
Swett took one of them in his arms, memories of his grandson rushing through his mind.
By the time he and others rescued both boys, flames from another car threatened to spread to the Suburban. There were still two people trapped alive in the wreck.
"We were so afraid the gas tank would blow," he said.
An off-duty firefighter at the scene helped Swett tie a rope to the Suburban and to Swett's truck, to pull the wreck away from the flames.
Other people emerged from their stopped cars. Swett figures there were at least a dozen, some carrying blankets, others carrying coats. They wrapped the victims up, protecting them from the cold and shock.
"None of us were thinking of us," Swett said.
Firefighters and paramedics arrived and took over, bringing hope and relief to the onlookers.
"We knew we did everything we could do to help those people," he said.
Calm in a crisis
Swett drove back to Sedro-Woolley around 5:30 p.m. He and his wife, Jean, live on Brandon Lane, a private road named after their grandson.
Soon, family, friends and TV news reporters made their way to his door to hear his story.
Jean Swett said that in their 48 years of marriage her husband always has been someone who can stay calm in a crisis, identify what needs to be done, and do it.
"It doesn't surprise me he did what he did," she said.
Her husband was so focused at the accident scene that he didn't realize his arms had been burned by the heat from the fires until his took a bath in the evening.
Swett couldn't be there for Brandon four years ago. But he was there - along with a dozen others - for the Holschen family, when they needed help.

Wake up to Sunrise, Go to Bed by Sunset

Literally! These apartments actually can rotate individually so you can wake up by the light of sunrise & go to bed by the fading Sunset!

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Feel like you need to turn your life around? Then a new apartment building in the Brazilian city of Curitiba could be for you.
Each floor in the 11-story building can revolve independently 360 degrees to the left or to the right.
"This is the only building in the world in which each apartment can spin individually," said Joao Carlos Peters, marketing director at the Moro construction company.
The project took 10 years to complete and the suites, which each occupy an entire floor of the circular building, went on sale on Thursday for $300,000.
Spinning in the high-tech building is activated by voice commands. It takes an hour for each 3,000-square-foot (300-square-meter) apartment to complete one rotation.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Which Crime Is Worse? The Chronicle Vs. Barry Bonds

I'm not trying to make light of the Barry Bonds/Jason Giambi Steroid "scandal" that has come to light in recent days, but I have more of a problem with the San Francisco Chronicle running this story than I do with the players involved in this story.

In case you missed it The San Francisco Chronicle reported both Berry Bonds & Jason Giambi testified before a grand jury late last year, in what were supposed to be sealed court documents, they did, in fact, use steroids (While Giambi openly admitted to it, Bonds says he wasn't aware of what was in "The Cream" or "The Clear").

Whether you believe him or not is irrelevant at this point. What bothers me most is the flaw in our judicial system. These men testified under oath to the Grand Jury under the stipulation they would be granted immunity from prosecution (otherwise they would just opt for the 5th amendment protection) & that their testimony would be sealed and never released to the public. So how then did the Chronicle obtain copies of the transcripts of their testimony?

I'm sure this question will be asked repeatedly. Reporters will be brought in and asked this very thing. Of course, they will cite law that protects a journalist from revealing his/her source.

I believe that law is flawed. If the "source" of a story is purely giving information he or she knows to be the truth, but wants to remain hidden, I understand and I think it would be up to the journalist as to whether or not to protect that person.

Here is my exception to that rule, however: If the person who is giving the information is knowingly and willingly BREAKING THE LAW by providing this information (as the source of this story is) he or she should be afforded no protections under the law. If the journalist is unwilling to name this source, he/she should spend the time on prison/pay the penalty the offender would have received.

I believe in the right to confront your accuser. I believe in the right to know what you are up against. If someone is so cowardly they give information which was obtained on the trust no one would ever know about it, that "source" should pay the consequences of those actions.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Pitcher's Wife To Sleep With Team

Now that I got your attention, Major League Baseball pitcher Kris Benson's wife Anna (who has her own website) was recently named FHM's (For Him Magazine) "Baseball's Hottest wife." First let me say I didn't know there was such an "honor" bestowed upon baseball players wives.
As part of her rounds of interviews after receiving this distinguished reward she went on the esteemed Shock Jock Howard Stern's Radio Show...where she proceeded to say, "I told him (Kris Benson)-- because that's the biggest thing in athletics, they cheat all the time -- I told him, cheat on me all you want. If you get caught, I'm going to screw everybody on your entire team, coaches, trainers, players. I would do everybody on his whole team."
Stern, in his typical fashion, egged her on..."Mike Piazza just did a back flip," Stern said. "Even the coaches? What about, like, the bat boys?"
Anna's replied, "If I'm lining them up, I'll (also) circle into other teams. Whatever team he's playing, I will screw all them, too."
Benson went on to say she and Kris are so into each other, they've had sex in many of the stadiums where he's pitched, including PNC Park and Three Rivers Stadium.
Stern asked if she'd share him with another woman... Anna replied, "You know, if that's what he came to me and said that he needed, then that's what he would get, because he is my entire universe. I adore my husband. He's a saint. ... He took me out of hell."

So I can imagine the reprucussions of this....Kris' team mates will be like, "hey Kris, wanna go to the strip club tonight?" & lure him into many other provacative situations just so they can get a shot at his wife.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Church Ad Accepts Gays, Networks Say "No"

This seems like an odd position for a network to take. We have ads for Viagra, Birth Control, Femenine Products, Genital Herpes, Alcohol, Cigarettes and a miriad of other "touchy" subjects. Not to mention we have now started seeing boobie and ass shots on late night "dramas." But a Church who openly accpets Gay people into their congregation gets told it can't run an ad which mentions this fact. I am a right leaning Republican, but one notable issue in which I disagree with my party has always been the Gay marriage issue. My feeling is if a Gay couple wants to symbolize their relationship with a ceremony and a ring, and have the ups and downs that go with marriage (divorce, alimony, child support, Taxes, etc...) than they should be allowed to. the problem I have with the statement by the networks in this story is the ads don;t even touch on Gay Marriage. The Networks arguement doesn't fit with the message.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A liberal church claims CBS and NBC have refused to run its ad promoting the acceptance of people regardless of sexual orientation, because the networks believe the ad is too controversial.
According to a United Church of Christ statement, the ad says that the church seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.
"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast," the church quoted CBS as saying.

The 30-second spot, as shown on the church's Web site, features two muscle-bound bouncers standing outside a church, selecting people who could attend service and those who could not. Written text then appears saying, in part, "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."
The church says the ad has been accepted on a number of other networks, including ABC Family, BET Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, TBS and TNT.

Social Security Overhaul Successful in Chile

As someone who look sforward to retiring in about 30 years (lol) I found this article on Chile's Social Security reform very appealing. It touts the successful privatized social security structure President Bush has been touting all throughout his campaign.

Chile's Social Security Reform Act of 1980 allowed current workers to opt out of the government-run pension system financed by a payroll tax and instead contribute to a personal retirement account. What determines those workers' retirement benefit is the amount of money accumulated in their personal account during their working years. Neither the workers nor the employers pay a payroll tax. Nor do these workers collect a government-financed benefit.
Instead, 10 percent of their pretax wage is deposited monthly into a personal account. Workers may voluntarily contribute up to an additional 10 percent a month in pretax wages. The invested amounts grow tax-free, and the workers pay tax on this money only when they withdraw it for retirement.
Upon retiring, workers may choose from three payout options: purchase a family annuity from a life insurance company, indexed to inflation; leave their funds in the personal account and make monthly withdrawals, subject to limits based on life expectancy (if a worker dies, the remaining funds form a part of his estate); or any combination of the previous two. In all cases, if the money exceeds the amount needed to provide a monthly benefit equal to 70 percent of the workers' most recent wages, then the workers can withdraw the surplus as a lump sum.
A worker who has reached retirement age and has contributed for at least 20 years but whose accumulated fund is not enough to provide a "minimum pension," as defined by law, receives that amount from the government once funds in the personal account have been depleted. (Those without 20 years' contributions can apply for a welfare-type payment at a lower level.)
Workers may choose any one of several competing private pension fund companies to manage their accounts. Those companies can engage in no other activities and are subject to strict supervision by a government agency. Older workers have to own mutual funds concentrated in short-term fixed-income securities, while young workers can have most of their funds in stocks. The law encourages a diversified portfolio, with no obligation to invest in government bonds or any other security.
Each worker receives a statement from the manager every three months, and can keep track of the retirement capital at any moment. Workers with enough savings in their accounts to buy a "sufficient" annuity (50 percent of their average salary, as long as it is 20 percent higher than the minimum pension) can stop contributing and begin withdrawing their money. But there is no obligation to stop working, at any age, nor is there an obligation to continue working or saving for retirement once a worker has met the "sufficient" benefit threshold.
Because the personal retirement accounts are tied to the workers, not the employers, workers can take their accounts with them when they move to other jobs, keeping the labor market flexible. The system does not penalize or subsidize immigrants, who receive what they have contributed, even if they return to their homelands. We set three basic policy rules for the transition to personal accounts: the government guaranteed retirees that their benefits would not be affected by the reform; everyone already in the work force could stay in the government system or move to the personal retirement account system (those who opted out were given a "recognition bond" calculated to reflect the money the worker had already accrued); and all new workers were required to enter the personal account system.