Welcome to ...

The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

And Thus Ends the Hottest Decade on Record . . .

From Treehugger:

Yup, the aughts or naughts or naughties or whatever you want to call them have been confirmed to be the hottest decade in recorded history--a full 0.2 degrees C warmer than the nineties. And now, as Joe Romm puts it, "the hottest decade begins." So were do we stand?

Top 10 space stories of 2009

The most popular space stories of the year include a visualization of what it would look like to fall into a black hole.

Top 10 space stories of 2009

Science News

From BBC-Science:
Tasmanian devil (Image: Anaspides Photography/Iain D Williams)
Researchers identify the genetic source of fatal tumors that are driving Tasmanian devils towards extinction.

Scientists have analysed DNA extracted from the remains of a 30,000-year-old European hunter-gatherer.

Cop News

Jobs improving

What was that repugican talking point about the Democrats being so bad for the economy?

Guess what, they ... were wrong again.

It's not going to improve overnight but it's steadily improving.
Working off the problems of repugican economics will take time
The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 432,000, the lowest since July 2008. That's much better than the rise to 460,000 that Wall Street economists expected.

The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell for the 17th straight week to 460,250, the lowest since September 2008, when the financial crisis intensified. The crisis led to widespread mass layoffs, which sent jobless claims to as high as 674,000 last spring.

China sentences "living Buddha" to prison b

The monk's legal team said the firearms had been planted and a confession extracted through torture. They added that while his property had been ceded to him, the paperwork had not been drawn up correctly.

An initial trial last year provoked a wave of media attention and a verdict was never returned. "The story of this religious leader is symptomatic of Beijing's heavy-handed treatment of Tibetans," said Woeser, a leading Tibetan activist. The local government in Kardze county viewed his case as one of the biggest causes of "instability" in the region.

At a second trial in Kangting, the monk's lawyers were disqualified from representing him and his family was forbidden to hire a fresh legal team and forced to use a court-appointed defence. Although he was acquitted of the illegal possession of a firearm, he was given seven years for illegally occupying state land and a further one-and-a-half years for possessing the bullets.

Avoid a Champagne cork disaster

Avoid a Champagne cork disaster

If you know the right way to open a bottle of bubbly, you may avert a major accident.

iPod to Obama: The decade in 3 minutes

iPod to Obama: The decade in 3 minutes

Relive the thrills, tragedies, and most unforgettable moments of the 2000s.

Ways to save more money in 2010

10 ways to save more money in 2010

You can increase your savings by looking for deals online and learning to haggle.

22 years in, Navy destroyer breaks record

22 years in, Navy destroyer breaks record

A 9,500-ton warship conceived during the Cold War isn't done being the "envy of the world" just yet.

Eat cheese to stay slim

Eat cheese to stay slim

It turns out that whole-fat dairy products may increase your metabolism.

Ominous 2010 hype puts Mexico on edge

Ominous 2010 hype puts Mexico on edge

Forget the Mayas' gloomy predictions for 2012 — it's the coming year that has many Mexicans worried.

The world welcomes a new year

The world welcomes a new year

While the U.S. waits for the stroke of midnight, revelers around the globe ring in 2010 with wild displays.

Former Gitmo detainees help al-Qaida grow in Yemen

As a prisoner at Guantanamo, Said Ali al-Shihri said he wanted freedom so he could go home to Saudi Arabia and work at his family's furniture store.

Four shot dead in Finnish mall

A gunman clad in black went on a shooting rampage Thursday at a suburban shopping mall near the Finnish capital of Helsinki, killing four people, police and witnesses said.

China says mentally ill murdered in mines in extortion bids

Police have arrested nine people in southwest China suspected of trafficking mentally ill people to be murdered in mines across the country in a bid to blackmail mine owners into paying compensation, a local official said Thursday

Auckland Rings in 2010

A decade has started in Auckland, New Zealand.
Thousands rang in the New Year by watching fireworks.

Full Story

No New Year's Toasts In Sauna, Russians Urged

Russia has urged revelers celebrating the New Year in saunas on Thursday night to refrain from popping open the champagne until they have left the steam houses, warning it could prove fatal.

No New Year's Toasts In Sauna, Russians Urged

Lucky Pigs Born in Germany

Berlin Zoo presented its most recently born piglets on Wednesday.

According to German tradition, the birth of this particular breed of pig in mid-winter means great luck for the new year.

Full Story

Naked Rampage: OC Man Kills Dog, Covers Himself in Coffee

It's possible drugs just might have been a factor in a Southern California rampage that involved a man allegedly jumping out of a third-story window, killing a dog with his bare hands and then pouring coffee all over himself after running naked through a tennis club, say authorities.

Full Story

It could happen ...

15,251, that's our ranking now.
If this trend continues we will have to revisit our estimated timeline for when this blog will become the number one blog on the net.
We might make it sometime in the 2ooos instead of the 3000s as we previously we thinking.

And I Quote

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines.

~ Satchel Paige

Court freed Somali suspect with chemicals, syringe

A Somali court acquitted and released a suspect who tried to board a plane in Mogadishu in November with chemicals and a syringe -- materials similar to those used in the attempted attack against a Detroit-bound airliner.

Full Story

Federal Judges Get Away with Murder, Almost; No One Calls Them on the Carpet

Just 12 chief federal judges wield almost exclusive power over secret misconduct investigations of more than 2,000 fellow jurists — though some have themselves been accused of botching reviews or committing ethical blunders, according to a Houston Chronicle review.

At least four current or former chief circuit judges have been the subject of recent high-profile complaints about their behavior; one posted photos of naked women painted to look like cows and other graphic images on his publicly accessible Web site; another manipulated the outcome of a vote in a death penalty case.

Not one faced formal discipline.

Nationwide, the integrity of the federal judicial misconduct system relies heavily on chief judges. Each oversees complaints — more than 6,000 in the last 10 years — against all circuit, district, senior, bankruptcy and magistrate judges in multi-state regions called circuits.

Third Circuit Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, who is also chairman of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, told the Chronicle, “The federal judiciary takes its ethical responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. Every misconduct complaint is carefully reviewed.”

He was the only chief circuit judge who directly responded to Chronicle requests for comment, though other circuits' staff replied.

In seven circuits, according to the Chronicle analysis, supervising judges took no public disciplinary action at all in the last decade, meaning not a single federal judge faced any sanctions in 29 states with more than 875 full-time federal judges, despite thousands of complaints.

Defenders of the system, like Scott Gant, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, argue that under-enforcement is a small price to pay for strong federal judges.

“That's the nature of the system — anytime you have a group investigate itself. But if we want to have an independent judiciary, I think we have to accept that,” he said.
Error rate ‘far too high'

Most experts argue that the secretive self-policing helps protect judges who uphold the nation's laws from unfounded slurs and allegations slung by convicts and disgruntled citizens.

But a recent spate of well-publicized illegal behavior by judges — including frequenting prostitutes, falsifying federal court records, molesting court employees and committing motor vehicle homicide — has prompted experts and members of Congress alike to call for reforms and more disclosure of federal disciplinary decisions.

One of those cases involved former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, now imprisoned for obstruction of justice involving the sexual assault of two female employees.

In 2006, a Supreme Court committee, led by Justice Stephen Breyer, reported the system handled routine matters well, but botched five of 17 high-profile cases, an error rate “far too high.”

The report named no names but described matters bungled by four of 12 regional circuits: the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit and the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit, the Chronicle found.

James B. Loken, who oversees the vast seven-state Midwest territory of the 8th Circuit, was among the supervising judges criticized for failing to properly investigate. Federal rules say chief judges should form a committee to probe matters “reasonably in dispute.”

But Loken has never formally investigated a complaint since becoming chief judge in 2003, according to Michael Gans, the 8th Circuit Clerk who works with Loken.

Early in his tenure, he dismissed allegations from an attorney as “signed by a person whose signature is illegible” and questioned whether he was even “a person … entitled to file” it, records show. The system allows anyone to file a judicial misconduct complaint.

Later, Loken rejected published allegations that a U.S. district judge in St. Louis improperly urged 314 newly minted citizens at a public ceremony to register and vote for his congressman friend “so he can continue his good work.” Loken accepted the jurist's denials without formal review.

When asked about Loken's decisions, Gans said: “The court does not comment on its orders or opinions.”

Critics such as California-based attorney Lara Bazelon said the system leaves “the mice in charge of the cheese” and the emphasis on secrecy permits supervising judges to ignore, conceal or explain away embarrassing errors or even crimes by colleagues.

“Judges are human beings just like the rest of us, and putting on a black robe should not immunize them from legitimate punishment,” she wrote in a recent Kentucky Law Journal article.

Some chief judges pursued no disciplinary action even after confirming that colleagues improperly dished out insider information, slept during trials, hurled obscenities in court, or broke laws themselves, the Chronicle's review of more than 3,000 records stored in a little-known judicial archive shows.

Yet many complaints, on topics ranging from alcoholism to personality disorders, are successfully managed behind the scenes through counseling, and, when necessary, quiet resignations, circuit court officials say.

“There's a lot more being done that doesn't appear (in public records),” said Collins Fitzpatrick, a longtime 7th Circuit executive who has worked on complaints for years and studied the system.

A dramatic and unusually public example of proactive action came in July when Chief Circuit Judge Karen Williams of the Richmond-based 4th Circuit resigned at 57 and disclosed her own diagnosis of early Alzheimer's disease.

“Judge Williams' decision to retire while able to perform her judicial duties in order to avoid any questions about future decisions is an admirable example of action preempting any future conduct issue,” Patricia S. Connor, circuit clerk, told the Chronicle.

Taxpayers have no way to know about most behind-the-scenes fixes. Both Fitzpatrick's and Williams' circuits are among seven that took no public disciplinary action in a decade.

Most federal judicial misconduct complaints deserve dismissal. One, for example, blamed a judge for “loss of vision and loss of teeth,” the Chronicle's review showed.

David Pimentel, an assistant professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law, said frivolous complaints tend to “siphon off the energy from legitimate complaints that I'm convinced are out there — and when they do get voiced, they don't get treated properly.”

Nationwide, about 50 out of 3,000 complaints in the last five years were resolved quietly after judges took some kind of private and anonymous action, statistics and the Chronicle's public orders show.
Disclosures vary

Only a handful of federal judges apologized publicly or privately even after admitting they made mistakes or broke laws, records show.

In 2007, a potential juror in the Northeast admitted in a questionnaire that she'd recently been sexually assaulted, a disclosure she assumed confidential. Instead, a federal judge grilled her about it in open court.

“The people in that room did not have a right to know about a very personal and private crime that had been committed against me,” she wrote in a formal complaint, according to a 2008 order from the New York City-based 2nd Circuit.

The matter was dismissed after the judge privately apologized.

Generally, chief judges alone decide how much to reveal about reviews in public summaries. Only four of 12 circuits post them on Web sites.

Some disclose more than others. Lengthy orders and documents of complaints get issued in the Northeast's 1st and 2nd circuits, as well as by the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit has most aggressively sought punishment — taking on rogue judges who lied to judicial investigators or broke laws.

The 11th Circuit oversees about 175 full-time judges in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. But it's hard to tell what — if anything — the circuit has done, based on public orders.

In 2005, the chief judge launched a probe into allegations that a Georgia magistrate judge abused his powers to enrich friends and family. Results were never revealed.

The incestuous nature of reviews gets more complicated when chief judges stand accused.

Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, (pictured) based in San Francisco, turned critic breaking ranks with his 9th Circuit peers for failing to respond to reports of abuse of power by a senior Los Angeles district judge.

“It does not inspire confidence in the federal judiciary, when we treat our own so much better than we treat everyone else,” he wrote in a rare disciplinary dissent.

When he became the 9th Circuit Chief Judge in 2007, he began posting misconduct reviews on the Internet. But he also quickly drew complaints about his behavior: While overseeing an obscenity case in 2008, Kozinski ran a personal Web site that included lewd photos of women, an aroused donkey and other off-color content, a complaint disclosed.

In 2009, Kozinski was admonished, a public scolding considered just short of formal discipline, by the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit for showing “poor judgment” that “caused embarrassment” to the judiciary.”

That circuit has no reported disciplinary actions.

Unusual Holidays and Celebrations

Today is:

Make Up Your Mind Day,
No Interruptions Day,
Universal Hour Of Peace Day,
World Peace Meditation Day
as well as
First Nights
New Year's Eve

Daily Almanac

Today is Thursday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2009.

Today In History December 31

Our Readers

Some of our readers today have been in:

Cochin, Kerala, India
Banbury, England, United Kingdom
Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
London, England, United Kingdom
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Saint John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia

Daily Horoscope

Today's horoscope says:

Your focus will definitely be on one-to-one relationships, especially with your significant other, over the next few days -- even amid the New Year's Eve celebrations.
Just be careful of one thing: Don't let a disagreement over something petty or irrelevant come between you two.
That goes for everything from which wine to order to which party to attend tonight.
Concentrate on what you have in common.

Will do.