Friday, April 30, 2010

Help!! My bail money won't bail me out!

Is he secretly a Bexar County Democratic Party operative?

Okay that was unfair of me to say that.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa.

Man pays courthouse with fake $50, arrest records say
Quad City Times-

(Iowa) - Yancy Terrell Cochran tried to bail a friend out of jail, but now he’s facing charges himself for his effort.

Cochran, 35, of Davenport, went to the Scott County Courthouse on April 21 to post bail for a friend, but he used a counterfeit $50 bill, according to arrest records and officials.

Scott County criminal court clerk Angelica Kent first spotted the fake bill. She said Cochran gave her $300 worth of $50 bills.

When she marked them using a special pen — as she does all $50 and $100 bills she receives — the mark on one of the $50 bills turned black, she said. The mark is supposed to turn golden yellow.

Kent immediately called the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, and Deputy Tara Dinneweth investigated the fake bill.

Dinneweth compared all of Cochran’s $50 bills and found two with the same serial number, she said.
“At first glance, it looked real,” Dinneweth said. “At closer inspection, it proved to be counterfeit.”

The bill was confiscated.

Cochran told the clerks he got the fake bill from a check-cashing place, Kent said.

He later admitted to deputies that he made the counterfeit money at his home, Dinneweth said.

The sheriff’s department searched Cochran’s home and found a printer, scanner and paper used in making counterfeit money, Dinneweth said.

Cochran was charged April 23 with forgery, a felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison.

He has been at the Scott County Jail since Sunday night on unrelated charges of first-degree harassment and simple assault, both misdemeanors. He was booked into the jail Wednesday on the forgery charge.

He used the counterfeit money to bail out Marcella Payne, who was in jail for unpaid traffic tickets.
Cochran was asked to hand over another, real $50 bill after the fake one was confiscated.

“It’s not advisable bringing that in to pay fines,” Dinneweth said of counterfeit money.

Pay us back

This needs to be repaid, period.

Then let the Democratic Party of Bexar County file charges against Carla Vela, Dwayne Adams, and anyone else involved.

Let them pay the party back as restitution.  The County and the taxpayers shouldn't be hung out to dry on this issue.  County Judge Wolff knows this.

Retiring auditor fears investigation will fade
By Guillermo X. Garcia - Express-News

County Auditor Tommy Tompkins — the first and loudest voice in county government to raise the alarm last summer over missing Bexar County Democratic Party funds — retires today. On his way out, he's not hopeful the party will repay the $275,000 it owes the county.

“I won't hold my breath waiting,” Tompkins said.

Because some bills are still pending, he says the amount Bexar County is due could rise by as much as $121,000.

The blunt-speaking accountant, who was Harris County auditor for 11 years and Dallas' comptroller for six, has repeatedly pressed the Democratic Party to pay for primary expenses the county incurred in 2008.

The rest of the story:

Sexual assault charge

There are some real problems in this case.  Such as the 16-year old victim drinking at the defendant's apartment.  That however, should  be easily overcome.  It doesn't mean the victim wanted, nor consented, to being raped.

What will they do regarding the girlfriend of the defendant who allegedly held the victim down and covered her mouth?

Expect the defense to say she did it to avoid being beaten by the boyfriend.

Man faces sexual assault charge in attack on teenage girl
By Valentino Lucio - Express-News

A Kirby man accused of raping a teenage girl at least six times earlier this week remained in custody Thursday night, officials said.

Tyron R. Duckworth, 26, was booked into the Bexar County Jail on a charge of sexual assault of a child. Bail was set at $25,000.

He is suspected of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl beginning Monday night at his apartment in the 100 block of MacRea Lane, an arrest warrant affidavit states. According to the affidavit, the unidentified victim was drinking alcohol with her 17-year-old friend at Duckworth's apartment when the incident occurred. The suspect tried to coax both girls to have sex with him, but when the victim refused, Duckworth started to assault the other girl, who is his girlfriend. The victim tried to stop the assault but Duckworth started to beat her. He then began to rape the victim while his girlfriend held her down and covered her mouth.

The rest of the story:

Oil spill hits shore

Literally what a mess this is going to be.

Another question, why is the government sending SWAT teams to search other rigs and platforms?

Do they think, believe, or have information that the explosion and sinking of the rig was an act of sabotage or terrorism (I mean man-caused disaster)?  Or are they just acting stupid?

In other words, do something, anything, so we won't look like Bush and Katrina?

(Link to SWAT Team story)

Coast Guard defends response as oil hits shore

NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) -- A senior Coast Guard official is defending the federal response to a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as the first waves of oil hit Louisiana's ecologically rich wetlands.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara faced questions on all three network television morning shows Friday about whether the government has done enough to push oil company BP PLC to plug the underwater leak and protect the coast.

Brice-O'Hara said the federal response led by the Coast Guard has been rapid, sustained and has adapted as the threat grew since a drill rig exploded and sank last week, causing the seafloor spill.

The rest of the story:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tanning offense

Well there you go.  Its right up there with women causing earthquakes.

Another reason for Western civilization  to resist the ideology of  the Mullahs of Iran.

As if we needed another one.

Hey does the picture make the Earth move for you?

Women with suntans will be arrested, Iran police chief warns

Women with suntans are violating Islamic law and will be arrested in Iran, the capital city's police chief was reported by The Daily Telegraph as saying Wednesday.

"The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehavior by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values," Brigadier Hossien Sajedinia said.

"In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins," he continued. "We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them."

The warning follows recent comments made by a hard-line Iranian cleric, who claimed women dressed in revealing clothing were disturbing young men and causing earthquakes.

A preacher has also told the residents of Iran's capital Tehran to leave the city.

"Go on the streets and repent for your sins. A holy torment is upon us. Leave town," said Ayatollah Aziz Khoshvaqt during a recent sermon in northern Tehran.

I believe its certainly appropriate to seek the death penalty in this case

Thank you.  I would expect no less than that in this case.

Note to Major Hasan:
We'll be more than happy to help you be martyred and allow you to go get your 72 virgins in a more timely manner.

Army will seek death in Fort Hood case
Associated Press-

FORT WORTH -- Military prosecutors sent a notice Wednesday indicating they plan to seek the death penalty against the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, a defense attorney said.

Maj. Nadal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting. Premeditated murder carries the death penalty. But if military jurors convict Hasan, they can only sentence him to death if they determine there is an aggravating factor in the case, according to military law.

Defense attorney John Galligan said the notice he received from prosecutors outlines as an aggravating factor that more than one person was killed in the same incident.

"They've done everything except tell me to my face that they plan to seek the death penalty," Galligan told The Associated Press from his office near Fort Hood, about 130 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

The rest of the story:

Internal investigation

Another police internal investigation.

SAPD lieutenant placed on administrative duty
By Peter J. Holley - Express-News

A high-ranking San Antonio Police Department official was placed on administrative duty after being accused of violating off-duty employment procedures, authorities said.

Although authorities declined to discuss specifics of the accusations, a Police Department spokesman confirmed there was an ongoing internal affairs investigation into Lt. Mike Ritchey's actions.

The spokesman said additional details could not be released and declined to say when the investigation began.

The rest of the story:

Investigate the circumstances

IMHO this police-involved shooting needs to be investigated and presented to a Grand Jury.

That way justice will be served.

The officers are either exonerated or indicted and prosecuted.

Suspect gunned down
By Michelle Mondo and Valentino Lucio - Express-News

Dominique Smith's cousin was inside their grandmother's home early Wednesday when she heard someone outside yell, “Get down!”

About five gunshots followed, she said.

Lexus Smith, 17, said she ran outside. But before she could get far, she said she saw her wounded cousin looking up and heard him utter his final words, “That's my cousin Lexus. This is my grandma's house.”

The rest of the story:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

They're as American as you and I are. You Dolt !!

Okay, now here is a Congressman who is out of his mind.

The dangers of pandering revealed.

Hey Congressman, children born here, to legal and illegal immigrants, are American citizens.

You can't deport them.

Are you crazy?

Deport Children of Illegals: Hunter
By R. STICKNEY - NBC San Diego

Representative Duncan Hunter wants to deport the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Hunter, who spoke at a tea party gathering in Ramona Saturday, said he does not believe children born to illegal immigrant parents should get automatic U.S. citizenship.

In a video posted Saturday on YouTube, Hunter appears to be taking questions from the crowd when he is asked if he would support the deportation of children born to illegal immigrants.

“I would have to,” he said.

How much blood is on his hands?

Okay we can't give him the death penalty or a life sentence?

How about 99 years?  or How about 59 years?

No wonder there is a huge problem in Mexico with the drug cartels.

Mexican cartel kingpin extradited
By Dane Schiller - Express-News

A reputed drug kingpin targeted since 1978 finally has been extradited from Mexico to Texas, where prosecutors contend his syndicate pumped tons of drugs and millions of dollars through San Antonio, Houston and elsewhere.

Juan Jose Quintero Payan, 68, is the alleged head of the Quintero syndicate, based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Federal agents brought Quintero to San Antonio, where Monday he quietly had an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Pamela Mathy.

His organization is tied by name and blood to the traffickers that helped kidnap, torture and murder DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Salazar a generation ago. Quintero is the uncle of notorious Mexican trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero, imprisoned in Mexico for his role in Camarena's killing in 1985.

The rest of the story:

Cry-babies shedding crocodile tears

This really chaps my ass.

There is a really simple answer to all this.


Then you do not have to worry about the sound-proofing requirements.  You went to Camp Bullis, it didn't come to you.  The truth be told you probably got the land cheaper because everyone knew it was close to Camp Bullis and therefore problematic to build on.  Wasn't it?

So go elsewhere and don't screw up its mission.

Bullis-area construction may get tougher
By Sig Christenson - Express-News

AUSTIN — Though it seemed the dust had settled over development around Camp Bullis, the Army now is pressing for tighter restrictions.

Fort Sam Houston asked a House committee Tuesday to craft a measure requiring home buyers to be told of potential noise issues near Camp Bullis.

The post, which won new protections for the 27,994-acre training range last year, also asked the House Committee on Defense and Veterans' Affairs to draft a bill giving the city and Bexar and Comal counties the power to require better soundproofing homes in areas where military operations occur.

Developer Michael Moore countered that builders and landowners already had carried a disproportionate burden to protect the camp, where Army combat medics are trained. He also warned that new soundproofing standards would add to the cost of any new home.

The rest of the story:

Predator behind bars

Forty years.

Repeat that to your self.  Forty years.  Its a long time and as a "3(g)" offense he will not be eligible for parole until he serves 1/2 the period of his sentence day for day.

It won't help those he molested however it will help those he might have molested had he not been convicted and sentenced.

Australian gets 40 years for camp abuse
By Zeke MacCormack - Express-News

KERRVILLE — At a hearing Tuesday where he received a 40-year prison term, Australian Scott S.J. Zirus offered no apologies for sexually abusing three young boys at a camp in Hunt last summer.

That lack of expressed remorse upset the parents of the victim, now 7, who they said feels betrayed by Zirus, 26.

They bear no ill will against Camp Stewart for Boys, where Zirus committed two aggravated sexual assaults, indecency with a child and the offense of continuous sexual assault of a child, to which he pleaded guilty April 16.

The rest of the story:

Share the road

As someone who used to go on 50 mile+ bike rides I applaud this law and its intent.

As a prosecutor I think it will be an extremely difficult law to enforce.

New rules of the road

Drivers in New Braunfels now will have to start giving a wider berth to bicycles and other “vulnerable road users” who share the local streets.

The New Braunfels City Council passed an ordinance Monday to protect pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, the handicapped and even people on horseback — requiring that cars and trucks pass them with added care.

Similar legislation has been passed in several Texas cities, primarily to protect bicyclists.

Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have made it statewide law in 2009.

“This gives law enforcement a tool, and I think it also creates added awareness for people that are out there driving,” said City Manager Mike Morrison. “Now not only should they give those people a wider berth, but they’re required to do so.”

Under the new city ordinance, drivers must change lanes if they encounter a vulnerable road user.

If there is only one lane of traffic, cars and light trucks must give vulnerable road users at least 3 feet of room when passing, with larger semi-trucks required to give six feet. In addition, vehicles must yield the right-of-way at intersections to all vulnerable road users.

Some cyclists and city leaders described the move as a step toward safer streets for everyone in New Braunfels.

“The more clearance you give people, the safer it’s going to be and the less chance there is of something bad happening,” said Aaron Martin, who was out riding his bicycle downtown on Tuesday. “There’s not enough bike lanes in this town as it is, so I think it’s definitely a good idea.”

Jim Shahan of Warth Pro Cycles said that while well intentioned, the law was unnecessary.

“To me, it’s about personal responsibility,” said Shahan, who’s been riding for more then 20 years. “I think motor vehicles give people enough room as it is, and it’s cyclists who need to obey the law.

“This is just an excuse for people to continue riding like idiots out there.”

As with most traffic offenses, city leaders said police officers would likely have to be on-scene to catch and cite offenders.

But just having an ordinance also could make New Braunfels less dangerous, according to Mayor Bruce Boyer.

“Hopefully we can trust our citizens to obey the law, and if they do that, I think it will make it safer for folks out there,” he said.

A vulnerable user is:

• A pedestrian, including a runner, a physically disabled person, child, skater, highway construction or maintenance worker, tow truck operator, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or near the right-of-way.

• A person on horseback

• A person operating equipment other than a motor vehicle, including but not limited to, a bicycle, handcycle, horse-driven conveyance or unprotected farm equipment.

• A person operating a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven vehicle or motor-assisted scooter.

Teen Court

Its a great program.

I believe it helps those who go through it and cuts down on them repeating mistakes.

It allows them to see, learn and understand the legal process by also participating as a juror or even as counsel.

Teen court has first training session

A teenager going before a jury isn’t always in front of a group of their peers, but that’s not the case at Teen Court.

Teenagers, parents and elected officials among others gathered Tuesday at the New Braunfels Municipal Court for the court’s first training session.

Teenagers, from volunteers to home school students and those completing community service, gathered to listen to those who were instrumental in assembling the city’s teen court, which they modeled on similar teen courts around the country.

“We’ve been going forward with the programs, guns blazing, since November 2009 and we’ve already had 25 kids finish the program,” said Mary Alice Smallbone, teen court coordinator.

Residents from age 10 to 17 are eligible for teen court if they are issued a class C misdemeanor citation and plead guilty. After paying a $20 fine, they enter teen court, where other teens act as prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors and bailiffs on the second and fourth Tuesday each month.

Judge Sara Hartin of the Municipal Court presides over the teen court and said she decided to start a teen court in New Braunfels after having worked in other cities, including Abilene, Plano and Killeen that had similar programs. After meeting with law enforcement, district attorneys and judges several years ago, Hartin found a sponsor for the court in the nonprofit Connections, which volunteered two of its counselors, and received a federal grant.

“It continues to grow as the word gets out,” Hartin said.

Among the most common misdemeanors seen in the court are theft, vandalism, drug use and underage alcohol use, said Joe Vargas, assistant chief of police for New Braunfels.

For some teenagers, the court has provided them life lessons, they said, and perhaps a career backup plan.

For Canyon High School Senior Matthew Farley and Memorial High School graduate Hailey Hoben, the court has given them a chance to volunteer and start to understand law, something both said could potentially be a career for them down the road.

Farley, who said he heard of the court from a school counselor, hopes to be a psychologist, but considers law school an option after being with the court.

“When I first came here, I didn’t know what to do, and everything could be confusing and it was hard to understand all the legal aspects,” he said. “Now I understand a lot of the basics, and if I went to law school I would already have some knowledge. This is definitely an eye-opener for me.”

Hoben, who graduated early from Memorial High School, said she took an instant liking to prosecution in teen court because of her “natural red-headed temper” and while she said she hopes to be a middle school history teacher, going into law now feels like an option. Teen court has also given her insight into responsibility, she said.

“I’ve never had a citation and never plan to,” she said. “You don’t want to put yourself in this position of being in court. This is a real lesson.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

iPad hackers

Some one allowed me to try their iPad the other day.  It does have a high "cool" factor.

I don't feel a burning desire or need to get one however.

iPad users targeted by hackers

Users tricked in to downloading fake iTunes update that contains malicious code

By Claudine Beaumont, Technology Editor -

Security experts have warned that Apple iPad users are being targeted by cyber criminals. Hackers are trying to dupe iPad owners in to downloading a fake iTunes update on their Windows computer, which, when installed, creates a backdoor for cyber criminals, allowing them to remotely access the machine or even use the computer to send spam messages.

A dialog box pops up telling the user that a recent iTunes update has been released for the iPad. Users who click on a link are taken to a site that looks exactly like the iTunes download web page, but the file the user downloads is actually a Trojan that installs malicious code on the machine. The Backdoor. Bifrose. AADY virus tries to steal passwords and login details for email accounts and instant-messaging services.

"The trick is pretty simple," said Catalin Cosoi, a senior researcher for BitDefender, which uncovered the scam. "They're clever to do it this way. If they were able to target Mac customers, it would have spread like wildfire, but because most antivirus companies detect this Trojan, it's aimed at Windows users who have bought an iPad and who also don't run a security product."

BitDefender has advised iPad owners not to click on any links that appear in dialog boxes or alerts, and to download iTunes directly from the Apple website. The company also emphasised that the iPad itself remained unaffected by the Trojan.

Choo-choo train saves commuter pain

I sure hope the plans go through.

Having grown up in New York and later going to Graduate school in New York, taking a train to get somewhere made a lot more sense than driving.  I commute every day to New Braunfels from San Antonio, a round-trip of 60 miles.  With gasoline at $2.65+ a gallon its over $5.00 everyday in gas just to get to work, not counting wear and tear on the car, or on me.

Well, one can only hope.

Plans for S.A.-to-Austin-area passenger trains take shape
By Josh Baugh - Express-News 

The Lone Star Rail District's vision of a passenger train chugging along Interstate 35 on tracks between San Antonio and Austin is slowly picking up steam, officials told the Metropolitan Planning Organization at a meeting Monday.

“Our initial plans are to run about 12 trains a day and provide service seven days a week,” said Sid Covington, chairman of the district's board of directors. “We're trying to provide a predictable, reliable travel choice.”

The LSTAR is slated to run 120 miles, from Georgetown to San Antonio's City South, connecting 16 stations along the route, officials said. Their expectation is for the train to move riders from downtown Austin to downtown San Antonio in 90 minutes.

The rest of the story:

Plea deal for Judge

A sad day indeed.

I am still shocked by it all.

The photo is a scene from Hawaii; which I surely would like to visit some day.

Former Hill Country Judge admits theft
By Zeke MacCormack - Express-News

Former state District Judge E. Karl Prohl was spared jail time under a plea deal finalized Monday for “double-dipping” on expense reimbursements between 2004 and 2007, authorities said.

Prohl, who pleaded guilty in Kerrville to felony theft, is the second former court officer in 198th judicial district to admit criminal wrongdoing this month for mishandling funds while in office.

The pact calls for Prohl, who resigned last summer after 18 years on the bench, to serve two years of probation, pay a $2,500 fine, perform 200 hours of community service and to surrender his law license, said Tom Kelley of the state's attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case.

The rest of the story:

Please simmer down and get this worked out

This is an extremely complex problem however, it has one very simple step to start immigration reform.

Enforce the laws on the books and stop the flow across the border first.  Then take the necessary steps to address the situation with those here illegally.  I would favor a plan that eventually leads to citizenship not blanket amnesty.

I also think a guest worker visa would be in order as well. 

The Arizona plan may force the issue on the Feds to address rather than ignore.  Both sides need to get a grip.  The plan does not call for Gestapo-like tactics with individuals being stopped and being asked for their papers willy-nilly.  However there could be abuses in the system where such a thing could occur; particularly if you are Hispanic.

So everyone quit grandstanding and work this out.  Thank you.

Lawsuits expected over Ariz. illegal immigrant law

PHOENIX (AP) -- The debate over Arizona's new illegal immigrant law will likely move from protest lines and talk shows to the courtroom, where a judge could be asked to decide whether the state can enforce laws that until now had been the federal government's exclusive domain.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the bill on Friday, said Arizona must act because Washington has failed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs from Mexico.

Opposition to the law grew Monday as opponents used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol, civil rights leaders and others demanded a boycott of the state, a petition drive began to put the measure to a public vote and the Obama administration weighed a possible legal challenge.

Activists are planning a challenge of their own, hoping to block the law from taking effect by arguing that it encroaches on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration and violates people's constitutional rights by giving police too much power.

The measure - set to take effect in late July or early August - would make it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. It directs state and local police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal.

"If you look or sound foreign, you are going to be subjected to never-ending requests for police to confirm your identity and to confirm your citizenship," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is exploring legal action.

Employees at the Capitol came to work Monday to find that vandals had smeared swastikas on the windows. And protesters gathered for an eighth straight day to speak out against a law they say will lead to rampant racial profiling of anyone who looks Hispanic.

Jon Garrido, who produces a Hispanic website and ran unsuccessfully last year for Phoenix City Council, told The Arizona Republic Monday he pulled organizing papers for a petition drive to repeal the law. A referendum would require the signature of 76,682 registered voters to get on the November ballot. If successful, the effort would block the law from taking effect until the vote.

President Barack Obama, who warned last week that the measure could lead to police abuses, asked the Justice Department to complete a review of the law's implications before deciding how to proceed.
Currently, many U.S. police departments do not ask about people's immigration status unless they have run afoul of the law in some other way. Many departments say stopping and questioning people will only discourage immigrants from cooperating to solve crimes.

Under the new Arizona law, immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500. That is a significant escalation of the typical federal punishment for being here illegally - deportation.

People arrested by Arizona police would be turned over to federal immigration officers. Opponents said the federal government could thwart the law by refusing to accept them.

Supporters of the law said it is necessary to protect Arizonans. The state is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the nation's busiest gateway for people slipping into the country. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion that someone is in the U.S. illegally.

The crux of opponents' arguments is that only the federal government has the authority to regulate immigration.
"If every state had its own laws, we wouldn't be one country; we'd be 50 different countries," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Kevin Johnson, dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis and an immigration law professor, said such a lawsuit would have a very good chance of success. He said the state law gets into legal trouble by giving local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce immigration laws.

However, Gerald Neuman, a Harvard Law School professor, said Arizona could make a compelling legal argument that it has overlapping authority to protect its residents.

Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped write the Arizona legislation, said he anticipated legal challenges and carefully drafted the language. He said the state law is only prohibiting conduct already illegal under federal law.

San Francisco's city attorney has urged policymakers in the city to stop dealing with Arizona and Arizona businesses. Leaders in Mexico also demanded a boycott, as did civil rights leader Al Sharpton.

During a town hall meeting Monday in Tucson, Brewer dismissed the threat of a boycott, saying she doesn't believe the law is "going to have the kind of economic impact that some people think it might," the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The law has strong public support in Arizona, where passions have been running high since a rancher was killed close to the Mexican border last month, apparently by drug smugglers from across the border.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Help! I've been mugged by an alien!

I think that's pretty sound advice coming from the good Doctor Stephen Hawking.

Of course that's because I've read tons of science fiction and watch the movies too.

Think Independence Day not E.T.

BTW Aliens, stay out of Texas.

Don't talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking
Times Online

THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.

One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.

Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

The completion of the documentary marks a triumph for Hawking, now 68, who is paralysed by motor neurone disease and has very limited powers of communication. The project took him and his producers three years, during which he insisted on rewriting large chunks of the script and checking the filming.

John Smithson, executive producer for Discovery, said: “He wanted to make a programme that was entertaining for a general audience as well as scientific and that’s a tough job, given the complexity of the ideas involved.”

Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon.

So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances.

Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.
Hawking’s belief in aliens places him in good scientific company. In his recent Wonders of the Solar System BBC series, Professor Brian Cox backed the idea, too, suggesting Mars, Europa and Titan, a moon of Saturn, as likely places to look.

Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

Schoolgirls poisoned?

We must win this battle against those who stand for everything opposite to our ideals.

Those, for example, who would turn the clock back to the Middle Ages.

Those, who did this, an attack against innocent school children, whose only 'crime' was they were girls being educated.

BTW I know this is still being investigated, however I firmly believe someone tried to poison these girls.  If you are offended by my 'leap of faith' in coming to this conclusion sorry.  That's how I believe.

80 Afghan schoolgirls fall ill; poison feared
By Rahim Faiez - My Way News

KABUL (AP) - Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls have fallen ill in recent days after reporting a strange odor in their classrooms in northern Afghanistan, prompting an investigation into whether they were targeted by militants who oppose education for girls or victims of mass hysteria.

Either way, the reports from three schools within 2 miles (3 kilometers) of one another in Kunduz province have raised alarm in a city threatened by the Taliban and their militant allies.

The latest cases occurred Sunday, when 13 girls became sick, Kunduz provincial spokesman Mahbobullah Sayedi said. Another 47 complained of dizziness and nausea the day before, and 23 fell ill last Wednesday.

All complained of a strange smell in class before they fell ill.

The rest of the story:

Testosterone-fueled incident?

How nice.  Throwing beer bottles at each other.

Lucky he wasn't killed.

Road rage leads to stabbing
By Michelle Mondo - Express-News

A man was hospitalized with a stab wound to the chest when a road rage incident escalated into a fight on the city’s West Side Sunday night.

San Antonio Police Capt. Cris Andersen said the incident occurred just before midnight at Las Moras and Commerce streets when a 33-year-old man got out of his vehicle to confront someone in a pickup.

Andersen said it wasn’t yet known what caused the road rage in the first place but the incident allegedly included the two groups throwing beer bottles out their windows at each other’s vehicle.

The rest of the story:

Fiesta de los Muertos

Chalk these up, probably, to what I call Fiesta de los Muertos.

Too much Fiesta, too much booze, and too much stupidity all combine to cause too much death and mayhem.

Weekend wrecks take toll
By Eva Ruth Moravec - Express-News

Three separate accidents Saturday night and early Sunday morning left four people dead and two suspected of drunken driving.

San Antonio police believe Paulino Cruz Jr., 18, was speeding, intoxicated and fatigued around 3 a.m. Sunday, when he collided with a red Ford Focus on the South Side — an accident that resulted in three deaths. He faces two counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault in connection with the crash, which took place in the 700 block of Southeast Military Drive.

Authorities have not released the names of two people, a man and a woman, who were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

The rest of the story:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Man-made beach erosion


Stealing sand?  From a Beach?


Man charged with sand theft

Marathon, Fla. (UPI) -- Police in Florida said a man was charged with theft and drunken driving for filling his truck full of sand
before the vehicle became stuck on the beach.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office
said deputies responded to reports Sunday of a truck stuck in the sand at Coco Plum Beach in Marathon and three deputies arrived to find Brian Splain, 46, with his 1989 Ford F-150 loaded with sand from the beach, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

The deputies said Splain, who failed field sobriety tests, told them he needed the sand for a job.

Splain was arrested and booked into the Monroe County jail on charges of grand theft of the sand, criminal mischief and driving while impaired.

A serious problem

The big question for me now is why didn't the blow-out preventer (BOP) work?

Its seems obvious the well hit a strata containing oil and then blew out.

The pipe is apparently spewing out oil.  I hope they can get the submersibles down there and shut off the BOP.

I cannot recall another instance of a BOP failure in the Gulf of Mexico.  I am sure there will be a thorough investigation into this mishap.

Leak at offshore oil rig producing a serious spill
By Brett Clanton - Houston Chronicle

The spill, which a day earlier Coast Guard officials had thought was contained within a 16-square-mile area on the surface, now covers some 400 square miles, and may grow as the well spews some 42,000 more gallons of oil per day at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Rear Admiral Mary Landry, commander of Coast Guard District 8, said Saturday.

"This is a very serious spill," she said at a press conference updating the situation.

Word of the expanding spill came as the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was found capsized and lying on the sea floor about 1,500 feet northwest of the well, located roughly 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Coast Guard said.

The rest of the story:

Hitting the trifecta

Now here's a guy who probably doesn't need to see the light of day outside a prison cell ....ever.

Prior conviction for involuntary manslaughter in 1996.  Charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency of a child in 2005.  Now indicted for nine counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in one indictment and 25 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and another indictment for six counts of possession of child pornography.

Take it away Jury.

Donihoo indicted for child porn, assault

A Kerrville man formerly convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his infant son has been indicted again on multiple charges of sexual abuse to a child and possession of child pornography.

Christopher Michael Donihoo, 36, was arrested Wednesday.

The first indictment carries nine counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The second indictment carries 25 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The third indictment for possession of child pornography carries six counts.

Donihoo was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1996 and also was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child in 2005. He was sentenced to eight years probation for the manslaughter charge.

If convicted, Donihoo faces between five years to life in prison for each count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two to 10 years for each count of possession of child pornography.

According to Capt. Carol Twiss of the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, Donihoo also has pending charges against him in Gillespie County for cruelty to animals and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Currently he is in the Kerr County

Jail with a $225,000 bond.

Please Vote Yes for the Comal County Justice Center

The time to choose is now.

The time for the new Justice Center is now.

Justice Center: Yes or No?

After months of debate, voters now will have a chance to decide the fate of the Comal County Justice Center.

Early voting begins Monday in the bond election to determine whether Comal County Commissioners will be allowed to issue $36 million in debt to build the controversial downtown facility.

The proposed four-story, 127,000-square-foot justice center would take up a city block along Seguin Avenue in between Bridge and Zink streets, across the street from the county tax office.

It would house several county departments, as well as prisoner holding areas and six secure courtrooms. A citizen-led petition drive in November has brought the issue to a vote, forcing a bond election after halting an attempt by commissioners to pay for the facility without voter approval.

The case for voting ‘yes’

Proponents of the justice center have said that its construction is vital, and would accommodate future growth, remedy lax courtroom security and help maintain a vibrant downtown.

County commissioners have been planning for the facility’s construction for more than five years. After studying potential sites throughout the county, commissioners opted for the proposed location in central New Braunfels, purchasing the property for $1.5 million in April 2008.

Supporters say having a functional justice center in the heart of the city — with its accompanied law offices, coffee shops and constant foot traffic — is critical to the health of the downtown economy.

“Downtown New Braunfels is the traditional seat of county government,” said former County Court-at-Law Judge Brenda Chapman. “If you move it to some other location, I think you’re going to cause irreparable harm to downtown.

The community has spent a lot of money to keep downtown vibrant. If you pick up and move county government, all of those professionals and those businesses are going to move with it.”

Chapman has been an active supporter in Citizens for a Secure Future, a political action committee set up to lobby support for the justice center’s construction.

A central location, she said, means more efficiency in county government.

The new justice center would house not only six courtrooms, but also court and county clerks and the district attorney’s office.

Opponents of the justice center have suggested spreading those departments out, and possibly trying criminal and civil cases in separate locations.

“The opponents of the justice center don’t even have a rudimentary understanding of how our criminal and civil justice systems work,” Chapman said. “Civil proceedings can be just as dangerous as criminal trials, and you still need to provide security.

And on top of that, moving those departments somewhere else would actually cost more money.”

Security has been one of the justice center’s central issues, with judges in the county lobbying for the past six months for a new justice center to protect the public.

Currently, there are few secure holding facilities at the courthouse annex, particularly for women or juvenile offenders — who are then forced to sit in jury boxes.

Metal detectors are only used for high-profile, potentially dangerous cases, and with the more than 20 entrances into the annex, county officials have said it would be near impossible to screen every person who enters the building.

Defendants out on bond could have unfettered access to judges, juries and the general public.

“We have people that are dangerous roaming the hallways,” Chapman said. “Tensions run high and right now we have no way of screening everyone. Something needs to be done.”

County officials have estimated that the tax impact of the justice center would equate to $.015 for every $100 in property value. That would cost $30 per year in taxes for someone with a $200,000 home.

Chapman said it should be built now, while interest rates and construction prices are relatively low.

The proposal has been supported by nearly every county department head and judge that works in the current annex building.

And those supporters say a vote for the justice center would be a vote for downtown’s future.

“The people against this really are misinformed, and they’re doing a disservice to voters by feeding them misinformation,” Chapman said. “This really is something that will be a good thing, not only for the city of New Braunfels, but all of Comal County in the long run.”

The case for voting ‘no’

By Chris Cobb

The Herald-Zeitung

Opponents of the justice center have said it’s too expensive, doesn’t adequately plan for the future and shouldn’t be built downtown.

The most vocal of those opponents has been former New Braunfels City Councilor Ken Valentine, who said there are better ways to plan for the county’s future.

“There are just other options that need to be looked at,” he said. “This can be done better, cheaper and in somewhere where there is room to expand in the future.”

Valentine is the founder of Comal County Justice Center Plan B, a political action committee set to promote alternatives to the current justice center plans.

“The downtown location is really land-locked,” Valentine said. “While this may satisfy the needs of the county for the next 15 to 20 years, where is the room to grow?”

County officials have said the proposed justice center would last for at least 20 years, and could be added onto if necessary in the future.

Valentine said it would be better modeled after the new Hays County Government Center. Crews will break ground on the $58 million, 232,000 square-foot this month — well outside of downtown San Marcos.

“I think that would really be the smart thing for us to do also; build it somewhere where we can expand,” he said.

Although not a part of the bond election, accompanied with the justice center is a proposed parking garage to be built on Seguin Avenue across the street from the courthouse annex where the tax office is now. It would be funded jointly by the county and the city of New Braunfels. County commissioners already have dedicated $2 million to its construction.

Like the justice center, Valentine said, a parking garage is not necessary downtown.

“There is no parking problem downtown,” he said. “It’s kind of like all the security stuff. I think when people are talking about needs, they’re really talking about wants. Does everybody want new digs? Of course they do, but taxpayers would be paying for it.”

For address security, Valentine said he would like to split criminal and civil proceedings, with criminal cases moved to a new facility added onto the existing Comal County Jail.

“Let’s keep the criminals out of downtown,” he said.

He said he would like to set up a committee to evaluate the best possible solutions for expanding both the jail and the courts in Comal County. And not rush to build a building he thinks isn’t prudent or necessary right now.

“This isn’t New Braunfels County,” he said. “This is Comal County and we need to be thinking about what makes the most sense for everyone in the county.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Purple haze

Perhaps this all was an overreaction.

By him to the hair color.

By her hair to the dye.

Female Phila. officer files complaint over hair color
For the second time in less than a year, a Philadelphia police officer's hair has become tangled in controversy.

A female African American officer filed a complaint Wednesday with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, saying her captain had ordered her to change her hair color, which he said was purple.

When Officer Renee Norman refused, she twice was sent home, forcing her to miss her shift. She maintained the color was red.

Capt. Dennis Wilson also ordered her hair color documented with photographs, and Norman twice was taken to Police Headquarters and "mug-shotted," said her attorney, Brian Mildenberg.
"I just never felt so embarrassed in my life," Norman said.

Norman was accused of violating Directive 78-D, which governs officers' hairstyles. It bans "unnatural colors" such as purple, blue, and green.

Norman said that red is not banned, and that she had worn the same style for seven years without complaint from any supervisor until Wilson.

Wilson said purple was a violation of the directive, according to the complaint.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said the directive was "pretty clear," but he would not comment on a pending complaint.

"I don't know what the captain saw or what the officer is alleging," he said.

Last year, a white male officer ran afoul of a superior when he went to work with his hair in cornrows. Officer Thomas Strain was assigned to desk duty until he agreed to cut his hair.

In October, Strain filed a complaint still pending with the Human Relations Commission. Strain and Norman say they were discriminated against on the basis of race.

Norman, a mother of four, has been a police officer since 1996. Four years ago, she was transferred to the Ninth District, which covers Center City west of Broad Street.

Wilson became the captain there about 21/2 years ago, the complaint said.

Norman said she was on patrol in October when a sergeant acting on Wilson's orders told her to go home and change her hair color.

"I thought he was joking," she said. "I was like, 'Stop playing me.' "

Norman said she did her own hair using a commercial dye labeled "crimson." She did not remember the brand. Her color and others are not uncommon among black female officers, she said.
"Orange, blond, I've seen all sorts of colors," she said.

In her complaint, Norman accuses Wilson of starting "a campaign of discrimination and retaliation" against her. Wilson, she said, has assigned her to "undesirable" details, reduced her overtime, and kept her from working high-profile events.

Norman's filing says Wilson has been the subject of at least four employment complaints from black officers, but it did not provide details.

Not income? Maybe she needs the IRS for Dummies book

Gee, nice.  Since when is money earned by selling things not income?

What else can one say about this?

Is she still employed by the IRS?

IRS Agent Didn't Report $41,842 in EBay Sales
By Amy Feldman and Margaret Collins - Bloomberg

An Internal Revenue Service agent was found liable for back taxes and penalties for not reporting income on nearly 2,000 transactions on EBay Inc., the online auction site, according to the U.S. Tax Court.

Andrea Fabiana Orellana failed to report $41,842 in income in 2004 and 2005 from sales of designer clothing, shoes and other items, according to a Tax Court summary opinion. Orellana is liable for $12,428 in unpaid taxes and $2,486 in penalties.

Orellana, who represented herself, sold items under several names, including “BlackTheRipper,” the court document said. She could not be reached for comment.

“Petitioner’s attitude toward the preparation of her tax returns appeared to be cavalier,” the U.S. Tax Court opinion said.

The IRS asked for proof of costs and expenses. Orellana, who worked as an IRS revenue officer and resided in California at the time of the IRS examination, testified that she never kept receipts, according to the court.

“That would be ridiculous, unheard of. Unless there was some really bizarre reason why I kept a receipt, there were no receipts,” she said according to the court documents.

Orellana was an IRS revenue officer starting in 2001, according to the opinion. Revenue officers are responsible for collecting delinquent taxes, surveying unreported taxes and securing delinquent returns, according to an IRS job description.

Closet Cleaning

Orellana claimed her EBay sales were not a business, and characterized it as an online garage sale, according to the court document. She said she liked to shop for designer clothes and that this was a way to clean out her closets.

The IRS declined to comment, said spokesman Dean Patterson.

“Sellers are responsible for paying all required state and federal taxes,” EBay said in an e-mailed statement. The San Jose, California-based company declined to comment on the specific case.

The court ruling was reported earlier on TaxProf Blog.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress last year that the estimated amount of uncollected taxes was $290 billion. April 15th was tax day, when all Americans had to file their income taxes. Taxpayers filed 144.1 million individual returns in 2009, according to the IRS.

The case is Orellana v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2010- 51, U.S. Tax Court (Apr. 20, 2010).

Hello Sailor!

Welcome to San Antonio, the Military City, sailors!

Navy celebrates its growing presence
By Scott Huddleston - Express-News

Fiesta wouldn't be the multicultural celebration it has become without the U.S. armed forces.

Many traditions of San Antonio's 119-year-old spring festival, including King Antonio's uniform and the use of horses in street parades, were influenced by military customs.

This year, the Navy has landed at a time when its San Antonio presence is rapidly increasing. For one San Antonian who's one of the Navy's highest-ranking Hispanic officers, Fiesta is a happy homecoming.

The rest of the story:

Passes the smell test?

$18,450.00 sure is a lot of money for 5 meals where they provided mashed potatoes, green beans and some dressing.

Its nice to have friends in high places.

Ramos' ties to caterer draw scrutiny
By Josh Baugh - Express-News

Since taking office in January 2008, District 3 Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos has paid more than $18,000 in taxpayer money to a longtime family friend's cleaning business — for catering, not housekeeping.

She also recently paid back hundreds of dollars in city-funded reimbursements that Ramos received using receipts from purchases of meals and supplies from her campaign account.

The purchases, on more than a dozen occasions, are documented on both her campaign finance reports and city reimbursement forms.

But it's the catering issue that has led to an investigation by the city attorney's office.

The rest of the story:

Summer approaching fast

Signs that Summer is nigh;

1. Oppressively muggy this morning;

2. The Bluebonnets and Paint-Brushes are fading out; and

3. Schlitterbahn opening.  w00t!

Schlitterbahn set to open this weekend


Be confused no more as your child winds down the Soda Straws. Just before opening day this Saturday, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort —New Braunfels is painting each line of the famous tubular, winding slides. They were identical in color, making it hard for parents looking for their children at the bottom of the slide. Now one side is green and the other blue.

“Parents in the past didn’t know what side their children were coming out on,” said Jeffrey Siebert, director of corporate communications for Schlitterbahn Waterparks.

Improvements abound this season, with new patio and gazebo areas overlooking the Comal River and a simple fresh coat of paint on all the railings throughout the park.

Schlitterbahn officially opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 24 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The park is only open on weekends through May 19, when the Blastenhoff and Surfenburg areas will be open on weekdays and the main park on weekends until the full season gets under way on May 29. Then, the park will be open everyday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through August 15, when the park will begin again to scale back.

More than one million people visited the local this past season, making for a heavily used park that might keep many New Braunfelsers away.

Now, Siebert said, is the time for locals to come and enjoy the park for themselves.

“These first weekends are phenomenal. No waiting for anything. They are really New Braunfels’ weekends,” Siebert said. “As the season goes to daily, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best time for locals to avoid the crowds,” Siebert said.

While it might seem counterintuitive to make a day at Schlitterbahn on a major summer holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day, Siebert said those days are ideal to head to the water park.

Sunscreen is advised, especially as the Texas sun heats up. Good footwear is also encouraged, and Siebert said it’s important to remember that while plenty of food and refreshment concessions are located throughout, unlike many theme parks, Schlitterbahn allows its patron to bring in coolers full of anything a guest might want or need to stay hydrated.

“Bring your own coolers, load it up, pack it up,” he said. “Most theme parks don’t allow it. All we ask is no glass and no alcohol can be brought in per state law, that’s it. Bring anything you want to enjoy during the day.”

There are more than a dozen “no wait attractions,” Siebert said, such as the Torrent in the Blastenhoff section of the park — a winding river that creates large waves that push through the length of the ride every 11 seconds.

The park continues to win numerous awards in the aquatics theme park industry it helped create, with the Master Blaster ride in its 11th year winning best ride.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort — New Braunfels opened its first four water slides in 1979, and today has expanded into a three section, 65-arce park in New Braunfels, along with parks in Galveston Island, South Padre Island, Kansas City, Kansas and will open another park next year in Cedar Park, Texas.

Tickets are available at H-E-B, Valero and online as well as at the gate, Season passes are still available, and as the season progresses, season passes for next year will go on sale.

Opening Day

Where: 305 W. Austin St., New Braunfels, (830) 625-2351

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, opening day

If you go: Single day tickets available at H-E-B stores, Valero stores and online,

Tickets: $41.99 at the gate for 12 years old and up, $33.99 ages 3-11 and 55 and up. Look for discounts online and at retail locations

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coordinated kidnapping attack?

Its an all out war apparently south of the border..

Protect the border.

Monterrey hotel attacked in Mexico kidnappings

The hotel assault was reportedly mounted by up to 50 gunmen who seized cars to block streets, slowing the police. At least three people were kidnapped in the attack bearing hallmarks of drug violence.

By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Mexico City

In a bold predawn attack, gunmen stormed a hotel Wednesday in the heart of the northern city of Monterrey and kidnapped at least three people, officials said.

Mexican media said up to 50 hooded gunmen arrived in a convoy and burst into the downtown Holiday Inn, seizing guests and employees.

Law enforcement officials, offering only scant details by late afternoon, said it was not immediately clear whether a fourth person was seized or how many gunmen took part in the 3 a.m. attack. Authorities offered no motive for the kidnappings, but the attack bore the hallmarks of Mexico's drug gang violence.

Monterrey's mayor, Fernando Larrazabal, said police had trouble reaching the scene because the attackers commandeered cars and used them to block surrounding streets. Larrazabal told a radio interviewer that the kidnappers had disappeared in less than 20 minutes.

Authorities dismissed news reports that the kidnappers had seized another person from a hotel across the street. Initial news accounts here said seven people had been kidnapped.

Violence related to drug gangs has spiked in recent months in northeastern Mexico, including around Monterrey, a business hub that is Mexico's third-largest metropolitan area. Hit men have slain police officers and members of rival groups.

A shootout in Monterrey between gunmen and Mexican soldiers last month killed two university students outside their school, Monterrey Tech.

Much of the recent mayhem across the state of Nuevo Leon, of which Monterrey is the capital, and the nearby state of Tamaulipas stems from fighting between the Gulf cartel and former allies, known as the Zetas. That feud has drawn in other trafficking groups, spreading chaos along the U.S. border near the Gulf of Mexico.

The Holiday Inn, with 390 rooms, sits in a downtown zone with numerous high-rise hotels.

The website of the daily Reforma newspaper quoted an unidentified witness as saying the hotel erupted in shouts and the sound of people being beaten. It said gunmen fired when a captive tried to escape, but that it was not clear if the person was hit.

A security guard was reportedly pistol-whipped.

Calls to the hotel were not answered.

Suspect shot

Glad the officer is all right.

Uncover sergeant shoots suspect
By Eva Ruth Moravec - Express-News 
An undercover San Antonio Police Department sergeant shot a man in the arm Wednesday after the man reached into a pocket, threatening the officer, authorities said.

I (expletive) have something for you,” police said the man told Sgt. Joe Rios, who had ordered him to show his hands.

Police Chief William McManus said Rios, a 25-year veteran of the Police Department, fired at the man after seeing what appeared to be a gun being pulled out of the his pants pocket.

The bullet grazed the man's torso before striking him in the arm, McManus said. The chief said the “weapon” turned out to be a dark-colored water pistol.

The rest of the story:

Police business not monkey business

Hey guys, focus.

FOCUS!  Work, not play.

3rd officer suspended in alleged misuse of city equipment
By Peter J. Holley - Express-News

A third San Antonio police officer has been suspended following accusations that he used city equipment to carry on inappropriate sexual discussions with fellow officers, police said.

Officer Benjamin P. Flores has been suspended for 30 days without pay, police said.

He is accused of using his patrol car terminal to have suggestive conversations about civilian women and female officers with Officer Gabriel Villarreal, 43, who was suspended indefinitely last week, according to city documents.

The rest of the story:

A dangerous place to be

Back in the day when I worked in the Offshore Gulf of Mexico Exploration Division for Marathon Oil Company I would go offshore to drilling rigs when we ran well logs.  Equipment run, usually by Schlumberger, which gave us an indication of the rock layers we had drilled through and their contents.

Those rigs are a dangerous place, or I should say, can be a dangerous place to work.  Aside from all of the work and heavy equipment running about there was always the ever present danger of drilling into an over-pressured zone which could cause the well to "blow-out".  In other words the pressure of the strata you just drilled into exceeds the pressure exerted by the drilling mud and fluids in the well bore and the pressure forces out everything; i.e. drilling mud and fluids, as well as the pipe, if the over-pressure is strong enough.

The material coming out of the hole could be flammable if the the over-pressured zone contained natural gas and a slight spark would ignite it; causing an explosion and fire.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the missing workers and their families.

La. oil rig survivors back on land; 11 missing
By CAIN BURDEAU and MIKE KUNZELMAN - Associated Press Writers

PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) -- Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early Thursday as the search for 11 missing workers continued.

About 100 workers had made it to a supply boat after Tuesday night's explosion, then were plucked from the Gulf of Mexico by Coast Guard rescuers. After a slow-moving trek across the waters, the workers finally made it ashore at Port Fourchon earlier Thursday where they were checked by doctors and brought to a hotel in suburban New Orleans to awaiting relatives.

"I've seen a lot of things, but I've never seen anything like that," said a visibly tired worker, who declined to give his name as he got in a car to leave.

The rig, where exploratory drilling was being done about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded late Tuesday, sending workers scurrying for safety. Seventeen people were injured in the blast and taken to hospitals, four critically, in what could be one of the nation's deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half-century.

Coast Guard crews in two cutters have been searching around the clock for the missing, said Coast Guard Lt. Sue Kerver. The air search was to resume at first light Friday around 6:30 a.m. CDT, she said.
The rig is owned by Transocean Ltd. and was under contract to oil giant BP.

Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the 400-by-250-foot rig, which is roughly twice the size of a football field, according the Transocean's website. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze. Officials said the damage to the environment appeared minimal so far.

Adrian Rose, vice president of Transocean, said the explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong was under investigation.

A total of 126 workers were aboard. Seventy-nine were Transocean workers, six were BP employees and 41 were contracted. The Coast Guard said the 17 taken by air or sea to hospitals suffered burns, broken legs and smoke inhalation.

One of the deadliest U.S. offshore drilling accidents was in 1964, when a catamaran-type drilling barge operated by Pan American Petroleum Corp. near Eugene Island, about 80 miles off Louisiana, suffered a blowout and explosion while drilling a well. Twenty-one crew members died. The deadliest offshore drilling explosion was in 1988 about 120 miles off Aberdeen, Scotland, in which 167 men were killed.

Rose said the Deepwater Horizon crew had drilled the well to its final depth, more than 18,000 feet, and was cementing the steel casing at the time of the explosion.

"They did not have a lot of time to evacuate. This would have happened very rapidly," he said.

According to Transocean's website, the rig was built in 2001 in South Korea and is designed to operate in water up to 8,000 feet deep, drill 5 1/2 miles down, and accommodate a crew of 130. It floats on pontoons and is moored to the sea floor by several large anchors.

Workers typically spend two weeks on the rig at a time, followed by two weeks off. Offshore oil workers typically earn $40,000 to $60,000 a year - more if they have special skills.

Working on offshore oil rigs is a dangerous job but has become safer in recent years thanks to improved training, safety systems and maintenance, said Joe Hurt, regional vice president for the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

Since 2001, there have been 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions in the Gulf, according to the federal Minerals Management Service.

Stanley Murray of Monterey, La., was reunited with his son, Chad, early Thursday morning. His son, an electrician aboard the rig, had ended his shift just before the explosion.
"If he had been there five minutes later, he would have been burned up," a relieved Stanley Murray said.