31 March 2006

Possible inconsistences and accusations surfacing in Duke lacrosse team investigation

Okay, so now authorities from the North Carolina State Department of Investigation (SBI) say DNA tests from 46 male Duke University lacrosse team members will be available next week. The team, who has had their season suspended by Duke University officials pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, has still been practicing despite heavy protests and media coverage. The investigation centers on an exotic dancer's allegations that she was raped, beaten and sodomized at the hands of 3 team members after performing at a private party in an off-campus home rented by two of the team's co-captains. The team members (46 of them, all but 1 on the team...that 1 is black and was not tested because the alleged victim claims her attackers were white) all have submitted to DNA testing already and it is those results that are anxiously awaited here.

"The Herald-Sun" , the local paper from Durham, seems to be working overtime to pin the pieces of this skeleton together, even before the DNA results are known. All of the local news agencies...radio, TV, newspaper, college media sources...have been competing with national media sources, too, as the story and allegations have been on most major news and sports web sites, in major newspapers, and even gotten brief mentions on national television news broadcasts. The pressure is on, from the hallowed halls of Duke University's administration down to the investigative officers at the Durham Police Department (who I would not change jobs with in the world right now, for any amount of money). In protest, locally there have been walks, demonstrations, public outcry for immediate and swift justice against these alleged attackers. The players, who had been keeping quiet, have come back swinging a bit...and have the attorneys to speak up for them now. This is shaping up to be quite the investigation and possible prosecution.

There are many troubling aspects to the case evidence-wise, DNA evidence not withstanding, and most center on a couple of rather confusing 911 calls. It is these calls, one of which claimed that the Duke players were yelling racial epithets at two black women walking in the area near the time of the alleged attack, that the Herald-Sun writers have been investigating thoroughly. The caller supposedly stated three different things about her location and what she was doing, while reporting the racial epithets. The other and later 911 call, which initially was treated like an intoxicated person call, came from the alleged victim at an all-night supermarket almost 3 miles away, in the opposite direction from the site of the incident and also almost 2 miles past the Durham Police Department. Depending on how the victim was driven to the supermarket on Hillsborough Road, she may have went by within 2 blocks of the Police Station in downtown Durham. Why she and her driver would go 2 miles in the opposite direction and away from the Police Department and then call is getting some very close scrutiny. As the article today states, some questions have also started to come out about the timing: police logs now reveal that they were at the party's location only 16 minutes before the second 911 call came in reporting the assault from the alleged victim. Supposedly they were there at the same time the attack was either going on inside or had just concluded...but the police found nothing suspicious after investigating the house and its environs for more than 10 minutes and left the scene.

Timelines at alleged rape site questioned .

I will post more updates as information comes in. Will be interesting to see how the District Attorney handles this if any of the DNA test results are returned even remotely inconclusive.

30 March 2006

Something to smile about...

...somewhere on Bondi Beach, in Sydney, Australia, there are equally happy, fit, and gorgeous lifeguards as the ones pictured above from January 2006...always protecting the beachgoers. And, yes, they are probably running in groups from one to another to make sure they don't miss anything or anyone. God love the dedicated Aussies.

Update on Duke Lacrosse Team Allegations

Another short post on this subject...further reports to come later as I get a chance to read and sort them out.

However, "The Smoking Gun" (love those folks!) have gotten a copy of the of the search warrant that was produced and acted upon by the Durham, North Carolina, police department. Duke Lacrosse Rape Probe .

We're still waiting on the 46 DNA samples that were obtained from almost the whole team (although the victim states that only 3 men assaulted her). The co-captains of the team (who approached the administrators and others at Duke University regarding a self-imposed suspension of their playing season) have stated that after that evidence is examined, all players will be exonerated from any assault charges, and that the only thing they are guilty of is bad judgement (and underage drinking, which is a rampant part of college life at Duke and any other major college or university in the US). We'll see how this plays out.

29 March 2006

Confusing meltdown over at nearby Duke University

I live in the middle of Tobacco Road, that glorious stretch of college basketball heaven that is earmarked on three sides by NCAA men's basketball champions North Carolina State University in Raleigh, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (in Chapel Hill, duh), and Duke University in my former hometown of Durham. People here have to have a favourite...it determines where you eat, where you buy your cars from, the dentist office waiting room colour...it's not just a sport, it's a flippin' religion down here. Unfortunately, (and this causes all of us some pain because now we all have no one to cheer for nor cheer against), this year all of the mens' local teams are out of the competition for a variety of reasons. One would think we locals would be depressed, but accepting the fact by now and would just simply readjust our focus to the new Nascar season, which has just started. (Or...God Forbid...we actually support the TWO womens' teams who did far better than their male counterparts but practically have to beg for attendees to come see them play.) But, alas, no...apparently the Duke University Men's Lacrosse team has brought the spotlight back on us. And a lot of people, including many Duke students and faculty themselves, are none too pleased.

I'm pressed for time this morning, but I will follow up on this later tonight after work. In the meantime, for the lucky few who have not read about it (and frankly, except for this, how many even know what the hell a lacrosse team even is??), I'll throw in some local links of the scandal-a-brewin'. The national wires are leaving a lot of the minor details out, and who knows how this will end up in the next couple of weeks.

From Durham's local newspaper, "The Herald Sun" : Lacrosse season suspended during gang-rape probe . In particular, the 911 calls are the most talked about items...and potentially the most damaging.

From Raleigh (which tends to be favoured toward UNC and NC State, and that issue is always mentioned when any news about any of the teams is talked about locally), "The News and Observer" : Duke puts lacrosse games on hold . (Kudos go to the N&O, though, for actually not forgetting the UNC and Duke Womens' Basketball Teams, who will both be attending the Final Four Womens' Championship Tournament...a news story that's been all but overlooked here.)

And one of the leading television stations' take on the uproar (with more to come from the others as the stories get transferred online): Raleigh-based WRAL-TV (Channel 5, CBS affiliate). Duke President Suspends Future Lacrosse Matches Pending Investigation .

Stay tuned, folks. Sports vs politics, mens' vs womens' sports, black against white, monied college students vs working class, he said vs she said...all here and in bumper crop supply. All waiting on the results of 46 DNA tests.

28 March 2006

Horribly behind, like The Mad Hatter

...and as a result I have very limited time today to blog anything (also explains yesterday's absence, sorry again).

A few links I wanted to share (and will add to those below under the "Links" section when I get the time this week) with those who've not found them:

  • Paul Krassner (ADULTS PREFERRED SITE), for no other reason than his biography alone. He's a wonderful writer...worthy of all the praise lauded on him in my opinion from George Carlin, Lewis Black and others...but is also known for "...later accompanying Groucho Marx on his first acid trip." The "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" (and the reason for the ADULTS disclaimer as above) print on the homepage should give you an inkling of what you're in for...I've found Mr Krassner is either greatly loved or unswervingily hated, no middle ground seems to exist.
  • Coastalwatch has webcams throughout my beloved Australia. From Perth to Sydney Harbour to their world-famous beaches. If you can't be in Australia, this gives you a reminder of what you're missing...and, as a person who's been there 9 times, that can be both a good and a bad thing. (waaah!!) Click on your chosen connection speed on the left hand side menu. Keep in mind the time difference as night webcams don't show anything, especially as both continents are scheduled to change clocks again (them back, us forward...for the most part and in most states).
  • Boing Boing, a "directory of wonderful things" and certainly up to its billing. A wide open assortment of the strange, weird, boring, and just "somebody wants to know about this?" kind of items. They also are known to include less-reported news, and are linked to NPR (National Public Radio) here in the US.

26 March 2006

Where my heart is today...Watson's Bay, Sydney, Australia

Illegal immigration problem in the US: one way NOT to handle it

There is a fascinating discussion on The Huffington Post about the large-scale demonstrations that have happened in the last few days regarding measures being suggested by the GOP/Republican Party regarding illegal immigration to the US. Specifically, one of the staff bloggers attended the 100,000 strong protest in Los Angeles...which, I might add, was 10-12 TIMES the size of the largest anti-war protest (depending on what news agency you quote) held recently this spring as well. (Maybe the large turnout for this one has something to do with the anti-illegal immigration bill proposed would have all illegals jailed as felons. There really is no mention in this bill what would happen to their US-born offspring, which would be in the hundreds of thousands themselves, who are US citizens automatically upon birth here.)

Read Max Blumenthal's blog about the LA demonstrations here: Sensenbrenner Awakens A Sleeping Giant Read after the conclusion of the article for the many comments from the HuffPo readers that follow.

And read the very controversial bill, as proposed by Republican Sensenbrenner and his 35 co-sponsors and agreed to by the House of Representatives initially, in question here: H.R. (House Resolution) 4437 Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House) .

This will be a very telling campaign issue for both parties come the Fall 2006 and later for 2008. As I live in North Carolina and theoretically we are now the second-most chosen destination for illegal immigrants coming into the US (again, depending on what news agency you read and believe, we could be #1 or as far back as #4, but I have yet to see anything further than #4), I can tell you firsthand the growing complexity of issues and animosity on all sides regarding this lack of immigration control. I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Blumenthal's assertions regarding the Southeast being the GOP home base and accustomed to keeping non-whites in a minority position in totality, but I do agree that a large segment of the rural, non-urban and non-suburban areas of the SE is more subject to this mentality compared to places like Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh or Wilmington. Further afield from me (and each of them only a 5 hr drive away) is Atlanta and Washington, D.C., and Lord knows that theory doesn't hold water in either of those locales. What is interesting is how the Republican party will approach the voting blocks now...because it is not two (conservatives and Latinos) as Blumenthal suggests, but at a minimum of four (conservatives, Latinos, but also successful Blacks, and disillusioned Whites defecting from the Democratic Party). While this is a horrible HR bill that should never have seen the light of day in its current form, it's also too premature to say the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot with it here. Time will tell on this, of course, but current illegal immigration policy is regarded locally here as a huge joke.

25 March 2006

The 'boys' may save the day someday: need for mens' testes (and their 'ethical' stem cells) may exist

I'm attracted to the offbeat news story, the little nice science and/or cultural sideshows that tend to sneak by the main stream media and then years later actually become the news. Digital satellite radio for one, is a shining example, as I was reading about plans for this way back in 1992. I'm not sure I'm real thrilled with the progression so far, but I am still very hopeful that the predictions of a worldwide radio satellite system (one that could let me subscribe and listen to radio stations in my car from Australia, Yemen and everyplace in between without the aid of a internet connection on my end and an internet web broadcast on theirs, but just use existing satellite technology) in the next 3 years. I'm one of those people who find little stories on the side, make notes about the really interesting ones, and follow them through to the fruition (and the occasional defeat). It's wonderful to see the world progress.

So it should come as no surprise that I think that this little news item from The New Scientist (which does some fascinating articles, by the way, much in the way that Psychology Today does) is that same kind of future benchmark article. Having worked or been involved in some capacity in the medical field almost all of my life, I have seen both the advances and the pitfalls of the modern science, especially in the US health care system. I have lost one relative to a terminal illness because of an organ's stoppage, and have almost lost a battle of my own fighting the cancer of another. There are so many different research avenues available to us here, techniques and theories that need funding and political support from the public to get through...avenues that will not get thoroughly tested for widespread application unless they do get the public's support.

I am a believer that stem cells can be developed and used to help a variety of illnesses and perhaps prolong the lives of those suffering into something far more desireable, something far more human. While I understand the religious and ethical arguments of using stem cells in disease cures (cells that can only currently be taken from discarded human placentas and is heavily restricted by the Bush Administration here in the US), I also believe that the potential outcomes far outweigh the objections. I also note that those arguing the most vehemently against the use of stem cell research are the ones who've never had to deal with a 'no alternative options available' situation in their own personal health care. When you or a loved one are involved, in very few instances do you not want to try all possible treatments for a cure. Until you walk a day in my shoes (or those of my deceased father, who loved life more than anything else, but suffered a long decline for more than 20 years on kidney dialysis as he had 'no other options available' to him), don't presume you have the right to tell me that one placenta is worth more than one human life. Especially don't presume to tell me that the medical research that could have saved my father should not be funded because a placenta of an unwanted child is 'worth' more than he was and that placenta, which will be biomedically incinerated most likely immediately after its delivery otherwise, should not be used to help those living.

Perhaps some hard-working mice (and in the future, mens' better friends, the testes) can help society get around this political and ethical quagmire about using stem cells to save lives:

Mice testicles yield 'ethical' stem cells .

Missed Deadline

It's amazing what you can miss when you're working too much, or just even trying to get caught up on your sleep.

Like getting your daily blog post in, which is what I failed to do yesterday after finally getting the old Dell operating at the capacity I need it to. Instead, today I'll just even it up and make it a twofer. And, yes, I know I still need to re-establish the links that got deleted two days ago.

Oh well, can't change history now and even if I could, it would be for more important things than getting my daily words in. Like maybe winning the lotto. Or getting dual American/Australian citizenship and move to a little closet in Sydney. Or be able to play my guitar again. Or, maybe...well, forget it. I'm vain about my musings and all, but hopefully I'm not that vain.

Sorry, folks, still the same.

23 March 2006

Big Toto's Watching

Sorry for the lack of commentary today...in the interest of 'improving' the looks of this blog, I hit the change template settings by accident yesterday and it did - erasing all of my links and special instructions for the page already set. Goes to show you that one should always read the fine print in detail before saying yes...even a virtual yes...to anything. Will get those links and formatting redone tonight, though.

In the meantime, I came across the following news article and it immediately reminded me why I couldn't wait to get out of Kansas after high school:

Pulled over in Kansas? Get ready to show your license, registration — and fingerprints (from "The Kansas City Star" newspaper).

Back when I was there (for a good 40% of my life, unfortunately, but we can blame that on my parents), everybody just seemed bored and looking for something to do. Now it seems they're still bored, but in the name of Homeland Security and God only knows what else, they've found a way to put Kansas back on the patriotic map. Who needs the CIA or the FBI anyway if the Jayhawks can do it on a road stop?

22 March 2006

So remind again me why anyone would want the job next go around?

You know, I remember a time when being the President of the United States and the Leader of the Free World was the job to have, if you had the political clout, financial reserve, ass-kissing fetish gene and intestinal fortitude. And I remember this being the situation well, let's say, for all of my life. You command armies, balance or blow out the budget, travel luxuriously, have countless photo ops and news conferences, change entire agendas on technology, economy, health care, global politics...you name it, it's within your grasp. To make your case for historians down the line, you did as much as you could, as grandly and 'cohesively' with the other political party as you could, and you tried to accomplish the main goals during your tenure...even it befell you to become a 'lame duck' two-term President.

Yesterday, new tea leaves were presented to the American public and, well, the above presumptions about what this President wants to get done before leaving office have just been tossed out on their mighty ears. Since 2001, Dubya and Co have been telling us, stripping from us really, that billions upon billions of dollars need to be expended to "fight the war on Tara (terror)". (As a Southerner by heritage, may I again implore drawl-speaking Texans and Dubyas everywhere to stop fighting the O'Haras and their beloved Tara. That war eventually ended in 1865.) Billions have been eked from poverty-stricken elderly Americans and inner city childrens' programs, from border patrols looking for illegal immigration, from a health care system that can cure so many yet be affordable to so few. Infrastructures are falling in around us as states can't even afford to fix their roads every 2-5 years for basic repairs; educational successes are now linked to how well children can rotely remember various facts but also not have to think about applying those facts. And let's never forget how well the absence of federal dollars and the National Guard helped our dear fellow citizens in New Orleans: 6+ months on after Hurricane Katrina, and we're still finding dead bodies that didn't get rescued in time, not to mention the 4000+ mobile homes (trailers/caravans) that sit empty and immovable to the homeless survivors of Katrina. If this is what it means to be a superpower, perhaps it's a damn good thing we're the only ones around doing the job...any more and we may kill off the rest of the world we're not busy with yet.

And, so, good friends, I give you reason not to fret about timelines in Iraq, nor the maimed nor the killed American military personnel, nor even the lack of direction of the US in Middle East politics: President Bush says someone else will make the tough decision to pull us out of Iraq if necessary, and that we're likely to be involved there through 2008. Repeating that last part, folks: 2008. Friends and family members of military personnel, no matter what side of the political aisle you hail from: my prayers are with you and yours, no matter what they are having to do and no matter where that location is.

From today's "LA Times": Bush Says U.S. in Iraq for Long Haul .

I knew indecisiveness seemed to be the manner of the day, but I honestly was not expecting this. Read it and weep, folks, read it and weep.

21 March 2006

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Well, hey there, Pilgrim...

So much news about my fearlessly 'elected' President and his need to boost the enthusiasm and support for all Americans in the continuing raid that is the conflict in Iraq. (I say conflict because ever since W stepped onto that aircraft carrier two years ago...in the infamous flightsuit photo-op seen round the world...for the sake of the veterans, it is no longer a war in Iraq. If a military personnel member dies now, they are listed as a victim of a peacekeeping campaign...and their relatives get the same amount of benefits as if they simply died during training exercises at their home Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard training base...which is sometimes much less than if died during a 'war'.) When hostilities 'ended' verus Iraq (and dear Lord, had we really even started them back then?), casualties of this war and the effects of the those deaths on the futures of their families changed forever...if for no other reason than how the military and US government have to pay out for them financially. And that's providing none of them died under bizarrely strange circumstances, like fallen sports and military hero Pat Tillman allegedly did.

Along those lines, Ruth Marcus from "The Washington Post" has a very interesting Ruth Marcus Opinion piece in today's paper. Ms. Marcus argues that too much manliness, for lack of a better description, is what has crippled the Bush administration in recent months, and especially in their piecemeal approach to handling the entire Iraq affair. It's a little tongue in cheek, admittedly, but her point is well taken. Somewhere in the Dubya playbook we were supposed to be enjoying the spoils of Iraq's oil, promoting democracy, and riding off into the sunset amongest cheers from the locals by now. Damn, it looked so easy when John Wayne and Burt Lancaster were the lawmen. Or when John Ford directed and Merian Johnson produced. (Johnson was the producer and partner of many of Ford's classics, and was a military flying ace and retired war hero himself in real life.). Now there's a thought: a well-directed, well-produced, well-delivered action extravaganza filled with men who were men and didn't have to go through the motions of knowing what to do and when to do it...they knew what to do and got the job done, hopefully without killing any innocents. Oh dear...is it too late to rouse Lancaster from the dead to play Wyatt Earp one more time?

When we should be getting answers to the doubts of the American people about how Iraq is/isn't in the throes of a civil war, we get Rumsfield et al comparing any withdrawal to that of a surrender to the Nazis, to that horrible Mohammed, I guess, he fears. (Lord, Rumsfeld is scary in just what he will say sometimes.) When we should be getting answers about a timeframe, a troop count, hell, even a simple direction of where this is headed, we are given ra-ras from the Commander in Chief that would have made my pep squad proud back in high school. Unfortunately, even the once-converted are having serious doubts as to the end-game strategy.

The problem still remains, though: I didn't believe my team back in the plains of Kansas could win the tough games (and unfortunately they didn't), and I'm starting to get that same feeling with the men and women caught in the Middle East now. I don't care what quarter we're in or who the hell is leading the cheers...sometimes you need to occasionally look at the scoreboard and take stock of where you stand. And, for Pete's sake, man, at least have the balls to admit errors and change direction. Then maybe some real 'men' will step up and take control of the wayward reins.

20 March 2006

Have "La La", Will Travel

Okay, I admit I'm a bit strange when it comes to my musical choices. I am one of the few (actually I am the only one I know, but I have hopes that I will find others someday out there like me) who can, and frequently does, go from listening to AC/DC to Caruso to Hank Williams (Sr. and Jr.) in a single acoustic wonderland setting. For the same reasons, movies such as "High Fidelity" (with the ageless talent of John Cusack in the lead) stand in my Top 10 Must See films every year. I begrudgingly gave up my entire TOFOG (www.gruntland.com) CD collection to a new found friend in Australia, only to now be in withdrawal in the 2 months since as she's finding out which of the 6 CDs she likes best. (Yes, that is the band that features actor Russell Crowe as the lead singer, but no matter your personal feelings on Crowe, don't hold that against the band...they, and he, are actually quite good. Too damn bad no one in the US can verify that except every 2-3 years or so when they play like 5 shows max.) I have, thankfully, have my Elvis Costello (hereafter referred to as God) and Janis Joplin CDs to keep me company. But I want more, although my poor budget doesn't allow for it (saving for Australia can hamper one's discretionary spending habits, let me tell you).

So imagine my rather pleasant surprise when I happened across this little new service: "La La", a CD sharing service, sorta an underground Netflix for audiophiles. Mentioned in "Time" magazine, of all places.

Anybody have any experience with these people, or this service, yet? I admit I am practically chomping at the bit that someone may actually have some bootleg INXS songs I never heard, or some Merle Haggard early Okie works, or hell even some Janis Joplin 'live in Austin' outtakes. If this works, could be a whole new outlet for people to finally learn about some of the great music they have been missing and could be a whole less costly than buying 15 or so copies to get friends to finally listen to your favourite band. (This is both a good and a bad thing if you're a TOFOG fan...trust me, I think I should have taken out stock in them a few years back after my contributions. Or at least had a say in what kinds of T-shirt designs are chosen.)

I know there are several successful book sharing services, but essentially the members contributing to that actually believe that they will not get their books back (they even have little history markers attached to the inside covers so the books can be tracked from owner to owner, destination to destination), or not get their books back in any kind of timely manner...the dear books are 'released', much like you would a rescued bird back into the wilderness. And Lord knows the disposable camera logs are quite popular, too. (With that, somebody buys a disposable camera, takes a few pictures, passes it along to a friend who takes some more, then they pass it along to another friend someplace else...eventually the camera gets full and sent back in for development. After that, the developing company posts the pictures online where then all the participants can caption and discuss the pictures...nice way to not only see the world in a small and personal way, but also get to know volumes about your friends - and theirs).

I think I'm gonna try this one out, the price seems like something I can handle right now. And I'll even make it quite entertaining for those who want to get some real musical knowledge: first up on my 'lend' listings will be my History of Chess Records Blues Collections, Volumes 1 and 2. (Just in case the worst happens, though, I'm burning copies to my hard drive before releasing them out into the wild.) I'll let you know how, and if, this adventure all plays out.

19 March 2006

"Imagine" What Mr Lennon Might Say...

In the continuing effort to show just how warped this world has become and how obsessed we have become as a society with 'celebrity' (even in death, 25 years on), I give you:

Psychics to try contacting Lennon in TV seance (distributed widely through Yahoo news as well) .

If it wasn't disappointing enough that Mrs Ono Lennon has licensed out his/their story for no less than 3 plays and now QVC does the John Lennon Collection of jewelry (which is, God help us, is being touted heavily in weeks to come, perhaps even as we speak), we now can maybe get in touch with dear John and see what his predictions for future sales are. Call me naive...and exactly when did John Lennon and jewelry come together in some commerical dream, anyway?...but somehow, I just don't think this is what he had in mind.

And "we all shine on". In silver, if you prefer.