Saturday, May 31, 2008

Minn. Supreme Court Rules Spanking Kids Isn't Illegal

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that spanking children isn't illegal. The court ruled in a 2005 case in which a father paddled his son's upper thighs 36 times in 12-blow increments. Justice Alan Page wrote the unanimous opinion upholding a state Court of Appeals ruling. However, the Supreme Court determined that the Court of Appeals too narrowly defined abuse as that which "constitutes the crime of malicious punishment of a child."The Supreme Court determined that physical abuse that causes only mental injury may qualify as abuse in terms of the child needing protective services. Justice Christopher Dietzen did not take part in the Supreme Court ruling. That's because he wrote the Court of Appeals decision before he was elevated to the high court.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Venezuela Claims Arrest of U.S. Drug Agent

Venezuela said on Thursday it arrested a man who identified himself as a U.S. anti-drugs agent, which if confirmed could inflame tensions between the United States and one of its biggest oil suppliers. President Hugo Chavez in 2005 ended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), saying the agency was spying on him. The United States denied the charge and says Chavez does too little to stop trafficking from neighboring Colombia, the world's largest cocaine exporter.Gen. Gabriel Oviedo said the man was acting suspicious when he was detained close to the border with Colombia while bearing Canadian and French passports and a Venezuelan identity card. "The official at the scene proceeded to interrogate him and he said he was a DEA agent," Oviedo told state television. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said it had no knowledge of the arrest. Relations have deteriorated since a failed 2002 coup against Chavez that Washington initially welcomed. Tensions increased this month. The United States said new evidence of Chavez's ties to Colombian rebels was troubling, while the leftist charged a U.S. military jet that entered Venezuelan airspace was spying on the OPEC nation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Al Qaeda Calls For WMD Attack Against Americans

Groups that monitor Islamic Web sites say al Qaeda in a new video will urge jihadists to use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to attack the West, the FBI said. There was no evidence of a direct threat or that the group had obtained weapons of mass destruction, U.S. intelligence officials said. Spokesman Richard Kolko said the FBI sent out an alert to U.S. law enforcement agencies about the video, expected in the next 24 hours. "We got information the tape is coming," said Kolko. "We sent out an alert to law enforcement to let them know the tape was coming." The alert was a routine precaution sent to 1,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies, he said.There is no sign that al Qaeda has acquired the capability to use weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. intelligence official said. "At this point there isn't evidence they've obtained it," the official said on condition of anonymity. "But it's clearly their intent and it's something we need to be aware of and concerned about." The official declined comment on the FBI alert. The al Qaeda report prompted the dollar to dip slightly against the euro and Swiss franc. Kolko said the information about the al Qaeda call to jihadists was gleaned from organizations that monitor Islamic militant Web sites. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are linked to the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington that killed around 3,000 people, and the October 12, 2002, bombing on the tourist island of Bali when 202 people died.

Monday, May 26, 2008

President Bush Inducted Into Biker Group

US President George W Bush donned a black leather biker jacket and was given honorary membership in the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group, which paraded through Washington to honour veterans on Memorial Day. Tens of thousands of members of the biker group joined the parade down the US capital's main boulevards in the group's annual Ride for Freedom event to celebrate US soldiers and sailors and press for greater benefits for veterans. Rolling Thunder leaders including national executive director Artie Muller met President Bush at the White House, where they presented him with the vest in honour of their 21st Memorial Day ride.President Bush called the masses of motorcycles, which he observed from his helicopter just moments before, "a magnificent sight." "We just choppered in, Artie, and saw your brothers and sisters cranking up their machines and driving through the nation's capital - many of them have got the flag on the back," President Bush told them. "And I am just so honoured to welcome you back. I want to thank you and all your comrades for being so patriotic and loving our country as much as you do," he said. "And our troops appreciate you, the veterans appreciate you and your President appreciates you," President Bush said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

St. Paul Refuses GOP Convention Protesters' Appeal

The St. Paul City Council won't grant a new route for a protest march during the Republican National Convention in September. The 6-1 vote was taken with virtually no debate. Under a route granted by the city last week, the September 1 march is slated to begin at noon at the state Capitol and run through downtown St. Paul to the Xcel Energy Center, the main site for the convention, which runs through September 4.Protesters sought a different route and a later time frame for the march. An attorney for the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War says the groups hope to continue negotiating with the city and are still weighing possible court action. The coalition expects the march to draw 50,000 people.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Smiling Can Hurt Your Health

A German scientist has proved that people forced to smile and take on-the-job insults suffer more and longer-lasting stress that may harm their health. Dieter Zapf of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt studied 4,000 volunteers working in a fake call center. Half were allowed to respond in kind to abuse on the other end of the line while the other half had to suck it up.He found that those able to answer back had a brief increase in heart rate. Those who could not had stress symptoms that lasted much longer. "Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings there are negative consequences," Zapf said. "We are all able to rein in our emotions but it becomes difficult to do this over a protracted period." In an interview with the German healthcare magazine Apotheken Umschau, Zapf suggested that people who must keep smiling on the job should get regular breaks to let it out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kennedy Keels Over

U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy was rushed by ambulance to Cape Cod Hospital this morning after falling ill at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. Hyannis fire responded to the compound after a call was made around 8:30 a.m. It's unclear what Kennedy's medical condition is, but after he spent almost two hours in the emergency room a decision was made to transfer him to Mass General Hospital in Boston. Kennedy, 76, was placed on a stretcher and wheeled out to the MedFlight helicopter around 10:15 a.m. where it took off from Barnstable Municipal Airport. The Kennedy family is preparing to host the annual Best Buddies Challenge event in Hyannisport this afternoon, which is a fund-raiser for the organization.Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver and helps people with intellectual disabilities. Hundreds are expected to participate in the event, which kicked off this morning with a 100-mile bicycle ride from the Kennedy Library in Boston to Hyannisport. A concert at the Kennedy compound is scheduled for tonight. Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate since 1962. He was elected in 1962 to finish the final two years of the Senate term of his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, who was elected president in 1960. Since then, Kennedy has been re-elected to seven full terms, and is now the second most senior member of the Senate.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can A Dead Woman Vote?

At the conclusion of her victory speech in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton told the story of a supporter named Florence Steen, who passed away last Sunday. The 88-year-old South Dakotan had just voted for Clinton by absentee ballot, ahead of the state's June 3 primary. It's a touching story, but will her vote still count? No. As dictated by a 2001 state law, the South Dakota Department of Health is responsible for furnishing the county auditors with a list of registered voters who have died each month. This information is used to update the state's electronic voter-registration file, which was created by a different 2001 law. Absentee ballots are collected by county auditors and remain sealed until the election, so if an absentee voter dies prior to the election, then her ballot is never opened. The 2001 South Dakota law originally required this monthly list of deceased voters to be transferred to the county auditors by the 10th of the following month—which in this case could have occurred after the June 3 election. However, updates to the legislation passed in the wake of 2002's Help America Vote Act now require more frequent electronic reporting.Because election law is governed by states, the rules vary widely when it comes to how this issue is handled. Had Steen lived in Florida, for example, her vote would have counted. Florida state law dictates that "the ballot of an elector who casts an absentee ballot shall be counted even if the elector dies on or before election day" so long as the ballot was postmarked or received by the election supervisor prior to the voter's death. Steen's daughter tells Explainer that she postmarked her mother's absentee ballot on April 29 or April 30, nearly two weeks before Steen passed away. In 2004, USA Today reported that California, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and West Virginia all allow for the counting of absentee ballots of deceased voters while many other states technically do not. Many states that prohibit these so-called "ghost votes," however, lack the reporting system to quickly update voter rolls with recent deaths. That means it's very unlikely that a recently deceased voter would have his or her absentee ballot nullified. Because most absentee ballots are mailed in the few weeks prior to the election, the likelihood that a significant number of voters will have passed away in the interim is fairly small. Election experts tend to agree that absentee ballots cast legitimately by voters who die soon thereafter are a minor issue compared with concerns about voter fraud or errors in how votes are registered.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mall of America Ride Malfunctions, Injures 4

A popular ride at the Mall of America is closed Wednesday night, after four people were injured while riding it. The Backyardigans Swing-Along ride malfunctioned at about 7 p.m. at the Nickelodeon Universe theme park. Mall spokesperson Dan Jasper told reporters that two adults and two children suffered leg injuries after the ride began to spin faster than usual.Jasper said the ride would be shutdown until crews are able to investigate what caused the malfunction. The Backyardigans Swing-Along ride opened March 15 and was one of several that were revamped after the park changed ownership. It originally was called the 'Kite Eating Tree' when the park was called Camp Snoopy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Minister Backing McCain Apologizes For Anti-Catholic Remarks

The Pastor John Hagee, backer of Republican Presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, apologized for his anti-Catholic remarks Tuesday, renouncing his previous comments in a letter of apology to the president of the Catholic League, William Donohue. In the letter, Hagee said that after engaging in a “constructive dialogue” with Catholic friends and leaders, he came to better understand the history between Judaism and Catholicism and that his previous comments about the Church were made out of ignorance. Hagee had in the past referred to the Catholic Church as “the great whore” and of a propagating a “theology of hate.” Donohue accepted the apology, calling Hagee's words "sincere" and that he now considered the matter closed. "The tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it. Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology.
John McCain with John Hagee
What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns,” wrote Donohue. Hagee has backed Sen. John McCain—an endorsement McCain accepted in his desire to court the Christian right—but soon distanced himself from Hagee’s comments, including his statements that Hurricane Katrina was “the judgment of God against New Orleans.” But in the wake of media feeding frenzy surrounding Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Democratic National Committee called for McCain to back away from Hagee's endorsement. “Unless John McCain's idea of being a new kind of Republican includes cozying up to radicals who compare women to dogs, hold racially insensitive fundraisers and call one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history God's punishment, he should renounce John Hagee's endorsement immediately,” said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MN. Gov. Pawlenty Jokes About Lack Of Sex Life

Gov. Tim Pawlenty spent the fishing opener with his wife, Mary Pawlenty, on Big Pelican Lake in Breezy Point, Minn. If an aside uttered by Pawlenty is any indication, they may very well have spent their every waking moment fishing. "I have a wife who genuinely loves to fish. I mean, she will take the lead and ask me to go out fishing, and joyfully comes here," the governor said before adding, "She loves football, she'll go to hockey games and, I jokingly say, 'Now, if I could only get her to have sex with me.'"
Governor Tim & Mary Pawlenty
The Governor quickly clarified, "It's a joke, it's a joke." Gov. Tim Pawlenty landed a 17-inch walleye Saturday during the Governor's 60th Annual Fishing Opener at Breezy Point on Pelican Lake, but Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau reeled in a 19-inch walleye about two-and-a-half hours earlier. Mary Pawlenty, who was fishing with her husband, said she got a few bites, but nothing in the boat.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One In Four Republicans Reject McCain

Much has been made of the fact that a substantial portion of North Carolina and Indiana Democratic primary voters who cast ballots on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton told exit pollsters that – if Barack Obama is their party's nominee this fall – they may vote for Republican John McCain. Should Obama be concerned? Of course. There is no question that the senator from Illinois must do more to appeal to wavering Democrats, especially white, working-class voters who have heard a lot more about the candidate's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., than they have about his position on trade policy. But Obama's not the only likely party nominee who should be worried about some shakiness at the party base. Despite the fact that all-but-coronated Republican nominee John McCain was running essentially without opposition Tuesday, 27 percent of Republican primary participants in North Carolina cast their votes for a candidate other than McCain. In Indiana, 23 percent of Republican primary voters rejected the senator from Arizona. Each state saw a portion of the Republican vote go to Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian, anti-war candidate who has maintained a semi-serious campaign while focusing on getting reelected to the House. But most of the anti-McCain votes went to Republicans who aren't even running anymore.In North Carolina, almost 63,000 Republican primary voters – 12 percent of the total – marked their ballots for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who is far more visceral than the likely nominee on social issues. Another 8 percent went for Paul, while 4 percent – one in every 25 North Carolinians who took GOP ballots – checked "no preference." In effect, they said that no one at all was better than John McCain. Almost 20,000 Indiana Republican voters cast their ballots for the living embodiment of no one at all: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Twice that number voted for Huckabee, who won 10 percent of the Indiana vote, while Paul took 8 percent. In both primary states, Republicans in many counties registered even greater opposition to McCain than was suggested in the statewide totals. In North Carolina, for instance, 43 percent of the voters in rural Madison County rejected the presumptive nominee, while a third of the voters in the populous Mecklenburg County cast anti-McCain votes. Most of those votes went to Paul, whose genuinely maverick candidacy has attracted backers who are not at all certain to back McCain in November. So, while Barack Obama should certainly be concerned about those exit-poll numbers that suggest not all Democrats are enthused about his candidacy, John McCain needs to be at least as worried by actual vote totals that suggest he has yet to "close the deal" with one out of every four Republicans.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Israel Will Not Tolerate Nuclear Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated his warning that the Jewish state will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, but expressed hope the international community would be successful in checking Tehran's nuclear ambitions. "Yes, Israel will not tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of people who say openly, explicitly and publicly that they want to wipe Israel off the map. Why should we?" Olmert asked in an interview. At the same time, the prime minister held out hope that diplomatic efforts by the United States, the European Union and Russia aimed at ensuring the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program would bear fruit."I hope they will be successful," Olmert said. However, he sharply disagreed with findings contained in last year's US National Intelligence Estimate, which argued that Iran's military nuclear program had been halted in 2003. "Based on the information we have, the military program continues and has never been stopped," Olmert insisted. "If this program continues, at some point they will be in possession of a nuclear weapon," he warned.