March 18th, 2012

UK Labour Party leader's Westminster office at centre of police break-in investigation.

Police are investigating an alleged break-in at the Houses of Parliament, with the investigation believed to be focusing on the offices used by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

Scotland Yard received reports shortly before 7pm on Friday of a forced entry to the premises in the Norman Shaw buildings, which were the force's own headquarters until 1967.

It is understood that a member of Miliband's staff found that a door had been forced but it is unclear whether anything was missing from the room.

A Labour spokesman said: "There is an ongoing police investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment."

The incident is not thought to involve the large office used by Miliband – who was not present at the time, having attended a party conference in the Midlands – but on the suite of offices used by his staff.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Police were contacted at 6.55pm regarding an alleged forced entry to an office in the Palace of Westminster. Inquiries continue."


OP: Watergate! Or perhaps not. I'm surprised anyone would feel the need to break into a political leader's office, they tell us everything via Twitter these days anyway.

Foreclosure Whistleblower Wins $18 Million in Bank Accord

(There's some day when you're supposed to do a post about a woman who ought to be better known. I don't remember when it is, because I'm reactuve there, not proactive, but here's the woman I'll be touting whenever it comes around again.)

Attorney Lynn Szymoniak had spent a career investigating insurance fraud when a bank moved to foreclose on her Florida home in 2008. Almost four years later, the fraud she said she uncovered by combing through mortgage documents earned her $18 million.

Szymoniak, 63, is among six whistle-blowers who will pocket $46.5 million as part of a $25 billion national foreclosure settlement that state and federal officials reached in February with five banks, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Enlarge image Bank Whistle-Blower Wins $18 Million Payday Foreclosure Deal

“When they did this to her, they picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,” Richard Harpootlian, Szymoniak’s attorney in two whistle-blower cases, said in an interview. “They stuck their hand into the beehive.”

Szymoniak’s examination, in which she relied on her experience as an insurance-fraud investigator, led to her claims against banks for submitting fraudulent documents to the federal government asserting that they owned loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, she said.

The national foreclosure settlement with the five banks, which resolves claims of abusive foreclosure practices, provides mortgage relief to borrowers, pays $1.5 billion to those who lost their homes to foreclosure, and sets standards for how the banks service mortgage loans.

Whistle-Blowers’ Share

As part of the agreement, whistle-blower claims are being settled for about $228 million, according to court papers filed in federal court in Washington. A group of six whistle-blowers will receive $46.5 million out of that amount, said Alisa Finelli, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The whole article is filled with delicious details and links.

Rutgers Verdict Repudiates Notion of Youth as Defense


He was just a jerky kid.

That was the defense his lawyer made for Dharun Ravi, who used a webcam to spy on his gay freshman roommate before the roommate killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

But the jerky-kid defense failed miserably on Friday with the conviction of Mr. Ravi in a New Jersey court on bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and other charges. Lawyers said the conviction gave new potential to hate-crime prosecutions for cyberbullying and digital spying largely because it seemed to repudiate the notion that youth was a defense.

“The debate in this case was, Was this a stupid college prank or criminal intimidation? And the jury gave a clear answer,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a gender law expert at Columbia Law School.

Lawyers said the verdict would encourage other hate-crime prosecutions involving young defendants. Reluctance by some prosecutors in the past had suggested that there were few legal consequences to online prying or to social-media irreverence that became abusive.

The failure of the jerky-kid defense is likely to change the legal landscape by showing that jurors can conclude that young people who are sophisticated enough to spy on, insult and embarrass one another electronically are sophisticated enough to be held accountable.

The verdict showed that the notion of innocent youth as a shield to culpability might not hold as much sway as it once did in court, Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor, said. “Jurors will say their kid or kids they know are more sophisticated than that,” Mr. McRae said. “For jurors, it doesn’t pass the common-sense test.”

Mr. Ravi had seemed so confident that his defense would work that he turned down a plea offer that would have required community service. He now faces a possible prison term and could be deported to India, where he was born.

Lawyers said the trial in New Brunswick had drawn such intense attention that it would shape future cases because youthful indiscretion had always been an appealing defense. “It had a shot of having enough jurors say, ‘This is a jerky kid, and, look, they’ve thrown the book at him,’ ” said Marc R. Poirier, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark. “It was a roll of the dice, and it didn’t work.”

Source doesn't feel any concern for the poor widdle homophobe (source also has the entire article, I only pasted the first part here).

Two Men Disrupt Santorum Rally, Kiss As They Are Thrown Out

Two men who kissed one another were kicked out of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s rally Friday evening at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights.

Santorum was 15 minutes into his speech when the two men shouted and got the attention of the crowd. They exchanged a kiss, prompting guards to eject them and the crowd to chant “U-S-A” while they were leaving the gym.

When asked whether the kiss was a public display of affection or merely a symbolic act, Timothy Tross of Lombard and Ben Clifford of Algonquin, declined to comment.

“I don’t think the message should be about what my sexuality is,” Tross said. “It’s the message that he’s saying about sexuality that matters.”

About 50 protesters lined the street before the rally with signs that read “LGBT No H8,” “Catholics Against Santorum” and “If I incorporate myself, would you treat me like a person?” LGBT activist Matt Muchowski, who created the Facebook group “Carmel Catholic Alumni Against Rick Santorum,” planned the protest.

Santorum spent his senior year at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein and graduated in 1976.

“We feel it is important to counter Santorum’s anti-gay hate, to set an example to students,” Muchowski said. “Rick sends a message of bullying, but we want high school students to know that other alumni send a message of equality.”

The crowd of protesters, which was described as "mild" by police, was mostly in support of Obama, although there were a couple of Ron Paul fans in the mix. And while some were Carmel alumni, others were there because they heard about it in the news.

Husband and wife, Scott and Sue Delabruere, who went to school when the now-Christian Liberty Academy used to be Arlington Heights High School, said they came because they are both strong supporters of gay rights.

"There was something that bothered us about having someone so offensive in our hallowed halls," Sue Delabruere said.

Santorum's lllinois campaign director, Jon Zahm, estimated 2,100 people were in attendance at the rally—most being strong supporters.


Frothy Sauce has more, including video of the incident.

Republican candidates watch Puerto Rico, look down the road

Puerto Ricans have their say in the Republican presidential nominating contests Sunday while the top two candidates are already down the road, campaigning for upcoming contests.

Front-runner Mitt Romney will spend Sunday in Illinois, which votes Tuesday and where polls show him with a small lead. Rival Rick Santorum is in Louisiana, where he is expected to win the primary there on Saturday.

In Puerto Rico, 20 delegates are up for grabs. Romney is the favorite, having the backing of the U.S. territory's political establishment, including Gov. Luis Fortuño, who endorsed the former Massachusetts governor and appeared with him as he campaigned on Friday and Saturday.

But as an indication of how important every delegate is in this tumultuous campaign, Santorum campaigned on the island Wednesday and Thursday. If Romney gets more than 50% of the vote, he'll win all 20 delegates; if Santorum can keep him under that, the delegates will be awarded proportional to the vote.

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The results apparently are: 1,717 votes for Romney, 119 votes for Santorum, and 16 for Gingrich. (lol)

Mississippi GOP to Women: We hate you

Mississippi Republicans are once again waging war against women. The anti-abortion forces in Mississippi won passage of a bill in the state House on Wednesday that would effectively ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which is after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, and defines life as beginning at conception, which would ban many forms of contraception. The bill may also require doctors to use transvaginal ultrasounds. It’s basically a four-in-one abortion bill.

The Hattiesburg American reports, “A key provision would require doctors to search for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and, if a heartbeat is found, would make going ahead with the procedure illegal. Physicians say a heartbeat can typically be detected at five to six weeks of pregnancy, with the possibility of hearing it earlier if the doctor uses a medically invasive transvaginal ultrasound.”

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Rutgers student lost his dice roll

Dharun Ravi, a promising college student and computer whiz kid, gambled his future on a Middlesex County jury.

It appears he lost.

The 20-year-old Plainsboro, N.J., resident was convicted of all 15 counts Friday in the Rutgers University webcam spying case, which generated international attention and became a rallying point for gay-rights advocates concerned about the bullying and harassment of gay teens.

Ravi was found guilty of invasion of privacy and bias-intimidation charges for using his laptop webcam to spy on his roommate in an intimate encounter with another man on Sept. 19, 2010. And he was found guilty of trying to do it again on Sept. 21.

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In New Orleans, an Actor Turns Grocer

Image Source


Had Emeril’s Delmonico been open for lunch, Wendell Pierce would probably have ordered the duck confit leg, served with a creamy barley risotto, roasted beets and snap peas. Instead, Mr. Pierce, a star of the HBO series “Treme,” ended up a few blocks away at Houston’s, where — given his perennial dieting — he made do with clam chowder and steamed spinach.

It was hardly a quintessential New Orleans meal. And Mr. Pierce, who grew up here, apologized for taking an out-of-town reporter to a chain restaurant in a city known for its culinary traditions. “You would love the Bon Ton,” he crooned in his deep baritone, referring to the historic Cajun joint that is famous for its Rum Ramsey cocktail. “And you would love Olivier’s. They have a 100-year-old rabbit recipe from Mr. Olivier. It is so good.”

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Inception - Totem

Re-Occupation and Police Raid of Zuccotti Park Set Tone for Radical Spring

The brief re-occupation of Zuccotti Park and its swift re-eviction are both previews of the season to come. With numbers augmented by warm weather, St. Patrick’s Day’s festive atmosphere and the Left Forum conference (the hundreds of panels of which took place at nearby Pace University), the protesters who took to Zuccotti Park to celebrate six months of Occupy Wall Street sent out a mass text on Saturday evening, reading "OccupyNYC: Liberty Square is being RE-OCCUPIED! 500+ people and growing! Come on down! Bring blankets & food!"

Occupy Wall Street's message: prepare for a radical spring. Chants of "a-anti-anti-capitalista" were more frequent and more broadly based than I had ever heard at an Occupy Wall Street event, suggesting that the movement has begun to coalesce around an ideological principle. "Anti-capitalism" may not be the most specific philosophy, but it belies proclamations like Bill Maher’s "they don’t hate capitalism; they hate what’s been done to it," whatever that means. The group also engaged in a raucous and sprawling "Simon Says"-like activity that helped acclimatize protesters to forming a fortified human wall for "soft blocks," indicating a more militant, confrontational (yet still nonviolent) attitude brewing among the occupiers.

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They got the chance to test out their newly acquired skills not long after the game concluded. A small group of protesters had put up what police were calling a "structure," which consisted of a dozen or so unfurled cardboard boxes, draped over a banner hung between two trees. This provided occasion for the New York Police Department’s own tone-setting action. The NYPD’s message: prepare for a violent spring.

It's quite possible that, had the police let the protesters hang out in the park, the numbers would have dwindled down to a few dozen by 1 a.m., and the park would have been easy to maintain. Instead, the decision was made (although no officer would tell me by whom) to deploy hundreds of police to empty the park.

Detective Rick Lee remarked just before the deployment, "Unfortunately, it’s probably going to get pretty ugly in a few minutes." Either the NYPD was breathtakingly incompetent at de-escalation on Saturday night, or it was impressively competent at escalation.

Captain Edward Winski, who commands the 1st Precinct, announced over a bullhorn, "Park’s closed for cleaning. If you do not leave, you will be arrested for trespassing." Around 100 protesters opted for the latter, sitting down and linking arms on a patch of earth where flowers bloomed in the occupation’s early days and weeks. I watched the police break up the group by punching protesters about the head, repeatedly stomping on shoulders and arms, grabbing throats, dragging protesters by the hair and clawing at their faces. Even when protesters tried to leave, they were subject to rough contact. Officer Chantel ("I don’t have a badge number," he told me) repeatedly pushed one young woman, who declined to be named, up the stairs out of the park, as she shouted again and again, "I’m leaving; you don’t have to push me!"

Captain Winski - whose command post should ideally free him up from hands-on duty with protesters - repeatedly shoved me away from the scene. I informed him that I was a journalist and could not see the story from where he was instructing me to stand. He pointed out that I was not wearing proper press credentials. I reminded him that it was his department that issues the credentials. He expressed his apathy with distinct impoliteness, telling me I was "nobody."

Perhaps the police thought that the violence and arrests would subdue the protesters, in which case, they haven’t been paying attention for the last six months. The opposite happened, and the charged-up protesters, deprived once again of the park they occupied on September 17, headed out on a march to Union Square, where they were subject to still more aggressive official backlash.

Even more notorious among occupiers than Captain Winski, Sgt. Iaquinto (badge number: 2253) wore a jacket announcing him as a member of the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU), which - theoretically - videotapes protests, among other means of investigative technical support. In Soho, after one especially violent arrest, Iaquinto charged at one protester who was chanting "shame," and shouted, "You talking to me, motherfucker?"

Later in the march, Iaquinto thrust Ki Walker, 22, of Vermont, against a wall and frisked him down, telling Walker, "Just to let you know, I’m a little crazier than you." Multiple eyewitnesses confirmed that Iaquinto picked up a small young woman and slammed her down on the concrete without provocation. Previously, on December 17, Iaquinto had distinguished himself by assaulting a Democracy Now! cameraman wearing a press pass.

A man wishing to be identified as "Stan Corazone" testified, "What appeared to be a high-ranking officer said 'excuse me' to a marcher - and one second later shoved him into a metal scaffolding pole." Police chased down a protester in front of New York University dormitory Brittany Hall, slamming him up against the glass door and shattering it (3:50 in this video).

An officer I’d recently heard remark, "I've had enough of this shit. I've really had enough. Should have been done September 18," was captured in this photograph grabbing his firearm while he straddled a grounded protester. Other cops arrested protester Jesse Deen, seemingly for the crime of asking for the badge number of an especially abrasive officer.

A protester who I recognized from his day job as a City Council aide was arrested despite his contention, which I can corroborate, that he had not set foot in the street, but was standing on the sidewalk at the time of arrest. Some protesters threw trash in the street. Others picked it up and returned it to the trashcans, but stopped when police threatened to arrest them.

Protester Craig Judelman, who was in good cheer earlier in the evening, posted a photo of his now-bruised face to Facebook at roughly 5 a.m., with this message:

"just got punched in the face like 5 times by NYPD....guess they saw my earlier post...was with the rest of the occupiers after NYPD stormed the park and put up fences, we were backing down broadway, a block away when they hip-checked the people in front of me. as they fell i tried to support those falling so they didnt get trampled adn of course they grabbed me. put me in a headlock adn swung me on the ground, wripped the fiddle off my back and started pulling my hands behind my back-meanwhile i got slugged in the face by a few cops a good 5 or 6 times, got some nice bruises if you can't see em in the picture... they held em for an hour on the bus, i didn't even have an arresting officer adn the guy holding me couldn't tell me what i was being charged with cause they had just dumped me on him while they continued beating little girls up... luckilly they let me go with a disorderly conduct summons, some bad bruises and a sore wrist, and the good folks at jalopy gave me enough whiskey to numb the pain of opening my jaw"

As I wrote recently, the outlook for the spring is not placid - "NATO and G8 summits (now separate), May Day, the potential rollout of indictments by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation of the financial sector, a shaky outlook for Greece and the Euro and ominous signs for Bank of America." At six months old, Occupy Wall Street looks ready to become increasingly radical and disciplined - and the NYPD looks ready to become increasingly heavy handed and repressive.

Bisexuality it's the real thing

Advice Columnist Smacks Down Biphobe: Dear Lady A: Skeptical about the B

There is not a bisexual person anywhere on the planet who hasn't at one time or another been subjected to this type of insulting nonsense. And while we all know not a word of it is true, usually we are too busy being horrified/hurt/angry to think of the just the right stinging retort that will not only put the boorish person in their place but will also let in actually truth and light. Well no worries, bisexual heroine Lady A, the advice columnist for the Chicago Phoenix has done it for us in this polite, factual but stinging retort to an obnoxious ignoramus.

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*Coat Hanger Never Forget

Colorado’s “First Degree Homicide Of Unborn Child Bill” Passes 2nd Reading In House

What would appear to be on its face, a bill designed to allow criminal charges to be brought against third parties who injure a pregnant woman and her late-term, unborn child, turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Colorado’s Republican controlled House has passed the second reading on House Bill 1130. The final vote on the bill is expected early next week and could come as soon as Monday. It is expected to pass the House and then head to the Senate for debate. A similar bill died in committee earlier this session in the Democratic-controlled Senate. What does all this mean?

In early 2011, Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, introduced a bi-partisan bill which included similar language to House Bill 1130 with the following language added: ”The bill does not confer the status of ‘person’ upon a human embryo, fetus, or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth.“ Thereafter, Rep. Waller was attacked by a pro-life group (Colorado Right to Life) accusing him of giving up the “battle with the liberal, Godless, left-wing abortion industry.” Rep. Waller ended up killing his own bill. In the 2012 session, a new bill was sponsored by Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, without the aforementioned language.

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