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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kyl betting Hayworth wont challenge McCain for Senate seat

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor





United States Senator Jon Kyl is placing his bets on John McCain to keep his job another six years, no matter what radio jock J.D. Hayworth may say to the contrary.

Hayworth, a former six-term congressman from Arizona, is raising speculation among fellow Republicans of a possible bid for the U.S Senate seat, long held by John McCain. Hayworth currently hosts a conservative talk radio program broadcasting daily from KFWI radio in Phoenix.

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, before becoming a United States senator in 1986. McCain has held the seat since.

Speculation of a challenge heightened as a result of recent polls suggesting the two republicans are in a dead heat, McCain with 45 percent of respondents, and 43 percent polling for Hayworth.

Jon Kyl, a U.S. Senator from Arizona since 1994, has doubts however, as to whether Hayworth has the ability to mount the kind of challenge necessary to unseat the popular McCain, and predicts the radio host will ultimately choose not to run.

"I guess it's illegal to bet on the outcome of elections,” Kyl was quoted by the Arizona Republic. “but I'll just predict that John McCain will have another six years representing the people of the state of Arizona after the next election."


B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Monday, November 16, 2009

Vice President Biden meets with controversial county sheriff, Joe Arpaio

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor





U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met privately with controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio while visiting Phoenix on Monday, although details of the unannounced discussion have not been made public.

Biden who was in Phoenix today touting the successes of the Obama administrations economic stimulus plan was quick to point out to the small crowd gathered for a democratic fundraiser, that more than 2 million Arizonans have already received tax cuts as a result of the plan.

Sheriff Joe's Tents

Bidens meeting with the controversial County Sheriff, however, caught many by surprise. It is no secret that Arpaio, who refers to himself as the nations “toughest sheriff’ does not see eye to eye with the Obama administration on many issues, most notably, illegal immigration.

Arpaios conduct, and that of his agency, have been repeatedly criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is also under investigation for numerous civil rights violations. The investigation is being led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, headed by former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

Arpaio, who has previously made headlines for housing Maricopa County jail inmates in outdoor tents during 110 degree plus temperatures, denies the charges, claiming bias.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trick or Treat? Off Duty Cop Pulls Gun in Haunted House

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor





An intoxicated off-duty Baltimore city police officer visiting a haunted house with his family has been charged with assault after pointing a loaded handgun at a costumed employee.

According to authorities, Sgt. Eric Janik, 36, pointed the handgun at Michael Morrison's chest, who was dressed as a character from the horror film ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’

The chainsaw Mr. Morrison's was wielding was only a prop, and did not have a working chain. Morrison dropped the chainsaw when he saw Janik was pointing a real gun. It has not been revealed why the apparently intoxicated Janik carried the concealed weapon into the haunted house in the first place.

Numerous witnesses at the ‘House Of Screams’ haunted house attraction reported Janik stinking of alcohol as he entered the attraction with family members. Officers on the scene also noted the off duty police officer seemed to be slurring his speech at the time of his arrest. Janik denies pointing the gun at Morrison, claiming he only pointed the weapon at the ground. Witnesses to the incident disagree.

Sgt. Janik, 36, has worked for the Baltimore city police department since 1995. He is currently suspended without pay, pending the outcome of a hearing set to be held on Thursday, October 29th.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meet Richard Cheney, All Bull, No Horns

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Meet Richard Cheney. When it comes to dishonesty, Mr. Cheney wrote the book. Truth be told, it’s more of an instructional manual really, aptly titled ‘The Art of Untruth, a Practitioners Guide to Deception’.

The former Vice Presidents book contains a plethora of technique and advice, all gleaned from Mr. Cheney’s illustrious experience as the world’s pre-imminent teller of lies.

Chapter headings include ’When Honesty is Not the Best Policy’ ’Fear Mongering for Fast Results’, ‘Inaccuracies and Misdirection’, ‘Lies for Fun and Profit’ and includes a finely researched collection of some of Mr. Cheney’s more sensational quotes. Here’s just a sample of what goes on in the mind of this disingenuous buffoon, a man some refer to as the most powerful war profiteer in modern history.

"In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, and had an established relationship with al Qaeda" - Nov. 7, 2003

"We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." - March 16, 2003

"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." - March 16, 2003

“The plan was criticized by some retired military officers embedded in TV studios. But with every advance by our coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent.”

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." - on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

“The Iraqi forces are conducting the Mother of all Retreats“.

"Go f*ck yourself." - to Sen. Patrick Leahy, during an angry exchange on the Senate floor about war profiteering by Halliburton, June 25, 2004

“I’m the Vice President, and they’re not” - January 2007

There are many more disturbing quotes attributed to our heartless former vice president. After all, Dick Cheney has been telling whoppers since long before I was born. Mr. Cheney doesn’t just bend the truth, he revels in his lies. He has in fact, elevated his dishonesty into an art form…The art of untruth.

Now before you go order a copy of the book from Amazon, I should probably come clean, something Mr. Cheney has never done. You see, other than the quotes, I made this whole thing up. There is no book. It was all one big lie.

Mr. Cheney would be proud of me.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CBS News Raises Doubts Over McNair Murder Investigation

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Nashville police have some explaining to do after seriously botching their investigation into the murder of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

The sudden death of McNair shocked the nation and saddened football fans around the world. The bullet-riddled body of the former NFL quarterback had been found slumped on a couch, with two bullets in his torso, and one in each side of his head. The body of his girlfriend, 20-year-old waitress Sahel Kazemi, was found face down on the floor nearby with a single bullet wound to her temple and the murder weapon by her side.

At the time, the evidence seemed to suggest a distraught Kazemi killed McNair with a handgun she purchased fully loaded in a mall parking lot shortly before the shooting. Nashville police concluded Kamemi then turned the gun on herself. However, according to an independent investigation conducted by CBS NEWS, the facts simply don’t add up.

New evidence uncovered by CBS investigators says Nashville police made critical errors in their conclusions. According to the police report, Kazemi purchased a "fully loaded 9 mm pistol at 5 p.m. on Thursday," in which she was "absent from work for about two hours, until 7 p.m."

In fact, according to employee attendance records obtained by CBS, the two-hour absence actually occurred the day before, contradicting the accepted timeline and casting doubt upon whether Kazemi could have ever actually purchased the handgun.

Kazemi, who was arrested for DUI shortly before the murders occurred, was reported to be distraught over her relationship with the NFL legend. However, close friends of Kazemi say the relationship was fine and the two were planning to move in together soon. Kazemi is seen in jail surveillance video looking anything but distraught. In one scene, she is even seen doing another inmates hair.

McNair, who quarterbacked in the NFL for 13 seasons, will be remembered as a class act and a true lover of the game of football.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judge Rules Against Sheriff in Jail Abortion Dispute

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Sheriff Joe Arpaio
, the man who bills himself as “America's Toughest Sheriff“, has been dealt a stinging rebuke by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge who has ruled the Sheriff cannot demand inmates prepay the cost of transportation to the abortion clinic.

Sheriff Joe's Tents
Sign at the Tent City Jail near Downtown Phoenix

Sheriff Arpaio had maintained the inmates pay up to $600 in transportation and security fees in advance for busing them to and from the abortion clinic. In 2005 an injunction was filed against the Sheriff's Office, prohibiting the practice. The Sheriff appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court. He lost his appeals.

The American Civil Liberties Union had successfully argued that prepayment creates obstacles to a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion in a timely manner. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig agreed. However, neither the American Civil Liberties Union nor the judge disputed the Sheriff Departments right to seek reimbursement of costs. Predictably, Arpaio is expected to appeal the ruling.

Sheriff Arpaio is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, he has received endless media attention for his outdoor jail facilities and for serving his inmates green bologna. Along the way, his public antics have gained him as many supporters as critics.

The outspoken sheriff has made the headlines frequently in recent weeks in a separate dispute with the Obama administration over his aggressive approach to illegal immigration enforcement. Arpaio has been re-elected four times since assuming the office in 1996. A 2007 recall petition failed to collect enough signatures to put the recall to a vote.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Monday, October 19, 2009

Bush Attacker Receives Heroes Welcome In Geneva Switzerland

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was recently released from an Iraqi prison after serving nine months for throwing his shoes at former U.S. president George W. Bush, has been greeted with a heroes welcome in Geneva Switzerland.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi gained worldwide notoriety for his December 2008 attack on the former president, earning the journalist a stint behind bars, where he claims he was brutally tortured by his captors. al-Zeidi refers to himself as a “victim of the occupation’ and alleges abuse during his detention. He insists however, he was not abused at the hand of Americans.

The Iraqi journalist is quick however, to condemn the United States for it’s roll in what he claims are the deaths of over a million Iraqis since the U.S. invasion began six and a half years ago. Iraq Body Count estimates approximately 100,00 Iraqis have died violently since the invasion began, but these numbers are considered by most experts to be somewhat lower than the actual count. In addition to the astounding number of deaths, another five million Iraqis have been left without homes. Over two million of these Iraqi refugees are currently living in nearby Syria and Jordan.

Al-Zeidi says he has been offered generous gifts and large sums of money by un-named wealthy Arabs, but has pledged not to accept any such offers until he is able to set up a foundation enabling the funds to be used to assist Iraqis who have suffered as a result of the war.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi will be remembered by most observers for throwing his shoes at then-president George W. Bush during a press conference in Bagdad on December 14, 2008. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but was ultimately released three months early for good behavior.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Zero to Torture in Six Seconds - Mancow Learns the Hard Way

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



Mancow Muller has a big mouth, and he’s proud of it! After all, talking is what this shock jock from Chicago does for a living. So it was a surprise, when after a mere six seconds, Mancow changed his tune about whether water-boarding is torture.

Mancow now admits he was in serious denial about the effects of water-boarding. Having experienced the banned torture technique first hand, he no longer compares it to swimming… he compares it to drowning. It is truly amazing how much about a man can change in six seconds.

"I thought I could hold out 30 seconds," quipped Mancow after being water-boarded. “ It was instantaneous. I don't want to say this. I do not wish to say this. Absolutely torture. Absolutely. That’s drowning.”

Of course, former ranking members of the Bush administration, including former vice-president Richard Cheney have maintained water-boarding is not torture, in spite of the obvious fact that it is in violation of US and international law.

Let this be a shot across the bow for those still in denial on the issue. Torture is reprehensible, no matter what semantic spin one may wish to adhere. Those who excuse or defend torture are equally reprehensible. The United States of America must rise above the temptation to commit such atrocities. We cannot allow our actions to be motivated by arrogance or cowardice, touchstones for the neo-conservative agenda.

Torture will not make Americans more safe. It will only put more lives at risk, regardless of race or religion. Ignorance begets ignorance. Just ask Mancow, he’ll tell you. One moment he was preparing to take a morning swim. Before he could say “bring it on”, he was drowning. "I wouldn't have done this, if I had known it was going to be this bad”, Mancow later stated.” I would not have done this."

It is neither noble nor patriotic to guard the door whilst the fox raids the henhouse. Water-boarding is torture, and it’s about time America stands up to it’s own crimes.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Woman Claims Deceased Father Was Zodiac Killer

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor





Debra Perez claims she knows the identity of the notorious Zodiac Killer. The southern California woman has come forward claiming her late father, Guy Ward Hendrickson,was the man responsible for the shocking murders forty years ago.

On Wednesday, Perez held a news conference outside the San Francisco Chronicle,where she and her attorney gave details about her father, and how she had arrived at her gruesome conclusion. If she is right, this could bring closure to a mystery that has haunted residents of San Francisco for decades.

Perez claims that as a child, her father took her along for the ride on at least two occasions. She also claims to have heard gunshots while waiting for her father in the car as he went inside a residence. According to Perez, her father told her the noises were “firecrackers”. "He kept telling me he was sick and he killed many, many people. I had no idea." Perez stated.

The Zodiac Killer is blamed for several murders in the San Francisco area during 1968 and 1969. Although no-one has ever been charged, others in the past have been suspected of the crimes, including convicted child molester Arthur Leigh Allen, who died in 1992. Hendrickson died of cancer in 1983.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is the Party of 'No' Becoming the Party of No-One?

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




With the defection of long time GOP stalwart Arlen Specter to the Democrats, could the Republican Party be facing irrelevance?

Tuesday’s announcement that Arlen Specter was bolting from the Republican party caught many by surprise. True, Specter has not been in lock step with the GOP for some time. Still, the senior senator from Pennsylvania had recently reiterated his loyalty to the party. How quickly the realities of politics can change the political landscape.

It’s no secret the GOP is in trouble. The ancient astronauts calling the shots at party HQ just don’t seem to get it. They are determined to play the game their own way, even if it ultimately means playing it alone. And playing it alone is no fun in politics. Just last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to Democrat. Specter understands. He gets the math. If the senior senator from Pennsylvania wants to stay relevant, he needs to represent.

With the Republican party facing a dismal 22 percent approval rating, one would be hard pressed to find good news, or good will, for that matter, within the party. Their highly publicized power struggle has only served to further the ever growing fissure splitting the GOP apart.

Conservative blowhards such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have been no help, continually fanning the flames of discontent. Can you say “scorched Earth”? It's hard to figure what these folks think they stand to gain.

I am not a Republican, and I don‘t mind saying so. I think the party is caught in an untenable time warp, racing toward obscurity. It is a party in disarray, represented by talking heads with no palpable conscience, only acerbic rhetoric. But then, these days, I’m not even certain the GOP has a pulse.

Will the last out the door, please turn off the lights as you leave?

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter of Change - GOP Senator Becomes a Democrat

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor





Arlen Specter, long time Republican senator from Pennsylvania, has announced his intent to change party affiliation, bringing the Democrats closer to a much wanted, 60 seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Specter, facing an uncertain future among fellow Republicans in Pennsylvania, has seen his favorability rating drop in recent polls. More than half of those Republicans polled said they preferred a change in leadership. Polls show Specter trailing in hypothetical senate primary match-ups.

Specter has been under the gun from Republicans since supporting President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan. He was one of only three Republicans who voted in support of the plan. Specter, the fifth oldest senator in Congress was first elected to the Senate in 1980, and is the senior senator from Pennsylvania.

The Democrats having been awaiting the final results of the highly contested Minnesota Senate race between former comedian Al Franken, Democrat, and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. Franken currently holds a 225 vote lead, and is ultimately expected to win the seat. With Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic party, their long sought after filibuster-proof Senate majority may suddenly be within grasp.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bad Cop, No Doughnut

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




The jury is still out, but so far 2009 appears to be shaping up as the year of the bad cop. The year started off with a bang, when an Oakland, California cop shot an un-armed man in the back, and for the boys in blue it’s all been downhill ever since.

It all started January 1st, shortly after revelers rang in the new year, when Johannes Mehserle, an Oakland transit officer shot Oscar Grant, while Grant was lying face down on the pavement. Officers at the scene of the shooting attempted to confiscate all videos of the incident, but ultimately, several damning videos surfaced, showing the officer acted inappropriately. Officer Mehserle has since been charged with homicide and removed from duty.

Doughnut

Then on March 1st came the disturbing story of the King County Sheriff’s deputy who “beat down’ the fifteen year old girl in a cell. Once again, the brutal beating was caught on tape. The Deputy, officer Paul Schene, has been charged with fourth degree assault, including kicking the girl in the stomach, pulling her hair, slamming her head against the wall, and punching her while she was on the ground. This, all because the fifteen year old had referred to the officer as “a pig”.

Are you squirming in your seat yet? This is not the stuff I like to read about, nor is it the kind of story I prefer to write. And it just gets creepier from here. Read on.

There are two disturbing stories about rogue cops in the headlines as I write. First, there’s the story about the Dallas cop who detained NFL running back, Ryan Moats' in a hospital parking lot while his mother-in-law was dying. Yes, the incident was once again caught on tape, and again, it isn’t pretty. In fact, Ryan Moats’ mother-in-law passes away during the exchange, while the officer Robert Powell continues to badger Mr. Moats. The Dallas police department has expressed embarrassment over the matter.

Finally, there’s the story about the federal marshal in El Paso Texas who skips out on bail, having been busted stealing handguns and other items belonging to the feds. Vincent Bustamante, a deputy sheriff didn’t stay on the lamb long, however. His body was found just south of the US border in Juarez Mexico. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the back of his head.

During my research for this column, I found more stories of such behavior than I care to list. It saddens me, and perhaps, it frightens me. I hoping this will all turn out to be an aberration of sorts, a departure from the norm, rather than a sign of things to come. Still, I am reminded of a bumper sticker I used to see often on the bumpers of beaters rolling around New England. ‘Bad Cop, No Doughnut’, it read. No doughnut, indeed!

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Are Catholics Losing the Faith?

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Could some Catholics be losing faith in their religion? According to a new report released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Affairs, Catholicism in America is shedding more members than any other traditional faith.

The numbers are alarming. The Official Catholic Directory of 2008 reports there are over 67.1 million Catholics in the US, a decrease of nearly a half a million in the span of a year. The result has been the shuttering of parishes throughout much of the country.

Parts of Ohio, including Cleveland, have been hit especially hard, but closures have effected perishes throughout the US, including Allentown, Pennsylvania, Camden, New Jersey and New York City. As many as a third of those in the survey raised as Roman Catholics no longer attend the church.

Church with Barbed Wire

The cause of the migration away from Catholicism is said to be rooted in money. "Too many bishops are treating parishes as if they were Starbucks franchises," Sister Christine Schenk, a Cleveland-area nun opined. "It's about more than money. It's about mission to the people," she said. "This isn't what Jesus would do."

The Catholic church has been faced with a number of image problems in recent years, as a result of internal strife and mounting scandal. The most prominent scandal involved accusation of sexual misconduct between Catholic priests and under-age minors, usually young boys. Some priests were ultimately defrocked, while others served time in jail.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bush Officials Facing War Crimes Charges

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




At least six former members of the Bush administration are facing criminal charges, as a Spanish court proceeds with its investigation into alleged US war crimes.

The same court that successfully brought former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to justice, has pledged to prosecute six former members of the Bush administration for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Spanish law is not limited by international borders, allowing Spain to prosecute and extradite criminals from other countries, including the US. Some of those abused were Spanish citizens, adding further credibility to the proceedings.

The Bush administration officials facing charges include former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, former undersecretary of defense policy, Douglas Feith, John Yoo from the Justice Department, Jay Bybee, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

Although disgraced president George W. Bush has long maintained that detainees were not tortured or abused, an abundance of evidence has surfaced, including the use of banned interrogation procedures, such as water-boarding, sensory depravation, and electrical shocks to the testicles.

Other ranking members of the Bush administration have recently expressed concerns over how the Bush administration handled matters following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. Bush and others have been described as having “panicked”, detaining scores of individuals they knew were innocent.

"There are still innocent people there," declared a former chief of Staff for Colin Powell, Lawrence B. Wilkerson. "Some have been there six or seven years." In all, over 800 prisoners have been held at the US prison facility in Guantanamo, Cuba, where Bush officials believed they could operate outside of established law. Nearly all of the prisoners have since been released, with only a handful proving to have been involved in any terrorist or anti-American activity.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UK Admits Rendering Terror Suspects

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




After years of public denial
, Britain has now acknowledged what many have long suspected. The UK, in clear violation of international law, participated in acts of rendition on at least four separate occasions.

According to the Associated Press, on Thursday, Defense Secretary John Hutton admitted two terror suspects captured by U.K. troops in Iraq were “later transferred by the United States to Afghanistan.” His admission conflicts with previous statements by the government, which insisted there were no other cases of involvement in the banned practice other than two cases disclosed earlier.

"I regret that it is now clear that inaccurate information on this particular issue has been given to the House by my department," stated Hutton . "I must stress that this was based on the information available to ministers and those who were briefing them at the time."

This latest revelation is not apt to bode well with various human right’s groups demanding transparency from the UK government. The incident is certain to cast a negative light on Britain’s contribution to the war on terror.

The Bush administration initially denied committing acts of rendition, but in fact, shortly after 9/11, the US began rendering terror suspects to violent, lawless countries for interrogation, where suspects were routinely tortured in violation of international law.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Charles Barkley to Serve Time in Tent City Jail

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



Former NBA star Charles Barkley will soon find himself serving ten days at Tent City, a controversial outdoor jail facility located in downtown Phoenix, as a result of a DUI arrest on New Year’s Eve.

Sheriff Joe's Tents
Sign at Tent City

Barkley was arrested Dec. 31st, 2008 after Scottsdale Police observed his vehicle failing to stop at a stop sign. Sir Charles, as he is known by throngs of basketball fans, registered a blood-alcohol content of .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in the state of Arizona. Barkley was sentenced to ten days, following a guilty plea by the former basketball star at a hearing on Monday.

Intensity in Tent City


The controversial facility, a makeshift jail in a Phoenix parking lot, has long been the subject of scrutiny, as has the man behind the idea, Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Arpaio claims he chose to house Barkley at the outdoor facility because he “didn't want to be accused of offering special privileges for celebrities“.

“I'm taking a lot of heat for putting convicted illegal immigrants in the tents. How am I going to discriminate and not put high-profile people in the tents?" quipped Arpaio.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department website, Tent City began in 1993, after Arpaio was able to acquire several surplus army tents. Rather than release inmates due to overcrowded conditions at the Maricopa County jail facility, Arpaio chose to house the inmates in a parking lot adjacent to the existing jail. The tents can often house as many as two thousand inmates.

For his part, Sir Charles has been contrite, apologizing for what he described as “unacceptable” conduct . Barkley, currently an analyst for TNT, is also expected to pay as much as two thousand dollars in fines. He is currently scheduled to begin serving his sentence on March 21st.



B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Sunday, February 08, 2009

An Era of Steel and Steam

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor






Rainbow Train Arriving It was an era of steel and steam. It was a time of great power and wealth. Soon the world would be forever changed by this new mechanical marvel, the steam locomotive, the driving force behind the industrial revolution.

For centuries, man had understood the potential of steam as an energy source, but it took until 1803 before Samuel Homfray was able to successfully harness that energy with his invention of the steam engine. The first successful railway followed soon after, when on March 25th, 1807, England began passenger service between Swansea and Mumbles.

Across the pond, America was developing it’s own railway, and by 1869, eighteen hundred miles of track connected Omaha, Nebraska with Sacramento, California. The resulting improvement of trade routes was felt throughout the world. Within a decade, the industrial revolution was on a roll.

By 1893, the U.S. had completed five transcontinental trunk lines and no less than 260,000 miles of track. Monopolies of all ilk and fancy, now flourished. Vast opportunity awaited the wily entrepreneur. The railroad was no exception.

A brilliant engineer named Theodore Judah successfully persuaded Washington to pony up ten to twenty square miles of land and at least $48,000 for every mile of track completed. The track was laid by armies of imported Chinese ’coolies’, laborers who toiled relentlessly while rail barons were popping champagne corks and charging glasses in celebration.

Enter, Andrew Carnegie, philosopher and opportunist, and in later years, philanthropist. At age 18, Carnegie caught the eye of Pennsylvania rail baron Tom Scott, becoming his personal secretary and telegraph operator. Carnegie however, had great plans for the future. The unbreakable grip of the iron industry was about to give way to steel.


Steam Engine

By the turn of the century, William McKinley was president, and in 1903, New York State enacted legislation prohibiting the operation of steam locomotives south of the Harlem river, thus ushering in the era electrified tracks. The first use of internal combustion engines began in 1913, and was quickly superseded by the invention of the diesel locomotive, which proved more effective. The times, they were a changing.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s , the railroad became symbolic of the American struggle. As work became increasing scarce, countless Americans took the rails in search of jobs out west. At one point, railroad hoboes numbered in the millions, with many losing life or limb along their perilous journey. Brutal security, known as ‘railroad bulls’ were hired by railroads in an attempt to dissuade the hoboes, but to little avail. The average railroad tramp had few alternatives. Life was hard, at best.

Novelist Louis L'Amour was among those who rode the rails, as were journalist Eric Sevareid and oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. Even future Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas spent time riding the rails in search of work. Today, perhaps the most famous of those who rode the rails is folk singer, Woody Guthrie, the voice of a generation, and the man who penned some of Americas most beloved folk songs.

Today we look back on these amazing machines as products of a bygone era. The mighty iron horse has been put to pasture. Or has it?

Light Rail
Phoenix Metro Light-Rail Train

The steam engine may be a thing of the past, but light-rail tracks and monorails are springing up in greater and greater numbers. Perhaps these are not the romantic machines made famous by daring engineers like Casey Jones, but they provide safer, if not more efficient service. Meanwhile, thousands of miles of railway still grace the countryside, as modern locomotives pull seemingly endless processions of freight cars, hauling lumber, cattle, and virtually everything in between.

Away in the distance, a lonesome whistle blows. Tonight, perhaps further in the distance than in recent memory. The age of steel and steam has passed, but the dreams of those who dared make it happen, remain. An era, vanishes in a puff of smoke. A new era begins.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ancient Canals Discovered in Heart of Mesa

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Anthropologists, with the assistance of satellite imagery, have discovered the remains of a series of ancient canals, located just south of the Salt River, near the very heart of downtown Mesa, Arizona.

The existence of the canal system, built in the Salt River valley centuries ago by the Hohokam, has long been known, but the extent of this most recent discovery has caught some experts by surprise.

Jerry B. Howard, curator of anthropology at the Arizona Museum of Natural History is one of the experts involved in archaeological studies of the region being conducted before the city of Mesa can permit the area to be redeveloped. Planners had intended to build a massive water park on the property, but all bets are off as to whether that plan can still move forward.

Mesa Grande 001
Mesa Grande Pueblo Ruins

"Through satellite imagery, sometimes we can actually see the canals, kind of a signature of them," states Howard. "The soil in them is different than the other soil around them, more porous and moist.”

The area, larger in scope than previously anticipated, is currently home to a golf course and a hospital, the two of which are separated by not surprisingly, the Mesa Grande Pueblo ruins.

These ruins, located near the heart downtown Mesa, were once occupied by the Hohokam Indians, responsible for constructing massive canal systems, still providing water to the Valley of the Sun, hundreds of years after the Hohokam mysteriously vanished.

The Hohokam inhabited the northern Sonora desert region known as the ‘Phoenix Basin’ for centuries before the arrival of the European explorers. They constructed extensive canals and irrigation networks, rivaling those of Ancient Egypt and China. These industrious peoples cultivated a variety of crops, including tobacco, cotton, beans, squash, maize and agave.

Mesa Grande 002
Mesa Grande Pueblo Ruins

John Bartlett, Arizona pioneer, was one of the early explorers of the region to document the ruins at Mesa Grande, writing the following about his experience:

"(July 4, 1852) ...A ride of a mile brought us to the table-land, when we made for a large mound or heap which arose from the plain. In crossing the bottom we passed many irrigating canals; and along the base of the plateau was one from twenty to twenty-five feet wide, and from four to five feet deep, formed by cutting down the bank—a very easy mode of construction, and which produced a canal much more substantial than if carried across the bottom".

Mesa Grande Pueblo Ruins
Mesa Grande Pueblo Ruins

"On reaching the great pile, I found it to be the remains of an adobe edifice from two hundred to two hundred and twenty-five feet in length, by from sixty to eighty feet wide, its sides facing the cardinal points. Portions of the wall were visible in only two places, one near the summit, at the south end, where, from the height of the pile, it must have originally been three or four stories high; and the other at the northern extremity, on the western side...From the summit of the principle heap, which is elevated from twenty to twenty-five feet above the plain, there may be seen in all directions similar heaps; and about a mile to the east, I noticed a long range of them running north and south, which the Indians said were of similar character to that on which we stood."

Today, little of the Mesa Grande Pueblo remains. A fence has been erected around the perimeter of the ruins, and not much can be seen from the roadway. Few residents in the neighborhood are even aware of the ruin’s existence. A sad state of affairs for a culture responsible for so much innovation. Without the canals, the valley would have remained uninhabitable.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

George W. Bush, Piltdown Man of La Mancha

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



George W. Bush would like us to believe history will remember him as a hero, a man who stood by his convictions. Much like Don Quixote, however, Bush rose up against perceived evil only to find he was chasing the unobtainable.

In doing so, Bush the younger drew his sword and spilt the blood of thousands. His little game of shoot em up escalated into a full scale mash-up of Hell meets high-water. I don't care for the word "quagmire". The definition falls way short of describing how bad the situation in Iraq became. Of course, there is nothing civil about civil war.

In truth, I doubt George W. Bush has ever ventured near La Mancha. Had he done so, he would have soon learned it was not inhabited by dragons. Still, I digress.

Lets move on to the "Piltdown Man." The reference may seem somewhat left field for those not familiar with the story, so here's the set-up.

Until the Invasion of Iraq, Piltdown Man represented perhaps the most extraordinary hoax in modern history. As the story goes, a pair of archaeologists claimed to find a human skull in a gravel pit near the town of Piltdown, purported to be the five hundred thousand year old missing link between man and monkey. The skull was in fact constructed from parts of several different skulls, including the jaw of an orangutan. Varnish was then applied to give the finished product a look of consistency. Amazingly, it took the scientific establishment forty years to catch on.

Does this scenario sound at all familiar? Indeed it does!

George W. Bush wants us to believe that in forty years or so, history will recall his presidency as strong and steadfast. He sees himself riding off into the sunset mounted upon his trusty steed, the White Knight, the enemy of evil.

I, however don't see it happening that way. I suspect history will be far more accurate, and much less flattering. At best, George W. Bush will be regarded as the Don Quixote of presidents. Mission accomplished, the windmill is dead, Jim.

More likely, George W. Bush will be remembered as the reigning Piltdown Man, an unmitigated fraud that has pushed America back into the stone age.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Fitness Trends Adjust To Economic Woes

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Fitness Trends Adjust To Economic Woes

The new year is traditionally a time for resolve. For many of us, it inevitably means a renewed commitment to personal fitness. This year, Americans of all ilk and age will once again tip the scales fantastic, and walk away determined to shed those unwanted pounds predictably packed on during yet another bountiful holiday season.

This years model may look decidedly different, however, as nervous consumers and markets alike, adjust to the flattened economy. Recent trends suggest that in the coming months, many seeking to improve their personal fitness will be looking to more cost efficient methods.

Fear not, however. Options are as varied as they are many. Fitness is a personal matter. When deciding the right program for your fitness goals, there are a numbers of options you may wish to consider.

Gym Membership

In years past, the fitness industry has remained strong even during rough economic times, leading some experts to view the overall fitness industry as recession proof. Still, the number of new gym memberships have notably declined in recent months, a reflection of consumer jitters. With membership rates often costing seventy dollars per month or more, many consumers consider gym membership a luxury. Still memberships are expected to rise again for the month of January. From there, it remains to be seen how gyms, during these lean times, will flex their muscle.

Fitness Coaches & Personal Trainers

Another option you may wish to consider is a personal trainer or fitness coach. Beware! All personal trainers are not alike. Be sure you find a fitness coach who is professional and is as dedicated and enthusiastic as you are. Your training regimen should reflect your personal health and fitness needs, and at rates often beginning at fifty dollars per hour or more, you can nary afford to choose your personal trainer in haste.

Aerobic Workout & Dance Classes

For some folks, aerobic dance classes could prove to be the ultimate fitness solution. I suppose at some point, we've all watched a predictably ridiculous dance flick and wondered if perhaps, we too might someday leave it all on the dance floor. According to some industry observers, however, high-impact aerobic workouts aren't quite the rage they were not long ago. Enrollment is on the decline.

Dance classes contain about thirty students per classroom. Rates generally start around seventy dollars per class and the price only goes up from there. On second thought, the old stair-climber is looking better by the day. For now, I am content to leave the dancing to the experts.

Gym Equipment for the Home

Okay, so I'll admit the old stair-climber isn't going to be the answer to my fitness needs. The cumbersome dinosaur never saw much use when we kept it in the dining room. It has seen even less since being relegated to the back of the garage. For some consumers, home gym equipment offers the convenience of having the equipment on hand. But with consumers nervous about the future, and most home systems priced above a thousand dollars, many consumers are finding home equipment too pricy, turning instead to more traditional (and less costly) methods of exercise.

In fact, don't be surprised to find consumers returning to the basics. During rough economies, fitness regimens are more apt to include the use of free weights, jump ropes, etc. Regimens are also more likely to include jogging, hiking, swimming and other exercises requiring minimal financial investment. And why not? After all, exercising should be fun and of course, beneficial to your health. A good fitness program doesn't need to drain your bank account. And who knows? Perhaps all you really need this year is a comfortable pair of cross trainers and a little new-found willpower.

So what are you waiting for?



B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Long, Hard Summer

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



Somewhere in the halls of Washington, the powers that be are feeling the heat. It’s only the second week of January, and already I sense, it’s going to be a long, hard summer.

Suffice to say we have begun the new year with a bang, and not a whimper. For what it’s worth, however, that bang we just collectively heard was not the sound of the US economy hitting rock bottom. Expect that sound to be deafening. I suspect what we might have just heard was, in fact, the sound of George W. Bush slamming the door on his way out. It would, after all, be the only noise we have heard from him in quite some time.

Perhaps, during these times of great hardship, the forty-third president of the United States finds it increasing difficult to face an ever skeptical public. Perhaps George W. Bush has grown weary of Washington, and the public perception of him as a hapless rodeo clown. After all, isn’t this the part of the story where Bush envisioned himself riding off into the Texas sunset?

But I will not pine for the glory days of George W. Bush and his companions. Certainly not whilst confronting the dog days of summer which surely lie before us. I cannot but fear, and I mean truly fear, for the future welfare of this once great nation of ours. The outlook is grim.

President Elect, Barack Obama, is facing an uphill battle, probably for many years to come. By the time he takes the oath of office in ten days, the nation will be three trillion dollars in debt, in most part, due to the irresponsible actions of his predecessor. He and the Democratic controlled Congress must act quickly to stem this current of financial bloodletting. Even then, we have no guarantees as to how this crisis will play out.

I suppose I risk comparisons to the fool who shouts fire in a crowded theater. Nonetheless, somewhere off in the distance, I smell smoke. Perhaps it remains too early to panic, but rest assured, it’s much too late to do nothing. The heat is on, America. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it is us, the average Joe and Jane, who will ultimately get burned.

Now might be a good time to catch up on some reading. The Grapes of Wrath, perhaps.


B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Radical Cleric Orders Attacks Against US Troops

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




The relative calm, pervasive throughout much of Iraq in recent months, may soon come to an abrupt end. Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric and outspoken opponent of the US occupation of Iraq, has ordered attacks on US troops in reprisal for recent Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Al-Sadr has been vocal in his opposition to any continued presence of US troops in the region, and has launched two previous offensives targeting US soldiers and outposts. The influential cleric also apposed a security deal agreed upon and signed by the two countries last year.

This new edict from al-Sadr does not bode well for peace in Iraq any time in the near future. His followers are loyal and numerous, and have shown themselves to be fierce fighters.

"I ask the Iraqi resistance to engage in revenge operations against the United States, the biggest partner of the Zionist enemy," al-Sadr is quoted as saying, urging the Iraqi resistance to carry out “revenge operations” against US interests.

The cleric also urged the closing of all Israeli embassies in the region as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people. So far, more than seven hundred Palestinians have died as a result of this most recent Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza.

Earlier Thursday, a chief spokesman for the United Nations announced the organization would suspend further activities in the Palestinian territory. The organization provides food and relief to nearly 80 percent of Gaza's population.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Cuba Allows Digital Access to Hemingway Documents

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



The Cuban Heritage Council has announced it will allow access to thousands of pages of documents once belonging to American novelist Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway wrote many of his greatest works while living on the island, which he called home for more than twenty years.

Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, director of the Museo Ernest Hemingway, located in Havana, answered questions about the documents. "We are talking about 3,194 pages of documents, close to 2,000 plus of documents, some already digitalised," Rosales stated. "For practically the first time, this is being made available to students and researchers," she added.

Hemingway spent much of his adult life in Cuba, where he lived with his wife on a fifteen acre estate called the `Finca Vigia` approximately fifteen miles from downtown Havana. There he wrote some of his most memorable novels, including the literary classic ‘The Old Man and the Sea”

The archive is purported to include coded messages Hemingway is believed to have sent while drunkenly pursuing German submarines operating just off the coast of Cuba. The collection also includes photographs, letters and manuscripts, as well as an unpublished epilogue to Hemingway's novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

An additional thousand or so documents have yet to be scanned and added to the archive, but will be made available upon completion. Academics and researchers can request electronic copies of the rare documents from Cuba's Heritage Council.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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