Archive for March, 2008

Anti-illegal Immigration Groups Grow in Florida

World War II veteran Enos Schera monitors ”the invasion” from his Miami home in the predominantly Cuban-American suburb of Westchester. Information is the former Marine’s weapon.

Surrounded by stacks of paper, old televisions, VCRs and radios, Florida’s ”grandfather of immigration reform” — as other activists have dubbed him — tracks crimes committed by immigrants, failing public schools and politicians’ positions.

Schera’s Citizens of Dade United is among a growing cohort of anti-illegal immigration groups in Florida trying different tactics to drive out undocumented immigrants. They have turned to legislators in Tallahassee for help in the wake of Washington’s inability to find a solution.

”I feel like a little guy at the bottom of the dam with my finger plugged in the dike,” said Schera, 80, vice-president of the group. “I know what’s going to happen if I pull my finger out, only instead of a trillion tons of water it will be a trillion tons of people.”

After mounting a somewhat solitary fight for three decades in Miami, the city with the nation’s highest percentage of foreign-born residents, Schera now has company.

In Haines City, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps organizes teams of Floridians to help patrol the Arizona-Mexico border for immigrants trying to sneak in. In Jupiter, Floridians for Immigration Enforcement protest outside an ”illegal immigrant hiring hall” and sometimes post videos on of those who come to hire workers. In Fort Myers, Citizens Against Illegal Immigration hold candlelight vigils to honor U.S. citizens killed by illegal immigrants.

Now, the groups are lobbying the Florida Legislature on illegal immigration. Among measures: Require state government contractors to participate in a federal program to verify new employees’ immigration status and make it a crime to harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant.

”People call us hate-mongers and racists, but this isn’t about racism at all; it’s about the rule of law,” said state Minuteman Civil Defense Corps director Bill Landes, 52, in Haines City.

Immigrant advocates, who call anti-illegal immigration groups ”nativists,” say the anti-immigrant rhetoric can have dangerous results, evidenced by a reported rise in hate crimes against Hispanics. FBI statistics indicate a spike of almost 35 percent from 2003 to 2006.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a report saying the number of ”hate groups” grew by 48 percent since 2000, an increase it attributes to growing anti-immigrant sentiment.

”I think what’s happened in many cases is that some of the real vile . . . propaganda against Latinos and immigrants specifically, really begins in white supremacist hate groups,” said the Center’s Mark Potok. “But what we’re seeing as a phenomenon is that those allegations make their way out of hate groups and then go into the anti-immigration movement.”

The leaders of the nascent Florida groups are generally older men — several of them veterans — who often feel the country’s soul is threatened by the influx of mostly Hispanic immigrants.

They seethe every time they have to ”press 1 for English” when they call a government office. They reel off figures about overpopulation and immigrants on welfare. Many believe that Mexican immigrants want to reclaim California and the Southwest.

With an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, the frustration has been climbing steadily on both sides of the immigration debate.

In the Minuteman group’s early days in 2005, members considered regular boat patrols off the Florida coast to search for immigrants attempting to arrive by sea, but now the group’s sights are set on Tallahassee.

Landes feels a fresh urgency every time he looks at his nephew, a 5-year-old who was taken from his dying mother’s womb when she was seven months pregnant. A truck driver crashed into her car. The man was using a false license and Landes is convinced he was illegal — though he has no evidence.

Landes, a disabled construction contractor, finances his activism by collecting cans and taking the occasional odd job. He said Florida Minuteman Corps membership has jumped from 57 in 2006 to more than 300 at eight chapters. The leader of a new chapter in Miami-Dade, declined an interview.

Membership began to swell for such groups in 2006 — a backlash to massive marches by immigrants in major cities.

”Most of the public watching this saw millions of people on the street demanding rewards for doing something wrong and thought that there is something seriously wrong in this country,” said Ira Mehlman, media director for the national organization Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR.

As with many other activists, Schera, whose son and a grandson followed him into the military, feels the world around him has changed in ways he cannot accept — starting with the Mariel boatlift when 125,000 Cubans arrived.

Asked if he has Cuban friends, Schera points to Heberto Casares.

Casares, 88, sold a short-wave radio to Schera, an amateur ham radio operator, and they became friends. Schera, an electrician, helped Casares build his first house.

Casares disagrees with some of Schera’s views — for example, Casares thinks translating government documents into Spanish or other languages makes sense — but he doesn’t worry about his friend’s more controversial views.

”I can’t break my head about why he does all this and all that as an activist,” Casares said. “I see the good part about Enos.”

Schera claimed several political victories in early 1980s, including an ordinance that declared English the official language of Miami-Dade County. That measure was later repealed as Cuban Americans gained political power.

‘We have bigger issues now than the `English-only’ fight,” said Dave Caulkett, 59, of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement or FLIMEN.

Caulkett and other activists attended an October summit in Orlando organized by FAIR, an event that gave birth to the loose lobbying coalition now in Tallahassee.

With the failure of federal immigration reform, local and state governments have become the new battlefront.

Oklahoma and Arizona have passed the most restrictive laws. An Arizona law yanks the business license of employers who hire illegal immigrants. Oklahoma’s law, used as a model for a Florida bill, makes it a crime to hire or transport undocumented immigrants.

Caulkett also runs a website,, where, for a $10 fee, he will report a suspected ”illegal alien” to immigration.

Caulkett’s group spends most Saturday mornings protesting outside Jupiter’s El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, a non-profit that matches day laborers with employers looking for workers.

”Shut down the Jupiter illegal alien hiring hall!” Caulkett yells with carnival barker’s flair.

Protesters hold signs that read ”Mow your own damn grass!” and “Hiring an Illegal? Smile for the camera.”

One of the group’s early attempts at taping would-be employers — to post the video on Youtube — ended in a December altercation. One employer, now facing simple battery charges, allegedly tried to take away the camera and pushed Caulkett.

Inside the center workers seem bemused by the weekly demonstration.

”They accuse us of all sorts of terrible things, but we just want to work,” said day laborer Jose Alvarez, 41, from Guatemala.

For every emotional story of an immigrant in need, activists counter with a tragedy.

Russell Landry, head of the Fort Myers-based Citizens Against Illegal Aliens of Southwest Florida, has held candlelight vigils for Americans killed by undocumented immigrants.

Landry, a disabled former Marine, was touched by a mother’s telephone call. She recounted the story of her daughter, a 19-year-old honors student who was killed by a drunk driver, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported several times before.

”It’s very frustrating, because people don’t seem to get involved because they haven’t been directly affected,” said Landry, 47, who’s planning to move to New Hampshire. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for more people to stand up for our country.”

Source:  Miami Herald

The illegal alien problem, getting bigger by the day, has got to be addressed.  I’ve already given my opinion to Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez; my opinion on any chance of their being helpful on this issue is about the same as the utility of teats on a boar hog.

It is interesting how the article seems to imply that only old people are somehow threatened by the alien invasion. 

Hello.  This is a public health issue.  We do not know who these people are, or what diseases they might be carrying.  This is a public safety issue.  Are these people pedophiles?  Rapists?  Murderers?  We have no way of knowing.  This is a humanitarian issue.  There are women and children in bondage as sex slaves, people being cheated out of and paid substandard wages because they are illegal, and if someone has no official standing, who is to know if that someone is murdered for the cash wages he/she carries, and is disposed of?  There are no missing persons reports for people that do not exist. 

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3rd graders (!) accused in plot to harm teacher

As many as nine third-grade students got together and plotted to harm their teacher, even going so far as to bring handcuffs and a knife to school, Waycross police said. School officials at Center Elementary School, which is located on Dorothy Street in Waycross, said they never imagined that some of the 8- and 9-year-olds boys and girls at the school would think of bringing physical harm to a teacher.”A plan had been developed amongst several of our third-grade students to allegedly do harm to their teacher,” said Theresa Martin, of Ware County Schools.

Martin said the plot was uncovered when one student saw a knife in the backpack of another student.

“It’s shocking that they would think of this at their young age. I think that is probably the most shocking part for all of us,” Martin said.

In addition to the knife being found, the school officials said other students had duct tape, handcuffs, ribbon and a heavy crystal paperweight.

Although officials said they believe the students were plotting to hurt their teacher, they did not know how far the kids were planning to take the alleged scheme.

The police chief in Waycross told Channel 4 he believes the plan may have been developed because one of the students was punished with some sort of time out. However, that theory remains under investigation.

“I can’t believe that — because he’s a third-grader. You know, I cannot believe that. Especially, for here,” said parent Doris Rowland.

The nine students suspected in the plot to harm the teacher have been suspended until the police investigation is completed. The kids could face expulsion pending the investigation.

Authorities could also ask prosecutors to press conspiracy charges against the youngsters accused of being involved in the plot.

Source: News4Jax

Conspiracy charges for third graders?  Gimme a break…..IF true, some kids need to be sentenced to spanking and getting their television privileges and video games taken away.

UPDATE:  Here is an updated news account of the miniature miscreants.  The newspapers are calling it an attempt to murder their teacher. 

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2 More Indonesian Bird Flu Casualties

JAKARTA, March 31 (Xinhua) — A 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl have died of bird flu in recent days in Indonesia, bringing the total death toll from the H5N1 strain to 107, the Health Ministry said in a statement here Monday.

    The boy from the West Java town of Subang died on March 26, the same day he arrived at the Hasan Sadikin Hospital in the provincial capital of Bandung, after about a week of treatment at a smaller hospital in Subang.

    A day later, a girl from the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi died at the Persahabatan Hospital, which is among major hospitals to become the center of treatment for bird flu patients.

    Indonesia has so far confirmed 132 bird flu cases in human with 107 deaths, becoming the worst affected country.  

Source:  Xinhua

As you will no doubt recall, the boy that died was being treated for dengue fever at the small hospital where his brother, also diagnosed with dengue fever, died last week.  The boy was then transferred to another hospital when he was in extremis.  I’m fairly certain the boy’s brother that died a week earlier also died of H5N1

A 1-year-old girl is currently undergoing treatment in Sumatra for H5N1.

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“Baby Doll, Why is There a Toad in the Kitchen?”

That was what SwampMan yelled from the kitchen as I was drying my hair.

“Duh!  Because he was cold!”

“Well, why can’t he be cold outside?”

“Because he was lying on the sidewalk all stiff, and I was afraid he was going to die!”


“I couldn’t just let him DIE!  He thought it was summertime, and then it suddenly turned back into winter. ”

SwampMan wandered back into the office where the taxes were printing, muttering something about no schedules for claiming toads as dependents.  

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Walk Off 20 lbs. in 30 Days!

That’s what the headline said in one of the ubiquitous women’s magazines at the grocery store checkout counter.  Must resist….feel willpower weakening….maybe I’ve actually been walking wrong all these years……yes, I broke down and bought it.

To save any of y’all the trouble of buying the magazine to find the magical secret to losing weight, it seems that it is to walk 50 minutes per day every day.  No slacking!  This can be broken up into shorter intervals as needed per your schedule.

Now, being a nice southern lady, I can’t come right out and say “bullshit!”, but I have to say that I walk a minimum of 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening just to put feed out to the livestock and trust me, I walk at least an additional 30 minutes per day besides that, and I don’t exactly look like I’ve missed any meals.  Since I know that a good rule of thumb is that @ 100 calories are burned per mile of walking for a 180 lb. person (and it’s an easy figure to use for the math challenged such as myself), I’ll just go with 100 calories per mile.  Since I have to burn up 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb., and if I wanted to lose 20 lb. in a month strictly from walking, that would be 20 lbs. x 3,500 calories = 70,000 calories to be burned that month.  At 100 calories per mile, seems to me to work out to 700 miles.   Okay, then.  All I have to do to lose 20 lbs. in a month walking (counting 30 days in a month) is to walk 23.33 miles per day.  Every day.  At a 3-minute mile, that would work out to be @ 8 hours. 

Even if I walked back and forth to work every day, leaving at 4 a.m. to get there on time and dodging the logging and dump trucks, I’d still have a mileage deficit of 3 and 1/3 miles per day to make up. 

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Popular Cholesterol Drugs May Not Work

(AP) — Full results of a failed trial on Vytorin, a medicine taken by millions of Americans to lower cholesterol, left doctors stunned that the drug did not improve heart disease even though it worked as intended to lower three key risk factors.Use of Vytorin and a related drug, Zetia, seemed sure to continue to fall after the findings reported Sunday and fresh questions about why drugmakers took nearly two years after the study ended to give results.

”A lot of us thought that there would be some glimmer of benefit,” said Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a Johns Hopkins University cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Many doctors were prescribing Vytorin without trying older, proven medications first, as guidelines advise. The key message from the study is ”don’t do that,” Blumenthal said.

Doctors have long focused on lowering LDL or bad cholesterol as a way to prevent heart disease. Statins like Merck & Co.’s Zocor, which recently became available in generic form, do this, as do niacin, fibrates and other medicines.

Vytorin, which came out in 2004, combines Zocor with Schering-Plough Corp.’s Zetia, which came on the market in 2002 and attacks cholesterol in a different way.

The study tested whether Vytorin was better than Zocor alone at limiting plaque buildup in the arteries of 720 people with super high cholesterol because of a gene disorder.

The results show the drug had ”no result — zilch. In no subgroup, in no segment, was there any added benefit” in terms of reducing plaque, said Dr. John Kastelein, the Dutch scientist who led the study.

That happened even though Vytorin dramatically lowered LDL, other fats in the blood called triglycerides and a measure of artery inflammation called CRP.

Results were presented at an American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago and published on the Internet by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The journal also published a report showing that Vytorin and Zetia’s use soared in the United States amid a $200 million-marketing blitz. In Canada, where advertising drugs to consumers is not allowed, sales were four times lower.

Congress and state officials in New York have been investigating why results were not released for nearly two years after the study ended.

The drug appeared safe in the study, and patients should not discontinue using it or any heart drug without talking with their doctors, heart specialists stressed.

However, doctors prescribing Vytorin in the mistaken belief it always works ”should be thinking twice,” said Duke University cardiologist Dr. Robert Califf.

He is co-leader of an even more pivotal study of the drug that was expanded to include more patients because early signs suggest it will be harder than anticipated to see if Vytorin is any better than Zocor alone.

Califf himself takes the drug because he cannot tolerate the high dose of statins he otherwise would need.

”It will be 2012 — ten years after the drug was introduced — before we know the answer,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who has no role in the Vytorin studies and has criticized the drugmakers’ handling of the one reported Sunday.

Dr. James Stein, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Vytorin ”has always been a second- or third-line drug,” after trying statins and other recommended medicines first.

Stein believes Zetia and Vytorin are safe and will prove effective, ”but the reason we do research us so we don’t have to rely on our “beliefs” — we can rely on data.”

Merck is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J.; Schering-Plough, in Kenilworth, N.J.

Source:  Miami Herald

There’s a longer, more detailed article in Forbes on this.

I highly recommend that anybody with a high cholesterol problem read the study itself in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Don’t take anybody’s word for what the study says.  Read it yourself.    

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High Schoolers Arrested for Shooting Woman with a BB-gun

NORCROSS, GA (AP) — Police say three high school basketball players have been charged with shooting a woman with a BB gun as they drove by her home.

One of them, 17-year-old Al-Farouq Aminu, was arrested Friday evening on a felony charge of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass. Police said Saturday that two of his Norcross High School teammates, Quintin Karlando Square and Prince Makom Patrick Kent, were arrested earlier in the week on the same charges.

All three teens have been released from jail on $3,500 bonds. Police say the woman shot outside her Norcross home on March 14th, identified by her husband as 34-year-old Rebecca Baltich, suffered a minor injury to her stomach from the BB gun pellets. A window in the couple’s vehicle was also shattered in the shooting, which police say is the reason for the misdemeanor charge.

Aminu, one of the top high school players in the country, signed with Wake Forest last fall. Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio said in a statement Saturday that the college will not make a judgment on Aminu’s future with the team until — quote — “we collect all of the facts” on the case.

Kent, who is also on the school’s football team, has been offered football scholarships from several colleges, including the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina.

Something tells me that these young Einsteins have never been held accountable for anything in their lives and, were it not for the sports scholarships, would not have a chance of making it through college.

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“How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love Nuclear Power”

Levy County is too far north of Tampa Bay and too far west of Ocala to be of much use to anybody.

And that makes it just perfect for Progress Energy.

Here, out in the woods off U.S. Highway 19, the utility is planning to build what would be the state’s next nuclear power plant. The estimated completion date is 2016.

Locally, the only major controversy comes from neighboring Citrus County, which houses the utility’s Crystal River nuclear plant and is miffed it isn’t getting this one.

The state of Florida is gung-ho, which means no major obstacles from the Public Service Commission or Department of Environmental Protection.

Nuclear power is the only option available to meet Gov. Charlie Crist‘s ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A new state law will allow Progress Energy to begin collecting money for the $17 billion facility in advance. So the utility’s customers could see a $9 bump in an average electric bill beginning in January.

To speed up the federal review process, Progress Energy plans to use a next-generation Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission already has signed off on the basic design.

The only way this plant does not get built is if Progress Energy makes a business decision not to build it.

That I can make such a statement without being laughed out of the newsroom shows how far we have come in our view of nuclear power.

Like other utilities, Progress Energy no longer will reinvent the nuclear power plant with each new facility. The industry now plans to replicate the same basic designs over and over. This cuts costs, increases familiarity and allows lessons learned at one plant to be incorporated at other plants.

With the Westinghouse unit, Progress Energy will learn from the experiences of the Chinese, who will have the first ones running in 2014.

What differentiates the Westinghouse from older plants isn’t the reactor. It is the water-cooling systems designed to prevent it from overheating and melting down. Simply put, we’ve got the same engine but a much improved radiator.

The old safeguards rely on an elaborate network of generators, pumps and pipes, all of them potential points of failure. Intense monitoring is required, introducing the possibility of operator error.

The new plants will use passive designs that rely on forces like gravity to deliver cooling water. This vastly reduces the number of pipes and pumps, thereby eliminating many failure points and improving reliability. This also reduces costs and the odds of operator error.

Read the rest of the editorial at the Orlando Sentinel.

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Dith Pran, 65, Dead from Pancreatic Cancer

NEW YORK (AP) – The journalist whose enslavement and escape from Cambodia’s murderous revolutionaries was the subject of the movie “The Killing Fields” has died.

Dith Pran’s death from pancreatic cancer was confirmed Sunday by journalist Sydney Schanberg, his former colleague at The New York Times. Pran was 65.

Dith worked as a photographer for The New York Times after his escape from the Khmer Rouge (kuh-MEER roojh) in 1979. He also became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Dith spoke and wrote often about his wartime experience and remained an outspoken critic of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc.

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Study: Media perpetuates unsubstantiated chemical imbalance theory of depression

The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is often presented in the media as fact even though there is little scientific evidence to support it, according to a new study co-authored by a Florida State University visiting lecturer.

Jeffrey Lacasse, an FSU doctoral candidate and visiting lecturer in the College of Social Work, and Jonathan Leo, a neuroanatomy professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, found that reporters who included statements in news articles about depression being caused by a chemical imbalance, or a lack of serotonin in the brain, were unable to provide scientific evidence to support those statements.

Lacasse and Leo spent about a year in late 2006 and 2007 monitoring the daily news for articles that included statements about chemical imbalances and contacting the authors to request evidence that supported their statements. Several reporters, psychiatrists and a drug company responded to the researchers’ requests, but Lacasse and Leo said they did not provide documentation that supported the chemical imbalance theory. Their findings were published in the journal Society.

“The media’s presentation of the theory as fact is troublesome because it misrepresents the current status of the theory,” Lacasse said. “For instance, there are few scientists who will rise to its defense, and some prominent psychiatrists publicly acknowledge that the serotonin hypothesis is more metaphor than fact. As the current study documents, when asked for evidence, reporters were unable to cite peer-reviewed primary articles in support of the theory.”

Moreover, the researchers said, several of the responses received from reporters seem to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory’s scientific status. The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” which almost all psychiatrists use to diagnose and treat their patients, clearly states that the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown, according to Lacasse and Leo.

The Society article builds on the pair’s 2005 study, which focused on pharmaceutical advertisements that claim depression is caused by an imbalance of serotonin—an imbalance the drug companies say can be corrected by a class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

“The chemical imbalance theory, which was formulated in the 1960s, was based on the observation that mood could be artificially altered with drugs, rather than direct observation of any chemical imbalances,” Leo said. “Since then there has been no direct evidence to confirm the theory and a significant number of findings cast doubt on the theory.”

The researchers said the popularity of the theory is in large part based on the presumed efficacy of the SSRIs, but they say that several large studies now cast doubt on this efficacy. A review of a full set of trial data published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine last month concluded that much of the perceived efficacy of several of the most common SSRIs was due to the placebo effect. Other studies indicate that for every 10 people who take an SSRI, only one to two people are truly receiving benefit from the medication, according to Lacasse and Leo.

Read the rest of the article at FSU News.

If true, there are some mighty expensive placebos out there. 

And for anybody that is surprised by reporters reporting unsubstantiated or discredited theory as fact, I have a sheep pasture some Florida oil property for sale.

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