September 11th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Appeals court says requirement to attend AA unconstitutional


Appeals court says requirement to attend AA unconstitutional

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Alcoholics Anonymous, the renowned 12-step program that directs problem drinkers to seek help from a higher power, says it's not a religion and is open to nonbelievers. But it has enough religious overtones that a parolee can't be ordered to attend its meetings as a condition of staying out of prison, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

In fact, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the constitutional dividing line between church and state in such cases is so clear that a parole officer can be sued for damages for ordering a parolee to go through rehabilitation at Alcoholics Anonymous or an affiliated program for drug addicts.

Rulings from across the nation since 1996 have established that "requiring a parolee to attend religion-based treatment programs violates the First Amendment," the court said. "While we in no way denigrate the fine work of (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state."

The 12 steps required for participants in both programs include an acknowledgment that "a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" and a promise to "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." They also call for prayer and meditation.

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Chris Keeley

James Marcello, 65, who the authorities say is a mob boss; Joseph Lombardo, 78, accused of being a m

 Frank Calabrese ran a loan-sharking business and specialized in strangling victims with a rope, then cutting their throats to ensure their death

September 11, 2007

5 Guilty in Chicago Mob Case

CHICAGO, Sept. 10 (AP) — A federal jury found five aging men guilty Monday in a racketeering conspiracy that involved decades of extortion, loan-sharking and murder intended to eliminate anyone who dared stand in the way of the Chicago mob.

The prosecution’s star witness was an admitted hit man who took the stand against his own brother to spell out the accusations, crime by crime. The jury heard about 18 unsolved killings, including the beating death and cornfield burial of Tony Spilotro, the mob’s man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character in the 1995 movie “Casino.”

It was a sweeping victory for prosecutors. The five men were found guilty of all counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, illegal gambling and tax fraud.

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Chris Keeley

The parrot was 31.

Brainy Parrot Dies, Emotive to the End

He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in television shows, scientific reports and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.

But last week Alex, an African gray parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of his life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.

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Chris Keeley

With the establishment of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) as the major political and commercial center of Jap

 With the establishment of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) as the major political and commercial center of Japan in the seventeenth century, artists developed a new imagery, known as ukiyo-e. Masters of the genre explored the daily activities of the city's inhabitants and detailed the stylish preoccupations of the "Floating World"—the theaters and the brothels. While many of these artists, such as Harunobu, Utamaro, and Hokusai, are well-known in the West for their woodblock prints, it was in the medium of painting that they actually received their major commissions.

The Japanese press has hailed the Museum's collection of more than 700 ukiyo-e paintings as the finest anywhere in the world. Despite the collection's acclaim, "Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690–1850" marks the first exhibition highlighting the Museum's holdings of these works.

Floating World, 1690–1850
Chris Keeley

GOP-Linked Oil Firm Inks Oil Deal in Northern Iraq

 GOP-Linked Oil Firm Inks Oil Deal in Northern Iraq
The news comes as U.S. oil companies continue to gain a foothold in Iraq. The Texas-based Hunt Oil has announced a production-sharing agreement with the Kurdish regional government. Hunt will begin oil exploration later this year. The deal is the first for the Kurdish province since it passed its own oil law last month. Hunt CEO Ray Hunt has been a key Republican fundraiser. He sits on the board of directors for the contracting giant Halliburton and is a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under an appointment from President Bush. 

Study: Polar Bears Face Extinction Over 50 Years
In environmental news, a new study is warning two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could be extinct if global warming continues apace over the next fifty years. The U.S. Geological Survey predicts the bears will die out if warm weather continues to melt the ice sheets where they live. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to designate polar bears a ‘threatened’ species. 

Rumsfeld to Join Stanford Think-Tank
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed on to join Stanford University’s Hoover Institution as a visiting fellow. Rumsfeld will take part in a new task force studying post-9/11 ideology and terrorism. Hoover is the home for several current and former Republican officials. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she intends to return when her term ends in 2009.

Body Shop Anita Roddick Founder Dies at 64
In Britain, Dame Anita Roddick has died at the age of sixty-four. She was the founder of the cosmetics firm Body Shop. She was a well-known environmental campaigner and a pioneer of cruelty-free beauty products.