Wednesday, June 11, 2008



It's 7 a.m. and Joshua Cervantes is getting ready for school. He makes his bed, grabs his ID - and his GPS tracking device. At school, Joshua clicks his GPS. It sends a signal to a satellite and tells his truancy counselor that Josh is on time. "Every 10 minutes it gives me a point on that individual," said Tom Urrutia, program manager of the monitoring system. Josh is part of a pilot program at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas to stop truancy. Last year, out of 185 school days, he had 160 unexcused absences. . . For six weeks, a court ordered him to carry a tracking device, and made sure he was home by a 9 p.m. curfew. CBS

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her. She was raped. But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her. The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order. "It shouldn't be up to a judge to tell me whether or not I was raped," Bowen said. "I should be able to tell the jury in my own words what happened to me." Bowen's case is part of what some prosecutors and victim advocates see as a national trend in sexual assault cases. "It's a topic that's coming up more and more," said Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. "You're moving away from what a criminal trial is really about." She filed a lawsuit challenging the judge's actions as a First Amendment violation. A federal appeals court dismissed the suit, but Bowen's attorney plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. McClatchy

Authorities say seven people attending high school graduations in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are facing charges after police say they cheered while students' names were being called. Police say those arrested yelled after students' names were called while diplomas were handed out. A police spokesman says school officials request police patrols to prevent graduation disruptions that include standing, hollering and clapping. He says those attending the commencements are told their behavior can be prosecuted. AP

Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate and the continent's few glaciers are shrinking fast, according to a U.N. atlas. Satellite pictures, often taken three decades apart, showed expanding cities, pollution, deforestation and climate change were damaging the African environment despite glimmers of improvement in some areas. "Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of forest every year -- twice the world's average deforestation rate," according to a statement by the U.N. Environment Program about the 400-page atlas, prepared for a meeting of African environment ministers in Johannesburg. Four million hectares is roughly the size of Switzerland or slightly bigger than the U.S. state of Maryland. Daily Green

As the world clamors for more corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, farmers are trying to meet the challenge. Millions of acres are coming back into production in Europe. In Asia, planting two or three crops in a single year is becoming more common. American farmers are planting 324 million acres this year, up 4 million acres from 2007. Too much of the best land is waterlogged, however. Indiana and Illinois have been the worst hit, although Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota were inundated last weekend. United States soybean plantings are running 16 percent behind last year. Rice is tardy in Arkansas, which produces nearly half the country's crop. . . . Harvests ebb and flow, of course. But with supplies of most of the key commodities at their lowest levels in decades, there is little room for error this year. American farmers are among the world's top producers, supplying 60 percent of the corn that moves across international borders in a typical year, as well as a third of the soybeans, a quarter of the wheat and a tenth of the rice. NY Times

Thirty-five articles of impeachment were presented by Rep. Dennis Kucinich to the House of Representatives late Monday evening. . . "Resolved," Kucinich then began, "that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. . . "In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power" The first article Kucinich presented, and many that followed, regarded the war in Iraq: "Article 1 - Creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for war against Iraq." Raw Story

African American students and alumni at Northwestern University - including some graduates of its highly regarded journalism school - are protesting the university's rescission of an honorary degree to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Sen. Barack Obama whose remarks caused headaches for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. In a March letter to Wright, announced on May 1, Northwestern President Henry Bienen wrote that he decided to withdraw the degree in sacred theology because controversy about Wright could disrupt graduation ceremonies, as Jodi S. Cohen wrote May 2 in the Chicago Tribune. The rescission is believed to be the first in the history of the Evanston, Ill., school, founded in 1850. "In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern's commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree," Bienen wrote to Wright. . . "This is absolutely outrageous, straight up reactionary politics," said Kevin B. Blackistone, former Dallas Morning News sports columnist newly appointed to a chair at the University of Maryland, and a 1981 Medill graduate. "The president said he was rescinding the offer because he didn't want to detract from the celebratory nature of commencement for graduates and their families. Then why give any honorary degrees at all or have any invited speakers who drone on seemingly forever only to be quickly forgotten? Wright certainly would not have been forgotten. The sound bites that have been used to slay him are exactly what graduates need to hear: a challenge to do differently, if not better. No uncritical yammering from him. Interestingly, James Cone, the theologian who coined the phrase black liberation theology, that frightens so many, called Wright one of the finest practitioners of the craft. Where did Cone get his Ph.D? Northwestern." Journal-isms

Obama thought wearing a flag pin was a bit pretentious, but there appears to be an exception to his reluctance. He showed up at the AIPAC meeting with a pin that featured two joined and equal sized flags: one for America and one for Israel. Well, if you work on Capitol Hill they are equal.

Nevada's scandal-tarred governor has suspended his effort to divorce his wife, after she and her lawyer made veiled suggestions that his effort could force secrets from his past to spill into public view. "You'd have to be a dummy to realize that there aren't implications beyond the divorce itself for her and for him," the attorney for Dawn Gibbons, wife of GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons, told the New York Times late last month. Gov. Gibbons has reportedly come under federal investigation for bribery and corruption allegations from his time as a U.S. congressman. He was accused of sexually assaulting a cocktail waitress in the days before the 2006 gubernatorial election; and his wife has accused him of having a long-running affair with a podiatrist's wife. Gibbons has denied all the allegations. . . The governor will live in the Nevada governor's mansion, and his wife will live in the guest house. The two "will share the Public Areas of the Mansion for their respective Public Duties," the document said. They will coordinate via their staff, according to the agreement. ABC NEWS

Pubs in Yorkshire have been ordered to ban people from wearing flat caps or other hats so troublemakers can be more easily recognized. The Park Hotel in Wadsley, Sheffield, is the latest to be asked to impose the rule by senior police officers. . . The measure, designed to prevent people from obscuring their faces from CCTV cameras, has been questioned by Barnsley's former Test umpire Dickie Bird, 75, well-known for his favoured white flat cap. He said: "Asking a Yorkshireman to take off his flat cap -- whoever heard of anything so silly. . . . "I still wear a flat cap when I go out shopping and often leave it on when I get home and end up sitting watching TV with my cap on They look smart and they keep your head nice and warm." A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said bans on people wearing headgear in public premises had been operated in banks and post offices for years. Telegraph, UK

They are coveted pieces of modern art which fetch up to L1million in auction and are owned by Hollywood royalty. But to one council, murals by the reclusive street artist Banksy appear to be little more than worthless graffiti. For soon after Banksy's latest work appeared on a North London street, conscientious workers from Islington Council have obliterated it, by whitewashing the offending wall. The 4ft by 4ft stencil, set on a lime green background, depicted two young girls sitting at a desk with a Kalashnikov rifle, playing with bullets rather than pencils. The elusive Banksy, with his face hidden, was spotted painting the scene towards the end of last month. But the mural, which would have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, was promptly painted over with masonry paint, after residents complained. Mail UK

An Italian couple who were caught having sex in a church confessional box while morning Mass was being said have repented and made peace with the local bishop. . . Their lawyer said they had been drinking all night and realized they had gone too far. The lawyer told the area's local newspaper on Wednesday the couple met with the local bishop on Tuesday night, asked for his forgiveness and that he had given it. Last week the bishop celebrated a "Mass of reparation" in the cathedral where the confessional box incident took place to make up for the sacrilege. Reuters

Vietnamese authorities say they are mystified as to who owns a Boeing 727 which has been abandoned at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport. The plane was flown in from Siem Reap in neighboring Cambodia in late 2007 and has been unclaimed ever since. An airport official told the BBC that they believe the owners could be an airline based in Cambodia. The official said that if it remains unclaimed, the plane will have to be sent for scrap. The plane has a Cambodian flag on its fuselage and is emblazoned with the name Air Dream, but the authorities say they have no information about the airline. Earlier, one security official at Noi Bai airport told the BBC's Vietnamese Service that the plane belongs to bankrupt budget Cambodian airline Royal Khmer, but this is not certain. BBC


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