[David] Miscavige [the group's leader] announced that everyone was going to play musical chairs. Only the last person standing would be allowed to stay on the base. He declared that people whose spouses “were not participants would have their marriages terminated.” The St. Petersburg Times noted that Miscavige played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a boom box as the church leaders fought over the chairs, punching each other and, in one case, ripping a chair apart.
A Scientology spokesperson confirmed that "a musical-chairs episode" did take place at the group's "Gold Base" in the desert, but denied the remainder of the allegations.
The New Yorker's article is definitely worth a read, and provides links to more leaked Scientology documents as well as pleadings filed in cases brought against the group by former members. Good stuff.
On Point News reports that a Missouri judge has refused to dismiss a claim against the Kansas City Royals by a man who alleges the Royals' mascot, Sluggerrr, hit him with a hot dog in 2009. See "Dog-Flinging Mascot Blamed for Eye Injury," Lowering the Bar (Feb. 24, 2010). John Coomer alleges that Sluggerrr negligently flung a dog into his eye from just six rows away, and that he suffered a detached retina as a result.
As I correctly predicted last year (proving that you should hire me for your next case involving a rampaging sports mascot), the main legal issue was whether the "assumption of risk" defense would apply. Had Coomer been hit by a foul ball, case dismissed. The Royals argued this should also apply to "customary activities" associated with a sport, in this case the flinging of hot dogs.
There is no question that the "Hotdog Toss" (note: "hot dog" is two words, and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council will back me up on that) is such an activity, the Royals argued in a motion for summary judgment. Indeed, they wrote, "[i]t is simply undeniable that the Hotdog [sic] Toss is an activity so intimately intertwined with Royals baseball that one who attends a Royals game assumes the risk associated with the Hotdog [sic] toss." But when a brief describes something as "undeniable," it usually isn't, and that was the case here.
The plaintiff conceded that he would have assumed the risk of being hit by a ball or broken bat, because those risks are inherent to baseball. "However," he wrote, "harm resulting from a team mascot negligently or recklessly smacking spectators in the face with hotdogs [sic] is not such a [risk]." The defense doesn't apply if a defendant negligently increases or creates a risk, and, said the plaintiff, "the risk involved here is that of one of Defendant's employees, dressed in a heavy lion's costume, flinging a foil-wrapped hotdog [sic] at high speed directly at a spectator . . . while using an around-the-back throwing method which concealed the release of the projectile."
The plaintiff cited a California case in which one team's mascot, a seven-foot-tall dinosaur, had poked a spectator with his tail, distracting him just when a foul ball happened to be coming his way. That court held the dinosaur-poking was not an integral part of the game, and plaintiff argued that neither is hot-dog flinging. Plaintiff also contended that if the defendant was right, then Sluggerrr would be free to fire hot dogs out of an air cannon "directly at someone's ten-year-old daughter sitting in the first row."
Whether the court was concerned about Sluggerrr's future intentions toward the ten-year-olds of Kansas City or not, it agreed with the plaintiff. Even if the activity was customary, the court held, there was an issue of fact as to whether the lion acted negligently in carrying it out. The court did dismiss a claim for battery, finding no evidence that Sluggerrr had smacked Plaintiff in the face intentionally.
The case can now move toward trial, or, more likely, settlement.
Given that some people have been demanding warning labels on soft drinks on the theory that people don't know sugar can make you fat, I assume there will now be a similar call for warnings on energy drinks. Not about fatness, but rather because they might make you kill family members.
Those people would be able to cite the case of Stephen Coffeen, who confessed to killing his father in 2009, and is now asserting an insanity defense based at least in part on the argument that a "combination of Red Bull and exhaustion" led to a psychotic breakdown. Coffeen apparently acted very strangely when police arrived (not that he had been acting normally before that), so there is likely more to the plea than a claimed overconsumption of Red Bull. The drink is not mentioned at all in this report from Saturday's St. Petersburg Times, in fact. In this clip, however (apologies for the commercial they make you watch) Coffeen's attorneys seem to concede that Red Bull is in the mix, though not the whole story:
The state's experts reportedly agree that Coffeen was legally insane at the time of the crime (meaning, in Florida, that he didn't know what he was doing was criminal), though it seems doubtful that Red Bull has anything to do with their view. That view is still a little puzzling because, initially, Coffeen claimed self-defense, which is an odd thing to claim if you don't think you've done anything wrong. None of the reports I've seen mention any specific mental disorder Coffeen allegedly has. But because of the state's agreement, Coffeen is likely to be treated at a state mental hospital and then released.
Coffeen's brother Tom is not too keen on this, saying he would be afraid for his own safety if his brother were released. What does he think of the Red Bull factor? "It's crap," he said. "I don't think the man even drank Red Bull." It's possible, though, that he had a secret Red Bull habit. Addicts often keep these kinds of things a secret.
This is at least the third time a caffeine/exhaustion defense has been tried, and would be the second success. Defendants were 1-1 with it last year. An Idaho man escaped vehicular-assault charges partly because he argued lack of sleep and "two large coffees" caused him to run two people over. He did have a form of bipolar disorder as well, though. Later that year, a similar defense was floated in a Kentucky murder case, although ultimately that defendant did not argue the caffeine defense at trial. He may regret that now, since he was convicted by a jury that deliberated for just 90 minutes, and that probably included time to eat dinner.
Coffeen's fate (and possibly his brother's) will be decided at a hearing on February 17.
"An apparent dispute over cow milking methodology in Fort Pierce escalated into a foot chase with a machete, sending a 61-year-old man to jail, according to recently released records," begins this report from wptv.com in Florida.
As so often happens with cow-milking-methodology disputes, exactly what happened is unclear and depends on who's telling the story. They're like Rashomon that way.
According to the 36-year-old victim, he was talking with the older man "about cows and other farm animals" when the argument began. He told police that the man "disputed with him over whether or not he'd actually had any cow milking experience." The dispute escalated, and at some point out came the machete. The victim said he ran away, which is a good idea when the other guy has a machete and you don't, but before he escaped he sustained an apparently minor machete cut to the face.
According to the older man, he and his girlfriend were minding their own business in the backyard, when (quoting from the arrest affidavit) the younger man "came over and started disrespecting his girlfriend." The dispute escalated, the younger man grabbed his arm, and "in self defense he clawed [the younger man] across the face, scratching him with his nails." (I assume this was to explain the cut on the man's face, which is why I'm assuming it was minor.) He said "that's when the machete came out," but that he got the weapon only because the younger man is bigger than he is. He denied cutting the other man.
According to the girlfriend, the two men "were talking about farm animals and milking cows," so that detail matches, but then the stories diverge again. "She said [the older man] stated how the cows were milked by their udders and [the younger man] stated how they were milked by a machine." (You'd think they would have been able to find common ground here, but I guess not.) "She advised she basically ignored their conversation [understandably], but due to this discrepancy an argument broke out." She did not see the injury being inflicted, but said she had "deduced" that the cut had in fact come from the machete.
We may never know what actually happened, although the older man has been charged with aggravated battery.
This is what you might call "payback," although in California people tend to call it "karma."
A California man attending a cockfight in Tulare County died on January 30 after one of the birds stabbed him in the leg. The birds apparently are usually armed with some sort of razor or knife attached to their legs, and this one apparently knew how to use it.
Exactly how the man died is not yet clear - the coroner reported an accidental "sharp force injury" to the right calf, a wound that would not normally be fatal. Police said they were investigating whether a delay in seeking medical attention had contributed to the death.
According to the Humane Society, cockfighting is illegal in every state and a felony in 39 states. Just being a spectator is also illegal in most states, and it seems is also more dangerous than you might have assumed.
At first she seems to have thought it was a fight, and headed over to break it up or at least get a closer look. But "[w]hen I got closer to them I realised it was a robbery and then I was even more angry that they felt they could get away with what they were doing in broad daylight. . . .What concerned me was that too many people just stood around watching as if they were in shock and nobody was doing anything." She continued, "One of the gang shot off ... on a scooter and nearly hit a woman and baby in her buggy. I clobbered him with my shopping but he got away." But as you have probably seen, two of them were so spooked that they crashed their scooter and were nabbed, along with two others.
The heroine denies being a heroine and has asked not to be identified.
I'm glad somebody was filming this but I like to think that once I saw Mrs. Claus zooming in to take on six criminals by herself I would have put down the camera and tried to help. But I guess you never know until the moment arrives.
Alan Simpson, who was a senator from Wyoming and more recently a co-chair of the president's deficit commission (don't remember that? Neither does anybody in Washington) is renowned for his "colorful language." He reinforced that reputation recently by saying this on CNN:
We're going to get rid of all earmarks, all waste, fraud and abuse, all foreign aid, Air Force One, all congressional pensions . . . . That's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon. That's about six, eight, ten percent of where we are. So, I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, there's only one way to do this: you dig into the big four, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense. And anybody giving you anything different than that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie.
Give them the green weenie. I was unfamiliar with this term, and unlike "sparrow belch" the context didn't help much. Research reveals that it probably derives from "The Green Weenie," a feature of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games in the 1960s that was similar to the Steelers' "Terrible Towel" (although apparently more effective). It was invented by Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince. According to Wikipedia, "[t]he Green Weenie was a green plastic rattle in the shape of a hot dog, which when waved at opposing players, purportedly put a jinx on them. Conversely, when waved at Pirate players it allegedly bestowed good luck."
The Wikipedia article cites a 1966 Time magazine report on the operation of the Weenie:
When the Pirates played the Giants two weeks ago, Prince pointed a Weenie at Juan Marichal. Marichal won the game, 2-1, but next day he caught the third finger of his pitching hand in a car door and missed two scheduled turns on the mound. In Pittsburgh, the Pirates were trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 in the seventh inning when Prince's fellow announcer Don Hoak begged Bob to use the Weenie. "Not yet," said Prince. In the eighth inning, with Pittsburgh still behind by two runs, Prince finally waved the Weenie. The Pirates scored four runs and won the game 5-3. "Remember," said Prince to Hoak. "Never waste the power of the Green Weenie."
"Giving the Green Weenie" also appears in the Urban Dictionary, but its meaning there suggests that it has now morphed into something more obscene, or at least more explicitly obscene. I'm guessing that Simpson was thinking of the older definition. He did, though, recently refer to entitlement programs as "a cow with 310 million tits," so it's hard to be sure.
As I noted last year, the city of Cranston, Rhode Island, had a puzzler on its hands after it came to the city's attention that there were hundreds of unauthorized stop signs on its streets, installed by a person or persons unknown. At the time, the mayor said his staff was still researching what to do, but that the city would probably pass a special ordinance giving legal effect to most or all of the signs. According to a report today, it is likely to do just that.
The Providence Journal reports that a committee was to meet today (February 7) to consider proposed ordinances that would legalize 587 "undocumented stop signs" (a strange term that sounds like they think the signs are illegal immigrants) and seven "rogue yield signs" (a term I just made up). Twenty-one undocumented stop signs and two rogue yield signs installed by the state without local approval would reportedly be removed.
Can't touch this one, though
A similar ordinance was proposed last June, but the city council rejected it 5-4, with the majority saying it was not willing to authorize the signs in bulk without gathering further information. Three city workers were then assigned to drive around and look at 2,595 signs and checking each one against a map to determine which were the 1,903 that had been officially approved. The mayor's office presented its report in November. Assuming the three sign-checkers started this project in July and finished at the end of October, that's about seven signs per day per person. It's tempting to say that this is not a very impressive rate, but I imagine they were all going a little crazy by sign number two-thousand.
If the committee approves a plan today, the full city council will take it up on February 28.
A city official said they believed that the mystery signs had been put up by "housing developments over the years" that had not followed the right protocol to codify the signs. Translation: they have no idea. I prefer to think that they all just appeared one night, like crop circles, and so that's the explanation I'm going with.
"My wife stole [it] and took it to work with her. Appparently a big hit in the ER.... Highly recommended." —Keith Lee, author of The Associate's Mind and The Marble and the Sculptor
"[H]ysterically funny.... I was unable to make it through the Introduction without ...annoying all around me with my loud laughter.... Buy this book." —Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice
"As a writer, I get a lot of books. My husband usually [just] glances at them .... This one, he hasn't put down. I can't get it out of his hands. Every time I look over, he's reading and laughing.... [C]heck out this awesome book." —Allison Leotta, novelist and author of The Prime-Time Crime Review