Good news, IllinoisansIllinoisiansIllinoisites people of Illinois - it may soon be legal to retrieve the carcasses of certain unfortunate mammals commonly referred to as "roadkill" and retain them for personal use (presumably eating or skinning). HB 3178, passed unanimously by the state Senate last week and sent to the governor, amends the Wildlife Code to permit this under certain conditions.
I realize things are tough out there, but still.
As you know, it is unlawful in Illinois to hunt gray fox, red fox, raccoon, weasel, mink, muskrat, badger, opossum, coyote, or striped skunk out of season; to "trap beaver with traps" except as permitted; to take bobcat or river otter at any time; or, of course, to pursue any fur-bearing mammal with a dog at night during the 10 days preceding or following raccoon season. The controversy, apparently, was whether it was legal to get these mammals if you didn't "hunt" them, but just found them dead by the side of the road. HB 3178 puts an end to that debate:
Nothing in this Section shall prohibit the taking or possessing of fur-bearing mammals found dead or unintentionally killed by a vehicle along a roadway ... provided [that] the person who possesses such fur-bearing mammals has all appropriate licenses, stamps, or permits; the season for  the species possessed is open; and that such possession and disposal of such fur-bearing mammals is otherwise subject to the provisions of this section.
Note that the killing must have been unintentional, so you can't go create your own roadkill.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Norine Hammond. According to one report, she got the idea from a constituent who "came to her with the idea to assist the state with both roadkill and financial issues." Hammond said that due to budget issues, the state no longer had the resources to take care of the problem, and so apparently the idea is to outsource roadkill cleanup to private citizens. The law, Hammond said, will "help clean up our state at no extra cost."
At this point the report notes without comment that the state's budget shortfall is approximately $2.4 billion.
It seems entirely possible, though, that higher medical expenses stemming from a roadkill-based diet could outweigh any savings. "Anytime you have an animal product that would be meat or something," one health official said, "you've got the hazard of potential food-borne illness." (Especially with the "something.") The report reminds "roadkill takers" to always cook meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, after first checking their prize for "visible signs of bacteria and bugs." It also provides a handy recipe for "Pan Braised Squirrels."
It appears that prosecutors in Pinellas County, Florida, may have changed their minds about accepting the Red Bull defense being asserted by Stephen Coffeen. As you may recall, Coffeen is the gentleman claiming that a combination of sleep deprivation and Red Bull caused him to kill his father in December 2009. Actually, he first claimed the killing was in self-defense (his father was 83), but later changed that plea to one of Red-Bull-induced temporary insanity.
Because the facts seemed so bizarre, I wondered if there was more to this story, especially because the state reportedly had decided to accept the insanity plea. That would have sent Coffeen to a hospital instead of jail and possibly have him back on the street in months. In the one case I'm aware of in which a similar defense was accepted (yes, there is one), the defendant turned out to have a form of bipolar disorder, which at least brings the argument within sight of the realm of plausibility, if not actually in that realm.
But it turned out that the doctor who testified in Coffeen's support at a bond hearing admitted that, as far as he knew, there was no underlying mental disorder. That is, he really did testify that exhaustion plus Red Bull alone had caused the defendant to go temporarily nuts and kill his dad. Good news, though -- he also said that Coffeen is okay now because he's been able to get some rest in jail, and that as long as he gets enough sleep in the future, he'll be fine. That apparently was good enough for prosecutors.
It did not make Coffeen's brother Tom too comfortable, though. Not looking forward to a life of having to make sure his brother gets plenty of rest, Tom Coffeen has been arguing that the Red Bull defense is "crap" and demanding that the state reconsider. According to this news report, it has now decided to do that:
According to the report, the judge (who Coffeen wrote last week, asking for her help) will still have to approve the further examination. Seems like getting a second opinion on the Red Bull defense is not a bad idea.
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.
Those who hate fun scored a victory on Tuesday, and not just those in the Republican Party. Way at the other end of the political spectrum, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to ban the inclusion of toys in Happy Meals and similar offerings unless the meals are constructed to the liking of those eight supervisors. Meals must be low in things that are Bad and must also contain a specified amount of fruit and vegetables before the dastardly child-attracting toy device may be employed.
According to the report, one of the supervisors who voted for the measure said that the "powerful lure" of such toys and related advertising campaigns "puts parents who may want to steer their children toward healthier food choices at fast-food restaurants at a distinct disadvantage." So even though parents may know better, they must bow to the will of the child, who is in turn compelled by the toy. What are they putting in these Happy Meals, the Rings of the Nazgul?
One Toy to rule them all, One Toy to find them One Toy to bring them all and to McDonald's bind them
Unsurprisingly, a McDonald's franchisee said he was very disappointed with the legislation. Actually, he said "[i]t would be an understatement to say how disappointed I am with the legislation," which I guess means his disappointment is infinite because he could never successfully state how disappointed he actually is. This caused him to overreach a little, I think, when he argued that the ban would cause consumers to "cross the San Francisco border for a traditional Happy Meal experience." I wouldn't worry too much about that -- marijuana is still illegal here but it seems to be getting into the county somehow.
Complaining that fast-food chains put so much effort into marketing burgers, Supervisor Bevan Dufty said the vote was meant to encourage them to diversify. "I think we can take [sic] a bold move here," he said, "and say, you know what, you really need to think about the fact that you can market whole-wheat products, you can market carrots." He appeared to be entirely serious when saying this. "If you have to put a Shrek doll with a package of carrots," he continued, "maybe that's what you have to do."
I have a feeling that if you put a Shrek doll with a package of carrots, you would have some kids with Shrek dolls and a lot of carrots thrown out in the street. But I might be underestimating the power of The Precious.
Via the Law360 service I learned that a judge in Brazil has ordered McDonald's to pay a former manager $17,500 based on his allegations that he gained 65 pounds during his years with the company, due to such dastardly corporate practices as offering employees free lunches.
In addition to forcing this free food down his gullet, the company also went so far as to hire inspectors who would show up randomly and send back reports on food, cleanliness and service. As a result of these invasions by what he called "mystery clients," the man alleged he was effectively required to sample his restaurant's food every day to make sure it was up to par, also adding to his girth.
According to the reports, McDonald's has not yet decided whether it will appeal.
In news that is possibly more shocking since it suggests the U.S. legal system is not entirely broken, this week a federal judge in New York denied class certification in the Pelman case, which has been around since 2002 and in which the plaintiffs allege that McDonald's misled them into thinking they could eat burgers and so forth every day without any adverse health effects. (Full disclosure: I represent defendants, although not McDonald's, in some vaguely similar cases.) But in the Pelman case, at least, the plaintiffs were fat children, not fat adult McDonald's managers complaining about free lunches.
The Whole Foods grocery chain has reportedly begun putting warning labels on some of the seafood it sells suggesting that customers may not want to buy it. Not because there is any risk to consumers, apparently, but because that species may be "overfished" and being depleted in the environment. Green means "abundant," yellow means "may be overfished" or not fished sustainably, and red ("AVOID") means "is definitely suffering" for those same reasons.
Yes, Whole Foods did offer an explanation for why it is still selling the seafood it urges you to avoid.
"The reason why we're continuing to carry these species," said a man described as the "Whole Foods Seafood Supervisor," is that "we want to give [our] vendor-partners an opportunity to make changes to their operations." He didn't explain why Whole Foods didn't just tell them it was not going to buy the semi-endangered species anymore until they got their act together (the vendor-partners, not the fish).
Let's all shed a tear, shall we, for Terry Nichols, who is not only serving a life sentence for conspiracy and manslaughter in the Oklahoma City bombing but is also subjected to a diet unconstitutionally low in fiber.
That's what Nichols argued, at least, in a lawsuit he filed last year alleging that the food at his current residence in Florence, Colorado, is so bad that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and, in an interesting twist, violates his right to free exercise of religion. Nichols apparently contended that he was entitled under the First and Eighth Amendments to a diet rich in whole grains, fiber, and raw fruits and vegetables. According to the report, the free-exercise claim argued that the unhealthy food had forced Nichols to violate his own religious beliefs by "causing him to sin." I haven't seen the complaint yet, but if this was some version of "my body is a temple" then Terry should be even more ashamed of himself, if that is possible.
Did we save any of the rubble? Maybe he can eat that.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello dismissed Nichols' claims on Monday, probably without losing any sleep over the result. It's too bad, in a way, because this lawsuit would have established a couple more constitutional rights that we could then take for granted, but I guess we will have to keep not paying attention to the ones we sort of still have.
I am fairly sure that a number of cases have already (and unsuccessfully) raised a similar issue with regard to "nutraloaf," which I understand to be a nutritious but thoroughly unappetizing concoction (described here as "a witches' brew of nutritious semi-digestibles") that some prisoners are served, created by just throwing a bunch of stuff together and baking it into a "loaf." That sure sounds nasty, and I don't know how much fiber it contains, but as long as it is edible and sustains life it doesn't seem "cruel and unusual." (At least one court has ruled that serving it constitutes "punishment," though, and indeed that is often the purpose.)
Hey, if you would prefer to have your events catered by Wolfgang Puck, don't help somebody blow up a building.
According to the Wichita Eagle, a man who was treated at a local hospital for an injury to the back of his head was found to have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.57. That is seven times the legal limit for driving, and is also significantly above the normal limit for staying alive, generally said to be about 0.40.
The man needed eight staples to close a gash on the back of his head. He accused his girlfriend of hitting him in the head, but the report said police had no evidence of that (other than the gash). She said she had heard a "loud thump" and found him lying on the floor, and in the apparent absence of any motive for whacking him, plus the ginormous BAC, police apparently believed it more likely he had just fallen over.
If you are wondering whether that is the highest BAC ever recorded, the answer is no.
According to The Smoking Gun, in late 2007 an Oregon woman was measured at 0.72 after police found her unconscious in her car, which she had driven into a snowbank about 50 feet ahead of a sign reading "Don't Drink and Drive." That beat the previous U.S. record, set in October of 2003 by an Indiana man who was measured at 0.69 when police found him sitting in the passenger seat of a car that itself was sitting in a ditch. He does not appear to have been driving, at least, although the driver (who was found stumbling around in the woods) was also very drunk.
Internationally, as I wrote a while back, news reports in 2005 said that a Bulgarian man had "astounded doctors" by remaining conscious and talking although they had measured his BAC at 0.914. The source for that was a CBC report quoting the Sofia News Agency, so it might or might not be reliable - although it is hard to see why the Bulgarians would make that up, unless they just wanted to be the best in the world at something for once.
Sadly, even that may fall short of the record. A 1984 article in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine reported that a patient had survived an "unprecedented" BAC of 1.50. I did not pay to get that article out of their archives, but the study is referred to in this 1999 article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs and the abstract (or the report itself) is available here. (It doesn't say whether or not this guy was Bulgarian.) If you are thinking of trying for the record, please consider that the man's life was only saved by "intravenously administered fructose," which doesn't sound so bad, and "peritoneal dialysis," which does.
In a lawsuit filed in New York on April 26, Gary Null alleges that he became severely ill after eating a dietary supplement that
caused him to develop a number of painful symptoms. In fact, Gary Null
alleges, "Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal" almost killed Gary
Gary Null is a "nutrition guru" who has been highly critical of the medical establishment and is an advocate of "alternative medicine and natural healing." He is skeptical about things like vaccines and has consistently argued that HIV does not cause AIDS. He has a Ph.D., which he got through a correspondence course. Also, he writes many books and sells lots and lots of other interesting things, including dietary supplements. One of which almost killed him.
To be fair, he is not suing himself, which
unfortunately means I can't add him to my small but growing list of people who
have actually done that. He claims a contractor that mixes the
powdered supplement for him did not follow the right recipe. Still,
although the product itself may not be deadly, the fact that a batch of it
almost killed its inventor does not speak volumes for Gary Null's ultimate
Or for his alternative-medicine ideas. Apparently, he did not go to an actual medical doctor for as long as a month after he began
to have symptoms (it's not clear how long he had been eating the stuff). These symptoms included "excruciating fatigue along with bodily
pain" -- which I think should really be "excruciating pain and bodily
fatigue," but I'll let that slide; he's been through a lot -- as well as
cracked and bleeding feet. "[Gary] Null had to be in bed with his
feet elevated," the complaint alleges, "because it was so painful he
did not have the strength to walk," but rather than try to get to a doctor
he kept eating Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal, evidently thinking that it would
cure him. It did not.
When he finally did seek professional help, he learned that
his batch of Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal contained way more
Vitamin D than it was supposed to, and so did Gary Null. Instead of
taking 2,000 IU of Vitamin D per day (the recommended upper limit), he had been
wolfing down about two million. It is actually very difficult to overdose on Vitamin D, but two million IU a day is a good start.
The complaint alleges that when Gary Null found out what the
problem was, he then "sequestered himself and fasted, only consuming massive
amounts of water, as he was told that there was no medical treatment to lower
the amount of Vitamin D in his system." That sounds a little like
Gary Null is trying to take credit for saving his own life with his new program,
Gary Null's Staying Home and Drinking a Huge Amount of Water Plan, rather than just following sensible medical advice to eat no more of his tainted product and let Gary Null's
kidneys get rid of the stuff.
The bad batch of Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal has
apparently been recalled, but please do some checking if you are eating any of
this and your feet begin to bleed. A number of consumers have reported
similar problems, and so there might be more
lawsuits in Gary Null's future.
Qi (energy) belt is designed to facilitate the use of
magnets in the area of the prostate, colon, ovaries, uterus and reproductive
organs (groin). Remove magnets before washing.
One size fits all.
I guess that doesn't technically claim that the magnets will actually do anything
for your reproductive organs (which, in case you've been wondering about this, are
located in the groin area). But if you decide you want to magnetize them, then Gary Null is ready to sell you the magnetic underpants to do it.
"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