October 28, 2004

LinkNews Digest [10/29/2004]

Florida Absentee Ballots Already Missing

Tens of thousands of postal ballots have gone missing in the US state of Florida, sparking fresh concern over irregularities in the poll campaign.

Some 60,000 absentee ballots were despatched by authorities in Broward County, north of Miami, this month. However, only 2,000 of them have been delivered.

Electoral officials have been overwhelmed by calls from anxious would-be voters who are not going to be able to get to the polls next Tuesday and fear that their votes have been stolen.

The missing ballots have fuelled an atmosphere of intense suspicion in Florida, with Democrats already backing nine separate law suits in the state, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

If the outcome is close and decides the result in the presidential race - and both of those eventualities are perfectly possible - it seems virtually certain that protracted legal battles will follow, our correspondent says.

A police investigation into the missing ballots has not uncovered any indication of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the US postal service inspectorate said it was highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail had just disappeared. A spokesman said inspectors were trying to establish whether the ballots were ever delivered to the postal service.

Broward County election official Gisela Salas said the situation was "something beyond our control". "We really have no idea what's going on," she told the Associated Press news agency.
Link (BBC)

"And coming in at #10, it's Nokia with "Ring Ring!"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Those synthesized tunes that send people grabbing for their cell phones and annoy patrons in restaurants and theaters have been recognized as part of the music industry by Billboard Magazine.

The weekly entertainment industry publication, which tracks top record and CD sales, said it was launching a new chart that will track the popularity of cell phone ringtones, as they are called.

The new chart, known as the Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart, will reflect the "Top 20" polyphonic ringtone sales for each week, including song title, artist, previous week's position and number of weeks on the chart.

The ringtone market has exploded in recent years, with global revenues estimated to have topped $3.5 billion in 2003, according to industry estimates.
Link (Yahoo)

Making A Better "Mr. Bigglesworth"

(CNN) -- A California biotechnology company has started taking orders for a hypoallergenic cat for pet lovers prone to allergies.

Cat allergies are caused by a potent protein secreted by the cat's skin and salivary glands. The allergen is so small it can remain airborne for months.

Using "gene silencing" technology, Allerca is able to suppress the production of the protein.

Allerca expects the first kittens to be born in early 2007 and is already accepting $250 deposits from interested customers.

They don't expect to have any problems with federal regulators after neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration objected to the creation of a genetically-engineered pet fish because it wasn't meant for human consumption.
Link (CNN)

Homeland Security Repeals Ban on Jungle Cruise Skippers' Sidearms

Disneyland's Jungle Cruise skippers have long been the bull-goose studs of the park: Walt's favorites, these castmembers got to fire actual blanks from a real pistol at a (fake) hippo and tell bad jokes about it. Sure, from time to time one would drop his gun in the drink and they'd have to get the frogmen to dredge the firearm back up before they could restart the ride, but damn, it was worth it just to have a real pistol in the hands of a 17-year-old with a bad sense of humor. Then they took the guns away -- shooting at hippos was deemed inappropriate. Now, Disney's embarked on a quest to get back to its roots now, and they're giving the Jungle Boat skippers their guns back.

Giving the Jungle Cruise skippers their guns back is what seems to have delighted visitors the most, however. "At least once a week somebody would get off the boat and say, `Hey, what happened to the guns?'" said Ribble's daughter, Sherri, one of the ride's operators.

Now, she says, people burst into applause when she opens fire
Link (via BoingBoing)

Guardian Pines for American Political Assassin, Apologizes

LONDON - A British newspaper apologized Monday for a weekend article in which a writer appeared to call for the assassination of President Bush.

In a regular column in The Guardian newspaper's Saturday TV listings magazine, Charlie Brooker described Bush in scathing terms, and concluded: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., where are you now that we need you?"

Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Oswald killed President Kennedy and Hinckley wounded President Reagan.

The Guardian's apology described Brooker's comments as "flippant and tasteless" but said they were "intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action — an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand."

It was the second time this month the newspaper was embroiled in a trans-Atlantic political controversy. Previously, it invited readers to write letters to unaffiliated voters in Clark County, Ohio, a swing state, about the importance of the Nov. 2 election. Clark County contains the city of Springfield.

The newspaper's Web site said letter-writers were free to support either Bush or Sen. John Kerry but noted that a Guardian poll showed 47 percent of Britons backed Kerry and 16 percent supported Bush.

After being overwhelmed by responses, most of them hostile, the newspaper ended the campaign after their Web site was broken into by hackers.

Squatter Invades, Redecorates Owner's House

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- A woman came home from vacation to find a stranger living there, wearing her clothes, changing utilities into her name and even ripping out carpet and repainting a room she didn't like, authorities said.

Douglas County authorities say they can't explain why Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into an empty home and started acting like it was her own.

During the 21/2/ weeks the owner, Beverly Mitchell, was on vacation in Greece, Valentine allegedly redecorated the ranch home, ripping up carpet and taking down the owner's pictures and replacing them with her own.

Mitchell was a complete unknown to Valentine, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Stan Copeland. He said he had no idea how Valentine knew Mitchell was gone.

``In 28 years, I've never seen something this strange,'' Copeland said.

British Navy approves Satanist

Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland, based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board the vessel. According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cranmer realised he was a Satanist nine years ago. Mr Cranmer said that was when he stumbled across a copy of the Satanic Bible, written by Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.

He said: "I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist, just simply never knew."

Mr Cranmer, who is from Edinburgh, is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the armed forces.

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