Friday, December 23, 2005

Obsessed Letterman fan convinces judge star stalking her
AN INFATUATED woman who claims that America's best-known chat show host sent her coded love messages through her TV set has won a temporary restraining order against him.

In an extraordinary move that will alarm other celebrities seeking protection from obsessed fans, a judge in New Mexico ordered multi-millionaire TV star David Letterman to keep away from Colleen Nestler - a decision his lawyers described as ludicrous

Mr Letterman, she claims, announced his intention to marry her by using "code words, eye gestures and facial expressions" on his late-night show, and also planned to train her to be his co-host. She said that his "mental cruelty" had prevented her from sleeping properly for more than a decade.

Mr Letterman's legal team, meanwhile, has filed a motion to quash the order, arguing that it is completely without merit and "constitutes an unfortunate abuse of the judicial process".

"It's obviously absurd and frivolous," said Jim Jackoway, Mr Letterman's Los Angeles-based attorney and long-time friend. In their motion, Mr Letterman's lawyers in Santa Fe have requested that District Judge Daniel Sanchez reverse his decision to grant the temporary restraining order ahead of a full hearing on 12 January.

"Celebrities deserve protection of their reputation and legal rights when the occasional fan becomes dangerous or deluded," wrote Albuquerque lawyer Pat Rogers.

He argued that the court had no jurisdiction over Mr Letterman and that his client had never been served with papers.

Ms Nestler said she had no comment over her demand for a permanent order other than "I pray to God I get it".

In a six-page application, she claims that she began sending Mr Letterman "thoughts of love" soon after he became host of The Late Show in 1993 and that he responded in code words and gestures.

A marriage proposal to her, she said, was contained in a subsequent trailer for the show in which he jokingly asked US talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey to marry him.

Her application requested that Mr Letterman stay at least three yards away from her, to "not think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering".

Ms Nestler is the latest thorn in the side that the talk show host has had to contend with.

In 1998, schizophrenic Margaret Ray, who spent two years in prison and a mental institution for breaking into Mr Letterman's home and driving his Porsche, committed suicide by kneeling in front of a train. Earlier this year, police foiled a plot to snatch the star's 16-month old son Harry from his Montana ranch and hold him for a $5 million [£2.9 million] ransom.

This article:

Last updated: 23-Dec-05 00:26 GMT

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sex clubs legal, top court rules
The Supreme Court rewrote the definition of indecency today and in the process legalized swingers clubs complete with orgies, partner swapping and voyeurs.
Consenting adults cavorting behind closed doors in twosomes, threesomes and moresomes while like-minded people look on are not committing indecent acts, the court said in a major ruling which cast some clarity into a murky area of the law.

In its 7-2 decision, the court redefined indecency to use harm, rather than community standards, as the key yardstick.

Sex club operators welcomed the news.

“It cements the position of the government by staying out of the bedrooms of Canadians,” said Shlomo Ben Zion, owner of the Wicked Club in downtown Toronto.

Montreal club owner Denis Chesnel said the ruling shows the court’s evolution.

The judges recognize that “people can exercise their fundamental rights to have sexual relations with partners of their choice,” he said.

Others disagreed strongly.

“I think it is beyond what most Canadians would find tolerable,” said Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. “This kind of thing offends Canadian standards of decency.”

She said the decision is likely to lead to changes in the way strip clubs operate and legitimize gay bathhouses.

The ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, said acts must be shown to be harmful to the point where they “interfere with the proper functioning of society” before they can be labelled indecent.

“Grounding criminal indecency in harm represents an important advance in this difficult area of law.”

Public sex would meet the test of indecency, but orgies and partner swapping among adults in private don’t, McLachlin wrote.

In a sharply worded dissent, Justices Michel Bastarache and Louis LeBel said the majority decision goes too far.

“It constitutes an unwarranted break with the most important principles of our past decisions regarding indecency,” the dissenters wrote.

Joel Bakan, a University of British Columbia law professor, said the court is taking a very liberal approach to the issue.

“It’s saying that if an activity is actually causing harm . . . then it should be and can be stopped,” he said.

“If it’s simply a question of moral taste, a question of sort of subjective views of what people like to do with their life, basically people are free to do what they want as long as they’re not causing harm to others.”

The ruling dealt with two Montreal cases in which swingers club operators were charged with keeping a bawdy house under similar circumstances.

James Kouri and Jean-Paul Labaye were both convicted, but the unsettled state of the law was demonstrated clearly when separate Court of Appeal rulings upheld Labaye’s conviction and overturned Kouri’s.

The high court threw out Labaye’s conviction and affirmed the Kouri decision.

Writing on Labaye, McLachlin noted:

“Entry to the club and participation in the activities were voluntary. No one was forced to do anything or watch anything. No one was paid for sex.”

Defining indecency has always been difficult, and judges have wrestled over the issue for a century and more, McLachlin wrote.

“Over time, courts increasingly came to recognize that morals and taste were subjective, arbitrary and unworkable in the criminal context and that a diverse society would function only with a generous measure of tolerance for minority mores and practices.”

The courts have gradually moved from subjective considerations to objective standards, focused on the harm caused by the acts.

“The threshold is high,” McLachlin wrote. “It proclaims that, as members of a diverse society, we must be prepared to tolerate conduct of which we disapprove, short of conduct that can be objectively shown beyond a reasonable doubt to interfere with the proper functioning of society.”

Bad taste, violation of religious or moral standards or even public disgust aren’t by themselves enough to make something indecent.

Conduct that confronts the public, which predisposes others to anti-social behaviour or actually harms those taking part, would meet the test, McLachlin wrote.

The sex acts cited in the Kouri and Labaye cases didn’t come close to being harmful enough to be criminal.

The dissent said the key question should be whether the conduct in question offends “the standard of tolerance of the contemporary Canadian community.”

Bastarache and LeBel wrote that harm should not be the main ingredient in determining indecency.

“We are convinced that this new approach strips of all relevance the social values that the Canadian community as a whole believes should be protected.”

Ben Zion, who claims a 13,000-strong membership list for his club, says it is Ontario’s only on-premises swingers operation. Another four or five Ontario clubs move their get-togethers among hotels and private homes, he said.

He estimated there might be 20 to 30 swingers clubs in Canada.

Ben Zion said he’s glad that the law has been clarified.

“It was always a kind of grey area,” he said. “Even the police didn’t know how to react to this kind of environment, although we never had any problems.”

He said he plans to expand and hopes to entice more Americans north to frolic.

“People from the states, with all the restrictions that they have now, will have more reason to come here.”

Americans back Bush on wiretapping, Cheney insists

GEORGE BUSH'S decision to bypass court review and authorise domestic wiretapping by executive order is part of an effort to rebuild presidential powers weakened in the 1970s as a result of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney said.

Mr Cheney, who cut short a trip that included the Middle East and Pakistan, said threats facing the country require that the President's authority under the constitution be "unimpaired".

"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam … served to erode the authority I think the President needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Mr Cheney said on Tuesday as he flew back to Washington to support Mr Bush.

His remarks came after US District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, resigned in protest at Mr Bush's secret authorisation of the domestic spying program, sources told The Washington Post. Judge Robertson sent a letter to the Chief Justice, John Roberts, on Monday notifying him of his resignation.

Associates said Judge Robertson had privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program was legally questionable and may have tainted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's work.

Mr Cheney, however, dismissed the idea that Americans were concerned about a potential abuse of power, saying that any backlash was likely to punish the President's critics, not Mr Bush.

"The President and I believe very deeply that there is a hell of a threat," Mr Cheney said, calculating that "the vast majority" of Americans support the Administration's surveillance policies. "And so if there's a backlash pending, I think the backlash is going to be against those who are suggesting somehow we shouldn't take these steps in order to defend the country."

On Capitol Hill, calls for a congressional investigation escalated, with a group of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee asking to join hearings already scheduled by the Senate judiciary committee.

Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, said she had written to several constitutional scholars to ask whether Mr Bush committed an impeachable offence by ordering the National Security Agency in 2002 to engage in warrantless surveillance within the US.

■ Osama bin Laden may no longer be able to run al-Qaeda and has not been heard from for nearly a year, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said yesterday.

Mr Rumsfeld, who was visiting Pakistan a day after Mr Cheney's trip, said: "I think it is interesting that we haven't heard from [bin Laden] for close to a year.

"I don't know what it means, but I suspect … if he is alive and functioning, that he is spending a major fraction of his time trying to avoid being caught."

Los Angeles Times,The Washington Post, Reuters

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bu$h Defends Requirement for Court Order for Wire Taps

President Bush: Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

DeLay files for re-election to 12th term

AP: "Democrats predicted his legal problems and declining popularity will take their toll.
'At a time when more than half the people in his district believe he has done something illegal and does not deserve to be sent back to Congress, Tom DeLay, the kingpin of the culture of corruption in Washington, D.C., is asking Texas families today to forget the indictment, forget the corruption, and send him back to Washington for another two years,' said Sarah Feinberg, press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
This weekend a judge ruled that additional hearings in the case couldn't be set until after an appeals court ruling, dampening DeLay's hopes of quickly regaining his House leadership post.
DeLay wants to proceed to trial on one count while others are being appealed, before his GOP colleagues call for new leadership elections when Congress reconvenes in January.
DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader in September after his indictment on charges of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. A second grand jury indicted him on charges of conspiracy to launder money and money laundering charges.
DeLay and two associates are accused of funneling $190,000 in corporate contributions through a political committee and an arm of the National Republican Committee to seven GOP legislative candidates. Earle contends they tried to circumvent Texas' law barring spending corporate money on most campaign expenses.
DeLay won't go to trial until appeals are resolved, a process that typically takes at least five months.
Prosecutors have appealed a judge's partial dismissal of criminal charges, and DeLay's attorneys have asked the 3rd Court of Appeals to condense their normal procedure and shorten filing periods."

Bipartisan group of senators to oppose Patriot Act revision

The Raw Story: "A bipartisan group of senators -- including three Republicans -- have said they will not support a deal between House and Senate negotiators on extension of the Patriot Act, RAW STORY has learned.
The agreement will keep in place controversial provisions such as the ability of U.S. officials to pry into Americans' library records and to authorize 'roving wiretaps.' The Senate version of the bill had been less aggressive.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) says he will filibuster the new agreement. The six senators opposing the conference report are: Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)."

A stockingful of Scottish Christmas traditions Heritage & Culture - Culture & Traditions
The Grinch hated Christmas!
The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
- "How the Grinch stole Christmas" by Dr Seuss

SCOTTISH Christmas traditions are – to say the least – a little on the patchy side. There are some great pagan ideas, first-rate medieval treats, but then there is a huge yawning chasm, a Christmas-free zone until the middle of the 20th century until it all came back into fashion.

The reason for this dearth of Christmas cheer is that Scotland in the mid-16th century had its very own Grinch. Yes, just like the character in Dr Seuss's book who stole Christmas, John Knox and the newly reformed Church of Scotland cancelled the festive season. They forbade anyone to celebrate this erstwhile season of goodwill, hounded those who broke the embargo and cast a gloomy December shadow that stretched down through the centuries.

But we canny Scots, unwilling to forego a good party, simply moved the traditions a week along. From this came the Scottish emphasis on Hogmanay. Christmas was not recognised as a public holiday in Scotland until 1958 and up until then people continued to work, saving their fun until New Year's Eve. So simply put, if you want a traditional Scottish Christmas then get up as usual, go into work as normal, return home to a bowl of soup and an early night!

But that wouldn't be much fun. So we've trawled the distant past to find out what Scots would have been doing long, long ago, to give you some tips on how to celebrate a guid Scottish Christmas.

Pagans believed that so long as the mistletoe held its berries it symbolised fertility.
A Pagan Christmas
Back in the days of yore, when druids and pagans inhabited this bonny land the festival they celebrated at this time of year marked the winter solstice. This is the longest night of the year and signifies the depth of winter. We don't know exactly what our ancestors believed, but it is reasonable to think that this festival was held to propitiate the Gods and ask for a return of the sun.

To help in this they took greenery into the house, as a symbol of life in the deep dark nights. Mistletoe, revered by the druids for its fertility properties, was cut from the sacred oak tree. It isn't hard to extrapolate from this our own habit of kissing under the branches.

To banish the dark, the pagans brought fire into the house. At some point this time of year became known as Yule and during the festival a Yule log was gathered. Unlike our chocolate confection, this log was specially chosen and lit using tinder from the old fire. Charred remains of this fire would be used to protect the house throughout the year. Popular woods for this log included holly, oak, willow or birch.

It is the pagans too who have been credited with the early tradition of decorating a tree. It is thought that they hung shapes from an evergreen brought into the house to symbolise life.

The Celts knew Christmas as Nollaig Beag – Little Christmas. By now, the celebrations were firmly embedded in the birth of Christ, yet the pagan traditions can clearly be seen incorporated into the season. They burned the Cailleach – a log with the face of an old woman carved into it that was supposed to take away any lingering bad luck.

The Celts also lit candles at Christmastime to light the way for any strangers. In Scotland the custom was known as Oidche Choinnle, or Night of Candles, and these were placed in windows to guide the Holy Family on their way.

If you want to learn more about Edinburgh's medieval celebrations you could take a trip down The Real Mary King's Close on the High Street.
By now Christmas represented a real hodgepodge of ancient and Christian practices. Chief amongst the traditions was the preparation of mincemeat pies. Anyone anticipating today's fruit and spice pastry would be in for a shock, as then the mince pie contained meat, fruit, spices, indeed anything that came to hand. This would be baked up in a huge wheel to feed neighbours and visitors.

By 1583 the Scot's Church forbade bakers from preparing these pies. Anyone found baking them would be punished, or as more often happened, encouraged to inform on the customers who ordered them. In order to fox the Church, mincemeat pies became smaller and easier to hide.

It was not just Scotland that banned Christmas. England too suffered endless Decembers bereft of celebration. But whilst Scotland rigorously maintained its bah-humbug attitude, England allowed the celebrations to creep back in sooner.

Christmas as we begin to recognise it today really came from the Victorians when Prince Albert, the German consort, imported many rituals from Germany into the celebrations.

But it would be no hardship to replace some of these latter-day European customs with some more ancient ones from our own country. Remember as you prepare your shortbread round, that this signifies the old Sun Cakes that represented the sun's rays shining out. As you bite into your mincemeat pies imagine the twitching noses of the church workers as they attempted to sniff out bakers cooking up this treat.

Gather mistletoe and marvel at its midwinter beauty; whittle your granny's face onto a Yuletide log. And remember that from as far back as anyone can remember Yuletide, Christmas or whatever you choose to call it, has been about family, friends and giving thanks together.

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