Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder

George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, was charged today with second-degree murder. [Wapo] Previously.

14-y-o Florida girl buys foreclosed house with money from Craigslist furniture-selling hobby

NPR's Planet Money profiles Willow Tufano, a 14-year-old Florida girl who saved thousands of dollars by harvesting furniture from foreclosed houses and selling it on eBay. She's just bought half interest in a house that went for $100,000 at the peak of the bubble. Her mom owns the other half, and the house went for $12,000. They rent it out for $700 a month now. Chana Joffe-Walt writes,


One day, Willow's mom, Shannon, saw a two-bedroom, concrete-block home on auction for $12,000 — down from $100,000 at the peak of the bubble. Shannon was telling her husband about the house, when Willow piped up.

"I was like, 'What if I bought a house? That would be crazy,' " Willow says...

As I was working on this story, I kept thinking that when a 14-year-old kid can buy a house, the market must have hit bottom. I kept saying this to Willow, and she'd sort of vaguely nod.

But it's hard for Willow to see herself as symbolic of anything. To a 14-year-old kid in Florida, the housing collapse is basically the only world she's known. It's the landscape. It's a Craigslist hobby.

This 14-Year-Old Girl Just Bought A House In Florida (via MeFi)

(Image: Chana Joffe-Walt)

If you're on parole, don't steal a judge's office-door nameplate (If you do, don't pose with it on Facebook)

21-year-old Steven Mulhall cut a Spicolian caper when he stole the nameplate off a judge's courthouse office-door, then posed with it for a photo, which his romantic ladyfriend posted to Facebook. It was discovered by a law enforcement professional, who took the fellow into custody.

Adding to the stupidity quotient, Mulhall did this while already on parole for theft. "The nameplate is [worth] only $40, not that big of a crime, but what an idiot," said Sheriff Al Lamberti. "Here he is flaunting it on Facebook. He violated the terms of his parole by stealing, from a judge no less. He's got multiple convictions for petty theft, so now this is a felony." Lamberti said the plate would be "returned to the rightful owner," who, again, is a judge.

Note: Add "Judge's Nameplate" to List of Things Not to Steal

Journalist arrested covering Occupy Miami eviction recovers arrest-video deleted by police

Carlos Miller, an accredited photojournalist covering the Occupy Miami eviction, was arrested by Miami-Dade police, who deleted several videos from his camera before they returned it to him. Miller recovered some of the deleted files and has posted them to YouTube. They support his version of the events of that night, in which he was subject to arbitrary arrest. The deletion of a journalist's arrest-video seems a move calculated to obscure guilt on the part of the police.

So now the next step is taking my camera to a professional recovery service with a forensics specialists who will not only retrieve the entire deleted footage without interruptions, but would also determine the exact time the footage was deleted

That will determined that the footage was deleted while I was in custody and the camera was in their possession, leaving them no defense for blatantly violating my Constitutional rights.

I also plan on obtaining the footage recorded by the Miami police officer as well as the footage recorded by the television news cameraman.

And, of course, I plan on filing an internal affairs complaint against Perez as well as a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice for deleting my footage.

Here Is The Recovered Video Police Deleted Of My Arrest (via Ars Technica)

School board member flunks standardized test, speaks out against "no accountability" examinations

Rick Roach, a highly educated, multi-term member of Florida's District 3 school board, took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (a mandatory standarized test that largely determines a student's final educational certifications) and failed miserably. He's gone public with his conclusion that the test "has no accountability."

I'm sympathetic to his arguments on the reading sections -- students are questioned on an unfamiliar passage and are asked to pick the most correct answer from several largely correct answers, and receive no points for a partially correct response -- but less sympathetic to his reaction to the mathematics section. He argues that higher mathematics aren't "what kids need" in the "real world" and should not be on the test. I'd be happy to abolish the test altogether, but not higher mathematics instruction.

I struggled with higher math (flunked calculus twice before passing) but I'm glad it was part of my education. Mathematical literacy is critical to participating in a society where complex policy decisions from the "War on Terror" to questions of public health (such as vaccination) and other critical issues that directly effect the day-to-day lives of average people, and these policy decisions are often contested on the basis of warring mathematical conclusions.

“I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities....

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

Revealed: School board member who took standardized test (via Uncertain Principles)

We Robot conference: legal and policy issues related to robotics


Lee sez, "The next generation of robots will be in homes, offices and hospitals, not to mention driving cars, flying around as drones, and, yes, working as prison wardens. Robots will be programmed to learn, and will exhibit emergent behavior not necessarily contemplated by their designers. What happens when good robots do bad things? Who is responsible? And what ethical and legal constraints should be considered at the design stage so that the robotics industry does not become the next full employment opportunity for lawyers? What kinds of public policies should we put in place to encourage the smart deployment of robots, striking the right balance between encouraging innovation and safety? These are the kinds of questions to be examined at We Robot, "an inaugural conference on law and policy relating to robotics" at the University of Miami School of Law on April 21 & 22, 2012. The We Robot call for papers, and a parallel call for live-from-the-frontlines-of-design reports from robot-makers, is open for initial expressions of interest until Jan. 12, 2012.

Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include but are not limited to:

* Effect of robotics on the workplace, e.g. small businesses, hospitals, and other contexts where robots and humans work side-by-side.
* Regulatory and licensing issues raised by robots in the home, the office, in public spaces (e.g. roads), and in specialized environments such as hospitals.
* Design of legal rules that will strike the right balance between encouraging innovation and safety, particularly in the context of autonomous robots.
* Issues of legal or moral responsibility, e.g. relating to autonomous robots or robots capable of exhibiting emergent behavior.
* Issues relating to robotic prosthetics (e.g. access equity issues, liability for actions activated by conscious or unconscious mental commands).
* Relevant differences between virtual and physical robots.

We Robot 2012: Setting the Agenda (Thanks, Lee!)

Cupcakes made from Coke, Ruffles, Mountain Dew, Doritos, Cheerwine, and Nehi grape soda

Orlando's new 4River Sweetshop sports dessert-like semi-edible object made by combining iconic junkfood in unthinkable ways, such as "Coke and Ruffles cupcakes, Mountain Dew and Doritos cupcakes, Cheerwine cupcakes and, still in the works, Nehi grape soda cupcakes."

Rivers tells us that the baked goods will be available for online purchase – just in time for the holidays! But if you want to experiment with your own chips and soda cupcakes, Rivers shares a couple of tips.

* The key secret to using soda in cakes is to create a syrup out of it; boil it and reduce to about 25 to 30 percent, until it’s nice and thick – you can use that in place of some of other liquid in the batter recipe. You can also use it in the icing, but you only need a little bit; otherwise it will become runny.
* You can use potato chips in the batter and they will turn out fine when baked, but chips like Doritos should be reserved for a topping ,as they turn black when baked.

Coke and potato chips in cupcakes? Yes, and yum! (via Neatorama)

(Image: Thumbnail of "Coca Cola and potato chip cupcake from 4Rivers Smokehouse in Orlando, Florida." by Katie Quinn / TODAY.com)

Fake plastic surgeon "enhanced" patient's butt with tire-sealant injection


A Florida man woman called Oneal Ron Morris has been arrested for performing dangerous cosmetic surgeries of his her own devising, injecting his her "patient" with a cocktail of tire-sealant, cement, and glue to "enhance" the patient's bum. The victim has developed an MRSA infection and pneumonia.

Pictured here, Ms Morris (bold and strikethrough above represent corrections due to an early mistake with pronouns).

“They agreed on the price of $700 for the procedure, which was intended for cosmetic purposes,” Bamford said.

What the woman got for her money was a series of injections containing a bizarre concoction of cement, super glue, mineral oil and Fix-A-Flat tire inflator and sealant, police said.

Bamford said that the procedure was conducted not in a clinic, but in a residential setting in Miami Gardens, and that shortly after the substance was injected into the woman’s body she developed what Bamford termed “severe complications.”

Man Arrested for Boosting Butts With Cement, Fix-A-Flat

Florida Atheists' Xmas ad campaign


After years of hearing the Christian right complain about the nonexistent "War on Christmas," the Florida chapter of American Atheists have decided to finally essay a skirmish. They'll be placing bus-ads in Florida this season advertising the fact that millions of Floridians are atheists and inviting atheists to attend their Ft Lauderdale convention Dec 18-19. I'm assuming that religious fundamentalists will oblige them by going crazy and make a huge stink, which'll ensure that the news of the convention is spread far and wide.

"Every year groups like The Catholic League and American Family Association told Americans about a war on Christmas that simply did not exist," American Atheists Communications Director Blair Scott says in the announcement. "Last year we thought we would give them what they seemed to want and fired the first shot in the war on Christmas. To both groups we say, 'Happy Holidays!'"

Atheist Group's New Florida Billboards About to Piss Off a Whole Bunch of Jesus Fans

Rep Allen West pens "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery"


According to the Miami New Times, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) penned "the dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery" when he sent this one-word ("NUTS") letter to a local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR wrote to Rep West about his ties to radical anti-Islamic rabblerousers, arguing for their basic American constitutional right to be "afforded equal protection under law" and "to worship freely or participate in the governing of our society."

West has appeared on stage with Pamela Geller (cofounder of "Stop Islamization of America") and Brigitte Gabriel (who says she voices "what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racist, bigot, Islamophobic, or intolerant").

For my part, I suspect the competition for "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery" is probably stiffer than this. I wouldn't give even odds on "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery by a Florida congressman" or even "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery by a Florida congressman this century."

But it's pretty dumb.

‘NUTS!’ — Allen West’s Strange, One-Word Response To Being Called Out For Ties To Islamophobes