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Dog jerky could kill your dog

14 Mar

This bag of Waggin' Train jerky treats is cute and all, but it also could be deadly to your dog.

Nothing’s official, so don’t freak out too much about this, but a few brands of dog jerky could actually kill your dog.

The FDA is investigating complaints collected from pet owners and veterinarians that call out at least three Chinese-made brands of jerky treats in reference to mysterious illnesses in at least 600 dogs, including many deaths, according to documents obtained through an msnbc.com public records request.

The brands are Waggin’ Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. The FDA is no stranger to dog jerky warnings. The department has warned the public three times since 2007, most recently this past November. But now, there is a brand name attached to those warnings.

In response, Nestle Purina and Del Monte officials have said their treats are safe. They even claimed that repeated FDA tests have shown no tie to any brand or manufacturer. But the FDA is still looking for a link. A spokeswoman for the department said they are still taking complaints and samples from owners and veterinarians to hopefully find some kind of link.

Owners are already convinced. There are already three different petitions circulating that demand recalls of jerky treats made in China. One that started in December has more than 3,400 signatures from around the world.

U.S. lawmakers have also jumped on the bandwagon, as some are pressing the FDA to release the results of their tests on the jerky. But until the FDA finds some kind of definitive link to the illnesses, the jerky treats will still be on shelves.

[via MSNBC]

Human Rights Campaign targets Frank VanderSloot

9 Mar

The Human Rights Campaign is looking to pressure Mitt Romney into firing Frank VanderSloot, who they accuse of being severely anti-gay. (Photo from the Human Rights Campaign)

Idaho’s own Frank VanderSloot is Mitt Romney’s National Finance Chair, and has allegedly bullied some news organizations into not saying anything bad about him. Long story short, a lot of people don’t like him.

Now, he has another enemy in the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group that fights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. The HRC has launched a new campaign called Fire Frank, that aims to do just what it says.

The campaign calls VanderSloot “one of the most ruthlessly anti-gay businessmen in the nation.” Ouch. So where did this accusation come from? From the HRC:

VanderSloot helped bankroll the Prop 8 campaign, and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBT causes. He spearheaded a heinous billboard campaign against Idaho Public Television for airing content that “promote[s] the homosexual lifestyle.”

VanderSloot even outed a reporter who covered a scandal in the local Boy Scouts troop proving his ruthless tactics have no boundaries.

Double Ouch. That reporter they’re referring to is supposedly an Idaho Falls reporter that alleged VanderSloot tried to out him. For his part, the controversial businessman responded to these anti-gay claims saying “It was public knowledge that [he] was gay,” and “I have many gay friends who I love and respect.”

The Prop 8 claim stems from his wife’s $100,000 donation to California’s Prop 8 campaign, and the use of his of company’s call center to call California voters in support of the measure.

But the VanderSloot drama really flared up when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow challenged his record in a long rant. It looks like the attention caught the eye of the HRC, and their Fire Frank campaign is likely to gain traction.

The idea behind the campaign is to send messages to Mitt Romney to pressure him into firing VanderSloot. People fill out a form on the website which will then be sent to the Republican presidential candidate. Just looking at the number of cars around town with HRC stickers, I’m guessing this might be popular.

Simplot’s two-headed fish sparks national debate

23 Feb

See! The mutated fish of southern Idaho! Possibly the result of selenium released by the J.R. Simplot Company! (Photo via New York Times)

A host of mutated trout found in southern Idaho have not only put the J.R. Simplot Company under the microscope, they have launched a national debate on chemical pollutants.

Simplot, which has operations in Pocatello, Burley and Twin Falls, as well as a phosphate mine in Afton, Wyo., caught the fish somewhere in southern Idaho. Instead of shouting their find from the rooftops, the company relegated it to an appendix in the back of a scientific study they commissioned. While the trout are mutated in various ways, the most stunning photos depict actual two-headed fish.

Despite the mutated trout, the study still concluded that it would be safe to allow selenium, a byproduct of their mining operations, despite the material’s toxicity to fish and other wildlife (and apparently obvious evidence). The Environmental Protection Agency seemed to be open to the company’s findings, until other researchers learned of the deformed fish.

Now, federal agencies, environmental groups and Simplot are debating the impact of selenium contamination from the company’s phosphate mine.

But the debate is not relegated to Idaho. Selenium is a pollutant at 200 of the 1,294 designated “Superfund” (or highly polluted) sites across the country. While scientists and researchers have known the chemical is harmful to wildlife for decades, nobody has been able to agree on what levels of selenium are safe to allow.

But don’t worry about trying to keep up with the debates. They’ll go like this: Environmental groups will say selenium is OUT OF CONTROL, Simplot will say the chemical is CONTAINED, and the EPA (always strangely at odds between environmental and corporate interests) won’t know WHAT to do.

In the meantime, us Idahoans can relax and enjoy some homegrown two-headed trout!

[via NYT]

‘Spreading Romney’ is the new ‘Spreading Santorum’

13 Feb

Romney looks pretty smug here, but he might not be so happy about his new Google problem. (Photo via Mitt Romney's flickr)

Santorum has had a legendary Google problem, one that he has decried as unfair and biased, but one that nevertheless has followed him from the Pennsylvania Senate to the national stage. That problem is Spreading Santorum, a website that redefines his last name as a sexual discharge. Now, some activists are trying to give Romney a little of the ol’ Santorum treatment.

Santorum’s problem site, Spreading Santorum, was started by Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage. Back in 2003, in response to Santorum’s harsh views against homosexuality, Savage sought out new definitions for “Santorum,” eventually finding a winner with the reader-suggested definition: “1. The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” That definition was posted online and has been the number one search result for “santorum” ever since. The people who run the website upped its search ranking through a process called Google bombing. The tactic involves creating as many links to a particular page as possible, forcing Google to rank it as the top search result, regardless of what the content is.

This tactic worked so well with Santorum that some people decided to do it with Romney. Spreading Romney isn’t quite as gross as Spreading Santorum, defining “Romney” as “defecating in terror.” The definition refers to a 1983 story in which Romney allegedly strapped his Irish setter to the roof of his car as he drove to Canada, leaving the dog to defecate in fear on the roof of his car. Dog activists were naturally pretty upset about it, but it looks like the website might just be a prank from a small Indianapolis-based design firm.

While the site itself isn’t new, Spreading Romney is gaining traction in the Google search rankings. This morning, Boise Weekly reported it coming in at number nine, and as of this posting, it’s up to number three (if you don’t count the Google News results). While this probably won’t have much of an effect on Romney’s campaign (it hasn’t stopped Santorum much) it will probably get some coverage and, at very least, result in another attack on Google’s search engine ranking system.

Why the Pocatello judge dissented in today’s Prop. 8 ruling

7 Feb

N. Randy Smith has some very confusing legal arguments for Proposition 8. Plus he lives in Pocatello!

by Jamie Hale

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California’s controversial Proposition 8 today, calling the anti-gay marriage amendment unconstitutional. The decision came in a 2-1 decision that has marked a milestone for gay rights groups, and has put another stone in the shoes of supporters of the ban. In the hours since the decision, people have been poring over the finer points of the decision, and one interesting fact came back to light: The one dissenting judge is Judge N.R. Smith, a current resident of Pocatello, Idaho.

While Idaho political types tend to be unrelentingly conservative, those from Pocatello are often a little more liberal-leaning. So how would Smith argue for the gay marriage ban that his colleagues so vehemently opposed?

In his dissenting opinion, Smith used many older court cases to craft an argument that basically allows Proposition 8 to hold based on “legitimate state interests” in barring gay marriage. He argues that of the several arguments for the proposition, one in particular, the “optimal parenting rationale” can be used as a governmental interest.

This rationale is the classic argument that biological, heterosexual parents are the best suited to raise a child. That rationale has already been rejected by California legislators, but Smith argues that a change in law proposed by residents should be able to circumvent all that:

“Even if California’s legislature previously rejected the optimal parenting rationale in its parenting laws (and Proposition 8 is inconsistent with its statutory scheme), that does not prevent the people of California from adopting Proposition 8 under that rationale.”

He also argues that, based on the arguments presented by both plaintiffs and proponents in the case, that the question of whether or not heterosexual parents are best to raise children is “debatable.” That’s enough to let it stand, he said.

But wait, gay rights activists say, the whole crux of Proposition 8 is that one segment of the population should have fewer constitutional rights than another. Isn’t that enough to shoot it down? Not so fast, argues Smith. While Proposition 8 takes away the right of same-sex couples to be “married,” it doesn’t actually strip them of any rights, he said. They can still enter into a civil union and adopt children, so the proposition strips them of title only—something that isn’t guaranteed by the constitution.

But what about the plain and simple discrimination? The fact that the law is simply unfair to one segment of the population? On that note, Smith quotes the 1961 case McGowan v. Maryland:

“’The Court has held that the Fourteenth Amendment permits States a wide scope of discretion in enacting laws which affect some groups of citizens differently than others … State legislatures are presumed to have acted within their constitutional power despite the fact that, in practice, their laws result in some inequality.’”

So what Smith’s argument comes down to is that first of all, previous court cases (as old as the latter-part of the 19th century) give precedence that allow Proposition 8 to hold water. Furthermore, the slightest technicalities (in his opinion) allow it to be deemed constitutional. In other words, Proposition 8 is OK because of a lot of legal mumbo jumbo.

While none of that really matters (since the other two judges struck down Proposition 8), the judge from Pocatello still offered an official opinion that could be used in arguments from judges in the future. So, in very some small way, Pocatello is now on the map in the ongoing legal debate about gay marriage. Who knew?

Here’s a link to the entire opinion, including Smith’s dissenting opinion.

The $20,000 809 area code scam

31 Jan

UPDATE: According to myth-debunking website Snopes, the 809 area code scam is an old one that is being revived. Although scammers will call you from an 809 area code, not ALL calls from 809 numbers are scams. The charge per minute is also typically exaggerated. While Pocatello Police warned citizens that they could be charged a whopping $2,425 a minute, Snopes says the amount a victim loses is actually closer to $25. Thanks to commenter Cheryl Lyda for the heads up.

We’ve heard about some pretty bad scams lately. The ol’ medicare phone scam, the adorable puppy scam, even the cruel Girl Scout Cookie scam! But this one takes the cake for sheer cruelty and maliciousness, and even YOU could be a victim!

The 809 Area Code scam is especially villainous, because it requires almost zero stupidity on your part, but can rip thousands from your pocket in minutes. According to a Pocatello press release, the scam begins with this mystery organization calling you or emailing you to call back a number with an 809 area code. Once you call, you’re treated to a lengthy recorded message or connected to a long-winded telemarketer, who will try to keep you on the line as long as possible. Why do they want you to stay on the line so long? Because they charge you $2,425 a minute to stay connected.

It gets worse from there. The 809 area code is from the Dominican Republic or the Bahamas, meaning you aren’t protected by U.S. regulations when you try to dispute your bill. Stay on the line for eight or 10 minutes (not unusual for a confusing call you might think is important) and you’re looking at a solid $20,000 bill.

While some of these other scams prey on your gullibility (or weakness around adorable things), the 809 scam preys on your anxiety and curiosity. A mysterious call from an area code that begins with 8 usually means somebody from an insurance company or bill collector or credit card company is trying to squeeze money out of you. Or it could just be an old friend who wants to catch up. Maybe even an ex looking to apologize! While it can be easy to ignore (I plead guilty) that mysterious number can nag at you for days until you cave and call it back.

So just know: Never call an 809 number. Oh also 284, 649 and 876 (yikes). No apology from an ex is worth a $20,000 phone bill. Not usually anyway.

Kids: Weed and spice are in, booze and cigs are out

14 Dec

This is what the kids are turning to instead of alcohol or tobacco. A better alternative or a greater evil? You decide!

What kinds of drugs are the kids into these days? The question is what kinds of drugs AREN’T the kids into these days! I kid, I kid. The answer is weed.

In fact, about 25 percent of eight, tenth and 12th-grade Americans smoked Marijuana in the last year, up from 21.4 percent in 2007, according to a study by the University of Michigan and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Furthermore, about 6.6 percent of high school seniors are hitting the bong daily or near-daily, according to the study.

But that’s old news. Everybody knows kids like to get stoned and do whatever it is that kids do when they’re stoned. The bigger news here is what they turn to when they can’t get their hands on some pot. Research shows that 11.4 percent of seniors used spice or K2 in the last year, despite the fact that, unlike marijuana, the stuff is all chemicals and gross and not also used commonly as a medicine.

But just as something comes into style, something else must fall. As kids are lighting up their weed and synthetic weed, they’re eschewing cigarettes and alcohol. Don Draper just did a spit-take. About 40 percent of seniors admitted to having a drink in the last month, down from 54 percent in 1991. Tenth-graders are down to 27 percent from 43 and eighth-graders are down to 13 percent from 25. Cigarettes have fallen even more. About 10 percent of seniors said they smoke daily, compared to 24.6 percent in 1997.

“This is very good news for the health and longevity of these young people,” Lloyd Johnston, research scientist at the University of Michigan and the principal investigator of the study, told CNN. “Even a reduction of only one percentage point can translate into thousands of premature deaths being prevented.” Great news! But what about the other stuff? You know, the marijuana stuff.

“We must be clear with our young people,” Gil Kerlikoeske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told CNN. “Smoked marijuana is not an FDA approved medicine and the National Institute of Health has long documented the harms of marijuana use. Science shows it is addictive. Research shows it impairs driving. Studies show it can degrade academic performance.”

According to the federal government’s drug classification, marijuana is one of the worst drugs out there, ranked alongside the likes of heroin, crack, LSD and dozens of other weird chemicals. One classification lower is your cocaine, morphine, oxycodone and meth. It’s no surprise that the feds are pretty upset at the news that kids are smoking one of the most harmful plants in existence ever, according to their classifications.

So the tobacco and booze might be down, but kids will be kids and they’ll always find some way to keep getting high. Take away spice and they’ll move on to something else. Take that away and who knows what kind of weirdo chemicals teenagers will put in their bodies. You can’t stop the youth, people.

[via CNN/LN8]

Warren Jeffs: “Idaho shall be as a melting fire”

16 Nov

Here's a handy map of all Jeffs' revelations. Looks like we're pretty doomed in the inter-mountain West. (Photo via Polygamy Blog)

Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and convicted child rapist, is probably pretty upset about the whole being sentenced to life in prison thing! Now, normal people might brood in their cell until they rot away into nothingness, or take up a hobby like painting or writing. Jeffs? He decided to make a string of apocalyptic revelations because, you know, revenge or something.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Polygamy Blog (how cool is it that they have a polygamy blog?), the revelations started back in August, about a week after he was sentenced to life in prison for the sexual assault of two young girls, who he had taken as his wives. The first revelation basically just says that the whole conviction was a lie and life is unfair blah blah. After that, things start to get interesting.

His second revelation promises a “sickness onto the land.” What exactly does that mean? About two months later, Jeffs got to the specifics. Remember, these words are from God, not Jeffs. From the 16-page revelations (emphasis is ours):

…great and noticeable cities on the coast shall be swept off the land … Let also Arizona know that my judgment cometh; that earthquake and the sinking in the earth shall be on the capital city there; also volcano and earthquake take power in many habited and large populated places in Utah and Arizona … Idaho shall be as a melting fire of such powers to cleanse my land of all evil. Let also Seattle know there cometh a shaking an tidal wave upon her.

Yikes, you guys! It looks like Idaho, along with everywhere else Jeffs might have ever run into trouble, is doomed! His revelations go on to include an invasion of Washington, D.C. and a New Jerusalem established in Missouri (The Polygamy Blog has a handy Google Map of the whole thing). All this wrath and punishment is apparently the result of Jeff’s imprisonment as well as general “sins of immortality” (not including sexually assaulting young girls, I suppose).

As blogger Lindsay Whitehurst points out, this isn’t the first time Jeffs has given out apocalyptic revelations while in jail. During his trial back in July, he promised “sickness and death” to those prosecuting him. In March, his followers handed out revelations that promised destruction to President Obama’s old home state of Illinois if he wasn’t released. Sure, it’s easy to shrug these off as the ramblings of a disturbed, desperate man, but maybe we should keep an eye out for mass melting–just in case.

[via Polygamy Blog]

Kotex tampons recalled for bacterial contamination

15 Nov

Hey, it's probably best to just not use these for a little while.

Do you use Kotex tampons? Are you frequently concerned about bacterial infections from said tampons? If not, you should be! According to the FDA, Kimberly-Clark, the company that owns the Kotex brand, is recalling a bunch of their Kotex Natural Balance Security tampons (unscented, regular absorbency) over fears of a bacterial infection. Whether or not you have a vagina, that thought is downright terrifying.

Potentially infected tampons were sent to some Walmarts in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas; some Fry’s stores in Arizona; and some Smith’s stores in Utah and Arizona. The FDA has released a series of SKU numbers for the recalled 18 and 36-count boxes that were shipped between October 29 and November 2.

According to the FDA the tampons were made with a raw material contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that can cause vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and other potentially life-threatening infections. Women with pre-existing medical conditions like cancer or HIV are, naturally, at increased risk.

Symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge, rash, fever, headache, vomiting or abdominal pains, but there is no report of any sicknesses yet. If you experience any of those symptoms, go to the doctor! Kimberly-Clark is encouraging anyone with any potentially contaminated tampons to throw them out and, of course, buy other Kotex brand tampons that were not contaminated.

You can get a full list of the Kotex SKU and lot numbers, as well as more information, from the FDA.

Idaho Falls man wanted for White House shooting

14 Nov

Here's your man: Mr. Oscar Ramiro Ortega, a man with Idaho Falls ties who idiotically fired shots near the White House last week.

The United States Park Police have issued a warrant for 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega, who allegedly is involved in a shooting between the White House and the Washington Monument last week. Typically, shootings near D.C. monuments are reserved for seriously crazy people, because authorities kiiiind of take that stuff seriously.

Ortega faces a felony charge of carrying a dangerous weapon, because it looks like he didn’t actually cause any harm or destruction, which is pretty on-par for crazy White House shooters. Nonetheless, the U.S. Park Police are looking to nab Ortega because, again, they take this stuff seriously.

Park Police said Ortega is 5 feet 11 inches tall, about 160 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. He has a tattoo of the word “Israel” in the left side of his neck, one of “Ortega” on his back and another of rosary beads on his chest. According to pictures, he also might be sporting a fantastically unruly beard. No word on what exactly his Idaho Falls ties are.

Park Police are asking anyone with information to contact a local police department or U.S. Park Police at 202.610.7500. For non-urgent information you can call the Criminal Investigations Branch Tip Line at 202.610.8737.