Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September Stargazing

Whew! The time it does fly by. Kinda like our savings. Right out the window. Eh! Hard come, easy go.

Neptune at Opposition

Cloud bands and an oval storm swirl through the atmosphere of Neptune in this photo from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Neptune is in view all night long in September, and shines brightest for the year. If you have strong binoculars or a telescope, look for a small, faint blue "star" near the center of Aquarius, which is low in the southeast at nightfall.

Stargazing Summary
The stars of autumn begin to push those of summer out of the way as the nights grow longer and cooler. Pegasus is in view in the east as night falls, with several related constellations following the flying horse into the sky over the next few hours. Venus and Mars team up as the month begins, with Jupiter climbing toward them by month's end. And an event sure to grab your attention highlights September's wane: the Bloody Super Moon.
More stargazing information »

Radio Program Highlights
If you want to start hearing the StarDate program in your area, you can request a station to carry our program by emailing the request to

September 1-6: Two Stars from One. Two stars may sometimes merge to form a single star, triggering a spectacular outburst in the process. We'll have details on these brilliant mergers, plus the story of the first female astronomy professor and much more.

September 7-13: Close Neighbor. Our closest neighbor star was discovered a century ago this month, and we'll have details. We'll also talk about searches for planets around the star, and a planet that's been found around a companion star. Join us for Proxima Centauri and more.

September 14-20: Giant Neighbor. The Andromeda galaxy is a beautiful giant — a cosmic spiral that's probably bigger than our own galaxy. It's also closer to us than any other major galaxy. Join us for the Andromeda galaxy, plus a beautiful dawn lineup and much more.

September 21-27: Lunar Eclipse. There's a total lunar eclipse coming up soon — a blood harvest super Moon — and we'll have details. We'll also talk about the changing of the seasons, a bright morning lineup, and much more.

September 28-30: The Princess. The constellation Andromeda is climbing into the eastern sky, and we'll talk about the princess and some of her stellar charms other than the famous Andromeda galaxy. Join us for Andromeda and more.

Program schedule »

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This Month in StarDate Magazine
In our September/October issue, take a look at some beautiful antique telescopes and find out where you can use them at observatories across the U.S. Then learn about the National Park Service's efforts to preserve dark skies.

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News From the Observatory
Dying Stars Suffer from 'Irregular Heartbeats'
Some dying stars suffer from 'irregular heartbeats,' research led by astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Warwick has discovered. The team discovered rapid brightening events — outbursts — in two otherwise normal pulsating white dwarf stars. Ninety-seven percent of all stars, including the Sun, will end their lives as extremely dense white dwarfs after they exhaust their nuclear fuel. Such outbursts have never been seen in this type of star before.

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About SkyTips
SkyTips is a monthly email newsletter for visitors to McDonald Observatory and StarDate Online. Each issue features stargazing highlights, upcoming StarDate radio program descriptions, and other news. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and family.

SkyTips is a publication of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory Education and Outreach Office, 2609 University Ave. A2100, Austin, TX 78712. Reproduction of SkyTips content is permitted with proper credit given to McDonald Observatory.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bernie on MSNBC

Who else is out there talking actual policy?  Besides Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton? And Martin O'Malley?  All Democrats.  And what are we hearing from the GOP?  Hate, regression, fear, and Donald Trump's trademark brutishness. This is apparently what the GOP wants these days: the loonier the better.

Here's 14 minutes of Bernie being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC and talking about the issues he's been working on for years.  This guy is the real deal.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kochs to sell Walker

It's our billionaires vs. your billionaires. Democracy! Sheesh.

Cutting Losses, Kochs To Sell Scott Walker
by Andy Borowitz

WICHITA (The Borowitz Report)—Saying that “things just didn’t work out,” the billionaire Koch brothers have decided to put Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker up for sale.

The Kochs, who earlier had purchased Gov. Walker with great fanfare, announced their plan to sell the politician in a terse statement from Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita.

“Scott Walker is a fine individual, and we wish him well,” the Kochs’ statement read. “We are confident that he will be a good fit for some other billionaire industrialists.”

Republican insiders, however, called the Kochs’ plan to sell Walker highly optimistic, and noted that the market for the Wisconsin Governor was, at this point, virtually nonexistent.

The Kochs, who reportedly had been frustrated by Walker’s poor performance in the polls, finally decided to sell the Wisconsinite after last weekend’s odd pronouncement, in which he seemed to support a border wall with Canada.

According to a Koch associate, “Ignorance has always been a part of Scott’s appeal, but that Canada thing was just too much.”

After their plan to sell him was announced, the Kochs immediately pulled Walker off the campaign trail for fear that he might say something that would further reduce his dwindling market value.

In Iowa, an aide to Walker said that the Governor was “still processing” the news that he had been put up for sale. “It takes a while for Scott to understand things,” the aide said.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rude on emails

I loves me some Rude Pundit, and he sounds off about the latest fake Clinton scandal which I guess we are now calling "e-mailgate."  After all, after Watergate, everything with a hint of impropriety has to have the "-gate" suffix appended to it.  The GOP is still pissed about Richard "Prick" Nixon resigning in disgrace.

Not Giving a Shit About the Clinton Email "Scandal" - 

There's a sentence from a Los Angeles Times column titled, "Why Clinton's email problem won't go away" that's so ironic and so galling that it ought to be put on a poster in every media outlet. Here it is: "It's difficult to avoid the suspicion that Clinton, after the scandals that rocked her husband's presidency during the 1990s, simply did not want to leave behind a paper trail (or e-trail)."

Context is everything, dear children, and the writer, John Schindler (a dick pic-sending right wing assmunch), is leaving out a huge part of the story. See, all those "scandals," Travelgate and Filegate and Whitewater, were utter bullshit. They were worthless wastes of time and money by Republicans (and cowardly Democrats), and their only purpose was to isolate, degrade, and destroy the presidency of Bill Clinton, that hick punk who thought he could just saunter in and lead the nation. If they also took down his bitch wife who thought she was smart enough to solve the health care crisis, all the better. If not them, then any collateral damage of their friends and associates was just dandy.

The only thing that approached an actual, real "scandal" was Clinton lying under oath about getting blowjobs and cigar-banging an intern in the Oval Office. That came out of the Whitewater investigation and it had jackshit to do with the presumably shady land deal in Arkansas. The entire impeachment saga was because of a tangential question and, ultimately, it was the same giant trash pile that every other fake "scandal" was. 

While most of the public didn't give a single fuck about the Clinton scandals, the Republican base and the party's donors loved it. They gobbled it down like it was jizz from Jesus's own dick. And conservatives across the country pretended that the United States was being victimized by the immoral bimbo fucker and his castrating spouse. God, how they made bank on it all, how evangelicals lied openly about the sinful, adulterous, murdering, raping, drug-using Clintons. It was a goddamned carnival of molesting clowns and shiv-wielding carnies. And press outlets just jumped on the rickety scandal roller coaster because the GOP had bitch-slapped them into believing the "liberal media" canard. "We'll show you how we're not liberals," they announced. "Please, tell us more about missing Rose Law Firm documents and we'll act as if the fate of the entire motherfucking republic depends on it."

We have been a pathetic fucking country for a very long time. 

Which gets us to the scandal du jour, the inevitable digging up of something, anything, to sew onto Hillary Clinton's clothes. The scarlet "B" for Benghazi wasn't holding. But, oh, happy fortune, the bullshit investigation yielded the info on the private email server, and the Clinton Industrial Complex went back into high gear. Let's get the "E" out there.

When the Rude Pundit first heard of the private email server issue, his initial thought was "Oh, c'mon" because he knew what was coming. But the one part that's been left out of the story of why Clinton used the home server (which was not fucking against the law) for her State Department emails when she was Secretary of State is the complicity of the Republican Party and the media in making Clinton so paranoid that she felt she had to do so. 

Of course, she was going to do anything to keep her communications out of the public eye. Of course, she was going to make life complicated for any congressional investigations. Why the fuck wouldn't she? What the hell did she get the first time around? A discussion about her husband's dick on the floor of the House of Representatives. An accusation that she had a friend murdered. Why wouldn't she just say, "Go fuck yourselves"? In fact, she should have said that at the beginning of this. She should have said, "Well, no shit I used my own server."

Frankly, Hillary Clinton's pretty goddamn fearless to be putting herself through what was going to be an inevitable slog through the GOP fake scandal swamp. Note: None of this excuses Clinton if she committed any real crimes (and not just violating the "spirit" of the law, which everyone does every day in many, many ways without being dragged through piles of dog shit for it). But, so far, sorry, she hasn't. Offering unsatisfactory explanations for one's actions is not illegal.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Black Collar Crime

This will be a recurring feature on this blog. Now that the wife and I have become Lifetime Members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), we have access to their entire digital history.  Jackpot!

FFRF publishes a monthly newsletter from 20-30 pages long.  They cover violations of the Constitution, publish writings by members and students, letters from crackpots, and a monthly "Black Collar Crime Blotter" where they publish news items of those in positions of trust in the religious community who have been charge with various crimes.  

Yes, I know that many people who are not in a church hierarchy commit various crimes.  But the people listed here are people who are in positions of trust in their communities, and when they commit crimes, it is much worse than your run-of-the-mill criminal.  Those who attend church regularly are certainly more gullible and trusting than those who do not, so abusing their trust is much worse than defrauding the regular citizenry.

After all, aren't "good Christians" supposed to be strong enough to resist temptation?  Aren't they supposedly pillars of the community?  Are they just all crooks, charlatans and criminals? Well, surely not all of them, but a large number. 

To me, it would be so easy to start a religion and become a preacher.  Fleecing the flock is too easy.  I, as an atheist, have the integrity to NOT take advantage of other people.  I wish I could say the same for everyone in the church hierarchy.

Black Collar Crime Blotter

Arrested / Charged

Kelly Shannon, Warwick, RI: Possession of child pornography on a cell phone and 7 other counts, including making false statements to police and forcing the alleged victim and other witnesses to make false statements. The bio on her Christian music website says Shannon, who’s married with 2 children, is a graduate of Zion Bible College and “licensed minister (evangelist) with the Assemblies of God.” The alleged victim is a young female relative. The state Attorney General’s Office brought the charges. Court documents allege Shannon made the girl pose and then shared the images on the Internet. The same girl told Warwick police last year she was raped by a teen boy, but more recently she alleged Shannon forced her to lie, telling police Shannon took the photos to teach her how to perform sex acts detailed in the rape allegation. Her bio says she was rescued from abusive surroundings as a youth by a pastor who sent her to bible college. Her signature gospel song is “Rescue Me.” Source: NBC 10, 8-14-15 

Vitaly Korchevsky, 50, Glen Mills, PA: Securities fraud. Korchevsky, who leads the Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church in Brookhaven and has chaired the Association of Slavic Baptist Churches USA since 2000, is accused of working for years with Ukrainian hackers on a $100 million insider trading scheme. A parallel civil suit filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission names 21 more defendants. According to his professional biography, Korchevsky became a born-again evangelical in 1981. He later moved to the U.S. and earned an M.B.A. from Regent University, the Virginia college founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Source:, 8-12-15 

Pablo P. Mata, 46, Montebello, CA: Mata, a Santería priest, is being sought on allegations of sexual assaults occurring during “healing rituals” at his business. It’s alleged he had a 16-year-old girl disrobe on 3 occasions for the ritual in 2013. Police suspect there may be other victims. Source: L.A. Times, 8-6-15 

Jerry W. Cox, 72, Franklinton, LA: Structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. Cox, pastor of Faith Tabernacle, is charged with moving more than $100,000 around in banks in 2011 to avoid reporting it as income. He lives in a multimillion-dollar home a few miles from the church, which owns the tax-exempt property. Cox has close ties to former St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed, who was indicted in April on similar charges and has given thousands of dollars to Faith Tabernacle. Source: WWL, 8-6-15

Larry Bates, Memphis, TN: Multiple counts of fraud for allegedly bilking about 300 victims out of $18 million. Bates and his sons, Charles and Robert Bates, are accused in a federal indictment of targeting individuals seeking advice from a supposed trusted Christian adviser and/or an alleged reputable Christian financial company. From 2002-13, the trio allegedly told potential customers they needed to buy gold and silver to protect themselves from “Mystery Babylon,” a forthcoming economic, political and religious downturn. Source: Memphis Flyer, 8-5-15 

Melvin Ollison Sr., 60, Bayboro, NC: 2 counts of 1st-degree rape, 4 counts of 1st-degree sex offense with a child and 3 counts each of 2nd-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a child. Sheriff Chris Davis identified him as a former associate pastor but didn’t release the church’s name. Investigators said Ollison told church members in April he was taking a leave of absence. The 4 alleged victims are Ollison family members all under age 13, the youngest age 5. The first alleged incident was in 1979 and the last in April. Source: WNCT, 8-5-15 

Jimmy Chang, 32, East Longmeadow, MA: 12 counts of 2nd-degree sexual assault. Chang, who works at private tutoring center, was a leader of a Christian youth group in Agawam at the time of the alleged assaults in 2012 on a girl in the group. Authorities allege Chang persuaded the girl to sneak out of her house and give up her virginity when she was 17. Her sister told police she found detailed descriptions of the sexual relationship in her sister’s online diary, including a statement that she loved Chang but felt “used and pathetic.” Source Hartford Courant, 8-4-15

Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox extremist who lives in an Israeli West Bank settlement, was arrested for stabbing 6 participants in the back during Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. Shira Banki, 16, died of wounds sustained in the attack. Schlissel was convicted of a similar attack at a pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005 and had been released from prison 3 weeks before after serving 10 years of a 12-year sentence. According to prosecutors, Yishai Schlissel told police in 2005 he had come “to kill in the name of God.” Source: AP, 7-31-15 

Karen J. King, 64, Madison, WI: 9 counts of theft, identity theft, forgery and making false representations. King, a part-time secretary at Burke Lutheran Church, is accused of using 4 church credit cards and a checking account to pay for personal items, including trips to Las Vegas and Florida and her cellphone bills. An estimated $34,443 was taken. King was fired in June 2014, The complaint alleges she took collection money after erasing the amounts written down and used the same tactic to alter her time slips to reflect overtime. She was paid $11.56 an hour for 15 to 20 hours a week. Source: State Journal, 7-31-15 

Brian K. Burchfield, 42, Shawnee, OK: 1 count each of soliciting and engaging in sexual communications with a minor and violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Burchfield, young adult pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church, was fired after being accused of “sexting” 4 boys ages 14 to 17. He met them while working at Immanuel Baptist Church. Police records say text conversations included grooming habits of private areas, genital size and requesting photos from the teens. A police report says Burchfield “invited the juveniles to attend a ‘Man Journey Retreat’ with him” and stay at his in-laws’ lake house in Eufaula in July 2014, the month he was fired. Source: NewsStar, 7-30-15 

Oscar Vasquez-Guzman, 38, Indianapolis: Attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, 2 counts of child molesting and 7 counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. Vasquez-Guzman, a pastoral associate with St. Anthony Catholic Church, is accused of sexual contact with 2 boys between the ages of 11 and 15 from Sept. 2013 through July 20, 2015. Court documents said the older boy alleged he was first touched inappropriately when he was 14 and again about a year later when he went to Vasquez-Guzman’s house before a church activity. The boy told investigators Vasquez-Guzman performed oral sex on him and warned him if he told his mother the police would get involved and his family would be deported. Source: Indianapolis Star, 7-29-15 

Ezra Sheinberg, 48, Safed, Israel: 12 counts of rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment, fraud and obstructing an investigation. Sheinberg, a rabbi and founder of Orot HaAri Yeshiva, is accused of assaulting 13 women. The married father of 8 was arrested in July at Ben Gurion Airport as he waited for his flight to Brazil. Source: Jerusalem Post, 7-24-15 

José Luis Montes Toyos, Madrid, Spain: Money laundering. Montes Toyos, a monsignor and pastor of the Catholic parish of San Ginés, and his brother and a family lawyer are accused by Swiss and Spanish prosecutors of laundering funds linked to the expropriation by the city of Madrid of a farm, thousands of acres of land and valuable paintings. Bank accounts are tied to companies domiciled in Panama and Belize. The period in question is 2004-11. Source: El Mundo, 7-24-15 

Thomas Cooperider, 23, Valparaiso, IN: 2 counts of rape and counts of sexual battery. The complaint alleges Cooperider assaulted 3 women during bible study he led in 2014-15 at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton. The women were “so mentally disabled or deficient” that consent could not be given, it’s alleged. Cooperider told police he’d been accepted at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where he planned on studying law. Source:, 7-22-15 

Joe Habegger, 55, Tarpon Springs, FL: Lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. Habegger, a physical education teacher at Westlake Christian School in Palm Harbor in 2013-14, is accused of molesting a student who won an auction to spend a day with a teacher outside of school. Deputies said the boy and Habegger began spending time together and that the alleged criminal activity occurred after the school year ended. After Habegger’s contract at Westlake Christian was not renewed, he was hired at Solid Rock Christian School, where he was fired when the principal found out about the allegations. Source: Fox Tampa Bay, 7-21-15 

Yanhao “Eric” Ren, 24, Fullerton, CA: Kidnapping, sodomy with a child under 14 and oral copulation with a child under 14. Ren, a youth leader for Evangelical Formosan Church in Rowland Heights, is accused of starting a sexual relationship in May 2015 with a 13-year-old girl who was in his church group. It’s possible there are other alleged victims, authorities said. State Patrol officers found the girl and Ren in a vehicle parked off Hwy. 330 at midnight in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, a statement said. Source: OC Weekly, 7-15-15 

Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, 30, Dharamshala, India: Money laundering. Dorjee is revered by followers as the 17th incarnation of the head of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. He fled Tibet for India at age 14 and is seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama, who just turned 80. Aboout $1 million in 26 different foreign currencies was seized in 2011 during a raid on his monastery but charges were dismissed in 2012. Now, the high court in the state of Himachal Pradesh has reinstated the charges. Source: AFP, 7-9-15


Nicholas Lawrence, 27, Pekin, IL: 40 years in prison (mandatory 85% before parole-eligible) after pleading guilty to 2 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault. Lawrence met the victim while teaching bible classes at 2 churches in Peoria Heights. The girl he “groomed” sexually starting when she was 8 in 2010 still thought of him as her “spiritual mentor” when he was arrested in 2014, court records said. Their relationship had continued during his classes in 2013-14 at First Church of God in Pekin. “I am scarred and damaged. I am broken,” the girl wrote in a letter read to the court by the prosecutor. Lawrence “should be considered a monster.” “What I did was appalling and inexcusable,” Lawrence told the judge. “Contrary to popular belief, I can and will reform completely” with therapy in prison. Investigators found 14,000 images on Lawrence’s computer of “child pornography and erotica” featuring children from toddlers to about age 10. Source: Daily Times, 8-12-15 

Norman T. Faux, 55, Lake Ariel, PA: 27 months to 15 years in prison and payment of $5,000 in counseling fees for his victim. Faux, a United Methodist pastor, had pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a male juvenile. The assaults started when the boy was 9 and lasted until he was 19, according to court documents. When the boy was 11, he began watching pornographic videos as a distraction while Faux performed oral sex on him. The boy said it happened so many times he lost count. Lead prosecutor Pat Robinson called Faux, who is HIV-positive, “disgusting and despicable. He is an extremely manipulative individual. He blames everybody but himself for his outrageous activity.” Source: Wayne Independent, 7-31-15 

Simon Reynolds, 50, Barnsley, UK: 32 months in prison for theft. Reynolds, Anglican vicar at All Saints Church, was found guilty by jury of stealing $37,000 from 2007-13. The money came from fees for weddings and funerals and gravestones. Reynolds fled to Germany while the jury was deliberating but later returned to England and turned himself in. Source: Yahoo News, 7-27-15 

Walter Roberson and Robert Young, pastors at VineLife Church, Boulder, CO, pleaded no contest to failure to report child abuse and were sentenced to serve 10 days in jail or on work crew. Church elders Edward Bennell and Warren Williams pleaded no contest to the same charge. Bennell received 2 days in jail or on work crew. Williams was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. All received 1 year of unsupervised probation. The men were all charged for failure to report suspected abuse in 2013 by youth pastor Jason Roberson, who is Walter Roberson’s son. “A message has to be sent that this cannot happen,” said Judge David Archuleta. Jason Roberson, 36, was sentenced to 2 years in prison and 10 years’ intensive probation for a 7-year relationship he started with a female congregant when she was 15. Source: Daily Camera, 7-23-15

Yaakov Deutsch, 63, Afula, Israel: 9 years in prison and a $76,000 fine for molesting 4 teens, 2 boys and 2 girls. Deutsch, a prominent rabbi in the Nazareth area, told a 15-year-old it was “God’s will” for him to penetrate her vaginally and anally in 2008. The indictment alleged she came to his home for a blessing to improve a health condition and that he ordered her to “touch his body and sexual organ, reasoning that energies will pass from his body to hers in such a way and cure her.” Later he started to take liberties with her Source: Arutz Sheva, 7-22-15

Civil Lawsuits Settled 

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee agreed to settle a suit with 330 clergy sex abuse victims for $21 million. Payments to victims will vary and be determined by an independent arbitrator. Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the proposed settlement sets the stage to close a bankruptcy proceeding filed in 2011. The archdiocese objected to all 575 claims filed in bankruptcy court and tried to have hundreds thrown out of court. Peter Isley, Midwest director of SNAP (Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests), said in a statement: “In a perverse and cynical parody of the famous biblical story of King Solomon, it has been announced that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reached a monetary ‘settlement’ with the Creditors Committee of the nearly 5-year-old church sex abuse bankruptcy. It is exponentially the lowest bankruptcy compensation for victims in the United States.” Subtracting attorneys’ fees reduces the payment to victims by one-third. The average per victim nationwide in clergy sex abuse settlements is about $300,000 compared to $45,000 for the Milwaukee settlement. Source: Source: WITI, 8-4-15


How gruesome photos claiming to show the body of a murdered pedophile priest John Geoghan ended up for sale on the website “Serial Killers Ink” is under investigation by the Massachusetts Dept. of Correction. SKI is known as a “murderabilia” site. The defrocked Catholic priest was convicted of molesting over 100 children. He was sentenced to life and was strangled and beaten to death in his cell in Shirley, MA, at age 68 in 2003 by another inmate, Joseph Druce. In response to a question on Facebook about the photos, allegedly signed by Druce, SKI responded: “They have been sold.” Source: WHDH, 8-8-15 

Charles Goodman, 53, Gary, IN: Felony reckless homicide and driving with a suspended license. Goodman, driver of a St. Jude Deliverance Center bus in a fatal crash near Indianapolis, never had a valid driver’s license in Indiana. The 15-person bus, headed to a church youth convention in Ohio, did not have required federal registration for an out-of-state trip, police said. A boy, 6, died in the crash, which “appears to be a result of driver error,” State Police said but did not elaborate. Goodman has numerous citations and misdemeanor arrests in Illinois and Indiana, including illegally transporting alcohol in a vehicle, driving without valid registration and driving with an uninsured motor vehicle, along with a felony burglary conviction. Source: Chicago Tribune, 7-29-15

By the way, this is just a small sampling of the cases printed this month. I kept only the more disgusting, egregious cases.

The Daily Puppy

Black Collar Crime


National Weather Outlook