STORY #1: From Fox News:
Virginia Teen Suspended, Facing Criminal Charges for Shooting Plastic Spitballs in School
By Diane Macedo
The family of a Virginia teen suspended for the remainder of the school year for shooting plastic "spitwads" at students in the hallway is targeting the school district's zero-tolerance policy, claiming that it's "criminalizing childish behavior."
Andrew Mikel II, a freshman honor student at Spotsylvania High School who also is active in Junior ROTC, is filling an appeal to be reinstated and have his record cleared after school officials suspended him for using what appeared to be the hollow body of a pen to blow small plastic balls at three students during his lunch period last December.
The 14-year-old initially was hit with a 10-day suspension, but the Spotsylvania County School Board later voted to extend the punishment for the rest of the school year, citing the Student Code of Conduct's requirement that a student found with "any type of weapon, or object used to intimidate, threaten or harm others" be "expelled for a minimum of 365 days" unless "special circumstances exist."
The district also referred the case to the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, which charged him with three counts of misdemeanor assault.
As result Mikel entered a diversion program – which includes community service and substance abuse and anger management counseling – to avoid prosecution, but his father says his damaged record has shattered his hopes of attending the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation.
Capt. Liz Scott Spotsylvania Sherriff's Office says while Mikel's punishment may be controversial, "assault is assault is assault."
Anyone out there agree with THAT?
Citing the school's 'zero tolerance' policy, Assistant Principal Lisa Andruss at a December 21 disciplinary hearing said that Mikel presented a danger and that the boy's behavior was indicative of a trend because he was disciplined in seventh grade for shooting rubber bands with a ruler and suspended for three days in 8th grade for bringing a comb to school that resembled a pocket knife, his father said.
As a result, the guidance department said Andrew, who had hoped to attend the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation, can no longer be considered as an applicant, his father said.
"I'm scratching my head at the whole thing," Andrew Mikel Sr. told FoxNews.com. "One thing is he must attend substance abuse counseling – he's never had a substance abuse issue in his life."
The older Mikel, a 39-year-old former Navy Seabee and Marine officer, said he was shocked that his son's future could be so heavily affected over "a spitwad."
"Right from the get go the Assistant Principal Lisa Andruss said, 'Come pick up your son, he's being suspended for 10 days, we're recommending expulsion, and we're going to push this to the fullest extent of the law," he told FoxNews.com. "When I arrived she showed me what amounts to a pee shooter: a plastic pen casing about four inches long and these little plastic balls that he'd had from a toy guy that he had years ago and found in his closet recently. This thing is harmless."
His father says he tried to talk Andruss into giving his son a more lenient punishment, but Mikel said she had already had his son interrogated by police and her mind was made up.
"I tried to talk to her and say, 'We understand this is wrong, but doesn't this seem a little excessive?' And she was just dead set this was what they were going to do," the older Mikel said.
Two disciplinary hearings later, on January 18, the school board voted to suspend the teen for the rest of the year.
"What happened to Andrew Mikel is an example of how oppressive zero tolerance policies have become," said John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, which is representing Mikel Jr. "School officials have developed a very dangerous mindset that allows virtually no freedom for students, while at the same time criminalizing childish behavior."
Still, even school officials were divided on the issue.
Principal Russell Davis called it a "clear-cut case" for a minimum "365 day expulsion," in an email to Andruss and Spotsylvania's coordinator of school safety, John Lynn. The email was one of several documents secured by the Mikels through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"We have an obligation to protect the students in our building from others who pose a threat to the over-all safe learning environment," Davis wrote.
Lynn, on the other hand, wrote in the same string of emails that he was "not at all comfortable expelling or suspending this student for the remainder of the year," recommending instead that Mikel be allowed to return to school after his initial 10-day suspension.
Mikel says he thinks detention probably would have been more fitting.
"My son did an infraction and he deserves a just punishment but this is like cutting someone's hand off for stealing a piece of cabbage," he said. "If my son, instead of shooting a spitball, went up and punched a student right in the face he would only have gotten five days suspension and even if he'd drawn blood the school resource officer said police still wouldn't have gotten involved."
"It takes four state agencies to go after someone with a spitwad: It takes the sheriff's department, the commonwealth attorney, the school board on various levels and the department of juvenile justice … what a fine use of taxpayer resources," he added.
Whitehead says he will appeal the decision next week and hopes to have the teen's record expunged.
This is what years of (the other "L" word) theories on education and discipline have brought us to... a teacher can't even raise their voice to an unruly child without getting dressed down by the principal, and yet you can get a criminal record for shooting spitwads. I'm honestly thinking of renaming these columns who ISN'T dumber?
Story #2: a couple of articles from CBSSports, that you'll soon understand why I blended together. First, an op-ed about baseball players whose huge contracts and piddly performance got them voted by baseball executives on to the top ten untradeable contracts list. Here are some exerpts:
1. Oliver Perez, Mets, 1 year, $12 million. Other players are owed much more money, and obviously, the Mets could trade Perez by accepting a much larger bad contract in return. Perez still takes top spot on this list because, as one rival executive said, "You can't even use him." Perez was so useless that the Mets basically played with a 24-man roster for all of August,
because ownership refused to release him. There's a general assumption that Perez will be released this spring, just another reason he tops this list. "If you even wanted him, you could just wait until they release him, and then get him for nothing," another executive said. "So why trade for him?" You wouldn't. He's untradeable -- I think.
5. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets, 1 year, $11.5 million, with a $17.5 million vesting option. The option is the problem, even more than K-Rod's declining stuff or his legal issues. It vests with only 54 games finished, which means he has a good year and you're paying him way too much in 2012, or he has a bad year and you're paying him way too much this year. So the Mets get two of the first five spots on the list, and it could well have been more than that, since Luis Castillo (1 year, $6 million), Carlos Beltran (1 year, $18.5 million) and even Johan Santana (3 years, $72 million coming off shoulder surgery) also received votes.
Okay, so now you're saying to yourself, "How could the Mets organization be so stupid as to spend so much money on so many unperforming players (keeping in mind that with sports salaries, waste is relative)?" Well, read the other story and see if you can't figure it out:
Madoff lawsuit: Mets owners owe victims $300M.
NEW YORK -- The owners of the Mets turned a blind eye to Bernard Madoff's massive fraud, reaping $300 million in false profits and using a large chunk to run the team, according to a lawsuit unsealed Friday.
The lawsuit claims the owners were so dependent on the disgraced financier's too-good-to-be-true returns that it "faced a severe and immediate liquidity crisis" when Madoff's crimes were revealed in 2009.
The searing allegations were made by Irving Picard, the trustee appointed to recover funds for investors burned by Madoff's scheme. The suit filed by Picard in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan names Sterling Equities, along with its partners and family members, including Met owner Fred Wilpon, team president Saul Katz and chief operating Jeff Wilpon, the owner's son.
"Given Sterling's dependency on Madoff, it comes as no surprise that the partners willfully turned a blind eye to every red flag of fraud before them," Fernando A. Bohorquez, Jr., a lawyer representing Picard, said Friday.
The complaint alleges the partnership "received approximately $300 million in fictitious profits" from hundreds of accounts opened with Madoff's firm. Of that, it says, $90 million of "other people's money" were withdrawn to cover day-to-day operations of the Mets.
Wilpon and Katz fired back Friday with a statement calling the suit "an outrageous strong-arm effort to force a settlement by threatening to ruin our reputations and businesses we built for over 50 years."
The pair called the accusations "abusive, unfair and untrue," insisting they were victims of the fraud.
"We should not be made victims twice over - the first time by Madoff and again by the trustee," they wrote.
Victims? Victims are people who trust someone (as in Madoff or the regulators who were supposedly watching him) and get took. "Damn, I hope he don't get caught" doesn't qualify. Read on.
The lawsuit said Wilpon and Katz had meetings with Madoff in his office at least once a year, a privilege few investors enjoyed, and Katz at times spoke directly with Madoff at least once a day.
The suit has cast a cloud over the Mets ownership, which has said it's exploring a partial sale of the team. (Gee I wonder why THAT is.) But Wilpon and Katz denied Friday that the operation was ever dependent on Madoff.
The lawsuit describes the Sterling Partners as "a team of sophisticated professionals who built a business empire spanning four major industries, including real estate, professional baseball and sports media, private equity and hedge funds."
It says Sterling Partners "willfully disregarded any criticisms of Madoff and simply buried their heads in the sand" during a nearly quarter-century relationship in which it supported its substantial business empire with Madoff money and reaped the benefits of bogus profits.
The firm was "simply in too deep ... to do anything but ignore the gathering clouds," the lawsuit says. "In the face of the parade of red flags, the Sterling Partners chose to do nothing."
Numerous financial industry professionals over the years warned Sterling about Madoff and speculated that he was operating a fraud, including one Sterling consultant who advised Saul Katz in 2003 that he "couldn't make Bernie's math work and something wasn't right," the court papers say.
In 1996, it says, multiple banks refused to serve as custodian of Sterling's 401K plan because of concerns about Madoff's lack of transparency and inability to provide daily account balance information.
At one point after several financial news publications raised questions about the Madoff business in May 2001, Sterling considering getting fraud insurance that would have included a Ponzi scheme but Sterling ultimately rejected the insurance because coverage limits meant most of their money was uninsurable, according to the court papers.
Now, show of hands of those still wondering how they could blow money on Oliver Perez et al.
Story #3: Could I possibly get through the first WD of the year without giving a shout-out to President Obama and his merry minions? Again, Fox News:
Ex-Ambassador Left Luxembourg Embassy in 'State of Dysfunction,' Watchdog Finds
By William Lajeunesse
Described as "aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating," President Obama's ambassador to Luxembourg left the U.S. embassy there "in a state of dysfunction" and unable to carry out its duties after her recent exit, according to report released this week by the State Department Inspector General.
Cynthia Stroum, one of President Obama’s top 25 fundraisers -- a bundler who raised more than $500,000 for the his campaign -- was chosen for ambassador in 2009. (and isn't that all the qualifications any ambassador for
our country needs?) Since then, auditors say her autocratic, bossy and demanding style led to complete failure of the embassy in Luxembourg's ability to function as an arm of the U.S. government in one of the world's smallest and wealthiest nations.
"Morale among Americans and local staff is very low, and stress levels are high," said the audit. "Most employees describe the Ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy and uncertain work environment."
And "the apparent nonstop requirements from the Ambassador" compromised service and cost U.S. taxpayers dearly, according to the audit. A popular website among the foreign service, Diplopundit, calls the audit "The Horror Report of the Year."
Stroum, who had no apparent qualifications for the job,(Oh, I guess I was wrong) quit last week, citing business and family obligations. Sources tell Fox News the White House gave her no option after reading the scathing IG report.
- Stroum wrongly threatened embassy staff that "her appointment letter from the President gave her the right to read any email messages" they wrote, and staff had "no expectation of privacy" in their e-mail or phone calls.
- For 6 weeks, multiple employees worked full-time to find Stroum a "suitable temporary residence." They screened 200 residences and visited 30-40 houses in Luxembourg. Stroum rejected them all, again costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars unnecessarily.
- Stroum rushed to spend $3,400 in Embassy funds on European wine and liquor before the end of the year, even though State Department rules say “in no case, is the post authorized to use excess year-end funds to purchase wine." Secondly, all wine is supposed to be American.
- After learning about a school in Switzerland that trained employees to work in places such as Buckingham Palace, Stroum and an assistant flew to Switzerland solely to hire a chef, billing taxpayers more than $1,200 for the trip and ignoring embassy rules to hire locally.
Since 1989, Stroum, an heir to a Seattle auto parts fortune, personally gave Democratic candidates more than $150,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including President Obama and Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
I'm sure the president thought that HIS vast experience for his job as a brief career in political activism seems to be enough to be president, it should be enough for ambassador to a small-but-rich-and-influential ally. Now, when reporters ask Obama about his "war", it won't be the one in Iraq or Afghanistan. It will be the one he started with Luxembourg. That will put him in fine company with the last three guys that started wars in Luxembourg: Louis XIV, Wilhelm the second, and, oh, that guy with the big mouth and cheesy little moustache (Sorry, can't use the "H" word, guys.)