58 posts categorized "Science or fiction"


ATF agents handcuffed by Fast and Furious superiors resolve retaliation claims

Two more ATF special agents troubled by Operation Fast and Furious – one who watched supervisors Drug cartel gun battle ignore fears an officer would slain by the weapons they weren’t allowed to seize – have settled claims they were retaliated against.

Indeed, F&F was halted after a U.S. border agent was later killed by a gun buyer the ATF could have arrested, but was prevented from doing so.

Larry Alt and Olindo J. “Lee” Casa, two of the employees at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms filed retaliation claims with the Office of Special Counsel. The office said Tuesday they had resolved their cases through mediation. All mediation communications are confidential

Casa testified before congress that on many occassions surveillance teams followed gun buyers to the Phoenix area, watched them buy “devastating weapons” including AK-47 style weapons, .50 caliber rifles and pistols.

Holder“On many of those occasions, the surveillance team would then follow the straw purchasers either to a residence, a public location, or until the surveillance team was spotted by the straw purchasers,” Casa told Congress. “But the end result was always the same – the surveillance was terminated ... without interdicting or seizing the firearms.”

Casa said he and other agents warned superiors of something going wrong, but were ignored. On at least a couple of occasions, Casa said he witnessed a special agent ask supervisors if they were prepared to attend the funeral of slain agent or officer killed with one of the purchased firearms.

“Neither one answered or even seemed concerned by the question posed to them,” Casa testified.

The mediation follows the resolution last month of retaliation claims by ATF whistleblower Peter Forcelli.

-- Darren Barbee


Fast and Furious whistleblower resolves retaliation claim with government

GunsAn ATF agent turned whistleblower on the Fast and Furious scandal has resolved a retaliation claim with the government through a mediation program, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

Peter Forcelli, one of the employees at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who blew the whistle on Operation “Fast and Furious” testified before the Congress’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last June. Forcelli was assigned to the Phoenix field office, the center of the scandal that allowed guns to be sold in the hopes of making a bigger case.

Forcelli told Congress that ATF agents allowed weapons to be “provided to individuals whom they knew would traffic them to members of Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).  They did so by failing to lawfully interdict weapons that they knew were going to be delivered to members of DTOs, and they did so by encouraging federal firearms licensees to continue selling weapons that were destined for delivery to members of the DTOs where no interdiction efforts were planned."AG Holder

Forcelli believed the operation endangered the American public.

“Allowing firearms to be trafficked to criminals is a dangerous and deadly strategy.  The thought that the techniques used in the “Fast and Furious” investigation would result in “taking down a cartel” ... is, in my opinion, delusional.”

Under OSC’s mediation program, all mediation communications are confidential.  A spokeswoman for the special counsel office said she could not disclose any terms of the settlement.

“I commend Mr. Forcelli for his courage in coming forward, and I applaud both him and ATF for their good faith efforts to reach resolution of these issues,” said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “This is a testament to the ability of mediation to resolve complex cases.”

Forcelli has been an ATF agent law enforcement agent for more than a quarter century. His testimony before Congress can be found here.

-- Darren Barbee 



Army helmet sensors to monitor traumatic brain pounding -- in the NFL

Football helmetsThe U.S. Army uses helmet sensors to measure the impact to a soldier’s head after a concussive event, like an explosion.

So, it's only natural the National Football League wants in on Solider helmet that action.

While gridiron warriors aren’t actually engaged in combat with firearms (for the most part; Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain was recently sentenced for holding a gun to man’s head and firing a shot by his ear) the NFL wants the technology in its player’s helmets.

The helmets would use sensors that evaluate concussive events that could lead to traumatic brain injury, the Armed With Science blog for the Department of Defense reports.

Apparently, the NFL and the Army meet occasionally to swap information on brain injuries and treatment tactics. Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, product manager of soldier protection said head injuries suffered by football players are similar to those suffered by soldiers.

Steve Young concussion 1999What took us by surprise was this quote: “A lot of soldiers are football fans and a lot of football players and teams in the NFL are large supporters of the armed forces,” he said. “So it’s kind of a natural fit.”

Really? That’s the rationale? If only the National Dodgeball League (apparently real) were more on people’s radars, who knows what kind of help those elite players could receive when getting smacked in the noggin by a red ball.

The blog also reports that 58 percent of the more than 2,000 documented cases of brain injuries are Simulated rescue Army soldiers. So far, 45,000 sensor helmets have been ordered for troops, but only about 10,000 helmets have been delivered to troops. (Note: Photo (right) is a simulated rescue operation.)

Just to be clear, as George Carlin pointed out in his classic routine about football vs. baseball, the pigskin is an instrument of war:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!

Finally, your downer of the day: The clip (below) from an NFL exhibition game that left Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed. He died in 2007.

-- Darren Barbee



Federal cyber security: Giving a hand up to nation's hackers, not so much to you

Government securityPeople "needlessly" spend about $3.5 billion a year on identity theft protection, according to Consumer Reports. Needless, that is, unless you happen to give your personal information to the federal government.

A new federal report highlights weaknesses in government agencies’ shoddy information security programs. In non-geek speak, that means they're pathetic and/or incompetent. 

Illustration: In 2010, federal agencies reported 13,017 security incidents involving personal information. A single incident can involve thousands of people.

Last year, that number climbed to 15,560, a 19 percent increase, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.

Some examples of federal, state and private company data intrusions follow. Tums Alert: This list may Tums
induce nausea:

In May 2012, 123,000 participants of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has personal info access, including 46,587

individuals’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

• In April 2012, hackers breached a server at the Utah Department of

Health to access thousands of Medicaid records. About 280,000 people had their Social Security  numbers exposed.

• In March 2012, the Facebook account of the senior commander of the NATO was hacked, with in an attempt to spy on potentially sensitive information.

• In March 2012, it was reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee paid $1.5 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over potential violations stemming from the theft of unencrypted computer hard drives containing protected health information of more than 1 million people.

The feds are hit too: Federal operations, assets and people have been put at risk as security breaches placed sensitive information at risk. In 2006, there were 5,503 such incidents. In 2011, the number rose to 42,887, an increase of a MERE 680 percent

Your elected congressmenAs usual, the government ignores its own advice. Over the past several years, investigators have continued to warn that federal agency systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks and the potential to compromise personally identifiable information.

With luck, someone will hack the GAO’s computers and send a copy of the old reports to Congress.


-- Darren Barbee


DOD reports to Congress shrink to 10 pages, hopefully written at 5th grade level

Short and sweet is apparently the new watchword of the military, but considering who they're reporting to, that might be just about right.

The Department of Defense has told Congress that strategic reports to the widely disliked body of lawmakers won’t leave out key information, despite “guidance” that reports be just 10 pages long.

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little issued a statement July 11 saying New DOD report format that the guidance to keep reports about the same length as the Goodnight Moon children’s book (possible examples, left) will “not in any way seek to restrict information provided to Congress.”

A quick look at some recent DOD reports shows that a nuclear weapons management report was 108 pages. A report on stability and security in Iraq was 81 pages. Heck, even a report on Arctic operations and the North West passage was 32 pages.

"Across the department, we continually strive to provide Congress with the information and analysis it needs to fulfill its vital oversight role, and to do so in the most readable and usable format possible.  We also seek to do so in a cost effective manner,” Little said. 

A CNN blog reported that Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led a group of Republicans in a news conference attacking the Defense Department for its scantily clad

Chairman mao report about China's military.

The report is 19 pages long with and additional 33 pages of appendixes, CNN said.

"I think that is outrageous," said McKeon, R-California. "We can't do our job if the department doesn't give us adequate information to do the things that we are required to do."

To be fair, though, the report does have about a dozen “maps” of China — kind of like place-mats at a low end take-out joint. Two maps contained actual information, one providing data on nuclear attack submarines, diesel subs, destroyers, frigates, amphibious ships and so on.

If only we could cut the length of presidential campaigns using this method. In, say, comic book form.

Oh, wait. Obama comic Mccain comic


Finally, for your reading enjoyment, from Stanford.edu here's the 

The Top Nineteen World's Shortest Books

19. Famous Italian War Heroes

18. Al Gore: The Wild Years

17. Amelia Earhart's Guide to the Pacific Ocean

16. America's Most Popular Lawyers

15. Career Opportunities for History Majors

14. Detroit - a Travel Guide

13. Different Ways to Spell "Bob"

12. Dr. Kevorkian's Collection of Motivational Speeches

11. Easy UNIX

10. Ethiopian Tips on World Dominance

 9. Everything Men Know About Women

 8. Everything Women Know About Men

 7. French Hospitality

 6. George Foreman's Big Book of Baby Names

 5. How to Sustain A Musical Career by Art Garfunkel

 4. One Hundred and One Spotted Owl Recipes by the EPA

 3. Staple Your Way to Success

 2. The Amish Phone Book


 1. The Engineer's Guide to Fashion

-- Darren Barbee



Texas doctor's cancer cure: inject blood in a cow udder, have a glass of the milk

Warning: This post contains references to cows, blood and quite possibly some bull.

Roby Mitchell, M.D. is not your typical doctor. Technically, in fact, he hasn’t been licensed to practice medicine in Texas since 2005.

Mitchell — known by the moniker Dr. Fitt on his website — must have just shrugged his shoulders, since Good doctoring the Amarillo doctor kept on working.

And the work has recently been Stephen King strange.

In February 2011, when the Texas Medical Board found out he was still in the med business, they entered a cease and desist order against him, prohibiting him from practicing.

No doubt hurt by the spitefulness of the board’s decision, Dr. Fitt did what any unlicensed medical professional would do: He kept on going.

By the end of April 2011, Dr. Fitt had evaluated a patient with skin cancer that had spread to other parts of his body.

PrescriptionDr. Fitt held himself out to be a cancer doctor, board documents say. He first prescribed a cream to rub on the patient’s shoulder where had had received surgery for his melanoma. We hope it was Burt’s Bees, because we hear that really helps.

Then Dr. Fitt consulted his extensive medical knowledge to prescribe colostrum bovine treatment.

The treatment involved drawing blood from the patient, injecting the blood into a pregnant cow’s udder and then drinking milk from the cow.

Dr. Fitt said that cool but peculiar milkshake would contain anti-bodies to fight the cancer, according to Drink up
the board. Alas, the patient passed away before he had a chance to drink the milk.

(As of last year, claims associated with colostrum, a supplement, haven’t been substantiated by the FDA, according to livestrong.com)

Dr. Fitt charged $5,000 for the treatment.

The farmer who owned the cow refunded $2,500 to the patient’s widow. Dr. Fitt wouldn’t refund his half, the board said.

A woman who answered the phone for Dr. Fitt said to check out his Facebook page for a response to the board’s actions, but we couldn’t find it. (If you find it, let us know.)

His website has this to say, in part, about his career: “Dr. Mitchell voluntarily surrendered his Texas Medical license in 2005 after realizing the corruptness of an industry that has no concern for the health of Americans.” 

To be fair, there is a lot of wiggle room between “voluntarily surrendered” and “revoked.”

Dr. Fitt says he has since trained doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others in this country, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere “in strategies that result in curing rather than managing symptoms.”

At any rate, Dr. Fitt is once again being told not to practice medicine. Best of luck with that, medical board.

-- Darren Barbee


Arm to the teeth: Texas nurse aide bit on arm chomps Alzheimer's patient's head

Brace yourself for some weird: A certified nurse aide in Abilene was viciously bit by a resident suffering from Alzheimer’s disease while helping the woman on the toilet.

Teeth battleIt's what happened next that caused her to get the heave-ho.

A witness said that as she and the aide helped a resident at a nursing home in Abilene, the woman was combative.

Then, she watched as she the woman put a “clamp down” on the aide’s arm with her teeth. For at least a minute, the aide was in an excruciating dental duel and yelled that the resident would not let her go, according to documents filed by the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The witness said she could tell the aide was in great pain and both of her arms were “tied up” restraining the woman. 

Then, in a moment of pointed retaliation, the witness “unequivocally testified” that the nurse aide bent over and bit the resident on the forehead, court documents say.

A medical assessment of the resident determined that she had a bite mark with two open skin wounds on her forehead.


The aide said she didn’t bite the woman and that she fainted from the pain of being bitten. She argued that it was possible her teeth hit the resident as she raised her head and tried to stand up.

An Administrative Law Judge recommended that that the aide’s name be listed in the state’s Nurse Aide Registry in relation to the finding of abuse. That would bar her from working in nursing homes in the future.

But the judge wasn’t indifferent to the melee.

“The duration of the bite to Petitioner arguably led her to take defensive action, so the ALJ is not unsympathetic to (the aide’s) situation.” However, the judge was persuaded by testimony that the act of biting is never an acceptable protective reaction for a nurse aid and should always be considered willful. 

The aide is currently not listed in the Nurse Aide Registry, which lists nurses barred from working in nursing homes.

Still, it’s probably a given the nurse aide won't be receiving (or giving) a plaque anytime soon.


-- Darren Barbee



Is that a picture of a UFO flying over Colleyville, Texas?

From Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber

   Watchdog Bytes doesn’t only cover earthly matters. We bring to you today the story of an anomaly, something that makes little sense. But then again, maybe it makes all the sense in the world. You see, you are about to enter the Twilight Zone of Watchdog Bytes.

   Our story begins with Emily Casey, an 11-year-old explorer who is currently in the 5th grade at South Keller Intermediate School in Keller, Texas.

   The other day, Emily looked up her friend’s house on Google Maps. She knew his family was selling the house. So she typed in the address – 6760 St Moritz Parkway, Colleyville, Texas – on Google Maps and saw the home.

   “I turned it to the top of the page, up into the sky, and I saw this thing,” she says. “At first, I thought it was just a cool-looking cloud. Then I started looking closer at that. And I said, ‘What is that?’”

   She discovered – there’s no way else to say it – a possible flying saucer above that Colleyville home.

UFO overall

   “It’s kinda cool. I’m still not sure what it is. It was probably one of my coolest moments ever.”

   Emily’s father, Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Russell Casey, brought this story to Watchdog Bytes.

   “It was kind of funny to me,” the father says.

Ufo enlarged

   Is it a UFO over Collevyille, Texas? You decide. Visit Google Earth and type in this address – 6760 St Moritz Parrkway, Colleyville, Texas - and then move the cursor toward the sky. Or look at the photos on this page. Thanks Emily Casey!

Emily Casey

 # # #

Read the Dave Lieber Watchdog column in the Star-Telegram.

Dave Lieber headshot



African Americans endured noose, racist remarks at Texas company, feds say

As if working at a San Antonio foundry wasn’t enough of a grind, black employees were subjected to vile racist treatment, according to a federal agency’s lawsuit. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says in a lawsuit that African-American employees at AA Foundries routinely experienced racial harassment from its superintendent.  

The harassment included intimidation, insults and ridicule, such as a hanging noose and racially offensive pictures, posters and other types of literature," the EEOC said.  AA Foundries superintendent frequently used the “N” word and “boy” when addressing or talking about black employees, according to the agency.

“What happened to these workers was disgraceful and illegal,” said EEOC senior trial attorney Eduardo Juarez of the EEOC San Antonio Field Office.  “Rather than taking steps to stop the harassment, the company’s officials simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed the conduct to continue.  Employers have a responsibility to prevent racial harassment in their workplace.” AA Foundries is a San Antonio manufacturer of ferrous castings and producer of foundry mold machines. 

-- Darren Barbee

Hot dog company sued for sexually harassing two female employees

Hot dog 2 We typically stick to Texas stupidity on Watchdog Bytes, but a Macon, Ga., company is getting a kick in the buns after two women complained about harassment from a female general manager and were fired. Yes, it was a hot dog company, Nu-Way Weiners (motto: "I'd Go a Long Way For a Nu-Way"), one of the oldest such restaurants in the country. 

Two female employees were harassed with a daily barrage of lewd comments, gestures and inappropriate physical touching, according to a suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission. The general manager groped the women's  breasts and buttocks and frequently asked them to accompany her to a gay club. 

The accusers said the harassment  began shortly after they started working at the restaurant, one in the summer  of 2009, the other in January 2010. “Although  the general manager made it known that anyone who complained would be fired, both  women openly opposed her inappropriate behavior and asked her to stop,” according to the EEOC. Both women were fired in the spring of 2010 by  the harasser after they had repeatedly rejected her sexual advances, the EEOC said. In business since 1916, Nu-Way cultivates “new customers by offering that famous Nu-Way taste best described as ‘insatiable.’"

-- Darren Barbee