Monday, April 25, 2011

NFL Brand Needs More Tebows

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2011 draft is just around the corner
by Robert A. Waters

After last year’s National Football League draft, Boston radio talk show host Fred Toettcher commented on former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s draft party. “It looked like some kind of Nazi rally,” he said. Toettcher reportedly objected to the fact that all of the party guests were “lily-white.” This comment, of course, says more about Toettcher than it does Tebow.

By all accounts, Tim Tebow is the kind of young man you’d want your daughter to date. The same can’t be said for many of the other draftees of 2010. After a year in the NFL, here’s how a few of the non-Nazis turned out.

Dez Bryant was the 24th pick of the Dallas Cowboys. According to reports, the former Oklahoma State wide receiver was sued for $846,000. It seems he signed a contract with jeweler Eleow Hunt while still in college. According to court affadavits, Hunt allegedly contracted to supply Bryant with gold, diamonds, and other custom jewelry. Once he signed an NFL contract, Bryant was supposed to pay Hunt for the items. He never did, resulting in the lawsuit. Other brushes that Bryant has had with the legal system makes one wonder if he will ever reach his potential on the football field. Whatever the outcome of his legal troubles, it’s safe to say that Dez Bryant is no Tim Tebow.

Just before the season began, second-round draft pick Sergio Kindle (Texas) fell down some stairs and suffered a concussion. He was unable to perform on the field, but his performance off the field netted him a DUI charge. On December 26, 2010, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker’s blood tested twice the legal limit for alcohol, according to police reports. He had a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated when he was in college.

On December 9, 2010, Perrish Cox, 137th pick of the Denver Broncos, was arrested for felonious sexual assault. Documents released by the court indicate that the alleged victim was “incapacitated” when the attack occurred. If convicted, Cox could get two years to life in prison. As with many other 2010 draft picks, this wasn't Cox’s first brush with the legal system.

Derrick Morgan, 16th pick of the Tennessee Titans, was arrested for speeding and driving with a suspended license.

Adding a little humor to an otherwise sordid group of draftees, Seattle rookie Golden Tate and a friend were accused of breaking into the Top Pot Doughnut Shop at about 3:00 a.m. one morning. They allegedly stole a set of car keys and pastries. The two weren’t arrested, although a witness told police they were drunk.

So what did Nazi Tebow do during the season?

He used a portion of his signing money to start the Tim Tebow Foundation. The organization provides educational support for at-risk youth in Colorado, helps fund an orphanage in the Phillipines, and supports trips and events that give hope and inspiration to disadvantaged youth and their families. For many years, Tebow has worked with underprivileged children. He often visits hospitals and prisons to comfort those in need.

The NFL draft begins on Thursday. Here's hoping there are a lot more Tebows and a lot less self-absorbed thugs ambling up to the podium to shake hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is It Wrong To Judge People By Their Looks?

Would you trust this guy?

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Perceptions and Biases to Crime and Criminals
by Tara Forten

If you were reading a crime fiction novel and if the author had not described the criminal in too much detail, what image would form in your mind as you read the book? You may think you’re not biased at all, but the truth is, most of us think of stereotypes of criminals that have been formed over the years, thanks to television and the movies – roughnecks who are unkempt and look and smell dirty, thugs with massive muscles and visible tattoos, African Americans with dreadlocks or a shaven head, and so on. This is exactly the same reason as to why we also shy away from sinister looking strangers on the street and warn our children to beware of them.

Are we actually wrong to let biases and stereotypes dictate the way we perceive the criminal intent of people, or is this just a survival instinct telling us to be careful and protect ourselves? If so, then we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to the criminal kinds that look and act normal – they are just your average people next door and you tend to trust them “instinctively” because your bias and perception of the criminal stereotype tells you that they are safe.

A recent survey found that we change our perception of crime based on the television shows we watch – with the proliferation of crime shows on TV, it’s hard to find people who’ve not seen one or the other at some point of time. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have found that if you prefer to watch non-fictional crime shows, you’re more likely to be more fearful of becoming a victim of crime and show less confidence in the criminal justice system. If crime fiction is your cup of tea, it really doesn’t affect your perception of falling victim to a crime or your confidence in the justice system. And if you watch the local news crime coverage, you’re more likely to believe that the local crime rate is shooting up by the day.

The reality today is that crime has reached proportions that are hard to even imagine, and no matter how safe our location and how cocooned an environment we live in, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take every precaution to safeguard your home and your family. Teach your children a few basic safety rules – never give out their address, phone number, social security number, credit card number, or any other personal information to anyone; don’t walk the streets alone, especially when it’s dark; inform an adult of your whereabouts at all times; seek out a law enforcement officer in case you think you’re being followed or harassed – and ensure that your home is well protected with alarms and deadbolts. Also, don’t trust strangers too fast and restrict access to your home for people you hardly know.

It pays to be smart and avoid becoming a victim of crime, so start protecting yourself today by taking the simple yet effective measures that have proven to work time and again.

This guest post was contributed by Tara Forten, who writes on the topic of forensic science technician online . Tara can be reached at her email id: tara.forte12_AT_gmail_dot_com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Help the FBI Solve a Murder

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Victim's Encrypted Notes Could Break Cold Case

[This story is taken directly from the FBI's website.]

On June 30, 1999, sheriff’s officers in St. Louis, Missouri discovered the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick. He had been murdered and dumped in a field. The only clues regarding the homicide were two encrypted notes found in the victim’s pants pockets.

Despite extensive work by FBI's Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU), as well as help from the American Cryptogram Association, the meanings of those two coded notes remain a mystery to this day, and Ricky McCormick’s murderer has yet to face justice.

“We are really good at what we do,” said CRRU chief Dan Olson, “but we could use some help with this one.”

The more than 30 lines of coded material use a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses. McCormick was a high school dropout, but he was able to read and write and was said to be “street smart.” According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy, but apparently no one in his family knows how to decipher the codes, and it’s unknown whether anyone besides McCormick could translate his secret language. Investigators believe the notes in McCormick’s pockets were written up to three days before his death.

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Over the years, a number of CRRU’s examiners—who are experts at breaking codes—have puzzled over the McCormick notes and applied a variety of analytical techniques to tease out an answer. “Standard routes of cryptanalysis seem to have hit brick walls,” Olson noted. Our cryptanalysts have several plausible theories about the notes, but so far, there has been no solution.

To move the case forward, examiners need another sample of McCormick’s coded system—or a similar one—that might offer context to the mystery notes or allow valuable comparisons to be made. Or, short of new evidence, Olson said, “Maybe someone with a fresh set of eyes might come up with a brilliant new idea.”

That’s where the public comes in. The FBI has always relied on tips and other assistance from the public to solve crimes, and although breaking a code may represent a special circumstance, your help could aid the investigation. Take a look at McCormick’s two notes. If you have an idea how to break the code, have seen similar codes, or have any information about the Ricky McCormick case, send them to FBI online at write to CRRU at the following address:

FBI Laboratory
Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit
2501 Investigation Parkway
Quantico, VA 22135
Attn: Ricky McCormick Case

There is no reward being offered, just a challenge—and the satisfaction of knowing that your brain power might help bring a killer to justice.

“Even if we found out that he was writing a grocery list or a love letter,” Olson said, “we would still want to see how the code is solved. This is a cipher system we know nothing about.”

In fact, Ricky McCormick’s encrypted notes are one of CRRU’s top unsolved cases. “Breaking the code,” said Olson, “could reveal the victim’s whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide. Not every cipher we get arrives at our door under those circumstances.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crystal Gail Mangum Arrested Yet Again

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Falsely accused Duke lacrosse players
by Robert A. Waters

The meta-narrative was rife with error, but still the media persisted: three privileged white athletes attending Duke University had brutally raped a poor black girl who just wanted to make a better life for her child. The few who protested this rush to judgment were branded racists, which seems to be about the worst thing you can be in this day and age.

Crystal Gail Mangum was the black girl. The fact that she was a stripper who had already run afoul of the law and had already falsely accused a man of rape was ignored.

Reade Seligman, Colin Finnerty, and David Evans were the white lacrosse players. Their anguished protestations of innocence were laughed away. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, newspapers large and small, the administrators and professors of Duke University itself, the national true crime talk shows—everyone assigned guilt to the players because the case confirmed what they already believed. The white world is racist, so the meta-narrative reads, and black people are almost always victims of hate-filled whites.

On March 13, 2006, members of the Duke lacrosse team hired two strippers to dance for them at the off-campus university-owned home rented by several players. Mangum and Kim Roberts, another black dancer, arrived at about 11:30 p.m. Several players were drunk, as was Mangum. The dance didn’t go well, and the two hired girls left at around 1:00 a.m. (There had been name-calling between a couple of the drunken players and the dancers.)

As they left, Kim Roberts, who’d had enough of Mangum’s drunken outbursts, stopped at Kroger’s Grocery Store and attempted to get her partner to get out of her car. Someone called police at 1:22 a.m. “"There's a lady in someone else's car,” the caller said, “and she will not get out.... She's like, intoxicated, drunk or something."

When officers arrived, Mangum accused twenty lacrosse players of raping her. The responding officer didn’t believe her, and Roberts was incredulous. She claimed she’d been with Mangum the whole time, except maybe five minutes, and there was no rape.

Enter a prosecutor running a tight re-election campaign. Mike Nifong needed the black vote to win, and suddenly it seemed that a case had dropped in his lap that would seal the deal. He began making pronouncements to the media about the case, even going so far as to label the players "hooligans." His unethical and illegal statements to reporters convinced many that the players were unquestionably guilty of sexual assault, kidnapping, and rape.

Few in the media expressed any skepticism about Nifong’s accusations. Fewer still bothered to check the background of the accuser. And while she remained anonymous in news stories about the case, the photos and names of the three players were plastered all over every newspaper and television show in America. Eventually Nifong charged Seligman, Finnerty, and Evans--if convicted, each player could have received up to thirty years in prison. Even though it was obvious that two of the players (Seligman and Finnerty) were not even at the party when the alleged rape occurred.

While their rich white-boy status brought heaps of fire on their heads, it at least allowed them to hire a group of experienced, high-quality attorneys. Those lawyers were eventually able to rip the lid off the case and shine the light of truth onto a corrupt investigation.

Even as Nifong’s carefully orchestrated case broke apart, the media continued to attack the lacrosse players like slobbering wolves. Nothing seemed to be able to overcome the meta-narrative. Police fudged reports and timelines, Nifong hid DNA tests that exonerated the players, and the defense attorneys weren’t given evidence that proved the players were innocent.

By this time, most Americans could smell the stink emanating from the case, but the media slogged along as if there were no question about the players’ guilt. (It’s hard to admit you’re wrong, and most never did.)

Finally, the charges were dismissed. The State Attorney, who had taken over the investigation, informed the press that not only were they "not guilty," the three players were totally innocent. Many law enforcement officers, Duke administrators, and members of the media had their reputations shredded. Mike Nifong resigned and was disbarred, and lawsuits have been filed against many of the participants in the witch hunt.

Crystal Gail Mangum went about her life in the same manner she did before she gained infamy. After a fight with her live-in boyfriend, she was arrested in 2010 for arson, attempted murder, assault and battery, and several other charges. She eventually was convicted of child abuse, resisting an officer, and damage to public property.

On April 2, 2011, Mangum was arrested yet again. This time she was charged with stabbing another live-in boyfriend. The victim, Reginald Daye, died two weeks later and Mangum has now been charged with murder. Let’s hope that those who rushed to judgment in the Duke case will let the courts sort out the case.