Saturday, September 20, 2014

NOT A JOKE: Planned Parenthood’s Condom Couture 2014 In Photos


Photo by Carrie Eidson
Photo by Carrie Eidson
Planned Parenthood of Asheville held their annual fashion event, Condom Couture, at The Venue on Thursday, Sept. 18. The event invited local designers to create garments that heavily featured condoms in the design. The looks were auctioned off to raise funds for Planned Parenthood, but according to Bonnie Smith, project director for Planned Parenthood, the garments also worked to aid the organization’s mission to promote safe sex practices.
“Condoms are an accessible and inexpensive form of birth control that also help prevent the transmission of STDs,” said Smith. “They’re something that we promote a lot, and we needed an event that got this message out in a way that people would enjoy.”
The event, MCed by Scandals star Roxxy Hart, showcased 15 looks, all from Asheville designers.
Scroll through the slideshow to view more photos from Condom Couture 2014.
Unable to see the slideshow on your mobile device? Click here for a mobile friendly version.


Nanny State Of The Week: Vermont

9/20/2014 blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban

Brownies, cookies, cupcakes and other essential elements of any successful bake sale have been banned by new rules for food in Vermont public schools.
Shutterstock image
Shutterstock image
DELICIOUS AND ILLEGAL: Vermont’s ban on brownies and other bake sale goodies means school clubs and sports teams will have to find new, less delicious, ways to fundraise.
Thanks to rules that grew out of a 2010 state law, bake sales used as school fundraisers have to switch out the sweet treats and replace them with options like gluten-free, paleo lemon bars, kale and fruit.’s Bruce Parker, who is no stranger to exposing Vermont’s nanny state tendencies, exposed the state’s bake sale brownie ban last week in a story that you honestly have to read to believe.
The new school lunch pattern has low-fat, leaner proteins, greater variety and larger portions of fruit and vegetables; the grains have to be 100 percent whole grain rich,” said Laurie Colgan, the child nutrition program director at the appropriately-dystopian-sounding Agency of Education.
Colgan, who is probably one of the few people on the planet who would prefer a kale biscuit to a fudge brownie, had the chance to exempt fundraisers like bake sales from the new nutritional guidelines, but decided instead to wield her power to ban brownies and other sweet treats from “the whole school environment,” according toParker’s story.
What are the unintended consequences of the brownie ban, one has to wonder?
Will there soon be an elaborate brownie bootlegging scheme running in Vermont schools, sneaking treats across the border from New York by crossing Lake Champlain under cover of darkness — or perhaps just sneaking them from the homes of parents who are sympathetic to the brownie bootleggers cause?
Will brownie gangs battle for control of the illicit bake sale trade, carving up the streets of Rutland like it was 1930s Chicago?
Shutterstock image
Shutterstock image
NOT THE CUPCAKES TOO: Yes, they banned the cupcakes too.
And what, exactly, is the exchange rate for an illegal brownie at a school lunch table (as anyone who has ever sat at a lunch table can tell you, these types of negotiations are tricky even when the brownies, fruit snacks and chips are all legal)?
Probably not. But Vermont might want to take a look at its southern neighbor to see what sorts of things do happen when bans like this are imposed.
Here’s a hint: School bake sales usually act as fundraisers for clubs and sports. But in order to raise those funds, people have to actually spend money on the things being sold.
Raise your hand if you think a bake sale featuring kale biscuits is going to be as successful as one with fudgy brownies — you know, the ones that are still kind of warm in the middle and just the right amount of moist and they just smell so delicious and you have to have more than one because, come on, that’s like a perfectly chocolately slice of heaven right there — take my money already.
In Massachusetts, an effort to ban brownies and other sweets at school bake sales incited a bake-lash not seen in that state since the British tried to march on Lexington and Concord.
As the Boston Globe reported at the time the state tried it’s brownie ban:
Representative Bradford Hill, an Ipswich Republican, said he proposed junking the ban after being inundated with calls from school booster clubs, from football to the drama club, saying they desperately needed bake sale money to continue operating.
Hill said that when legislators debated and ultimately passed a bill in July 2010 directing public health officials to crack down on junk food in schools, they never dreamed the officials would declare war on beloved bake sales.
Terri L. Murphy – treasurer for the Ipswich Music, Art & Drama Association, a booster club for arts in local schools – said she e-mailed Hill when she heard about the ban earlier this week.
“It was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re going to lose about $6,000 a year,’ ’’ she said…
… “Do we put out apples and oranges and yogurt? Yes,’’ )Murphy) said. “Do they sell? No.’’
Similar concerns are already cropping up in Vermont.  Unless this is all a backdoor attempt to shut down schoolchildren’s extracurricular activities  — and, really, who has the energy for extracurriculars when all you’re eating is kale  — maybe Vermont should reconsider the ban.
But until parents demand a change ,or until little brownie gangsters are running the Green Mountain State’s schools, the ban is here to stay.
That’s why Vermont’s Agency of Education is this week’s winner. Their prize is a never-ending buffet of stale kale biscuits.
Boehm can be reached at and follow Bruce Parker’s excellent work right here.
Part of 21 in the series Nanny State of the Week


Cryin' The Blues: City union files restraining order on wage raises, wants negotiating power back


The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed a temporary restraining order Friday to petition Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry's decision to give raises to city employees.
The restraining order asks the judge to allow the raises to remain in effect, but to hold the city accountable for superseding the negotiation process for union workers.
AFSCME says it is happy with the raises, but the union wants to retain the right to proper negotiation and retaining the union contract.
It also says the union wants to continue with an arbitrator as a mediator, because it doesn't believe the mayor has the authority to dole out raises to union workers.
The restraining order will be processed by the city clerk Monday.


SURPRISE: Feds mum on prosecution of illegal border crossers


TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The federal government refuses to say whether prosecutors in Yuma, Arizona, have scaled back a years-old program that guarantees jail time for most immigrants caught crossing the border illegally and which law enforcement officials say is crucial to public safety.
Reports that federal prosecutors have stopped some prosecutions under Operation Streamline surfaced nearly two weeks ago when Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking information on the status of the zero-tolerance program that circumvents the civil immigration system and lumps together months' worth of criminal proceedings into one day for immigrants caught crossing the border illegally.
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot said in a letter to the senators that he had been informed that federal prosecutors in Yuma are no longer going after first offenders.
But the government has been completely silent on the issue. Public affairs officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have all refused to answer questions about whether the program has been scaled back.
Brett Worsencroft, president of the Border Patrol union for Yuma Sector border agents, said the U.S. Attorney's Office has in fact ended prosecutions of first-time offenders.
"Operation Streamline is like one of the last strongholds we have as a deterrent. Our manpower is dwindling on a daily basis," Worsencroft said. "The fence can only do so much."
Worsencroft said the program was a large factor in the steep decline in border-crossers in Yuma because it sent a message that even first-time offenders would serve jail time and because it allowed agents to focus their attention on drug smugglers and other dangerous criminals.
Getting rid of prosecutions for first-time offenders is a "free ticket into the U.S." for those who cross the border without legal status, he said.
Operation Streamline is used as a deterrent. Federal judges sentence large groups of immigrants within days of their arrival into the U.S. in fast court proceedings that include an arraignment, plea and sentencing in the span of one day. Most immigrants who participate in the program plead guilty to entering the country illegally and receive sentences of 30 to 120 days. Many get credit for time served.
In Yuma, all immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally went through the program. That differs from the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, where the much higher volume of border crossers means that mostly immigrants with prior deportations are prosecuted under Operation Streamline. Prosecutors in parts of Texas also use the program, but those in California do not do so.
The Yuma Sector made 6,106 apprehensions in fiscal year 2013. The Tucson Sector, which includes most of southern Arizona, made more than 120,000 in that timeframe.
But the low numbers haven't always been the case for Yuma, which in 2004 and 2005 saw upward of 140,000 immigrant apprehended. Many attribute that drop to the implementation of Operation Streamline.
"This new guidance is of great concern because it undermines the mission of local law enforcement agencies throughout Yuma County for 100 percent prosecution of those entering the United States illegally in order to curb reentries," Wilmot wrote.
McCain and Flake in a letter also said that the program contributed to decreased immigration in that area.
"Achieving these gains in border security is no doubt a result of a combination of factors including increased manpower, technology implementation, and appropriate consequences," the senators wrote. "The Yuma County Sheriff's Office cites 100 percent prosecution as a shared goal of a partnership including federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and cites Operation Streamline as an element in the recent success in reducing illegal crossings."
Holder has not responded to the senators, a spokeswoman for Flake said.
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Immigration Failure #495,289: Teen jailed for choking woman, raping her after she passed out


A teenager is facing multiple criminal charges after being accused of holding a woman against her will, choking her and raping her after she passed out.
Authorities arrested 18-year-old Raul Contreras on aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping charges on Thursday.
Brownsville police told Action 4 News that officers were called to at home at 124 Huisache Street in the Riverside neighborhood in the city's westside earlier that day.
A woman told police that a man she only knew as "Raul" held her against her will, choked her until she passed out and raped her after.
Brownsville police identified Contreras as the suspect.
Detectives worked with the U.S. Marshals and Port Isabel police and found Contreras while leaving Port Isabel on Highway 48.
Contreras appeared before a Brownsville Municipal Court judge where he was issued $150,000 dollars in bonds.


American Jailed in Cuba Seeks to Sue U.S. Government


WASHINGTON – Lawyers for a U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba on a conviction for subversion argued on Friday before a federal appellate court that their client should be allowed to sue the United States.

Alan Gross, now 65, and wife Judith sued Development Alternatives Inc and the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2012 for failing to inform him in advance about the risks of the Cuba mission and for refusing to pull him out after he expressed concerns.

While the couple reached a settlement with DAI in 2013, a U.S. district court threw out their suit against USAID.

Gross’ attorneys challenged the dismissal on Friday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The three judges listened to arguments from both sides and adjourned without indicating when they would rule on the appeal.

The district court judge who dismissed the suit against USAID said the federal government enjoys immunity for injuries suffered abroad.

USAID contracted Maryland-based DAI for a project to expand Internet access and the flow of information in Cuba.

DAI hired Gross to travel to the island, where he was detained in December 2009 with satellite communications equipment he was planning to distribute among Cuba’s Jewish community.

Cuban authorities said Gross was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 15 years.

Havana has suggested an exchange of Gross for three Cuban intelligence agents serving time in U.S. prisons.

The United States rejects talk of a prisoner swap, instead demanding that Cuba release Gross without conditions.


Police Arrest 3 for Bombings in Chile’s Capital


SANTIAGO – Chile’s Carabineros militarized police force arrested three suspects Thursday in connection with the July 12 and Sept. 8 bombings that wounded 14 people in the Santiago Metro, Bio Bio radio reported.

Two men and a woman were arrested as suspects in the investigation led by South Region prosecutor Raul Guzman.

More than 200 Carabineros officers participated in the operation, searching six houses in the cities of La Granja, San Bernardo and La Pintana.

Three young people with anarchist leanings were detained around 2:30 a.m., police spokesmen in La Pintana said.

One of the suspects was behind the attacks on the Los Dominicos and Escuela Militar Metro stations, and a bombing near a Carabineros station on Aug. 11, police said.

Carabineros officers raided the residences and made the arrests after receiving tips about possible new attacks on Thursday, when Chile celebrates Independence Day with a religious ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral, and during a military parade at O’Higgins Park on Friday.

Security was tighter than usual Thursday around Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral, with both police officers and army troops deployed in the area.

The government said last week it would prosecute as terrorists those responsible for the attack that wounded 14 people in a business district near the Escuela Militar Metro station.


Number of Endemic Chikungunya Infections in Brazil Rises to 7


SAO PAULO – The government of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia confirmed on Friday five cases of endemic Chikungunya virus, raising to seven the number of people who have been infected by the virus without leaving the country.

The patients whose diagnoses were confirmed live in the town of Feira de Santana, at some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Salvador, capital of Bahia.

According to the superintendent of health security and protection, Alcina Andrade, the people infected with the Chikungunya virus in Feira de Santana “are being accompanied to a laboratory but need not be admitted” to a hospital.

On Tuesday, the Amapa state government confirmed the first two endemic cases of the disease in Brazil and adopted a series of measures to keep the virus from spreading.

After learning of the five new cases in Bahia, the state health department warned citizens to stay away from stagnant water where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes tend to swarm and which carry both the dengue virus as well as Chikungunya, while announcing greater control over areas that are possible breeding grounds.

The department also noted that suspected cases must be reported within 24 hours after the first symptoms appear.

Since January, when Brazilian authorities announced a contingency plan following the appearance of native cases of the disease in several countries of the Americas, 44 cases of Chikungunya were recorded in Brazil, 37 of which were patients who had been infected in other countries.


Colombian City Slams Article That Names It “World’s Biggest Brothel”


BOGOTA – Medellin City Hall denounced an article on a British Web site that described that Colombian city as “the biggest brothel in the world,” and criticized journalism that specializes in negative reporting.

The report published in the online edition of Channel 4, and which according to local media was written by Peruvian journalist Guillermo Galdos, says among other things that the back streets of Medellin are controlled by criminals and are full of prostitutes.

“We don’t minimize the problems we face, but we reject the biased reports that have always tried to stigmatize Medellin,” the city’s Mayor Anibal Gaviria said in a message on Twitter.

The article says that criminal gangs control the sex industry in Medellin and that transactions can involve the sale of “virgin girls” for large sums of money.

“Our philosophy is not to ignore the reality, however tough it might be, but to work tirelessly to continue transforming it,” the mayor of Medellin, capital of the northwestern province of Antioquia, said in another message.

In a statement to local media, Gaviria said that “unfortunately there is a kind of international journalism that specializes in negative reporting and (in the case of Medellin) it is done intentionally to continue the process of stigmatization that the city suffered for 20 years,” a reference to the violent years of the Medellin drug cartel.

The article contains a video that includes photos of deceased drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, slain in a police operation in December 1993.