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The Farsider

August 7, 2014

 

Bill Mattos, Editor and Publisher <bilmat@comcast.net>
Leroy Pyle, Webmaster <leroypyle@sjpba.net>

 

The Farsider is an independent publication that is not affiliated with the San Jose Police Benevolent
Assn. The SJPBA has allowed the Farsider to be included on its web site solely for the convenience
of the retired San Jose Police community. The content of this newsletter does not represent or reflect
the views of the San Jose Police Benevolent Association's Board of Directors or its membership.


 

PENSION NEWS



Aug. 6th

The Council met yesterday after a six week vacation and here is what happened:

Measure B Ballot Measure:

The Council considered a ballot measure that would have changed Measure B to allow officers who have resigned to be rehired into Tier 1, rather than being placed into Tier 2 upon their return. The Council also considered changing the Measure B disability language to place in the city charter its "Guaranteed City Job" gimmick and requiring that an officer's injury be a one time event rather than cumulative.

For months the POA worked with City Manager Ed Shikada and his legal team to draft a global fix to Measure B that would have fixed the immoral disability language contained in Measure B and would have created a secure, affordable and competitive 2nd Tier benefit for our new members. Unfortunately, the City Council rejected the compromise the POA and Local 230 had worked out with City Manager Shikada.

The City Council voted not to move forward with any Measure B fix, thus ensuring the further demise of our department. Per state law, the next opportunity to amend the City Charter will be in November of 2016.

Sales Tax Increase:

The Council considered several proposed sales tax increases, including a general sales tax increase and/or a public safety specific tax increase. After much discussion and confusion, the Council was unable to get the required 8 votes to place any sales tax increase before the voters. Per state law, sales tax increases can only be placed on the ballot during general elections and the next opportunity for a new sales tax increase will not occur until November of 2016!

Retirement Board Governance:

The Council approved a measure for the November ballot to allow a Charter change that would increase the Retirement Board's autonomy. The POA supports this concept but does not support a portion of the measure approved by the Council. The measure contains language that implies the Council could combine the Retirement Boards. While City negotiators said this was not their intent, that is the practical implications of this measure. We will be meeting with Local 230 and the Police and Fire Retirees to consider our response.

Open Negotiations:

The Council voted to move forward with enacting an open negotiations process, by ordinance as opposed to a charter amendment. This would effectively result in all labor negotiations being open to the public and media. It is too early to contemplate the full impact of such a proposal. This kind of change would require meet and confer obligations involving all of the unions in the City. We'll keep you notified as we learn more.

Jim Unland
<president@sjpoa.com>
John Robb
<vicepresident@sjpoa.com>



 

POA UPDATES



Click on the links below to watch and/or read relevant news clips from the past week.

KTVU Channel 2: Measure B cripples response to brazen daytime burglaries. (Video)



Click HERE

~ ~ ~

NBC Bay Area: San Jose Council proposes booby trapped sales tax. (Video)



Click
HERE

~ ~ ~

The Daily Fetch: Councilmember Rocha calls out Council colleagues for Measure B games. (Article)



Click HERE


 

THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE CITY AND SJPD

Seems that nothing can be done these days without a segment of the public getting their panties in a bunch. This article from last Friday's paper explains...

Debate Over S.J. Police Drone

—Critics worry device will be used for more than finding bombs—

By Robert Salonga
<rsalonga@mercurynews.com>
Mercury News — Aug. 1, 2014

SAN JOSE — San Jose police say what is believed to be the Bay Area’s first police drone will only be used for bomb cases. Critics fear it’s the first step toward streamlined spying on residents and gathering information without a warrant.

The $7,000 drone purchased earlier this year looks like a homemade contraption, and it comes with a mount for a standard GoPro video camera. Police officials say the drone is far from being air-ready, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the creation of policies governing its use, which police contend will be for only one purpose.

“Speaking today, our intent is to use it for bomb purposes and bomb purposes only,” police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said.

But civil liberties groups are sounding the alarm about the drone. They have long challenged the adoption of drones by law enforcement, citing fears of warrantless intelligence-gathering and surveillance. Prior attempts to get drones by Bay Area police agencies, including San Francisco police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, were spurned by political pushback centered on those privacy concerns.

“They may say now it’s for bomb detection, but tomorrow they may decide to surveil com­munities of color or watch over a political protest,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for ACLU California. “With the revelations of NSA spying the last couple of years and growing community understanding of how surveillance can be misused, the public is no longer willing to accept the ‘Just trust us’ approach.”

Ozer was among several critics decrying the lack of a usage policy for the drones and how its funding was sought by police and subsequently approved by the San Jose City Council in November with little to no public disclosure or discussion. The drone was purchased in January, and its existence surfaced in July only after exhaustive records requests by public records watchdog MuckRock and Vice. Morales contends that the department’s records response was slowed by bureaucratic hiccups and not any intent to conceal information.

Opponents also note that the drone, funded by the federal preparedness-oriented Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, backed by the Department of Homeland Security, could be available to other local police via mutual-aid agreements, widening its potential surveillance footprint.

“There is something fundamentally different about a drone,” said Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has a Ph.D. in robotics. “It’s cheaper than a helicopter and doesn’t take an expert pilot. The affordability and ease of use means it could be used to perpetually surveil people. You should have to get a warrant first, and we don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Morales said the department is aware of the controversy surrounding the use of drones by the government and said Police Chief Larry Esquivel has ordered the department to create policies outlining the circumstances when the drone can be deployed, which he said will be presented to the public, including organizations such as the ACLU, for feedback.

“We understand how sensitive this topic is, and how the machinery could be utilized for other means,” Morales said. “We still need to get FAA approval and ensure bomb technicians are properly trained.”

He added: “When we get a piece of technology that can help us do our job more effectively and maintain safety, we owe it to our community to go and do that. It’s merely another tool for law enforcement, and in this case bomb callouts to keep officers and the public out of harm’s way.”

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s other comparably sized police agency to San Jose, said it will remain on the sidelines on the drone issue.

“We know there has been movement in law enforcement toward this, but at this time we don’t have any or have plans to acquire a drone,” Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup said.

Part of that may be driven by a desire to avoid the kind of controversy that SJPD finds itself in, with one local law enforcement official, speaking confidentially, saying, “the public perception is terrible right now. It makes a lot of sense as a tool, but right now it’s not worth the headache.”

The multi-rotor drone in question — a Century Neo 660 V2 made by San Jose-based Century Helicopter Products — conjures images far different from those of the sleek, unmanned Predators used to destroy military targets: The 2-foot-wide product can support a GoPro video camera and accompanying transmitter and is on the “hobby” end of such Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). In a grant proposal, police Sgt. Douglas Wedge wrote that it “will provide the capability to inspect suspicious packages in areas with limited accessibility or in a confined space” like “stairways and hallways” that existing bomb robots cannot access.

That application might be optimistic given the maneuverability of such devices, said Dennis Kenney, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert in police-training procedures.

“The practicality is problematic. These things are not easy to fly, and flying them inside buildings, they might end up upside down more often than not,” Kenney said.

He did note that UAVs overall could greatly bolster police capabilities, particularly in supplanting the roles of helicopters that are notoriously expensive to maintain. But he agreed with civil liberties groups about the importance of incorporating public input for such a move.

“Certainly the civil liberty concerns are real,” he said. “The solution is not to eliminate the technology but to propose the adoption of drones for specific reasons, and propose policies and have the city enact ordinances to limit its use to those circumstances.”

~ ~ ~


Besides the ACLU, is Mercury News columnist one of those who — as we noted above — got his panties in a bunch over the SJPD drone issue? Looks like it. This column was in the Sunday paper…

Police Drone is Invasive ‘Toxic Toy’



By Scott Herhold
<sherhold@mercurynews.com>
Mercury News — Aug. 3, 2014

So, great: Somewhere in the bowels of the San Jose Police Department, we have a drone bought with federal money — a Neo 660 V2, to be precise — a 2-foot-wide device that can carry a camera and transmit back incredibly invasive pictures of taxpayers.

As the first department in the Bay Area to have such a toy, the police say they want to use the $7,000 drone to supplement the work of the bomb squad: It would be used in tight, confined spaces that bomb robots cannot reach. Seven months after acquiring the drone, the police department still has not developed guidelines about how it will be used. That’s telling. If the point is to protect police lives, as the cops say, it’s hard to see it being confined solely to the bomb squad.

“The police say they want to use it to disarm bombs,’’ says Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil liberties policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “But tomorrow it could be used for surveillance of communities of color. When you don’t have strict oversight of invasive police techniques, it’s ripe for problems.’’ So I’ve got a very simple answer: Sell the contraption. Turn it back to the manufacturer. Put it on eBay or Craigslist. If you take a small loss — and given that this was purchased with public money, we probably spent too much — it’s nothing compared to the controversy it sparks.

Invasive technology

I say that for two reasons: First, drone technology is different from any other surveillance equipment. Because it’s cheaper than a helicopter and doesn’t require an expert to operate, it can be used to put people under constant surveillance. The most sophisticated drones can intercept texts or pick up heat images through walls.

Deputy Chief of Police Dave Hober told me the “primary’’ purpose of the drone was disarming bombs, and I don’t doubt him. But that leaves open a secondary purpose or two.

Is there a potentially explosive Hells Angels funeral at Oak Hill Cemetery? The temptation to use the drone is overwhelming. Is there an angry march on City Hall? Ditto. Where do you draw the line? Don’t forget: The drone can be loaned to other cities with laxer guidelines.

The second problem is how the drone was acquired. It was bought with federal Homeland Security money, approved as part of a bigger security package on the City Council’s consent calendar last November.

No public debate

You heard that right: There was no public debate on getting a drone. This is a technology that was rejected in San Francisco and Alameda County because of public opposition. In San Jose, the City of the Big Shrug, it sailed through. Hey, it’s not our money. The feds paid.

There’s a long tradition in San Jose of important decisions being made with little public contribution: In December 2005, for instance, the council approved a 90 percent retirement plan for cops, a huge multimillion-dollar expense, in five minutes. Everything was negotiated in closed session.

Councilman Pete Constant, an ex-cop, told me he wants to see what kind of privacy guidelines the cops come with up with on the drone. He doesn’t want it buzzing his backyard barbecue. That’s fair.

But we should have had that conversation long before San Jose ever acquired a drone. In the meantime, the answer is really very simple: Get rid of it. Turn it back in. It’s a toxic toy.
 

~ ~ ~


A lady with a familiar last name responded to Herhold's column in the form of a letter to the editor that appeared in Tuesday's paper...

Explore Every Option, Including Drone Use

Letter to the Editor
Mercury News — Aug. 5, 2014

It was ironic that Scott Herhold’s column (Page 1B, Aug. 3) criticizing the San Jose Police Department for purchasing a drone was on the same page as an article on a fatal shooting, which also mentions that the violent crime rate in San Jose is up by 4 percent. In addition to the increase in crime, we all know that SJPD is understaffed and will be for some time. Did Herhold consider the positive uses of such a tool? A drone could be used for any number of situations in addition to dismantling bombs (for example, the search for a missing child or at-risk adult, hostage situations, searches for suspects who have committed violent crimes, kidnappings, and so on). With staffing down, and violent crime up, it is the responsibility of the police department to acquire tools that will help them perform their job. As a retired crime analyst from the Santa Clara Police Department, I know it is in everyone’s interest that we have a well-equipped and fully staffed police department.

Sharon Hoehn
San Jose

~ ~ ~


As many pitchmen and infomercials like to say, "But wait, there's more." The continuing saga about SJPD's drone continued in yesterday's paper…

Apology Over Drone Uproar

—SJPD sorry for poor communication, vows to get public feedback—

By Robert Salonga
<rsalonga@mercurynews.com>
Mercury News — Aug. 6, 2014

SAN JOSE — After wide criticism by civil liberties groups and national media over its secretive purchase of a drone, the San Jose Police Department is apologizing and promises to gather community input before it uses or even tests the device.

Police brass released a statement Tuesday reiterating that its January purchase of the drone — a two-foot-wide, camera-equipped Century Neo 660 six-rotor hobbyist flying device and a first among Bay Area police agencies — was aimed at helping bomb technicians access areas where a robot couldn’t go.

But the department also apologized for quietly applying for federal grant funds to buy the drone and slipping the purchase into a November City Council consent agenda item that elicited no public discussion. The ACLU accused the department of sidestepping the kind of political scrutiny that torpedoed other Bay Area agencies’ attempts to get a drone.

“In hindsight, SJPD should have done a better job of communicating the purpose and acquisition of the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) device to our community,” the department statement read. “The community should have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and express their concerns before we move forward with this project. To this end, we will first develop a community outreach plan before we take steps to deploy the UAS.”

Police spokesman Albert Morales said there was no specific timetable for its community outreach regarding the drone, but that it would be completed before any testing or use of the $7,000 device, which is grounded anyway pending Federal Aviation Administration clearance.

Morales said the drone is “not going to fly until we get all that input from all the stakeholders,” including the ACLU and anyone else who might want to comment.

The statement does say the drone might be used for “situations that threaten public safety. These could include dangers such as active shooters, hostage taking, or other such tactical situations where lives might be in immediate danger.”

That sort of latitude is what has critics up in arms, voicing fears that while the original intent may be for bomb-squad callouts, the kinds of uses could expand rapidly and devolve into warrantless surveillance without clear, defined restrictions for its use.

“Today’s statement confirms our concerns that (SJPD) plans to expand drone use,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for ACLU of California.

The department’s quiet pursuit of the drone surfaced after persistent records requests by the online public-records watchdog MuckRock and Vice, leading to the release of records about the drone in July, nearly six months after the purchase.

Ozer said that instead of gathering input about appropriate uses for the drone, the police department and City Council need to convene what should have been initial public discussions about a police drone’s existence altogether in the city.

“The fact that the drone was purchased without the public knowing about it, we shouldn’t move forward,” Ozer said. “They should go back to the drawing board and the question should be about whether a drone is ever used in San Jose.”

~ ~ ~


Just when you thought everything that could be said about the SJPD Drone has been said, there still was someone with a pair of bunched panties. Her name is Barbara Marshman, a Lefty who is responsible for writing and/or approving the Mercury News' editorials…

City Council Has the Final Say on Drone

Editorial
Mercury News — Aug. 7, 2014

The first mistake the San Jose Police Department made was buying a drone without first finding out if the community was comfortable with it. The second was fumbling requests for information when people heard rumors. The third, after the ACLU and others raised alarms, was responding in essence: Trust us!

Which was not an option. See Nos. 1 and 2.

On Tuesday the department finally issued a real apology for all this. OK.

Apology accepted. Now how about the mayor and City Council?

Police agencies need to be sensitive to public opinion to be effective, but they’re not elected. The folks who’ve gotten off the hook here are Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council. They passed the drone purchase as part of the consent calendar for items so routine they don’t require debate. Now they need to publicly pass a requirement to keep the drone in its box until rules have been set for its use — including transparency, outside oversight and accountability.

Those rules will need to be in an ordinance, not just Police Department policy.

Other communities — San Francisco and Alameda counties, as examples — have rejected buying drones for law enforcement based on their communities’ response. Fear of being spied upon by government in our homes and meeting places is very real; it’s been done in living memory in this country, most notably on civil rights and anti-war activists — nearly always with a public safety justification at the time. And that was before technology of various kinds made spying easier.

Still, drones could help find missing people, assess damage in a disaster area or, the stated purpose of San Jose’s drone, help disarm bombs. It’s one more piece of ethically neutral technology that can be used for good or ill. We need a public consensus on whether it’s possible to sufficiently control the use so that good wins out.

Perhaps through community outreach and public discussion, the San Jose City Council can arrive at rules and oversight provisions that make residents comfortable with a drone. We’ll keep an open mind. But given the way this has gotten started, don’t be surprised if the cops end up having to wrap it up and send it back.


 

MAIL CALL

Comment on the possible elimination of the Traffic Unit…

Aug. 1st

They said it would add 11 officers to patrol by cutting the motors.

As I recall, we had 24 motors and 10 or 12 radar cars when I was in the Traffic Unit ('88 to '95. It was far too few even back then. Almost 20 years ago…OMG.  

Where did the time go?

Mike (Thompson)
<mbtkht@gmail.com>

Some might say a more pertinent question would be, "Where did the SJPD go?" Then again, if you apply the "Time flies…" cliché, it means you've had a good time over the past two decades. Be thankful. I think it could be fairly stated that as current retirees, our timing was impeccable.

 

• • • • •

 

Aug. 2nd

Dear Bill and Leroy,

Thanks for the on-going service to us retirees and loyal supporters of what used to be the greatest police department in the world.

Could you re-run the memo on out-of-area members who wish to continue there CCW endorsement on the retirement I D card?

Thanks again,

Old Pearl Grips Ed Caragher #1345
<edandkay@verizon.net>


Nada problemo, Eduardo. If you click on the link below the Farsider that had the CCW info you have requested should magically appear before your eyes…

<http://www.sjpba.net/Farsider/062713.htm>

 

• • • • •

 

Aug. 6th

Bill,

In the spirit of the City of San Jose's new Drone purchase (remote controlled UAV) that is causing such a stir with the ACLU and probably many others, I submit that this nifty device can be purchased for a nominal fee (providing one can be found) for those who think that they will be targeted for observation.

 

Directional sound finders used to detect incoming enemy planes in 1917.

The same complaints came when the PD was going to purchase a helicopter. The fears of the ACLU and others never came to be, and this time the result will probably be the same.

Must be a slow day for the ACLU and others that they have to jump on a topic so ridiculous. Just to make it more interesting, I also submit that the next time there is a bomb call-out, someone from the ACLU or "affected members from the community at large" be tasked with joining the call and that they perform the work that the Drone would otherwise have been used for.

Just thinkin'.

David Byers
<dng_byers@sbcglobal.net>



 

NEW VANGUARD NOW ONLINE



Aug. 4th

The August 2014 eVanguard is now online. Hard copies of the magazine are in the mail and will be arriving soon.
Click
HERE to download the Vanguard to your desktop as a PDF file that you will be able to open with your mouse.

 

THE BEST OF THE LATE NITE JOKES
     
July 29 thru Aug.

Last night was the finale of "The Bachelorette." It came down to two guys, Josh and Nick. But ultimately Andi went with Josh. She said after looking into her heart and doing a lot of soul searching that he was the person she wants to spend the rest of her publicity tour with.

Of course, Nick says he's heartbroken, lonely, devastated, and whatever else he has to say to be the next “Bachelor.”

LeBron James announced that he will wear his original jersey number 23 when he returns to the Cavaliers this season. Of course, it was awkward when he discovered that even HE burned his old Cavaliers jersey.

The TSA is offering a $5,000 reward for the best idea on how to speed up airport security lines. So far the best idea is making a line for people who know what they're doing and another line for people who have never been to an airport before.

Actor Orlando Bloom threw a punch at Justin Bieber last night during an argument at a night club in Spain. Orlando's hand was pretty sore today, you know, from all the high-fives he got.

Bieber and Bloom got into a fight. Luckily, a stranger broke it up. He said, "Girls, girls, stop it . . . I mean gentlemen."

In New Jersey a woman dressed like a clown walked away with minor injuries after she crashed her car into a utility pole. Unfortunately, the other 300 people in the car weren't so lucky.

A new study found that having a sense of purpose can actually help you live longer — While having a sense of porpoise can help you swim longer.

North Korea has opened a summer camp where kids from around the world can swim, play volleyball, and learn about the country's culture. It's the first camp in history where kids tell ghost stories to feel safer.

I read that PETA is now saying they’ll pay off people’s water bills if they agree to go vegan for 30 days. Or in other words, you can get PETA to pay off your water bill if you can lie for 30 days.

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to sue President Obama for abusing his executive powers. Experts are calling this a meaningless political stunt that's a huge waste of taxpayer money, while Congress is saying, "Yep. That's what we do."

The House voted 225-201 to sue President Obama. That's the bad news. The good news is that Congress actually passed something.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is facing criticism for accidentally showing the phone numbers of his supporters in a new campaign commercial. In response, people said, “No biggie — I gave him a fake number, anyway.”

Home Depot is now selling 3D printers. You know, so you can print out an employee to help you find stuff at Home Depot.

Yeah, Home Depot is now selling 3D printers, which customers can use to print out tools and parts. It's all part of Home Depot's plan to immediately go out of business.

Kia is recalling more than 50,000 cars because of an issue with the steering system caused by the wrong type of adhesive holding together certain parts. Then Kia drivers said, "Wait, these cars are GLUED together?”

Tonight is our 100th episode. To celebrate, people sent us flowers and a big cake — which I immediately passed on to Rob Ford and Chris Christie. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Of course, we’re not the only ones celebrating. President Obama turned 53 years old today. Obama blew out his candles and made a wish. But when he opened his eyes, he was still president.

"Sesame Street" says it may take legal action against people in Times Square who dress up like its characters. Seriously? Look at the people they’d be suing. What do they expect to win in the lawsuit? A flask of whiskey and an IOU to a bookie?

A new iPhone app gives advice to people going through a divorce. So if you’re someone who relies on an app for advice during difficult times, well maybe that's why you're getting a divorce.

Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have ended their so-called feud after eight years. Then John Kerry said, “Man, that was rough. Now on to the Middle East.”

Scrabble is adding more than 5,000 words to its dictionary, including “buzzkill.” As in, "Anyone who reads the dictionary for Scrabble is a total buzzkill."

Buffalo is getting ready to host the National Scrabble Championship this weekend. They weren’t planning to host it, but it was raining and some of the Monopoly pieces were missing.

Last week New York’s Museum of Natural History hosted a sleepover for adults. Sleeping at a museum — or as kids call that, “going to a museum.”

We have the cast of "Orange Is the New Black" tonight. The show features a cast of ruthless women who are constantly at each other's throats. And for once, I'm not talking about "The View."

"Orange Is the New Black" has helped usher in a new TV trend called "binge watching." Binge watching blends nicely with another trend in America — unemployment.

This is not the first show I have watched about a women's prison. However, it is the first show about a women's prison I didn't have to delete from my browser history.

Scrabble is adding 5,000 new words including "chillax" and "selfie." So kids, there's never been a better time to challenge your grandparents to a game of Scrabble.

A Republican congressman has accused Democrats of waging a war on whites. As proof, he pointed to the recent bombing of the kale aisle at a Trader Joe's.

LinkedIn has agreed to pay a $6 million settlement to employees. Unfortunately, the employees haven't heard about it because like everyone else they automatically delete all emails from LinkedIn.

This week a giant tortoise was on the loose here in Southern California. Drivers on the freeway were shocked to see something moving so quickly.

There's a dating site called OK Cupid. It's for folks who are looking for someone who is just OK.

As it turns out, the people who run OK Cupid don't really match anybody up. They just shuffle the cards. They don't care. That's how L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling found a girlfriend with a tape recorder.

At Times Square they now have people dressed up as superheroes. Over the weekend Spider-Man beat up a cop and was thrown in prison. Today he was in court with his lawyer — Shyster-Man.

On TV tonight is the movie "Sharknado 2." I didn't see the first "Sharknado." I'm worried I won't be able to understand "Sharknado 2."

What happens in "Sharknado 2" is a storm breaks out and there's a tremendous downpour of sharks. And it's embarrassing because The Weather Channel predicted only a light sprinkling of trout.

Martha Stewart has a drone. Are we comfortable with an ex-con owning a drone?

Congress is now getting ready to take a month off. From what?

Members of Congress need to recharge their batteries for another year of gridlock.

Sometimes you wonder about these guys in Congress. Are they there at all?

A new study says that Republicans are more religious than Democrats. But I don't think that includes President Obama praying every day for his term to end.

In Siberia locals recently discovered a giant hole in the ground. Now two more Siberian holes have appeared. Scientists don't know what's causing these holes. Astronomers blame falling meteorites. Archaeologists blame underground gas explosions. Fox News blames Obamacare. Mel Gibson blames Jewish people.

Graceland will auction some of Elvis Presley's personal memorabilia. Let's play "Books That Elvis Checked Out." There's "Hound Dog of the Baskervilles." "The Blue Suede Shoes of Madison County." "A Hunka-Hunka Huckleberry Finn." "Fifty Shades of Graceland." "Are You Lonesome Dove Tonight?"

Everyone's reeling from the big fight between two Hollywood tough guys: Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber. They engaged in fisticuffs today in Spain. Who won the fight? I think WE did, America.

Orlando approached Justin and started throwing punches. It was brutal. Mascara was flying everywhere. There were no broken bones. But sadly, a few broken nails.

Every great fight needs a great name. What should we call this one? The commotion near the ocean. The girly taunt in the restaurant. The effeminate fray in the café. The not-a-scratch-on-ya in España.

It's Arnold Schwarzenegger's birthday. Arnold celebrated quietly at home with his friends and his families.

We're getting more news about the Orlando Bloom-Justin Bieber fight. Apparently the fight was witnessed by Paris Hilton, P. Diddy, and Lindsay Lohan. I'm confused. Did this fight take place in Spain or in 2003?

Today in Las Vegas is the start of the annual "Star Trek" convention. I go every year. I walk up to everyone dressed in a full "Star Trek" costume and say, "May the force be with you."

A woman in Oklahoma called police to complain about the quality of her meth. I'm thinking: How bad could the meth be if it made her high enough to call the cops and complain about it?

A Massachusetts man was arrested for illegally keeping over 400 birds in his home. He tried to keep it a secret, but he couldn't keep the birds from tweeting about it.

It's a great day for Pope Francis. He released his top 10 tips for feeling happier. I didn't know Popes did that.

Most of the Pope's tips were what I expected, like No. 7, "Respect nature." No. 3, "Be calm." Except No. 1 — start every day by watching the video of Justin Bieber getting punched in face.

Beyoncé's dad, Mr. Beyoncé, is teaching a college course on how to "Become the next Beyoncé." Beyoncé's dad explains the two-step process. Step 1, start a hugely successful girl group and sell millions of records. Step 2, fire the other girls.

It is our president's birthday. It's also the birthday of NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon and President Obama are very different, of course. One's a guy who spent his whole life turning left and is hated by NASCAR fans. And the other one is Jeff Gordon.

I love it when people here in L.A. pretend to know what NASCAR is. They'll say, "Is that the one with the car?" Or: "Do those cars run on gasoline? I can't endorse this. Can't they use Priuses and fuel them with kale?"

The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starts August 4. But times have changed. Now even biker gangs are into recycling. When the motorcycle rally is over, the gangs go around responsibly collecting trash, bottles, and broken teeth.

These days any group of bikers can call themselves a motorcycle gang. Some gangs are really bad, like Sons of Anarchy. Other gangs are just orthodontists who go up the highway on a Sunday afternoon.

Earlier tonight I was watching the "CMA Music Festival." It was two hours of country music, big hats, and big belt buckles.

The CMA Music Festival is country music's biggest night — if you don't count the Country Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the CMT Music awards, and the American Country Awards.

Tonight's CMA Music Festival was held in Nashville — which is a coincidence because I was held in Nashville once.

Keith Urban is the country singer from Australia. I have a difficult time imagining a country music star from Australia. He'd sing lyrics like, "I lost my truck, my dingo eats babies, my boomerang's broke, and Russell Crowe has rabies."

Yesterday there was a water main break right next to UCLA. Water was shooting out of the ground for four hours before it was turned off. They say 20 million gallons of water flooded the campus. I didn't even know L.A. had that much water.

In Washington the House passed a bill today to go forward with a lawsuit against President Obama. Who says Congress can't get anything done? They're suing the president.

That lawsuit against the president is ridiculous — unless they do the trial on "Judge Judy." Then I'm all for it.

Congress is about to head off on their August recess, which seems appropriate. Adults go on vacation, children go on recess.

Congress will take the whole month of August off. From what, exactly, I don't know.

A new study found that most Internet-connected home gadgets and appliances are vulnerable to hackers. It's only a matter of time before your blender steals your credit card number.

Right now, available only in San Francisco, is an app where you can get marijuana delivered right to your door. Whoever pairs this with a pizza delivery app probably will get the Nobel Prize.

Happy birthday to President Obama. He turned 53 today, according to his birth certificate. The truth is he's actually 55 years old but Congress blocked his last two birthdays.

Tonight President Obama blew out the candles on the gluten-free broccoli and carrot loaf from Michelle, and then cried himself to sleep. She did let him smell a piece of cake.

ABC premiered a new show tonight called "Bachelor in Paradise." I'm glad they're finally doing a bachelor show in paradise. Normally they do them in Third-World countries and industrial parks.

Some people criticize ABC for putting shows like "Bachelor in Paradise" on the air. But the truth is you can't always get down to the baboon exhibit at the zoo. Sometimes they need to be brought to you.

This week 5,000 new words will be added to the Scrabble Dictionary. One of the words is "mix tape." Why add mix tape now instead of back in 1985, when it was actually a thing that existed?

Scrabble discovers cool words around the same time my mom discovers them.

The worst addition to the Scrabble Dictionary is "bromance." That is what two guys who like each other and have a personal relationship are called. No, they're called friends. I blame Facebook. Thanks to Facebook, the word "friend" doesn't mean anything, which left the door open for "Us Weekly" to infect us with "bromance."

Can we get someone from Scrabble on the show tomorrow? I want to put a stop to this.

A new poll shows that younger Americans sympathize less with Israel than older generations did. But then again, most young Americans think Israel is the cat on "The Smurfs."

A Los Angeles judge has ruled in favor of Donald Sterling’s wife and will allow her to sell the L.A. Clippers. That leaves Sterling in the awkward position of hating a white person.

A company in India is releasing the first-ever “smart shoe” that connects with Google Maps to track your footsteps. “Merry Christmas,” said your wife.

According to new estimates, Beyoncé and Jay-Z will make $84 million from their world tour. Which is good because 84 million is an easy number to divide by 2.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon claimed he failed his most recent drug test because he ingested secondhand marijuana smoke. Said Gordon, “That’s right, I smoked some with one hand, and then I smoked some with my second hand.”

According to French officials, the gardens at the Louvre have become overrun with rats. Officials later apologized and promised to refer to us as Americans in the future.

Wikipedia is now accepting donations using the online currency Bitcoin. So now you can support information you’re not sure is true with currency you’re not sure is money.

Today marks the last day before Congress takes its summer recess. They're taking five weeks off. Five weeks. I hope they can get used to doing nothing.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told reporters that despite her age she does not plan on retiring and is likely to remain on the court for a while — after which she was immediately traded to the New York Knicks.

A Chinese farmer lost 170 of his prized pigs when lightning struck his barn while he was feeding them. Though on the bright side — instant bacon.

A woman in New Mexico pulled a gun on a Comcast technician because she didn't want to pay her cable bill. Wow! That woman doesn't need HBO. She IS HBO.

Happy birthday to President Obama. He turned 53 today, if you believe the birth certificate.

President Obama is turning 53 while his face and hair are turning 68. Congratulations to all three of them.

Congress wanted to surprise President Obama on his birthday so they passed a bill.

The owner of a prominent paparazzi agency is saying he won't use drones to take pictures of celebrities because he has too much respect for them. And by "them" he means the drones.

Officials from Hamas and Israel have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire. Of course, we won’t have true peace in the Middle East until there’s a cease-fire that lasts longer than a mattress sale.

On Friday, a truck on an Indianapolis highway spilled over 45,000 pounds of butter onto the road. The governor called for a clean-up, while Paula Deen called for a national day of mourning.


 

WEEKLY SNOPES URBAN LEGEND UPDATE AS OF AUG. 2, 2014

The facts behind the legends, information and
misinformation that has or may show up in your inbox

New Articles

• Photograph shows a white supremacist surrounded by smiling blacks.

• Does Edible Arrangements fund the terrorist organization Hamas?

• Does eating
carrots really result in significantly improved vision?

• Photographs show a barn full of
vintage automobiles discovered by the new purchaser of a Portuguese farmhouse.

• Warning that cups of
instant noodles pose a danger to consumers due to their wax coatings.

• Police car video records a
DUI stop being subjected to some wacky sobriety tests.

• What did
Hillary Clinton say when asked what she thought were the major accomplishments of her tenure as Secretary of State?

• Did a
case of the runs lead to one of Raiders of the Lost Ark's most memorable scenes?

• Photographs show
woman trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border hidden inside car's dashboard.

• Has actor Russell Johnson of Gilligan's Island fame been identified as the
Zodiac Killer?

• Has Yankee shortstop
Derek Jeter cancelled his retirement plans to sign with the Boston Red Sox?

• Was former president
George W. Bush arrested in Dallas for cocaine possession?

• Did police in New Jersey find a
body that had lain undisturbed for five years under a motel bed?

• Photographs show a
Space Shuttle launch viewed from the International Space Station.

• Was
Jimi Hendrix kicked off a Monkees tour because the Daughters of the American Revolution complained his act was 'too erotic'?

• E-mail claims that drinking
cold water after meals will lead to cancer.

• How actor
James Garner detected the presence of an enemy patrol during the Korean War through the smell of garlic.

• From the mailbag: No, our article about whether
'Happy Birthday to You' is protected by copyright isn't wrong.

• Is looking for the a gap between an object and its reflection the way to distinguish
two-way mirrors from ordinary mirrors?

• Did the
Beatles record songs such as 'Colliding Circles' and 'Pink Litmus Paper Shirt' which remain unreleased to this day?

• Reebok once marketed the
'Incubus,' a shoe named for a demon who violates women in their sleep.

• Don't forget to visit our
Daily Snopes page for a collection of odd news stories from around the world!


Worth a Second Look

• Did a
thief drown in a submerged pool after looting the home of disaster victims?


Still Haunting the Inbox

• Check out our 25
Hottest Urban Legends list to keep abreast of what's circulating in the on-line world.


Fraud Afoot

• Visit our
Top Scams page for a list of schemes commonly used by crooks to separate the unwary from their money.

 

THE LIGHTER SIDE & OTHER ODDS AND ENDS



Large or Full Screen preferred for YouTube videos


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With over 27 million views, THIS public service ad from Volkswagen has obviously gone viral. You may want to show it to any children or grandchildren in your family who are in their teens and of driving age. (1 Min.)

 

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This TED Talks presentation should be considered a don't miss:

We live in a world of unseeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. At TED 2014, he shares highlights from his latest project, a 3D film titled "Mysteries of the Unseen World," which slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the astonishing wonders of nature. Click
HERE to view some scenes from his film. (7 Mins.)

 

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So let's say you have a couple hundred ducks and it's time to bring them inside for the night. Some might say the job would be akin to herding cats, but this guy has found a way. WATCH this. (1 Min.)




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On a similar note, here's a guy who is able to gather his critters by playing a trombone. We're not saying he's good, but he is effective. Stick with him for a minute and WATCH what happens. (4 Mins.)



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We're going to assume that this YOUNG LADY (Martina Hill) is one of Germany's well known comediennes. The English version of the clip is called "Happens every time after you do the laundry." (2 Mins.)

 

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Listen to THIS ditty received from Bruce Morton and see if you can relate. And be honest. (3 Mins.)

 

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Ever hear two people play one guitar? Have a LISTEN and we think you'll agree that they make beautiful music together. (2 Mins.)

 

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Wouldn't it be fun to participate in a prank like THIS one from the crew of Just for Laughs? (2 Mins.)

 

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What could possibly motivate a bear to SAVE the life of a crow that was in the process of drowning? (2 Mins.)

 

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Speaking of crows, here's one that had the opposite dilemma as the one above; this one WANTS water. (2 Mins.)

 

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This lady must have tons of KARMA in the bank given how she cares for handicapped dogs. (1 Min.)

 

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Remember when we were younger and could water ski barefoot behind a plane like this guy? Such fond memories. Watch THIS clip and it will probably take you back to your youth. (3 Mins.)

 

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Tiger and Rory were featured last year in one of the more entertaining Nike golf commercials. Have a LOOK. (1 Min.)

 

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Ever wonder how they load an excavator onto the back of a truck in India? I know that is something I've puzzled over for many years. THIS video shows how it is done. (1 Min.)

 

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In contrast to last week's video of the female Chinese soldiers marching in time,  THIS is a short story about Father Kapaun and his heroics in the Korean War that also involved thousands of Chinese soldiers. It was sent in by Dave Scannell and well worth a look and listen. (5 Mins.)

 

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We only have one problem with this ATM: It's in Canada, not the U.S., and that's a shame because we'd like to MAKE a withdrawal. (4 Mins.)

 

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In closing, Bert Kelsey felt THIS clip titled "One Life, One Flag, One Mile" should be worth a few minutes of your time. We couldn't agree more. (6 Mins.)

 

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C'ya
 

   

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