Mar 31, 2006

Union City: Time for a Change

(Union City, OH-IN) This town of 1,767 people literally sits on the Ohio-Indiana border, with approximately half of the city limits in each state.

A unique tradition will end on Sunday, as Union City's western half will synchronize its time with its eastern half.

Ohio has long observed daylight saving time, while Indiana has not. For six months out of the year, Union City's Ohio side was an hour ahead of its Indiana side.

On April 29, 2005, the Indiana legislature voted to finally begin observing daylight saving time statewide in 2006. Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that refuse to adopt the system of adjusting the official local time forward in the spring and summer months.

Most people in Union City are enthusiastic about the change.

"I open at 9:30 Indiana time," said Harold Westfall, who operates a newsstand on the Indiana side. "So that's 10:30 Ohio time."

Westfall paused to check his calculations.

"No, wait. That'd be 8:30 Ohio time. See, I've lived here all my life, and I still have to think about it," he said. "It's not natural."

One businessman in Union City, though, is not looking forward to the change.

Fast Eddie's Bar is on the Indiana side, and when Ohio bars closed at 2:00 am during DST, the bar still had an hour of serving time left.

"That was probably 10 percent of my business," said owner Eddie Speight. "That's going to be hard to make up."

Iowa Mumps Outbreak Declared an Epidemic

Left: Child with the mumps

(Des Moines, IA) A mumps outbreak that has swept the state of Iowa has been declared an epidemic by state health officials.

As of Thursday, 245 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of mumps had been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health since mid-January. The number of cases is more than currently found in the rest of the US combined.

"We are calling this an epidemic, not just an outbreak," said Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "We're trying to figure out why is it happening, why is it happening in Iowa and why is it happening right now. We don't know."

The state typically records less than 10 cases of mumps per year. The mumps outbreak has also jumped the state line into south-central Nebraska, the Nebraska Health and Human Services System said.

The CDC said that the outbreak is being caused by the genotype G strain of the virus. This particular strain was responsible for about 56,000 cases of mumps in the United Kingdom in 2005. State officials do not know where in Iowa the outbreak originated.

Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands, and symptoms include fever, a mild rash, headache, muscle aches and glandular swelling. The disease can lead to serious complications, including meningitis, dafness, and damage to the testicles.

The disease is caused by a paramyxovirus, and is spread from person to person by airborne saliva droplets or through direct contact with contaminated articles.

Before the development of the MMR(measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, the virus was the leading cause of viral meningoencephalitis in the United States.

Quinlisk said that a traveler to Britain may be the index case for the outbreak.

"It may have been a college student, since we did see the first activities on college campuses, but we can't prove that," Quinlisk said.

Police Sieze Church Computer in Winkler Case

Left: Mary Winkler at her arraignment on Monday

(Selmer, TN) A source close to the Mary Winkler case told The Jackson Sun that investigators siezed a computer from the Fourth Street Church of Christ on Thursday morning as part of the ongoing inquiry into the killing of Matthew Winkler, late minister of the church.

Officials would neither confirm nor deny that computer equipment was siezed.

Eric Jenkins, who was sitting on the tailgate of his truck parked at a house next door to the church, saw police at the church Thursday morning. He said that an unmarked state police car was parked behind the church for several hours.

"I was wondering why it was here this morning because I've been here all day," Jenkins said. "[The officer] opened up the driver-side door and stuck [a computer tower] in the back seat, closed the door and walked back in the church."

Detectives impounded computers, storage disks and other equipment from the Winkler home last week after Matthew Winkler was found dead and his family was missing.

The initial belief was that the Winkler computers might offer clues into the killing and disappearance. Speculation runs rampant that any computers connected to the Winklers may contain incriminating information that the killing of Matthew Winkler was premeditated, or that they contain hidden aspects of the couple's lives.

Rapid Rhetoric: EPIZOOTIC

This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

n., adj. an epizootic is the nonhuman equivalent of a disease epidemic, meaning that significantly higher numbers of animals are infected with a given disease than would normally be expected. As is the case with human epidemics, high population density is an enabling factor in epizootics.

Modern bioengineering research is focused on harnessing the microbes that cause epizootics and manipulating them to become living agents of pest control. Due to the pathogen's specificity to a particular host, the risk from these modified microbes to humans and other non-specific life forms in the environment is minimal.

The word is derived from the Greek epi- "upon" and zoos - "animals."

Mar 30, 2006

Block Communications Could Face Multi-Million Dollar Fines, Criminal Charges

(Toledo, OH) A spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Testing and Registration confirmed that Corporate Protection Services, an alarm installation company, which is owned by Blade owners Block Communications, is not in compliance with state licensing requirements.

BCI, owner of The Blade and Buckeye Cablevision, purchased the alarm company CPS in 1998. CPS provides security and fire alarm systems plus monitoring to thousands of Michigan and Ohio homeowners.

Barry Webne, general manager of CPS, insists that his firm is in full compliance with the licensing procedure of both states.

"We have filled out all of the necessary paperwork and paid all of the licensing fees," he said. "We had the Michigan license registered in the name of an employee because the state used to have residency requirements. I have no idea why our licenses do not show up in the records."

Records from the Michigan Bureau of Commercial Services indicate the current status of the license as "lapsed," and that the license expired on Dec. 2, 2003. State records also failed to reveal a license under the name of the individual employee Webne identified as the license holder.

Webne declined an offer to fax Toledo Free Press the licenses he claims to possess.

On its Web site, CPS claims, "CPS installers are fully trained, licensed, bonded an insured. CPS is the security company of choice of many builders in NW Ohio and SE Michigan."

Violating Michigan laws by selling, installing, servicing or monitoring alarm systems without a license is a felony that is punishable by a possible four-year prison term and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, penalties of up to $1,000 per violation could be assessed by the state.

A spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Testing and Registration confirmed that CPS is not in compliance with state requirements.

"There are no records for a 'Corporate Protection Services' in our systems," he said. "If that company is performing work on fire alarm systems, then they are in violation of the fire code."

Steve Cartmill, a spokesman with the state fire marshal's office, said the state takes fire protection very seriously.

"Ohio Revised Code attaches a criminal sanction for doing work that requires certification and for which one does not possess the required State Fire Marshal certificate," he said. "Every individual engaged in a regulated activity also must carry his own individual certification, and must be working in association with a certified company while performing the work."

Ohio requires companies and contractors to register with the state and pass certification exams. Failure to follow the Ohio fire code can result in fines of $1,000 per violation and possible jail sentences; the state fire marshal can also petition Ohio county prosecutors to seek temporary and permanent injunctions against violators, effectively shutting down their business.

With thousands of customers in Michigan and Ohio, CPS could face fines totaling in the millions of dollars.

Addendum, 5:00 pm: A caller to the Brian Wilson show on 1370 WSPD who purported to be a technician with Corporate Protection Services said that he has maintained his personal license as a technician.

The caller then said that Kim Klewer, onetime owner and president of Coorporate Protection Services, was the person who should be blamed for corporate licensing lapses. In 2003 BCI spun off the commercial sales and installation business to a new coporation, Asset Protection Corporation, which Klewer now owns.

Within minutes I received a call from Mr. Klewer, who vehemently denied these charges. He indicated that he has emails dating back to 2004 that he composed reminding CPS of their obligation to maintain licenses.

He will be forwarding me a statement shortly.

Addendum, 5:50 pm: Here is the response emailed to me by Kim Klewer, former CPS president and current president of Asset Protection Service:

This is a follow up to your request for a statement referencing an assertion publicly made by one or more CPS employees that the licensing issues identified in your story today occurred under my watch & is my fault while president of CPS. Since I have been mentioned in connection with this, I feel I must respond, as follows:

I was President of CPS until 12-31-2003, at which time I formed APC (1-1-2004). CPS wanted out of the commercial security & fire installation & service business and basically rolled that part of the business to APC. CPS wanted to solely remain in the home and monitoring business. Which was agreed upon by all parties.

During the commercial transition beginning in October 2003, Mr. Webne (the new CPS General Manager) and other BCI management members were informed on more than one occasion that the CPS' Michigan License will require Mr. Webne to make application to the State of Michigan since it is the senior most management person who must personally hold the license for the company. As President of CPS the current CPS license would become invalid as soon as I was no longer a CPS employee. Mr. Webne assured us that he would follow-up with the State of Michigan.

We also advised Mr. Webne that we believed there was a grace period of a few months to get the license holder changed.

Not hearing back regarding CPS' Michigan status, I e-mailed BCI to ascertain the situation status of CPS' Michigan license. We were informed that CPS had a Michigan Alarm License. This was and is important to APC since CPS provides monitoring services for APC customers, including those in Michigan.

CPS' State of Ohio Fire Alarm License renewal occurs annually in the late winter or spring and is merely a renewal application and license fee. Each individual who works on a home or business fire alarm alarm must also be licensed individually by the State of Ohio.

Kim Klewer
President, APC

Rare German Enigma Machine on eBay


(Berlin) The bidding at eBay is up to 13,150 euros ($15,819.45 US) for a WWII-era German encoding machine, similar to devices whose messages were cracked by British code breakers at Bletchley Park.

The Enigma 3 Walzen Chiffriermaschine Chiper Weltkrieg (3-Rotors ENIGMA Cipher Machine) is being auctioned by a Munich firm. A spokesman told The Register that the machine had been brought in by a customer who inherited it from his grandfather.

"We've had it inspected by an expert who said that due to its good condition it looks very likely to have been in German state ownership at the time," said Alexander Urff of Sales Service in Munich.

The Enigma machine The first Enigma machines were commercial models that debuted in the early 1920s. Branches of the German military began to use Enigma later in the decade to encrypt sensitive information.

Some historians argue that the breaking of the Enigma code by British operatives was one of the keys to winning World War II, and that the ability to read German transmissions undetected may have hastened the war's end by several years.

Mary Winkler's Attorney Hints at Post-Partum Depression Defense

Left: Mary Winkler at her arraignment on Monday

(Selmer, TN) Steve Farese, a defense attorney for accused murderer Mary Winkler, suggested that the so-called "Memphis Dream Team" might use post-partum depression as a defense of their client.

"This is certainly one of the things we are looking into," he said. "Of course, she has a 1-year-old child, and we have certain information that lead us to believe that is something that needs to be investigated fully."

Farese described the demeanor of Mary Winkler as "very withdrawn, very quiet, overwhelmed," and discussed the likelihood of psychiatric exams for her.

"I think some type of evaluation would be expected in a case like this," he told the Jackson Sun.

Leslie Ballin, another member of Mary Winkler's defense team, left open the possibility of a plea agreement.

"One of my jobs as a defense lawyer in this case will be to sit down with the prosecution to see if there is some kind of arrangement that can be reached." he said.

Farese hinted that today's preliminary hearing may have some surprises.

"Expect the unexpected," he said.

Mar 29, 2006

Rapid Rhetoric: USUCAPTION

This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

usucaption n. The acquisition of property by right of long possession and enjoyment. Thus, in the average household, the bathroom is considered under common law to be owned, by right of usucaption, by the youngest adult, and the telephone by the oldest child.

From Wikipedia:

Usucaption is a concept found in civil law systems and has its origin in the Roman law of property.

Put simply, usucaption is a method by which ownership of property can be gained by lapse of time. While usucaption has been compared with adverse possession (i.e. squatting), the true effect of Usucaption is to remedy defects in title.

The necessity for Usucaption arose in Roman law with the divide between res mancipi and res nec mancipi. Res mancipi required elaborate and inconvenient methods to transfer title. Res nec manicipi could be transferred by traditio (delivery).

If res mancipi were transferred by traditio, full ownership would not pass and the recipient would become a Bonitary Owner. However, if the bonitary owner kept the res in his possession for a certain amount of time (2 years for land, 1 year for chattels) his title would become full title and he could assert himself as dominus.

Retrieved from ""

Early Travelers in the Great Black Swamp

This an excerpt from a book I am writing about the unhealthy conditions in the earliest years of white settlement in Northwest Ohio.

Moravian missionary David Zeisberger traveled through the Swamp in October 1781, and described the “deep swamps and troublesome marshes” awaiting those who dared to enter the murky morass. He depicted a land that extended for vast distances “where no bit of dry land was to be seen, and the horses at every step [wading] in the marsh up to their knees.” Native Americans used the land, according to Zeisberger, strictly for hunting and fishing “on account of the wet.”

The hostile environment described by Zeisberger was mirrored by the acount of Captain Thomas Morris. This officer was sent by British General Bradstreet on a mission to the French, noted that the dangers faced by travelers extended to non-marshy areas. Camping on the banks of the Maumee July 30, 1764, he reported:

We lay on the ground; and as a distinguished personage, I was honoured by having a few small branches under me, and a sort of basket-work made by bending boughs with their ends fixed in the earth, for me to thrust my head under to avoid the musketoes or large gnats with which that country is infested.
Clearly the occasional outcroppings of dry land and glacial moraines offered little protection from the insect vectors that promulgated parasitic infections among human visitors to the region of the Great Black Swamp.

Lieutenant John Boyer, attached to General Anthony Wayne’s Legion of the United States, kept a journal of his experiences during the 1794 military campaign that culminated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. No stranger to the outdoors, Boyer made the following entry in his journal describing conditions as the Legion entered the Swamp:
Camp Beaver Swamp, eleven miles in advance of Fort Recovery [present day Defiance, OH], 30th July, 1794 - …The road was to cut, as will be the case on every new route we take in this country. The weather is still warm – no water except in ponds, which nothing but excessive thirst would induce us to drink. The mosquitoes are very troublesome, and larger than I ever saw…The most of this country is covered with beech, the land of a wet soil intermixed with rich tracts, but no running water to be found.
Left: Anopheles quadrimaculatus, a mosquito species that acts as a malaria vector

While the size of mosquitoes has no bearing upon their ability to act as malaria vectors – one of the most deadly in the modern era is the relatively small Aedes albopictus, carriers of such diseases as dengue fever, eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus - Boyer’s journal entry regarding mosquitoes seems to indicate that the Legion was entering a noticeably different ecological setting. Here were different insects, different flora, and an absence of running water; conditions in the Great Black Swamp were palpably unlike anything else the soldiers had encountered. The Legion would soon find that the Maumee Valley contained dangers other than those posed by the British and their Native American allies.

One of the most authoritative descriptions of the disease environment in the region of the Great Black Swamp comes from the memoirs of Dr. Eli Manville, who arrived in 1834 with quinine and calomel. He wrote of the annual return of malarial illnesses that inhabitants dreaded:
The early settlers of what is called the ' black swamp,' had a great deal of sickness, mostly fever and ague, which was very prevalent in an early day. So much water on the surface of the land caused so much malaria, that biliousness, chills, fever and ague were the results. Whenever a new family made their appearance and settled down, we all would say, 'there is another family with whom we can divide the shakes.'
Manville also described the process of acclimation to the endemic malaria, which is consistent with the current understanding of malarial infection. Victims of malaria do not gain immunity so much as they enter into a sort of mutual tolerance or stasis with malarial parasites, and any “immunity” gained can only be maintained through repeated reinfections with the Plasmodium protozoan or protozoans responsible for the particular type of malaria. Residents of the region around the Swamp, according to Manville, slowly adjusted to the repeated visitations of malarial illness:
It took from three to five years to get acclimated; every year, from about the first of July, until frost and cold made its appearance, the people had the ague, and they looked for it just as much, and it came with the same regularity that the summer and fall came.
As a new arrival to the region, Dr. Manville was in the unique position to compare the illnesses besetting settlers of the Maumee Valley with those found elsewhere. Manville was adamant that the “Maumee fever” was of a decidedly more virulent and severe nature:
It was not of the same kind that we have in this country latterly. It took hold of a person and literally shook him up. I have seen fellows go to bed with the ague, and when the shake came on the very bed and floor would rattle. So violent was the disease that at times their teeth would rattle. Many times, whole families would be down at one time, so that one could not give another a drink of water. The ague usually came on every other day, and when there was not people enough they had to have it every day, for sometimes there appeared to be about two agues for one man; and oftentimes they had to have it twice in one day. The well day, as we used to call the day we missed it, men would be able to do some light work, and it may seem strange, but the day the chill was to come on you could look out from 10 A.M. until 2 P. M., and you could see the boys come in to take their shake, as much so as to take their dinners.
Manville’s observations of the earliest years of white settlement of Northwest Ohio provide a disturbing eyewitness account of the particularly deleterious environment that inhabitants would encounter in and around the Great Black Swamp.

Mar 28, 2006

Matthew Winkler Funeral Draws 500 Mourners

Left: Flower-draped casket of Matthew Winkler gets carried by pallbearers into the Fourth Street Church of Christ (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

(Selmer, TN) A crowd of 500 mourners gathered at the church of slain minister Matthew Winkler today to pay their last respects to the man.

No members of the news media were allowed inside the church, and plice cordoned off several blocks to prevent unauthorized persons from disturbing the memorial service.

Those who attended the funeral said that Matthew Winkler was eulogized as a devoted husband and father.

The couple's young daughters were among the family members who followed Winkler's casket into the church for the service, said Selmer Police Chief Neal Burks.

Burks said that many people watched the service from the church sanctuary or on TV monitors in the basement of the building.

"Upstairs is full and the downstairs is full," he said.

The name of Mary Winkler, the wife and alleged killer of the later minister, was not mentioned during the service. Attendees said that eulogist Eddie Thompson only referred to the "puzzle" surrounding the death of Matthew Winkler.

Addendum, 11:33 PM: An anonymous poster to this site indicated that Mary Winkler was mentioned during the service by Matthew Winkler's father, Dan. The elder Mr. Winkler reportedly "spoke of the love his family feels for Mary."

Oh, How I Love Blogger...

(Toledo, OH) Yet again the virtual goblins ate another of my posts. I am, at the moment, too irritated to think clearly.

I was working on a post about a Palmdale, CA man who was charged $4,334.33 at his local Burger King for four dollar-menu burgers. Click on the link to read more; it has a happy ending.

I did the research, combing six articles for the interesting info, digging through the Bank of America website on policies, and ending with an anecdote about my own personal travails with a similar accidental debit of monstrous proportions.

Instead, when I clicked "Publish Post," the goblins attacked. Attempts to reload the Dashboard page proved fruitless, and I could not recover the page from my IE cache.

May fire and brimstone never cease to fall in deadly showers on Blogger headquarters, and may all of Satan's minions forever assail the town of Mountain View, CA.

Tuesday is OTA Day


(Toledo, OH) On Tuesdays, I perform my duties as a member of the Open Trackback Alliance and highlight some articles that I found noteworthy on the sites of other members.

Follow this link to learn more about the project, which was developed by Samantha Burns.

Peakah's Provocations has some humorous retorts to stale pickup lines that used in bars.

Chad at Pirates Man Your Women asks what the numbers 1, 2, and 42 have in common. It turns out that they are all "moments of the Riemann zeta function." Click the link to learn more.

Other interesting OTA blogs I visited this week: TMH's Bacon Bits, the unusual Quietly Making Noise, the wacky Mental Rhinorrhea, the wretched hive of scum and Villainy at Pirate's Cove, tales and observations from the Beatnik Samurai known as Stray Dog, and the irrepressible Imagine Kitty Magazine.

Matthew Winkler: 1975 - 2006


Left: Mourners gathering at a visitation service Monday night

(Selmer, TN) In a few short hours the body of Matthew Winkler will be laid to rest at the Shackleford Funeral Home in this small Tennesee town.

The visitation service last night drew an estimated 300 people to the funeral home.

Black bows adorned the doors of Selmer's Fourth Street Church of Christ, the congregation that Matthew Winkler led for just over a year. Some of the faithful worked throught the night to prepare the church for today's funeral.

Billy R. Smith, dean of the School of Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, recalled Matthew Winkler as a student and a preacher.

"I never saw Matthew when he was not happy and excited about his life, but especially about his wife and family," he said. "Matthew was being very effective in his work (at Fourth Street) and had made a lot of new friends."

Matthew Winkler's burial will be in Huntingdon, Tennessee, the hometown of his mother and father.

There is no word yet if Mary Winkler will be allowed to pay her last respects to her late husband.

Arrest Warrant And Criminal Affidavit Of Mary Winkler


(Click on the image for a larger version)

(Selmer, TN) The following is the text of the arrest warrant and criminal affidavit in State of Tennessee v. Mary Carol Winkler.

On March 22nd, 2006, the body of Matthew Winkler was found in his home in Selmer, Tennessee. Mr. Winkler had been shot. On March 23rd, 2006, the deceased's wife, Mary Carol Winkler, was apprehended by law enforcement officers in Orange Beach, Alabama. According to Agents of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Mary Winkler confessed to planning the murder of her husband, Matthew Winkler, shooting him on March 22nd, 2006, and leaving Selmer with her three daughters.

Roger Rickman, Affiant

Mar 27, 2006

Can Mary Winkler Get A Fair Trial?

Left: Mary Winkler and defense attorney Steve Farese in Selmer court (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

(Selmer, TN) The arraignment of Mary Winkler was an affair of short duration, lasting a mere six minutes. The media frenzy in this small Tennessee town may last for many, many months.

If nothing else, the local economy of this 4,600-person town should receive quite an infusion of cash.

Even at this early juncture it is clear that this case will likely be the trial of the decade. On my own blog the taffic has increased more than tenfold since I began to devote most of my posts to the Winkler case, and I am recording hits from across the globe.

Given the intense coverage of the crime and its aftermath, the question that begs to be asked is this: can Mary Winkler get a fair trial anywhere on this planet?

News of the alleged confession of Mary Winkler rapidly spread across the blogosphere and the mainstream media Friday afternoon. The few words uttered by police officials at press conferences have been picked apart, and countless theories have emerged as a public with an insatiable thirst for news tries to understand this bizarre saga.

In my day-to-day interactions I have found the Winkler case to be the most-discussed conversation subject, and people I know who normally go through life blissfully unaware of the news (oh, how I envy them) feel the need to weigh in on possible motives for the killing.

Perhaps, though, the best place for this trial to be held is right where it currently stands - in Selmer, Tennessee. Church members and townsfolk have avoided jumping to conclusions about the case, unlike the rest of the world. Furthermore, many people who belong to the Fourth Street Church of Christ have publicly forgiven Mary Winkler.

We might all take our cues from the good people of Selmer.

Mary Winkler Arraigned In Husband's Murder

Left: Mrs. Winkler in the Selma jail; photo courtesy of Associated Press

(Selmer, TN) Mary Winkler, the woman accused of shooting her preacher husband to death last week, was formally charged today with first-degree murder at her arraignment hearing. Mrs. Winkler did not enter a formal plea.

Mary Winkler was dressed in an orange prison robe and wore ankle shackles. As she entered the coutroom she was holding her attorney's hand.

Winkler kept her head down during her court appearance and said little, with the exception of a "no sir" when General Sessions Court Judge Bob Gray asked if she had any questions.

Judge Gray will make a decision on bail at the preliminary hearing, which is set for Thursday.

Defense attorney Steve Farese declined to speculate on Mrs. Winkler's motives for shooting her husband.

"There are persistently going to be rumors about why this happened, how this happened … but we're not allowed to comment," Farese said. "Our defense right now is every defense known to man."

Farese said that he had not yet read Mrs. Winkler's "alleged confession," nor had he reviewed the formal charges brought against the wife of the slain minister.

"We'll have to see how this thing plays out," said Farese.

Matthew Winkler Funeral Set; College Fund For Winkler Children Created

Left: Mug shot of Mary Winkler in Selmer jail

(Selmer, TN) Funeral visitation will be held at the Shackleford Funeral Home in Selmer, TN today for Matthew Winkler, the charismatic young minister who was killed by his wife Mary last Tuesday night.

Mary Winkler will be arraigned Monday afternoon. She is expected to plead not guilty today when she faces the judge, according to defense attorney Steve Farese.

Matthew Winkler's funeral is scheduled for 11 AM Tuesday at the Fourth Street Church of Christ. Burial will be at Carroll County Memorial Gardens in Huntingdon.

The Winkler requested today that well-wishers contribute to a counseling and college trust fund for the Winkler children, Patricia, 8; Mary Alice, 6, and Breanna, 1. Donations can be sent to Winkler Family Fund, 229 Ward Circle, Suite A-23, Brentwood, TN 37027.

Neglected Boy, 5, Weighs Only 15 Pounds

Left: Mug shots of Judy Gratton and Joseph Kahn, courtesy of News 10 Now

(Cortland, NY) While raiding a house for suspected illegal drugs, police in this upstate New York town made a sickening discovery.

Officers found a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome who weighed just 15 pounds. The child was sitting in diapers full of his own waste, and his body was covered with lice.

The average weight for a typical five-year old boy is 44.5 pounds.

One neighbor said that she had repeatedly called Child Protective Services last year about the family.

"What I noticed, from day one, was after I became friends with Judy, she drank all day, the baby was on the floor," said neighbor Christina Stevens. "There was no interaction. The baby never had any solid food. She never changed him."

Police found five ounces of marijuana - most of which was packaged for sale - along with drug processing equipment.

Cockroaches and overflowing bags of soiled diapers littered the house. Police also found two other children (ages 11 and 12) who showed signs of malnutrition and neglect.

"Many of these officers have small children, have raised children and to find this small child in a crib infested with body lice, cockroaches, garbage and severely undernourished tugs at everybody's heart," said Police Chief Jim Nichols. "This mother showed a depraved indifference of human life and caused serious physical injury to her five-year-old son."

Police arrested the children's mother, 48-year old Judy Gratton and her live-in boyfriend Joseph Kahn. The couple faces charges of fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, plus two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

"We came upon the five-year old victim located in the apartment inside a play pen," said Nichols. "The officers were horrified."

Using Cell Phones To Cheat On Exams

(London) There has been an increase in the number of students in England who have been caught cheating in their exams, and the most significant change has been the rise of the use of mobile phones to cheat.

"Over recent years we have seen a noticeable rise in the number of mobile phone related incidents in examination halls across the country," said Ken Boston, chief executive of the examinations board. "As we enter the summer examination season I have today written to schools and colleges to remind them of their responsibilities to impress upon students the importance of not taking mobile phones into examinations."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the body that oversees exams, found that more than 4,500 students were cited for cheating in 2005, an increase of more than 27 percent since 2004.

Smuggling cheating aides into the exam was the most common type of violation, with 1,887 students getting caught for this offense.

Students in England can lose points or even be failed just for possessing a cell phone with them during exams, whether or not they use them to cheat.

England, of course, is not alone in the phenomenon of cell phone cheating. Students in the same room could type the number of a problem on a test or quiz and receive a text message from a classmate containing the desired answer.

Better yet, if students needed help on an exam, they could enter a word or problem into their phone and send it to a student away from the testing site who can look up the answer for them.

And, given the amount of memory that some of these phones hold, a student might very easily store an entire semester's worth of notes in his cell phone.

Of course, the best cheating scam I have yet to hear involves water bottles. I had students last year in a moment of candor tell me that water bottle cheaters are everywhere.

"You peel off the label, dry it, fill the back side up with notes, and then glue it back on the bottle," said one student, whose identity I will keep safe. "Professors never think to check the water bottles."

Other favorite cheating techniques include: notes in the pantyhose, notes on one's hand, and notes posted on a nearby bulletin board disguised as a harmless announcement.

Another interesting technique disclosed to me involved foreign alphabets.

"If you learn the Greek alphabet you can put up a lot of notes around you that look like fraternity newsletters," said one student. "The only risk you run is if the instructor reads Greek."

To my mind it seems easier to just work hard and study. Some of these students put more time into beating the system than if they had just studies in the first place.

Mary Winkler Retains An Attorney

(Selmer, TN) Mary Winkler, the 32-year old woman accused of killing her minister husband, has retained legal counsel.

Steve Farese, her Ashland, MS attorney, said that Mrs.Winkler intends to plead not guilty Monday during her arraignment.

"Very reserved, very quiet, very remorseful for the Winkler family and concerned about her children," was the manner in which Farese described his client Sunday night.

The veteran defense attorney took issue with reports that there was a "dangerous situation" in the Winkler home that may have precipitated the murder.

"It was taken out of context. It was only a theory that something was going on in the home that in and of itself was dangerous," said Farese of the rumors. "I think the accumulations of the pressures of life in and of itself certainly would have some factor in the case."

Farese has made a name for himself in taking on cases that involved well-known community figures. One of his most notable cases included defendants in the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

Mar 26, 2006

Mary Winkler "Sorry For Everything She Has Done"


Left: Photographs of 1-year-old Breanna Winkler and Mary Winkler from a bulletin board at the Fourth Street Church of Christ

(Selmer, TN) In the first words spoken by Mary Winkler that have been conveyed to the public, the wife of slain minister Matthew Winkler expressed remorse for shooting her husband in the back.

Church member Pam Killingsworth visited Mrs. Winkler after Sunday services at the Fourth Street Church of Christ. Killingsworth said the preacher's wife gave no indication why she shot her husband of 10 years.

"She just said she was sorry and for me to write a note to the church saying that she was sorry for everything she had done," said Killingsworth. "And I said, Mary, we love you and we're praying for you. She did have a Bible once she got to the jail. Someone had brought her a Bible and she said she had been reading her Bible."

Sunday marked the first Sunday services since the shooting death of the popular minister. Church elder Robert Shackelford warned members of the congregation to avoid speculating about why Mary Winkler killed her husband.

"Perhaps over time we will better understand why this has happened," Shackelford said. "Be very cautious about what you say or even what you think."

Shackelford asked that the congregation pray for the children, their grandparents and Mrs. Winkler.

"Mary is a member of this church family," he told the faithful. "If we don't have forgiveness, then we don't have anything."

Matthew Winkler's funeral has been scheduled for Tuesday in Selmer, TN.

Danny Brown: Justice Denied, Again

(Toledo, OH) Danny Brown, a Toledo man wrongly incarcerated for 19 years, received a setback on Friday. The 6th District Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote, denied his petition to force the Lucas County prosecutor to either retry or exonerate him.

Danny was released in 2001 after DNA evidence proved he could not have been the man who raped and killed Bobbie Russell in 1981. However, county prosecutors continue to consider him a "suspect" in a non-existent investigation in the case.

I have written extensively about Danny's case in the past few years; here is an article I wrote that provides much greater detail. I am writing today to express my frustration and outrage that the Lucas County prosecutor's office continues to stubbornly refuses to give Danny Brown his day in court.

Their collective inaction prevents Danny from seeking restitution for 19 years spent locked in state prisons and, more importantly, prevents Danny from clearing his name.

I met Danny in 2001 while I was working as a waiter at a high-end local restaurant. He hired in as a dishwasher and worked his way up to a cook in the years he was there. I never knew his story while we worked together; I just knew him as a friendly coworker who worked hard and had a positive outlook on life.

We both left the restaurant around the same time, and I ran into Danny several months later at UT. We were both taking classes at the university, and in our brief conversation he mentioned an upcoming court case. It was then - some two years after we met - that I first learned of his ordeal.

I worked with Danny on several articles, and his case has become a focus of activism on my part. Because he has become my friend, I no longer write straight news stories on his case, but rather focus on editorials like this.

I have worked with and been friends with Danny Brown for almost five years. In that time I have found him to be one of the kindest, most decent people I have ever met. If I had been wrongly locked up for 19 years I would want revenge. Danny, however, remains philosophical.

“I want to change the system; I’m not angry at any particular person,” he said. “I hope to spend the rest of my life working to prevent this type of injustice from ever happening again.”

He's a better man than I.

What happened to Danny Brown could happen to any citizen, and it is time for the state to do the right thing. 19 years in prison is a lot of lost wages; is the state putting up roadblocks just to save the money it will have to pay Danny?

I'd like to close with a short anecdote about Danny Brown that demonstrates his character. Throughout the years I have tried to convince Danny to engage in a campaign to raise money. I think that there are plenty of good-hearted people who would donate money to right the wrongs that have happened to Danny, even if the state of Ohio is reluctant to make restitution.

Danny has instead always insisted that people should donate to groups like Centurion Ministries, the organization that believed in Danny and helped free him in 2001.

I brought the subject up again yesterday when we were working on a new blog for Danny, and I suggested that we open a PayPal account in his name for concerned people to contribute.

"Only if we open it for people to send money to Centurion Ministries," he said. "There are other people in the same position I was in, and it doesn't seem right for me to take money when others still sit in jail."

Julia Bates - do the right thing, and either exonerate this man or retry him.

Mar 25, 2006

Friends Shocked Over Mary Winkler's Confession

Left: Mary Winkler enters the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse Friday (AP Photo/Mobile Register, John David Mercer)

(Selmer, TN) Those who are acquainted with Mary Winkler, the wife of a preacher who confessed Friday to killing her husband, struggle to reconcile the woman they knew with the news that Mrs. Winkler has been arraigned on first-degree murder charges.

"They were wonderful people," said Lola France, who lived near the Winklers. "He was nice as he could be and she was real nice, too. I would see her out with her daughters and you'd think nobody could be happier. I can't understand this."

Felecia Jones and the Winkler family attended the Bellevue Church of Christ together several years ago.

“Around me, she was always such a happy person,” Jones said. “We were just friends, just buddies. I'm still in denial. I know that's not Mary. That's just not her."

Neighbor Michael Weeter, who lived next door, said that the Winkler children played with his children.

"They seemed like good people," he said. "It's hard to believe what is being said now."

Nekki King, a church member who lived up the street from the Winklers, called the couple "very sweet people."

"Nothing was ever wrong," she said. "I just wonder if something happened that no one knows about."

Church member Anita Whirley joined other congregants in a planned spring cleanup.

"Listen, the Mary we knew didn't do this," she said as she planted pansies outside Fourth Street Church of Christ. "She was a wonderful person. We just don't understand."

"WHY?": Mary Winkler and Unanswered Questions

Left: Photo of Mary Winkler leaving the Orange Beach jail courtesy of Mobile Register.

(Selmer, TN) Few stories in recent memory have gripped the nation in the way that the murder of Matthew Winkler has. Every network yesterday led with the story of Mary Winkler's sudden confession of shooting her husband in the back at their home on Wednesday, and CNN and FOX have devoted many hours of near-continuous coverage since news broke of the discovery of Mary and the three girls.

Living a seemingly ideal life in a small Tennessee town, the Winklers by outward appearances were a happy family. Perhaps it is the shattering of an idyllic image that disturbs us so. If such a near-perfect family can become embroiled in a world violence, goes the theory, than so too can any American home.

The investigators in Alabama and Tennessee agree that Mary Winkler shared with them a motive for the killing, but they are not yet communicating her reasons for shooting Matthew Winkler. In press conferences, though, they have consistently denied that infidelity on the part of either spouse was a factor.

Police officials, however, cagily evade the question of some form of abuse that might have occurred in the Winkler home as a precipitating factor. On another thread on this site, a visitor from Jackson, TN said that Matthew Winkler may have been moved from other pastoral assignments - youth ministries - for certain "irregular" behaviors involving children.

This would explain the mental state of Mary Winkler, although most people would not agree with her method of response. God have mercy on anyone who would abuse my children, for I surely would not. In all honesty, were I to find myself alone with someone who hurt my children, I cannot guarantee that I would to allow the legal system to work.

I might instead choose the path of swift, Louisville Slugger justice, or find my vengeance in a double-barreled, 12-gauge response. My prayers thus must include a plea to God to keep me from ever having to make such a decision.

Mar 24, 2006

Mary Winkler Booked, Facing Extradition

(Selmer, TN) Alabama officials said that Mary Winkler has waived extradition and will be sent back to Tennessee Friday night or Saturday to face first-degree charges for the murder of her husband Matthew.

Selmer Police investigator Roger Rickman said that Mary Winkler has not yet provided a motive.

"Our concern at this point is why the crime took place," he said. "There have been no specific accusations made by Mrs. Winkler."

Also this afternoon a custody hearing was held in Alabama. A juvenile court judge is in the process of deciding whether the parents of Matthew Winkler should take custody of the children. Mary Winkler attended that hearing, according to FOX News.

Matthew Winkler, a 31-year old minister at Selmer's Fourth Street Church of Christ, was found dead in the couple's home Wednesday after he missed an evening prayer service and church members searched for him. Congregants found Winkler dead in the bedroom. He had been shot in the back, but there was no evidence of a struggle, according to police.

Church members described Mary Winkler - who is originally from Knoxville - as a "quiet, unassuming woman" who worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary school.

Addendum - 8:00 PM: Matthew Winkler's father, Dan Winkler, attended the hearing and spoke to reporters after being awarded custody of the couple's three daughters.

"Thank you for your love, support and prayers," he said. "Now we want to turn our attention to remembering our son and to the care of three young children."

Minister's Wife Confesses To Murder

(Selmer, TN) The wife of a minister found shot to death in their church's parsonage agreed Friday to return to Tennessee to face first-degree murder charges in his death, state authorities said.

Matthew Winkler, a 31-year old minister at Selmer's Fourth Street Church of Christ, was found dead in the couple's home Wednesday after he missed an evening prayer service and church members searched for him. Congregants found Winkler dead in the bedroom. He had been shot in the back, but there was no evidence of a struggle, according to police.

Mary Winkler, 32, was found with the couple's three young daughters late last night in Orange Beach, Alabama, 340 miles south of the Selmer church. Police spotted the family's minivan and stopped it Thursday evening, Assistant Police Chief Greg Duck said.

The Orange Beach spokesman said the children were in "very good condition" and were on the way to get something to eat when an officer pulled over their Toyota Sienna.

Tennessee investigators said that Mrs. Winkler was cooperating. They also indicated that they will charge Mary Winkler with first-degree murder after her extradition from Alabama this weekend.

"She’s been extremely forthcoming. We just got the warrant a few minutes ago. So I now have it in hand, and I can say that she did basically confess to this," said Jennifer Johnson with the TBI. "Once she was apprehended - actually she was really taken in for questioning more than anything else because initially we didn’t know what was going on - but she has basically confessed to this, so we had to move forward."

Left: The Winklers in happier days

Winkler was hired at the Fourth Street Church in February 2005, said Wilburn Ash, an elder at the church. He added that the congregation came to love his "straight-by-the-Bible" sermons.

"They were a nice family," said former Selmer Mayor Jimmy Whittington, who worked with the minister collecting donations for hurricane victims last year. "They just blended in."

News of Winkler's murder shocked citizens in this small Tennessee town.

"I can't believe this would happen," said Pam Killingsworth, a church member and assistant principal at Selmer Elementary. "The kids are just precious, and she was precious. He was the one of the best ministers we've ever had, just super charisma."

Matthew Winkler's grandfather had a 60-year career as an evangelist in four Southern states, and his father is an adjunct professor at a religious-affiliated university. Mary Winkler's father is also a pastor in Alabama.

Mrs. Winkler and the couple's daughters - Breanna, 1; Mary Alice, 6; and Patricia, 8 - were found unharmed by police about 7:30 PM Thursday after an Amber Alert was issued for the girls. Early reports suggest that Mary Winkler rented a condominium in Orange Beach.

Authorities believe that the children were spared the trauma of witnessing their father's murder.

Left: Police tape rings the Winkler home

"To my knowledge, the children saw nothing," said Selmer Police Sgt. Roger Rickman.

He disclosed that the Winkler children were in the custody of the Alabama child welfare agency, and added that members of Mr. Winkler's family were attempting to gain custody.

"One of the grandfathers is down there now to get the kids," Rickman said. "The girls have no idea of what happened to their father."

Church members described Mary Winkler - who is originally from Knoxville - as a "quiet, unassuming woman" who worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary school.

One Selmer resident told FOX News that Matthew Winkler "liked to hunt," and speculated that the murder weapon could have been one of the pastor's hunting weapons.

Double Amputee to Scale Everest

A mountaineer from New Zealand - who lost both of his legs to exposure after two weeks in a 1982 blizzard - will begin a quest on Saturday to become the first double amputee to climb Mount Everest.

Mark Inglis said that he will begin his ascent from the Tibetan side of the mountain, and he hopes to be at the base camp by the end of the first week of April.

"The reason I have waited until now is because I wanted to be confident enough to climb in my own right. No one is going to drag my sorry backside up there," Inglis said. "Well, I'm a Kiwi and we've got Sir Ed (Edmund Hillary) so it's literally been a dream since I was a boy."

Inglis will be wearing a pair of carbon fiber legs equipped with climbing crampons, and jokes that frostbite will no longer be a problem.

The intrepid adventurer will be keeping a diary at

If you ever hear me whine about the flu or my aching lower lumbar region, give me a virtual smack in the head. I am humbled by the courage and dedication of Mark Inglis.

Mar 23, 2006

Center Cities

(Chicago, IL) It has been quite some time since I have walked in the busy downtown district of a major American city. When I have traveled in the recent past to a large city, it has been to a place like Detroit, which lacks a vibrant commercial and retail environment in its downtown business district.

While attending a composition conference at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago I took an hour to walk around the central business district. What an amazing sight it is to see many thousands of people shopping, running errands, and carrying on the business of the Windy City.

In a two-block square area with the Palmer House as the epicenter, I counted over 30 restaurants, 18 clothing stores, three drug stores, two theaters, and a grocery store. I also saw a half-dozen bars, a tobacconist, several jewelers, and a toupee boutique.

This list is just what I remember from a cursory parsing of my memory. Chicago’s panhandlers, too, are quite numerous, though I might add that they tend toward the unobtrusive. Toledo’s pedestrian financial solicitors, in the main, are more aggressive in their pursuit of alms; perhaps this is a function of the limited foot traffic in the Glass City.

This is also in stark contrast with the city in which I live: Toledo, Ohio. There are precious few retail establishments in the downtown area, as Toledoans have been trained to become mall denizens. Restaurants and bars thrive only when there is an event downtown, such as a Mud Hens game or a concert.

Admittedly Chicago is a bigger city than Toledo or even Detroit. Chicagoans, however, have actively worked to invest and improve their downtown business district, and view it as the very heart of the region.

Cities like Toledo and Detroit have not been able to create the sense of social necessity for their respective central cores. Suburban voices can often be heard agitating for urban devolution, or at least, allowing urban cores to die.

Walking around downtown Chicago, I could sense the civic pride in a vibrant downtown, and I paused to dream of a day when cities like Toledo can once again embrace a healthy downtown business district.

Mar 22, 2006

High Levels of Radioactive Material Found in Groundwater North of NYC


(White Plains, NY) Dangerous levels of a radioactive isotope were found in groundwater near the Hudson River beneath a nuclear plant, according to Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

The groundwater is not believed to intersect drinking supplies, said a spokesman for the company. The strontium-90 from the Indian Point Energy Center is believed to have reached the Hudson River.

The carcinogenic strontium - 90 - measured at three times the amount permitted in drinking water - was found in a well dug in a search for the source of a leak of radioactive water from the Indian Point complex. The facility is located approximately 30 miles north of New York City.

The well samples also contained tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen and another potential carcinogen. The NRC announced Monday that it would investigate releases of tritium at Indian Point and other plants.

"When we first got these findings we were scratching our heads because it does raise questions about what the source (of the leak) really is," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "It's still all speculation. This is just one data point in a long process."

Safe Kids Launches Poison Prevention Campaign


Passing along this public service item

(Toledo, OH) Safe Kids Greater Toledo reminds parents that March 19-25, 2006, is National Poison Prevention Week. In conjunction with this campaign, a new public service announcement, featuring an animated pill bottle, was distributed to all local television stations. The public service announcement is designed to educate parents and caregivers about the risks of medication-related poisoning to children.

Each year, more than one million children ages 5 and under are accidentally poisoned and 90 percent of accidental poisonings happen in the home. Children are at significantly greater risk than adults for accidental poisoning, because they are smaller, have faster metabolic rates and are less able physically to handle toxic chemicals.

In addition, the natural curiosity of children and their tendency to put items in their mouths increase the poisoning risk. Forty percent of accidental poisonings of children ages 5 and under are from prescription drugs and other medications.

Safe Kids Greater Toledo reminds parents to keep the poison control hotline 1-800-222-1222 near every telephone and remind anyone taking care of children to do the same.

Taking a Trip

(Chicago, IL) I'll be in Chicago the next few days at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, so if my posts or responses seem limited, you'll know I was not abducted by aliens or hauled away to Guantanamo Bay.

However, if the Windy City has decent wireless, I'll stay plugged in and keep the site updated.

Mar 21, 2006

Great Site - "One Red Paperclip"


Kyle MacDonald began making a series of trades last year with the ultimate goal of getting a house.

He began on July 12th, 2005 with one red paperclip (hence the blog name). MacDonald, through shrewd and timely exchanges, recently traded a cube van for a recording contract.

Incredible! I suspect that the fun promotion will ultimately pan out for Kyle MacDonald.

Grand fun reading the various trades and offers that MacDonald has entertained over the past eight months.

Kateri Tekakwitha: Creating a Native Saint

Painting of Kateri Tekakwitha painted by Jesuit Father Chauchetière between 1682 and 1693

The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and an Algonquin woman who had embraced Christianity, was born in 1656 in the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon in modern-day New York. A smallpox epidemic tore through her village when Kateri was 4, leaving her with unsightly scars and poor eyesight. The outbreak took the lives of her brother and both her parents.

Thetradition holds that in 1676 Kateri was converted and baptized Catholic by Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit missionary. She was chastised by her relatives and shunned by the tribe because of her faith, but she suffered all with patience and humility, according to the legend.

In 1677 Kateri fled to Quebec, seeking asylum at the mission of St. Francis Xavier du Sault. Kateri and other converts engaged in acts of mortification including severe fasts and self-flagellation.

After her death Kateri's pock marks supposedly vanished, and Jesuit records indicate that she appeared to two different individuals in the weeks following her death.

The process of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha began in 1884 during the papacy of Pope Leo XIII. She was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943, and beatified June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II. She is properly referred to as "Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha" within the Roman Catholic Church today. Tekakwitha was the first Native American to be beatified.

The debate of her canonization dates back to the seventeenth century, centering on a biography of Tekakwitha composed by Jesuit missionary Father Pierre Cholenec. While the details of her life continue to be debated, there can be no doubt about the enormous following this woman has inspired. Tekakwitha - later called "Lily of the Mohawks" - is held in high esteem by Catholics, Native Americans, and environmental activists.

The Jesuits and the French may have had ulterior motives for generating the extraordinary account of Kateri Tekakwitha. A Native American individual of saintly repute would help legitimize missionary aspirations; such a person could inspire other conversions and strengthen the faith of those already in the fold. In a more political sense, the veneration of Kateri would demonstrate at least the illusion of equality between the French and indigenous peoples. This could also counter the perception that it was necessary to have a European pedigree as a prerequisite to hierarchical ascension within the Church.

The Jesuits claimed that Kateri's smallpox-scarred face was suddenly freed from its diseased ugliness on her deathbed; the last moments of her life allegedly showed a countenance that had been changed to a soft, radiant beauty, free from disfigurations. While some Catholics may accept this type of manifestation on faith alone, it should be pointed out that the Jesuits stood to benefit from the creation of such a miraculous myth as a means of validating Kateri as a holy woman.

Ultimately, though, the decision to accept the miracles described by Jesuit missionaries comes down to faith.

Comments Changes

((Toledo, OH) I am removing the annoying word verification tool from the comments section. I have been spam-free for several months on this blog, and I originally added the feature to weed out unwanted spam.

If the spammers return en masse, I may re-install word verification.

What about you? Do you find this feature useful, or a cumbersome annoyance?

Signs of Spring

(Toledo, OH) Despite temperatures in the 20s and grey skies overhead, I found evidence in my yeard that spring is soon to arrive.

Tulips and crocuses are beginning to push through the cold earth in search of the sun.

In other spring news I have an ongoing, low-grade civil war with one of my anonymous neighbors who likes to call the city inspectors on us. The most recent visit involved the plants in my gardens, which I allow to die down in the fall.

The unknown neighbor called and said that there were "weeds all over the place," and that we never cut our grass.

This call, of course was placed in late January. The inspector duly cited me for a "public heath nuisance" (the dead plants), and gave me 72 hours to remove the dead tomato plants, corn stalks, and okra stems. In a fit of civil disobedience I waited until last weekend to cut and mulch this material.

There, unknown anatagonist! I will answer your silly action on my own time.