Saudi Teen Granted Asylum in Canada

Saudi Teen Rahaf Mohammed Granted Asylum in Canada - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A Saudi teen who fled her family’s clutches in Bangkok has been granted asylum in Canada, and now she’s being protected by security guards because of threats she’s receiving on social media.

Rahaf Mohammed says she just wants to live a normal, independent life in Canada – and have the freedom to make her own decisions about her education, career and marriage. Currently, Saudi women have to get permission from a male guardian to travel or to get married.

Because Canada approved her asylum petition, she flew to Toronto.

In her first public comments on the issue, Mohammad said, “Today, I can proudly say that I am capable of making all of those decisions.”

She arrived in Canada in mid-January, a week after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked the country to grant her asylum. She’ll receive government-funded support for about a year, until she’s able to make her own way, and the organization that’s helping her resettle – COSTI – is trying to place her with members of her own family who can help her get access to healthcare and banking services.

Mohammed’s case drew worldwide attention when she tweeted that her passport was seized at a Bangkok airport. She’d traveled to Bangkok from Kuwait, where she’d slipped away from her family during a vacation. The 18-year-old intended to continue on to Australia, where she planned to ask for asylum, but Bangkok authorities prevented her from traveling farther. Mohammad said that she was once locked in a room for six months for cutting her hair, and she cited concerns that her family would kill her if she was forced to return to them.

What Do You Think?

Were you following Rahaf Mohammed’s case? Do you think she was right for fleeing her family and asking for asylum? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

 

Criminals Who Could’ve Done Better

Criminals Who Could’ve Done Better - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that we sometimes enjoy digging up the craziest criminal cases we can find – and this month, we have quite a few.

ATMs and Physics

A pair of Texas thieves backed a pickup truck into a courthouse’s glass front to try to steal an ATM. They jumped out of the truck, secured the ATM with a ratchet strap, and succeeded… in pulling off the front panel. But don’t worry – one would-be thief got locked out of the truck and had to jump in its bed for the getaway. They were caught a few days later. (The video is priceless.)

That Guy Threw a Brick

Two Chinese suspects tried to break into a business by throwing bricks through the window – but when the second suspect took aim, his buddy walked into the line of fire. Would-be Burglar #1 hit the dirt hard, and his friend had to drag him away from the scene of the crime. Check out the video from CBS New York here.

That’s Why They Call Manchester “The Windy City”

The last thing a robber expects is to lose all the cash he just stole – but that’s exactly what happened in Manchester, England. After a pair of thieves robbed a travel agency and stuffed the cash down their pants, a few gusts of wind snatched almost all of it away. You can see the video here.

What Would You Do for a Million Gumballs?

A Sacramento man – henceforth known as the Gumball Bandit – broke into an animal shelter in the city to steal a gumball machine. He couldn’t get out the door, though, so he tried to smash it with the gumball machine itself. The gumballs ended up all over the floor, so he tried to steal the quarters – but he couldn’t do that, either; instead, he slipped and fell on the gumballs a couple of times before he realized that the shelter had a back door. Check out the video here.

Thief Gets Stuck on Fence… Twice in One Night

A man trying to steal beer and energy drinks almost got away with it – but he dropped his take when he got caught on the fence out back. He hung there, upside-down for several hours, until a passerby helped him down. Then, he went back into the store for more. He still never figured out how to get over a fence – he got stuck again, and while he was busy trying to take off his pants, the people in the store called the police. You can see the video here.

What Do You Think?

Got any dumb criminal stories? They’re some of my favorites. I’d love to see the ones that have made you laugh, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

 

Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” Ad Strikes a Chord

Gillette's Toxic Masculinity Ad - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Gillette – the razor company whose slogan is “The Best a Man Can Get” – has released a new ad that takes aim at bullying and harassment, but public reactions are mixed.

It shouldn’t be controversial, though. The ad, which you can watch here, is called “We Believe.” It shows some of the worst male behavior – sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying – and says that we can’t keep “making the same old excuses,” such as “boys will be boys.”

But after it puts all the bad behavior on display, the ad shows men stepping up and doing better. It says, “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can be our best” as it depicts intervention against sexual harassment, a dad teaching his daughter to have confidence in herself, and choosing peace over violence.

TV personality Piers Morgan was one of the first to say that he’ll boycott Gillette because of the ad, and now others are saying that this is an attack against normal male behavior. And on Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade said he’s terribly offended by the ad.

Kilmead said, “Let’s point out all the bad things that you might say about men, put them into an ad, make men feel horrible, and then say, ‘Overpay for a razor.’”

Others say that the ad – and others like it – have been a long time coming.

The ad came out just a few days after Fox & Friends hosts lambasted guidelines issued by the American Psychological Association on treating boys and men. The guidelines, which were issued in August of 2018, suggest that sometimes the traditional ideas of what masculinity is can actually hurt men and boys. According to the report, “Socializing for conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior … and negatively influence mental health and physical health.”

The guidelines are targeted to psychologists so they can help their patients – but the Fox & Friends hosts (including those without psychology degrees) disagreed strongly and suggested that the guidelines were nothing more than a “political theory” and said they have “nothing to do with science.”

The APA’s chief of professional practice, Jared Skillings, stressed that the guidelines are indeed evidence-based.

“They are based on a review of 40 years of scientific literature and underwent a rigorous review process by experts in the field,” Skillings said.

What Do You Think?

Have you seen the new Gillette ad or the APA’s guidelines for treating men and boys? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

DNA Testing Sites Helping Solve Cold Cases

DNA Testing Sites Helping Solve Cold Cases - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

During 2018, police cracked 19 cold cases using ancestry testing sites. One of them was the murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley, which took place in the spring of 1988. The secret? Using DNA from the crime scene, obtaining a warrant to upload the DNA to a site called GEDmatch – popular among genealogists – and seeing who comes up as a close match. From there, detectives and genealogists work together to zero in on possible suspects.

DNA profiling wasn’t really standard in American investigations until President George W. Bush signed the Justice for All Act in 2004 – and under that act, it became commonplace for police to stockpile suspects’ DNA found at crime scenes.

Parabon NanoLabs, a private company that scans public DNA profile records submitted on genealogy websites, has been involved in solving several of the cold cases police have brought to them. They’re the ones responsible for tracking down the Golden State Killer.

Police are finding murderers and serial rapists – including the Ramsey Street Rapist from North Carolina and a serial rapist from Sacramento – all by using GEDmatch.

First, they upload the DNA data into the website. Within a few days, the website’s algorithm identifies other users who have similar DNA. Close blood relatives always share some DNA, which is measured in centimorgans. For example, a parent and child share an average of 3,600 centimorgans of DNA. Full siblings share anywhere between 2,300 and 3,900 centimorgans of DNA (twins are on the high end). Half-siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents share between 1,300 and 2,300 centimorgans.

Police are able to find those matches and get closer to the suspects they’re looking for – and when there isn’t a close match, they use genealogical tools to track down more potential suspects.

For example, if investigators find a match that shares 750 centimorgans of DNA with the DNA found at a crime scene, they’re looking for that matching person’s first cousins. That lets them zero in on suspects far faster – and far more easily – than traditional investigations would. When they can’t find names and identifying information on GEDmatch, or when they need to zero in more specifically, they turn to other tools like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.

(You can check out the DNA autosomal statistics chart, which breaks down how much DNA relatives share, here.)

What Do You Think?

Have you heard about any of these cases being solved with DNA? Have you uploaded your own DNA data to GEDmatch, Ancestry.com or 23andMe? What would you do if police approached you to ask questions about one of your relatives based on your DNA match?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

 

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Contains Asbestos, Report Says

Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder Contains Asbestos, Report Says - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A new report by Reuters says that Johnson & Johnson – one of the world’s most trusted manufacturers of baby-related products – has hidden asbestos in its baby powder at least since the 1970s. Internal documents revealed that the company hid the fact that its powder contained cancer-causing asbestos from regulators and the public in order to continue selling the product.

It all started to implode on the company when Darlene Coker discovered she had mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that asbestos exposure leaves behind. When she hired a personal injury lawyer, he discovered that talc (the main component in baby powder) is naturally found with asbestos.

And internal documents tell the whole story.

At least three different labs tested the powder between 1972 and 1975 and found what they called “rather high” levels of asbestos in the talc. But Johnson & Johnson hid that from regulators and the public, and still to this day claims its baby powder is completely safe.

Unfortunately, at the time Coker filed her lawsuit (it was 1999), the company legally avoided handing over those internal documents. Her lawyer couldn’t prove that the baby powder was the culprit, and they had to drop the case. Corker died without ever finding justice from Johnson & Johnson.

But now, upwards of 11,700 other women are claiming that the company caused their cancers, ranging from mesothelioma to ovarian cancer. This, piled on the fact that a few years ago consumers discovered that its “no more tears” baby shampoo contained formaldehyde-releasing ingredients, spells bad news for the company.

Johnson & Johnson retaliated by posting a statement on its website, which says in part, “The Reuters article is one-sided, false and inflammatory. Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free. Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease. Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos.”

What Do You Think?

Do you believe Johnson & Johnson, or do you think you (or your children) might have been adversely affected by its baby powder? I’d love to see what you think about this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Facebook Compromised 6.8 Million Users’ Photos

Facebook Compromised 6.8 Million Users Photos - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Facebook is in the news again after multiple scandals throughout 2018 (including the one where hackers pulled out data for more than 30 million users). In mid-December, Facebook admitted that an error in its code allowed several third-party apps access to users’ photos – including those that they never posted on social media. In most cases, apps are only allowed to access photos users have put on Facebook, but this time, personal photos that never made it to your social media pages could have fallen into app developers’ hands.

The bug was active between September 13 and September 25, but Facebook didn’t notify the public until it started an investigation to figure out what happened and how many users were affected.

Facebook says that up to 6.8 million people’s photos were potentially affected.

How to Find Out if Your Photos Were Compromised

Facebook will tell you if your photos may have been compromised if you visit this link while you’re logged in to the site.

Facebook’s statement reads, “We recently found and fixed an issue that may have affected some of the apps you’ve connected to Facebook. You previously gave these apps permission to access your photos on Facebook. Normally, Facebook shares photos that you have posted on your timeline to these apps, but a bug occurred between September 13 and 25, 2018, which gave developers access to other photos, such as those you may have posted to your Facebook Stories or initially uploaded but didn’t post.”

The social media giant also recommends logging into any apps you’ve given permission to access your photos and see if you can tell what photos they have access to.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to see what you think about the latest Facebook mess-up (or what you think about Facebook in general), so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter. (Yes, I know I’m sending you to my Facebook page!)

Carlos Gamino

Virgin Galactic Reaches the Edge of Space

Virgin Galactic Reaches the Edge of Space - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic reached the edge of space and came back successfully in mid-December, marking a huge success for the company and putting it proverbial light-years ahead of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin programs.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (officially known as VSS Unity), a reusable, winged spacecraft, is designed to carry eight people including a pair of pilots.

SpaceShipTwo took off from an airstrip in the Mojave Desert to travel at Mach 2.9 – that’s 2.9 times the speed of sound. Two pilots and a mannequin named Annie were onboard, and according to the company, every part of the flight was textbook. Once the spacecraft reached its zenith, it did a slow backflip and glided back to its landing strip.

According to Virgin Galactic, the flight reached an altitude of 51.4 miles – and NASA has awarded astronaut wings to pilots at lower altitudes. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration said that the two pilots – Mark Stuckey and C.J. Sturckow – will receive commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. next year.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally. Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder,” said Branson. “This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.”

Commercial space travel isn’t the only reason this is historic, though. The spacecraft was carrying four NASA experiments onboard.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

Branson himself wants to go up, too. He says that once Virgin Galactic has a safe spacecraft that can reach more than 264,000 feet, he’ll hop on board.

Check out the video from the spacecraft on Richard Branson’s Twitter feed here. (It’s amazing.)

What Do You Think?

Would you get on one of these spacecraft for a quick trip outside Earth’s atmosphere? I’d love to see what you think about this huge achievement, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies in DHS Custody

7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies in Department of Homeland Security Custody - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In mid-December, a 7-year-old girl died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – and her death has sparked a new round of criticism of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy at the U.S. Border.

Former representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that migrants should learn from this and use it as an example. Specifically, he said during a Fox News appearance, “The sad reality is we have a 7-year-old girl who has died, and she should have never, ever made that journey. And that should be the message, don’t make this journey, it will kill you, and that should be the message.”

The girl, who crossed the border with her father and a number of other migrants, was part of a group that turned itself in to Border Patrol agents shortly after crossing the border. According to government documents, she began having seizures about 8 hours after being detained. She had not eaten or had water for several days – and less than a day after being taken into custody, she passed away.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. “Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said something similar on a “Fox & Friends” appearance shortly after the incident.

“This family chose to cross illegally. They were about 90 miles away where we could process them,” said Nielsen.

Many critics of this administration’s policies at the U.S.-Mexico border say that this particular group of migrants attempted to come to a border crossing, but that the system in place forced them to try another crossing instead.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to see what you think about what many people are calling a crisis at our southern border, as well as how you feel about DHS’s statements regarding this incident, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Navy SEALs and Marines Charged in Green Beret’s Murder

Navy SEALs and Marines Charged in Green Beret’s Murder - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Two Navy SEALs and a pair of Marine Raiders were charged with felony murder in the death of a U.S. Army Green Beret that occurred in June 2017 – and prosecutors say that the four elite military personnel killed Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar “while perpetrating a burglary.”

The four men, who have each been charged with murder, have also been charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary.

But the U.S. Special Operations Command, or USASOC, says that the charges in no way reflect on the special operations community.

“We will not allow allegations or substantiated incidents of misconduct erode decades of honorable accomplishments by the members of US Special Operations Command,” Captain Jason Salata said. “If these allegations of misconduct are substantiated, they represent a violation of the trust and standards required of all service members. We hold ourselves and each other accountable on a daily basis because we know that lives are on the line,” said USASOC Captain Jason Salata.

The statements surrounding Melgar’s death have conflicted since the beginning of the investigation, with one report saying that it all happened during horseplay and that the SEALs present attempted CPR.

However, the service members’ charge sheets “allege that on the night of June 10, 2018, the four special operations service members obtained duct tape, broke down the door into Melgar’s sleeping quarters, bound him up with duct tape and then strangled him to death while in a chokehold. The charge sheets do not provide a motive for Melgar’s death but under the burglary charge alleges that the four broke into Melgar’s bedroom ‘with the intent to assault.’”

The two SEALs were part of the elite SEAL Team Six, and are reported to have attempted the burglary to recover money they’d stolen from an informant fund – money the U.S. government used in Mali to pay informants for delivering intelligence on local militants and jihadists.

What Do You Think?

Have you heard other details on this story? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

Disneyland Hotel Sued Over Bedbugs

Disneyland Hotel Sued Over Bedbugs - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

When you go to Disneyland, the only bugs you expect to see are characters – like Twitch from Toy Story or the cast from A Bug’s Life.

But apparently that’s not all Ivy Eldridge saw. According to a lawsuit she filed against Anaheim’s Disneyland Hotel, she suffered physical and emotional damage from a bedbug infestation while she was on vacation. Eldridge says she needed extensive medical treatment after her visit, which led her to name Walt Disney Co. and Disney Parks and Resorts in the suit as well.

Her attorney, Brian Virag, runs My Bed Bug Lawyer, Inc.

Virag said, “People put trust in the Disney name and pay top dollar to stay at Disneyland Hotel. In this case, Ms. Eldridge’s trust was betrayed. This was not a situation where a person sustained one or two bites. Ms. Eldridge was bitten throughout her body, including, but not limited to her face, ears, neck, arms, and back. She was absolutely butchered.”

Disneyland’s spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit specifically, but did say, “We welcome millions of guests at our hotels and these occurrences are extremely rare. We take extensive preventative measures so that our guests are comfortable and safe during their hotel stays, and when needed, take aggressive steps to rectify.”

Eldridge is seeking damages in the suit.

Virag focuses on bedbug cases all over California. He reportedly won a $3.5 million case against an apartment complex in Los Angeles in 2017, and he also won a $546,000 verdict against a Hilton hotel located in Rancho Cucamonga.

What Do You Think?

Would this deter you from staying at a Disneyland hotel, or do you think it’s an isolated case? (Are you thinking about all your past hotel stays, too, like I am?) I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino