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  • This Baby Ad Has Over 24 Million Hits and Was Said to Make You ‘Weep for Humanity’ — but the Creator Has a Witty Response That May Make You Think Otherwise
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm by Liz Klimas

    Comments (25)

    In late February, an Indian company released an ad that included a baby generated through computer graphics that could cut its own umbilical cord, use a tablet computer and walk directly after birth. The ad might have gotten more than 24 million hits so far due to its creep factor, but what an advertising website said about it recently — and its creators response — might have you looking at the “terrifying” Internet baby a little differently.

    This "Internet Baby" was part of a viral campaign that some found "creepy," but it's creator is now defending the ad's ultimate message. (Image source: YouTube)

    This “Internet Baby” was part of a viral campaign that some found “creepy,” but it’s creator is now defending the ad’s ultimate message. (Image source: YouTube)

    “We thought he was creepy, as most CGI infants are when they do adult-like things,” the website Ad Week wrote of India’s mobile telecom service ad. “The ad’s utopian vision of ever-younger digital natives also seemed dystopian, to say the least. The ad will make you ‘weep for humanity,‘ we wrote, adding that Internet Baby must be stopped. (Others, including Time magazine, later agreed with us.)”

    But Sajan Raj Kurup, founder of Creativeland Asia who created the ad for MTS Telecom, defended it ahead of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity where the ad is up for an award this week.

    Before we get to Kurup’s response, take a look at the video in case you missed it the first time:

    This is how Kurup responded to the criticism of Ad Week and others (emphasis added):

    You have mentioned how the MTS Internet Baby spot will make one weep for humanity. You have also appealed that somebody must stop the Internet baby. As someone who wrote the spot, may I sincerely ask that somebody not to stop my little Internet baby. Very humbly, here’s why:

    I live in a country where millions of babies are born into poverty. Hunger in their life manifests itself in many terrifying ways. From basic amenities, to education, security and healthcare.

    The Internet and mobile phones arrived in my country in the late ’90s. Today, India is the fastest growing telecom and Internet market. Beyond the economic benefits, there is huge social upside to it. Internet and telecommunications has perhaps been the greatest social leveler in my country. It has begun to empower even the most socially backward Indian in the remotest corner of the country with information, with access, with knowledge, with education, with true power.

    I would like to hope that this empowerment continues. And it transcends age-groups, caste, religion and social standing. I would like to hope that every baby born in my country is born to the Internet. The Internet that empowers him or her to start life like any other baby in an urban Indian home, European or an American home. For then he would have knowledge available, at the touch of a button. The same button a child in London presses when he needs to know. The same button that empowers a child in Tokyo.

    It is natural for a handful of people to think that this is freaky or unnatural. Remember even the motorcar was called evil by some people a hundred years ago. But let not the playful thought of an Internet-empowered baby at birth terrify us. Let’s not stop him.

    There’s no telling how far this generation of Indian children, those born for the Internet, will go. They will definitely go farther than their fathers did. They might even go farther than kids in the developed world. Let them go. Let them break barriers.

    Debates and point of view are essential. They are what make our business a lot more fun. But that doesn’t change facts. Technology and the Internet are getting deeper into our lives. And the MTS Internet Baby has made people stand up and take notice.

    I would like to invite you to Mumbai after Cannes Lions to witness firsthand India’s flourishing creative scene and our country’s “Internet Babies.” I promise it would be something you would never forget—and you would weep for humanity. With a mixture of joy and excitement.

    This more recent video from MTS’s campaign gives a recap of some of its continued success since the Internet baby first launched:

  • Watch Monday’s BlazeCast Rewind: Funding Independent Journalism
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm by Scott Baker

    Comments (1)

    This broadcast with TheBlaze Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker will begin at 3pm ET.

    To join the chat — there is a button on the top right of the player window or you can hover your cursor over the player window for options.

    To ask a question — click the button at the bottom.  We’ll be able to display your question or comment in the player window!

    And as always you can leave other comments in the regular comment section below!

  • Supreme Court Issues Major Rejection of Public Schools Holding Graduation Inside Churches — But What Do You Think?
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (150)

    Just weeks after ruling in favor of public prayer in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court opted not to take up a separate First Amendment case, leaving in place a lower court decision that said public high school graduations held in a church with religious symbols violated the separation of church and state.

    In the Elmbrook School District v. Doe decision, the justices did not explain their denial of the appeal from the Elmbrook School District in Brookfield, Wisconsin, though Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas did indicate they would have heard the case.

    In a seven-page dissent, Scalia said he wanted the court to take up the case and that the choice not to hear it was not consistent with the high court’s recent decision that favored sectarian prayer at town board meetings, according to the National Constitution Center.

    FILE - In this March 8, 2012 file phoo, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Scalia says the nation's highest court was wrong 70 years ago to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. But he told students and faculty at the University of Hawaii's law school on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, the case came during a time of panic about the war. Scalia says he wouldn't be surprised if the court ruled similarly during another conflict. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File) AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

    “Because [Town Of Greece] made clear a number of points with which the Seventh Circuit’s decision is fundamentally inconsistent, the Court ought, at a minimum, to grant certiorari, vacate the judgment, and remand for reconsideration,” he wrote.

    But Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a legal group that works to instill church-state separatism and that filed the original complaint in 2009, praised the decision.

    “There was no need for the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case,” said Barry W. Lynn, the group’s executive director, said in a release. “The matter was resolved correctly by the court of appeals. This case should serve as a warning to public schools that it’s not appropriate to hold important ceremonies like graduation in a religious setting.”

    The debate traces back to a series of legal battles in 2012 over the Elmbrook School District’s decision to move graduation to Elmbrook Church, a local, non-denominational house of worship. One of the district’s schools began using the facility in 2000 and the other did the same in 2002, Reuters reported.

    Officials said the location was more convenient and comfortable, as there was air conditioning, but some former and current students and their families felt the move posed a church-state infraction, so they sued.

    (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

    (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

    Religious symbols were at the center of the debate. While portable religious symbols were removed during the ceremonies, a large cross was displayed over the stage

    What developed was a series of legal battles. First, a federal judge backed the school district — and a three-panel appeals court did as well. But then, when the case was re-heard by the full panel, the 10 judges reached a different conclusion, noting that the district’s church use did seem to violate the Constitution.

    Rather than reevaluate this 2012 decision, the Supreme Court opted to let it stand. The schools no longer hold graduation at the church and haven’t since 2009 when a new gymnasium was built.

    What do you think? Should public schools be allowed to host graduation ceremonies in public schools? Take the poll:

    Christopher Mitchell. (Image source: Volusia County Sheriff’s Department via News 13 Orlando)

    Mitchell, who weighs in at 450 pounds, reportedly told police he was too big to wear a seat belt, but was “acting nervously” during the encounter, so the cops brought out a drug-sniffing dog.

    Police say they found cocaine, a handgun and $7,000 rolled up in a tube sock in the car — and they also found 23 grams of marijuana hidden in the folds of Mitchell’s belly fat.

    Roberts was charged with cocaine possession, and Mitchell was charged with possession of marijuana and cited for not wearing his seatbelt.

    The bust was part of a broad crime-suppression drive known as Operation Summer Shield, police told News 13 Orlando.

    Mitchell goes by the aliases “Fat Boy” and “Biggie,” the New York Daily News reported, for seemingly obvious reasons.

    Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

  • ‘A Rabid Foe’: Catholic Leader Blasts Pelosi Over Her Letter Urging Archbishop to Pull Out of Anti-Gay Marriage Event
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (122)

    The leader of a Catholic civil rights group is lambasting Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after she penned a letter to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone asking him to pull out of an upcoming rally supporting traditional marriage.

    In her appeal to Cordileone, which was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Pelosi spoke out against the “March for Marriage” event that will be held in Washington, D.C., on June 19 by the National Organization for Marriage, dubbing it ”venom masquerading as virtue.”

    And after Pelosi attempted to sway the archbishop, Catholic League president Bill Donohue issued a written response against the Democratic politician, calling her “a rabid foe of the Church’s positions.”

    “Pelosi is urging [Cordileone] to cancel his plans because the event is not supported by her homosexual friends,” Donohue charged in a written statement released Monday.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. gestures as she speaks at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 2014 Legislative Summit in Washington, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. gestures as she speaks at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Legislative Summit in Washington, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    The civil rights leader also said that Pelosi has no problem when gays and lesbians insult her faith, instead choosing to speak out when Catholic leaders embrace church teaching.

    “When gays go naked in the streets of San Francisco, and mock Catholicism in patently obscene ways, Pelosi is never offended,” he wrote. “What offends her is her archbishop’s public defense of the Church’s teachings on marriage. Nice to know what her moral compass looks like.”

    In her letter, Pelosi told Cordileone that the two share their love for the Catholic faith and San Francisco, asking the bishop, who is a featured speaker at the event, not to take part.

    She added, “While we may disagree on the subject of marriage equality, we do agree that every person is a child of God, possessed of the spark of divinity and worthy of respect.”

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, says she doesn't know exactly what the Republicans intentions are in the wake of the announcement by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, that they will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee (AP)

    Pelosi went on to use Pope Francis’ own words in an effort to prove her point, writing, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

    As TheBlaze previously reported, the pontiff did utter these words last summer, but they were in reference to gay priests who are not sexually active — not gays and lesbians in general.

    (H/T: San Francisco Chronicle)

  • What a Poisonous Snake Attacking a Water Balloon Looks Like in Slow Motion
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm by Liz Klimas

    Comments (36)

    Nature shows might want to demonstrate the striking capabilities of some poisonous snakes, but how is one to do so with minimal risk of a deadly bite?

    How about take a hint from BBC Earth’s show, which taunted a puff adder snake with a red water balloon.

    The effect in slow motion not only demonstrates the violent strike, but the balloon snapping gives the footage a little something extra on the visual scale.

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    “Oh! That was glorious,” BBC Earth host Steve said, flinching a bit as the snake struck the balloon he was holding at a distance with a gripping stick.

    Just watch:

    “That is absolutely unbelievable,” Steve continued. “It’s a very, very short strike, but you can see as the mouth opened the sheath that covered the fangs being exposed. They’re very, very long, those fans, and really act like tiny stiletto daggers, and they just knifed into the balloon and for a fraction of a second the water is just hanging there in one place.”

    If the balloon were actually prey, the snake would have ejected venom but then would back off to let the poison do its work.

    The puff adder, native in Africa, accounts for nearly 32,000 human deaths each year, the bites occurring mostly after the snake is accidentally stepped on. The venom from this snake is slow acting, making it possible to prevent death in up to 95 percent of cases with proper treatment.

    (H/T: Gizmodo)

  • Obama to Sign Executive Order Banning LGBT Discrimination for Federal Contractors
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:28 pm by Associated Press

    Comments (72)

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, a White House official said Monday.

    The move follows years of pressure from gay rights groups for Obama to act on his own while a broader employment non-discrimination measure languishes on Capitol Hill. The Senate passed the legislation last year but the bill stalled in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that lawmakers will take it up in an election year.

    President Barack Obama talks about his administration's response to a growing insurgency foothold in Iraq, Friday, June 13, 2014, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, prior to boarding the Marine One Helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base, Md., then onto North Dakota and California. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

    AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

    There is currently no federal law that explicitly bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While Obama does not have the authority to extend that protection to all Americans, he can take unilateral action that impacts federal contractors, which make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce.

    Obama has used this tactic before, signing executive orders that raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and expanding the number of workers who would be eligible for overtime pay. White House officials have cast the approach as part of the president’s effort to work around a Congress that continues to be mired in gridlock.

    But those moves increased the frustration among gay rights supporters who have long pressed Obama to extend workplace discrimination protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals working for federal contractors. The White House publicly offered little explanation as to why the president moved forward on the wage-related orders but not the anti-discrimination measure.

    The official would not say when Obama planned to sign the order, only that the president had asked his staff to prepare a measure for his signature. The official insisted on anonymity, lacking authorization to discuss the president’s decision by name.

    The official said the White House wanted to preview the president’s upcoming action because of the “intense interest” in the executive order.

    The announcement comes one day before Obama travels to New York for the Democratic National Committee’s annual gay and lesbian fundraiser. LGBT donors have used previous fundraisers to press Obama on this issue.

    Obama’s plan to sign the order was welcomed by gay rights groups. Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called it a “major step forward.”

    “Through his actions, the president has demonstrated again his commitment to ending discrimination,” Carey said.

  • Student Allegedly Suspended for Hiding Weapon in His Pocket. That ‘Weapon’? You Probably Have One on Your Desk Right Now.
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm by Zach Noble

    Comments (107)

    Are paperclips dangerous weapons?

    Redditors tackled the question over the weekend, after user FatManManFat posted a picture of an alleged disciplinary note to the site on Saturday.

    “My friends (sic) little brother got suspended for having a weapon in school,” FatManManFat wrote. “His parents are furious.”

    Image source:

    Image source: imgur

    “Sean was brought to the office by a staff member who reported that Sean had a sharp object on him in his right pocket,” the discipline report said. “When asked what he had in his pocket he reported he did not have anything. When asked to empty his pockets he refused. After several minutes Sean emptied his pockets. The contents of his pockets included a cell phone, pen cap, and paper clip. The paperclip was bent in a manner that could allow for use as a weapon.”

    Reddit users responded alternately with disgust and skepticism.

    “Next you’ll hear that a sharpened pencil is too sharp and can be used as a weapon too,” one user wrote.

    “Context,” another user commented on a repost of the image to the “Rage” subreddit. “If this f****** kid is making threats to other children, then maybe the teachers are trying to prevent someone getting stabbed in the throat.”

    Still more users responded with the site’s trademark snark.

    Image source: imgur

    Image source: imgur

    The paperclip was bent in a manner that could allow for use as a weapon,” deadpanned user spandaflex, linking to an image of a paperclip longbow.

    So far it’s unknown where the alleged incident took place or the particular name of the school, and thus TheBlaze hasn’t been able to independently verify the claim. We will update with more information if it becomes available.

    (H/T: IJReview)

    Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

  • The Taliban’s Cruel Punishment for 11 Elderly Men Who Voted in Afghanistan
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:01 pm by Sharona Schwartz

    Comments (18)

    Eleven elderly Afghan men say their index fingers were chopped off by Taliban insurgents over the weekend as punishment for their having voted in Saturday’s presidential runoff elections.

    “They asked us why we voted then they took us to their base. They held us and threatened to cut off our fingers. There was no point resisting so they went right ahead and chopped my finger off with an axe. Then they let us go,” one of the men recovering in the hospital told the BBC.

    Afghan men, whose fingers were cut off by Taliban fighters as a punishment for voting, rest in a hospital in Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, June 15, 2014. A roadside bomb killed many people in Afghanistan, including election workers, and the Taliban cut off the fingers of nearly a dozen people to punish them for voting in this weekend’s presidential runoff, officials said Sunday. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi)

    Afghan men, whose fingers were cut off by Taliban fighters as a punishment for voting, rest in a hospital in Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi)

    “We participated in the election and cast our votes to choose our president,” said another of the elderly man from his hospital room. “We were kidnapped and our fingers were chopped off.”

    Voters in Afghanistan dip their index fingers in semi-permanent ink, a policy meant to prevent election fraud, but which in this case marked the men as potential victims for the hardline Islamist group that called for a boycott of Saturday’s vote.

    AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi

    AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi

    Noor Mohammed Noor of the Independent Election Commission confirmed to the BBC that insurgents had cut off the men’s fingers because they had voted, saying “This is really bad news … and we condemned it.”

    “Like millions of their countrymen and women, these ordinary Afghans were exercising their fundamental right to determine the future path of their country through voting and not through violence and intimidation. By their vote, they already defeated those who promote terror and violence,” Jan Kubis, the U.N. special representative, told the Associated Press.

    Police spokesman Raoud Ahamdi said that the incident occurred in western Herat province.

    The men said they felt relieved to have escaped alive. Others were not so lucky, as Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said that nearly 50 people were killed nationwide in election-related attacks.

    Despite the Taliban threats against voting, Afghans lined up Saturday to cast their votes in the presidential runoff between two candidates, both of whom have promised to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security agreement with the U.S. that would allow some 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan for two more years for the purposes of counterterrorism and training Afghan security forces.

    Here is a video report from the BBC on the finger amputations:

  • Woman Forced to Call Her Own Ambulance While Suffering a Heart Attack After Health Center Said It Couldn’t
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:41 am by Liz Klimas

    Comments (47)

    A woman in the United Kingdom who was beginning to suffer a heart attack last week found herself, fortunately, close to a medical center at the time. But, unfortunately, when she asked the receptionist to call for help, the woman was told to find her own phone and do so herself.

    The urgent health care company explained that receptionists follow protocol to identify an emergency situation. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

    The urgent health care company explained that receptionists follow protocol to identify an emergency situation. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

    Hannah Barnes entered the Palmer Community Hospital, a walk-in health center, last Monday when she was experiencing her second heart attack this year, according to the Shields Gazette. When she walked in to ask the front desk receptionist to call an ambulance, Barnes’ sister, Tina Barnes, said the 58-year-old was told that the receptionist couldn’t make the call.

    “She doesn’t always have her mobile phone with her. If she hadn’t had it, she would have died,” Tina Barnes told the Gazette. “She says she will never forget the face of the woman who said she couldn’t call her an ambulance. I want those responsible to be named and shamed.”

    Northern Doctors Urgent Care spoke on behalf of the health center’s policy and said it is up to the receptionist to takea brief visual assessment of the patient’s presenting condition.” Depending on what is observed, the receptionist refers to the company’s “urgency criteria,” which identifies symptoms of patients experiencing “emergency, urgent or non-urgent conditions, and the actions to be taken accordingly.”

    “Therefore, when a patient presents to a receptionist requesting an ambulance, the receptionist will briefly identify the physical presenting condition of the patient and seek immediate clinical advice from one of our [general practitioners]; while, if necessary, calling 999,” the urgent care company said in a statement to the Gazette.

    It is unclear what symptoms the receptionist recorded that deemed Barnes’ situation one that wouldn’t merit an urgent call to an ambulance, but the woman was able to make the call herself and was transported to another hospital where she remained later in the week.

    (H/T: Daily Mail)

    Front page image via Shutterstock.

  • Does the Bible Back Marijuana? Politician Cites Scripture to Tout ‘Miraculous Plant’
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:05 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (186)

    An Oklahoma state senator has turned to the bestselling book in history — the Bible — to advance her battle to legalize marijuana in the state, arguing that God created the “miraculous plant.”

    In this Dec. 5, 2013, photo marijuana matures in ideal conditions at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver. As Colorado prepares to be the first in the nation to allow recreational pot sales, opening Jan. 1, hopeful retailers are investing their fortunes into the legal recreational pot world, all for a chance to build even bigger ones in a fledgling industry that faces an uncertain future. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

    AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

    State Sen. Constance Johnson’s new campaign is apparently based on Genesis 1:29, which deals with the biblical story of creation and the Lord’s intentions for mankind.

    The verse reads: “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”

    The scripture is being used to tout Johnson’s effort to create a constitutional amendment that would legalize three ounces of pot for medicinal purposes and one ounce for recreational use in Oklahoma, according to KFOR-TV.

    “We’re putting forth Genesis 1:29 as the basis of this campaign,” she said after filing a statewide initiative to try and take the issue to voters, the outlet reported. “God created this wonderful, miraculous plant and we know that it has been vilified for the last 100 years, and it’s time to change that in Oklahoma.”

    Johnson is arguing that legalization would alleviate burdens on prisons that house non-violent drug offenders and provide monetary benefits to the state, as there would be a $7 per ounce tax on recreational marijuana.

    This revenue would be split up between the Department of Education (30 percent), the Oklahoma City County Health Department (20 percent) and the general revenue fund (50 percent), the Christian Post reported.

    The senator argued that the people want to have a voice on the matter, though she will need 160,000 signatures if she plans to successfully get the measure on the November ballot.

    (H/T: Christian Post)

  • Did the IRS Break the Law by Failing to Safeguard Those ‘Lost’ Emails?
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:49 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (121)

    The IRS may have violated U.S. law by failing to properly protect its emails, a possibility that could further frustrate lawmakers as they continue to investigate the agency.

    Late last week, the IRS surprised Congress by saying it cannot find more than two years’ worth of emails between former IRS employee Lois Lerner and people outside the IRS, because of a computer crash. Congress had been searching for those emails to look for evidence that the IRS purposefully tried to slow or prevent conservative groups from gaining tax-exempt status.

    The IRS says it lost emails to and from Lois Lerner — if so, the IRS may have violated laws requiring safeguards to ensure emails are properly archived. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

    The IRS’s own internal rules say employees are supposed to keep paper records of most emails they receive. That indicates that Lerner may have violated IRS rules, since presumably the IRS cannot find any paper copies of Lerner’s emails.

    But the agency itself may have also broken U.S. law by not taking steps to avoid this situation.

    A section of the law titled Records Management by Federal Agencies says the head of every federal agency must take steps to preserve pertinent records. And it specifically says the leader of an agency must “establish safeguards against the removal or loss of records he determines to be necessary.”

    Those safeguards must include telling the government employees that records cannot be destroyed except under certain circumstances, and that there are penalties for removing or destroying records.

    That section of law also says the head of a federal agency must also notify the National Archives and Records Administration of “any actual, impending, or threatened unlawful removal, defacing, alteration, or destruction of records in the custody of the agency.”

    Agency leaders must then work with the Archivist to “initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records he knows or has reason to believe have been unlawfully removed from his agency.

    “In any case in which the head of the agency does not initiate an action for such recovery or other redress within a reasonable period of time after being notified of any such unlawful action, the Archivist shall request the Attorney General to initiate such an action, and shall notify the Congress when such a request has been made,” the law states.

    Aside from burying the news of the “lost” emails in a letter to Congress last week, the IRS has not made any public statement about the incident.  The IRS not put out any formal press release since June 10, and has no information on the issue under its “what’s hot” news section.

  • Patriotic Rockers, American Craftsmen Join The Marketplace by TheBlaze
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:30 am by Ted Tuttle

    Comments (17)

    Madison Rising

    Unlike many popular musicians who focus on negativity, anti-American sentiments or hedonistic desires, the rockers of Madison Rising fill their songs with positive messages about soldiers, freedom, liberty and living the American dream.

    Since launching in 2011 (marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11), the band members have proudly expressed their passionate love of country with every performance and have quickly become known as America’s most patriotic band.

    Image via Madison Rising

    Madison Rising is now selling American-made band merch at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.

    Explore Madison Rising at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.

    Patriot Wood

    Also new to The Marketplace is Patriot Wood, a small business woodshop owned by carpenter and photographer Art Pinney.

    Before his kids started school, Art enjoyed working as a photographer because it allowed him to work from home and take care of his kids during the week. But after his youngest child started kindergarten, he quickly realized just how precious (and limited) quality time spent with his children really is.

    Patriot Wood

    Photo: Patriot Wood

    Art decided to spend more time honing his abilities in woodworking to create beautiful wooden flags. Starting with just 18 flags, Art’s repertoire has quickly expanded to more than 40 unique, authentic designs. Studying the historical origins of the flags sparked Art’s desire to ensure every one of his flags is sized and designed as accurately as possible.

    “It’s important to me to capture the spirit and character of the flag through my art while staying true to the design specifications of each flag,” Art told The Marketplace.

    Handcrafted from cedar wood, each flag is built to be used as wall decor, both indoors and out.

    Explore Patriot Wood at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.

    Stealth Furniture

    Using the carpentry skills he learned from his father, Lee Hershberger started crafting furniture designed to protect valuables by keeping them hidden in plain sight. With the growing popularity of his products, Lee has demonstrated secret compartment furniture to be a viable alternative to many other safes on the market.

    Stealth Furniture

    Photo: Stealth Furniture

    Lee’s skillfully crafted Stealth Furniture provides a way for people to keep their valuables secure without intruding on the peaceful interior designs of their homes. His quality furniture is made in America and built to last a lifetime.

    Explore Stealth Furniture at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.

  • ‘Allahu Akbar!’: Imagine What You Would Have Done If You Captured What This Guy Did Near a Plane’s Exit Door
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:25 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (226)

    Imagine peacefully sleeping on an airplane only to be abruptly awoken from your slumber by screaming and shouting — with utterances including “Allahu akbar!” That’s exactly what one man says he experienced on a recent Etihad Airways flight.

    Reddit user biff2204 posted that he was flying from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Manila, Philippines, when he woke up startled to a man “shouting in [his] face.”

    The groggy guy was apparently so stunned by what unfolded that he decided to record the spectacle, subsequently posting a clip to YouTube.

    “I was alseep at the emergency exit and awoke to this. He had to cover his ears he was shouting so loud,” bigg2204 wrote in a description of the YouTube video. “Just to be clear, I’ve seen plenty of people pray on flights before but never have I witnessed a call to prayer like this.”

    In the brief video, a man, presumably a Muslim dressed in traditional garb, can be seen yelling “Allahu Akbar!” among other things:

    Some Reddit commenters questioned why an airline would allow screaming aboard one of its planes, regardless of whether it was prayer-related.

    “How is this even remotely ok to do on an airplane?,” wrote Decisionator. “Regardless of what you are yelling, I have never seen, or heard of, anyone allowed to scream at the top of their lung without strong rebuke. (Apart from babies).”

    Others shared this sentiment, with some simply dismissing the incident as “inconsiderate.” But while biff2204 remained relatively fair about the scenario, he said that it happened twice during the flight and that he had never quite seen anything like it before.

    “[We were] going from Abu Dhabi to Manila, so I guess you could argue it’s not that crazy … but I’ve taken this route many times before and have never seen this before,” biff2204 continued. “People pray pretty frequently, but that doesn’t really affect anyone else.” 

    In 2012, the Economist covered the issue of Islamic prayer on airplanes, noting that Muslims, who pray five times a day at specific times, often encounter logistical issues on long flights, though new apps and technologies have attempted to make in-flight prayer more seamless.

    Regardless, this man’s actions raise the issue that the reactions could have led to something bigger.

    “Dude is screaming while standing right next to an exit door,” said another Reddit commenter. “I might have overreacted and tackled the man.”

    He wasn’t alone: “I think anyone shouting next to an airplane’s exit door is asking to be tackled, Muslim or not.”

  • Woman Riding Her Bike on a Pedestrian Bridge Records Something That Shouldn’t Be There — but Why Police Won’t Investigate the Incident
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:12 am by Liz Klimas

    Comments (242)

    A Virginia woman was cruising along on the bike and pedestrian section of a major bridge crossing the Elizabeth River when her bicycle-mounted camera recorded a car coming from the opposite direction.

    “I saw this vehicle. Oh, my God. Brake. Scream,” those were the thoughts that Kelley Howell shared with WVEC-TV of the encounter on the Berkley Bridge toward Norfolk, Virginia, Saturday. ”When I realized I was hitting him, there was no way to stop it.”

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Howell’s footage goes on to show her being knocked off her bike. When she asked the driver, who stopped, why he was on the bridge, Howell told WVEC he wouldn’t answer that question.

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    Watch Howell’s video (Content warning: some strong language):

    Though she and the driver exchanged information, Howell told WVEC later when she reported the issue to the authorities, she was told they wouldn’t be investigating the incident.

    “I said, ‘I have video if you want to see,’ and he said, ‘Oh, why do you have video?’ And I explained that I use it to educate, and he said, ‘Oh maybe you were the person who caused the accident,’” Howell told the news station of her interaction later that day with a Norfolk Police Department officer.

    Howell said the officer could not investigate the case because he was not called to the scene at the time. Howell told the Virginian-Pilot that neither she nor the driver had a cellphone at the time to report the incident to the police.

    “[Norfolk] wants to be a bike-friendly community. It’s hard to see how if they have police officers who don’t feel the need to investigate motorists driving on pedestrian bridges,” Howell told the Pilot.

    Elizabeth River Crossings, which maintains rules on the pedestrian/bike bridge, told the news station it did not receive a report of the incident. It also said that Howell should contact the Virginia Department of Transportation about the issue.

    That said, WVEC did contact VDOT, which had pointed it to Elizabeth River Crossings and noted that it referred Howell to Norfolk police.

    The Virginian-Pilot reported that Howell went to the hospital Sunday, making it more difficult for authorities to prove whatever she went for was in relation to Saturday’s accident.

    At this point, officials told the newspaper that it’s up to Howell to deal personally with the driver and his insurance company.

    The woman told WVEC she doesn’t want money but wants to figure out what the driver was doing on the bridge in the first place.

    Making the issue even more complicated, according to the Pilot, is that there aren’t any signs on the bridge saying vehicle traffic should not enter the pedestrian and bike area. There are signs warning of possible VDOT vehicles in this section though.

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  • Starbucks Is Offering a Major Perk for Its Employees
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:07 am by Associated Press

    Comments (28)

    NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks is announcing a new program to help its baristas earn an online degree.

    The company is partnering with Arizona State University to make the program available to 135,000 U.S. employees who work at least 20 hours a week. They will be able to choose from a number of educational programs.

    Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, speaks March 19, 2014, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    During the first two years, students would pay reduced tuition rates after factoring in a scholarship from Starbucks, ASU and other financial aid. For the second two years, the Seattle company will reimburse any money that workers pay out of pocket. That means workers who already have two years of college would be able to finish school at no cost.

    CEO Howard Schultz will make the announcement Monday in New York with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in attendance.

  • Israel Arrests Top Hamas Leaders During Major Manhunt for Kidnapped Teens
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 9:56 am by Sharona Schwartz

    Comments (61)

    Nearly 30,000 Israelis converged on the Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem Sunday evening to pray for the safe return of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped Thursday night as they were hitchhiking home from their boarding schools.

    Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces continued its intensive manhunt, arresting nearly all the members of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank in the early hours of Monday morning, including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, hoping to unravel the mystery of where the three boys – Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen – were taken.

    Thousands of Jews gather for a mass prayer for the release of three Jewish teenagers, believed to have been snatched from an area between the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 15, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Islamist Hamas movement of kidnapping three teenagers on the third day of a massive West Bank manhunt for the missing youths. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

    Thousands of Jews gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City for a mass prayer for the release of three Jewish teenagers believed to have been snatched from an area between the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking, June 15, 2014. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

    The mother of one of those kidnapped said she had a greater sense of optimism because of the combination of the intelligence search coupled with prayers for her son’s safety.

    “We are optimistic, with God’s help, he will see the combined effort of the prayers and solidarity, and we will embrace Naftali, Eyal and Gilad here,” said Racheli Frenkel, mother of Naftali Frenkel.

    The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that “nearly all Hamas leaders” in the West Bank had been taken into Israeli custody for questioning. Despite two unsubstantiated claims of responsibility by lesser-known terrorist groups, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas was behind the kidnapping, an allegation that was bolstered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

    “We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement,” Kerry said in a statement Sunday. “As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past.”

    Aziz Dweik, the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council who is second in line in power after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was taken into Israeli custody from his Hebron home, Israeli and Palestinian media reported.

    Other prominent local Hamas figures were arrested, the Jerusalem Post reported, among the estimated 150 Palestinians who have been taken into Israeli army custody since the Thursday kidnapping.

    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri on Sunday denied Hamas was behind the kidnappings and called Netanyahu’s accusation “stupid.”

    Israeli soldiers patrol during a military operation to search for three missing teenagers outside the West Bank city of Hebron, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (Photo: AP /Majdi Mohammed)

    Israeli soldiers patrol during a military operation to search for three missing teenagers outside the West Bank city of Hebron, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

    On Monday, a full four days after the boys were kidnapped, Abbas issued his first public statement condemning both the abductions and Israel’s response to it. The “Palestinian presidency condemns … the kidnapping of three Israeli boys and the series of Israeli violations,” the statement said, according to Reuters.

    Netanyahu’s office announced that Netanyahu and Abbas had spoken by telephone Monday, in which Netanyahu said, “I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youngsters and in catching the abductors.”

    Senior Israeli defense officials hinted that the punishment against Hamas was likely to increase; IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said, “We’re heading towards an extensive operation.”

    “We will know how to exact a very heavy price from the leaders of Hamas wherever and whenever we find it appropriate,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, according to the Times of Israel.

    One Palestinian was killed overnight during clashes with IDF forces in the area of Ramallah, the independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

    Uzi Landau, the Israeli tourism minister, appeared to lay some of the blame for the kidnapping with the Obama administration, which earlier this month announced that it would work with and fund the Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government, a move decried strongly by top Israeli officials and members of U.S. Congress from both sides of the aisle.

    “Unfortunately, with the establishment of the Abbas-Hamas government, we warned of the harm the Israeli public may suffer, and unfortunately our predictions were confirmed,” Landau said in a statement Monday. “The willingness of the US administration to effectively recognize the Abbas-Hamas government causes damage to the security of Israel’s citizens and encourages terror.”

    The brother of Eyal Yifrach, one of the boys who disappeared, led the worshipers in Jerusalem “with brokenhearted prayer, sobbing as he recited verse after verse from the Book of Psalms,” the Times of Israel reported.

    Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

    Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

    “We are proving to our enemies that the people of Israel live on, and we will never be broken,” said Chief Rabbi David Lau, who attended the service. “The entire nation came to the Western Wall tonight, as one person with one heart, united in prayer for the safety of the hostages; may they soon return to their families and their nation.”

    Lau has urged Pope Francis to use his influence to help secure the teenagers’ release.

    At the high school where two of the boys study, their fellow students have been holding marathon prayer and study sessions.

    “All we have left now is to turn to our Father in Heaven and plead. … What we can do, and this has been the Jewish way from time immemorial, is to add more holiness and learn more Torah,” said Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, the founder of the Mekor Haim religious high school seminary.

    Bat-Galim Shaar, mother of Gilad, said she felt blessed by so many praying for her son.

    “We are sending all these positive energy to our Gilad. Gilad is strong, and I’m sure Naftali and Eyal are strong as well. I want to ask the people of Israel, Keep praying together! Continue to empower our children. With the help of God, with this unity, we will succeed,” she said.

    Even as Israelis offered prayers, Palestinians of all ages from both Hamas and Fatah celebrated the teenagers’ abduction by handing out sweets.

  • Another Attack Discovered at an Electricity Substation Near the Border — and One Congressman Says It’s ‘Only a Matter of Time’ Before More Attackers ‘Exploit This Vulnerability’
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:59 am by Elizabeth Kreft

    Comments (74)

    A 50,000 gallon diesel fuel tank at a critical transformer substation south of Tucson near a border town that has been the center of immigration news lately was the target of an attack last week, but the make-shift bomb failed to cause a major explosion or power outage.

    More than 30,000 Arizona residents could have been stripped of all access to power for their homes and businesses, for an unknown period of time, if the explosive device had knocked out their critical transformer substation.

    nogales image2

    FBI Bomb technicians respond to the Nogales transmission plant after an incendiary device was found at the critical electricity facility, which services 30,000 people in the surrounding area (Image source: Nogales International).

    Instead, the device — roughly described by local police as a homespun device that could fit in the palm of your hand — failed to ignite the diesel fuel in one of the storage tanks for four back-up power generators housed at the site.

    “On the morning of June 11th, an employee discovered that a hole bad been cut in the fence of a substation that serves Nogales AZ and that the remains of a crude incendiary device was found at the base of a diesel fuel tank,” Joe Salkowski, UniSource Energy Services spokesman told TheBlaze.

    Reports last week indicated a large explosion had occurred at the plant, but Salkowski said, “The device caused a small, temporary fuel leak and blackened a small section of the surface of the tank, but did not cause any serious damage to the fuel tank.”

    The targeted facility is an electric substation just a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, that provides service to the city of Nogales and the surrounding areas. Most of the power delivered to the customers comes through that substation by way of a transmission line — the large electric cables you see lining the highway and crossing the country — that links the Nogales plant to a larger substation the Tucson area.

    “They were able to gain access to the facility illegally,” Nogales police Lt. Carlos Jimenez said. “They had some working knowledge of what that tank is or how it works.”

    The 138-kilovolt transmission step-down facility isn’t responsible for generating power for the area; it takes power transmitted through the larger electricity lines and “steps” it down, or lowers the voltage, so it can be used by consumers. When sending power from generation facilities to communities that use it, the voltage must be “stepped up” to make it across the long distances.

    However, UniSource Energy Services, a subsidiary of UNS Energy Corporation and owner of the Valencia Plant, does maintain four small combustion turbine generators at the Nogales plant, which can be operated on natural gas or diesel fuel, to provide back-up power in case of emergency or during peak usage times.  Those diesel storage tanks were the target of the June 11 attack.

    Local police said they believe the saboteurs got into the substation sometime between 4 p.m. Tuesday, when maintenance workers locked it and left, and 8 a.m. Wednesday, when workers returned to monitor the plant, Arizona Central reported.

    “It seems only a matter of time before more sophisticated and perhaps more malevolent enemies seek to exploit this vulnerability…”
    Share:

    Nogales officials called the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state Department of Public Safety for help. Special Agent Perryn Collin, a spokesperson for the Phoenix division of the FBI, told TheBlaze “the investigation is ongoing” and “it will be a while before we release anything; several investigative leads need to be covered,” but said they are working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s office as well as the ATF on the case.

    “The reason for the high-scale response is the plant is an electrical substation and critical to the area,” Jimenez said Thursday. ”The whole city of Nogales could have been compromised.”

    Nogales has been at the center of recent media coverage after pictures surfaced showing nearly a thousand immigrant children stuffed into its border facility.

    Police identified no suspects or witnesses, and said there were no signs of vandalism common with domestic extremist groups such as the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, according to Arizona Central. The FBI has designated the ELF as a domestic terrorism group, which the bureau blames for arson attacks on homes, power facilities and other symbols of urbanization.

    But utilities providers across the nation were reminded of their vulnerability to sabotage in April 2013, when attackers cut emergency communication lines to a crucial transformer substation for Silicon Valley before shooting sniper rifles at the extra high voltage transformers for 19 minutes.

    The San Jose attack was described as “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred,” by then-Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff and it took 27 days to get the substation back online.

    Salkowski told TheBlaze the Nogales plant operations were not affected by the incendiary device’s damage.

    When compared side-by-side, the San Jose incident was an example of a coordinated, calculated attack, while the Nogales incident could be considered unsophisticated, especially since the attackers failed to understand diesel fuel has a high flash point and is difficult to ignite.

    But lawmakers and utilities providers are eager to see more attention paid to this brand of domestic attack before thousands are affected.

    “It’s unclear whether these are sophisticated attacks or not, but they illustrate the growing awareness of America’s vulnerability related to the grid,”Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), told TheBlaze. ”It seems only a matter of time before more sophisticated and perhaps more malevolent enemies seek to exploit this vulnerability,”

    Rep. Franks has two bills, CIPA and the SHIELD Act, awaiting subcommittee vetting in the House which would bolster electric utility resilience against physical attacks and natural disasters.

    TheBlaze asked Salkowski if UniSource Energy Services had security cameras rolling during the incident Wednesday, and what – if any – security upgrades the company was planning.

    “We are currently reviewing security in place at that facility as well as others in the area in hopes of identifying potential upgrades or anything that could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future,” he said.

    (H/T: Arizona Central)

    Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter. 

     

    We will be discussing this story and all the day’s news on our live BlazeCast with Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker (@bakerlink) beginning at 3:00pm ET:

  • John Kerry: We’re ‘Open’ to Talks With Iran About Iraq, Won’t Rule Out Possible Military Cooperation
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:38 am by Associated Press

    Comments (80)

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential U.S.-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni extremists. Kerry also says U.S. drone strikes “may well” be an option.

    In a Monday interview with Yahoo! News, Kerry said Washington is “open to discussions” with Tehran if the Iranians can help end the violence and restore confidence in the Iraqi government. Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

    U.S. officials said earlier there is a possibility that a senior American diplomat may discuss Iraq with an Iranian delegation at nuclear talks in Vienna.

  • What a 6-Year-Old Couldn’t Stop Doing Had Some Thinking She Was ‘Devil-Possessed’ — but There Was Medical Explanation
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:32 am by Liz Klimas

    Comments (32)

    A 6-year-old Bolivian girl couldn’t stop laughing.

    The girl was found to have a tumor on her temporal lobe. After it was removed, her uncontrolled laughing stopped. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

    The girl was found to have a tumor on her temporal lobe. After it was removed, her uncontrolled laughing stopped. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

    “She was considered spoiled, crazy, even devil-possessed,” Dr. Jose Liders Burgos Zuleta said in a statement.

    The girl was diagnosed by some physicians as having behavior issues, but further research into what might being going on revealed there was a more pressing physical issue associated with the uncontrollable laughter.

    Zuleta’s team took images of the girl’s brain and discovered she had a small tumor on her temporal lobe.

    Prior to this discovery, cases of both frontal and temporal lobe epilepsy have been associated with fits of laughter, and it’s also not the first time such bouts of laughter resulted from a tumor on the temporal lobe.

    The girl’s tumor was surgically removed and her strange behavior stopped, allowing her to develop normally from there forward.

    Zuleta said he hopes that doctors use this case to consider the possible physical causes of some behavioral issues.

    This case study was published by the oncology channel eCancer.

    Front page image via Shutterstock.

  • Brutal Accident Leaves Man on the Ground ‘in Pain and Heavily Bleeding’ — But That Apparently Didn’t Stop This Villain
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:21 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (36)

    A U.K. man was lying injured and bleeding on the ground following a brutal motorcycle accident, but that reportedly didn’t stop one criminal from going through his pockets and robbing him.

    Photo credit: Shutterstock

    Photo credit: Shutterstock

    Craig Stevens, a former Royal Air Force pilot, said that he begged the man to stop, but that the culprit ignored him, stealing cash before fleeing the scene of the accident on June 7 in Hayes, West London.

    Stevens says he is disturbed and in disbelief over what unfolded.

    “I cannot believe that someone could do that to me, when I was so helpless and in need,” he told the Daily Mail. “I could feel his hands going through all of my pockets, I couldn’t move. I was trapped, in pain and heavily bleeding.”

    Stevens, who is recovering in the hospital, continued: “I was pleading with him to stop, to help me instead of stealing from me but he carried on. I feel angry. I feel violated.”

    Luckily, a nurse saw him on the ground and ended up helping out.

    Stevens’ injuries were serious. In addition to a broken arm, his leg was cut deep down to the bone, which is serious considering that he has leukemia and is on blood thinners.

    He has had two operations and a skin graft since last week’s accident, according to the Daily Mail.

    Stevens said he is also frustrated with police, who agreed to investigate the accident but apparently not the robbery.

    (H/T: Daily Mail)

    Front page image via Shutterstock.com