THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
† Global Warming Won’t Harm Great Tits: Through some Darwinian mechanism that doesn’t seem to have kicked in for other species, great tits find climate change rather agreeable. But The Associated Press reports that an Audubon Society study finds other birds are merely coping as best they can:
[M]ore than half of 305 birds species in North America, a hodgepodge that includes robins, gulls, chickadees and owls, are spending the winter about 35 miles farther north than they did 40 years ago.
The purple finch was the biggest northward mover. Its wintering grounds are now more along the latitude of Milwaukee, Wis., instead of Springfield, Mo.
Bird ranges can expand and shift for many reasons, among them urban sprawl, deforestation and the supplemental diet provided by backyard feeders. But researchers say the only explanation for why so many birds over such a broad area are wintering in more northern locales is global warming.
Over the 40 years covered by the study, the average January temperature in the United States climbed by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. That warming was most pronounced in northern states, which have already recorded an influx of more southern species and could see some northern species retreat into Canada as ranges shift.
Though the Audubon Society’s director of bird conservation Greg Butcher is convinced his findings “prove” that global warming is occurring ("This is as close as science at this scale gets to proof. … It is the wide diversity of birds that suggests it has something to do with temperature, rather than ecology."), Stanford University biologist Terry Root tells AP: “We don't know for a fact that it is warming.”
For her part, The Stiletto thinks this study is for the birds because the difference in temperature between two areas just 35 miles apart (to put this in perspective, the distance between Staten Island and Scarsdale, NY, is 36 miles) is five degrees (give or take a degree or two during the daytime or the nighttime) so the birds would have to fly further away than that to offset the effects of climate change.
† CT Judge, Christian Bale Need Mouths Washed Out With Soap: CT’s Judicial Review Council unanimously voted to suspend Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield for eight months without pay after a videotape showed her “using racial slurs while arguing with police officers” who were processing her for drunken driving, reports The Associated Press:
The panel determined … that Cofield's "disparaging and demeaning" comments failed to live up to the standards of integrity and impartiality expected of judges.
The council could have imposed up to a one-year suspension and recommended her permanent removal by the Connecticut Supreme Court, but instead settled on the lesser suspension. …
Marvin Zelman, a psychiatrist who said he has spent 15 hours with Cofield, testified that she was under a lot of stress in 2008. Her father died that year, her mother's house burned down and her adult children had legal problems.
Editorial Note: The Heel points out that Cofield, CT’s first black female judge, is not the only black judge to be reprimanded for bringing the judicial office into disrepute by making racist comments. The National Law Journal reports:
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a former county court judge be publicly reprimanded for racially inflammatory comments he made before a voters group in 2006.
In its decision, the court said removal from office would have been an appropriate punishment for ex-Leflore County Judge Solomon Osborne, except that the judge had already resigned his position in May 2008.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered the public reprimand of Osborne to be read in open court, and for the former judge to pay $731.89 in assessed costs. …
The case stems from Osborne's remarks at a Sept. 13, 2006, meeting of the Greenwood Voters League - which the court describes as a "predominantly African-American political organization."
A local newspaper quoted Osborne … telling the group, "White folks don't praise you unless you're a damn fool. Unless they think they can use you. If you have your own mind and know what you're doing, they don't want you around."
The Heel also finds it ironic that Cofield, who has enrolled in CT’s alcohol education program for first-time DUI offenders, once penned “A Note On Underage Drinking” (.pdf).
† The Perfect Getaway Vehicle?: Debra Ryan, 45, pleaded guilty to abetting her then-boyfriend Samuel Israel’s failure to report to prison to serve out a 20-year sentence for defrauding investors in his Bayou Management hedge fund, reports The Associated Press:
Prosecutors say Israel faked his suicide that day by writing "suicide is painless" in the dust on his SUV and abandoning the vehicle in the middle of a bridge over the Hudson River.
They say Ryan met Israel at a highway rest stop, helped him pack his belongings and a motor scooter into an RV and drove him back to their Armonk home. …
The maximum prison term for Ryan's crime is 10 years, but prosecutors … suggest a sentence of 4 to 10 months … The guidelines are not binding on the judge. …
She still faces local court proceedings for allegedly trying to mail Israel $300 in cash, hidden in the pages of a magazine, while he was at the Westchester County jail. She has pleaded not guilty.
† Madoff’s Victims: Gullible Or Greedy?: In a civil proceeding separate from the criminal case (.pdf) pending against alleged Ponzi scheme perp Bernard Madoff, the Securities and Exchange Commission has permanently frozen his assets, pending approval of the federal judge overseeing the case (.pdf) in Manhattan, reports The Associated Press:
The SEC said Madoff agreed to the partial judgment without admitting or denying the allegations in its civil complaint filed on Dec. 11. However, the agreement says Madoff cannot contest the "facts" of the complaint for the purposes of determining his obligation to pay civil fines and restitution - which will be specified later.
The SEC says the basic facts of the complaint are that Madoff committed a $50 billion fraud and told his sons his investment business was a sham. Madoff told them he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," according to the complaint.
Meanwhile, a new complaint filed by MA Secretary of State William Galvin's office says that Ruth Madoff withdrew $5.5 million on Nov. 25 and $10 million on Dec. 10, from Cohmad Securities, which was co-owned by her husband, reports The Wall Street Journal:
The complaint seeks to revoke the registration of Cohmad, a New York-based firm that has an office in Boston. The complaint says Cohmad has refused to provide information regarding its activities in Massachusetts, its relationship with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and "Cohmad's apparent role in the transfer of moneys from Madoff Investments to Cohmad personnel." …
The complaint also says that Sonja Kohn, a European banker who fed investors to Bernard Madoff, received $526,000 from Cohmad. The complaint says that "payments from Madoff to her were filtered through Cohmad and represented a portion of the income it stated in its financial statements."
A source also tells The Journal that prosecutors have been granted an additional 30 days to convene a grand jury or to go before a federal magistrate judge to present their evidence against Madoff, who remains unindicted.
† Updates To Previous Posts (fifth item, Why Middle Class Americans Can’t Afford Health Insurance: Part II): The American Medical Association and several state medical associations are suing health insurers Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. for using an Ingenix Inc. database to determine the "usual and customary rates" that systematically shortchanged doctors on out-of-network claims for more than a decade, reports The Associated Press:
Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary, also has drawn the ire of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who said last month poor reimbursement by insurers, thanks to Ingenix data, has led to higher medical bills for consumers.
The latest complaints accuse Hartford-based Aetna of deleting valid high charges from figures contributed to an Ingenix database. They also accuse Philadelphia-based Cigna of hiding "serious, systemic flaws" in the data.
Insurers use the data to determine "usual and customary rates" for care received outside their networks. But Aetna and Ingenix "cooked the books" and corrupted the database, according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. That led to skewed data, which lowered the reimbursement doctors received. …
"We can no longer ignore the improper business practices of health insurers who decide to play by their own rules without regard to patients, or the legitimate costs required to care for them," AMA President Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen said in a statement. …
The American Medical Association, along with some state medical associations and other parties, previously sued United for payment fixing. That nine-year-long case was settled last month for $350 million.
† Updates To Previous Posts (fourth item, What’s Next For Spitzer): Emperors Club VIP escort service owner Mark Brener, 63, who had pleaded guilty last year to two conspiracy counts involving prostitution and money laundering, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, reports The Associated Press:
His lawyer portrayed the rumpled former tax consultant as a lifelong loser, who bumbled into the sex trade and committed a "victimless crime" after failing in business and losing his wife to cancer.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin was unmoved.
"I certainly don't think that prostitution is a victimless crime," the judge said. "It may go on all the time. ... But it's certainly my view that a lot of people are significantly hurt by this."
Spitzer's name was never uttered during the hearing, but Brener's lawyer, Murray Richman, said his client was clearly "collateral damage" in a probe that was originally aimed at the governor. …
Brener has been in jail since his arrest last March, meaning he has already served 11 months of his sentence. He will serve two years on probation after his release. Chin also ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine.
Prosecutors announced in November that they wouldn't bring charges against Spitzer.
† Updates To Previous Posts (third item, Say It Aint So Roger, Andy, Jason …): In an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, Alex Rodriguez ‘fessed up to using performance-enhancing substances while paying for the Texas Rangers. Here are highlights of that interview:
Peter Gammoms: Alex, this weekend Sports Illustrated reported that in 2003 you tested positive for testosterone, an anabolic steroid known as Primobolan. What is the truth?
Alex Rodriguez: When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day. Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. And I did take a banned substance. You know, for that I'm very sorry and deeply regretful. …
PG: Let's go back. How were you introduced to these substances? Was it at the gym? Was it from other players?
AR: The culture, it was pretty prevalent. There were a lot of people doing a lot of things. There was a lot of gray area, too. You know, back then you could walk in GNC and get four or five different products that today would probably trigger a positive test. …
PG: There's a report that says [Major League Baseball Players Association COO Gene Orza] told all the players who failed drug tests in 2003.
AR: [H]e said there's a government list, there's 104 players on it. You might or might not have tested positive. … I never heard anything ever since. In my mind I assumed that, OK, whatever I was experiencing in Texas perhaps was OK, I'm OK. … I felt it was important for me that all my years in New York have been clean, and I wanted just to move to the next chapter in my life. …
PG: So from 2004 on, you have been completely clean?
PG: Have you even been able to check and find out how many times you've been tested?
AR: I don't know the real number, but I would guess at least eight to 10 times. But I would like to know that number. I know I've been tested quite a bit over the last five years. …
PG: Are you bitter at all that the union didn't get those tests destroyed?
AR: No, I mean, God has done this for a reason. There's a reason why. I can care less about what the union did. …
PG: For the good of the game, would you like to see all those 104 names released from the positive tests in 2003?
AR: I don't have any interest in any of that. I mean, obviously I would defer to Major League Baseball, the commissioner's office, and the union to deal with those matters. The one thing that I'm proud of is coming forthright about my own situation ... I just know that for me, you know, putting everything out there and being honest was the most important thing.
Minus the tissue box, but with visible emotion, Alex Rodriguez admitted Monday to taking an illegal drug from 2001 through 2003. …
In a way, Rodriguez already surpassed [Barry] Bonds on Monday. He went on television, his sturdy physique shuddering from emotion, and was believable in ways that Bonds has not been, either in public or apparently in front of the grand jury in the Balco investigation.
Rodriguez also outdid Mark McGwire, whose face turned red and who seemed to shrink in front of a congressional panel in 2005, as he refused to discuss whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs.
Trapped by leaks and blunders, Rodriguez gave up something of himself - a coup for a man so intent on seeming perfect that he often seems empty. Nobody can say they believe him totally, but he gave up enough that he can go forward.
For his part, in a New York Times op-ed, retired outfielder Doug Glanville, who was A-Rod’s teammate in 2003, writes that he was “no doubt, the best player I ever played with”:
There was nothing he couldn’t do on a baseball field. I had signed with Texas in 2003 as a free agent, and as the lead-off hitter I salivated at the idea that I would have guys like Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Michael Young, Carl Everett and A-Rod behind me in the line-up. I was hoping I could score 150 runs that season.
In spring training, my locker was next door to Alex’s, so we talked quite a bit. I came to like him. From what I saw, he was happy to be there, a smile on his face every day, and I certainly respected how early he came out to work on hitting the curveball machine. At one point in spring training, his neck was bothering him and the team had to practically force him to not practice. So my first impression was that he was not only talented, but he could outwork you, too.
I could tell he struggled with who he wanted to be as an ambassador for the game. He cared a lot, maybe to a fault, about his image as a baseball icon. Chasing public opinion is a never-ending and dubious task. You can lose your sense of self - something Alex has been relentlessly criticized for in the last few years. As a player, I could relate only on a smaller scale; I certainly wasn’t a $252 million man with a bull’s-eye on my back.
Glanville adds that when he heard the news about A-Rod, “[m]y first thought was … about what I had come to understand about the drug test in 2003, that the results were not only supposed to be confidential but anonymous. So how did people get access to these records? And how can they just put the information out there for the world to see?”
Glanville’s not the only one who wants to know. The American Lawyer reports that “[t]he news of Rodriguez's test results has moved the steroids-in-baseball conversation from beyond the eventual admissibility of evidence to whether the disclosure of these supposedly secret test results could be a crime”:
In April 2004, federal law enforcement officials [subpoenaed the 2003 test results] as part of the BALCO investigation, executing a search warrant on Santa Ana, Calif.-based Comprehensive Drug Testing, the company that conducted the 2003 tests. Instead of taking samples on just the 10 players linked to the BALCO case, agents seized the samples of all 104 players who tested positive for banned substances, despite the agreement that their names would remain anonymous and that the test results would be destroyed.
The seizure of those samples is at the heart of a dispute currently before the 9th Circuit between federal prosecutors, CDT, and the players association. Up until Saturday, Rodriguez's name and that of the other 103 players who tested positive in 2003 remained known only to a select few federal prosecutors and their opposing defense counsel in the 9th Circuit case. …
Charles La Bella, a founding partner of San Diego's La Bella & McNamara and former U.S. Attorney for Southern California, told Yahoo's Littman that he expects U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston to order criminal contempt hearings to determine who leaked the news of Rodriguez's failed test.
Editorial Note: Two interesting angles on this story The Stiletto came across concerned whether A-Rod is as valuable to the Yankees today as he was just a few days ago, and whether the mystical powers of Kabbalah are powerful enough to help him now.