Elmo makes death threats to toddler

Sure, it seemed like after the years of hard drinking, petty crime, and run-ins with the law, Elmo had cleaned up his act -- but a shocking report out of Tampa Bay, Florida, says otherwise. A two-year-old's life has been turned upside down by vicious talk coming from his favorite toy, Elmo Knows Your Name. It seems that after a recent battery change, the PC-interfacing doll began spouting death threats of "kill James" at the toddler, with seemingly no explanation as to how the new phrase entered his vocabulary. The situation came to a head when the boy's mother heard her son repeating the twisted suggestion. Of course, what she didn't hear was Elmo's other threat: that he would "cut anyone who crossed [him] end-to-end with a Bowie knife," and, "dine on their internal organs." Fisher Price says it has a team of experts working on the case, and enough tranquilizer darts to put Elmo down, "For good."

Mad Muppet Menacing Tourists in NYC's Times Square

(Oct. 25) -- An angry, jaded man posing as a lovable Sesame Street character is stalking New York's Times Square, hassling tourists for money and even cursing at passers-by when he doesn't get his Evil Elmo way.

New York Daily News reports that the Elmo impostor, who refuses to reveal his real identity, is a menace to the popular tourist destination.

The mad Muppet won't allow his picture to be taken unless money is exchanged, and has been angrily slapping away tourists' cameras when they don't comply. "Five dollars! Five dollars!" the creature shouts, according to the Daily News. "No five dollars, no picture of Elmo."

But the man inside the costume says he's just trying to make a living. "I'm not being rude. Taking an Elmo picture without paying is rude," he told the paper.  Disturbed tourists don't seem to see it that way.

"I'm just disgusted. ... That furry red thing was too aggressive. I think it swore at me," Amanda Kelly-Knox, 36, told the Daily News.

The so-called "Evil Elmo" in Times Square is not to be confused with "Elmo Knows Your Name." the rogue toy manufactured by Fisher-Price that
terrorized a Florida toddler with death threats more than two years ago. In 2008, the talking doll told its 2-year-old owner that it would "kill James" and "cut anyone who crossed [him] end-to-end with a Bowie knife."


The wife of US Representative John F. Tierney is poised to plead guilty tomorrow to federal tax charges for managing a bank account that her brother allegedly used to deposit millions of dollars in illegal gambling profits he raked in from an offshore sports betting operation in Antigua.

Patrice Tierney, 59, who is married to the Salem Democrat, is charged with four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns by her brother, Robert Eremian, of St. John’s, Antigua.

The US Attorney’s office said she is scheduled to plead guilty tomorrow afternoon.

Tierney insists his wife is innocent and that she thought the money she was handling  on her brother’s behalf came from legitimate sources. Tierney’s Republican challenger Bill Hudak was recently touting an internal poll showing he is in striking distance of Tierney:

The poll shows Hudak with a 41 to 40 percent lead over Tierney among independent voters. Hudak trails Tierney, 46 to 39 percent, among a group defined as “high interest likely voters.”

Whether that poll was reliable or not, I suspect that after tomorrow Tierney’s lead in the race is going to narrow.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:


Full-Body Scan Technology Deployed In Street-Roving Vans By ANDY GREENBERG As the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, it’s worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints aren’t the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.

American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

“This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss.

Here’s a video of the vans in action.

The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.

It would also seem to make the vans mobile versions of the same scanning technique that’s riled privacy advocates as it’s been deployed in airports around the country. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is currently suing the DHS to stop airport deployments of the backscatter scanners, which can reveal detailed images of human bodies. (Just how much detail became clear last May, when TSA employee Rolando Negrin was charged with assaulting a coworker who made jokes about the size of Negrin’s genitalia after Negrin received a full-body scan.)

“It’s no surprise that governments and vendors are very enthusiastic about [the vans],” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC. “But from a privacy perspective, it’s one of the most intrusive technologies conceivable.”

AS&E’s Reiss counters privacy critics by pointing out that the ZBV scans don’t capture nearly as much detail of human bodies as their airport counterparts. The company’s marketing materials say that its “primary purpose is to image vehicles and their contents,” and that “the system cannot be used to identify an individual, or the race, sex or age of the person.”

Though Reiss admits that the systems “to a large degree will penetrate clothing,” he points to the lack of features in images of humans like the one shown at right, far less detail than is obtained from the airport scans. “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be,” he says.

But EPIC’s Rotenberg says that the scans, like those in the airport, potentially violate the fourth amendment. “Without a warrant, the government doesn’t have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause,” he says. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure, he points out. “If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.”

The TSA’s official policy dictates that full-body scans must be viewed in a separate room from any guards dealing directly with subjects of the scans, and that the scanners won’t save any images. Just what sort of safeguards might be in place for AS&E’s scanning vans isn’t clear, given that the company won’t reveal just which law enforcement agencies, organizations within the DHS, or foreign governments have purchased the equipment. Reiss says AS&E has customers on “all continents except Antarctica.”

Reiss adds that the vans do have the capability of storing images. “Sometimes customers need to save images for evidentiary reasons,” he says. “We do what our customers need.”