Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hollinger settlement helps Sun-Times recovery?

LawDay reports today that the Securities and Exchange Commission has settled fraud claims against Hollinger Inc., the Canadian company that is the controlling stockholder of the Sun-Times Media Group. The SEC settlement will not require Hollinger to pay any further penalties. However, Hollinger "has agreed, without admitting or denying the allegations, to 'disgorge' $21.3 million in profits and interest received as its share of non-compete fees paid to the company."

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times Media Group has reached a tentative settlement of its claims against Hollinger. According to this press release from the Sun-Times Media Group, subject to approval by interested U.S. and Canadian courts, Hollinger will give up its voting control in the STMG and, in addition, split the proceeds of directors' and officers' claims with the STMG on a 20/80 basis. The STMG press release suggests that the D&O proceeds may amount to as much as $24.5 million "plus interest, less fees and expenses." Also, "certain of the Company's claims against Hollinger will be allowed as unsecured claims, in agreed amounts ('Allowed Claims'). The Company's total recovery in respect of the Allowed Claims will be capped at US$15 million. After the Company receives the first US$7.5 million in respect of the Allowed Claims, 50% of any further recovery received by the Company in respect of the Allowed Claims (subject to the US$15 million cap) will be assigned to Hollinger. Under the terms of the Settlement, the amounts so assigned are intended to be available to fund litigation claims of Hollinger against third parties." Once the settlement is approved by all the courts and other parties that have to sign off, the six Hollinger-appointed directors will resign from the STMG board. And Hollinger is apparently going to reimburse the STMG $1 million in legal fees.

How many real dollars are involved in this settlement is not immediately clear -- but maybe the settlement will help stop the bleeding at the Sun-Times.

Meanwhile, according to the March 25 issue of the LawDay Newsletter, life at a Florida prison seems to agree with Conrad Black. He's serving a 6½ year sentence for "fraud and obstruction of justice over payments he took while he was at the head of the Hollinger International newspaper empire." In what will surely come as a great relief to Sun-Times employees, LawDay quotes an email from Black: "I am doing fine… This is a safe and civilized place and I don't anticipate any difficulty."

Still, all not is rosy for Baron Black of Crossharbour: His recently published biography of Richard Nixon has slipped to #31,200 on Doing time can really mess up a book tour.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another Facebook security breach

Yahoo! News posts an AP story today by Business Writer Michael Liedtke, "Security lapse exposes Facebook photos."

Liedtke's story describes how a computer technician from Vancouver, Canada, Byron Ng, found a way around a recent upgrade to Facebook's privacy controls. Writes Liedtke, "the added protections weren't enough to prevent Ng from pulling up the most recent pictures posted by Facebook members and their friends, even if the privacy settings were set to restrict the audience to a select few."

Told of Ng's "computer-coding trick" on Monday afternoon, Facebook claims to have "fixed the bug within an hour."

Still... anybody who posts on Facebook -- no matter what level of privacy protection is used -- must assume that anything that goes on Facebook can be seen by absolutely anybody. And everybody.

Better late than never? Not a chance, I'm thinking

This was in my mail yesterday at home (I've edited out my street address). That's yesterday as in March 24:

Too bad for Rosaire Marie Hall that the primary was seven weeks ago.

My wife reminded me that, many years ago, a stack of 'friend to friend' cards in one of my unhappy judicial campaigns was also lost or diverted by the Postal Service until well after the primary. She remembers people telling her weeks afterward: Why didn't you send these sooner? I would have voted for your husband if I'd known....

Thankfully, I'd suppressed all that.

But this untimely delivery almost brings back frightening memories. Ms. Hall has my sympathies.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ban aluminum bats? Bill pends in Springfield

Should aluminum bats be banned?

HB4140, now pending in Springfield, would make it "unlawful for any coach, parent, teacher, or other person to knowingly allow the use of an aluminum bat during a recreational baseball or softball game in which a person under the age of 13 is a participant."


Sara Faiwell's story in the December 10, 2007 issue of the Daily Herald mentions HB4140, sponsored by Chicago Rep. Robert S. Molaro (D 21) -- and a couple of tragic stories involving aluminum bats.

And there have been some horrible, heartrending stories about serious injuries and even deaths at youth baseball games, from balls screaming off aluminum bats.

But baseball can be a dangerous game, no matter what bat is used. Skip Rozin's story for the July 31, 2007 Wall Street Journal starts with the tragedy of Tulsa Driller Coach Mike Coolbaugh -- killed by a screaming line drive -- off a wooden bat -- on July 3, 2007 while standing in the first base coach's box during a AA game. (Because of the Coolbaugh tragedy all Major League Baseball base coaches will be required to wear batting helmets this season.)

Rozin's article contended that there was scant research about the safety of metal bats vis a vis wood bats. He wrote, "The only fatality figures comparing metal to wood bats come from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2002, it reported 17 deaths due to impact with a batted ball between 1991 and 2001. Of those, eight were known to involve nonwood bats and two to involve wood ones, but in the remaining seven cases the type of bat was unknown. That overall group, however, was dominated by players using metal bats--at least 90%, according to bat manufacturers."

I venture into statistics with great trepidation, but it seems to me that if aluminum bats were exactly as dangerous as wood ones, no more dangerous and no less, and if 90% of young players used metal bats, there would still be nine times as many incidents with aluminum bats as with wood. To demonstrate, by this method, the inherent danger of aluminum bats, one would have to find far more than nine times as many incidents.

It turns out that a physics professor at the University of Illinois, Dr. Alan M. Nathan, has looked into the perils of aluminum vs. wood bats -- a number of other 'physics of baseball' issues.

Yes, that's a link to Dr. Nathan's compilation of baseball-related physics research; here is a link to Dr. Nathan's paper evaluating the "procedure used by the NCAA to control the performance of non-wood bats." He concludes that "aluminum bats outperform wood bats in the field." (Dr. Nathan offers this collection of academic papers and other materials for persons wishing to really compare the merits of wood vs. aluminum bats.)

Anyone who's ever played the game, or watched their kids play, is likely to conclude that players hit better and farther with aluminum bats. But it may because aluminum bats are easier to use. This explanation comes from the Ask A Scientist Physics Archive: "Because the aluminum bat is lighter, the batter has more control. It is easier to make 'last-minute adjustments' to his swing. Once a wooden bat is swinging, adjustments are difficult. Also, less time is needed to get the aluminum bat moving. The batter can wait just a little bit longer before deciding how to swing with an aluminum bat. * * * A wooden bat moving at the same speed as an aluminum bat will hit harder. A batter who can get a wooden bat moving fast will hit the ball further, provided he makes contact at all. * * * Overall, the wooden bat has more potential power, but the aluminum bat is easier to use."

Rozin's 2007 WSJ article notes that the "sweet spot" on an aluminum bat is bigger than on a wood bat. That's why major league scouts prefer to evaluate potential players in wood bat summer leagues. Kozin quotes Red Sox director of amateur scoting Jason McLeod,"Some of these kids are in very good leagues--SEC, Pac 10--and they're hitting .400, and they come to the Cape Cod League and they struggle to hit .200." And pitchers can come inside on a player armed with only a wood bat; the same player, wielding an aluminum bat, might fight that same pitch off for a hit. And, Rozin concludes, "It isn't a safety factor for Mr. McLeod and his colleagues. These scouts are just convinced that baseball is a different game with any bat but a wood one."

Aluminum bats cost more than wood bats, as any parent who's given in to a child's plaintive entreaties can tell you. But they tend to last longer and, for park districts and other youth baseball leagues looking to buy equipment that can be used by everyone on the team, aluminum is more cost effective.

I don't much care for the "ping" noise that aluminum bats make -- but I don't know that the case has been persuasively made for banning them.

Parents may be civilly liable for kid's shoplifting

Shoplifting is a crime.

And merchants should have recourse against people who steal from them.

But, assuming the parents didn't actively recruit their offspring to a life of crime, to what extent should parents be punished when their child shoplifts?

A lively discussion on the ISBA Listserv this week highlights the perils parents face when kids shoplift: A merchant can sue the child and the parents for the value of the property stolen, a penalty between $100 and $1,000, and -- and here's the killer -- attorney's fees and costs. The statute is § 16A-7 of the Criminal Code, 720 ILCS 5/16A-7. Here is the text of the statute:
§ 16A-7. Civil Liability. (a) A person who commits the offense of retail theft as defined in Section 16A-3 paragraphs (a), (b), (c), or (h) of this Code, shall be civilly liable to the merchant of the merchandise in an amount consisting of:
(i) actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise as defined herein; plus

(ii) an amount not less than $100 nor more than $1,000; plus

(iii) attorney's fees and court costs.
(b) If a minor commits the offense of retail theft, the parents or guardian of said minor shall be civilly liable as provided in this Section; provided, however that a guardian appointed pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act or the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 shall not be liable under this Section. Total recovery under this Section shall not exceed the maximum recovery permitted under Section 5 of the "Parental Responsibility Law", approved October 6, 1969, as now or hereafter amended.

(c) A conviction or a plea of guilty to the offense of retail theft is not a prerequisite to the bringing of a civil suit hereunder.

(d) Judgments arising under this Section may be assigned.
You may have caught the reference to §5 of the Parental Responsibility Law. Section 5 says, in pertinent part, "No recovery under this Act may exceed $20,000 actual damages for each person, or legal entity as provided in Section 4 of this Act, for each occurrence of such wilful or malicious acts by the minor causing injury, in addition to taxable court costs and attorney's fees." This $20,000 ceiling is relatively new -- and dramatically higher than it used to be: It was originally only $500. It went to $1,000 in 1980, to $2,500 in 1998 -- and this is where the provision for attorney's fees was added on -- then jumped to $20,000 effective July 7, 2005.

Many years ago I used to handle homeowner's subrogation claims for insurers where kids were accused of vandalism. We'd sue the parents, too, because that was usually the only way to get any recovery at all -- but that recovery was limited to $1,000. And that amount might be obtained from the parents' carrier.

Now, though, according to the discussion on the ISBA Listserv, some retailers are hiring attorneys to pursue shoplifting kids and their non-shoplifting parents and demanding exorbitant amounts to settle. And, allegedly, the attorneys involved have very inflated expectations of what their fees should be.

I would think that a retailer would be reluctant to pursue such a punitive policy -- it can't possibly be good for community relations -- but, apparently, some retailers have overcome their reluctance in this regard.

And legislation pending in Springfield would allow municipalities to enact their own ordinances declaring retail theft to be unlawful -- and §16A-7 would be amended to permit civil prosecutions for violations of these ordinances as well. HB3593 was approved by Illinois House in March 2007; it is now pending in the State Senate.

Parents: This might be a good time to have a conversation with your children about the evils of shoplifting.

I noticed another Chicago lawyer's blog in reading this ISBA discussion. Michael H. Wasserman is the proprietor of The Wasserblawg. He also has a website for his law office at which he says he maintains a "generally civil practice." It's a good line.

And when I steal, er, inadvertently use it, no one can say I forgot to give attribution.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Legislation would ban "robocalls"

Here is the text of HB6323, a bill that would ban most "robocalls" -- especially those annoying calls that just won't stop during election season. Exemptions would be permitted for "(i) a public safety agency notifying a person of an emergency; (ii) a school district to a student, a parent, or an employee; (iii) a subscriber with whom the caller has a current business relationship; or (iv) an employer advising an employee of a work schedule."

The bill was introduced by Republican Reps. Timothy L. Schmitz of Geneva and Ruth Munson of Elgin, presumably in response to widespread disgust over the abuse of robocalls in the recent Oberweis-Foster cage match in the 14th Congressional District.

Since the bill was proposed by Republicans it presumably will sink without a ripple. This would be a shame.

I live in the City of Chicago proper, far away from the 14th District, but we were also besieged by robocalls (also spelled robo-calls) during the Primary season just past.

In one story I saw about this proposal, it was mentioned that House Speaker Michael Madigan expressed concerns that banning robocalls might constitute an impermissible restriction on free speech.

But "robocalls" are merely a means for conveying someone's message; the content of the messages is constrained only by the richness of the vocabulary and checkbook of the person buying access to the autodialer.

And in thinking of it this way, it occurred to me that a case I read about this week in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin might provide a useful analogy.

Patricia Manson's article for the March 12 issue concerned a tattoo parlor that claimed its constitutional rights of free expression were violated when the City of North Chicago denied a special use permit for its proposed location. Manson reported that Senior District Judge James B. Moran dismissed the tattoo parlor's claims.

Moran's opinion can be found in Hold Fast Tattoo, LLC v. City of North Chicago, 2008 WL 656077 (N.D.Ill. 3/7/08). Analyzing the tattoo parlor's free speech claim, Moran wrote, "To determine whether an activity warrants First Amendment protection, the court must determine whether there was intent to convey a particularized message and whether there is a great likelihood that the message would be understood by those who view it." (2008 WL 656077 at *2.)

Moran concluded, "The act of tattooing fails the first prong of this test because the act itself is not intended to convey a particularized message. The very nature of the tattoo artist is to custom-tailor a different or unique message for each customer to wear on the skin. The act of tattooing is one step removed from actual expressive conduct, which is similar to a sound truck, which enables each customer to express a particularized message, but the sound truck vehicle is not expressive. The Supreme Court, in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, noted that a noisy sound truck is a 'mode of speech' because it can be used to convey a message, but 'in and of itself' it is not protected by the First Amendment. 505 U.S. 377, 386 (1992) (quoting Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268, 282 (1951)." (2008 WL 656077 at *2.)

It seems to me that eager volunteers working a phone bank are different than a machine repeating one recorded message ad nauseum to anyone foolish enough to answer their phone. Autodialing machines repeating political messages should be accorded no greater constitutional protection than soundtrucks... or tattoo parlors.

With any luck, the leadership will co-opt this bill, or put through a similar one of their own. If I had an autodialer, I'd program it to call their offices and offer encouragement.

I got more information about HB6323 from this post on via The Capitol Fax Blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stern files recount suit

John Flynn Rooney reports in this evening's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that 5th Subcircuit judicial candidate Stephen Stern filed suit Monday seeking to force a full recount in his race.

According to the results certified earlier this month by the Illinois State Board of Elections, Dominique C. Ross received 27,682 votes to Stern's 27,573 -- a margin of only 109 votes. In his suit, Stern claims that a discovery recount identified sufficient errors and irregularities to justify the full recount. According to Rooney's article, Stern's suit estimates "that after a full recount is concluded, Stern would lose about 40 votes, while Ross would lose approximately 200 votes." That would give Stern a 57 vote margin of victory.

Stern and Ross are both solo practitioners with offices in Chicago. Stern, a former President of the Cook County Bar Association, was found qualified or recommended by every bar association; Ross did not participate in bar association evaluations.

Rooney's article also reports that Paula M. Lingo has decided not to seek a recount in her countywide judicial race against Kristyna C. Ryan. According to State Board of Elections results, Ryan received a total of 302,347 votes, only 1,522 votes more than the 300,825 votes that Lingo received.

Two stinking news stories

Lloyd's of London has agreed to insure a Dutch winemaker's nose for five million euros. According to the linked Reuters article that comes to about £3.9 million or -- at the rate our the value of the dollar is falling -- who knows how many dollars?

The valuable nose is attached to the face of Ilja Gort, the "owner of Chateau de la Garde in Bordeaux, producer of Tulipe Wines," who claims that his olfactory organ can "distinguish millions of different scents and was essential to guarantee the quality of his wines."

The Reuters story notes that this is far from the first body part to be insured by Lloyd's. It's not even the first nose -- Jimmy Durante's prominent proboscis was once protected as well.

This 2005 article on recounts other odd policies issued by Lloyd's underwriters -- such as alien abduction insurance.

The other 'stinking story' in the news was reported in the March 17, 2008 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Patricia Manson's story reports on the 7th Circuit decision, released last Friday, affirming Judge Wayne R. Andersen's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer in a suit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, by Beverly Robinson. In her suit, Robinson claimed that her extreme sensitivity to perfumes and other fragrances amounted to a disability.

However, Robinson provided no medical evidence to back up her contention that she was allergic to perfumes and fragrances. Her treating physician never made that diagnosis, nor did she perform any tests to confirm Robinson's claims. The court found that her failure "to provide medical documentation to Discover would be fatal to her claim even if she was disabled; if a disabled employee's condition is unclear, the employee must provide medical clarification of the accommodations required in response to the employer's request."

The court's decision in Robinson v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 07-3359, is nonprecedential, but it may be reviewed in its entirety on Page Two.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Good news/ bad news about the Federal bench

It's a classic good news/bad news kind of story.

The good news, according John Flynn Rooney's story in this evening's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, is that, effective April 10, there will be a uniform set of procedures in place for lodging complaints of misconduct or disability against federal judges.

The bad news, obviously, is that the U.S. Judicial Conference thought it was necessary.

The Judicial Conference enacted the new rules in response to a September 2006 report from the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee (chaired by Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer). Congress passed the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act in 1980; it is presently codified at 28 U.S.C.A. §351, et seq. A press release issued by the Judicial Conference about the new rules may be found here. The new rules themselves may be found at this link.

Rooney's article this evening quotes Seventh Circuit executive Collins T. Fitzpatrick as saying the new rules are similar to the rules that the Chicago-based court has been following for years. In his experience, Fitzpatrick said, "most of the complaints are filed by unhappy litigants." The complaints "don't amount to judicial misconduct or disability."

Federal courts in other parts of the country may not have been so fortunate. Allegations concerning a pending investigation into the conduct of the Chief Judge of the District of Colorado were recently aired on the generally irreverent blog, Above the Law.

Con-Con cometh?

This morning, the Morning Shorts on the Capitol Fax Blog cited to this post on Illinois Review about a possible Constitutional Convention in Illinois.

Whether to stage a new Con-Con will be put to a vote. Whether that vote will result in a Con-Con being called -- well, it may be too early to guess. But people are starting to talk. To cite just one example, I recently saw a reference on The Sixth Ward blog to this post by Peoria Pundit.

So, just in case, I have my pet Con-Con issues already picked out:
  1. Roll back the Cutback Amendment and restore three member districts and cumulative voting for the Illinois House, and

  2. Make judicial primaries non-partisan.

Bills to thwart cyber-bullying proposed

Seen on Second City Cop, this post about a proposed Kentucky statute to "make anonymous posting online illegal." Here is a link to the Lexington, Kentucky TV station report cited by SCC.

Closer to home, bills are pending in the Illinois legislature which would amend the Harassing and Obscene Communications Act, 720 ILCS 135/1 et seq., to criminalize "cyber-bullying."

The perils of cyber-bullying were burned into the national consciousness last year when the circumstances of the October 2006 suicide of a 13-year old Missouri girl, Megan Meier, became headline news. Megan allegedly had a falling out with a neighbor girl -- so the girl's mother, Lori Drew, and an 18-year old employee of the mother created a fictional boy on MySpace to find out whether Megan was saying mean things about her former friend. At first the "boy" was attentive and flattering -- but then "he" turned on Megan, culminating in a message, shortly before she killed herself, that world would be better off without her. (Adding insult to the Meier family's tragedy, it has now been reported that no charges would be filed against the Internet trolls posing as Lori Drew, who were responsible for the recent "Megan Had It Coming" blog.)

The Chicago Tribune reports today, in a story by Jeffrey Meitrodt and Ashley Wiehle, about a bill proposed by State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago). Here is a link to Silverstein's bill, SB2426.

Silverstein's bill would criminalize the "[m]aking [of] a harassing statement for the purpose of alarming, tormenting, or terrorizing a specific person on at least 2 separate occasions; or [the creation and maintenance of] an Internet website or webpage, which is accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24 hours, and which contains harassing statements made for the purpose of alarming, tormenting, or terrorizing a specific person."

Another bill, introduced by Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Plainfield), would amend the Harassing and Obscene Communications Act to criminalize "[e]ngaging in a course of conduct that consists of contact by a person at least 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense in which the course of conduct demonstrates a knowing disregard for the health, safety, and welfare of the contacted person." Holmes' bill is SB2855. (There may be others in the hopper; these were the ones I found this morning.)

Each of these proposals, including possibly even the Kentucky bill to ban anonymity on line, springs from a laudable purpose. As the father of five, all of whom are now in their teens or 20's, I can testify from experience to how vicious kids can get while hiding behind a computer keyboard.

However, criminalizing a statement that is "alarming, tormenting, or terrorizing" to a specific person creates a whole different set of problems: Some people get alarmed more easily than others. In recognizing a new tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Illinois Supreme Court nevertheless warned, in Knierim v. Izzo, 22 Ill.2d 73, 174 N.E.2d 157, 164 (1961), "the law should aim to toughen the psyche of the citizen rather than pamper it." Surely that cautionary statement should apply with at least equal force when criminal sanctions are involved.

Some objective standard must be fashioned to determine when obnoxious, insulting, mean-spirited (but still free) speech crosses the line into "cyber-bullying" that can be the subject of constitutional police action. This will not be an easy task.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Survey: Political blogs read by sophisticated, intelligent minority

Admittedly, that may be an extrapolation of the actual findings. Most Americans don't read political blogs, according to a poll which is the the subject of the linked Reuters story by Ellen Wulfhorst.

It is important to note, however, that 20% of Democratic voters, 22% of Republican voters, and 26% of self-identified independent voters do regularly read political blogs, according to the Harris Interactive survey on which Wulfhorst reports. And the age group most likely to read political blogs? According to Wulfhort's article, "The generation most likely to read such blogs are those age 63 or older, 26 percent of whom said they do so. Also, 23 percent of those ages 44 to 62 read them."

Take that, you whippersnappers.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Supreme Court fills Cook County vacancies

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported in its March 6 edition that the Illinois Supreme Court has appointed John C. Griffin and Daniel J. Pierce to vacancies on the Cook County Circuit Court.

Griffin (pictured at right) was a partner in the Palos Hills firm of Griffin & Gallagher. He was appointed to the 15th Subcircuit vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William M. Phelan.

According to the Law Bulletin Griffin has "been active in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago and Chicago Gaelic Park Inc., where he has been president since 1991."

Daniel J. Pierce was a solo practitioner in the Loop at the time of his appointment to the countywide vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Daniel J. Kelley.

Prior to having a solo practice, according to the Law Bulletin, Pierce "was an assistant state's attorney in Cook County, legal counsel to the Cook County assessor and in private practice with Pierce, Webb, Lydon & Griffin." The Chicago Lawyer reported in its November 1994 edition that Pierce received the William White Award of Excellence from the Chicago Bar Association for his eight years of service to the CBA's judicial evaluation committee, including a stint as chair.

Earlier this year, in mid-February, Edward A. Arce was appointed to the Reyna vacancy in the 14th Subcircuit. Arce was unopposed for the Democratic nomination for this vacancy in the February primary; he will face no opponent on the November ballot. His appointment will terminate in December, when he takes office in his own right.

In January, Nicholas Geanopoulos was appointed by the Supreme Court to the vacancy created by the January retirement of Judge Philip L. Bronstein. Geanopoulos was a Cook County assistant state's attorney from 1983 to 1992. He went to work for the Vrdolyak Law Group LLC for four years after that until leaving to set up a solo practice in 2006.

Geanopoulos' appointment, and those of Griffin and Pierce, will terminate on December 6, 2010.

Update September 12, 2009: Judge Pierce was reassigned by the Illinois Supreme Court from the Kelley vacancy to the "A" vacancy in the 14th Judicial Subcircuit pursuant to this September 1, 2009 order.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How not to get out of jury duty

Jury service is one of the few obligations of American citizenship. It's usually not a heavy burden. In Cook County, the Office of Jury Administration takes precautions to ensure that citizens are not called more than once every twelve months. When Cook County residents are called, it is on a 'one day or one trial' basis.

I can't speak to how things are done in DuPage County. I can't believe it is significantly more onerous -- but, according to Jason Meisner's "Blotter" story this evening on the Tribune website, Addison resident Toby Owhoka was allegedly so distraught at the prospect of jury service that she called the DuPage County Jury Commission Tuesday afternoon and "made numerous threats, including one to blow up the courthouse." The courthouse was searched, but no bomb materials were found.

Owhoka was charged with felony disorderly conduct and is being held in the DuPage County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

I wonder if she'll demand a jury trial on this charge.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Declassified docs show Brits used astrologer to try and persuade U.S. to enter World War II

This is Louis de Wohl, a German-born astrologer of Jewish heritage, who pretended to be a Hungarian nobleman and who parlayed his alleged skills at reading the stars into a British Army commission, a hotel apartment on London's exclusive Park Lane, and a 1941 lecture tour in the United States (financed by Britain's Special Operations Executive) designed to try and convince the American public that Hitler could be defeated.

That's the gist of a newly declassified chapter in World War II history, according to D'Arcy Doran's AP story, posted today on the WBBM 780 website and this March 4 story, by Michael Evans, "Defence Editor" of the Times of London.

De Wohl's pre-Pearl Harbor American tour was arranged, according to the AP story, "to counter a convention of pro-German astrologers that had predicted Hitler would win the war. Billing himself as 'The Modern Nostradamus,' de Wohl proclaimed the stars showed the opposite - that Hitler would lose."

Not everyone in the British intelligence hierarchy was taken with de Wohl. According to Evans' story, "Dick White, later head of MI5 and then MI6, noted in March 1941, when asked to comment on the report that de Wohl had been appointed official astrologer to the War Office: 'I don’t like having decisions . . . made by reference to the stars rather than MI5.'"

D'Arcy reports that, after Pearl Harbor, de Wohl was no longer needed to persuade Americans of Hitler's horrible horoscope. He was recalled to London in February 1942, only to find "his hotel apartment stripped bare and his 'department' disbanded." Senior MI5 officers debated proposals about how to 'dispose' of de Wohl, "including interning him in a camp or moving him to a remote corner of the country." Two other options, D'Arcy writes, were "blanked out." Apparently, however, it was decided to merely find de Wohl a desk and ignore him for the duration.

After the war, according to Wikipedia, de Wohl wrote a series of "historical fiction novels of notable Roman Catholic Saints." He died in 1961.