What Do You Drive?

By Christine Sumner

CHATTANOOGA (UTC/TheLoop) — Transportation is something most people don’t give much thought to. You get up in the morning, get in your car and go. For UTC students, it’s a very similar scenario.

Some live on the campus and have the luxury of missing a commute. But for others, a commute is a routine part of their day. This journey is all made possible by their car. Whether it be a truck, van, compact, or suv, that car gets you where you need to be.

For UTC, Mallory Norris, her Toyota Yaris gets her to classes on a daily basis. She hasn’t had for very long but so far she likes it. The only thing she doesn’t like is that it doesn’t have cruise control and it’s red. Other than that, it was a very economical purchase.

Compact cars are not everyone’s style though. John West has had 2001 Dodge Dokata since he was 15 years old and it’s still running strong.

Not all students are content with their mode of transportation. Like myself, some students can’t wait to get rid of their first car and get something that suites them better. Courtane Stanton shares these feelings. She drives a Ford Focus but is ready to get a Honda.

No matter what kind of car you drive, it sends a message to other drives. The make, the model, and color all share something about you with  other people. According to Bukisa, people share traits with their cars. People who drive black cars tend to be more aggressive and dangerous drives.

The model also shares information with other people on the road. People who drive sport cars tend to be more adventures in life and drive faster than the average driver. Minivan drivers are looking for an escape and are nurturing individuals.

No matter what car you drive it is important to keep it run in top shape for as long as possible. Here are some easy tips to keep in mind to help improve your car’s life.

  • Get routine oil changes
  • Check the air pressure in your tires
  • Don’t let it run out of gas.
  • Wash regularly and wax occasionally to keep the outside looking brand new.

These are just a few idea to help maintain your car. For more ideas check out Reader’s Digest
online for 74 car tips that could do your car a world of  good.

Haven’t found the car that you want yet?? That’s ok. Before long, you will graduate and be able to afford a car that you actually enjoy driving.

There are some really great car dealerships in the area. I personally bought my Volkswagen GTI
right here in Chattanooga. Buying my first car was really exciting and stressful. It was love at first site when I saw my car and thoroughly enjoy driving it. It was especially exciting for me because my previous car was a Ford Taurus, which I thoroughly disliked from day one.

Having a car that you enjoy is very important. You need a car that fits both your personality and your needs for the automobile. There are many things to consider
whey buying a car.

  • How much money can you afford to spend?
  • How safe is the car?
  • How many passengers will you be carrying around?
  • What kind of warranty is available for the car?
  • How big of a car do you want?

Whether your buy new or used, my advice is to get something you truly love. It makes all the difference in your daily commute.

Feds Bring Charges in California Pot-Growing Operation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP/The Loop) — Federal authorities in California on Thursday announced charges against 18 people they said operated a lucrative marijuana-growing operation by converting Central Valley homes into high-tech pot nurseries.

They estimated the value of the marijuana crop at nearly $100 million a year.

All suspects are from the San Francisco Bay area. Nine were arrested early Thursday on drug and real estate fraud charges, while the others remain fugitives, said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Casey McEnry.

Thursday’s actions bring to 34 the number of people who have been charged in an investigation dating to 2006 and 2007. At that time, law enforcement agents discovered 24,500 marijuana plants growing inside 50 converted homes in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Lathrop, Modesto, Stockton and Tracy.

The operation would have produced nearly 11 tons of high-grade marijuana each year with an estimated street value of $96 million, said Gordon Taylor, who heads the DEA’s Central Valley office.

Prosecutors said the growers bought homes for between $400,000 and $600,000, most in subdivisions that were new or a few years old. They then punched out interior walls, installed expensive ventilation and hydration equipment, and tapped power lines to grow thousands of plants.

Agents said the growing systems alone cost tens of thousands of dollars for each home.

Officer Chris Trim of the Elk Grove Police Department south of Sacramento said it took federal agents and Internal Revenue Service investigators several years to work their way up the chain and through real estate documents.

“Any time you’re dealing with a level of operation that’s very sophisticated, it’s going to take time,” Trim said. “They were able to track down those persons that were directly responsible.”

After the initial raids, federal authorities charged 17 lower-level operatives they described as gardeners and caretakers. Fifteen have pleaded guilty, while two remain fugitives.

The charges brought Thursday targeted those who prosecutors believe orchestrated the operation. One person who was charged in the initial round remains a fugitive and was charged again on Thursday in a superseding indictment.

DEA officials previously said the grow houses appeared connected to a San Francisco-based organized crime ring.

The mortgage fraud portion of the operation cost lenders millions of dollars, said Scott O’Briant, the agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations in Northern California. Once homes were raided, the suspects abandoned them and stopped paying the mortgages, sending the homes into foreclosure, he said.

Among those charged is Dickson Hung, 35, of San Francisco, a licensed real estate agent. O’Briant said Hung and four associates arranged the purchase of many of the homes that were used to grow marijuana. They often used straw buyers to defraud financial institutions, he said.

Fraud Fugitive Busted after Unwise Friend Request

SEATTLE (AP/The Loop) — Maxi Sopo was living the dream of a fugitive abroad, kicking back on the beaches of Cancun by day, partying in the clubs by night.

Then he did two things that are never a good idea when you’re on the run from authorities: He started posting Facebook updates about how much fun he was having — and added a former Justice Department official to his list of friends.

That kind of recklessness landed the 26-year-old native of Cameroon in a Mexico City jail, where he is awaiting extradition to the United States on bank fraud charges. Federal prosecutors say he and an associate falsely obtained more than $200,000 from Seattle-area banks and credit unions.

“He was making posts about how beautiful life is and how he was having a good time with his buddies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville, who helped find Sopo. “He was definitely not living the way we wanted him to be living, given the charges he was facing.”

Even in the hold-nothing-back world of social networking, where police search Facebook photos for evidence of underage drinking and watch YouTube videos to identify riot suspects, it’s rare that a fugitive helps authorities this much.

In status updates, Sopo said he was “loving it” and “living in paradise.”

“LIFE IS VERY SIMPLE REALLY!!!!” he wrote on June 21. “BUT SOME OF US HUMANS MAKE A MESS OF IT…REMEMBER AM JUST HERE TO HAVE FUN PARTEEEEEEE.”

Sopo, who came to the U.S. in about 2003, made a living selling roses in Seattle nightclubs until, according to prosecutors, he moved on to bank fraud. He apparently drove a rented car to Mexico in late February after learning that federal agents were investigating the fraud scheme.

Investigators initially could find no trace of him on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and they were unable to pin down his exact location in Mexico.

But several months later, Secret Service agent Seth Reeg checked Facebook again — and up popped Maxi Sopo. His photo showed him wearing a black jacket decorated with a white lion as he stood in front of a party backdrop featuring logos of BMW and Courvoisier cognac.

Although Sopo’s profile was set to private, his list of friends was not, and Scoville started combing through it. He was surprised to see that one friend listed an affiliation with the Justice Department and sent him a message requesting a phone call.

“We figured this was a person we could probably trust to keep our inquiry discreet,” Scoville said.

The former official told Scoville he had met Sopo in Cancun’s nightclubs a few times, but did not really know him and had no idea he was a fugitive. The official learned where Sopo was living and passed that information back to Scoville, who provided it to Mexican authorities. They arrested Sopo last month.

The fugitive had been living at a nice apartment complex, working at a hotel and partying at Cancun’s beaches, pools and nightclubs, Scoville said.

Sopo does not yet have a lawyer, and it was not immediately clear how to contact him.

Prosecutors say he masterminded the bank fraud scheme with Edward Asatoorians, who was convicted by a federal jury in Seattle last week. Testimony at trial indicated the pair persuaded young co-conspirators to lie about their income to obtain loans for fabricated auto purchases, and then used the money to prop up Asatoorians’ business and to take an expensive trip to Las Vegas.

Asatoorians is expected to face at least five years in prison when he’s sentenced. If convicted, Sopo could face up to 30 years.

Citing privacy concerns, the former Justice Department official declined an interview request left with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Scoville said it was someone who left the department when the Obama administration arrived, and who had been taking some time off and organizing student trips to Cancun.

Facebook was not Sopo’s only computer activity during his time on the lam. An affidavit contains details from an instant-message conversation in March between Sopo and a low-level conspirator in the case. Sopo explained that he had fled to “the one safe place where i can actually think.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Peer Into the Future with “9”

By: Christine Sumner (The Loop/AP)

Imagine with me, opening your eyes for the first time to find yourself surrounded by destruction and not even know who you are. This is the world that director, Shane Acker, brings to life in his first full length animated film “9”.

  • Opened: September 9, 2009
  • Running time: 1 hour 19 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13 (violence and scary images)
  • Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci/Fantasy
  • Showtimes: fandango.com

“9” takes the viewer to a future where man and machine have destroyed the world. Powered by The Great Machine, machines turned on human kind until only the machines remained. This is when 9 (voiced by Ellijah Woods) awakes and finds himself alone, or so he thinks.

By a chance encounter, 9 discovers that there are others like him. All of them made from the same burlap sack, with the same big camera lens-like eyes. Each a slightly different design and with a different number stitched on their back.  9 is shown to have true leadership skills and inspires the rest of the “stitchpunk” creations to fight back for survival. Faced with an enemy far greater than they are, they must conjure new individual strength to save their world.

“9” is a visually beautiful tale of leadership, community, and how one person can impact the lives of others. The animation and the creativity of the characters, both machine and “stitchpunk”, were my favorite part of the movie. The detail, down to the stitch of burlap sack, was very impressive. The director used lighting amazingly to emphasis the flow of the story.

The movie “9” is the full length expansion of a 2004 Academy Award nominated short film of the same name. It got the attention of directors Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride) and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) who produced the epic movie.  Some people were under the impression that Tim Burton was the director but he was only the producer.

“I felt like the movie was missing something,” said UTC student, Lindsey Woodburn. But not all shared Woodburn’s opinion. Student Tim Miller had a different perspective. “The animation was really impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Miller. “It was nice to see an animated movie with a darker side instead of the lighter ones that are so popular these days.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The action kept me holding my breath and the animation was breath taking. I would not recommend younger audiences to see this movie because it’s rated PG-13 for a reason. Some of the images are intense for an animated film. Regarding “9”, my biggest complaint was that it ended too soon. I’d recommend anyone to go see this film. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it.

Since it’s a good idea to see this movie, I give it 3 out of 4 light bulbs.

If you saw the movie, I’d love to hear what you thought. So send your thoughts my way.



A Look at Key Suspects in Rwanda’s Genocide

(AP/The Loop)A look at some of the top suspects and convicts in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide:

— Idelphonse Nizeyimana: Former deputy intelligence chief accused of orchestrating the killings of thousands of people. Police say he was arrested Monday in Uganda on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

— Felicien Kabuga: Rwanda’s most wanted genocide suspect. A wealthy businessman, Kabuga has been on the run since he is accused of helping finance the genocide.

— Gregoire Ndahimana: Former mayor in Rwanda. He is in custody and pleaded not guilty to planning the massacres on Tutsis who had sought refuge at the Nyange Parish.

— Callixte Kalimanzira: A former interior minister in Rwanda. He has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for tricking thousands of people to hide on a hill, only to watch them get slaughtered by militias.

— Col. Theoneste Bagosora: Former director of Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense. He is appealing a life sentence after being convicted of using his position to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

— Augustin Ngirabatware: A former Rwandan minister accused of diverting funds from international donors to murderous militias. He is in custody, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, and has pleaded not guilty. Ngirabatware is the son-in-law of Felicien Kabuga.

For information on current arrests, click here.

Top Rwanda Genocide Suspect Caught in Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP/The Loop) — A top suspect wanted for orchestrating the killings of thousands of people in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide — including children, hospital patients, priests and even an elderly and revered African queen — has been captured, police said Tuesday.

Former Rwanda Deputy Intelligence Chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana was arrested Monday in Uganda, police said, under an indictment from the Rwanda war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide in the systematic slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days in 1994.

Until last week, Nizeyimana was believed to have hidden in the jungles of eastern Congo, where he belonged to a militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, that continues to commit atrocities. The Rwandan militia, made up of Hutus, is accused of having killed at least 1,000 civilians this year, including rampaging through a village and throwing children into a fire, human rights groups said.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Nizeyimana

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Nizeyimana’s arrest and called on all countries to continue to cooperate fully with the Rwanda tribunal, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

Gregory Alex, who heads a U.N. team tasked with demobilizing rebels in Congo and repatriating them to Rwanda, told The Associated Press the capture was a major coup.

“He’s important not only for his continuing role in the FDLR in the Congo but also for his role during the genocide in Rwanda,” Alex said. “He is known for having spoken openly of the ‘work’ he conducted during the genocide. He is someone who has actually admitted that he is a genocide organizer and executor.”

A chilling, 23-page indictment from the Rwanda war crimes court alleges Nizeyimana was de facto head of Rwanda’s Senior Military Training College during the 1994 genocide, ordering entire Tutsi families to be slaughtered and giving grenades and transport to militiamen. He ordered roadblocks set up in Rwanda’s province of Butare, where Tutsis and Hutus had lived amicably together and where the genocide started later than in the rest of the country, the indictment said. At the roadblocks, Tutsis were identified by their ID cards and killed.

Nizeyimana, 46, has been flown to Arusha, Tanzania, for trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Tribunal spokesman Ronald Amoussouga said the arrest of the former army captain and member of the president’s inner circle “is quite a significant development not only for the tribunal, but also for the quest for justice as a whole.”

Interpol’s deputy director in Uganda, Ally Womanga, told the AP that Nizeyimana did not resist arrest but “was caught like a grasshopper.” He declined to say if anyone had claimed the reward.

Nizeyimana in recent weeks sent emissaries to a U.N. base in Kimua, Congo, to negotiate turning himself in. The discussions collapsed when Nizeyimana suggested the bounty on his head be given to his family if he surrendered.

During the genocide, Nizeyimana was alleged to have formed secret units of soldiers that executed prominent Tutsis, including Queen Rosalie Gicanda, who was in her 80s, according to the indictment issued in 2000. The Rwandan monarchy ended decades earlier but Gicanda remained a revered and symbolic figure for Tutsis. Soldiers hauled her and others from her house in Butare and shot them behind the National Museum.

“Killing her was a symbolic gesture and made it clear that no Tutsi would be spared,” genocide expert Rakiya Omaar wrote in a report.

A report by Rwanda’s demobilization and reintegration commission said Nizeyimana visited the Butare hospital many times to ensure that Tutsi patients there were swiftly killed.

Pierre Gasana, a Rwandan who lives in suburban Kampala, told AP that Nizeyimana had killed some of his relatives during the genocide.

“There were more than 10 hiding in one house,” said Gasana, 60. “With his men, they broke into the house and shot at them at close range. Only one woman survived after pretending that she was dead and escaped into a swamp.”

After Tutsi rebels fought their way to power, many former Hutu militia leaders fled to Congo.

Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said Nizeyimana is believed to have entered Uganda through Congo on fake travel documents. He is the second high-profile genocide suspect to be arrested in as many months. A former mayor, Gregoire Ndahimana, appeared at the tribunal in Tanzania last week after being captured in Congo in August.

There were about a dozen alleged masterminds of the genocide, many of whom are still at large. The most prominent is Felicien Kabuga, who allegedly financed Hutu militias and funded the radio station that broadcast hate speeches against Tutsis.

Col. Theoneste Bagosora is among those captured. He was sentenced last year to life imprisonment for using his position as the highest authority in Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The tribunal has delivered judgments on 39 people, including six acquittals.

The genocide was sparked when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The slaughter ended when Paul Kagame led a group of Tutsi rebels to overthrow the Hutu government. Kagame is now Rwanda’s president.

___

Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi reported from Goma, Congo.

For information on other suspects, click here.

McTriage: Hospitals Use Drive-Thrus for Swine Flu

(The Loop/AP)

Welcome to McTriage. Have shots your way.

Welcome to McTriage. Have shots your way.

Fast-food places have them. Banks and pharmacies do, too. Now hospitals are opening drive-thrus and drive-up tent clinics to screen and treat a swelling tide of swine flu patients.

Call it McTriage. And yes, you can get Tamiflu with that — if you’re sick enough to need it. Most people aren’t.

The idea behind these efforts is to keep coughing, feverish people out of regular emergency rooms, where they can infect heart attack victims and other very sick patients. The need has soared in recent weeks as flu has spread among schoolchildren before vaccine is available.

In Austin, Texas, Dell Children’s Medical Center had nearly 400 ER visits on Sunday alone, mostly kids with swine flu. Dozens were diverted to two tents outside, and there are plans to add a third.

In Memphis, Tenn., Le Bonheur (pronounced luh-BAHN-uhr) Children’s Hospital has had more than 5,500 kids with flu-like illness seek emergency care since Aug. 1. The hospital set up tents outside its ER on Sept. 11 and already has treated more than 900 cases in them.

Hope and Billy Howard took their 3-year-old daughter, Emma Smith, to one on Sunday. The little girl had a fever that would not break with over-the-counter medicine, complained of belly pain and refused to eat, and her parents could not reach her pediatrician.

“I didn’t know what to give her, and I didn’t want to take any chances,” her mother said. At the tent ER, “we were in and out in 15 minutes.”

Entire families who are sick have shown up at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital in Fort Polk, La., near the Texas state line.

“They just drive up in their pajamas,” said Henry Johnson, a physician’s assistant who helped start a tent system there. People pull up, park and go through three tents, where they undergo an exam that includes having their temperature taken. They are usually sent home, with prescriptions if needed.

“It’s working out for us — nothing but rave reviews,” he said.

Very few patients have needed to be admitted, doctors running these programs say.

Jim Bentley, policy chief at the American Hospital Association, said many hospitals are trying novel ways to care for more people than their emergency rooms can handle, especially children.

“You’re dealing often with anxious patients who want to know is it OK to care for them at home” versus the hospital, he said. “One thing a tent offers is a less intimidating atmosphere to the child,” as opposed to an emergency room with its beeps and other noises and scary trauma cases, he said.

These programs can be part of disaster plans that each hospital must have, said Dr. Pat Crocker, chief of emergency medicine at Dell Children’s in Austin.

“It’s working great for flu, but it can be a model for hospitals all over the country to use for emergency surge capacity for other things,” such as natural disasters or explosions, he said.

Under a program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., many flu patients will not even have to leave their cars.

Stanford Hospitals and Clinics and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital share an ER, and recently tested a drive-thru system for flu patients in a parking ramp. Forty Red Cross volunteers played the parts of actual patients who sought emergency care in April and May, when swine flu first emerged.

Doctors in the drive-thru drill correctly “admitted” the six volunteers who needed to be hospitalized, and correctly sent the 34 others home, said Dr. Eric Weiss, medical director of disaster planning for the hospitals.

The drive-thru shaved 80 minutes off the typical two-hour wait in the regular emergency room. The plan is to put it into action whenever swine flu patients swamp the ER.

It works like this:

A nurse near the ER stops cars and sends appropriate cases to the drive-thru. Signs tell families to tune the radio to a public broadcasting station that describes what happens next.

“The patient’s automobile acts as a self-contained isolation compartment, a moving exam room,” Weiss said. “The hoods of the cars make excellent places to write notes,” and medical records are slid under the windshield wipers.

Through the car window, a doctor uses a device that clips on a finger to measure blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates. Fingerstick blood tests can be done.

In nearby tents, diabetics can get a urine test for blood sugar, and heart patients can get an EKG. Portable X-rays are available, too. The last stop has a pharmacy to get vaccine, medicines or a prescription to fill.

Weiss has a grant to develop a handout of the plan to give to other hospitals and recently described it at a California Hospital Association meeting.

All hospitals must find ways to handle the crush of swine flu patients, Weiss said.

“When all of these people start showing up in emergency departments, we’re going to lose our safety net pretty quickly,” he said. “We can’t have our ERs completely overwhelmed with patients with infectious diseases.”

___

On the Net:

Flu advice: www.flu.gov

Flu versus colds: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm

Stanford’s drive-thru drill: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/june17/videos/545.html

$500K Artwork Given to Charity Returning to Owner

MIAMI (The Loop/AP) — A valuable bronze sculpture that was donated to charity without the donor or recipient realizing its worth is going back to its owner.

The 2 1/2-ton sculpture, titled “Vanessa-Helena-Katharina-Landegger,” by prominent American sculptor Sterett-Gittings Kelsey, was donated to Goodwill Industries of South Florida in May by a Miami investment firm, which asked to remain anonymous.

The sculpture is of a dancer, delicately holding onto a chair and staring at her ballet shoe. The ballerina, made in 1985, was one of 10 that ended up around the world. Its value has been put at $500,000, said Dennis Pastrana, president and CEO of the Miami charity.

Pastrana said the investment firm was renovating its building and had called Goodwill to come by and remove items. When Goodwill got the bronze piece, he said, managers from the charity looked up the sculptor’s name on the Internet and contacted the artist, who provided further details.

Pastrana said Goodwill made $68,000 from the other donations, not counting the sculpture.

“We felt that the proper thing was to let the donor know,” Pastrana said.

Pastrana called a company representative and told the man the company could claim a $500,000 tax deduction. After consideration, the company said it just wanted to have the statue back.

It will be returned within the next few days, Pastrana said.

A telephone message left on the answering machine of the artists’ studio wasn’t immediately returned

Things to Remember When Donating

  • Be sure you know the value of your donation before you donate
  • Remember the benefit of a tax write off
  • You can always change your mind and get your donation back

 

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Fight the Swine Flu from Your Computer

By: Christine Sumner

London (THE LOOP/AP) – The swine flu has provoked fear and cautious behaviors around the world, but now it has inspired a video game.

Dutch researchers have invented a new video game that allows the player to fight the spread of a new pandemic.

The game, “The Great Flu” was designed by Albert Osterhaus, head of virology at the Erasmus Medical Center, in hopes to raise awareness about pandemics. It can be played only online for free at www.thegreatflu.com.

The players begin the game as head of “World Pandemic Control” and are challenged to pick a strain of flu. From there, it is the player’s task to control the virus from spreading worldwide. To prevent a pandemic, the player must make decisions such as, stockpiling antivirals and vaccines, setting up surveillance systems, and closing transportation or schools. Players are only given a limited amount of funds and are cautioned that their “actions to control the virus cost money, so keep an eye on it.”

Within the game, newspapers follow the virus and give a fictitious world view on your process. Players also get updates from government agencies informing players on the range of political support from different regions.

Since April countries around the world have tried different methods to slow the swine flu and pharmaceutical companies hurry to produce a vaccination for the public.

Osterhaus said the video game’s take on controlling a pandemic by choosing different measures yet still watch it spread, gives people the sense of how hard it is to make decisions in the public health world.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.