NBC News: ‘Batman’ drops off suspect at police station, vanishes into night

4 03 2013

‘Batman’ drops off suspect at police station, vanishes into night

By Michael Holden, Reuters

NBC News LogoLONDON – A mystery man dressed as Batman demonstrated the same crime-fighting skills as the caped crusader when he handed over a suspect wanted for burglary in Britain.

Surveillance footage showed a portly figure wearing an ill-fitting costume including gloves, cape and mask, bringing a 27-year-old man to a police station in Bradford in northern England.

Photo Credit: West Yorkshire Police Department

Photo Credit: West Yorkshire Police Department

The suspect was arrested and charged with handling stolen goods and fraud-related offences, according to the force. But the costumed crime-fighter disappeared into the night without leaving his name.

“The person who brought the wanted man into the station was dressed in a full Batman outfit,” a spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said. “His identity, however, remains unknown.”

The suspect was handed over early on February 25. Police released photos of the footage Monday.


(Original Story with Video)


NBC News: A better pencil sharpener? Inventor dreams of erasing life’s annoyances

3 01 2013

A silent pencil sharpener? Name your price. Seriously.

This guy’s got a lot of neat gadget ideas that sound pretty practical to me!

– dEV

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Devin Coldewey , NBC News

Long lines at amusement parks. Traffic stalled at rush hour. Cycling uphill. To most of us, these are just minor problems we face in an otherwise comfortable existence. To Anwar Farooq, they are personal call-outs, challenges that he must answer with his own ingenuity. These days, the math teacher and habitual inventor is wrestling with the age-old problem of the pencil sharpener.

NBC News Logo“When I saw my students struggling with the regular pencil sharpener, I honestly knew that there must be an alternate approach, so I started thinking,” Farooq, who teaches at Maywood Academy, southeast of Los Angeles, told NBC News.

That’s not the first time Farooq “started thinking.”

His inventions, spanning 1986 to now, may seem whimsical at first, but on closer inspection are like early ancestors of devices in use today. There’s a bike where your pedaling is boosted by an air compressor, for instance. If you replace the air compressor with an electric motor, you get today’s battery-powered bikes.

There’s the Robocam, a remote-controlled camera platform that’s a precursor to telepresence robots and smartphone videoconferencing apps alike.

For those annoying amusement park or movie theater lines, Farooq proposes a chain of connected, moving chairs. You take a load off, enjoy the built-in entertainment system, and before long, it’s your turn to get up and enjoy the ride or show. He calls it Waiting Is Fun. It may seem far-fetched … until Disney goes and installs one in Tomorrowland.

The idea Farooq seems most proud of is the Rapid Commute. Cars traveling from the outskirts of a city drive right onto a high-speed train, as if they were boarding a ferry boat. The train then brings them to a central location downtown, where they disembark. Next month he will be presenting it to the Transportation Research Board, an off-shoot of the non-profit National Research Council, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

And then there’s the Quick N Silent pencil sharpener.

Pencil sharpeners are, in fact, one of the few classroom technologies that have not experienced a radical redesign in the past century. The most common type of institutional sharpener, the hand-cranked type you can still see mounted to a wall or the teacher’s table in classrooms all over the world, was introduced in 1904.

Sure, electric versions have been introduced, but the cylindrical mills rotating in “planetary” fashion within are still dominant — despite the inconsistency of their results.

Nevertheless, when Farooq wrestled with how to modernize the pencil sharpener, he didn’t look to some laser that could hone the tip of a pencil with micron-level precision. Instead, he found inspiration in the distant past.

“I remembered that people carried pocket knives and they just used those to sharpen pencils quietly and efficiently.”

He set to work on the new machine based on the same principles.

(Full Story)


NBC News: Oops! Typo takes the ‘L’ out of ‘public’ in charter schools ad

13 12 2012
NBC News LogoBy NBC News staff and affiliates

There are some words that auto-correct or spell-checkers just don’t catch. They might be spelled right, but mean something oh-so-wrong in the context. And this one proved an embarrassment for a charter school organization in Washington state.

An advertisement that ran in the Sunday and Monday editions of The News Tribune in Tacoma left out a single letter in quite the unfortunate spot, NBC station KING of Seattle reported.

“Are you interested in Pubic Charter Schools?” the ad mistakenly read.



“This was our mistake,” Jim Spady, a spokesperson for the Washington Charter School Resource Center, told KING. The center wrote the newspaper ad, which was supposed to publicize an upcoming conference.

The News Tribune also reportedly did not notice that “public” was misspelled.

(Full Story with Video)


NBC News: Dave Brubeck, jazz great, dead at 91

5 12 2012


220px-Time_out_album_coverI couldn’t let this pass without mention. Dave Brubeck was a jazz legend, and I know him mostly from my father’s record collection. I remember buying my dad a CD of ‘Time Out,’ one of his favorite albums, for Christmas one year after he purchased our family’s first CD player. I doubt there’s a band student in America who hasn’t learned one of his tunes at some point.

Dave Brubeck was a true great, and will be sadly missed. I may have to give ‘Take Five’ a spin tonight as tribute.

– dEV

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Dave Brubeck, jazz great, dead at 91

By TODAY staff and wire servicesNBC News Logo

Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as “Take Five” caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.

Brubeck died Wednesday morning of heart failure after being stricken while on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, said his manager Russell Gloyd.

Gloyd told NBC News that Brubeck’s son noticed that something was wrong with his father on the way to the doctor’s appointment, called 911 while en route, and the two were met by medical personnel at the hospital.

“We couldn’t keep his heart going,” doctors told Brubeck’s son.

Gloyd noted that prior to Brubeck’s death, “He was getting tired; he was getting old. (But) he still had a great sense of humor.”

Brubeck would have turned 92 on Thursday.

Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine — on Nov. 8, 1954 — and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and ’60s club jazz.

The seminal album “Time Out,” released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It opens with “Blue Rondo a la Turk” in 9/8 time — nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats.

(Full Story)


NBC News: Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests

28 11 2012

I mentioned this at an earlier juncture, but it looks like it’s blowing up into something much more widespread. This irritates me, as it reflects poorly on the entire teaching community. I hope those responsible, as well as anyone who participated in this scam, gets punished to the fullest extent of the law.

– dEV

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Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests

By Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press

It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.

For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.

Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.

Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Services writes and administers Praxis teacher certification examinations.

Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.

Mumford “obtained tens of thousands of dollars” during the alleged conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Among those charged is former University of Tennessee and NFL wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who is accused of employing a test-taker for a Praxis physical education exam. He was charged in late October with four counts of Social Security and mail fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and is out of jail on a $10,000 bond. He has been suspended by the Memphis City Schools system.

In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 23, Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, talks about testing fraud in his Lawrence, Kan., office.

If convicted, Mumford could face between two and 20 years in prison on each count. The teachers face between two and 20 years in prison on each count if convicted.

(Full Story)


NBC News: Elmo actor Kevin Clash has resigned from ‘Sesame Street’ after new charges

20 11 2012

There are so many things I could say about this, but I’ll keep it simple. This is sad.

I’ve never been a fan of the Elmo character, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the most important and popular children’s characters of the past 20 years. The entire Sesame Street empire, and the show’s current format, is based around him. Will they replace Kevin Clash, and have a new puppeteer take over? Will Elmo fade away? It’s hard to say at this point, but Sesame Workshop has hinted that Elmo will live on.

If the allegations are true, and the evidence is mounting that they are, I hope Clash gets what he deserves. Regardless, it’s sad. And it should serve as a sad reminder that anyone who interacts with young people needs to live their lives and conduct themselves beyond reproach.

– dEV

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Elmo actor Kevin Clash has resigned from ‘Sesame Street’ after new charges

By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, TODAY
Kevin Clash, the voice actor and puppeteer who made furry red Muppet Elmo famous, has resigned from “Sesame Street,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement. The announcement came Tuesday, the same day that a second man alleged Clash had a sexual relationship with him when he was underage.

“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential,” the statement read. “Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization.

“Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’ This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.'”

In the new lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York, Cecil Singleton says he met Clash, then 32, in a gay chat room in 1993, when Singleton was 15, and they began a relationship.

Another man made similar charges earlier this month, and later recanted, saying he was of age when the relationship began. On Nov. 12, Clash, 52, took a leave of absence from the show following allegations of the first relationship.

That first man, now 24 and a college student, reached out to Sesame Workshop in June and said he was just 16 when he had a relationship with Clash. The company said in a statement that it investigated the relationship and found the charges that the man was underage to be “unsubstantiated,” but that Clash was disciplined for using poor judgment and violating company Internet usage policy.

On Nov. 13, a Pennsylvania law firm representing the first man issued a statement saying their client had recanted his claim that the relationship began when he was underage, calling it an “adult consensual relationship” and saying the man would have no further comment.

(Full Story with Video)


NBC News: Elmo puppeteer’s accuser recants allegations of underage sexual relationship

13 11 2012
By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, TODAY
The man who said he was underage when he had a sexual relationship with “Sesame Street” puppeteer Kevin Clash has now recanted that claim, the law firm representing him said on Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania law firm Andreozzi & Associates issued a statement reading, “This office represented the 23-year-old man who was the subject of many media reports regarding Kevin Clash. He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship. He will have no further comment on the matter.”

Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

In a statement of his own, Clash, 52, the puppeteer and voice behind popular red Muppet Elmo, said, “I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further.”

There was no word Tuesday afternoon on whether Clash would cancel the leave of absence he has taken from “Sesame Street” since news of the relationship surfaced.

Sesame Workshop said in a statement: “We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode.”

(Full Story)


NBC News: Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash takes leave from ‘Sesame Street,’ denies sexual allegations

12 11 2012
UPDATE: It appears that Clash has been cleared of the allegations.

By Randee Dawn, TODAY contributor

Updated 1 p.m. ET: Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind “Sesame Street’s” Elmo since 1985, has taken a leave of absence from the show following allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old, according to a statement from Sesame Workshop.

Workshop representatives said that in June a 23-year-old man reached out to Sesame Workshop alleging that he had a relationship with Clash beginning seven years earlier.

“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” said the reps in the statement. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined.”

Todd Oren / Getty Images Contributor

Clash is then said to have been granted leave from the show so he can take action “to protect his reputation.”

“I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter,” Clash said in a statement to NBC News issued through a representative. “I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”

Clash has performed with Sesame Street characters since 1979, when he played Cookie Monster in the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” He became an official puppeteer on “Sesame Street” in 1984 and created character voices for puppets such as Baby Natasha and Dr. Nobel Price, but the marriage of Elmo and Clash’s stylized high-pitched toddler voice caught fire once he began voicing the puppet in 1985. (Elmo had been a recurring puppet on the show since the early 1970s, but not a major player until Clash took over.)

Clash was the subject of a 2011 documentary, “Being Elmo,” which documented his lifelong love of puppeteering.

(Full Story)


TODAY: George Lucas donating Disney sale billions to charity

5 11 2012
By Alex Ben Block, The Hollywood Reporter

By the end of the year, the $4.05 billion sale of Lucasfilm to Disney should be finalized. And since George Lucas owns 100 percent of his company – which has little to no debt — all that money goes to him.

After that, Lucas plans to quickly put the bulk of the money into a foundation which will primarily focus on educational issues, a spokesperson for Lucasfilm tells THR.

“George Lucas has expressed his intention, in the event the deal closes, to donate the majority of the proceeds to his philanthropic endeavors.”

It’s not yet clear which foundation will get the proceeds. Lucas is currently the chairman of Edutopia, which is part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. He could put money into that or create a new foundation which would be funded from the sale.

The Foundation was the vehicle Lucas used to make a $175 million donation to his alma mater USC in 2006. He has also given to many other causes over the years including the Film Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company,” Lucas said in a statement Wednesday. “As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy.”

The spokesperson noted that this “announcement continues a commitment that Lucas made in 2010 to The Giving Pledge where he stated,  “I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education.  It is the key to the survival of the human race.  We have to plan for our collective future—and the first step begins with social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children.  As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt—as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.’”

For the full text of the 2010 letter, click here.

TODAY: Are Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang too mean for today’s kids? Good grief!

24 10 2012

Is there a difference between teasing and bullying? Are the pranks and name-calling that he constantly endures a bad example for kids? When I read stories like this, I think we may be taking things a little too far. It does raise some interesting questions about where the line is, and if the things that we enjoy watching with our kids are maybe not as wholesome as we think they are.

As for me, I’ll be watching ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ with my kids this Halloween. How about you?
– dEV


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Are Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang too mean for today’s kids? Good grief!

By Dana Macario

As Halloween nears, many families will gather around the old television set for the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” But, one dad says it’s time to retire the classic cartoon because of its taunting messages and unkind words.

“The show is riddled with the kids calling each other stupid, dumb, and blockheads. There is continous teasing and bullying. Charlie Brown is supposed to be the hero, instead he is kicked and demeaned at every turn, even by the adults giving out candy,” Buzz Bishop, otherwise known as DadCamp, wrote at Babble.com recently.

Bishop argues that apart from a sense of nostalgia for parents, the Charlie Brown specials have nothing of value to offer today’s kids. He finds the shows’ acceptance of schoolyard teasing to be antiquated. And, as the father of young kids, he finds the constant use of words like “stupid” “dumb” and “blockhead” to be a bad message for those little ears. “Charlie Brown is always an outsider, the cool kids continue to play tricks, and nobody is ever held to account. In an era of hashtags like #RIPAmandaTodd, these types of attitudes are no longer appropriate,” Bishop wrote.

As the gang goes trick-or-treating, Charlie Brown is repeatedly given a rock while the other children are given treats. Bishop points to this as evidence that even the adults are in on the bullying. Of course, since Charlie Brown is wearing a costume, it could be argued that the adults aren’t intentionally singling the poor kid out.

Throughout life, most of us have times when we feel like everyone else is getting treats (or bags full of candy, if you will), while we get nothing but a sack of rocks. Maybe it’s helpful and reassuring for kids to know that everyone else has those “sucks to be me” moments once in a while. Admittedly, old Charlie Brown seems to have more than his fair share.

Although Bishop believes it’s time for a new era in children’s programming, not everyone is on board.