Report: MD man lied about being a POW in Vietnam

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Steve Barr (pictured above between Delegate Nic Kipke and new Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh) lives in Pasadena and claims he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was honored – along with other veterans – by the Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company last month and Kipke tweeted the above photograph, which Schuh retweeted.)

Unfortunately, This Ain’t Hell reports that Barr is lying about being a POW. TAH has his service records which show he did serve in Vietnam honorably, but that he wasn’t a POW. Barr even fooled Voice of America News and told them a story about a supposedly fallen comrade who died well after Barr’s service in Vietnam. TAH also notes that only one POW in Vietnam had the last name Barr and his remains were repatriated to the US in 1995.

I have written things that were less than flattering about both Kipke and Schuh in the past so I want to make sure to emphasize that I am not doing that here. They, along with everyone else Barr lied to, are among the victims in this situation. As a veteran, I am astounded that someone who went to Vietnam and was honorably discharged would betray his brothers who were held prisoner and, in many cases, died in captivity. It seems to me in some way that people who actually have a service record and embellish it this way are guilty of a worse offense than people who make their service up from whole cloth. Either way, people who commit this offense of stolen valor are reprehensible people.

Stolen Valor was in the news earlier this week after video emerged of Sean Yetman, a fake Army Ranger who never served, being berated in a Philadelphia-area mall last Friday by a veteran who saw him for the phony that he was. Officials are looking into whether Yetman benefited from his lies so that they can decide whether to charge him. A federal law that banned lying about your military service was struck down by the Supreme Court, so getting people for fraudulently obtaining benefits is the only avenue now in most cases.

I would suggest to Delegate Kipke and other members of the General Assembly that they might want to explore their options to pass a state law dealing with this issue. It might not help in the case of Barr (although it could – I’m just not sure what specific benefits he might have received solely because of the POW claim) but it’s something that needs to be looked at and would likely enjoy bipartisan support.

Stolen valor cases in this area are a topic I will continue to cover in the future.

Here’s the original tweet from Kipke:

JFK’s niece explains why government knows best

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Bryan Sears of The Daily Record notes:

Maryland residents who fail to save for their own retirements are like drivers who speed or children who won’t do what you tell them to do, according to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Kennedy Townsend, who leads a task force studying the problem of retirement savings for private sector employees, made the comparison during a hearing in Annapolis.

The group is looking at the possibility of recommending the creation of a mandated retirement program where nongovernment employers would be required to offer a retirement plan or enroll employees into a state managed plan. Employees would be automatically enrolled and as much as 6 percent of their pay deducted for retirement (under one proposal) in a defined benefit plan unless the employee opted out.

The troubling part of her remarks during the hearing (emphasis added):

“Education is great…but it is not enough,” said Kennedy Townsend. “It won’t get us to where we want to go.

“I love education but why do drivers stop speeding? It’s not because they were told ‘This is bad for you’ but because things happen to make you quit speeding. I’m a great believer in education but I know as a mother of four children, I can tell kids what to do or I can tell them they have to go to their room if you don’t do it.”

The task force was established by Gov. Martin O’Malley and its authorization expires in February. Governor-Elect Larry Hogan says he won’t re-authorize it

Former Dem US Senator: “Michael Brown caused his own demise” #ferguson

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Former United States Senator (D-SC) Fritz Hollings wrote a letter to the editor that was published by The Post & Courier in Charleston (emphasis added):

I don’t know Michael Brown or Officer Darren Wilson. I haven’t seen the grand jury report or heard any witnesses. But from the news coverage, Michael Brown caused his own demise.

To begin with, as Deborah Saunders writes in her column in The Post and Courier on Nov. 30: “Video of Brown shoving a convenience store clerk in what has been described as a strong-arm robbery minutes before the encounter adds credence to Wilson’s account.”

Brown was 18 years of age, was over six feet tall and weighed 285 pounds. If you’re walking in the middle of the street and told by a police officer to move to the sidewalk, you move to the sidewalk.

You don’t attack the officer, punching him and preventing the officer from getting out of his car. You don’t grab for the officer’s pistol. And when the officer follows you on foot to prevent your escape, you don’t turn and charge the police officer.

After the struggle for the pistol in the patrol car, Wilson knew what Brown was after when Brown charged him. The best evidence that officer Wilson was in fear for his life is that he emptied his pistol.

Now after the Ferguson Police Department received several threats, Wilson quit his job. He and his family will have to move from Ferguson. The media’s one-sided treatment of the event has put Wilson and his family in jeopardy.

When the evidence shows that the officer is doing his job, we’ve got to support the officer. We ought to respect law enforcement more.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to the Hollings letter.

Burt Reynolds auction includes pro wrestling memorabilia

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You probably saw the news story Monday about Burt Reynolds selling personal items at auction. The 1978 Smokey and the Bandit Trans-Am got most of the attention but there are several other interesting items in the auction catalog.

One item that caught my attention was a Burt Reynolds Islanders WWF jacket (pictured above.)

From the description:

A black satin jacket embroidered “Burt” in yellow stitching at right breast and the “WWF” logo embroidered at left. The back is embroidered with an image of two palm trees and reads “The Islanders.” The Islanders was a professional wrestling tag team. Size extra large. The jacket was part of Burt Reynolds’ personal wardrobe.

The Islanders were a tag team in the WWF from 1986-1988 consisting of Haku and Tama. I did a pretty thorough online search to try to connect Reynolds to the duo but had trouble finding anything, so I am making the educated guess he was just a fan. Reynolds was the guest ring announcer for a match at Wrestlemania X in 1994 between Bret Hart and Yokozuna and he celebrated in the ring after Hart won. (Jennie Garth was the guest timekeeper for the match and Roddy Piper the guest referee.)

Aside from Wrestlemania X photographs, I was also able to find other photographs of Reynolds with wrestlers including the Bushwhackers, John Cena,and Ric Flair.

The Hollywood Reporter notes other details:

Hundreds of personal items belonging to the Deliverance star will be auctioned off at The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas next month. Julien’s Live auction house is running the event.

The auction’s catalog, entitled Property From the Life and Career of Burt Reynolds, lists over 600 items, including such movie memorabilia as a jacket and shirt he wore in Smokey and the Bandit II, a football helmet from The Longest Yard and even a pair of monogrammed boots from 1996’s Striptease, for all those diehard Striptease fans out there.

Also on the block: several vehicles, a wide selection of artwork and sports collectibles and even a number of awards, including his 1991 best actor in a comedy Emmy for Evening Shade and 1998 best supporting actor Golden Globe for Boogie Nights. 

The sports collectibles, some of the celebrity memorabilia, and the autographed books are personalized to Reynolds. That usually makes the value less for an item, but in this case it would probably enhance them.

World of Beer to open 2nd Baltimore-area location

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The website for World of Beer shows that a new location is coming soon to 115 East Joppa Road in Towson (which is apparently Towson Square.)

I asked Baltimore County Councilman David Marks (whose district this will be located in) for his reaction to the news and he provided the following comment:

I welcome any business to our district that is going to create jobs, but particularly a distinctive restaurant that is unique to the area.

World of Beer features an extensive craft beer selection along with food and live entertainment in their tavern locations. There is a location at McHenry Row in Baltimore City and two locations in the northern Virginia suburbs of DC (Reston and Arlington.)

I had heard rumors of one coming to White Marsh in the Baltimore suburbs and that resulted in me finding the Towson location that is coming soon. If you know details that confirm or debunk the White Marsh rumors, please leave a comment.

There’s one other issue with the Towson location. On their website directory, World of Beer misspells the town’s name as “Towsen.” I tweeted it to the attention of their corporate Twitter account but so far it has yet to be fixed.

ACLU: Baltimore PD using “warrantless and deceptive” cellphone surveillance

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WBAL TV reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking the Baltimore City Police Department to task for its “warrantless and deceptive use of cellphone surveillance devices.”

Local law enforcement is using methods to pinpoint a suspect’s location straight out of a spy agency’s playbook. It’s a cutting edge crime-fighting tool whose trade name is Stingray, which is made by the Harris Corp.

The ACLU calls the practice the invasion of the data snatchers. The problem is, according to the ACLU, Stingray scoops up the personal information contained in the cellphones of everyone in their range.

The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief, alleging the Baltimore City police misled a judge so they could use Stingray. The complaint claims the device violated the Fourth Amendment right of a suspect and allowed police to obtain personal information from other people’s phones.

The device impersonates cellphone towers, prompting all phones within its range to connect to it, picking up everyone’s information, not just the suspect’s personal information. There’s concern it’s being used unlawfully and the data kept in a file.

The city spent a lot of money on it:

Baltimore City police declined to comment, but the city Board of Estimates records indicate city police spent more than $250,000 on the technology.

According to Board of Estimates records and ACLU legal briefs, on Feb. 4, 2009, the city award $132,000 to Harris Corp. for its cellphone-tracking system. On June 9, 2010, the Board of Estimates gave $30,000 to Harris Corp. for a cellphone-tracking system extended warranty. On Jan. 23, 2013, the city paid $99,786 to Harris Corp. for a hailstorm cellphone tracker upgrade.

But it wasn’t until a criminal case made it an evidentiary issue that the public learned how police used Stingray without a warrant. Police said they wanted what’s called a pen register order to see what calls were going in and out from a suspect’s phone.

An ACLU attorney noted the device collects identifier information on phones along with calls and text message information; and could even be used to intercept calls. The attorney said the police used the Stingray to geo-locate a phone in a house, but that’s not what they told a judge they were using it for. The ACLU attorney also called that “insane” and said officials “were willing to put secrecy above public safety.”

The US Supreme Court has ruled a warrant is required to use it and state law now requires the same.

In addition to Baltimore City, other police departments in the area are using it, with almost all of them (like the city) refusing to talk about it:

Anne Arundel County police said they use the technology in a responsible and lawful way to find missing persons and wanted felons. Montgomery County police would not confirm they have it but budget documents indicate they spent $180,000 to upgrade their Stingray system. Other local police departments did not respond to the 11 News I-Team’s inquiry.

No, Budweiser is NOT getting rid of the Clydesdales

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I saw a headline Sunday that Anheuscher-Busch was not using their iconic Clydesdales in Christmas ads this year. I didn’t think much of it until a bunch of other stories said they were getting rid of them altogether. I did see a piece debunking that yesterday as well. Now that the story is well on the way to virality, I wanted to stand athwart the landslide of outraged comments and get it corrected (and I personally think most of the beers made by Anheuscher-Busch taste like I imagine Clydesdale urine must taste like, so don’t call me, a craft beer guy, a fanboy for writing this.)

Here’s what a Yahoo blog noted about the original report:

Rest easy, Budweiser Clydesdales — you aren’t being put out to pasture just yet.

Contrary to an earlier report, the iconic horses, who have been an essential part of the Budweiser brand for nearly a century, will in fact be appearing in the beer company’s holiday advertising this year.

Horse fans and beer drinkers alike were alarmed by a Wall Street Journal story published Sunday claiming that the magnificent beasts were being phased out of Bud’s 2014 holiday advertising in an effort to appeal to younger consumers.

“The company has decided that persuading 21- to 27-year-olds to grab a Bud is the best chance to stop the free-fall. After years of developing advertising and marketing that appeals to all ages, AB InBev plans to concentrate future Budweiser promotions exclusively on that age bracket,”
The Journal’s story claimed. “That means it won’t trot out the traditional Budweiser Clydesdales for this year’s holiday advertising. It means February’s Super Bowl ads will feature something more current than last year’s Fleetwood Mac. It means less baseball and more raves with DJ group Cash Cash.”

Here’s the truth:

However, a spokesman for the company told TheWrap on Monday that the horses will continue the tradition of appearing in the brewer’s holiday advertising.

“The story this morning may have left a wrong impression – the Budweiser Clydesdales will, in fact, be featured in next year’s Super Bowl advertising and are also a part of upcoming holiday responsible drinking advertising,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement. “The Clydesdales play a strong role for the brand, representing Budweiser quality and care for more than 80 years. As icons of the brand — and relevant symbols of integrity, perfection and team spirit for all generations — they are important to the brand and our campaigns.”

The revered horses will even be galloping into the digital age this year, with a piece of content that will run digitally, featuring real people along with the Clydesdales.

The moral of the story is a continued reminder to be wary of what you read on the internet. The secondary sources who picked up the WSJ piece had time to find out what the Wrap blog at Yahoo found out, but going for the clickbait headlines that get shared more ruled the day (some of this may fall on the people who shared them as well – especially if they didn’t read the actual articles.)