Ten years ago AJ and Lisa Demaree had their three daughters, aged 1, 4 and 5 at the time, taken away because a Walmart employee flagged some vacation photos the family took as child porn. Eight of the photos were the girls playing around at bath time. The Demarees' daughters were taken away by Child Protective Safety workers and sent to live with their grandparents during a month-long investigation but no charges were filed after judges ruled the photos were harmless pictures like countless parents have taken. But in 2001 the Demarees sued the two social workers who took their daughters away without a court order. And this week, after a string of defeats for the family, they finally got some justice. A federal appeals court ruled the social workers "acted unconstitutionally" and violated the Demarees' rights. "The social workers did not have reasonable cause to believe the children were at risk of serious bodily harm or molestation," the panel of judges ruled. They found there was no reason the social workers had to rush the children out of the home before first getting a court order. A lower court had dismissed the case against the social workers in 2014 based on qualified immunity. The detective behind the investigation settled with the Demarees earlier. (Newser)
Last American Slave Ship Found?
Russell Ladd remembers seeing a shipwreck as a boy fishing with his father at low tide. His father told him it was the Clotilda, the last American slave ship. While the boy didn't really believe it at the time, that may be changing. Using Ladd's account and historical records, including the journal of Clotilda's captain, AL.com reporter Ben Raines believes he's found the remains of the ship that illegally carried 110 slaves to Mobile County, Ala., from Benin, Africa, in 1860, more than 50 years after the transfer of new slaves was outlawed. According to historian Sylvianne Diouf's book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama, plantation owner Timothy Meaher made a bet that he could sneak slaves into Mobile, and hired Capt. William Foster for the job. When the Clotilda returned to Mobile, the slaves were removed. Foster wrote in his journal, "Then I burned her and sunk her in 20 feet of water." Foster described burning the ship next to 12 Mile Island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which is where Raines found a burnt wreck sticking out of the mud "like a dinosaur backbone" at extremely low tide. Built around the same time as the Clotilda, it's the same width at 23 feet. But though its 124-foot length doesn't line up with what was reported as the Clotilda's 86-foot expanse, Raines believes this figure might instead refer to the distance between the Clotilda's rudder and the base of the bow, as this was used to estimate cargo capacity. Raines hopes an excavation will confirm his theory, but first he's going to have to get permits and a whole lot of money. (Newser)
Millennials: Richer Than You Thought!
Millennials might not be in the dire financial straits that many assume. A new Bank of America survey says that one in six, about 16 percent, already have six figures in savings and are following solid savings plans. That's double the percentage from 2015. Four more key findings from the survey follow:
About half (47%) have at least $15,000, up from 33% in 2015
Nearly 2 in 3 (63%) say they are saving, about the same as Generation X (64%) and less than Boomers (75%)
More than 1 in 4 (26%) work in the gig economy with short-term work, meaning they are largely out of luck in terms of 401ks and company retirement plans
60% feel "financially secure," though the top stressor (35%) is not being able to save enough.
Just A Moment - This Just in From God
It was definitely one of the stranger courtroom scenes out of Austin, Texas when state district judge Jack Robison interrupted jurors deliberating a defendant's fate in a sex-trafficking case and urged them not to convict. He actually did it twice - and later said because God told him to. Perhaps the best part, the jury ignored him and convicted the guy anyway. The jury foreman later told reporters, "He said he had thought it over and prayed on it and that God told him that he had to say this." Robison then excused himself from the penalty phase of the trial after explaining what he had done to the lawyers involved in the case. Attorney Sylvia Cavazos who represented the woman convicted said, "It's probably the most unusual thing I've experienced in 20 years as an attorney." Later Judge Robison apologized in open court to the jury, saying, "I apologize but, if God tells me to do something, I have to do it.'" In the case itself, 32-year-old Gloria Romero Perez was convicted of trafficking in regard to a teenage relative she brought to Texas from Honduras. The girl ended up pregnant. So far, one complaint has been filed to state judicial authorities over the judge's actions. He was previously reprimanded in 2011 for imprisoning a man who called him a fool in court. (Austin American-Statesman)
The top beers in America are shaking up and the so-called "King of Beers" no longer qualifies even as a prince. Budweiser has dropped to No. 4, according to sales estimates from industry publication Beer Marketer's Insights. Bud Light continues to be No. 1, followed by Coors Lite, and the new No. 3: Miller Lite. Corona Extra rounds out the top five, followed by Michelob Ultra and Modelo Especial. One major factor - people are drinking less beer than they used to, and they're increasingly turning to craft beer when they do. (CNN)
The Lance Armstrong of the Camel World
There's big time controversy in the camel world and no less than 12 camels have been disqualified from a major camel beauty contest in Saudi Arabia after it was discovered that they had used Botox! It's true! The annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival has been tarnished by the attempted violation of the strict rules in Riyadh. Believe it or not, they take this very seriously over there and it's a big deal with $57 million in prize money up for grabs so obviously there is significant temptation for people to cheat. The top winner - Miss Camel - gets $30 million! But the handbook clearly states: "Camels that are found with drugs in lips, shaved, dyed in any parts of the body, or with changes from natural form are not allowed." Chief Judge Fawzan al-Madi said: "The camel is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime." (Metro)
When You Swipe Wrong
Up at Missouri State University, one enterprising young freshman male made a huge mistake and swiped left on the Tinder profile of a young lady he actually really wanted to go out with. So of course that meant her profile disappeared from his account and our boy was feeling blue. All he knew was that her first name was Claudia and that she also was a Missouri State student. So over the weekend he began emailing every one of the 22 Claudias on campus, offering to take the one that got away out for doughnuts. When freshman Claudia Alley got the email, she knew it was about her because it referenced a joke in her bio on the app. She later told the Springfield News-Leader she agreed to the date. Well yeah! Because there's doughnuts! Who wouldn't? (Springfield News-Leader)
What the What?
You may find this hard to believe but Saddam Hussein once wrote a romantic novel. And you'll be happy to find out you can buy it on Amazon just in time for Valentine's Day. Yep - in 2000, brutal Iraqi regime leader Saddam Hussein published a 160 page romantic novel, Zabiba and the King. No big surprise it didn't make any bestseller's lists or reach critical acclaim - although it was heavily scrutinized by the CIA following its release. The plot, set thousands of years ago, features a love story between an Iraqi king (no prizes for guessing who he is based on) and a lowly villager called Zabiba, who represents the people in this poorly-veiled metaphor. The characters' relationship develops as they discuss religion, nationalism and other heart-warming topics. In case you're actually thinking of reading the thing, we should warn you there is one particularly bizarre scene during which a character describes, in great detail, a sex scene between a shepherd and a bear - which is thought to represent the relationship of Iraq and Russia. You can get it on Amazon, where it has received a mix of reviews, including "Zabiba and the King is a fascinating and moving work," "this book was absolutely horrible," and "buy it as an historical curiosity, not for literary entertainment. It is a complete trainwreck of a book." (Metro)