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Chris Queen

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered church communications director, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.
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Put Back That Bottle of Booze You’re Thinking of Buying as a Christmas Present

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

So your exhausting search for the ideal Christmas present for that hard-to-shop-for friend has taken you to the package store. You browse the aisles looking for the perfect bottle — something that reflects good taste at the best price — when suddenly you’ve found what you’re looking for.

Not so fast. A new Consumer Reports poll has found that a quarter of Americans surveyed see hard liquor as the least desirable holiday gift.

One in four Americans surveyed cited whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, and other spirits as the least desirable gift to receive; 23 percent identified flowers and plants as the biggest buzzkill, while 13 percent singled out candles, picture frames, and other home décor items as the most unwanted presents. Even socks would be a better choice.

The same poll showed that consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of receiving wine as a present.

Wine, however, proved a different story. It was far more acceptable—and desirable. Only 6 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to receive a bottle for the holidays.

Just outside of Charleston, SC, the assistant manager of package store Bottles says she doesn’t see the aversion to the giving of booze that the poll reflects.

“I was like, ‘hmm, I guess they’re not in South Carolina’,” Sara Capparelli says of her initial reaction to the finding. “We’re selling out of gift sets.”

[...]

…liquor remains popular with Christmas shoppers in Charleston. More than 100 gift givers this weekend attended a bottle-engraving that Capparelli called the most successful such event in the Mt. Pleasant store’s three-year history.

However, Capparelli says she does understand why many people might prefer wine to liquor as a gift.

The gulf between wine and liquor makes sense to Capparelli, who points out that most Cabernet drinkers could probably be coaxed into trying Merlot. But it’s significantly harder to persuade a whiskey drinker to sip vodka, no matter how nicely the bottle is wrapped. Additionally, Capparelli says, wine offers a better value for the gift giver.

“You don’t want to give someone a $5 bottle of value liquor,” she says, whereas many well-made wines are relatively inexpensive.

So the bottom line is this: unless you really need to buy the liquor for yourself, put it back and walk over to the wine section for a better gift-giving experience.

This article contains an image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Atlanta’s Serial Killer Caught

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Atlanta police have charged 34-year-old Aeman Presley with a September murder days after charging him in three deaths that rocked the city over Thanksgiving and the week after.

Authorities had already charged Presley in conjunction with the shooting deaths of two homeless men while they slept on the streets of Atlanta, as well as with the murder of a popular hairstylist in Decatur, a suburb just east of the city.

Presley is accused of firing multiple times — “overkill,” police say — while the two homeless men were wrapped in blankets, sleeping on the sidewalk in Atlanta. Dorian Jenkins, 42, was killed Nov. 23, followed by Tommy Mims, 68, on Nov. 26.

Additionally, Presley now faces charges in the September shooting of a mentally ill man who police believe was homeless at the time of his murder.

Presley, 34, shot Calvin Gholston, 53, to death Sept. 27 at a shopping center outside Atlanta, police said. They believe Gholston was homeless and was shot multiple times as he slept — like two of the other victims, though his death came about a month earlier.

The woman who found Gholston’s body told officers he had been living in an alleyway near the shopping center for at least two months, according to a police report.

Police officers for MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system, apprehended Presley when he entered an entry gate without paying the fare. They found a loaded gun with more ammunition on Presley when they searched him, and a weapons expert with MARTA noted that the ammunition matched photos of the bullets police believed the gunman used in the November murders.

By putting out the information on the weapons, “I compromised all of my evidence, knowing that if we could just save one more homeless person” it would be worth it, Atlanta police Detective David Quinn said.

Police declined to give many details from Presley’s interviews with investigators but called him cooperative and forthcoming.

“I wouldn’t even say it was an interrogation. It was a conversation,” Quinn said. He later added: “After the interview, we had enough evidence to charge these four murders, I’ll put it that way.”

Police consider Presley a serial killer.

The term “serial killings” means a series of three or more killings, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors, according to the FBI.

Image provided by Fulton County Jail.

Also read:  The 7 Most Unnerving Unsolved Cases This Year

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Saving the New Religious Refugees

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

In the 1800s, London became a haven for tens of thousands of Russian Jews fleeing their czarist homeland. Today, a similar scene takes place in the United Kingdom, but this time the refugees are Muslim converts to Christianity fleeing persecution in England or the Middle East.

Many Muslims who convert to Christianity face threats of death and harm, and friends and family turn them away. One organization in particular, Christian Concern, is helping converts find safe haven in homes, churches, and other places in the UK.

Christian Concern believes thousands of Muslims are anxious to convert and in need of housing so they can get back onto their feet after suffering verbal — and sometimes physical — attacks from families, friends and co-workers.

“We are motivated by a deep sense of love and compassion for those that feel trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape,” said Andrea Williams, the group’s chief executive.

“The penalty for converts at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death,” she added. “This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in East London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.”

Some of these converts are like Shokit Ali Sadiq, whose wife is also a Christian. He and his family received safe haven thanks to members of their church. Sadiq now works to convert others from Islam to Christianity, and he says that many Muslims want to convert but are afraid to do so.

“There are hundreds of people out there who want to leave Islam,” said Sadiq. “But they’re frightened of making their desire known.”

Others are like a woman who went unnamed for her interview. She faced physical attacks from other women after becoming a Christian. She prays that “one day my own family will have me back.”

Twenty-three-year-old Ali, whose former friends stabbed him and left him for dead when he converted in Pakistan at age 17, fled to England, where these same young men from his hometown tracked him down and threatened him again. He now works at a store and lives essentially in hiding,but he is hopeful that he can return to Pakistan one day to do the same work that saved his life.

“My life’s ambition,” he said, “is to return and start a charity that would provide safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity.”

This post uses a modified image from Shutterstock.

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The Continuing Soap Opera of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Trial

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

The Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial may have been in progress since September, but this week it has taken some bizarre twists and turns that more resemble a soap opera than a courtroom trial.

This week alone, we’ve learned of teachers who continued changing answers on standardized tests because no one explicitly told them that their actions were wrong, along with teachers who threatened and insulted students when it came to the test cheating.

On Monday, one teacher testified that she and other teachers erased answers on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in order to elevate scores for their school:

Former Dunbar Elementary School second-grade teacher Rose Neal testified that she saw second-grade teacher Diane Buckner-Webb and first-grade teachers Pamela Cleveland and Shani Robinson cheat on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in the spring of 2009. Neal said she too cheated.

Buckner-Webb, Cleveland and Robinson all face charges of racketeering and making false statements. A statewide analysis found an abnormally high number of wrong-to-right erasures on standardized tests taken by their students in 2009.

No one in the room — including former Dunbar testing coordinator Lera Middlebrooks — suggested cheating was wrong or that they should stop, Neal said in response to a prosecutor’s question.

“I wish they had, but no,” she said.

On Wednesday, another school system employee testified that certain teachers insulted their students’ intelligence while those same students went on to perform too well the CRCT:

Certain fourth-grade teachers at Dobbs Elementary School told their students things like “You all just dumb. You can’t learn anything,” former Dobbs teaching coach Lori Revere-Paulk testified in the Atlanta test-cheating trial Wednesday.

But many of those students went on to ace state tests, even though results from other tests suggested they would fall short, Revere-Paulk said.

On Thursday, students testified that teachers threatened them when they witnessed or reported cheating:

“If I lose my job, I’m ’a beat your ass,” former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Derrick Broadwater told one fifth-grader after the boy reported possible cheating to a school employee, according to the student’s account, which Broadwater disputes.

Then Broadwater came closer to the child and shared another message.

“He was going to kill me,” the student testified.

The boy, now a broad-shouldered 17-year-old in his Atlanta high school’s ROTC program, said he was too scared to report the threats until recently.

[...]

Two other former Dobbs students testified that [teacher Angela] Williamson told them and other students the answers on fourth-grade state tests.

[...]

But the girls didn’t tell anyone about the cheating at the time. Williamson told them not to, they said.

“If you tell anyone, it’ll be the last person you tell, I promise you that,” Williamson told the class, one of the girls testified.

The cheating scandal came to light when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned unusually high scores on the CRCT between 2002 and 2009 at certain Atlanta schools. Indictments went all the way to the top, including to former superintendent Beverly Hall, who will not testify because she is gravely ill with cancer.

Stay tuned as we bring you more unusual details from the trial as they unfold.

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The Untold Story From Louisiana’s Election Day

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

The defeat of Mary Landrieu, Louisiana’s newly lame-ducked senator, over the weekend led the news cycle. But the untold story of Louisiana’s election day came from St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, where voters rejected measures for over $6 million in property taxes.

Voters struck down most of the proposed renewals Saturday by at least 60 percent, a percentage that Parish Council Chairman Guy McInnis McInnis called “a serious message to government.”

“We have to seriously look at the budget, and we need to look at cutting the budget,” McInnis said. “Regardless of whether we put them on the ballot again, we have to prepare ourselves for not having that money because they may fail again.”

And the tax rejection came as the costs of maintaining services rise for the parish’s smaller post-Hurricane Katrina population.

There are roughly a third less people, homes and jobs in St. Bernard now than before Katrina, and those who returned are paying about 30 percent more in taxes, including 35 new mills added to the tax rolls in 2013 for firefighting and the policing.

This isn’t the first time voters in the parish have spoken up — in April, 80% of voters rejected a $9 million tax increase to benefit the county’s hospital.

Residents blame an unusually large levee tax proposal for spearheading the anti-tax sentiment, while others claim the timing of the vote – just after property tax bills arrived in the mail – for fanning the flames. One local educator coined a phrase that hits the nail on the head.

Ron Chapman, a Nunez Community College history professor, said he blamed the “administration and the council for not educating voters.”

“If you don’t know what something is, you vote against it,” Chapman said.

He also said there is post-Katrina tax fatigue in the parish.

“We have a real problem here. We are stuck having to pay for infrastructure that is too big for the people in it,” he said. “It’s like old people who own a large home and then their children move out and it is just too big for them to maintain.

Chapman added, “The parish really should have shrunk its footprint after the storm. Because, how are we going to pay for it? We are finding out now that we can’t.”

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Tennessee Gets Ready to Replace Common Core with Its Own Standards

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have filed two separate bills for the upcoming legislative session which would do away with Common Core educational standards and replace them with a system developed within the state. One bill would have new standards in place by the 2016-17 school year, while the other would implement new standards sooner.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell filed legislation Monday that would establish a Tennessee Standards Commission that would later recommend changes to the State Board of Education. It would also “cancel” Tennessee’s memorandum of understanding regarding Common Core standards in English language arts and math.

New standards to replace Common Core, which has phased into Tennessee classrooms for the past four years, would be ready by the 2016-17 school year.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, has introduced a separate House bill that would require the state board of education to adopt new Tennessee-developed standards before July 1, 2016. It would halt future Common Core expansion beyond this school year, establish teams of educators to review and recommend new standards and create what would become known as “Volunteer State Standards.”

This legislative groundswell puts Republican lawmakers at odds with Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam, himself a member of the GOP who has overseen the state’s implementation of Common Core. Haslam, who some call a potential 2016 candidate for the White House, recently did an about face and called for a public “vetting” of Common Core, via a website where citizens can voice concerns.

Haslam said he was not surprised that the legislature is considering rolling back Common Core.

“I’ve said all along: We’re here to do a full review of the standards,” Haslam said. “I don’t know how to say that any other way. The good news is people are engaging — 15,500 people have already commented on the standards. That’s great news.”

He said he’s willing to be a part of any discussion that maintains high standards and takes a “realistic view” of the current standards.

“I’ve always said it’s not about what we call the standards. Let’s talk about what the standards are. My commitment is to make certain we have the very best standards we can,” Haslam said.

Multiple bills last year failed to gain traction, but growing opposition to Common Core leaves GOP lawmakers hopeful they can defeat it this legislative sesson.

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Inmate Pleads Guilty in Ebola Hoax

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

An inmate in Cobb County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to charges of filing a false report for claiming he had visited Ebola-stricken countries after developing a fever and flu-like symptoms in custody.

Police pulled over 35-year-old Virginia native Harry Randall Withers, Jr. for DUI on October 3. While in custody, he fell ill, and he told jailers he had traveled to Africa. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution breathlessly reported the story back in October:

Withers developed a fever, had flu-like symptoms, and when questioned acknowledged that he had recently traveled to Africa, the Georgia Public Health Department and Cobb County officials said at a press conference Friday afternoon,.

Withers had been to Kenya and Nigeria, and had spent a few hours in Liberia, a country at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He flew into the United States through the Washington, D.C., area and landed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

It remains unclear what he was doing in Cobb.

He was immediately placed into isolation at the jail and the Cobb-Douglas Heath Department was notified. He was then transferred to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

The jail area where he was held was sanitized twice.

After Withers tested negative, officials learned that he had not been out of the country since 2005. His lie led to Ebola precautions taken at the jail, the hospital where he was transported, and for the ambulance company that transported him. They also led to three felony counts of filing a false report.

“We will not tolerate anyone manipulating the system like this and preying on our worst fears,” Deputy Chief ADA John Melvin, who prosecuted the case, said in a news release Thursday. “When you put the county and law enforcement through such a useless exercise as this, we will find out the truth.”

Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert E. Flournoy III sentenced Withers to 10 years, with one year to serve, though that sentence will be suspended upon Withers’ successful completion of a six-month inpatient drug rehabilitation program in Virginia. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.

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The Bible Belt Tightens Around the Koran: Atlanta Suburb Rejects Strip Mall Mosque

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Kennesaw, Georgia, a growing suburb northeast of Atlanta, ginned up controversy over 30 years ago with its law requiring every household to possess a gun. The college town created a new stir this week when its city council voted 4-1 to deny a request to a Muslim group wishing to open a mosque in a strip mall on a crowded stretch of highway.

The Suffa Dawat Center at Kennesaw petitioned to use the retail space for about two years while they built a permanent structure. The space would have been used for five daily 10-15 minute prayers and a 40-45 minute weekly prayer service with an expectation of 60-80 members at each service.

The city council had voted unanimously to allow a Pentecostal church to meet at a separate location, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

“I believe it’s a retail space. It’s as plain and simple as that,” [council member Debra] Williams said.

[...]

Mayor Mark Mathews did not allow the public to comment on the mosque proposal at the Monday meeting. He said the vote on the church didn’t set a precedent because each application needs to be considered on its own.

“This is not anything that the city ever takes lightly for a land use permit, regardless of what it’s for. We are charged with honoring the law, the laws within the city and the ordinances within the city,” Mathews said before the vote.

A few city residents attended the meeting, while a handful of protesters took advantage of the warm weather and stood outside waving flags and signs that read, “No Mosque.” Alex Rowell at Peach Pundit petulantly compared the meeting to the “war on Christmas” (his quotes) and described the protesters in sneering terms:

Those wondering whatever could be the difference-maker between the church application and mosque application might want to look to the anti-Islamic protestors outside Monday’s meeting. Without a hint of irony, one protestor explained that she “wanted to exercise [her] First Amendment rights while [she] still can,” protecting her community from “infiltration by the enemy who has gone on record with the goal to destroy everything we stand for.” Another described his protest against allowing Kennesaw Muslims to open a place of worship as “turning the other cheek.”

However, the Marietta Daily Journal took a more sober approach:

Chad Legere of Mableton stood outside City Hall while the council discussed the issue waving signs in protest. He said he doesn’t want the United States to become the next Europe.

“There’s a way to stop Shariah law from getting into our country, and that’s what we’re doing,” Legere said.

Legere, who held a flag bearing the Star of David, said he thinks a mosque will bring radical Muslims to the community who will make the area unsafe.

Attorney Doug Dillard, who represents the Islamic group, hinted that the group may sue. Dillard successfully took a similar case in nearby Lilburn, Georgia, to court in 2011.

So, while the city of Kennesaw has had their say, this fight may not be over. But, with the threat of ISIS looming in the back of most everyone’s mind, will the pro-mosque forces have as easy a fight as they did just a few years ago?

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University of South Alabama Distances Itself from Ferguson After Newspaper Draws Comparisons

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

A recent Washington Times article about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has stirred up a firestorm 600 miles away. The piece by Valerie Richardson draws comparisons between the Ferguson case, which led to rioting and violence, and a 2012 case in which a black police officer at the University of South Alabama shot and killed an unarmed white teen.

A two-year-old case involving the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old white man by a black police officer is gaining attention on social media in the wake of this week’s protests and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Gilbert Collar, a white, unarmed 18-year-old under the influence of drugs was shot and killed Oct. 6, 2012, by Officer Trevis Austin, who is black, in Mobile, Alabama. Despite public pressure for an indictment, a Mobile County grand jury refused to bring charges against Officer Austin, concluding that the officer acted in self-defense.

[...]

The discrepancy in the reaction to and coverage of the two grand jury decisions has not been lost on social media, where critics are citing the Collar case to counter those who say Brown was the victim of racism in both law enforcement and judicial system.

On Thursday, the website Conservative Tribune headline trumpeted the case: “Unarmed White Teen Gunned Down by Black Cop … Where’s the Outrage?”

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The real outrage is taking place in Mobile, Alabama, where the university makes its home. Local officials there don’t like the comparison between the horrendous events in Ferguson and their older case.

According to local officials, the two cases were handled radically differently, and the fundamentals were dissimilar.

“Communication was the key to it,” Sheriff Sam Cochran told AL.com.

[...]

“We put out more information, we called the news media and we showed the video from the eyes of the officer,” he said.

Members of the media watched the tape twice and were able to report on what they saw. “I think the communication calmed people down,” Cochran said.

[...]

Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lori Myles said that a strong relationship with the media is central to eliminating speculation.

[...]

Myles added that one key element in the Ferguson case was absent.

“They’re focusing on race, this was never that,” she said of the USA shooting.

It’s worth noting that, though many people still characterize the South as a racist region, the Gil Collar case did not turn into a debate over black vs. white.

Much of the blame for the tragedy that nearly destroyed the city of Ferguson lies at the feet of the media. I’m sure the fine folks in Mobile want to heap a double portion of blame on certain members of the media for painting their dissimilar — but equally sad — case with the same brush.

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Ann Coulter’s Parody of Hashtag Activism Gets Under Progressives’ Skin

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Leave it to Ann Coulter to get the Left’s panties in a wad over the latest trendy expression of concern: hashtag activism. The pundit tweeted her parody of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag craze, in which several high-profile figures, including First Lady Michelle Obama, have released photographs of themselves with stern visages holding up signs bearing the hashtag. Coulter’s photo features a pouty face and the hashtag #BringBackOurCountry.

Needless to say, the Left is up in arms over Coulter’s satire. From Talking Points Memo:

Coulter posted a photo to Twitter with her own iteration of the hashtag, in an apparent attempt to ridicule some of the high profile people, including First Lady Michelle Obama, who took part in the original campaign.

She got more than 1,000 retweets, including by Red State’s Erick Erickson. Conservative radio host Thomas Purcell also tweeted a photo of himself holding up Coulter’s hashtag.

However, her attempt backfired with a slew of people tweeting images of Coulter holding the same sign but photoshopped with messages that turned the tables on her. Gawker curated many of them, including some of the crudest.

Naturally, the Left has missed the point. No one doubts the sincerity of those who are concerned, and nobody is making light of the plight of these poor girls. Instead, Coulter and others like Rush Limbaugh have aimed their daggers at the emptiness of such awareness-raising gestures. No one at Boko Haram is saying, “Look at their photos. They must really be serious. We should let the girls go.”

Over at Taki’s, our very own Kathy Shaidle said it memorably:

Ah, details, schmetails. Within living memory, Westerners at least paid lip service to the ideal that “justice must be seen to be done.” Today, ain’t nobody got time for that. What “must be seen to be done” instead is trendy, risk-free, bumper sticker level moral preening that burns as few calories as possible.

In a society that valorizes conspicuous exertion—by the steroid-powered professional athlete, the 80-hour-a-week attorney, the Christmas morning jogger—it’s revealing that this is what passes for compassionate, socially aware “activism.”

For people obsessed with “raising awareness,” it sure takes leftists a long time to get outraged about stuff that actually matters.

Coulter’s parody photo distills the real behavior of the Left: sincere intentions trump decisive action. Like the red AIDS ribbons of yesteryear, a photo with a hashtag and the right facial expression shows that you care, regardless of how little you actually do -- and that’s all that matters. We’re all aware of the terrible plight of these girls. The real question is: what are we going to do about it?

Updated: Here are two more Michelle Obama hashtag parodies, courtesy of Lisa De Pasquale.

Updated again: And here are some more, courtesy of Ann herself.

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