Happy New Year! Well, almost. Are we all happy 2014 is over? Will 2015 be a better news year? I can’t predict, but I do know 2014 is ending with quite a bang. I have a range of stories today, including a former child star stabbing someone (hint: it's not Danny Bonaduce), the tragic death of an transgender teen and the travel industry going to court over a travel hack.
What were the most interesting news stories of 2014? Ebola? Civil rights violations by the police? Reality shows stars gone wrong? Please discuss in the comments or tweet me your opinion (or just follow me) @AmandaLauren.
Screech Stabs Someone
Yes, you read that correctly. Actor Dustin Diamond, who you know best as Screech from "Saved By The Bell," allegedly stabbed someone. On Christmas, police in Port Washington, Wisconsin, arrested him for possession of a switchblade, reckless endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon.
Diamond and his fiancée, Amanda Schutz, were having drinks at the Grand Avenue Saloon. According to the owner, Randy Buser, Diamond became angry when another patron tried to take pictures of him. They got into a fight, Diamond stabbed him with a switchblade and they left the bar. The victim didn’t even realize he was stabbed (I guess it didn’t hurt too much) until a few minutes later when he began bleeding.
Later that night, police pulled the actor over while driving and the evidence was in his car. Schutz was also booked on disorderly conduct.
According to documents filed by Diamond’s attorney, Thomas Alberti:
The State is in possession of photographs and/or Police Officer statements that may reasonably conclude that Amanda Schutz had been punched in the face and forcibly held by more than one adult male. [Diamond] produced a pocketknife in a desperate attempt to defend his [fiancée] from further harm. [Diamond] hoped to deter the aggressors with the only option that he had: a pocketknife. It was not until one of the aggressors attempted to tackle [Diamond] that any alleged injury occurred.
Diamond spent the weekend in jail because no one posted his $10k bail until Monday afternoon.
The actor is claiming self-defense, saying he and his fiancée were attacked and he believes justice will ultimately be served. His attorney told reporters:
Dustin has complete faith in the justice system, [but, he was] not happy he missed the Packers game [while he was in jail.]
He also told People:
Dustin doesn’t feel like he is being wronged. He gets that when something like this happens, the police get involved and the court figures it out. He says the Port Washington police have been nothing but exemplary. He gets it. He knows there is a process in this country and in the end he will be exonerated.
If you were wondering why Diamond was walking around with a switchblade, Alberti explained that too.
It is just an everyday tool. It is not at all uncommon. Dustin has zero criminal history. He is not a thug walking around trying to stick people up.
He also added,
Dustin and Amanda are neat people. They are upbeat. Dustin is a comedian and he likes making people laugh and pleasing people. He is a good-natured person.
Leelah Alcorn Wanted Her Death To “Mean Something”
If you’ve been checking the trending topics on Twitter and wondering who #LeelahAlcorn is -- hers is unfortunately a very tragic story. Leelah Alcorn was a transgender teenage girl who committed suicide. Leelah had a Tumblr and scheduled her suicide note to be posted after her death. The note went viral.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.
Leelah also expressed that she wanted her death to mean something and positively impact the transgender community.
As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.
Another post was also published, where Leelah apologized to several people including her sisters and brothers, but not her parents.
Mom and Dad: Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.
But, perhaps what made Leelah’s death even sadder was her mother’s reaction to it, which pointedly failed to acknowledge that her daughter was transgender and that she took her own life. On Facebook, Carla Wood Alcorn posted:
My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.
Many of the initial media reports regarding the suicide referred to Leelah as Joshua and used male pronouns. However, once it was confirmed that Leelah was transgender, media outlets changed their terms and noted the error.
Leelah’s death has also raised efforts for a national ban on conversion therapy.
In the last xoNews, I reported that Sony wasn’t going to release "The Interview" anywhere, even on demand, due to threats from North Korea to release even more embarrassing and private information about the company. But Sony changed its tune. "The Interview" was released on Christmas in 331 theatres in the US (and will be released in Canada on Friday) as well as on iTunes, Xbox, You Tube, Google Play and on its own website. All of this hoopla garnered a whole lot of publicity for the film, which has made $2.8 million from its limited release in theatres and $15 million from its online release. So, suck it North Korea….or not?
While there were various rumors about the source of the attack, a private investigation by Norse Corp suggests it was actually an inside job and not the work of North Korea directly. They have identified six people involved with the hack. Two are in the US, one is in Canada and the others are in Singapore and Thailand. One of the hackers, “Lena,” is an ex-employee of the company who was laid off in May. She has ties to the Guardians of Peace, the group who is taking credit for the attack.
The FBI is still claiming the source of the attack was North Korea.
Missing AirAsia Plane Found
On December 28, an AirAsia flight with 162 people flying from Indonesia to Singapore went missing. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked to change the flight path and increase the altitude of the plane because of an oncoming storm, but was not immediately cleared to do so, because there was too much air traffic. Shortly thereafter, the flight’s signal was lost. For two days, the fate of the plane remained a mystery.
On December 30, bodies as well as debris from the plane washed ashore 60 miles southeast of the last known location of the flight, which was the opposite of the direction the plane was flying in. While the exact cause of the disaster is currently unknown, in the short term, officials are saying it was likely bad weather.
· Want to trick your kids (or some really drunk adults) into going to bed early on New Year's Eve? Netflix will help you. They have introduced a three-minute New Year's Eve countdown hosted by King Julien from Netflix’s "All Hail King Julien" series. Parents can start it at 11:57 or at a more convenient time. Just don’t tell the kids…
· We can’t end the year without another Ebola story. Pauline Cafferkey, a healthcare worker recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone from Glasgow, where she was diagnosed with the virus. While the risk of transferring the virus to other passengers on her flight was very low, if not negligible, government officials have contacted all but seven passengers. Cafferkey remains optimistic and is currently being treated in London.
· United Airlines and Orbitz are suing a 22-year-old for profiting from a genius travel hack on his site SkipLagged. Aktarer Zaman found a way to book cheaper flights using the “hidden cities” trick. Basically, you purchase a one-way ticket with a layover to the city you actually want to travel to, and just skip the last leg of the trip. Now, he’s being sued for $75,000. Like any millennial genius hacker, he’s crowd funding his legal expenses.