Monday, April 30, 2007
"The dogs are a genuine threat to the pirated disc syndicates, thus the instruction to eliminate them," Firdaus Zakaria, the enforcement director of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was quoted as saying. Lucky and Flo, who were pressed into service on March 13, gained fame after they sniffed out a massive shipment of pirated movie DVDs in an office complex in southern Johor state the following week.
The canines detected the discs hidden behind locked doors, which officials broke open with crowbars to reveal a cache of nearly one million discs worth US$2.8 million. Five Malaysians and a Vietnamese man also were arrested in the operation. It is the first time dogs have been used by authorities anywhere in the world to detect contraband discs, according to Mike Ellis, regional director for the MPAA.
At the Baghdad international airport, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning. At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system. The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.
The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, to allow the government to function and business to flourish, and promote good will toward the United States. “These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general.
Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for such obvious things as spare parts and training. The new report provides some support for that position: a sophisticated system for distributing oxygen throughout the Erbil hospital had been ignored by medical staff members, who told inspectors that they distrusted the new equipment and had gone back to using tried-and-true oxygen tanks — which were stored unsafely throughout the building.
Most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq’s perilous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect. A case in point was the $5.2 million project undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build the special forces barracks in Baghdad. The project was completed in September 2005, but by the time inspectors visited last month, there were numerous problems caused by faulty plumbing throughout the buildings, and four large electrical generators, each costing $50,000, were no longer operating. The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Mr. Barton, said the American rebuilding program had too often createdresentment by imposing projects on Iraqis or relying solely on the advice of a local tribal chief or some “self-appointed representative” of local Iraqis.
See the full article at the New York Times website.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The gaunt body of 4-month-old Daniel was found dead in a swing inside their filthy apartment-- he weighed just four pounds, with bones jutting out of his skin. According to the police, Daniel had not been fed or cared for much of his short life, and it took some time for him to die. Ants and cockroaches were crawling all over the apartment and on Daniel.
According to the ABC news report, a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl were removed from the home and placed in foster care. Hatten is facing first-degree murder charges.
"If what we seek is to protect children from sex offenders, how do we accomplish that aim by imposing a 1,000-foot residency restriction ...?" Sheehan wrote. "If the offender is still permitted to visit and linger in such areas for protracted periods, so long as he does not sleep there, what actual protection have we provided our children? In truth, residency restrictions appear to be little more than a political placebo, offering false comfort to pacify the public's fear of sex offenders."Registered sex offenders frustrated in finding an eligible place to live have found themselves fighting it in court across Kentucky. One jury recently found a registered sex offender guilty but ordered no jail time or fine; in another incident, a charge was dropped against a sex offender when he agreed to move.
The judge also wrote that problems in Kentucky's law were exacerbated by the lack of a legal definition of a playground. He said that the county's patchwork of small cities could each strategically position a few swing sets throughout their borders to ban sex offenders from residing anywhere within their cities.
Residency restrictions on sex offenders are creating similar problems in Florida. Less than two years after Miami enacted a 2,500-foot residency restriction, sex offenders are living under expressway overpasses because there is no other legal housing available.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Why am I mentioning all of this? According to ABC News, Mr. Tobias has resigned from his post as Deputy Secretary of State after admitting he was a customer of a DC escort service:
Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.In a Ted Haggard-like admission, Tobias said he only got "massages."
Witnesses said that 54-year-old Dr. Raymond Adamcik was walking around with the burrito tucked into the waistband of his costume, asking women if they wanted to touch it. See more details here.
The theatre where the elaborate wedding celebration was held on Sunday has been demolished by Kano city's authorities.
Under Islamic law, a man can take four wives if he is able to support them. A married woman found guilty of marrying a second man would be put to death by stoning. A single woman found guilty of homosexuality would be caned.
Eleven other states in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria have adopted Sharia law. See the BBC story for more details.
Friday, April 27, 2007
His family became worried when Haryanto didn't get out at the station in Jakarta at the end of the 6-hour journey and his cell phone went unanswered. The body traveled repeatedly back and forth between Tegal and Jakarta before a janitor reported that he was unable to clean one lavatory because the door was locked.
The cause of the death was not immediately clear, but Haryanto had recently suffered a stroke. Dina Nurhandayani, the man's 29-year-old daughter, said she planned to file a complaint of negligence with the state-owned train company PT Kereta Api Indonesia.
In one incident, Tildwell purportedly pulled over a couple, took their identification, and got in the back seat of their car. He then threatened them with a $500 ticket if the man didn't have sex with his girlfriend in the front seat.
On another occasion, he allegedly pulled over a car with two couples. The women were instructed to give blow jobs to the two men, and afterwards one of the couples was ordered to have intercourse. One of the victims claims that while he shone his flashlight on them, she could see him masturbating. When a second patrol car approached, Tildwell told them to stop and “be cool” before waving the other patrol car away.
Check out the MSNBC article for more details.
Mohamed Hadfi, 31, tore out his 23-year-old wife Samira Bari's eyes following a heated argument in their apartment in the southern French city of Nimes in July 2003 after she refused to have sex with him. Bari, who had demanded a divorce before the attack, was permanently blinded.
Hadfi, a Moroccan, initially fled to Germany. He was finally arrested and sent back to France, where he was indicted for "acts of torture and barbarity leading to a permanent disability". Prosecutor Dominique Tourette demanded that Hadfi be sentenced to 30 years in prison, two thirds of which must be served in full, calling the defendant a "diabolic torturer". Once his sentence is served, Hadfi will be deported and barred from ever returning to France.
Hadfi's lawyer, Jean-Pierre Cabanes, insisted there were extenuating circumstances. "This is the result of a marriage that was arranged, not chosen," he said, pointing to the gulf separating his client, who came from southern Morocco, and his young wife, who had grown up in France. Cabanes begged the jury for leniency, claiming his client's action "appeared to stem from a mental illness."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
"Together, everything is possible."
One of the best parodies is the one on the left-- the phony caption roughly translating as "Together, without the poor, the foreigners, welfare recipients, the left, the extreme left, the communists, the homosexuals, the HIV+s, the disabled, the Ministries of Education and Culture, independent journalists, blacks, Arabs, and the guy who stole my wife, everything is possible."
According to press reports, Taiwan officials have now objected to its inclusion in the relay-- barely hours after the route was announced. It seems that Taiwan had wanted to participate as part of the international route -- with the torch entering and departing the island via nations other than China. However, China would like the island run to be part of the domestic route. Taiwan sees its inclusion in the domestic route as an attempt to downgrade its sovereign status.
Controversy is also brewing over the torch's route passing over Mount Everest, where this week, three Americans and a Tibetan-American were detained on the peak. They waved a banner reading: "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008." Another one in English and Chinese read: "Free Tibet." Critics see China's inclusion of Everest in the torch relay route as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet.
The IOC has repeatedly avoided all attempts to politicize the Games. "We are not in a position that we can give instructions to governments as to how they ought to behave," Hein Verbruggen, chief of the IOC's coordination commission for the Beijing Games, said this week.
Books on Military Schools and Lesbian Sex Classified Dangerously Close to Each Other in Dewey Decimal System
Earl Adams said his 14- and 16-year-old sons were "greatly disturbed" after finding the book, titled "The Whole Lesbian Sex Book." According to their father, the teenagers found it while browsing for material on military academies. However, the city's attorney dismissed Adams' claim as baseless. Read more details here.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
And that's not the half of it-- apparently there's a high risk of getting shit upon when trying to inseminate the female elephant.
Check out the story (with accompanying picture) for more details.
In another case, A Florida woman is suing her employers for developing carpal tunnel syndrome – also known as repetitive motion injury – in both hands. She got it from too much masturbating.
What kind of legal system do we have if these clowns could actually win these cases?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Cadbury will be prosecuted in the UK over a salmonella scare in which a million chocolate bars were recalled. The confectionery giant is accused of placing "unsafe" chocolate products on the market, according to the Birmingham City Council.
The company will also be prosecuted over an alleged failure to "immediately inform" the authorities about the contamination. Cadbury Limited will also be prosecuted under a third charge of failing to "identify hazards" from chocolate bars contaminated with salmonella and of failing to identify "corrective actions".
Meanwhile, in our almighty nation, the FDA still refuses to release all the names of those companies that sold tainted pet products. Food distributor Wilbur-Ellis Company, has willingly admitted that it sold contaminated rice protein to several pet food makers. Three of them — Natural Balance Pet Foods, the Blue Buffalo Co. and Diamond Pet Foods — have pulled some of their products (in no small part due to public pressure).
However, the FDA has so far declined to name the other two makers. Senators Durbin (IL) and Cantwell (WA) called on the agency to make those two companies publicly known.
What does someone have to do to get fired in this administration?
On her talk show yesterday, Rosie O'Donnell poo-pooed that suggestion-- bellowing, "Have you seen my ass?!" Fellow host Barbara Walters was good enough to warn viewers not to use their sleeves, another of Crow's helpful suggestions.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Mary Doherty (pictured, on the left), who lives at Urmston Cottage care home in Greater Manchester, said the only vegetables she eats are potatoes, peas and onions.
Mary used to work in her family's bakery and loves good home cooking. Her friend Maggie Redmond (photo, on the right), also a resident at the Cottage, will be celebrating her 102nd birthday in June.
When asked what she would like as a suitable present, Maggie replied, "a Chippendale".
For those of you without scorecards-- what that means is that babies who die before being baptized go straight to hell, along with serial killers like Seung-Hui Cho.
- McDonald’s massacre (California-1984)
- Richard Farley shootings (California-1988)
- Stockton Massacre (California-1989)
- Luby’s Massacre (Texas-1991)
- Jonesboro Massacre (Arkansas-1998)
- Columbine shooting (Colorado-1999)
- Xerox Murders (Hawaii-1999)
- Wakefield massacre (Massachusetts-2000)
- Wendy’s massacre (New York-2000)
- Beltway Sniper attacks (Washington, DC-2002)
- Red Lake High School massacre (Minnesota-2005)
- Amish School shooting (Pennsylvania-2006)
- Capitol Hill massacre (Washington-2006)
- Trolley Square shooting (Utah-2007)
- Virginia Tech Massacre (Virginia-2007)
Comparing gun policies and gun statistics across various countries can be complicated, but let me try and put it in simple terms. Of the top twenty countries with the highest per-capita homicide rate, all of them allow an average citizen to own a handgun. Of the 20 countries with the lowest per-capita homicide rate, none allow the average citizen to own a handgun.
People argue that having a handgun is the best way to protect themselves against killers like Seung-Hui Cho. But that’s bullshit-- the state of Virginia already allows unlicensed “open carry” of a handgun, and nobody on campus at VA Tech had a gun or was willing to use it. Besides, there are cheaper and more effective ways to protect oneself than owning a firearm.
It seems to me that we need to learn the lesson that Australia did back in 1996. It was in that year that 35 people were killed by a lone gunman at Port Arthur (a tourist spot in Tasmania)-- an event which shocked 18 million Australians.
Newly elected Prime Minister John Howard seized the day by introducing significant firearms restrictions. Against a background of overwhelming public support, sweeping laws were enacted in all states, which included mandatory gun licenses and registration of all firearms, and a near-complete ban on all semi-automatic weapons and handguns.
For us in the U.S., how many lives will it take to wake everyone up and demand change?
The demonstration march was made by some 40 monks, most of whom identified themselves as Khmer Krom, an ethnic Khmer minority people of Vietnam who inhabited the Mekong Delta area prior to the colonization of that area by Vietnamese settlers.
The marchers were demanding relief from alleged religious suppression of Khmer Krom by Vietnamese authorities, and had hoped to deliver a protest letter to the Vietnamese Embassy but were dispersed by some 150 riot police. They then walked to the Royal Palace, where the clash occurred, and to the U.S. Embassy.
Marcher Lim Yuth, 23, his face bloody from a cut above his eye, said he was injured by an object thrown by a small group of Buddhist monks, still unidentified, during his group's peaceful march. It was unclear whether the Buddhist monks who clashed with the marchers acted on their own or under orders from above.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Diana ruthlessly pursued Charles because of his position. When her mother demanded to know whether Diana loved the Prince or loved "what he is", Diana retorted: "What's the difference?"According to the Daily Mail, Brown is said to have received a $2 million advance from Random House, a company formerly headed by her husband. With 200,000 copies scheduled to be released in America and Britain, and with the publishers already taking advance orders on Amazon, it is certain to be a bestseller. Serialization of the book is scheduled to begin with the next issue of Vanity Fair.
Camilla, until now seen as Charles's true love, was also interested in him only because he was the heir to the throne.
Camilla began her adulterous affair with Charles in retaliation for her husband Andrew's infidelity.
Diana twice had pre-marital sex with Charles on the Royal train, then cooperated with denials by the Palace to preserve her image of virginity.
Diana falsely convinced herself during their honeymoon that Charles had resumed his affair with Camilla-- yet the Prince remained faithful until his wife's eating disorders and "loony" tantrums drove him back to Camilla.
Diana's claim that she tried to commit suicide while pregnant with William was a sympathy-seeking lie.
Diana had no intention of marrying Dodi Fayed, whom she romanced purely to infuriate the Palace. Instead, she was plotting to land a far richer man, American financier Teddy Forstmann, as her next husband.
Charles, for all his bitterness over Diana, was still somewhat in love with her during her final years. In the hours after the Paris crash, he clung to the hope that she would survive, pledging to bring her home and care for her.
Unlike the world's most-wanted terror suspect, Sharief is known by many in his community as a peacemaker who has helped broker truces when sporadic clashes have erupted between government troops and Muslim insurgents.
But if threatened, he'll run for the mountains and hide out for months at a time, issuing fatwas against those that piss him off . . . . .
"Hey I want to tell you something, OK?A friend of Alec Baldwin's told reporters that the actor called Ireland afterwards and apologized for his outburst. The friend added that Ireland is the most important thing in the world to Alec and that he is frustrated because over the last six years, Kim has "tried everything" to alienate Ireland from him.
And I want to leave a message for you right now, once again it's 10:30 here in New York on a Wednesday.
And once again I have made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone to call you at a specific time.
When the time comes for me to make the phone call I stop whatever I'm doing and I go and make that phone call-- at 11:00 in the morning in New York and if you don't pick up the phone at 10:00 at night . . .
And you don't have the goddamn phone turned on!
I want you to know something, OK? I'm-I'm tired of playing this game with you.
I'm leaving this message with you to tell you have insulted me for the last time.
You have insulted me-- you don’t have the brains or the decency as a human being.
I don’t give a damn that you’re 12 years old, or 11 years old, or that you’re a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn’t care about what you do as far as I’m concerned.
You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone.
And when I come out there next week I am going to fly out there for the day
Just to straighten you out on this issue--I'm going to let you know just how disappointed in you I am and how angry I am with you that you have done this to me again.
You have made me feel like shit that you have made me feel like a fool over and over and over again
And this crap you pull on me with this goddamn phone situation-- that you would never dream of doing to your mother;
And you do it to me constantly-- and over and over again.
I am going to get on a plane, and I'm going to come out there for the day and I'm going to straighten your ass out when I see you, do you understand me?
I am going to really make sure you get it-- and then I'm going to get on a plane and I'm gonna turn around and I'm gonna come home.
So you better be ready-- Friday the 20th-- to meet with me, so I'm gonna let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are.
You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?"
Los Angeles County Superior Court commissioner Maren Nelson heard the tape and temporarily suspended Baldwin's visitation rights. A hearing is set for May 4, where the judge could permanently deny Baldwin visitation or contact with Ireland.
In a statement released this weekend, Baldwin said:
"Thank you to everyone who has posted messages of suppport and understanding. Naturally, it is not best for a parent to lose their temper with their child. Everyone who knows me privately knows that I have endured a great deal over the last several years in my custody litigation. Everyone who knows me privately knows that certain people will go to any lengths to embarass me and to disrupt my relationship with my daughter.
In such public cases, your opponents attempt to take a picture of you on your worst day and insist that this is who you are as a person. Outside the doors of divorce court, I have friends, I have respect from people I work with and I have a normal relationship with my daughter. All of that is threatened whenever one enters a court room.
Although I have been told by numerous people not to worry too much, as all parents lose their patience with their kids, I am most saddened that this was released to the media because of what it does to a child. I'm sorry, as everyone who knows me is aware, for losing my temper with my child. I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.) I am sorry for what happened. But I am equally sorry that a court order was violated, which had deliberately been put under seal in this case.
Once my book is published, I'm sure more people will understand the incredible strains created by parental alienation.
In the meantime, I'm sorry to anyone who's taken offense from this episode."
Basinger's publicist, Annette Wolfe, told reporters: "The voicemail speaks for itself."
And by the way-- the Baldwin phone message story got a full seven minutes during the 7:30 half hour on the Today show last week. Ever since Couric's departure, it seems that NBC's morning flagship has gotten more and more "tabloid". . . .
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I couldn't say this any better-- so I'm taking this directly from TMZ.com:
Minutes after the Seung-Hui Cho's "press kit" arrived at NBC studios in New York on Wednesday, one sound clearly resonated through Rockefeller Center -- cha-ching!
While the network did a great job quickly putting together riveting news packages in a short amount of time-- (making sure the tapes were quicikly rushed to the FBI, to cover their legal bases) -- they also did a swell job of first making copies of all the horrific contents for themselves. Then, on the same day that it was announced that NBC was getting whooped in the ratings, the blitzkrieg promotion campaign began.
After spreading the haunting, pathetic video of the killer over the course of Wednesday night's 30-minute NBC Nightly News broadcast -- and masterfully teasing even more disgusting clips every step of the way -- Brian Williams warned a shell-shocked nation that his network would do everything in its power to "prevent any more martyrs or heroes from emerging from the tragedy". But then, in the same breath, he sickeningly previewed even more scumbag TV for the next morning's "Today Show." Dude, we get the game -- don't try to hide it.
You certainly couldn't blame Attorney General Alberto Gonzales if he chose to skip the celebrity-journalist-politician jumble that is tonight's White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Indeed, anyone who suffered through hours of testimony on Thursday in which both Republican and Democratic senators pounced on you as if you were an African gazelle would be forgiven for choosing to stay at home with a tub of Ben & Jerry's, watching a Bravo marathon of "Top Chef."Check out this New York Times piece on how Bush (with little or no credibility left) has left AG to twist in the wind in much the same way as Paul Wolfowitz.
But, as of this writing, Gonzales will attend as a guest of USA Today. Perhaps he'll be following the example of Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink," who, having been dumped by Andrew McCarthy and humiliated in the hallways of school, comes to the prom anyway. There she reclaims her dignity in a killer home-stitched dress and wins back the guy.
Okay, it's doubtful that Gonzales can follow in Ringwald's footsteps and win back a town that's turned its collective back on him.
Friday, April 20, 2007
The lawsuit was filed with help from the World Organisation for Human Rights USA. A Beijing reporter for The Independent was unable to open the organization's website using Google, as it is blocked by the Chinese authorities.
Google also recently acquiesced to the demands of the Chinese internet monitoring authorities by allowing political censorship of its Chinese search engine. Sites operated by Yahoo! and Microsoft also routinely block searches on politically sensitive terms.
In 2005, Yahoo! was accused of supplying data that was used to convict Shi Tao, a business journalist in Hunan province, of leaking state secrets to an overseas pro-democracy site apparently by using his Yahoo! email account.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "I believe myself that . . . this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq."September 2004:
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell: "I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field . . are going to react when they . . . hear that [Senator Reid] has declared the war is lost."
Matt Lauer: Do you really think we can win this war on terror in the next four years?
George W. Bush: I have never said we can win it in four years.
Lauer: So I’m just saying-- can we win it? Do you see that?
President Bush: I don’t think you can win it.
Why is the GOP so up in arms when their own leader declared the war un-winnable two years ago?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Three years ago, a 97-year-old woman reported that her home was overrun by rates. The local council sent an exterminator to her home to lay down rat poison. Two hedgehogs were later found dead, purportedly by ingesting the rat poison. DEFRA has pursued the case against the Great Yarmouth Borough Council in Norfolk and the exterminator for three years despite the RSPCA, the Health and Safety Executive, and the police, all dropping it.
The council expects to pay over $40,000 to defend itself in the case, and the Government's cost of the trial alone will run at over $1,000 per hour. Read more details here.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
1. It's against the law (the Hatch Act) to use government resources (time, email accounts, e.g.) for political purposes.
2. As a result, it has been common practice for Executive Branch officials to use non-government email services (such as an RNC or Yahoo email accounts) during their lunch or off-duty hours to conduct their political business.
3. If you're an ethically-challenged person and have at least half a brain (Karl Rove, perhaps) then you definitely want to conduct your shady (electronic) business somewhere that isn't being monitored by the government and/or regulated by federal law (using a White House email account, e.g.). Although doing so isn't strictly against the letter of the law, it is against White House policy-- at least it was in the Clinton white house (George W. has refused to release his white house's policy on this issue)
4. So it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to conclude that certain aforementioned ethically challenged people-- under the guise of complying with the Hatch Act-- would begin to conduct all of their government business using non-government email accounts.
According to some sources, Karl Rove has conducted an estimated 95% of his correspondence using a non-government email service (his RNC account)-- and let's all be honest here-- to avoid being held accountable for his words and actions. And why would one think Rove would be interested in avoiding disclosure of his words/actions? How else do you explain all of the unusual deleting/archiving activity going on with his email correspondence?
German officials (you've already guessed it) then said that the residents could only occupy the square footage of the apartment that was allowed by regulation-- and have even sent out regular inspectors to ensure that the extra rooms remain vacant and unused.
What's more unbelievable is the residents are willingly going along with the nutty scheme.
Friday, April 13, 2007
As part of their annual performance evaluations, female civil servants must write down their "detailed menstrual history and history of LMP [last menstrual period] including date of last confinement [maternity leave]," according to the newly-issued evaluation form.
After the uproar spread, no one could be reached for comment-- and officials who did speak on the record are already backing away from the whole mess.
Read more details here and here.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The question is-- did the mouse crawl in, or did the patient try to eat it? We probably won't find out before the 15-minute clock runs out.
On the Iraq war:
What victory is possible in such a scorpion-filled labyrinth? Bush will just stubbornly let the carnage of brave soldiers and hapless civilians go on until he's helicoptered off the South Lawn of the White House on Inauguration Day 2009. Blood is Bush's legacy.
On Bill Clinton's national security advisor:
I also agree about the fiasco of Sandy Berger's tenure as national security advisor -- a crucial and ultra-sensitive post for which he had shockingly weak credentials. The nation has paid the price for that botched appointment in our lack of preparation for 9/11 -- whose likelihood was signaled by the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, an ominous episode that the Clinton administration largely ignored.
On global warming:
I am a skeptic about what is currently called global warming. I have been highly suspicious for years about the political agenda that has slowly accrued around this issue. As a lapsed Catholic, I detest dogma in any area. Too many of my fellow Democrats seem peculiarly credulous at the moment, as if, having ground down organized religion into nonjudgmental, feel-good therapy, they are hungry for visions of apocalypse. From my perspective, virtually all of the major claims about global warming and its causes still remain to be proved.
Read all of her column here.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
In 2000, Katherine Knight, a former slaughterhouse worker, stabbed her common-law husband then skinned his body, cooked his flesh with vegetables and made a soup out of his head.
Roughan and Jones' victim, Morgan Jay Shepard, had been drinking with his killers in a Brisbane youth hostel when a fight broke out. The fight ended with Shepherd being stabbed 133 times and decapitated.
Roughan and Jones had sought to blame each other for Shepherd's death. Police found a tomahawk, knife, handsaw and pruning saw stained with the victim's blood in Roughan's shed, as well as blood-stained clothing containing Jones's DNA.
During and after the killing, Shepherd's head was used as a bowling ball and a hand puppet before it was buried in a shallow grave at Dayboro, northwest of Brisbane.
Read more details here.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Holden Gothia, now 7 weeks old, was found on a bed in his mother's apartment covered in blood. His genitals were severed and there was a deep cut in his upper leg.
According to the doctors, the injuries were not consistent with dog bites — the lacerations were too neat. But Holden's mother, the only person who might have the answers, has checked into a treatment program and refuses to cooperate with police. No charges have been filed.
More details here.
But what is clearly ridiculous are the statements being made by Representative Mike Pence (R-IN). Pence said he was deeply moved by his ability to "mix and mingle unfettered among ordinary Iraqis" and to have tea and haggle over the price of a rug. The Shorja market, he said, was "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summer time."
According to a Washington Post report, Amir Raheem, 32 , a floor carpeting merchant at the Shorja market, disagreed with the upbeat assessment of the congressional visitors. "Just yesterday, an Iraqi soldier was shot in his shoulder by a sniper, and the day before, two civilians were shot by a sniper as well," he said. He said Sunni insurgents routinely clashed with Shiite militiamen or with Iraqi soldiers and policemen in the area. "Everybody closes their shops by 2:30 p.m.," Raheem said.
Although the congressional delegation reported seeing crowds of Iraqis shopping in the market, Raheem said the number represented a sliver of the customers he used to see. "It is not even 10 percent of our work before the bombings, because people are afraid to come," he said. Worse, he said, the closure of the main street by barriers has affected his business. If it was so safe, he said, "let them open the street, for the market has died since they put them there."
The Los Angeles Times mocked Pence's remarks in an editorial over the weekend, by describing what a trip to the market in Indiana would be like if Pence's observations were correct:
My wife came into the living room wearing a Kevlar vest, helmet and night-vision goggles.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Have you completely forgotten, silly head? We're going to the market." [...]
Carol helped the boys get ready, putting on their sneakers and body armor. I phoned the Indiana National Guard so that they could radio the 434th Special Air Wing at Grissom Air Force Base, which in turn scrambled two F-14 Tomcats. Then we hopped in the wagon. [...]
The F-14s flew by low. Each of us activated our earpieces and hand-held mini walkie-talkies, agreed on a frequency, and I slowed the car to 15 mph as Carol and the boys opened the doors and rolled out, taking cover under shrubbery near the Bibb lettuce stand (the boys love salad!).
So far, so good. [...]
Carol, I noticed, had found cover behind the wall of a largely destroyed warehouse. A sniper had a bead on the glint from her eyeglasses, which the afternoon sunshine had caught (Indiana is known for its beautiful summers). [...]
A CBU-52B cluster bomb exploded to our left, and I hit the gas. We could see the boys ahead, waving flares in the dense smoke. I didn't stop the car completely. Kevin threw Chip in first, then jumped in himself.
"You kids have fun?" Carol asked.
"Yeah!" said Chip.
"He was holding a loaf of bread and it got blown out of his hand!"
"It was so awesome, Mum."
We all laughed. Really hard. That's how shopping is in Indiana in the summer. It's just fun. It's fun and safe and hopeful and full of warm and welcoming Indianans and insurgents and snipers and bombs.
Here's hoping that your trip to the market this week isn't so eventful!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Well Benny, I can think of one rich and powerful nation that fits that description-- and it sits on a 100-acre enclave in the middle of Rome. If you feel so bad about countries who have plundered the culture of Africa, start by returning the Vatican's grand collection of Ancient Egyptian material (valued in the billions) to Cairo.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
14-year-old Sandoval Bautista told police he committed the killing because the girl's father had called him "graniento," or "zit-face." The boys neighbors said the boy had long shown signs of disturbed behavior, including masturbating in public and eviscerating cats.
More details here.
The scandal unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.
[Bush's Justice Department] has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.
At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.
Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.
At the same time, career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant's fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions.
Read the entire editorial here.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Loic Pillois and Guilhem Nayral disappeared on February 14, having set off from the Grand Kanori rapids bound for the village of Saul. Guilhem's brother Gilles said "they ate palm seeds, insects, tarantulas and two turtles" to survive.
34-year-old Pillois emerged from the jungle outside Saul at 10 am Thursday morning and told authorities that his friend (34-year-old Guilhem) was about six hours' walk away to the south.
A search party eventually found Nayral and airlifted him out by helicopter. According to one of the rescuers, Guilhem was "stretched out on the ground, completely exhausted, very thin, and dehydrated." He added, "When I took him in my arms, he burst into tears."
When examined by doctors, Nayral had lost about 45 pounds and he had lost feeling in his tongue due to the poison from a spider he had eaten without having cooked it enough.
About 40 police and soldiers had searched for the pair for three weeks, on land and by helicopter. The search was suspended in late March. The hikers, who remain hospitalized-- had maps and compasses but no GPS navigation.
He was talking to Sid Rosenberg about the Women's NCAA Championship game. Imus started out talking about the Rutgers team as, "some rough girls from Rutgers. They got tattoos," and then went on to call them "some nappy-headed hos." He compared them to the Tennessee team, saying "The girls from Tennessee -- they all looked cute."
The conversation then went on to compare the game to "the jigaboos versus the wannabes." According to transcripts, the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, made that comment.
Imus was later quoted by the New York Times to say that people should relax and not worry about "some idiot comment meant to be amusing." A Rutgers spokesperson issued a statement saying, "We agree with Mr. Imus that this was, in his own words, an idiot comment."
"We did suspect him of swallowing the ring," said Major Dave Zink of the Jackson Township Police Department. "We were going to X-ray him-- instead, we alerted the jail that whenever he had a movement to scrutinize it."
Sure enough, one course of prison cuisine was all it took. Stark County sanitary workers were called to the county jail and sucked the ring-laden turd out of the toilet.
How could authorities be sure the diamond ring, in an 18-karat white gold setting, was taken from the jewelry store robbery in question? It still had a price tag, according to the county sheriff's office. The sheriff's office photographed the ring and tagged it as evidence to be turned over to the township police department.
"It's pretty difficult for them to say they weren't involved now," Zink said.
According to the BBC report (with picture), attacks like this are rare in Ethiopia; but women's groups say that stalking and sexual harassment are common problems. A United Nations report published late last year said that almost 60% of Ethiopian women were subjected to sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Who is Shaha Riza? She's a World Bank employee who was detailed to the State Dept. after World Bank lawyers pointed out to Wolfowitz that it would be an ethics violation for him to supervise someone he's sleeping with. Read all of the juicy details at the Huffington Post.
No more than a handful of people on the list are U.S. citizens-- but that hasn't stopped U.S. businesses from using it to screen applicants for mortages, car loans, and housing. Post 9/11, the Bush administration hastily pushed through a broadly-worded law that says anyone who does business with a person or group on the list risks penalties of up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison.
"The law is ridiculous," said Tom Hudson, a lawyer in Hanover, Md., who nontheless advises car dealers to use the list to avoid penalties. "It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who's on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law."
Faced with such a long and hard-to-read list, it's not hard to imagine that many business would rather discriminate against innocent folks than face a $10 million fine. Even worse, the Treasury website contains no instructions or procedures for reporting inaccuracies or requesting corrections to the list.
The Washington Post article details several cases of people denied loans and mortages, and whose credit reports remain permanently "black marked" due to similarities to names on the OFAC list. The list contains hundreds of variations on such names as Alvarez, Garcia, Gomez, Gonzalez, Hernandez, Lopez, Munoz, Ramirez, and Rodriguez-- so it's likely that Hispanics are also being victimized disproportionally (in addition to anyone with a remotely Middle-eastern sounding name).
The 2008 elections may be around the corner, but who and when will 7 years of damage be undone?
On March 19, a dishevelled young man wandered into a Carabinieri police station at Vercelli, between Turin and Milan. He said he had no idea who he was, or why he was there.
Rewind to three days earlier: A landlord in the town of Bergamo-- more than 70 miles away from Carabinieri, breaks into one of her apartments. The tenant had not paid his rent and she wanted to know if he was still there. What she found was a scene out of a horror flick--the place was a complete mess, with signs everywhere that it had been used for a satanic rite. There were upturned crosses, and the walls and floor were smothered with over two dozen bizarre symbols written in blood. Police forensic experts estimated that as much as seven pints of blood had been used to create the symbols.
It was only a week or so later that police established that the apartment-- and the blood found splattered on its walls-- belonged to the mysterious young man who had turned up at the Carabinieri police station.
He has since been identified as Daniele (investigators have not released his last name) who, until recently, worked in a nearby factory. His family said his only real hobby was UFOs.
They told police that, last September, he had suddenly broken with his family and friends. He left his job and spent his savings, but kept in occasional contact with his parents, whom he now says he cannot recognize.. According to a report in the daily Corriere della Sera, psychiatrists who have examined Daniele are convinced he is not feigning amnesia. Doctors have found that he has a recent inch-long scar on his right arm, and a series of smaller puncture wounds on other parts of his body. There is no evidence that Daniele has taken drugs, and the puncture marks do not correspond to those left when blood is extracted via any medical procedures.
Among the puzzles vexing investigators are how a man who had lost seven pints of blood could have made his way 70 miles across country - and what happened to him during the three days that he was missing.
Domenico Chiaro, the prosecutor who has taken up the case, has said he is treating it as a case of attempted murder. But he and the police are hampered by a number of factors. The hard drive in Daniele's computer is missing, as is the SIM card of his mobile phone. As for the young man himself, all he can offer them is the faint recollection of an abbey-- nothing more.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
"Children are purchased like buffaloes," said Bhuvan Ribhu of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), quoting a study that is due to be released later this year. "While buffaloes may cost up to 15,000 rupees ($350), children are sold at prices between 500 and 2,000 rupees ($12 and $45)," he told Reuters.
For instance, two brothers in Bihar were recently given away for 250 rupees ($6) each by their parents and trafficked out of the state in connivance with police, Ribhu said.
The group estimates that children account for 40 to 50 percent of all victims of human trafficking. They are sold to work as domestic laborers, or in the carpet industry, on farms or as commercial sex workers. The traffickers-police connection was so strong in some parts of the country that traffickers scout freely and children rescued from brothels and bonded labor were often victims again, he said.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
In an interview published today, Rolling Stones' Keith Richards admitted sinking to a new low-- he mixed his dead father's ashes with cocaine and snorted them. He said of the experience, "It went down pretty well. And I'm still alive." In another portion of the interview, he confessed:
I've no pretensions about immortality. I'm the same as everyone else-- same as you, same as everybody, I'm the same old bastard, just kind of lucky. I was number one on the 'Who's Likely To Die' list for ten years. I mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list.
Read the full article at the Daily Mail online.
The whole business [of climate change] is eerily religious in feel. Back in the 15th century, the question was: Do you believe in Christ? It was required in Spain by the Inquisition that the answer should be affirmative, leaving to one side subsidiary specifications.
It is required today to believe that carbon-dioxide emissions threaten the basic ecological balance. The assumption then is that inasmuch as a large proportion of the damage is man-made, man-made solutions are necessary.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there certainly exists enough other reasons for us to look for alternative sources of energy. And quite frankly, I'm getting sick of reading the "competing" stories/spin doctors regarding this whole debate. I wish that both sides of this (now) political issue would keep in mind that climate change is science-- and people should be able to question current theory (yes, theory-- we don't have reliable temperature stats going back far enough to to cement things as fact, folks) without being marginalized or dismissed.
Royal sources confirmed that Prince Charles recently utilized a Royal Flight HS125 at RAF Lyneham near his Highgrove home to take him, wife Camilla and a small entourage of aides to Aberdeen.
His flight put him on a collision course with environmentalists who estimated the flight would have a carbon footprint of 15,000 kg per passenger. Analysts Best Foot Forward said a commercial flight would have resulted in a far less damaging carbon emission of 435kg per person as it would have had more passengers.
Travelling by car would more than half that figure to 180kg and going by train via London would be the greenest option with a estimated carbon emission of 60kg.
Joss Garman, a campaigner for green pressure group, Plane Stupid said: "This is the third time in as many months that he has taken a private jet when he could have taken a more environmentally sustainable means of transport. "It is frustrating and disappointing that someone who styles himself as a green leader and should be leading an example, behaves in such a manner when everyone else is doing their best to cut emissions. This is exactly the type of unnecessary flight that we should be cutting down on."
Charles vowed last December to "substantially" curb his reliance on gas-guzzling transport in favor of scheduled commercial flights and train travel.
And a month later he turned down a private jet and took 20 members of his staff business class on a British Airways jet to New York to collect an award marking his environmental awareness.
In his speech, Charles said climate change "was a war we simply have to win". And he was applauded when he added: "It is surely the duty of each and every one of us to find out what we can do to make the situation better." Nonetheless green campaigners and Environment Minister David Miliband said he could have accepted the award by video link.
In February, though, he reverted back to his "eco-unfriendly" ways by hiring a 140-seater private plane to fly his 20-member entourage to the Gulf region. During the trip, Camilla came under fire-- hold onto your hats-- for flying a pair of stilettos from Highgrove to the Gulf after she realized she had landed in Kuwait without them. In the end, she didn't even wear the shoes.
Carbon footprints-- a measure of our impact on the environment-- are calculated on the amount of polluting carbon dioxide produced by everything from turning on a light to taking a flight.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Justice John Stevens called the harms associated with climate change "serious"-- harms which may be realized generations down the road. Today, however, almost 400 human beings remain imprisoned by the U.S. with no end in sight. None has had a hearing in court challenging their detention, and only 10 have even been charged with a crime.
See article on climate change ruling here; story on detainee appeal ruling here.
I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe.
Read the rest of Terry Jones' commentary at the Guardian Unlimited website.
Prince William of England got a little frisky when posing for a photograph with Brazilian student Ana Ferreira at a nightclub last week. According to her, "he has big manly hands and certainly knows what to do with them."
Arthur Bulmer s seafront garden became carpeted after a week of storms swept tons of sand from the beach across the road. It seemed like common sense to shovel it into his wheelbarrow and take it back, load by load, to its rightful place. But the local council did not share Mr. Bulmer's idea of logic.
Doing that, they told him, would class as littering (a.k.a., "fly-tipping"), for which the maximum penalty is a 50,000 fine or six months in jail. And he would also have his wheelbarrow confiscated.
More details here.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
The sculpture "My Sweet Lord" by Cosimo Cavallaro was to have been exhibited for two hours each day this week in a street-level window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.
The display had been scheduled to open on Monday, days ahead of Good Friday when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus. But protests including a call to boycott the affiliated Roger Smith Hotel forced the gallery to scrap the showing. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had called for a boycott of the hotel, writing to 500 religious and secular organizations.
"This is an assault on Christians during Holy Week," said Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications for the league, which describes itself as the largest U.S. Catholic civil-rights group. "They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammad naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan," she said before the cancellation.
The archbishop of New York called the sculpture "scandalous" and a "sickening display. This is something we will not forget," Cardinal Edward Egan said in a statement.
Matthew Semler, the artistic director of the gallery, said the work was not irreverent. "It's intended as a meditation on the Holy Week," Semler said of the sculpture, which depicts Jesus as if on the cross. Easter Sunday, this year April 8, is celebrated as the day of Jesus' resurrection.
Daily Dude readers can go here to check out the frontal view. According to the artist, Cosimo Cavallaro, offers are already pouring from those who (presumably) would like to see the confection in their Easter baskets.
He was formally convicted this weekend of providing material support to terrorism and will receive a maximum of seven years in jail as part of a plea deal agreed this week. The following conditions were part of Hicks' plea deal:
- Hicks agreed that he would get no credit for the five years he has already been incarcerated at Guantanamo;
- Hicks was required to sign away any rights to sue the U.S. for any illegal treatment that he had received (although the U.S. would not admit that he actually did receive illegal treatment);
- Hicks will be banned from speaking to the media for one year;
- Any money Hicks makes from selling his story will go to the Australian Government;
- Hicks was required to sign a statement that he had "never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States".
In the hearing, the prosecutor warned Hicks that if his guilty plea was not genuine and was being offered only to escape Guantanamo Bay, he would be prosecuted for perjury.
Hicks, who is said to have renounced Islam while in prison, took the oath before giving an explanation of behavior, swearing to tell the truth "so help me God".
In the confession, Hicks testified to the following:
- In January 2001 he traveled to Afghanistan with the assistance of the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba to attend an al-Qaeda training camp;
- He went to an eight-week training camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he learned about weapons, land mines, explosives and tactics;
- He attended a second training course in April 2001 on guerilla warfare and mountain tactics. It was during this course that he met Osama bin Laden. When bin Laden arrived at the camp, the recruits had their weapons taken away and were lined up when he spoke to them;
- He had asked bin Laden why al-Qaeda's training manuals were not in English;
- He attended a third training course in June 2001 on urban fighting, which included sniper training and techniques on kidnapping and assassination;
- He conducted surveillance of the former American embassy in Kabul;
- Two days before the September 11 attacks, he left Afghanistan, traveling to Pakistan. He saw the television coverage of the World Trade Center attacks there. The next day, he returned to Afghanistan;
- He was at Kandahar's airport when the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan began on October 7;
- He served guard duty outside the airport for about a week from October 10-17;
- He then went to the front lines in Konduz, but fled when they were overrun. He was captured while trying to flee the country using his Australian passport.
Prosecutors had sought, but failed, to get Hicks to confess that he had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and that he had met American Taliban member John Walker Lindh and/or the British shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Hicks's father, Terry, said: " He's had five years of absolute hell [in Guantanamo]. I think anyone in that position-- if they were offered [any kind of deal]-- they would take it."
As of this weekend, approximately 385 people remain indefinitely imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.
Story: Mark Coultan of the Sydney Morning Herald