Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh Yeah-- Like We Can Believe Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that he is a "big fan" of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In an interview with CBS News,the vice president also said Gonzales has been truthful in his testimony before Congress.

Gonzales has received little or no support from Republicans. The situation is so dire, that Fox News was unable to find any Republican to defend Gonzales on any of its Sunday talk shows discussing the embattled Gonzales or the U.S. Attorney firings.

First Down, Three More To Go

Yesterday, Tony "T" Taylor pleaded guilty to a series of charges related to illegal dog-fighting and has agreed to cooperate with federal agents in the prosecution of three conspirators-- including Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

According to court documents posted at the Smoking Gun, Michael Vick provided nearly 100% of the funding to buy the property (at 1915 Moonlight Road in Smithfield, VA), purchase the dogs, and run the gambling operation. Although Vick is never alleged to have actually killed any of the dogs, he is described as having been present at several fights and was aware of how and when various animals were killed if they didn't perform up to expectations.

What is potentially devastating for Vick is the following statement included in those court documents:
Taylor agrees that "Bad News Kennels" qualifies as a "business enterprise" that engaged in a continuous course of conduct and series of transactions in furtherance of the dog fighting operation from the time of its creation to his departure in September 2004.

To put it bluntly, it looks as if the Feds are laying the groundwork for filing RICO charges against Vick and his friends. What makes that particularly dangerous for Vick is that under a RICO investigation, the government (in addition to seeking up to 20 years in prison) can seize any and all money and assets if they can prove that were obtained or associated with by the "racketeering activity."

Catching Up With Casa D'Ice

Bill Balsamico, owner and operator of the Casa D'Ice Bar and Lounge in Versailles, Pennsylvania is still up to his old tricks-- posting words of wisdom on the sign in his parking lot. Before we start keeping up with his new "works of art", I thought we should catch up on some of his classics from years past:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Time For The King Of Pork To Face The Butcher?

Late today, agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service searched the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (the Republican "King of Pork"). The Justice Department has been looking into the seven-term senator's relationship with Veco Corp, as part of a public corruption investigation.

One of the issues in the investigation is whether Veco, in return for political favors, paid for the renovation project that doubled the size of his Girdwood, Alaska house back in 2000.

It all started when local contractor Augie Paone was hired by Veco CEO Bill Allen to renovate the senator's house in Girdwood (about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage). Who is Bill Allen? He's the guy who pled guilty in May to federal conspiracy and bribery charges for “giving things of value” to local lawmakers. (In court documents on the case, Veco pointedly stated that it "was not in the business of residential construction or remodeling." Point well taken.

According to the arrangements made with the contractor, Paone would present renovation bills to Veco and would sometime thereafter receive payments from Senator Stevens. Interesting arrangement. A few weeks ago, Senator Stevens defended himself this way:
"As a practical matter, I will tell you. We paid every bill that was given to us. Every bill that was sent to us has been paid, personally, with our own money, and that's all there is to it. It's our own money."

Notice that Stevens didn't say that he paid for the entire renovation-- he just says that every bill that was presented was paid. So who exactly was sending Stevens the invoices, and did they represent the total amount of the renovation?

And by the way, do we really know who Stevens means by the word "we"? If his use of the royal "we" should include Bill Allen, for instance, then Stevens can claim later on that his "denial" was factually correct.

Why should we be so suspicious of Ted Stevens? A few highlights from Steven's political career:

In 1997, Stevens invested $50,000 with Alaska developer Jonathan B. Rubini. In 2002, Rubini bought back the senator's interests in his firm for $872,000. During that five-year investment period, Stevens steered a $450 million contract to Rubini to build and own housing at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.

Stevens has long been accused of doing favors for organizations which employed his son Ben. In late 2003, Stevens secured a $29 million earmark for the "Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board," which was chaired (at that time) by Ben Stevens. In December 2005, Stevens helped secure a $10 million earmark for a fishing venture for which Ben secretly held an investment option.

In October 2005, Stevens threatened to resign from the Senate if lawmakers passed language that would have stripped $223 million allocated for the Gravina Island Bridge in Alaska (the "Bridge to Nowhere") and redirected it to Hurricane Katrina repairs in Louisiana. Gravina island has 50 residents. The ten-minute ferry ride to the mainland runs every 30 minutes.

In June 2006, Stevens gave the widely-ridiculed "series of tubes" speech, where he likened the Internet to a series of tubes that could be clogged with information. He also complained that "an internet was sent" by his staff which took five days to arrive because of commercial traffic.

In the Bolivian jungle, roughly 1,500 Bolivian soldiers camp out each night at U.S. taxpayer expense, as part of the "war on drugs". They are offered three meals and a snack each day as part of a $31 million State Department effort to stop the cocaine trade at its source. Until this spring, the troops were fed by a local Bolivian company, contracted via a competitive process for $3.34 per soldier per day. But in March, the same contract was awarded -- without competition -- to an Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo firm, Olgoonik Management Services. The new cost is $5.16 per soldier per day, an increase of 54 percent, or about $1 million more each year.

Green Bay Crackers

A couple who locked their 7-year-old son in his room with a bucket for a toilet while they watched Packers games at the local casino were sentenced to less than a year in jail last week. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner called the couple's actions "abhorrent" and ordered them to undergo psychological screening.

Melanie Hardrath, 30, and her 39-year-old boyfriend, Scott Scherer, admitted locking Hardrath's son in his room with a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly, and a bucket that he would have to clean if he was forced to use it as a toiler while they were gone. They had enough money to hire a baby sitter, said Assistant District Attorney Chris Liege, who showed the judge photographs of the couple's extensive collection of Packers memorabilia.

Judge Wagner scolded Hardrath and Scherer, a former youth counselor, for not thinking about what would happen if the boy got sick or the house caught fire while they were at the casino. He sentenced Hardrath to seven months in a county jail and Scherer to nine months. Both will serve four years of probation, with a stayed sentence of two years in prison and more extended supervision.

The couple's defense attorney was at a loss for explaining their behavior. "What do you do?" he asked the judge in court. "Maybe this coming football season, lock them in a room with a bucket and make them watch Bears games."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

TSA Knew Stories of "Terrorist Dry Runs" Were Fake

CNN has reported that the Transportation Security Agency national security bulletin issued last week was based on bogus examples that were combined to give the impression of ominous terrorist plotting.

"That bulletin . . . told of suspicious items recently found in passenger's bags at airport checkpoints, warned that they may signify dry runs for terrorist attacks," CNN's Brian Todd reported Friday afternoon. "Well it turns out none of that is true."

In his report, Todd introduces us to Sara Weiss, a nice lady from San Diego who was carrying some ice-packs on her trip to treat her bad back. Because she worked for a religious organization whose goal was to promote good will between religious groups, she was carrying a survey on the attitudes and beliefs of Muslim Americans-- which apparently tipped the scale of suspicion against her. Weiss was held for three hours before security officials realized their mistake and released her.

The FBI still maintain "they were right" in putting the bogus reports on the TSA bulletin, since airport security officers must be trained in identifying suspicious packages, even when those packages turn out to be innocuous.

Royal Pains

Three Arab princesses were thrown off a packed British Airways flight after refusing to sit next to male passengers they didn't know. The dispute arose when the three women from the ultra-conservative Qatar royal family demanded segregated seating. The incident left the London-bound plane delayed on a baking-hot Italian runway for nearly three hours.

Furious passengers whistled and clapped as the conflict intensified before the captain eventually ordered the women to be escorted off the plane.

As reported by the Daily Mail, the women were returning from a day's shopping in Milan. They arrived at the city's Linate airport and boarded Heathrow-bound flight BA 563, which was due to take off at 4pm. The women, all relatives of the oil-rich emir of Qatar, Bader Bin Khalifa Al Thani, were booked into business class in a party of eight which included the emir and an entourage of cooks, servants and other staff.

Instead of reserving seats (in advance) to accommodate their preferences or making arrangements with the stewards before the plant left the gate, the Qatar royal party waited until the plane had taxied out onto the runway. At that point, the two senior male members of the entourage got up to protest about where the women were sitting.

According to the customs of Qatar and other Gulf states, women are not allowed to mix with men who are not relatives. Cabin crew tried to rearrange the seats but passengers travelling together refused to give up their assigned seating. The captain tried to mediate but after more than two and a half hours of wrangling he ordered the bulk of their royal party off the plane.

A BA spokesman said: "The people were offloaded because they failed to comply with safety instructions when the aircraft was taxiing. Two passengers stood up and refused to sit down." A spokesman at the Qatar embassy in Rome said: "This was a private matter and we have nothing to say."

"Red-Blooded" Political Appointees

A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a Bush appointee with no health care experience. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was "called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, 'You don't get it.' " He said a senior official told him that "this will be a political document, or it will not be released."

After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. A few days before the end of Carmona's term as the nation's senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed. In a written statement, Steiger claimed that "political considerations" did not delay the report; "sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor did."

Three people involved in the preparation of the report in 2005 said it received largely positive reviews from global health experts both inside and outside the government, prompting wide optimism that the report would be publicly released that year. Carmona was expected to unveil the report during his keynote address at a June 2005 global health summit in Philadelphia-- but he was not cleared by HHS political appointees to release it there. Richard Walling, a former career official in the HHS global health office who oversaw the draft, said Steiger was the official who blocked its release.

37-year-old Steiger is a godson of former president George H.W. Bush and the son of a Republican who represented Wisconsin in the House and hired a young Dick Cheney as an intern. The elder Bush appointed Steiger's mother to the Federal Trade Commission in 1989. Steiger's parents, now deceased, were "lifelong friends" of the Rumsfelds and the Bushes. Steiger is currently awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as Bush's ambassador to Mozambique.

According to the Wapo article, Public health advocates have accused Steiger of political meddling before. He briefly attained notoriety in 2004 by demanding changes in the language of an international report on obesity. The report was opposed by some U.S. food manufacturers and the sugar industry. "I fought for my last year to try to get it out and couldn't get it past the initial vetting," Carmona testified earlier this month. "I refused to release it [with the requested changes] . . . because it would tarnish the office of the surgeon general when our colleagues saw us taking a political stand." Thomas Novotny, a former assistant surgeon general who ran the global health office before Steiger, said, "It's embarrassing, just ridiculous that the report hasn't come out." Novotny, who served at HHS in the Clinton and in both Bush administrations, said that many nations have made health issues central to their foreign relations and trade policies, but that the United States has been reluctant to embrace that idea.

Another report initiated by Carmona that top HHS officials suppressed was a "Call to Action on Corrections and Community Health." It says that the public has a large stake in the health of the 2 million men and women who are behind bars, and in the health care available to them in their communities after their release. The report recommends enhanced health screenings for those arrested and their victims; better disease surveillance in prisons; and ready access to medical, mental health and substance abuse prevention services for those released. But it is believed that the report has been bottled up at HHS because the potentially burdensome costs of the proposed health screenings and other recommendations would have a negative political impact on Bush's domestic agenda.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Naval Officer Gets Downright Petty

A Navy man who got mad when someone mocked him as a "nerd" over the Internet climbed into his car and drove 1,300 miles from Virginia to Texas to teach the other guy a lesson.

As he made his way toward Texas, 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares posted photos online showing the welcome signs at several states' borders, as if to prove to his Internet friends that he meant business. When he finally arrived in Elm Mott, Texas, Tavares burned John Anderson's trailer down. Tavares, who went by the screen name of "PyroDice" was charged with arson in the incident.

"I didn't think anybody was stupid enough to try to kill anybody over an Internet fight," said 59-year-old Anderson, who suffered smoke inhalation while trying to put out the 2005 blaze that caused $50,000 in damage to his trailer and computer equipment.

The online feud with Tavares started when Anderson, who runs a haunted house near Waco, joined a picture-sharing Web site and posted his political views. After the exchange of political ideas became heated, Anderson blocked some people from his page because of insults and foul language. Tavares and his online friends retaliated by making obscene digitally altered pictures of Anderson.

Investigators say Tavares boiled over when Anderson called him a nerd and posted a digitally altered photo making Tavares look like a skinny boy in high-water pants, holding a gun and a laptop under a "Revenge of the Nerds" sign.

Tavares had initially tried to claim that his stop in the Waco area was only a last-minute decision during a cross-country trip to visit his parents in Arizona. He eventually pleaded no-contest to the charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Tavares was discharged last year from the Navy, where he had earned several medals — including the pistol expert and rifle expert medals — in his nine-year career, said Navy spokesman Mike McLellan.

As If We Needed More Proof That Barry Bonds Is An Asshole . . .

On this week's edition of HBO's "Costas Now," commissioner Bud Selig, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and chemist Patrick Arnold discussed Bonds, his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record and suspicions that Bonds has used steroids. Schilling and Arnold both said they believed Bonds had taken performance-enhancing drugs. (See other details of Costa's HBO report here)

Before Wednesday's game against the Atlanta Braves the next day, Barry Bonds was asked if he had seen the show and had any comments. His response? "You mean that little midget man who absolutely knows jack shit about baseball? Who never played the game? I saw it." Bonds later in the week admitted that he hadn't actually seen the show at the time, but added, "Bob Costas can kiss my ass. He's not an athlete and he doesn't know shit about baseball."

In a phone interview on Thursday, Bob Costas said he wasn't upset with the San Francisco Giants slugger, saying, "I've actually always had a pretty cordial relationship with Barry. I have no ill feelings toward him personally. I regard him as one of the greatest players of all time who got an inauthentic boost and then became a superhuman player. I wish him no ill whatsoever." Costas said that he understands why Bonds would denigrated him. "He's under tremendous scrutiny and some pressure. It's no big deal. This is a consequence of doing your job, and I've never tried to do my job in any case with the intention of calling attention to myself. I think if people watch the program, they can judge for themselves."

Responding specifically to being called a midget, Costas quipped, "As anyone can plainly see, I'm 5-6 1/2 and a strapping 150, and unlike some people, I came by all of it naturally."

When Barry Bonds was later told of Costas' comment about coming by his physique naturally, Bonds responded, "How do you know?" before going on to say he didn't care.

Pentagon Playing It Safe . . . and Its Safety

The Associated Press obtained copies of documents this week that provided more credence to what many have long suspected-- that Corporal Pat Tillman was murdered by his fellow soldiers. The documents shed new light on the medical details of Tillman's death, the cover up that followed it, and a glimpse into the moments just before he died.

New Medical Details:

From the very beginning, Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors (whose names were blacked out) said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was killed by an M-16 fired from less than 10 yards away.

Investigators pressed officers and soldiers on a question Tillman's mother has been asking all along. "Have you, at any time since this incident occurred back on April 22, 2004, have you ever received any information even rumor that Cpl. Tillman was killed by anybody within his own unit intentionally?" an investigator asked then-Capt. Richard Scott. Scott, and others who were also asked that same question demurred, saying they were certain the shooting was accidental.

According to the newly-obtained documents, no evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.

Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, who has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades, said she is still looking for answers and looks forward to the congressional hearings next week.

The Cover Up:

The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman's death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.

The new reports document how Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative (i.e. non-criminal) punishments.

The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions. At one point, he said: "You've got me really scared about my brain right now. I'm really having a problem."

Last Moments Before Tillman's Death:

It has been widely reported that Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat fucking Tillman, damn it!" again and again.

But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed. The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, "crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, 'Would you shut your fucking mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."

In a public statement, Tillman's mother said this week: "Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It's about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived," she said.

(Not So) Good Humor Man

An ice cream vendor in Pittsburgh is facing assault charges for dishing out cuss-words and threats instead of custard and treats. Police say that Nazzareno Didiano, 46, physically blocked an entrance to Mellon Park to prevent a rival vendor from pulling in. He then began screaming and cursing at vendor (whose children were in the truck, saying she was hurting his business.

He then went to the back of his truck and pulled out a knife and threatened her before slashing her truck's tires.

Didiano has been accused of a meltdown before. A couple of years ago, he got involved in a scuffle with a 13-year-old boy. At the time, Didiano told police the boy cursed at him and his prices. The boy claimed Didiano wouldn't sell him ice cream because he said he was fat.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"The Simpsons Movie" Opens Today

Pagans have been ruffled by a giant drawing of Homer Simpson that has appeared in a field next to their famous fertility symbol in Dorset. The giant drawing of Homer brandishing a doughnut, was painted next to the famous figure in a publicity stunt to promote the release of "The Simpsons Movie". However, pagans are not happy that the cartoon character appears directly next to the Cerne Abbas giant – a 17th century chalk outline of a naked sexually aroused giant believed to be an ancient symbol of fertility.

Royal Screw Job

A judge on the Spanish National court has decreed that all copies of a popular magazined be confiscated, and has brought charges against the magazine's publishers, due to a cartoon that alleges to have insulted the royal family.

Judge Juan Del Olmo ordered police to round up copies of El Jueves, whose front page carried a drawing of Crown Prince Felipe having sex with his wife and commenting on a government plan to give parents 2,500 € for each child born. In his writ, del Olmo stated that the cartoon is “clearly denigrating and objectively slanderous.”

Spanish media almost uniformly derided the judge's decision to pull the issue, saying it trampled freedom of expression in a first-world democracy.

"Just imagine if you end up pregnant," the cartoon Felipe says to his wife, Letizia, who is bent over on the bed in front of him. "This will be the closest thing to work I've ever done in my life."

Under Spanish law, the heads of El Jueves magazine face a prison term of between six months and two years if found guilty of slander against the Crown, as set out in two articles of the Penal Code.

“Our goal was to poke fun at Zapatero’s campaign promise — there was no other motive,” said El Jueves co-publisher José Luis Martín. The cartoonist, Guillermo, said that the court decision is “a real blunder” that will not favor the Crown, because now “the drawing will show up everywhere.” Guillermo, went on to claim that the couple shown is not in fact Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, but Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Investigating One's Crime Scene

As reported by the Florida Sun-Sentinel, a Broward County jail inmate accused of masturbating in his cell while a female deputy watched him on closed-circuit television was convicted of indecent exposure this week. The jury took 45 minutes to convict Terry Lee Alexander of the misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to 60 extra days in jail. He could have received a maximium one-year sentence.

Alexander, 20, was sitting on his bunk alone in his cell "choking the turkey" last November when a female deputy, monitoring his cell from a nearby control room, took offense. Alexander's court-appointed defense attorney, Kathleen McHugh, said her client did nothing wrong, he was alone, and his cell, tantamount to his home, is not open to the public.

"I think the government's gone awry," McHugh said. "Has it been a slow year in crime that they've got to go prosecute masturbation in the Broward County Jail? Aren't there more heinous crimes to prosecute, like drug trafficking or sexual predators?"

Were it not for the masturbation charge, Alexander would have moved to the state prison system months ago, as a result of his conviction on armed robbery charges. But in the meantime, Broward taxpayers have been footing the bill — $91.29 a day — to keep Alexander in the main jail while the indecent exposure case has worked its way to a trial date. The grand total for Alexander's incarceration in that case is nearly $21,000. On top of that, the public will pay $1,150 for his attorney. Critics are appalled at what they call a deputy's "moral crusade" and question the value of prosecuting such cases.

The Daily Dude will spare you all the snide comments on "justice gone blind", "doing hard time", the "penal" system, or "behaving like a jerk" (I've read them too many times on the web).

Apathy Unleashed

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

George "Orwell" Bush

ABC's Justin Rood reported today on the FBI's new plan (based on a directive from GW Bush) to recruit a nationwide network of everyday citizens to act as "informants". If you had any doubts left at this point, it seems quite certain to me that the "Orwellian" conversion of our society is just about complete.

In George Orwell's 1984, the function of the government's "Thought Police" was to impose a form of morality in order to control the actions of the masses. Today, we have the FCC (stocked with right wing appointees) essentially dictating (through the use of fines and license powers) what we can see on TV. Because of Bush's moral objections to the use of stem cells, scientists cannot freely perform genetic research and millions of sick people are denied potential cures and treatments. Because of right-wing objection to artificial birth control, millions of Africans are denied financial assistance and/or access to condoms for AIDS prevention. Despite abortion being legal, the administration deploys a wide array of strategies to restrict funding and/or access to doctors who are willing to perform abortions. The Bush administration is limiting military access to the internet and conducting secret funerals in order to hide the true horrors of Iraq and maintain what little support is left. Bush is currently against the expansion of health care to millions more children-- because he is afraid that such a successful health program might lead people to think that universal health care might actually work.

In Orwell's novel, technological advances are used to the benefit of the government and to exploit greater control over the masses. In the U.S., improved filtering software is used by the NSA to monitor internet email. The increased use of cell phones vs. land lines makes it easier to monitor phone calls, which is now legal thanks to the Patriot Act. Federal law now makes it mandatory that all new encryption technologies provide a "back door" for law enforcement, essentially eliminating any true sense of privacy. In the very near future, "On-Star" systems in all cars will make it possible for law enforcement to track and disable vehicles at will.

Orwell's totalitarian government uses elaborate strategies to deny the population the education needed to understand the potential for a better life. The Bush administration has done much to stiffen the rules for college loans and student aid and has never fully funded his 'No Child Left Behind Act'. Republican-appointed judges are systematically striking down race-based and need-based admission polices at universities. Anti-immigration conservatives nationwide are working to limit and/or eliminate immigrant access to state-provided education and health services.

1984's "Big Brother" also deceptively employed euphemisms and double-speak for propoganda purposes, as well as to disguise the real purpose of government initiatives. Here in the U.S., we have "Freedom" fries, the "Patriot" Act, the "Protection of Marriage" Act, the "War" on Terror, the "Healthy Forest" Initiative (which is actually a giveaway to the logging industry), the "Clear Skies" initiative (which actually would reduce air pollution controls), "Intelligent" Design, "Death Tax", and the "Class Action Fairness Act" (which actually tilts the 'fairness' scale more in favor of corporations instead of victims).

In Orwell's novel, people are indoctrinated from childhood to report any suspected criminals, even close friends and family members. Today, Homeland Security officials are constantly harping on the public to report even the slightest of suspicions to authorities. As mentioned above, the FBI is now recruiting for its own "domestic spy ring" made up of everyday people.

In Orwell's 1984 society, the government constantly revises the officials records of past events in order to reflect their ever-changing view of history. Just look at Attorney General Gonzales' repeated visits to Capitol Hill-- where he constantly revises his statements to cover up newly-uncovered lies and contradictions. For years, the White House has continually changed the "goal posts" in regard to success in Iraq, and has repeatedly trotted out Republican "make-up artists" to paint ever-more garish lipstick and rouge on an increasingly violent and grim civil war.

The ruling party in "1984" runs a shadowy ministry where opponents of the regime are tortured, but sometimes released (only to be captured at a later time). Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, etc-- need I say more?

In Orwell's cautionary view of the future, the threat of perpetual war is used to control the masses, deprive individuals of their basic rights, and control the flow of information. I think that future is already here.

Why Don't The Bushies Go Shop For a Different War?

Earlier this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) traveled to Iraq with a congressional delegation. In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune, she described the location of her meeting with General Petraeus (at a former palace in Baghdad) in the following way:
“It’s absolutely huge,” she said. “I turned to my colleagues and said there’s a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it’s on that proportion. There’s marble everywhere. The other thing I remarked about was there is water everywhere. He had man-made lakes all around his personal palace — one for fishing, one for boating.”

Thanks to John Aravosis at Americablog, we have the following quick comparison of Mall of America vs. Baghdad:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fruit Loopy

Elizabeth Edwards (wife of presidential candiate John Edwards) today said that she would no longer be eating tangerines, in the interest of helping eliminate global warming. She indicated that she was willing to sacrifice eating certain foods in order to reduce the "carbon footprint" incurred by transporting food that wasn't grown locally. There was no early indication from the campaign trail regarding Edwards' stance on the burgeoning 'tangelo' issue either.

A spokesman from the Duke University Medical and Fitness Center applauded the move, saying that a woman of Edward's height and weight should probably reduce her intake of fruit sugars anyway. Reporters were unable to obtain comment from singer Sheryl Crow on whether this bold new initiative from Edwards would be enough to allow the rest of the nation to resume the use of multiple sheets of toilet paper per restroom visit.

Republican critics pointed out it would certainly help to limit greenhouse gases if Edwards would just shut up to begin with. Others were now openly questioning whether it would be acceptable to eat fruit grown uphill so that gravity could be used for shipping. Many fear that such a plan would be impractical however, if rumors proved true that Congress was planning on introducing a bill outlawing gravity, due to its unfair burden on overweight poor people.

In an unrelated story, the Daily Dude announced today that he is giving up broccoli, as reduced flatulence and methane output will contribute further to a reduction in global warming.

Life In Prison For "Machete Melanie"

A former nurse was sentenced last week to life in prison for killing her husband, hacking up his body and stuffing his remains into designer suitcases that later washed ashore along Chesapeake Bay.

Melanie McGuire, 34, was convicted of murder and desecrating human remains in the 2004 death of William McGuire, 39. His body was found inside the couple's Kenneth Cole luggage in May 2004 near Norfolk, Va., nearly 300 miles from the couple's Woodbridge, N.J., apartment.

"The depravity of this murder simply shocks the conscience of this court," Judge Frederick DeVesa said in sentencing McGuire. During the trial, prosecutors argued that McGuire organized her husband's murder using her expertise as a nurse to drug him, shoot him and cut him up. They said she wanted to begin a new life with her lover -- her boss at a fertility clinic.

During the course of the trial earlier this year, the following sequence of events came to light:

April 26, 2004: Melanie McGuire purchased a gun in Pennsylvania.

April 27: William McGuire last day at work before a 2-week vacation.

April 28: William and Melanie McGuire closed on $500,000 house.

April 29: William left the couple's Woodbridge apartment at 2:30 am after a fight.

April 30: Grainy security footage showed McGuire's car being parked behind an Atlantic City motel

May 5: First suitcase containing body parts was found on island near Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

May 11: Second suitcase containing body parts was spotted on Fisherman's Island, on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

May 16: Boater found third suitcase floating in waters off a second island in the Chesapeake bay.

May 17: McGuire, failed to show up at work after vacation. Melanie called to ask if the office has heard from her husband.

May 21: Police in Virginia Beach released sketch of murder victim found in suitcases.

May 25: Melanie McGuire filed for divorce.

May 28: McGuire phoned her husband's workplace, told his boss that she had spoken with police and that McGuire was dead.

The New Jersey Attorney General took up the murder investigation after Virginia Beach detectives determined that McGuire likely was killed in New Jersey. Melanie McGuire was eventually arrested, charged with first-degree murder, and released on $750,000 bail. She was later indicted on additional counts after authorities say she wrote anonymous letters to throw detectives off her trail. She remained free after posting additional bail, for a total of $2.1 million.

During the trial earlier this year, Melanie McGuire's former lover, Bradley Miller, testified the couple were intending to leave their respective spouses and start a life together.

According to her defense team, Melanie McGuire had been abused by her husband and wanted to leave him. Her lawyers argued that the petite nurse was physically incapable of killing her 6-foot-3, 210-pound husband and that it would have been impossible to commit such a bloody crime without leaving behind physical evidence.

According to a Fox news report, Attorney Stephen Turano said his client planned to appeal. "She maintains her innocence," he said. McGuire, who cried as he sentence was read, had said in a television interview before the jury returned its verdict that she did not kill her husband. "No matter how I felt about my husband, I could not have done this to my sons," she said.

Poor Sports?

Booed at most stadiums across the country, Barry Bonds remains under a dark cloud of suspicion-- in the face of overwhelming evidence, most people now believe that he illegally used steroids during most of his career. On the verge of breaking Hank Aaron's home run record, he also faces the possibility of being indicted for perjury and tax evasion.

Michael Vick will be in court this week while the Atlanta Falcons begin practice for the upcoming season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick to stay away from team practices while the quarterback is facing federal charges on illegal gambling and animal cruelty related to his involvement with dog fighting.

NBA referee Tim Donaghy is currently under investigation by the FBI. Donaghy faces charges that he gambled on games he officiated, as well as fixed the outcome of games via the calls he made on the court during those games.

The leading rider in the Tour de France is under suspicion for blood doping, and race officials are secretly hoping that he'll somehow lose his two-minute lead on the field. Rasmussen was dropped from Denmark's national team last week for failing to notify anti-doping officials of his whereabouts for drug testing before the Tour began. He also missed two drug tests by Denmark's anti-doping agency in May and June, and failed to respond to two warnings from the International Cycling Union since April 2006. A third infraction with either the UCI or the Danish agency would be considered equivalent to a positive test and lead to a ban.

In comments during a press conference at the British Open, Gary Player raised the spectre of steroid use in professional golf. The nine-time major champion was asked if steroid use by pro golfers would "surprise" him. Player then sent shivers down the spine of the golf establishment by saying, "I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it. … We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf. I would say in the world tour today … there's 10 guys taking something. I might be way out. Definitely not going to be lower, but might be a hell of a lot more." Player says he knows this because "one guy told me." He confirmed it because "somebody else told me something." In each case, Player said he swore not to reveal the name of his source.

Maybe the time is right for U.S. fans to get more interested in the world's most popular sport-- soccer.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hippo Rescue

Crews rescued a Minnesota man from the St. Croix River in Wisconsin after he spent 12 hours stuck in the water. Why did it take so long? The guy stuck in the river weighed in excess of 500 pounds-- three attempts to rescue him failed, with success coming only on the fourth attempt.

As reported by WCCO-TV, it seems that quarter-ton Martin Rike and his group had gone tubing on the river when Martin's tube went flat about two miles south of Fox Landing (DD editorial note: Just one tube? Come on!). After attempting to get out of the water and walk back, Rike, 39, began having chest pains. He then slipped on the rocks, injuring an ankle and a knee.

When crews attempted to rescue Rike by boat, they found the water was too shallow, causing the boat to get caught on the rocks. A few hours later, a hovercraft was dispatched to try to retrieve Rike-- but soon after, authorities reported the hovercraft effort had failed. According to Chief Deputy Ovick, an aircraft that was later recruited for the effort also had to give up, because it could not lift that amount of weight.

Burnett County authorities initiated efforts to hire a helicopter from Traverse City, Mich (the closest location with a heavy-duty hoist)-- but then decided that good old-fashioned manpower was the only way to go. Rescuers somehow managed to load Rike onto a make-shift raft made of wood and three canoes.

"There wasn't enough water for it to float, so they physically used that as a stretcher," Ovick said. 50 rescuers took turns hoisting the boat, carrying it two feet at a time, until they found a spot in the river deep enough for the boat to float (under a quarter ton of cargo) down to a waiting ambulance.

Rike was pulled from the river around 8 a.m., nearly 12 hours after rescue attempts began. He was reported to be in stable condition at the Burnett Medical Center in Granstburg, where he was reported to be in stable condition. Rike said he appreciated everything done to rescue him. "Without those people, I would still be out there," he said.

For Those Of You Who Can't Wait For Ski Season

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bush's Drug Czar Must Be Smokin' Crack

The nation's top anti-drug official recently said that people need to overcome their "reefer blindness" and see that marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public's health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, George Bush's drug czar, also claimed that people who plant and tend pot gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties.

In a July 12th press conference, Walters said that marijuana growers have been known to have weapons, including assault rifles. "These people are armed; they're dangerous," he said. He called them "violent criminal terrorists." Walters, whose official title is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said too many people write off marijuana as harmless. "We have kind of a 'reefer blindness,' " he said.

Walters was also responsible for an expensive ad campaign that ran during the last Super Bowl, which also lamely attempted to make a connection between pot smoking and terrorism. Unforunately, none of the (scant) mainstream U.S. media coverage I've read on this topic in the last six months has even put forward the proposition that it is more likely that drug prohibition actually supports terrorism by driving up prices and profits.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman is one of many prominent citizens who have objected to the cruelty and destruction of freedom inherent in the U.S. "War on Drugs." In a letter he wrote in 1989 to William Bennett, then serving as Drug Czar under President George H. W. Bush, Friedman wrote:
"Every friend of freedom must be revolted at the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the visions of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence."

How prophetic.

North Carolina GOP Lawmaker Gettin' Some "Christian Action"

The Charlotte Observer has reported that Coy Privette, a retired Baptist pastor, GOP lawmaker and President of North Carolina's Christian Action League, was charged last week with paying a prostitute for sex acts.

The 74-year-old Cabarrus County commissioner was arrested at his home in Kannapolis early Thursday. He appeared before a Rowan County magistrate on six misdemeanor charges and was released on a promise to appear in court Aug. 22. He did not return e-mails or calls to his cell and home phones, and no one answered the door at his Kannapolis home. Privette, a prominent Republican with a 30-year career, is one of the state's most vocal opponents against alcohol sales and legal gambling. The outspoken christian advocate also serves on the State Baptist Convention of North Carolina.

Privette was charged with six counts of aiding and abetting or participating in prostitution, said Woody Chavis, interim Kannapolis police chief. The charges result from a Kannapolis bank-initiated investigation regarding a suspicious check written against Privette's account. It seems that Privette signed two blank checks and gave them to a hooker named Tiffany Denise Summers in payment for sexual favors that took place over two months, from May 4 to June 25. Things began to unravel after Tiffany was unable to cash one of Privette's checks for $1,000 because she didn't have a photo ID. Another check for $4,000 was found in her possession when she was arrested by the FBI.

Summers has previous convictions for drug possession, prostitution and possessing stolen goods, according to court documents. Last month, Salisbury police officers picked her up near a hotel where rooms are rented by the hour. Salisbury officers have arrested her several times for drug activity, Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said. In one case, according to court documents, Summers was found with a man's ATM card. When contacted by the Observer, Summers would only comment on the charges against her, saying: "I don't think it's right."

Reverend David Prather of the North Kannapolis Baptist Church said, "We're shocked and dismayed and just concerned for the family-- children, grandchildren, wife-- and trying to reach out to them. I'm trying to reach out to him and his wife and let him know we still love him."

Florida Councilwoman Gets Her "Exorcise" By Beating Up Her Daughter

Florida police are investigating a Edgewater city councilwoman and her husband for performing an exorcism on their 18-year-old daughter.

Police have recommended the State Attorney's Office file charges of battery and false imprisonment against Edgewater city councilwoman Debra Rogers and her husband, Daniel Rogers. Investigators said the couple admitted they tried to exorcise the demons out of their daughter by pouring olive oil on her while they held her hands behind her back. "I don’t think any person should have to endure what occurred that night," said Edgewater Police Detective Heather Brady.

According to the WSB-TV report, detectives said it all started when the 18-year-old got into a yelling match with her twin sister. Her father told police he was trying to anoint his daughter with olive oil to "cast the demons out of her.”

Neighbors were surprised by the allegations. "Everybody's got their own beliefs. That's definitely not mine. It's a little far fetched I would think," said neighbor Lou Marcoccio. Detective Brady said police believe this wasn't the first time this happened. "This is bizarre, but this apparently was a normal occurrence."

This time police found the teen's clothes torn off in the struggle and she had bruises on her arm and knees. At first she was taken into police custody for a psychological evaluation, but she was released almost immediately. The teen is now staying at a safe house. "[Our] investigation has revealed she attempted to get away. She didn’t want [this] occur, and she received injuries during [the incident], " said Detective Brady.

Feliz C(r)umpleaños, Mi Amor

A Wisconsin state senator accidentally drove over his young granddaughter, killing her, according to an MSNBC report. Senator Dave Hansen said he was leaving to attend a meeting when his granddaughter ran out of the house and got behind his car. Hansen said neither he nor his wife knew the girl had run outside.

The girl, Elliana Zaidel, would have celebrated her second birthday five days after the incident. Hansen said he is in deep shock and attending to the needs of his family.

The accident happened at Hansen’s home in Green Bay at 8:40 a.m in the morning. The toddler was sitting on a sofa when her grandmother left the room to get a blanket so the two could snuggle after the senator left for his meeting, said Jay Wadd, the senator’s chief of staff.

The girl then ran outside. “It happened that fast,” Wadd said. “I think Ellie wanted to be with grandpa. She just loved him.” Green Bay Police Lt. Mike Graham issued a statement calling the girl’s death a “tragic, unfortunate accident. There are no pending criminal charges.”

Elliana was the daughter of Paul and Cathy Zaidel of Stiles, a tiny town just north of Green Bay. Hansen and his wife had baby-sat the girl for about a year while her parents worked. A 59-year-old Democrat, Hansen has been in the state Senate since 2001. He has three daughters and seven grandchildren, according to his official biography.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

New Charges Against Phizer in Nigeria

U.S. Government lawyers recently discovered new material related to their negligence case against Phizer Inc. As a result, they withdrew the original lawsuit on Friday-- but immediately filed a new one, which adds fraud charges on top of the original allegations. The new $7 billion civil lawsuit claims that Phizer deliberately side-stepped company safeguards to avoid obtaining consent from Nigerian families in order to test experimental drugs on children during that country's 1996 meningitis epidemic. As result of those drug experiments, some children died and many others were sickened further. Pfizer has denied all charges.

The civil case is in addition to a federal criminal case and separate from civil and criminal cases launched at the state level in the northern state of Kano. All the cases stem from the same mid-1990s drug study in Kano's main city, also called Kano.

According to the MSNBC report, Pfizer treated 100 meningitis-infected children with an experimental antibiotic, Trovan. Another 100 children, who were control patients in the study, received an approved antibiotic, ceftriaxone — but the dose was lower than recommended, the families' lawyers alleged.

Eleven children died — five of those on Trovan and six in the control group, while others suffered physical disabilities and brain damage. Pfizer has always insisted its records show none of the deaths was linked to Trovan or substandard treatment, noting that the study showed a better survival rate for the patients on Trovan than those on the standard drug. Meningitis survivors sometimes sustain brain damage or other complications from the disease.

Authorities in Kano state are blaming the Pfizer controversy for widespread suspicion of government public health policies, particularly the global effort to vaccinate children against polio. Islamic leaders in largely Muslim Kano have seized on the Pfizer controversy as evidence of a U.S.-led conspiracy. Rumors that polio vaccines spread AIDS or infertility spurred Kano and another heavily Muslim state, Zamfara, to boycott a polio vaccination campaign.

Vaccination programs restarted in Nigeria in 2004, after an 11-month boycott, but the delay set back global eradication programs. The boycott was blamed for causing an outbreak that spread polio across Africa and into the Middle East.

British Man Not Waist-ing Away

Peng Shulin, a British man who lost the lower half of his body in a freak accident over ten years ago, has astounded doctors by learning to walk again.

Peng's body was cut in two by a lorry in 1995, and it was nothing short of a medical miracle that he lived. His body was severed at the waist, and it took a team of more than 20 doctors to save his life. Skin was grafted from his head to seal his torso – but the legless Peng was left only 30 inches tall.

Bedridden for years, doctors in China had little hope that he would ever be able to live anything like a normal life agan. But recently, he began exercising his arms, building up the strength to carry out everyday chores such as washing his face and brushing his teeth.

As reported at Metro.co.uk, doctors at the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing found out about Peng's plight late last year and devised a plan to get him up walking again. They came up with an ingenious way to allow him to walk on his own, creating a sophisticated egg cup-like casing to hold his body with two bionic legs attached to it.

He has been taking his first steps around the hospital center with the aid of his specially adapted legs and a resized walking frame. Peng, who has to learn how to walk again, is said to be delighted with the device.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Liberating The Fronts Of Palestinians: Yasser!

Adding fuel to the speculation that Yasser Arafat was gay, comes new reports that the former PLO leader died of AIDS.

In an interview with Hizballah's Al-Manar TV earlier this month, Ahmad Jibril, founder and leader of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, revealed a shocking conversation he recently had with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his staff. Said Jibril:
“When [Abbas] came to Damascus with his team, I asked them: 'What happened to the investigation into the death of [Arafat]? Is it conceivable that when [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafiq Hariri was killed, all hell broke loose, but the death of Yasser Arafat, is not investigated?”

Jibril, like many Palestinians, readily accepted the notion that Israel had assassinated Arafat, and wanted the Palestinian Authority to conduct an official investigation concluding as much. The response from Abbas' aides changed in an instant Jibril's view of his deceased mentor.
“They were silent, and then one of them said to me: 'To be honest, the French gave us the medical report, that stated that the cause of [Arafat's] death was AIDS.'”

As has been reported, there is no mention of AIDS in Arafat’s final medical records-- but those who have seen them have refused to comment on their contents. Doctors who examined them in 2005 told The New York Times that the pattern of Arafat's illness was inconsistent with that of a typical AIDS patient. But Ashraf al-Kurdi, Arafat's personal physician, claimed in an Israeli newspaper that French doctors had told him Arafat had AIDS when he died. The physician, who said Arafat had tested HIV-negative three months earlier, suspected Arafat was infected with HIV to hide the poison that supposedly killed him.

Journalistic Digression on Décolletage

The Wapo has apparently just discovered that Hillary Clinton has breasts!

In the article by Robin Givhan (who also provided crack reporting on the types of scarves worn by Nancy Pelosi on her trip to Syria), she breathlessly writes:

"It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out"

. . .

"The cleavage [was] an exceptional kind of flourish."

. . .

"The cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!"

. . .

"There was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding -- being a voyeur."

. . .

"To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation."

I'm not sure whether to feel more embarrassed for Clinton or for the Washington Post.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Raining On Your Parade

Eighteen-year-old Corey Rondelet appeared in a Novia Scotia court last week on a charge of urinating from an upper window onto spectators watching the annual Lobster Carnival parade in Pictou, on the northern coast.

According to reports, horrified parade-goers told the Mounties a half-naked man was exposing himself and peeing from the window. Rondelet faces six charges including committing a common nuisance by urinating and endangering the health of those below and underage drinking.

Meantime, another man was charged with breaking a window in the same apartment, sending a shower of glass onto the street below, Twenty-year-old Lee Aaron Yates was charged with kicking out the window and committing a common nuisance by causing the glass to fall on people and endanger their safety.

Both men were remanded until a later court appearance.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scientists Confirm The Existence Of Mystery Apes In The Congolese Jungle

European scientists have confirmed the existence of legendary massive apes deep in the Congolese jungle that purported to kill lions, catch fish and even howl at the moon. Up until now, the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo had made it difficult reach the heart of the mysterious animals' range. But as reported by the Guardian, new research from the region seem to indicate the existence of a population of super-sized chimps with a unique culture - and it seems, a taste for big cat flesh.

The most detailed and recent data comes from Cleve Hicks, at the University of Amsterdam, who has spent 18 months in the field watching the Bili apes, which he named after a local town. After investigating the sounds of chimps calling for several days from the same pot, Hicks' team came across a chimp feasting on the carcass of a leopard. Hicks cannot be sure the animal was killed by the chimp, but the find lends credence to the apes' lion-eating reputation.

"What we have found is this completely new chimpanzee culture," said Hicks. For example, unlike their cousins in other parts of Africa, the super-sized chimps regularly bed down for the night in nests on the ground (rather than in the trees). "How can they get away with sleeping on the ground when there are lions, leopards, golden cats around as well as other dangerous animals like elephants and buffalo?" said Hicks. "I don't like to paint them as being aggressive, but maybe they prey on some of these predators and the predators [have learned to] leave them alone." "

Hicks also reports that the animals have what he calls a "smashing culture" - a blunt but effective way of solving problems. He has found hundreds of snails and hard-shelled fruits smashed for food, seen chimps carrying termite mounds to rocks to break them open and also found a turtle that was almost certainly smashed apart by chimps. Like chimp populations in other parts of Africa, the Bili chimps use sticks to fish for ants, but here the tools are up 8 feet long.

Behavior toward humans has also baffled and intrigued scientists. There is little to no aggression, yet no fear either. Unlike gorrillas, who will always charge when encountering a human, the Bili apes will typically come face-to-face with humans, stare intently in half-recognition, then slide away quietly. Hicks' group later expanded that observation, saying that when they encountered a large group of Bili apes in the deep forest (far from the roads and villages), they not only approached the humans, but would actually surround them with intent curiosity.

The most exciting thing about this population of chimps though is that it is much bigger than anyone realized and may be one of the largest remaining continuous populations of the species left in Africa. Hicks and his colleague Jeroen Swinkels surveyed an area of 7,000 square kilometres and found chimps everywhere. Their unique culture was uniform throughout.

However, the future for the Bili apes is far from secure. "Things are not promising," said Karl Ammann, an independent wildlife photographer who began investigating the apes 1996. "The absence of a strong central government has resulted in most of the region becoming more independent and lawless. In conservation terms this is a disaster."

British Bedeviled By Basra Badger Bullshit

The Iraqi port city of Basra, already prey to a nasty turf war between rival militia factions, has now been gripped by a scary rumor – giant badgers are stalking the streets by night, eating humans.

According to the story in the Daily Telegraph, the marauding animals were allegedly released into the area by British forces. Local farmers have caught and killed several of the beasts, but this has done nothing to dispel the rumour. In recent months, the story has spread like wildfire in the streets of the city and the surrounding villages.

According to Mushtaq Abdul-Mahdi, director of Basra's veterinary hospital, “These animals appeared before the fall of the regime in 1986. They are known as Al-Ghirayri and locally as Al-Girta. Talk that this animal was brought by the British forces is incorrect and unscientific.” But not everybody is convinced.

“I believe this animal appeared following a raid to the region by the British forces,” said Ali Mohsen, a farmer in his 40s from Karmat Ali, near the air base used by the multinational force. “As we are close to the airport, they probably released this animal into the area.”

British troops have been based in Basra since the 2003 invasion, and locals are quick to blame them for almost any calamity that befalls the area – including this apparent plague of vicious badgers with long claws and powerful jaws. Both the scientists and the soldiers agree that the badger is not a danger to humans unless provoked, but so far they have failed to reassure the populace.

“I was sleeping at night when this strange animal hit me on my head. I have not seen such an animal before. My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer,” Suad Hassan, a 30-year-old housewife said. “It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey. It runs so quickly.”

Cell phone video of the badgers circulating in Basra shows a stocky skunk-like animal with long front claws. The honey badger, or ratel, is known as a brave predator capable of killing a cobra. It weighs up to 14kg.

Sattar Jabbar, a 50-year-old local farmer from Abu Sakhar north of Basra, believes the badger can tackle even large prey. “I saw it three days ago at night attacking animals. It even ate a cow. It tore the cow up piece by piece. I tried to shoot it with my gun but it ran away into the orchards. I missed it,” he said.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pigs Don't Fly On CBS or Fox

Controversy and hypocrisy have surrounded a new ad from condom manufacturer Church & Dwight Company. Television stations in Pittsburgh are steadfastly refusing to show a commercial for Trojan condoms, while stations in Seattle are giving it the green light.

When Trojan introduced the ad last month, it was rejected as national advertising by both CBS and Fox. Fox said it objected to the message that condoms can prevent pregnancy, while CBS said it was not “appropriate,” drawing a firestorm of criticism from public health advocates and bloggers. But in Pittsburgh (as the New York Times reports), the local affiliates for ABC and NBC (two networks that had agreed to run the ad nationally) also snubbed it.

In the commercial, women in a bar are find themselves sitting next to pigs, one of which metamorphoses into a handsome suitor after it procures a condom from a vending machine. The tag line: “Evolve. Use a condom every time.”

“The spot was pretty clever, but not one that we thought was appropriate for the market,” said Ray Carter, general manager of WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh ABC affiliate, WTAE, also commented in a written statement, saying, “WTAE will not accept or air advertising for Trojan or any other advertiser in the category.” Seattle, by contrast, put out the welcome mat for the company: every station it approached, even affiliates for the two networks that rejected the ad — CBS and Fox — agreed to broadcast it.

Jim Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, said he saw hypocrisy in networks accepting ads for products aimed at conditions like erectile dysfunction and herpes, but rejecting condom ads. “One of my hopes is that we see the networks’ standards evolve to be more practical and fair,” he said. According to a 2001 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of Americans believe that condom advertising should be allowed on television, more than those who approve of televised ads for beer (64 percent) or hard liquor (51 percent).

On “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox, Bill O’Reilly argued the ad was inappropriate to show on television — after he broadcast the ad nearly in its entirety. “Next year, it’s estimated that four million people in this country will get a sexually transmitted infection,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, in a telephone interview. “The fact that Fox and CBS want to sell sex on TV and yet they don’t want to run ads about prevention is disgraceful.”

Dan Savage, who writes the syndicated sex column “Savage Love” and blogged about the Trojan situation, said in an interview from Seattle: “I’m offended by the reality that television is so hypersexualized and glorifies sexual excess and promiscuity, and then runs screaming into the megachurch and drops to its knees when someone wants to run an advertisement that urges people to be responsible about their sexual expression.”

The Wisdom Of Anagrams

Bush News Conference Today = We debouch crafty nonsense

Escorting Vitter = Striving to erect

Cindy Sheehan = She achy in end

Libby escapes prison term = By oppressible miscreant

Hilton freed = Rid the felon

Prince Harry of Wales = War perils fancy hero

Nicholas Sarkozy = Nazi shocks Royal

Leading Seaman Faye Turney is to sell her story = Yes, an ordinary female negotiates ruthlessly!

1,3: Rain Barclift; 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: Wordsmith.org

Monday, July 16, 2007

Muslim Congressman Compares Bush To Hitler

The nation's first Muslim congressman has provoked outrage by comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler and hinting that he might have been responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Addressing a gathering of atheists in his home state of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, compared the 9/11 atrocities to the 1933 destruction of the German Reichstag, which many believe was burned down by the Nazis in order to justify Hitler's later seizure of emergency powers.

"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that," Mr Ellison said. "After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted."

To applause from his audience of 300 members of Atheists for Human Rights, Mr Ellison said he would not accuse the Bush administration of planning 9/11 because "you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box - dismiss you".

Vice President Dick Cheney's stance of refusing to answer some questions from Congress was "the very definition of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship", he added.

Ellison also raised eyebrows by telling his audience: "You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists all you want."

After his speech was reported, Ellison said he accepted that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. Mark Drake, of the Republican party in Minnesota, said: "To compare the democratically elected leader of the United States of America to Hitler is an absolute moral outrage which trivialises the horrors of Nazi Germany."

Bush White House Fine Tunes Nixon Rhetoric

You all should remember the 2004 death of Pat Tillman. Initial reports said that he died at the hands of Taliban fighters. Suspicion grew when it became known that the Pentagon took over 5 weeks to notify Tillman's family of their son's death. It was later reported that the delay was due to the Pentagon's extreme efforts to cut off access to information regarding the actual circumstances of the incident (i.e., cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman's uniform).

Initially, the Bush administration used Tillman's death (purportedly at the hands of the enemy) to drum up support for the war. But unfortunately for W, the circumstances of Tillman's death turned out to be much different, and the Pentagon apparently knew it.

Earlier this year, there was news of a memo sent by a top general to the White House which warned there were strong indications that Tillman died of friendly fire and that the President might embarrass himself if he said Tillman died in an ambush. To many, the memo reinforced suspicions that the Pentagon was more concerned with sparing officials from embarrassment than with leveling with Tillman's family.

At an Oversight Committee hearing in April, U.S. Army Specialist Bryan O'Neal said that he was told by a higher-up to conceal information regarding Tillman's death. In response, the committee asked the White House to provide documentation describing how and when they learned the circumstances of Tillman's death-- but the White House refused, saying that release of the requested documentation would "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests." Expect more more subpoenas and another showdown with Congress.

Blondes vs. Brunettes

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Florida Sex Bust Blow To McCain Campaign

Florida state representative Bob Allen held a tearful press conference after being arrested and charged with peddling oral sex for $20 to an undercover officer, the Orlando Sentinel reported last week. Allen is also co-chair for the John McCain presidential campaign in Florida. The McCain campaign, already reeling from the departure of several high-level campaign officials, could not be reached for comment.

Local police were on burglary detail at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Titusville when they noticed a suspicious man walking in and out of the public bathroom. An undercover officer went into a bathroom stall, and moments later Allen approached the stall and offered to perform oral sex on the officer in exchange for $20. The officer took Allen into custody after identifying himself. Allen, a married Republican from Merritt Island, was charged with solicitation to commit prostitution. He was later released after posting $500 bail.

"I am filing a not guilty plea," Allen said at a press conference. "I am going to vigorously fight this. I am not resigning my office, because the people who elected me want me to do a good job, and I am going to do a good job for them in finishing this term.... This is an ugly and unpleasant situation that has been thrust on me and my family. It is not true. It is inaccurate, and therefore [I'm] not guilty, and I will be standing strongly for that."

In March of this year, Allen cosponsored the Lewdness and Indecent Exposure Bill, which outlined enhanced penalties for “offenses involving unnatural and lascivious acts or exposure or exhibition of sexual organs committed within specified distance of certain locations." The bill would also have authorized warrantless arrest for specified violations.

Allen also signed a resolution, adopted in April, that encourages educating parents and children about the dangers of sexual solicitation and abuse.

Six years ago, Allen was one of 21 Florida legislators to sign Gov. Jeb Bush's friend-of-the-court brief supporting the state's ban on gays adopting children. The ban, which is being challenged in court, is still on Florida's books.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Allen, who has a teenage daughter, was a Little League volunteer and has donated time to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.

Bin Laden Family In The News

A new al-Qaida videotape posted today on a militant Web site featured a short, undated clip of a weary-looking Osama bin Laden praising martyrdom. Bin Laden glorified those who die in the name of jihad, saying, "The happy (man) is the one that God has chosen him to be a martyr." The tape, however, did not include well wishes towards his new daughter-in-law-- 51-year-old Jane Felix-Browne, who granted an interview this week to Britain's Daily Mail in the wake of her marriage to Bin Laden's 27-year-old son Omar.

Jane Felix-Browne, who had been married five times previously, met Osama's fourth son, Omar, on a riding holiday in Egypt and fell madly in love. The fact that his father was the most notorious terrorist the world was never something that was going to stand in Jane's way. It apparently was not even an issue that was discussed at length before the marriage ceremony. Says the new Mrs. Bin-Laden, "I'm not the sort of person who is fazed by anything, and I truly believe that someone is innocent until proven guilty, so I wasn't about to start judging his father. What is that famous saying? 'One should never revisit the sins of the father on the son.'"

In the lengthly interview she describes her previous marriages and her upbringing, as well as a variety of other topics:

On Osama Bin-Laden's guilt: ""I mean, do you know - beyond all doubt - that he did it [World Trade Center attack]? If so, I'd like you to show me the evidence. I don't think it's nice to make assumptions about someone when you don't know the facts."

On having a long-distance marriage: She says she communicates with her new husband via phone, as she hasn't seen him in the flesh since they tied the knot last autumn. When asked whether that was a bizarre way to conduct a marriage, she says: "Absolutely not. We can talk for hours and hours on the phone, and we do. We also have the internet, which is fantastic. Then there's the webcam. We both have great cameras, you see."

About Omar's other wife: "Yes, but I'd set up another home nearby, and he would come and go between the two. It is quite normal, really. I don't mind at all - why should I? I'm not jealous of his wife. I have spoken to her. Lots of married men in this country have girlfriends. At least he is being honest."

About the publicity of her marrying Osama Bin Laden's son: "[Omar] thinks it's been blown out of proportion, as I do. It's not that complicated, really. I fell in love with the man and I married him. What else is there to say? Who his father is doesn't come into the equation."

She scoffs at her critics who say she is just another naive, middle-aged British woman who has let herself be flattered by a young man with an eye on a cosy life in the UK. "Look, he doesn't need me to get a visa to come to England. All he needs to do is go to the British Embassy in Saudi. It's ridiculous to say he is using me for that. London is full of Bin Ladens. Many of his uncles and aunts are here."

On the difference in their ages: "Why is it ok for a 50-year-old man to marry a 20-year-old woman, but when a woman wants to be with a younger man it's seen as scandalous? My children adore Omar. He is wonderful with them. He is the same age as my sons Vincent and Dean and he is like their best friend.

On Omar's relationship with his father: "Yes, he is proud of his family. I know he was particularly proud of his grandfather Mohamed." Jane insists the Omar and his father have not spoken since 2000 or early 2001. "Of course, he loves his father. He misses him dreadfully, like any son would. Until someone proves him guilty, how can he stop that? . . . I know that my husband is not an extremist. He is not a fanatic. He is very peaceful and loving. He is not anti-Western in any way - how could he be when he married me?"

Unfortunate Choice of Words

Right-handed pitcher Bartolo Colon stills plays for the Anaheim Angels, so I suppose we can all look forward to more headlines like this one . . .

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wealthy Widow's Marriage "Near The Edge" Before Her Death

Janet Fisicaro was a wealthy widow; Des Campbell was a former English police officer with a harem of girlfriends and a taste for sports cars and French champagne.

Des took Janet (his third wife) on a camping holiday and pitched their tent a few feet from a cliff edge. Her body was found at the bottom.

Australian-born Campbell, who left his job as a policeman in England while facing charges of sexual assault, told police that his wife fell over the 120-foot cliff after going outside at dusk to answer "nature's call".

He did not attend her funeral and a week later, made plans to see their home and then flew to Queensland for a five-star holiday with one of at least three other women he was seeing at the time.

Soon afterwards he withdrew $76,600 from a mortgage account, and travelled to the Philippines to bring back a woman he had met through an internet dating service. That woman is now his fourth wife, and they have two small children.

An inquest into Janet's death has heard evidence from several of Campbell's ex-girlfriends, including a British policewoman who flew from the UK to testify. They told of being seduced by the "charming" and "manipulative" 48-year-old, who swindled them out of tens of thousands of dollars.

A former friend, Adam Wilson, said Campbell had boasted of "shagging sluts" and preying on vulnerable, well-off women. Campbell told his brother's wife that Fisicaro was a "fat, ugly, dumb bitch" who was stalking him. But he also bragged that she was "filthy rich" after inheriting her late husband's estate, worth over $1 million.

According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, Campbell is the only "person of interest" named at the inquest, which continues in Sydney

Baby's First DUI

An 11-year-old Alabama girl has been charged with driving under the influence after she led police on a high-speed chase.

According to Greg Duck, Orange Beach assistant police chief, the chase started about 10:30 p.m. in Orange Beach near the Florida line. It ended just inside the Gulf Shores city limits when the girl crashed and rolled the Chevy Monte Carlo she was driving.

The chase began when a patrol officer saw the car speeding west along Alabama 182. When the officer flicked on his lights to pull the car over, it sped up. The car sideswiped another vehicle during the chase, which reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour.

A witness described what happened after the girl lost control of the steering and jumped the curb near a condominium complex. "She went airborne and didn't come down until she hit a fire hydrant and knocked the two palms down and then came right back up against those two dead palms," said condo resident Fred Lee.

The girl was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released. Her name was not released because of her age. The girl told police she was on her way to pick up her sister at a concert in Orange Beach.


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