Sunday, August 24, 2008

Beijing Olympics Finally Behind Us

Beijing officials celebrated the closing of the Summer Olympics with a ceremony that featured two flying wheels of gouda cheese. Seems appropriate for a government filled with a bunch of rat bastards.

Ping Pong Ding Dong Rings Wrong

Table tennis is desperate to attract more viewers and some in the sport believe a simple enough solution exists: get the women to wear skirts and shirts with "curves."

Half-empty stands for women's games at the Olympics in China, the country most obsessed with table tennis, reinforced concerns that the sport needs a makeover to shed its fusty image. Women players mostly wear baggy shorts and shirts unlike their tennis counterparts who dress for comfort as well as style.

"We are trying to push the players to use skirts and also nicer shirts, not the shirts that are made for men, but ones with more curves," International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) vice president Claude Bergeret said.

One player, Japan's Naomi Yotsumoto, has taken matters into her own hands. At the Japanese national championships last year, she played in a daring ensemble of her own design: knee socks, a pleated mini-skirt and a shirt that left one shoulder bare.

World Class Pissers - Part 9

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Second-Class Status Still Nagin' New Orleans

It's sickening and disgusting to keep on reading about the bureaucratic indifference and outright incompetence of Ray Nagin's administration in New Orleans.

Erica DeJan and her husband, Brian, bought a two-story structure just around the corner from their current New Orleans home in June and jumped right into rehabbing it. The scenario was perfect: a bigger house in the same New Orleans neighborhood, plus they would be restoring a property that hadn't been touched since Hurricane Katrina.

So it came as a surprise when Erica, eight months pregnant with her fourth child, found a sticker on the house stating that Mayor Ray Nagin's administration had mistakenly declared it a public health threat and planned to tear it down.

She jumped into action, doing all she could within the space of 48 hours-- filling out paperwork, getting city officials to recognize her plight and schedule an appeals hearing. Despite all that (and a requirement that the city issue demolition notifications in writing-- which wasn't done)-- the city tore their partially-remodeled house down the next day, as the couple watched in disbelief.

Please, please, please New Orleans-- don't do the unimaginable and send Willy Wonka Nagin to congress (as it is rumored he is considering).

Beijing Olympics Finally Kicking Into Gear

World Class Pissers - Part 8

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Week That Was: 8/22/08

Time Is On Our Side: After resisting all demands for setting a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, after mocking Barack Obama when he called for a timeline for withdrawal, there are now reports that Bush is negotiating for . . . . a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq!

British surgeons are preparing to perform the world's first full face transplant. If you ask me, the Olsen twins should fork over whatever it takes to get on the short list.

Giving A Whole New Meaning To "The Rubber Game of the Match": Even in the staid environment of the Beijing Olympics, there are reports that the athletes village is a hotbed of sex. Don't forget to stick the landing!

Thank God: According to a new poll, for the first time in a dozen years a majority of Americans believe that churches and religious institutions should “keep out” of politics. Get out and don't come back.

Sweet Georgia Down: It's pretty obvious now that Russia intends to stage a full occupation of the sovereign country of Georgia. It's too bad (thanks to Bush's amateurish foreign policy) that we're in a position to do little but sit on the sidelines.

Jambo Bwana, Obama: The English press have reported that they have located Barack's long lost half-brother in a Kenyan slum. It seems that no American press have yet picked up the story-- whether that speaks to the veracity of the story or America's indifference to Africa in general, I hate to speculate.

World Class Pissers - Part 7

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chavez Cements His Position As The New Stalin

Riot police used tear gas to block hundreds of Venezuelans protesting the latest moves by President Hugo Chavez to concentrate his power. The demonstrators said a blacklist of opposition candidates and a series of socialist decrees are destroying what's left of their democracy.

Chavez opponents also are outraged by 26 laws the president just decreed, some of them mirroring the socialist measures voters rejected in a December referendum.

"We said in the referendum that we didn't want that, and now he's put it in the decrees," said protester Josefina Bravo, a 59-year-old who wore a sticker reading "No means no" on her baseball cap. "That's the problem we have: All the powers are concentrated in the president." Chavez issued the decrees just before the expiration of special legislative powers that allowed him to make laws without National Assember approval for the past 18 months.

In other recent news, Chavez moved to nationalize its cement industry this week by seizing operational control of plants owned by Mexican company Cemex. The Venezuelan National Guard took control of the local operations of Cemex after negotiations between the government and the company failed to produce an agreement on the nationalization terms, according to media reports. Just weeks ago, Chavez announced further plans to take over the country's third largest bank, Banco de Venezuela, a subsidiary of Spanish banking giant Santander.
Chavez ordered the nationalization of the cement industry saying he cannot allow businesses to continue exporting raw materials needed to tackle a domestic housing shortage. Cemex, however, reported that its cement sales within Venezuela rose by 17 percent last year over 2006, with concrete volumes up by 10 percent because of construction boosted by public spending. Exports from Venezuela fell by half, it said, because the company focused on supplying the domestic market.

World Class Pissers - Part 6

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hot Mail Rumor On Tibet? You Bet

Rev up your conspiracy theories, everyone-- it seems that Microsoft has disallowed using the word "Tibet" in a hotmail address. Check it out.

World Class Pissers - Part 5

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Montauk Monster Mania

The Daily Dude has been waiting a few weeks to see if anything pays off on the investigation of what's been called the Montauk Monster.

The story began with a July 23 article in a local newspaper, The Independent. Jenna Hewitt, 26, of Montauk, and three friends said they found the creature on July 12 at the Ditch Plains beach, two miles east of the district. The beach is a popular surfing spot at Rheinstein Estate Park in East Hampton, New York.

Her color photograph ran in black and white, under the headline "The Hound of Bonacville" (a take-off on the name Bonackers, which refers to the natives of East Hampton). The light-hearted article speculated that the creature might be a turtle or some mutant experiment from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center before noting that the East Hampton Natural Resources Director Larry Penny had concluded it was a raccoon with its upper jaw missing. The article concluded that "someone took it away... to be buried... we hope." A local newspaper quoted an unidentified woman, who claimed that the animal was only the size of a cat, and had decomposed to a skeleton by the time of the press coverage. She would not identify its location for inspection. Hewitt's father denies claims that his daughter is keeping the body's location a secret.

Photographs were widely circulated via email and weblogs, and the national media picked up on it raising speculation about the creature. See this blog for a good recap of the coverage.

Speculation in published reports included theories that the Montauk Monster might have been a turtle without its shell—even though a turtle's shell cannot be removed without damaging the spine—a dog, a raccoon, or perhaps a science experiment from the nearby government animal testing facility. The creature's appearance was believed to have been altered through immersion in water for an extended period before coming to rest on the shore, making it difficult to identify. Many experts believe that it is a water rate, an Australian rodent with several similarities to the Montauk Monster, such as the "beak", tail, feet, and size. On the same day, Jeff Corwin claimed that upon close inspection of the photograph, he feels sure the "monster" is merely a raccoon or dog that has decomposed slightly. You be the judge.

World Class Pissers - Part 4

Monday, August 18, 2008

World Class Pissers - Part 3

If This Doesn't Work, Go To Plan "B": Free Beer

The mayor of an Australian outback mining town has come under fire for urging unattractive women to move in, assuring them they will find a man because there is a shortage of women.

John Moloney, mayor of Mount Isa in northwestern Queensland, told a newspaper his town was a place for "ugly ducklings to flourish into beautiful swans" and called on the "beauty-disadvantaged" to flock there.

In the face of outrage over his remarks, Moloney stood by his comments, saying he did not mean to cause offense but wanted to highlight the gender imbalance in the remote town of some 25,000 people.

Mount Isa city councillor Gary Asmus said that while there was a shortage of women, Moloney's comments were an insult to the town's menfolk.

The mayor was "returning us to the Dark Ages and making the guys that live in this town seem like sex-hungry starved men that will pounce upon the first girl that they see walking down the street," he said.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mini Population Explosion In India

Just hitting the internet are pictures of a most unusual baby girl born in the suburbs of Delhi, India. She was born with 4 eyes, 2 noses, 2 mouths, 2 ears, and 1 dimple on a shared cheek.

She is reverred as a reincarnated god by her local villagers, who sing and dance regularly for her.

“I had never seen something like this in my life so naturally I was a little scared when I first saw her,” her father was quoted as saying. The young girl and her mother are both healthy and the family has no intentions of seeking surgery to correct the deformities.

“The doctor said everything is normal when she was born. So where’s the need to get medical help?” said the child’s father. “She’s fed through one mouth and sucks her thumb with the other. We use whichever mouth is free to feed her.”

World Class Pissers - Part 2

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

George Bush commented this week on Russian's style of foreign policy. It's a little like the pot calling the kettle black:

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," the president said. "Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation."

I guess W is too dumb to appreciate irony.

World Class Pissers - Part 1

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Week That Was: 8/15/08

This week's headlines were dominated by news from the Faux-lympics. China, which had long been famous for churning out phony products, can now stake claim to fake promises, fake fireworks, fake singing, and fake passports. And now come reports of even more fakery. It appears that children from China's dominant Han population were used in a key part of the Olympics opening ceremony, not youngsters from all 56 Chinese ethnic groups as originally claimed.

In contrast, American athletes are showing themselves to be the real deal. Our female gymnasts went gold-silver in the all-around and Michael Phelps is tearing up the pool, with 6 gold medals on his way to a record eight. The U.S. currently leads the overall medal count over China-- 44 medals vs. 38.

Georgia On My Mind: Russia invaded Georgia this week, brutally laying waste to major cities and destroying roads and critical infrastructure. The incident exposed the Medvedev farce, however, as Putin was clearly shown to be making critical decisions during the invasions. Unfortunately, George Bush's foreign policy incompetence left the U.S. unable to take any meaningful action in response. For years, W has needlessly poking a stick in Russia's eye, most recently pushing the missile defense system-- a system which most experts says won't work anyway.

Enquiring Minds Want To Know: Hate to say it, but a tabloid finally broke the long-rumored story of John Edward's affair. As some have said, if his infidelity had been exposed earlier, Hillary might have won the nomination.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sibling Sickos Preside Over Mother's Demise, Then Tip-Toe Over Her Corpse For Seven More Years

For more than seven years, Diane and John Simmeck Jr. made regular trips to their elderly mother's modest, wood-frame home overlooking Lake Beseck in Connecticut. But they never told a soul about their visits or their secret: Their mother, Ann Simmeck, had died over eight years ago and they had left her corpse rotting on the living room floor.

Most neighbors thought that the elderly woman had moved away and that the house was abandoned. They were shocked to learn in June that what had been the Simmeck family's house had become Ann Simmeck's tomb.

A state medical examiner has concluded that she died of natural causes, but there was little to go on other than her mummified remains, which were so decomposed it took a DNA sample from Michael to confirm her identity.

Diane Simmeck, now 42, and John J. Simmeck Jr., 51, spoke freely about their regular pilgrimages to the house where they grew up, even about stepping over their mother's insect-infested remains. Their confessions offered fascinating glimpses into the bizarre lives of a brother and sister who have been investigated by police for alleged scams in at least three states and charged criminally in two.

Extensive interviews exposed the lurid details of the macabre duo's relationship and the events leading up to the elderly woman's death. The early lives of John Jr. and Diane were dominated by an alcoholic father and various bouts of physical and mental abuse. After their parents were divorced in the mid-90's, the brother-sister duo moved with their mother to New Hampshire. Once there, John and Diane would sometimes pass themselves off as husband and wife. John Jr. told investigators he was "attracted" to Diane because she reminded him of his mother. "Diane had other 'boyfriends' in the past but ended up with him since she relied on him so much," he later told investigators.

In 1999, however, Diane and John Jr. attracted the attention of New Hampshire police when they checked their mother into a hospital with a broken hip. They identified themselves as a married couple, "R.J. and Diane Sinik," even though Ann Simmeck said the two were her children. Suspicious hospital staff members notified police, who took an immediate interest in the scratched out vehicle identification number on their 1968 Chevy Blazer. What made police even more suspicious was the refusal of John Jr. and Diane to look at the camera while being booked by Keene police; the "small scribble which revealed no letters or discernible meaning" in their signatures; and that they forgot not only their Social Security numbers, but where they were born.

Events took a sudden turn when 71-year-old Ann Simmeck, by this point suffering from dementia and Parkinson's, simply left the hospital-- apparently without being officially discharged. She was reported missing, but efforts to find her failed.

Diane Simmeck told police she last saw her mother alive back at the Middlefield house in the winter of 1999. Diane said she noticed that her mother was "definitely deteriorating" and didn't think she had much time to live." What did she do next? She cut off the old lady's phone. Meanwhile, John Jr. was in jail in New Hampshire, facing charges of tampering with a vehicle identification number and making false statements on documents.

On her next visit to the house, Diane was greeted by a foul smell. Her mother lay dead on the living room floor covered in bugs-- it would later take two plastic vials to contain the insects collected from her body. Upon learning the news about their mother from Diane, John Jr. told her "there was nothing he could do until he got out of jail. To protect their secret, John Jr. continued over the years to pay the property taxes on the house, and also the electric bill because the freezer was stuffed with food. They cut off the water, however; Ann Simmeck wouldn't be showering. To ward off the curious, the duo posted signs in the door windows, front and back: "NO TRESSPASSING FOR ANY REASON IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, 24-HOUR VIDEO SECURITY."

It wasn't until 2001 that John Jr. was out of prison and legally permitted to leave New Hampshire so he could go see his mother's remains. He and his sister entered through the main door and upon entering he saw his mother lying on the living room floor, 'dead and badly decomposed.'" Over the next six years, whenever they visited the house, they entered and exited through the same door — a ground-level entrance that was next to the garage. Diane later told police that she assumed at some point that she and her brother would be able to get their mother cremated.

Though they went to great lengths to hide their mother's death and evade authorities, John Jr. and Diane Simmeck again came to the attention of police in September 2005, when Diane was caught trying to use her mother's Social Security number and a fraudulent birth certificate in an application for a Vermont driver's license. At that point, Vermont authorities asked John Jr. the whereabouts of his mother — who had been dead for roughly six years at that point. He responded that Ann Simmeck had left New Hampshire on her own accord years earlier, and that he hadn't heard from her since.

During all this time, John and Diane's estranged brother Michael had made inquiries to several states as to the possible death of his mother. Though he no longer owned the house, the long-divorced father of the family, John Sr., periodically visited to mow the overgrown lawn. But he never went inside. He had no idea all those years that his ex-wife lay inside, dead. By the summer of 2007, her remains were reduced to a mummy.

Michael finally hired a lawyer in his efforts to collect some of his and his father's belongings from her home. Armed with court paperwork listing items he and his father were entitled to retrieve, Michael persuaded Officer Scott Halligan of the Middlefield Resident State Trooper's office to allow him to enter the house. With Halligan present, Michael broke in through the lower-level garage. Halligan was first up the stairs and came upon Ann Simmeck's remains.

Investigators noted that her skull rested on a gray pillow with red trim alongside a sofa. She was wearing her daughter's blue nylon jacket with the word "Foxettes" embroidered on the back. A July 24, 1995, Money section of USA Today lay open across her right lower leg. She wore tan pants and one slipper. She had just three teeth left when she died.

As reported by the, the story also has a thoroughly sickening ending. Though John and Diane admitted they knowingly let their mother's body decompose and did nothing about it, the state law that makes failing to report a death a crime does not require a private citizen to contact officials when a relative is discovered dead, and the disposal statute applies only when a body has been officially reported dead.

Teenage Wasteland

As the Chinese women won the gymnastics team gold medal this week, controversy erupted again when Bela Karolyi (former Olympics gymnastics coach) called attention to the underage members of the Chinese team.

Olympic rules require that all competing gymnasts must be at least 16 years old during the year of their Olympic competition. But online records listing Chinese gymnasts and their ages contradict their passport information, indicating that female gymnasts Kexin He and YuYUn Jiang may be as young as 14.

Officials with the International Gymnastics Federation said that questions about He's age had been raised by Chinese news media, USA Gymnastics and fans of the sport, but that the Chinese authorities presented passport information to show that He is 16.

International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) officials have accepted the passports of the Chinese women, which indicate all are old enough to compete. Karolyi is originally from Romania, and he says falsifying documents is a common practice in totalitarian regimes such as Romania, Russia and other former Soviet bloc nations. An advantage for younger gymnasts is that they are lighter and, often, more fearless when they perform difficult maneuvers.

An investigation by the New York Times before the games found two online records of official registration lists of Chinese gymnasts that list He's birthday as Jan. 1, 1994, which would make her 14. A 2007 national registry of Chinese gymnasts - now blocked in China but viewable through Google cache - shows He's birthday as "1994.1.1."

Another registration list that is unblocked, dated Jan. 27, 2006, regarding an intercity competition in Chengdu, China, also lists He's birthday as Jan. 1, 1994. That date differs by two years from the birth date of Jan. 1, 1992, listed on He's passport, which was issued Feb. 14, 2008.

The other gymnast, Jiang, is listed on her passport - issued March 2, 2006 - as having been born on Nov. 1, 1991, which would make her 16. A different birth date, indicating Jiang is not yet 15, appears on a list of junior competitors from the Zhejiang Province sports administration. The list of athletes includes national identification card numbers into which birth dates are embedded. Jiang's national card number as it appears on this list shows her birth date as Oct. 1, 1993, which indicates that she will turn 15 in the fall, and would thus be ineligible to compete in the Beijing Games.

The IOC, which normally is quick to react to issues directly related to competition, is uncharacteristically quiet on the issue. However, that seems understandable, since the issues was raised months ago and closed when the Chinese produced the required passports. What we all should be incensed about is the Chinese government's willingness to fake their own official documents in their obsession to become the top medal winner of the games.

See this blog entry for many more details on the issue, including a discussion of the ethics issues raised by forcing underage girls to compete.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting ICEd By Immigration

Hiu Lui Ng, a Chinese computer engineer living in New York since 1992, had an American wife and two U.S.-born sons. He lived the American dream, was a positive member of the community and contributed to the economy. But apparently he was a threat to homeland security, and now he's dead.

When Ng came to the U.S. with his parents and siblings in 1992 on a tourist visa, he stayed after it expired and applied for political asylum. He was granted a work permit while his application was pending, and though asylum was eventually denied, immigration authorities elected not to seek his deportation.

But when Mr. Ng went to immigration headquarters in Manhattan last summer for his final interview for a green card, he was swept into immigration detention and shuttled through jails and detention centers in three New England states.

In April, Mr. Ng began complaining of excruciating back pain. By mid-July, he could no longer walk or stand. And last Wednesday, two days after his 34th birthday, he died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a Rhode Island hospital, his spine fractured and his body riddled with cancer that had gone undiagnosed and untreated for months.

According to this New York Times article, Ng’s death follows a succession of cases that have drawn Congressional scrutiny to complaints of inadequate medical care, human rights violations and a lack of oversight in immigration detention, a rapidly growing network of publicly and privately run jails where the government held more than 300,000 people in the last year while deciding whether to deport them.

Is this how we would want foreign countries to treat Americans undergoing immigration problems in other countries? It is sickening to me that Bush's obsession with border control and disdain for immigrants would lead to a situation like this. What happened to "compassionate conservatism"? How can Bush lecture China about human rights when this is going on in the U.S.?

More Chinese Fakery

Chinese officials have admitted deceiving the public over another aspect of the Olympic opening ceremony: the picture-perfect schoolgirl who sang as the Chinese flag entered the stadium was performing to another girl's voice.9-year-old Lin Miaoke, the pig-tailed girl in the red dress, had become a national sensation, giving interviews to all the most popular newspapers, and lapping up praise for her performance.

But after several days, the show's musical designer felt forced to set the record straight. He finally gave an interview to Beijing radio saying the real singer was a seven-year-old girl who had won a grueling competition to perform the anthem, a patriotic song called "Hymn to the Motherland".

At the eleventh hour, a member of the Chinese politburo attending the final rehearsal decided that the the winner, a girl called Yang Peiyi-- despite having a perfect voice-- was not cute enough and had buck teeth. Chinese officials, obsessed with looking perfect and putting on a perfect show, made the switch.

Chemical Addictions

Tom Friedman on the New York Times recently blogged some interesting ideas about how Denmark broke its addiction to foreign oil:
Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.

And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: “No.” It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills in Denmark.)

Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.

“I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,” Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.”

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

Why should you care?

“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

American Tourist Killed In Guatemala

Robbers armed with machetes hacked a U.S. tourist to death and seriously wounded his wife in an attack aboard the couple's sailboat in northeastern Guatemala.

Nancy Dryden, 67, said her husband, Daniel Perry Dryden, 66, was killed by four men who boarded their boat while it was anchored in Lake Izabal. "They poked us and stabbed us with the machetes, and they were asking for money, specifically dollars," said Dryden, who was listed in stable condition at a hospital in the lakeside town of Morales.

The four assailants reached the boat by swimming from shore and brandished long machetes. The thieves were apparently unhappy with the take. "We had a few quetzales (Guatemala's currency), but we had no dollars with us on the boat," Dryden recounted.

After assaulting the couple, the men demanded she hand over the keys to the vessel, which has an auxiliary motor. When she didn't-- she was unable to tell whether they wanted the keys to the boat, or a small dinghy the couple used to get to shore-- the men left, also apparently by swimming.

Dryden was later transferred to the United States for medical care. Assistant Police Commissioner Luis Say said the attack is being investigated. Located near Guatemala's Caribbean coast, Lake Izabal is popular among tourists for its jungle scenery and wildlife.

In March, protesting farmers briefly kidnapped four Belgian tourists at Lake Izabal to press for the release of a jailed activist. They were released unharmed.

American Scalpers Head and Shoulders Above The Chinese

The sidewalk outside the Beitucheng subway station, the transfer point for spectators entering the Olympic Green, is normally a bush spot. But it has blossomed into the unofficial scalping area for the Beijing games, so the buzzing of the crowd is steady throughout the day.

All along the sidewalk, groups huddled to negotiate, buy, sell and exchange tickets as Olympic volunteers and a handful of security guards stood nearby. Naked capitalism, is held in check, however, as officials have warned that scalpers of Olympic tickets will be severely punished-- and they've threatened to send scalpers to reeducation camps.

One blogger witnessed police putting a Chinese scalper in a headlock, placing him into a squad car and whisking him away. The arrested scalper was led past other groups that were exchanging and selling tickets. The police ignored them, and commerce continued, many ignoring, or oblivious to, the arrest.

Rebecca Martz from Los Angeles, who was seeking a ticket to the day's water polo matches, was at the sidewalk the day before and had witnessed how some scalpers were taken away, while others were left to keep operating. "[Sunday] morning everyone was tight-lipped, saying they were only exchanging tickets," she said. "By the afternoon it opened up. But it doesn't seem there's a rhyme or reason why they hassle [certain] people."

Said Benny Daniel, an American ticket broker who came to Beijing on business, "It just looks like they're targeting the Chinese [scalpers]." One of the volunteers, however, had walked up to him minutes earlier to warn him that police could be cracking down soon.

According to early reports, ticket prices were highly inflated, and many foreign tourists couldn't find tickets for the events they wanted. Supply could not meet demand. In spite of that, however, buyers knew that tickets were floating around somewhere-- many had seen prevalent empty seats at the venues, despite the official pronouncement that the Games were "sold out." Somewhere, tickets were being unused.

"The problem is you go to the stadium and they're not full," said Sam from Detroit, who was trying to unload an extra handball ticket. "People who want to go can't see the games. It's a shame."

Fly Like A Turd

A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again, the museum said Monday.

The art work, titled "Complex Shit", is the size of a house. The wind carried it 200 yards from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children's home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

The art work has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this did not work when it blew away. Steiner said McCarthy had not yet been contacted and the museum was not sure if the piece would be put back on display.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Woman Sexually Rejected By Mormon Refuses To Accept Death Of Dog

In an unexpected twist, the dog owner who recently made news by paying $53,000 for five clones of her former beloved pit bull turns out to be the same woman who 31 years ago made headlines in England when she was charged with stalking a Mormon missionary, abducting him in England, and then handcuffing him to a bed and making him her sex slave.

Dog lover Bernann McKinney acknowledged in a telephone call to reporters over the weekend that she is indeed Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 became a British tabloid sensation when she faced charges of unlawful imprisonment in the missionary case. She jumped bail and was never brought to justice.

Through tears, she explained that she went public with her efforts to replicate her dog Booger, who died two years ago, hoping people would be able to focus on that story rather than [her] past. "I thought people would be honest enough to see me as a person who was trying to do something good and not as a celebrity," McKinney said.

57-year-old McKinney says that as far as she is concerned, the Joyce McKinney of 31 years ago does not exist. She maintains her innocence and says the woman who made the news then is a "figment of the tabloid press. ... I don't want that garbage in with the puppy story."

Joyce McKinney's story is the stuff of pulp fiction: a North Carolina-born beauty queen who moved west, won the title Miss Wyoming USA and went on to college at Brigham Young University, where she became obsessed with a Mormon fellow student. When that young Mormon took a missionary trip to England, authorities say, McKinney hired a private detective so she could find and follow him.

She and a male accomplice were accused of kidnapping the 21-year-old missionary as he went door to door, taking him to a rented 17th-century "honeymoon cottage" in Devon and chaining him spread-eagle to a bed with several pairs of mink-lined handcuffs. There, investigators say, he was repeatedly forced to have sex with McKinney before he was able to escape and notify police.

In a 1977 court hearing mobbed by the British press, Joyce McKinney said she had fallen head-over-heels in love with the Mormon man and acknowledged tracking him to England. "I loved him so much," she told a judge, "that I would ski naked down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to." But she denied raping him, saying the young man was a willing partner. In the interview, McKinney repeated the same argument her lawyer made all those years ago, saying "I didn't rape no 300-pound man. He was built like a Green Bay Packer."

Back in 1977, McKinney and her accomplice spent three months in a London jail before being released on bail. The pair then jumped bail, posing as deaf-mute actors in Ireland, to board an Air Canada flight to Toronto and eventually a bus to Cleveland, Ohio, where investigators lost their trail.

Unbelievably, Joyce McKinney surfaced again in Utah in May 1984 and was arrested for stalking the workplace of the same Mormon man she was accused of imprisoning in England. When she was arrested in Utah, police found a length of rope and handcuffs in the trunk of McKinney's car, along with notebooks detailing the man's daily activities. Set to stand trial for lying to police and harassment in 1986, McKinney again disappeared just before proceedings, and the case was dismissed.

When contacted by reporters, London police announced over the weekend that they have given up on trying to make another case and will not seek McKinney's extradition. McKinney boasted to reporters, "They don't have a case-- it's been 31 years. They don't care."

"It's taken years of therapy to get past this," she said. "We go to church and serve the Lord and try to lead good lives and do good things."

During her phone interview with the AP, McKinney refused to say where she was when she called. While in South Korea doing PR for the dog cloning story, she told reporters she was a screenwriter and handed out business cards with a Hollywood, California address (which turned out later to be a phony address).

Kevin Frey, sheriff of Avery County, North Carolina (McKinney's hometown) said there are several charges on file against Joyce McKinney, including an active warrant seeking her arrest on a 2003 charge of communicating a threat against another woman. Other charges include passing bad checks, an assault on a public officials and a 2004 animal cruelty charge alleging she failed to take proper care of a horse. That charge was dismissed.

Fake Fireworks? No Surprise, Coming From The Land Of Phony Products

During last Friday's opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird's Nest National Stadium watched as a series of 29 giant footprints outlined in fireworks exploded high above the city beginning at Tiananmen Square and "marching" all the way to the Olympic stadium.

What they did not realize was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.

In reality, those attending the ceremony in person were only able to witness the last two set of pyrotechnic footprints set off within close proximity of the stadium. Ceremony organizers maintain that the entire stunt used 29 sets of actual fireworks, but that live shots of the first 27 fireworks were not used (and replaced by phony ones), because those responsible for filming the extravaganza (including NBC, perhaps?) decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.

As a result, only the last two fireworks-- visible from the camera stands inside the stadium-- were filmed as they happened. The trick was revealed in a local Chinese newspaper, the Beijing Times, over the weekend.

Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing's smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to fool the audience into thinking it was filmed from a helicopter.

One advisor to the Beijing Olympic Committee (BOCOG) defended the decision to use make-believe to impress the viewer. "It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live," he said. "We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route."

A spokeswoman for the Beijing Olympic Committee said the final decision had been made by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (an IOC venture which provides the main video feeds for worldwide viewers). "As far as we are concerned, we let off the fireworks - that's what's important to us," she said.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Drilling To the Bottom Of Things

If It Looks Like A Duck . . . .

Check out this post on, which lends more credence to allegations in Ron Suskind's book (that the Bush administration ordered the CIA to fake a letter tying Sadam Husseim to Al-Qaeda).

It seems that Ayad Allawi (who obtained the memo and leaked it) was ensconsed at the CIA headquarters the week before the memo was leaked to the British press. Hmmm . . . . .

Women Explained by Electricians

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Violence Against U.S. Tourists Mars First Day Of Olympic Competition

A Chinese attacker stabbed two Americans, killing the man and wounding the woman, who were attending the Olympic Games on Saturday.

The man also injured a female Chinese tour guide before leaping to his death around noon from the second floor of the Drum Tower, a popular Beijing tourist site, according to reports.

The USOC said the two Americans were family members of a coach for the U.S. men's indoor volleyball team. Their names have not been released, however. The attacker was a 47-year-old man from the eastern Chinese city Hangzhou, a spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Government Information Office said.

The attack took place at noon on the second floor of the ancient Drum Tower, which lies on the north-south axis that runs from the Forbidden City to the main Olympic venue.

Attacks on foreigners in China are extremely rare. A Canadian model was murdered last month in Shanghai, but police said that was because she stumbled onto a burglary. In March, a screaming, bomb-strapped hostage-taker who commandeered a bus with 10 Australians aboard in the popular tourist city of Xi'an was shot to death by a police sniper.

Shanghai and Beijing are still safer than most foreign cities of their size. Punishments for crimes against foreigners are heavier than for crimes against Chinese, and police-linked neighborhood watch groups are highly vigilant. Chinese are not allowed to own guns.

The U.S. volleyball team are due to play their opening game against Venezuela on Sunday.

Saddle Up, Bitches!

A naked model photographed using Peru's flag as a saddle while on a horse could spend up to four years in jail for offending patriotic symbols.

The suggestive shot of Leysi Suarez, whose main job is dancing for the band Alma Bella ("Beautiful Soul") was splashed on the cover of DFarandula magazine and caused a political uproar in the days leading up to Peru's 187th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

"These are patriotic symbols that demand total respect, and using them improperly requires punishment," Defence Minister Antero Flores said. "This is an offense." Flores then ordered a public prosecutor to take up the case and file charges.

Suarez said it was patriotic to pose for the photo. "I haven't committed a crime. I love Peru and show it with my body and soul," the dancer said.

Mario Amoretti, a well-known lawyer, said it depends in part on how Peru's red-and-white flag was used. "It's one thing to cover your body with the flag, but quite another thing to be naked and using it as a horse's saddle," he said.

Now That's One Damn Ugly Pig!

Rural villagers were shocked when a monkey-like piglet was born in southern China. Curious locals flocked to the home of owner Feng Changlin after news of the piglet spread in Fengzhang village, Xiping township.

"It's hideous. No one will be willing to buy it, and it scares the family to even look at it!" Feng told reporters. He says the piglet looks just like a monkey, with two thin lips, a small nose and two big eyes. Its rear legs are also much longer than its forelegs, causing it to jump instead of walk.

Feng's wife said the monkey-faced piglet was one of five newborns of a sow which the family had raised for nine years. "My God, it was so scary. I didn't known what it was. I was really frightened," she said. "But our son likes to play with it, and he stopped us from getting rid of it. He even feeds it milk."

Neighbors have suggested the couple keep the piglet to see how it looks as it matures.

Women Explained by Statisticians

Friday, August 8, 2008

Saying No to Olympic Television

The Daily Dude has read and heard enough of China's failure to live up to the promises it made when it was awarded the Olympics seven years ago. It doesn't take a genius to realize they never had any intention of allowing freedom of speech for athletes, respecting human rights or the rights of journalists covering the games.

The IOC was wrong to award the Olympics to China, and NBC/GE/Universal is wrong to broadcast the games-- in doing so, it is facilitating the communist government's effort to stage worldwide propaganda.

At this point, I feel that I have no choice but to boycott the TV coverage of the games and hope that if enough people do the same, it will have some impact on the ratings-- perhaps enough to make broadcasters and the IOC take notice and think twice before awarding the Olympics to any future regimes like China.

China Fails On Its Promise Not To Restrict Journalists Leading Up To The Games

On this day of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, there is little disagreement that China has not made good on its promise that “there will be no restrictions on journalists reporting on the Olympic Games.” The government has grown increasingly obsessed with controlling its global image, and has used security concerns as a convenient excuse for its crackdown on the local and foreign media.

The near-total shutdown of coverage of the March riots in Tibet and the harassment and detention of journalists — foreign and Chinese — covering the increasingly politicized aftermath of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan were just the beginning of a series of problems.

In May, apparently unnerved by the Tibetan unrest and fearful of protests in the heart of the capital, China informed broadcast officials that it would bar live television shots from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese government eventually backed down in the face of objections from international broadcasters who had paid hundreds of millions in rights fees and were counting on eye-pleasing live shots from the landmark site.

In May, CNN cemented its "blacklist" status in China when commentator Jack Cafferty called the Chinese “thugs and goons". He later clarified that he meant the communist regime-- but it was too late to mollify the Chinese public. Craig Simons, the Asia bureau chief for Cox Newspapers, said that a cab driver this month had asked him if he worked for CNN. Simons said he did not. The cabbie declared that he would have refused to carry him if he had. “We were on Second Ring Road, in heavy traffic, and he said he’d pull over right there and drop me on the shoulder,” according to Simons.

In July, Chinese police stepped in to stop a live broadcast from the Great Wall on Germany’s ZDF TV network. ZDF’s East Asia correspondent, Johannes Hano and his crew had spent months requesting and receiving the necessary permissions to stage the broadcast. But in the middle of an interview with David Spindler—a Great Wall expert from the U.S.—German morning-show audiences saw police stick their hands over the camera lens. “They told us, in the U.S. there’s no Great Wall, so there couldn’t be a U.S. Great Wall expert,” Hano said. After a frantic telephone appeal to the Foreign Ministry, the Germans were allowed to do the rest of their live segments for the morning program.

It wasn't long after that incident when Chinese police were forced to apologize for roughing up two Japanese journalists in the western region of Xinjiang. The apology came after border police clashed with the Japanese journalists who had arrived in the Muslim-majority region after an alleged terrorist attack left 16 police dead.

A photographer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper was forcibly detained and kicked by police in the city of Kashgar. A reporter for the Nippon Television Network was also detained and treated roughly by Chinese police who pushed his face to the ground. Kashgar police also entered a photographer's hotel room and forced him to delete photos he had taken of the scene of the attack. 38-year-old Masami Kawakita said he was taking photos at the scene when he was grabbed by paramilitary policy and carried into a government facility nearby. Police at one point held him to the ground, placing a foot on his face pinning his head to the ground, and also kicked him once, before he was released after two hours, he said.

And just the day before the opening ceremony, the Chinese authorities detained a plane containing U.S. journalists for over three hours. Typically, the White House press corps are able to disembark the plane right after landing, board buses and head to their hotels and work areas while U.S. State Department officials process immigration and customs details. Instead, the journalists were held on the plane with no explanation-- and afterward, each piece of luggage was individually searched.

Women Explained by Chemists

The Week That Was: 8/8/08

An Army scientist who was suspected in the 2001 anthrax attacks was found dead of suicide. Throughout the week, the Feds released a succession of circumstantial evidence to convince the public of his guilt-- although many remained skeptical. One of their strongest pieces of evidence was the fact that he was crazy and had made threats and acted strangely. If he was so obviously nuts, then why the fuck was he allowed to continue working at a high-security DOD facility?

New estimates released this week showed that least 56,000 people become infected with the AIDS virus every year in the United States -- 40 percent more than previous calculations, according to the CDC. The data also confirmed that there is a severe impact of the epidemic among gay and bisexual men, as well as black men and women in the United States-- which helps to explain why the Bush administration has done little to address the issue.

There is a growing trend across the U.S. of Spanish-language news broadcasts beating English-language competitors in overall viewership. This may not last long if right-wing bigots continue in their efforts to send our economy into the dumpster in order to satisfy their anti-immigrant agenda.

An Ohio inmate convicted of raping and murdering two young women says he's too fat to be executed. How about we starve the bastard until he weighs 98 pounds, then finish him off?

The White House denied this week that the Bush administration directed the CIA to fake a letter tying Sadam Hussein to Al-Queda. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind says the story was confirmed by several sources and all the interviews are on tape. Could this turn out to be the proverbial Bush-gate?

McCain responded favorably to Paris Hilton's spoof of his "Obama Celebrity" attack ad. Wake up, dude-- she called you a 'wrinkly old guy' and compared you to the Golden Girls and the Cryptkeeper!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blacks Banned From Beijing Bars

Reports are filtering out (from a story originally reported by the South China Post) that Beijing officials are secretly planning to ban black people and others it considers social undesirables from entering the city's bars during the Olympic Games.

Bar owners near the Workers' Stadium in central Beijing say they have been forced by Public Security Bureau officials to sign pledges agreeing not to let black people enter their premises.

"Uniformed Public Security Bureau officers came into the bar recently and told me not to serve black people or Mongolians," said the co-owner of a western-style bar, who asked not to be named. The local authorities have been cracking down on blacks and Mongolians in an attempt to stamp out drug dealing and prostitution ahead of the Games, the proprietors said.

Security officials are targeting Sanlitun, which Olympic organizers expect to be a key destination for foreign tourists looking for a party during the Games. The pledges that Sanlitun bar owners had been instructed to sign agreed to stop a variety of activities in their establishments, including dancing and serving customers with black skin, they said.

Bar owners have been allowed to keep copies of all the pledges except those relating to blacks, implying that the authorities are wary of charges of racism.

"I am appalled," said a black British national who works in Beijing. "I understand that the government is trying to stop certain illegal activities, but I don't think blanket discrimination is going about it the right way. "Chinese people are prejudiced, but I would have hoped that the government would set a better example as it debuts on the world stage."

Women Explained by Mathematicians

Guilty of Limo Driving

Salim Hamdan, the former driver of Osama Bin Laden, was found innocent yesterday of conspiracy to commit terrorism. What was the self-admitted chauffeur found guilty of? Ummm . . . of being Bin Laden's chauffeur.

Yes, that's right-- after seven years, Bush's show trial resulted in a conviction on charges of providing "material support" to his employer. The not-guilty verdict on conspiracy to commit terrorism was a major setback for military prosecutors, who only tacked on the lesser charge late in the game.

As Daily Kos put it, after seven years of Bush leadership we have no Bin Laden, no convictions of any terrorists, and abandonment of several long-standing legal principles: habeas corpus, prohibition against coerced evidence, and retroactive prosecution.

Not that it matters anyway-- whether found guilty or acquitted, all Gitmo defendants will be imprisoned indefinitely.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

China Bars Olympic Champion From Attending Beijing Olympics

Speedskating champion and Olympic gold medal winner Joey Cheek has had his Chinese visa revoked at the 11th hour and will not be attending the Beijing Olympics as planned.

Cheek is the co-founder of Team Darfur, a coalition of athletes seeking to call attention to China’s links to the government of Sudan. In a telephone interview with the New York Times, Cheek said he received a phone call soon after 5 p.m. on Tuesday from an official in the Chinese embassy, who told him his visa had been revoked. He had planned to leave for Beijing on Wednesday and said the official did not give a reason for the action.

Barring activists such as Cheek violates Olympic ideals of internationalism and freedom of expression, said Phelim Kine, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government seems to want to have it both ways,” Kine said in a telephone interview. “It says that it will enable people to protest during the Olympic period, but is bending over backwards to ensure that any individual who might actually want to pursue that right to protest is barred from entry into China.”

Masking Pollution With Bullshit

Some members of the U.S. cycling squad arrived for the Olympic Games on Tuesday wearing black respiratory masks, apparently concerned over reports of unhealthy levels of air pollution in Beijing.

About half a dozen members of the team, male and female, were pictured wearing close-fitting face masks covering nose and mouth as they went through the Beijing airport. One was identified as Mike Friedman, a track cyclist who competes indoors.

"I suspect it was their choice, you would have to talk to them as to what prompted them to do this," said Darryl Seibel, chief communications officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I will say this: I am not a scientist, but in my view that was unnecessary."

A cycling official tried to play down the incident which some Chinese may see as provocative. n "I don't believe there was any statement trying to be made," said Andrea Smith, spokeswoman for USA cycling.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said athletes have the right to express their opinions, but should not do so in the athletes' village or the sports venues.

Note: The Daily Dude has so far failed to see any significant coverage of the Beiijing pollution issue on NBC, and certainly doesn't expect to see this story covered on any GE/Universal media outlets. Even the Reuters story (where this story was picked up) concluded with this silly exchange:

"The misty air is not a feature of pollution but a feature of evaporation and humidity," [an Olympics spokesman] said. [note from the DD: Chinese/IOC officials like to bullshit reporters with the story that Beijing's toxic pollution is just "humidity"]

One Olympic rowing competitor said she rather enjoyed the humidity, comparing it to gliding through a steam bath.

Update: The four US cyclists who wore masks over their nose and mouths over pollution fears when arriving in Beijing apologized Wednesday to Olympic organizers, US Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr said. Mike Friedman, Bobby Lea, Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed were among about 200 athletes from an American delegation of 596 who were issued masks by their US sport governing body to combat pollution in Beijing.

"They've now seen how their actions have been perceived," Scherr said. "They were very eager to take the right action, which was to apologize to their hosts."

The perception that Beijing's pollution, which prompted a shutdown of factories and reduction in auto travel during the Olympics, was so harmful that Olympians needed masks on arrival was seen as a slap in the face to organizers. "You never want to go to somebody else's place and cause any embarrassment and in this case some of them did," said USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth, who said the cyclists apologized without prompting from US Olympic officials. (note from DD: yeah, right.)

Update #2: It looks like hypocrisy is not just limited to Chinese Olympic officials-- the USOC is now turning on its own athletes. The New York Times is reporting that the United States Olympic Committee had issued the specially designed masks to protect athletes from the potentially harmful air here. In fact, the USOC's lead exercise physiologist, Randy Wilber, had advised the athletes to wear the masks on the plane and as soon as they stepped foot here.

“This is really a surprise, because I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal,” Friedman (one of the athletes that was forced to apologize) said. “Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution. When you train your whole life for something, dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s, why wouldn’t you be better safe than sorry? They have pollution in Los Angeles, and if the Olympics were in Los Angeles, we would probably wear these masks, too.”

But U.S.O.C. officials were apparently unhappy with their choice, scolding the cyclists for walking off the plane wearing the masks because it might embarrass the host country, Friedman and Lea said. The cyclists said they did not remember the name of the official who spoke with them. “They told us that the Chinese were mad and that this is a politically charged issue, but we didn’t mean to offend anybody,” Friedman said. “When they handed us these masks, they never said, ‘Here they are, but don’t wear them.’ ”

Lea said, “It’s disappointing, because I was under the assumption that the mask was approved for use because it was issued by the U.S.O.C.”

Canadian Bus Beheading: Update

A Chinese immigrant accused of stabbing, beheading and cannibalizing another man on a Greyhound bus in Canada pleaded in court for someone to "please kill me", and was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.Officers at the scene of the bus attack discovered a plastic bag containing an ear, nose and part of a mouth in Li's pocket, according to a police report submitted by prosecutor Joyce Dalmyn as evidence supporting a request for the psychological test. The night of the deadly attack, Dalmyn said, the only response officers received from Li was: "I have to stay on the bus forever".A police officer at the scene reported seeing the attacker hacking off pieces of the victim's body and eating them.

Li arrived in Canada from China about four years ago and moved into a home in Winnipeg, but friends had noticed signs of mental illness, according to reports. He was a married man who had worked hard to improve his English, and regularly attended Sunday-morning church services and church social events. He worked as a forklift driver, while his wife Anna had worked as a waitress at Chinese restaurants in the city.

A friend who had hosted Li at her home for Christmas dinner two years ago said that Li had refused repeated offers to see a doctor to get help for his mental illness. "I think, in their culture, (the issue of mental illness) is kind of frowned upon," she said.

Bears Hunting For Food Hit The Motherlode

Bad weather is thwarting efforts to rescue a group of mine workers trapped by hungry bears in Russia's wild far eastern region of Kamchatka. The bears have already eaten two of the workers.

The bears - apparently starving - killed the men over two weeks ago. As many as 30 bears have surrounded a platinum mine. Both victims worked at the mine as security guards.

About 400 geologists and miners are refusing to return to work, afraid of further attacks. Attempts by local officials to fly to the scene by helicopter and shoot the bears have so far failed because of poor weather, according to reports.

Kamchatka's 12,000-strong bear population is the largest in Eurasia. Recently, however, the bears have faced unprecedented ecological pressures. Overfishing has led to a dramatic decline in the bear's main food source - the Pacific salmon. Kamchatka is home to a quarter of the world's salmon, but they are disappearing. Poachers have cleaned out entire species by netting rivers.

"These predators have to be destroyed," village official, Viktor Leushkin said. "Once they kill a human they will do it again and again."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Prospects For A Pollution-Free Olympics Remain Clouded

Beijing's main Olympic stadium was barely visible under the city's murky sky on Monday, just four days before the Games are due to begin. The smog returned despite claims by Chinese officials that drastic anti-pollution measures had slashed the chances of Olympic events having to be rescheduled.

The familiar murky air seen in the capital reduced visibility to a few hundred metres (yards) just four days before the Olympic opening ceremony.

An Olympic official said the low visibility was due to high humidity, a natural phenomenon. But he was optimistic that athletes, officials and spectators would enjoy good air quality during the Games. The spokesman for the organizers, Sun Weide, said pollution control measures over the past decade would work.

According to data from Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, air quality on Monday was still considered a "blue sky day". Tests conducted by the BBC news service found one major pollutant, particulate matter, was almost six times higher than the recommended level.

The World Health Organization’s target is 50 micrograms per cubic meter. The BBC recorded levels in Beijing at 292 micrograms on Monday. The test was done at a time of day when many Olympic events will take place.

The International Olympic Committee has said endurance events lasting more than one hour could be delayed if the pollution is too bad. It remains unclear how bad the pollution has to be before an event is postponed.

Men's world record holder Haile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia pulled out of the Beijing marathon citing concerns the smog could damage his health, although he will run the 10,000 meters.

Angelina's Awesome, Beautiful Twins

Yesterday, People magazine released a series of high-publicized photos of Angelina Jolie's famous twins. So why is she wearing a nightgown, and why are those damn babies in the way?

Profiles Of Courage

As part of her series "Black In America", CNN's Soledad O'Brien recently profiled an Atlanta professional named Leah Wells. It seems that Wells and two girlfriends decided to spend their lunch break doing some "power-shopping". Shockingly, the three young women, all in their 20s and all black, ended up detained on suspicion of shoplifting.

"We were dressed professionally," Wells said. "It was casual Friday. We had on dresses and casual office wear. We were racially profiled. It was as simple as that." At about 1:15 p.m., mall security contacted Gwinnett County police saying there was a group involved in shoplifting. The police department says four officers arrived at the mall about 10 minutes later, and security pointed out Wells and her two friends as they walked away from the Old Navy store (owned by The Gap). The officers asked the three to return to the store.

Wells says six officers were involved, not four, and that she and her friends were detained for "about an hour and a half"; the police say it was 29 minutes. In her letter to Murphy, the Gap CEO, Wells describes enduring "disdainful stares from the mothers and grandmothers and children entering the store."

Police found no stolen merchandise on Wells or her friends. But Wells says neither the police nor the store managers bothered to apologize. Gwinnett Police say their officers were responding to a call and that the three women detained had thanked the officers for looking into the allegations thoroughly.

The fact remains that Wells and her friends were wrongly detained. "No matter your education, your status or profession, some still only see the color of your skin," Wells wrote two months after the event.

The Gap told CNN that an internal investigation led to the firing of a manager. Later the spokesperson said, "We realize it's probably too late. We regret that we did not apologize for what these ladies experienced at our store, and this goes against everything we stand for as a company."

Sad to say, but it's a common refrain from black people in this country. All of us know someone who has, or have ourselves, been stopped for no apparent reason while driving or been searched for fitting a description.

It happened to O'Brien's brother Orestes. A Harvard medical student at the time, he was visiting a friend in Brooklyn, New York, when he was stopped and searched by officers late one night. He "fit the profile" of a robbery suspect. They dumped his belongings in the street and made him lie face-down. What infuriated him was that no apology ever followed when it became clear the cops got it wrong. It seemed no one felt that one was owed.

In preparing her report, O'Brien said that many parents told stories of sitting down with their sons starting at 12 years old to tell them what to do if pulled over by the police so as not to get shot. I don't imagine many white parents even think such a conversation is necessary with their teenage sons.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Breaking Yet More Promises, China Deals Another Blow To Human Rights Ahead Of The Olympics

Behind the gray walls and barbed wire of the prison in Zhengding, eight Chinese farmers with a grievance against the government have been consigned to Olympic limbo.

Their indefinite detainment, relatives and neighbors said, is the price they are paying for stirring up trouble as China prepares to host the Beijing Games. Trouble, the Communist Party has made clear, will not be permitted.

"My bet is the authorities won't let them out until after the Olympics," said Wang Xiahua, a veteran anti-government agitator from this farm town 180 miles southwest of Beijing and a supporter of the imprisoned farmers.

The Olympic Games have become the occasion for a broad crackdown against dissidents, gadflies and malcontents this summer. Although human rights activists say they have no accurate estimate of how many people have been imprisoned, they believe the figure to be in the thousands.

The crackdown comes seven years after the secretary general of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee declared that staging the Games in the Chinese capital would "not only promote our economy but also enhance all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

Now, human rights have been set back rather than enhanced, activists say. "The Olympics have reversed the clock," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based specialist for Human Rights in China.

Another foreign human rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, came to a similar conclusion in a report issued Monday titled "The Olympics Countdown -- Broken Promises." "By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago," said Roseann Rife, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific deputy director. "The Chinese authorities are tarnishing the legacy of the Games."

The repressive atmosphere has intensified in part because senior Communist Party officials seem to be just as determined to prevent embarrassing protests -- which could be televised -- as they are to avert terrorist attacks during the Olympics. In exhortations to security forces, Public Security Ministry commanders and Xi Jinping, the senior Communist Party leader in charge of Olympic preparations, repeatedly have said that police must block any attempt to damage China's image.

Despite these concerns, President Bush and many other world leaders have accepted China's invitation to attend the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday. After saying for months that the Games should be viewed only as a sporting event, Bush met with Chinese rights activists Tuesday and said he would use the opportunity to remind President Hu Jintao of U.S. support for human rights. The Foreign Ministry criticized his gesture, calling it interference in China's internal affairs. But his decision to attend was still being interpreted as endorsement of China's contention that the Olympic Games are not an appropriate stage for human rights appeals.

"It is a new low for the international community to see all these state leaders going to Beijing without saying anything about the repressive environment in which the Games are being held," he added.

Are You Part Of The 24%?

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. Poll shows that 24 percent have a positive outlook for the country, while 76 percent say things are on the wrong track.

It is the lowest number on record since 1980 and the third time in four decades that the number has dropped so low.

Recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. polling has shown a steady drop in the country's mood. In April 2007, 51 percent said things in the country were going badly. A year later, 70 percent reiterated that position.

"Only three events -- Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, and the economic downturn of 1992 -- have driven below 30 percent the number who think things are going well," CNN's polling director Keating Holland said. The mood of the country has been assessed since 1974.

If you'll remember, in each of those years the opposing party won the White House . . .

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Presidency

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Youth Tased; Public Amazed; Questions Raised; Police Not Fazed

A Louisiana police officer shocked a handcuffed Baron "Scooter" Pikes nine times with a Taser after arresting him on a cocaine charge. But he stopped twitching after seven, according to a coroner's report. Soon afterward, Pikes was dead.

According to the CNN report, the arresting officer, who has since been fired, could end up facing criminal charges after medical examiners ruled it a homicide. Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, told CNN the 21-year-old sawmill worker was jolted so many times by the 50,000-volt Taser that he might have been dead before the last two shocks were delivered.

Officer Nugent is white; Pikes was black. His death led to demonstrations that drew several dozen people in Winnfield, where the population of about 15,000 is roughly half African-American.

But Winnfield police Lt. Chuck Curry said race "isn't an issue at all" in the matter. Sadly, it may be just plain stupidity-- just check out this quote from Lt. Curry:

"He done what he thought he was trained to do. At some point, something happened with his body that caused him to go into cardiac arrest or whatever."

Assault With A Deadly Peanut

23-year-old Robyn Lee of Corryville, OH was charged with aggravated assault after being accused of trying to cram a peanut in the mouth of her allergic neighbor.

According to police and court records, Lee was riding in a car with a neighbor, Shenna Ferguson, when she allegedly tried to put the peanut in Ferguson's mouth.

"I told her to stop because I was very allergic to peanuts," Ferguson wrote in an affidavit. "She laughed." The women headed to the Tri-County Mall in Springdale, where Lee continued to taunt her, Ferguson said.

Lee then threw peanuts at Ferguson when the women reached the mall. They then separated, each to do their own shopping. When Ferguson went back to the car to get her ATM card, she noticed Lee was stooped near Ferguson's gold Chrysler, "messing with my tires." Upon closer inspection, Ferguson realized that her windshield wipers were torn off, the car was keyed and the tires were deflated. It was then that the fight ensued.

A judge set Lee's bond at $5,000 and ordered her to stay away from Ferguson. There were no indications that Ferguson had suffered an allergic reaction after the alleged peanut attack.

Adding To The Toxic Bush Legacy

Tens of thousands of sick nuclear arms workers (and their survivors) from every state in the nation have applied for compensation that Congress established for them in 2000. But most have never seen a dime. Many ill workers have become mired in a process so adversarial that top program officials at one point considered putting some of them under government surveillance — spying on them.

Thousands of nuclear arms workers became sick or died building atomic weapons to defend America. They did top-secret work that exposed them to radiation, chemicals, heavy metals and other poisons. For half a century, the federal government's official policy was to fight any workers who claimed job-related illness, often spending tens of millions in tax dollars annually to do so. The government at times absolutely denied that the workers faced undue danger.

All of that was supposed to have changed at the start of this decade, when the Clinton administration reversed the government's stonewalling and a Republican Congress decided to pay sick workers' medical bills and offer them $150,000 in compensation.

The workers were to be compensated if evidence linked their radiation or chemical exposures to their illnesses. Congress realized that the secrecy surrounding their jobs could make finding proof particularly difficult, and instructed government agencies to help the workers through the process.

The compensation program got off to a wasteful start when the Department of Energy ran up a $90 million administrative bill in four years but compensated only 32 people. Congress thought it had fixed the program when it "fired" the Energy Department in 2004 and transferred the entire responsibility to the U.S. Department of Labor, which had explicit instructions to make the compensation "timely, uniform and adequate."

Since then, sick nuclear workers have protested bitterly about the program's failure to meet their needs. In 2006, congressional hearings uncovered White House attempts to cut costs by denying compensation to more workers.

An investigation by the Rocky Mountain News last month found that the Labor Department has delayed the cases of sick nuclear weapons workers or their survivors across the nation by giving misleading information, withholding records essential to their cases, failing to inform them of alternative paths to aid, repeatedly claiming to have lost evidence sent by ill workers and making requirements for compensation impossibly high.

"It's denial by design," said Janine Anderson, a sick worker who has spent seven years fighting for compensation while the government alternated between losing her file and denying her case. "I'll go to my deathbed believing this was set up to deny claims."

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