Sunday, November 30, 2008
From the New York Times:
36-year-old Australian lawyer James Benson left his 27th floor room at 10:15 pm on Wednesday night and was headed down the stairs of the Oberoi hotel when he ran into a bunch of people running back up. An Indian man named Ravi said that there had been a terrorist attack and that there was a lot of blood on the 14th floor. As they climbed back up the stairs, two large blasts rattled windows in the hotel. A Canadian IT specialist named Sebastian Gonzalez, reacting to the blasts, ran into the stairwell and bumped into Benson and Ravi on the way up. Gonzalez invited them and two other guests, a Northwest Airlines flight attendant named Daryll and a Frenchman named Philippe, to take shelter in this room. After piling themselves into Room 2324, they locked the door and barricaded in with furniture and a mattress, which they hoped would block any shrapnel from grenades set off by the terrorists on the loose in the hotel.
Then the wait began. They were able to watch TV and use the hotel phone and their cell phones to contact relatives, who in turn called back with information. They grew more concerned when the BBC reported that Americans and Britons were being targeted. From that point onward, the men had Ravi answer all phone calls. They lost TV reception at about 10 am on Thursday; on Thursday evening, they were phoned by hotel personnel who told them they would eventually be rescued.
As the hours wore on, the men grew hungry and thirsty. They shared a packet of cookies from the minibar. They drank the bottled water, then the soda. When they heard they were to be evacuated, they shifted to the beer and hard liquor. Around 11 am on Friday, help arrived and they were escorted from the hotel.
From the Belfast Telegraph:
In the attack at the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, what angered journalist Sebastian D'Souza were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back. What is the point if having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them? What is the point if having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them?"
Another story from the Belfast Telegraph:
The 28-year-old Paul Archer, in Mumbai for business, locked himself inside his room on the 14th floor of the Trident-Oberoi hotel after hearing explosions on Wednesday night. Though his TV stopped working, he was able to keep in touch with family and friends in India and at home and learn of the drama playing out all around him. "I did not believe it until I looked out of the window," he said, referring to the police he could see and the explosions he could hear. From time to time, he would look through the spyhole in his door to see if he could see anything or anyone. As it was he never saw any of the gunmen who had taken control of the hotel complex, or any of the bodies of those people killed. "You have to try to make light of the situation. You have to try to stay calm."
Also from the Belfast Telegraph:
Gill Stephen and a Hong Kong guest down the hall barricaded themselves inside room 2115 at the Trident-Oberoi during the entire seige. The two women locked the door to the room and forced it tight with luggage and furniture. To sustain them through the long hours, they turned to the mini-bar and made the best use of its peanuts and chocolate.
Although they were able to watch TV and access the internet, Stephen said she felt surreally cut off from the events taking place around her. But at times it was also terrifying; watching a television news report that said flames had taken hold of the hotel, she and the other woman placed wet towels across their faces. As it transpired, the fire did not get close so they removed the towels.
At another point, hearing a volley of shots and explosions, the pair of them climbed into the bath and covered themselves with pillows. After about five minutes they felt ridiculous and climbed out. There was another Brit in the hotel. He was on his own in a room and I think he was just randomly dialling other numbers to speak with people. I think it was harder for people on their own."
The most frightening moments had been the final hours as commandos cleared the hotel of gunmen. For them, the end came sometime after noon when the two women received a telephone call from hotel officials. They were told that there would soon be a knock on the door and that staff would collect them. "I opened the door and there was a mixture of people – police, hotel staff and commandos," she said.
From the Daily Mail:
An actor who played a terrorist in a British TV drama was among the Britons caught up in the violence. Joe Jeetun-- who played bomber Shehzad Tanweer in the dramatization of the London Tube attacks-- was in the Leopold cafe when terrorists burst in.
The 31-year-old said he owed his life to a stranger who pushed him to the floor as the firing started. "I heard a noise then this guy jumped on top of me and threw me on the floor. He said 'Get down, get down, don't speak'. I didn't know him but he saved my life. I just curled myself in the smallest ball I could and closed my eyes. I was covered in other people's blood and I think that is what saved me. I hoped that if I stayed still they would think I was already dead."
From the Sunday Telegraph:
The family of 73-year-old Andreas Liveras, the only known British fatality, told how he courageously evaded gunmen for eight hours in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel as he frantically tried to reassure his family that he was safe. Dion Liveras, the victim's son, said: "Even now, we find it beyond belief that he went out for a quiet meal – and lost his life.
"He had been able to contact us all by telephone and by text. All the time, he was reassuring us that he was okay. Eventually, however, the gunmen got into the room where my father was and sprayed bullets. He died from multiple wounds."
See here for a list of known victims (with personal information and circumstances of their deaths) as of Saturday night.
By mid-November, with the financial crisis growing worse by the day, it had become obvious that one President was no longer enough . . . Yet this final humiliation seems particularly appropriate for George W. Bush. At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks . . .
[H]is ridiculous, preening appearance in a flight suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier beneath the "Mission Accomplished" sign. The flight-suit image is one of the two defining moments of the Bush failure. The other is the photo of Bush staring out the window of Air Force One, helplessly viewing the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. This is a presidency that has wobbled between those two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence . . .
In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and their prospective gay parents, rejecting the state's arguments that there is "a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children." She noted that gay people are allowed to be foster parents in Florida. "There is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting," she wrote in a 53-page ruling.
Florida is the only state with an outright ban on gay adoption. Arkansas voters last month approved a measure similar to a law in Utah that bans any unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children. Mississippi bans gay couples, but not single gays, from adopting.
Note from the Daily Dude: In the article, a conservative activist invokes the time-worn but inaccurate term "judicial activism". I find it ironic when the religious right use the term "judicial activism" when referring to courts who rule in favor of constitutional rights, but at the same time want courts to overrule Supreme Court precedent and ban abortion.
Lawmakers wanted toys with the controversial chemicals to be off the market when the law takes effect February 10, according to a statement from Senator Dianne Feinstein, co-author of the ban.
Last week, however, a staff attorney at the agency responsible for carrying out the new regulations — the Consumer Product Safety Commission — released a legal opinion stating that stores may continue to sell toys with phthalates, as long as those items were made before February 10. That could allow toys with phthalates to remain on the shelves for years, with no way for parents to know which toys contain the chemicals.
The CPSC's interpretation of the safety bill "is harmful to our children and a blatant disregard for the law," Senator Barbara Boxer said in a statement. "[Their] claim that our intent was not clear is a pathetic and transparent attempt to avoid enforcing this law. It is beyond me that as they exit the scene, this administration is still carrying out its malicious actions to weaken environmental protection for our families."
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Police drew their weapons when they found 46-year-old Keith Roy Weatherley parked in a no-stopping zone and saw that he was doing something suspicious below the steering wheel.
To their surprise, they found him partially clothed with his genitals in a jar.
Weatherley-- startled by the police-- quickly pulled away, ignoring the flashing lights. The chase lasted five to 10 minutes, with a top speed of just 12 mph, before Weatherley was stopped. He refused to leave the car.
Four officers used batons and capsicum spray to remove him. They found a 750-milliliter jar around his penis and noted that Weatherley attempted to continue "pleasuring himself in between bouts of wrestling".
A search of his car uncovered pornography, a home-made sex aid, women's stockings and a Jack Russell terrier. Weatherley pleaded guilty to offensive behavior, resisting arrest and disobeying a police order.
The judge asked Weatherley, who represented himself, why he behaved the way he did. He said he resisted police because he was trying to make himself "decent". He was fined $600 for offensive behavior.
Friday, November 28, 2008
A young Nepali climber is seeking to popularize a toilet fashioned from a plastic bucket with a lid to promote eco-friendly climbing on Mount Everest.
Hundreds of climbers flock to the world's tallest peak at 29,035 feet every year, with many simply squatting in the open or hunching behind rocks as the Everest base camp has no proper toilet facilities.
Dawa Steven Sherpa, who led an eco-Everest expedition in May to collect trash dumped by previous climbers, said his team used a plastic bucket as well as a gas-impervious bag designed to safely contain and neutralize human waste and keep in odor.
"It is portable and very secure," 25-year-old Sherpa said. "I want to promote anything that manages human waste on the mountain."
Sherpa's team, during its month-long expedition, picked up 2,100 pounds of cans, gas canisters, kitchen waste, tents, parts of an Italian helicopter that crashed 35 years ago and remains of the body of a British climber who died in 1972.
In addition, his team also brought down 65 kg of human waste produced by its 18 members, which it handed over to a local environment group at the base camp for management.
"To date, no other container designed for human waste exists in this size, weight or strength," Sherpa said of the U.S.-designed bucket, which is 11 inches tall and weighs 2.4 pounds, and has an opening that is eight inches in diameter.
Tourism, including mountain climbing, is a key source of income and accounts for nearly 4 percent of impoverished Nepal's gross domestic product. About 3,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since it was first scaled by New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953, and there are growing concerns about the environmental impact of the large numbers of climbers.
"There is a heightened need for environmentally friendly practices in climbing, not only to have a neutral impact on the mountains but a positive impact," Sherpa said.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
He took a flood of calls giving the type of exotic cuisine he had expected, including snails, sea urchins, monkey brains and dog and horse. But when he received a call from a woman who once said she had eaten human flesh, he did not know what to say.
The caller, only known as Anthea, told the show: 'I've eaten human being.' To which Mack slowly replied: 'Oh my goodness. Right, all bets are off. You can't beat that. How come you were a cannibal?'
She answered: 'It was when I was a child when I lived in Africa. We always went to the same butcher and then suddenly - we were there a couple of years - the meat started to get so much better.
'It was only when we moved back to England a couple of years later that we realized that the butcher had been arrested because he farmed little black girls."
There were audible gasps in the studio.
Anthea added: "We didn't know [it] at the time. According to my mum it was very delicious.'
The DJ replied: 'So what do you think it was? You thought it was beef?'
She said: "My mum said yes, she was just buying mince."
There were further gasps before someone in the background said: 'That's horrific.'
Mack added: "You are the winner this morning. Goodness me. I don't even know what to say. I had no idea we would get this call this morning. Wow."
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In a new case, a six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine. Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.
The girl was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September. There have also been a number of attacks in neighboring Tanzania. The latest attack took place in Burundi's eastern province of Ruyigi.
According to the BBC report, the child and her family had only just returned to their family home, believing it was safe. Armed attackers broke into the family home and tied up the girl's parents before shooting her in the head, local officials say. They had been among a group of about 50 people with albinism to have fled to a provincial center because they feared for her safety.
The head of the Burundi Albinos' Association, Kasim Kazungu, says people with albinism had not suffered any discrimination until other Burundians heard about the lucrative trade in albino body parts in neighboring Tanzania.
Last week, police in south-western Tanzania arrested a man who was attempting to sell his albino wife to Congolese traders. Two mothers in western Tanzania were also attacked with machetes after gangs failed to find their albino children.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson outraged many observers earlier this year with a graphic defense of existing animal abuse laws, in which he presented examples of the difficulties faced by courts when trying to differentiate affection from abuse.
"Is it, and should it be, legal to spread something on the genitalia that might smell or taste nice to a dog, in order to allow the dog to lick off whatever is spread on the genitalia? Should it be permitted to stroke a bitch's teats with love, or should it be classified as animal sexual abuse?" the minister wondered.
According to the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency, 115 cases of bestiality were reported in the years 2000 to 2005. Despite indications that many of the animals had sustained injuries, none of the reports led to criminal charges.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The latest foot -- still wearing a left New Balance running shoe -- was found on the south arm of the Fraser River by a Richmond, British Columbia, couple, police said. It was turned over to the British Columbia Coroners Service for examination and DNA testing, authorities said.
Before Tuesday, five feet -- all wearing running shoes -- had washed ashore in southern British Columbia since August 2007. One of them, a right New Balance shoe, was found May 22 on Kirkland Island. That foot was determined to belong to a female, authorities said.
The provincial coroners' office said in July that DNA tests determined that two of the five feet -- a right foot found February 8 and a left foot found June 16 -- were from the same male, but they said they didn't know to whom any of the feet belonged.
The provincial coroners' service said in July that the five sets of remains found to that point appeared "to have naturally separated (disarticulated) from the body." There was no forensic evidence, such as tool or trauma marks, on the remains to suggest that they had separated in any way other than decomposition, the service said.
Authorities are investigating multiple possibilities on the origin of the feet, including foul play and the chance they could belong to victims of a plane crash. The RCMP has released photos of the shoes hoping someone can help identify the remains. "We are asking anyone who may have had their loved one last seen wearing [these] shoes to contact us immediately," Linteau said.
The scuttlebutt is that the players have never really appreciated the obvious sales pitch, due in part to the perception that they aren’t offered much of a deal. This year, some of them have finally made their feelings known.
On Saturday, when players arrived at the facility to continue preparations for Monday night’s home game against the Packers, more than one of the cars was coated in human feces. (note from the Daily Dude: if there were pix available on the net, I would have them for you-- honest!)
It’s believed that two or more players were responsible for the mess, but no published sources have yet to confirm the names of any suspects.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The current occupation of Iraq is proceeding under a U.N. Chapter 7 mandate, which is based on the finding that Iraq is a danger to international peace and needs to be governed by a responsible colonial power. The mandate imposes very few constraints on U.S. behavior, to the constant chagrin and violent burning anger of the Iraqi population. But the mandate expires every year, [and should it expire,] necessitates involving the America hating U.N.-- so the U.S . prefers to conduct its occupations pursuant to bilateral agreements with the puppet government [through the use of] Status of Forces Agreements.
The negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq have been grueling, and have been characterized by inevitable Iraqi reluctance to voluntarily cede a portion of their country's sovereignty to the most aggressive imperialist power in the world today, which has already committed countless atrocities against the Iraqi people, and killed or starved around 2 million Iraqis since 1991. The predictable Bush Administration high handedness, incompetence and gaffes have not helped either.
After some typically ugly threats from the various goons in the Bush Administration stating that they would never agree to any further modifications that might expose our criminal troops to any punishment for their actions, Bush decided to eat his shame, and agreed to most of the revisions [proposed by the Iraqis], just to end the pain. While the modifications were modest, there is now no getting around the fact that the SOFA unequivocally calls for a withdrawal according to a firmly fixed timeline, something which Bush has been adamant would be tantamount to a surrender to terrorists.
First, the title of the agreement, which makes it clear that this is indeed a timetable for withdrawal, and vaguely implies that the U.S. is standing in shit. Bush couldn’t even get a concession on the title. Quite a negotiator, this guy.
An Agreement between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America regarding the Withdrawal of the American Forces from Iraq and Regulating their Activities During their Temporary Presence [Deep] in It
First, the hot button, sexy, jurisdictional issues. Who gets to try Americans for crimes against the Iraqi people? Anybody? God maybe?
Iraq has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the U.S. forces and members of the civilian element regarding major and premeditated crimes ... when these crimes are committed outside installations and areas agreed upon and off duty.
However, it appears that despite Blackwater's extensive donations to the Bush campaign, they now join the long list of parties screwed royally by GW.
Iraq has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over private contractors which have contracts with the United States and their employees.Other significant provisions (in terms of how they would affect ongoing operating procedures of the occupation) are as follows:
It is not permitted for the U.S. forces to detain or arrest any person (except the detention or arrest of a member of the U.S. forces or the civilian element) unless it is in accordance with an Iraqi decision issued under Iraqi law implementing Article Four.
U.S. forces are not permitted to search houses or other premises unless it is in accordance with an Iraqi judicial order issued for this purpose with complete coordination with the Iraqi government, except in cases where there is actual combat which comes under Article 4.
This means the U.S. can not longer detain and hold whoever they want for however long they want in black hole prisons all over Iraq, as they are currently doing. And those who are being held must either be transferred to Iraqi custody or be released. A big victory for the forces of Terra, although since the U.S. keeps no list of the people it has locked up, it would be impossible for the Iraqis to verify compliance with this provision.
This provision is a gem, this is why Syria and Iran are excited about this thing passing:
It is not permitted to use Iraqi land, water and airspace as a route or launching pad for attacks against other countries.
And finally, in addition to the much publicized timeline of withdrawal (June 2009 from all cities and villages, December 2011 for the whole country) the agreement contains the following hopeful language:
The United States admits to the sovereign right of the Iraqi government to demand the departure of the U.S. forces from Iraq at anytime. The Iraqi government admits to the sovereign right of the United States to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq at anytime.
Before we get excited, we must keep in mind that the U.S. is a notorious violator of its treaty obligations (ask the Native Americans) and that words on paper have never before stopped our brave men and women from defending freedom by doing whatever fucked up things they felt were a good idea at the time. The world lacks any realistic check on U.S. unilateralism, and I am sure no Iraqi is holding his breath for the release of prisoners from the U.S. run secret prisons or for the cessation of warrantless U.S. raids on Iraqi homes.
And, of course, this would not be a Bush document without strong hints of
unconstitutionality. An American constitutional law scholar, who teaches at Berkeley and was still somehow allowed into some Senate subcommittee hearing, thinks that there should be Congressional approval of this bad boy, because it is so much more like a treaty than just a conventional status of forces agreement like the kind the U.S. has with South Korea or Japan.
With the current U.N. authorization for U.S. presence in Iraq expiring at the end of the year, and the US lame duck Congress going on vacation, not wanting any part of this latest steaming pile of Bush, Congressional authorization or formal Senate ratification of the SOFA seems unlikely. Iraq, on the other hand, will continue to be in an uproar over this for a few months at least, until the next outrage. Pragmatically speaking, the Iraqis know that this pact is far superior to the UN mandate under which the US is currently operating, which provides virtually no limits at all on US actions.
The high court declined to hear an appeal by Canadian airlines of a decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency that people who are "functionally disabled by obesity" deserve to have two seats for one fare.Which means that if you had the bad luck to buy a seat next to an obese person, you'll be "functionally disabled" by an obese person. So sit back and enjoy a very cozy flight or be moved-- and if the flight is full, possibly be bumped altogether.
This (young progressive voters) is a movement of the people that you most fear. It's a movement of progress -- and your words only show how truly desperate you are to maintain control of a world that is changing before your very eyes.
Then again, we've seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a religious group -- one that looks down upon minorities and women -- when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us "fascists" when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of "traditional" marriage. And, of course, you've also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of "historic Christianity" you claim to champion.
Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we're used to hearing.
What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That's really so '90s, Newt. In this day and age, it's embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it.
In other words, stop being a hater, big bro.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
No Freakin' Way: Michael Vick and Jack Abramoff
Not Likely: Marion Jones and Barry Bonds
Maybe, Baby: Ted Stevens, Martha Stewart, the Enron Guys
Looking Good: James Tobin and the Texas Border control agents who shot an unarmed Mexican drug runner
Lock It In, Dude: Scooter Libby and Michael Milken
In the latest fashion statement/sports controversy to hit Italy, soccer players are dropping their shorts to score goals.
Catania, a team in the country’s top division, unveiled the new look while taking a free kick in a recent Series A match against Torino. The players lined up in a wall (in similar fashion to the defensemen) and dropped their shorts in an effort to block the goalkeeper’s vision.
In the picture above, Catania carries out the "ballsy" maneuver to perfection as Giuseppe Mascara scores in a 3-2 win over Torino (forward Gianvito Plasmati-- on the right-- is seen with his shorts down as the ball scores).
The team's coach replied, “A trick? I wouldn’t say so. It’s up to the referee to decide if it should be penalized, otherwise I don’t see where the problem is. … Good taste is relative.”
Friday, November 21, 2008
Rather has long believed that an independent investigation paid for by CBS to assess his flawed 60 Minutes report on Bush's National Guard service wasn’t actually independent at all, but heavily influenced by CBS executives and effectively a corporate cleanup operation meant to placate the White House.
According to Joe Hagan at the Daily Intel, CBS sought advice from Republican operatives in its search for a panelist who would placate right-wing ire against the network; and the president of CBS News at the time, Andrew Heyward, may have had foreknowledge of, and input on, the investigation even though he was himself supposedly under scrutiny.
Newly released CBS memos from 2004 show the network did in fact use a political litmus test to pick a key panelist for its independent panel. After considering a laundry list of GOP pundits, executives, lobbyists, and lawyers, CBS News chose former attorney general Dick Thornburgh to co-chair the panel:
Mr. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was named a panelist by CBS, but only after a CBS lobbyist “did some other testing,” in which she was told, according to [CBS News vice president Linda] Mason’s notes, “T comes back with high marks from G.O.P.
CBS News president Andrew Heyward himself was a subject of the investigation because he’d been directly involved in the 60 Minutes report and its aftermath. Therefore he wasn’t supposed to have any input on the “independent” panel report other than his own testimony. But a newly-discovered e-mail between Heyward and CBS News vice-president Linda Mason suggests Heyward was being kept abreast of the internal machinations of the investigation and offering input almost two weeks before he was supposed to know what was in it:
In the e-mail back-and-forth, Mr. Heyward and Ms. Mason appear to be engaging in a bit of preemptive damage control. “Even if they had to expand the summary, we should consider this option if the big doc is too destructive,” wrote Mr. Heyward. “[A]nd I wouldn’t hesitate to put that back on them — that they exceeded the mandate or violated our instruction to leave the organism alive after the cancer is removed.
Clearly, Heyward didn’t consider himself part of the “cancer” to be removed by the panel, which was evidently acting on “our instruction.”
Rather may be a bit of an old Texas coot, but these revelations certainly give some credence to his claims. Maybe CBS should have thought twice about taking on a former investigative reporter.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Last year, 22-year-old policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter was taking a lunch break with a colleague in their patrol car in Heilbronn, nearly 100 miles from Bad Kreuznach. Two people climbed into the back seat and shot the officers from behind, killing the woman and seriously injuring her 25-year-old partner. The assailants struck so quickly their victims had not even drawn their weapons.
The case shocked the country. It also sparked one of the largest criminal investigations in German history-- with results that at first puzzled, then stunned, the investigators. The only clue was microscopic traces of DNA, found on the center console and the rear passenger seat of the patrol car. And when the samples were compared with Germany's central crime database, there was an extraordinary match-- from two quite different murder scenes stretching back a decade and a half. The 'Woman Without a Face' had, it seemed, struck again.
If nothing else, the frenzy of media coverage that followed did at least give the mystery woman a name. 'The Phantom of Heilbronn', the headline writers soon dubbed her, as newspapers, magazines and documentary-makers chronicled the police efforts to hunt down their elusive suspect. And the more the police probed, the more matches they turned up, not only with a string of further crimes across southern Germany but, as the DNA call went out across Europe, with nearly a dozen break-ins and vehicle thefts across the border in Austria and France.
But the story didn't stop there. The DNA signature of "The Phantom" has continued to turn up at new crime sites since Heilbronn-- most bizarrely, perhaps, a few months ago when the corpses of three Georgian car dealers were trawled from a river near Heppenheim, south of Frankfurt. Two men were jailed for the killing, an Iraqi and a Somali. In the Iraqi suspect's battered old Ford, forensic officers found traces of the same DNA found in the police car in Heilbronn. But how did it get there? Who is the woman whose genetic calling card has been found at more than 20 scenes of theft, assault and murder hundreds of miles and more than a dozen years apart? If their Iraqi suspect can help, police say, he's not telling.
More than 100 police and prosecutors on five investigating teams across Germany, Austria and France are now involved in an increasingly frantic effort to answer those questions. Check out this article on the U.K.'s Guardian website for more fascinating details.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A spokesman for the LaGrange County sheriff's office said that Bailey was arrested after a 6-month search following the brutal attack on April 26 of this year. According to reports, Bailey tackled the 29-year-old victim (riding his bike at the time) and then forced him into his car at knife-point. Bailey then drove the victim to a secluded area, where he proceeded to rape him.
The victim told detectives that Bailey said he had been looking for an Amish girl - but when one couldn't be found, the suspect concluded that "[the victim] would have to do."
"They [the Amish] trust everybody. They're just real friendly to everybody. That's just the way they are and when you have something like this happen to them, it's... I personally take offense to it," said Sheriff Terry Martin.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Most people would be surprised by the large percentage of western states' land that is owned by the federal government. Given that population in these western states is growing and folks are moving out the plains states by the droves, Alex Tabarrok's proposal to sell off federal holdings in western states to fund land acquisition in the plains states piqued my interest.
Does a sale of western lands mean reducing national parkland? No, first much of the land isn’t parkland. Second, I propose a deal. The government should sell some of its most valuable land in the west and use some of the proceeds to buy low-price land in the Great Plains.
The western Great Plains are emptying of people. Some 322 of the 443 Plains counties have lost population since 1930 and a majority have lost population since 1990.
Now is the time for the Federal government to sell high-priced land in the West, use some of the proceeds to deal with current problems and use some of the proceeds to buy low-priced land in the Plains creating the world’s largest nature park, The Buffalo Commons.
Monday, November 17, 2008
According to reports, the lame-duck Bushies are moving heaven and earth to enshrine into law what they could not get from Congress or the voters. A memo from the White House chief of staff to all executive agencies set a Nov. 1 deadline for completing major regulation changes that must undergo a 60-day window for comment by members of Congress before taking effect. Currently out of session (and coming back only to deal with the Bush recession), Congress will not be able to focus on the avalanche of regulatory changes-- and the Bushies are counting on that. A sampling of what's in store:
Interior Department officials are pushing for changes that would let federal agencies approve projects that have an impact on threatened species and their habitats without consulting Fish and Wildlife Service scientists as currently required.
A proposed Justice Department regulation would allow local and state law enforcement to collect and share sensitive information on citizens even when they are not suspected of involvement in criminal activity.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is about to be be weakened by permitting state and local governments to make only a fraction of their facilities accessible to the handicapped.
A Department of Health and Human Services rule change would deny federal funds to family planning organizations and clinics that refuse to hire staffers who will not provide birth control to patients upon request.
Another proposed HHS regulation would define forms of birth control as abortion, allowing physicians and others a legal basis for declining to provide family planning counseling that includes birth control techniques.
The White House is preparing rules changes to eliminate environmental reviews for fishing regulations and allow regional councils dominated by both commercial and sports fishing interests to make those judgments.
The EPA is seeking to permit increased emissions from older power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, while watering down prohibitions against discharges of industrial effluent into waterways and curbs on mountain-top coal mining.
The Bureau of Land Management is rushing to open millions of acres of wilderness areas in Utah to development, including tracts close to national parks.
In order to avoid reversal by the Obama administration, these last-minute regulations must be published by Nov. 20. Because of lengthy time requirements for undoing the changes, we could be stuck with them for several years to come.
It's no secret that Bush doesn't give a rat's ass about the international community or basic human rights-- why should we expect him to care about sticking it to the American people?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Jersey City councilman Steve Lipski was arrested for assault at the November 8th Dark Star Orchestra show. Less than 30 minutes into the Grateful Dead tribute band's set, Lipski was already so drunk he whipped out his penis and began pissing on the concertgoers below. Thanks to Michael C. for the link.
- Support the International Criminal Court
- Close Guantanamo
- Ratify the Torture Convention
- Waive the U.S.' right to confidentiality in Red Cross visitation reports
- Use Federal Powers to stop the execution of foreign nationals who have been convicted in breach of international law (typically when they are denied consular access when arrested)
- Engage international law, not oppose it
Read all the details here.
"My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska's investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars. Never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or a continent, I just don't know about this issue."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
King George has been asleep at the wheel for the last eight years, having done nothing for the economy other than ramming through a series of damaging tax cuts. And after jumping into action only when the tanking economy threatened McCain's campaign, lame duck W sat by while bailout billions were spent on luxury junkets, shareholder dividends, mergers and acquisitions and executive bonuses (instead of preventing foreclosures or actually providing needed credit). I fully expect the G20 to take W out to the proverbial tool shed for a thorough spanking. Well-- we can hope so, anyway.
Oh, did you hear-- ding-a-ling W thought a good idea for an economic crisis meeting would be to serve $500-a-bottle wine. Sheesh!
- Under no circumstances should they read newspapers, magazines or be allowed to watch TV or DVDs.
- They must adhere at all times to a macrobiotic, vegetarian, organic diet with no processed or refined food.
- All water they drink, even when it is to dilute organic juice, should be Kabbalah water (mountain spring water blessed by leaders of the Kabbalah religion)
- They should wear the clothes Madonna has sent with them on the flight. If they need to be bought anything, they should not contain man-made fibers.
- Their hands should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant spray if they are in public places.
- They should not be bought toys which are spiritually or ethically unsound.
- Guy should not discuss the separation with them.
- Madonna should have phone contact with the boys as much as three or four times a day at times set by her.
- The boys should not be introduced to Guy's new friends, especially any new females friends he has attracted since the separation.
- Madonna has encouraged the access to give him [Guy] time with the boys, rather than his [Guy's] parents spending large amounts of time with the boys.
- The boys should not be photographed while with Guy. It is his responsibility to organize security so that does not happen.
- At bedtime, Guy should read David the English Rose books Madonna wrote.
On the one hand, a blanket pardon for anyone involved in the interrogations could be viewed by the public as a tacit admission of colossal wrongdoing -- after years of public denial -- which would do nothing to help Bush's tarnished legacy. Yet, if the administration fears an investigation will follow Bush out the door in January, they may not want to leave officials exposed to potentially revealing criminal proceedings.
Constitutional scholars say a pardon of this kind would be an unprecedented move -- the prospective pardon of not just individuals but entire categories of people, perhaps numbering in the thousands, for carrying out the president's orders , which the White House has argued all along were legal.
A blanket pardon from Bush could cover, for example, anyone who participated in, had knowledge of, or received information about Bush's interrogation program during the so-called war on terror. Not only are there potentially too many people to name without risking missing somebody, but some of the names are presumably classified. According to Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School, a blanket pardon of this variety "would allow a president to engage in massive illegality and generally pardon the world for any involvement in [carrying out the] unlawful activity."
The politics of it would be fraught with danger, however, and could so blemish Bush's legacy that some doubt he would go so far. "A pardon is an admission of guilt," noted Donald Kettl, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Bush has argued for years that his interrogation program was perfectly legal. With a pardon, Kettl said, Bush is essentially saying, "Gee, maybe we did not do the right thing."
Friday, November 14, 2008
Dr. Christopher Ryan, a psychiatrist at the University of Sydney, says there is a good argument for allowing patients with body integrity identity disorder (BIID) to have their unwanted limb removed. "I realize that the idea strikes almost everyone as lunatic when they first hear it. However, there are a small number of people who see themselves, and have always seen themselves, as amputees," he said.
The disorder hit news headlines in 2000 when it was revealed that a surgeon in Scotland had amputated a healthy leg from two patients with the disorder. At the time, appalled Scottish politicians called the procedure "obscene" and tried to ban such operations. According to Dr. Ryan, doctors have a moral duty to amputate for the health and safety of the patient.
He said one 30-year-old patient of his lived his whole life feeling he was truly an amputee, but was so ashamed of how he felt he did not tell anyone. "Eventually he took the only step he thought he had open to him and placed his leg in a bucket of dry ice until it died and had to be removed," Dr Ryan said. "Now, a year later, he is living happily as an amputee and getting on with his life."
Dr. Ryan said such operations should be likened to plastic surgery, with elective amputation offered to BIID sufferers only. "Unless these patients know that doctors will take their concerns seriously, and at least consider their requests, more people will risk their lives trying to remove their own limbs," he said.
The men escaped after the attack, and no one claimed responsibility for it, but Al-Jazeera said Taliban militants were suspected to be responsible. The incident occurred about 8 a.m. near Mirwais Nika Girls High School in the Meir Weis Mena district. Girls were forbidden to attend school under the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, when U.S.-led forces removed them from power.
"These cowardly acts reflect how dishonorable the insurgents truly are," Gen. David McKiernan said in a statement. "No one can honestly say they are fighting for the people, then purposefully attack innocent women and children," he added.
Meanwhile, more "brave soldiers" of Islam continued their work for Allah by killing two Christian sisters in Mosul, Iraq. They later bombed the family house for good measure. (sarcastic note from the DD: why waste good bomb-making materials like that? You could have lured in some more innocent victims and upped your body count. Bad militants!)
The main U.N. envoy in Iraq condemned the killing of two Christian sisters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Staffan de Mistura expressed his shock and outrage at the continued targeting and killing of religious minorities.
Iraqi police say the two women were killed as they were waiting in front of their house for a ride to work. Their mother was wounded in the attack. The U.S. military has confirmed the killings and says the Christian family's house was then destroyed later by bombs planted inside.
The attack came after about 13,000 Christians fled Mosul last month in the face of threats and attacks from extremists. De Mistura called on Iraqi authorities at the national and local level to protect Christians and other minorities in Iraq and to ensure those behind the attacks "are swiftly brought to justice."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
According to Rev. Jay Scott Newman, "Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law."
Raja Petra, a vocal government critic who had been held at a notorious detention camp since September, wept and embraced his family after being freed by the Shah Alam High Court. "I'm realy glad it's over. I'm really tired. The judge's decision proves that there was no justification for my detention," he said, calling for an end to the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows for detention without trial.
Raja Petra, founder of the popular Malaysia Today website which has outraged top leaders with its stream of critical stories, was detained in September for writing articles that allegedly insulted Islam. There has been a rash of detentions in recent months under the ISA, which allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial.
Raja Petra was detained on the same day as opposition lawmaker Teresa Kok and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, both of whom have since been freed. Tan's arrest in particular caused a furore as she had merely reported on racist comments from a ruling party member who was subsequently suspended by the United Malays National Organization.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
• He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics
• He was known as "O'Bomber" at high school for his skill at basketball
• His favorite meal is wife Michelle's shrimp linguini
• He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali
• He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream
• He can speak Spanish
• He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't
• He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia
• He can bench press 200 lbs
• His favorite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
• His favorite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
• He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.
• His favorite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees
• He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker
• He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol
• He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician
• As a teenager he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine
• He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal
• He uses an Apple Mac laptop
• He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300
• He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes
• His favorite fictional television programs are "M*A*S*H" and "The Wire"
• His favorite artist is Pablo Picasso
• His specialty as a cook is chili
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Nay Myo Kyaw, a 28-year old man who blogged under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail by a court in Rangoon. The poet, Saw Wai, received a two year sentence for an eight-line Valentine’s Day verse published in a popular magazine.
They join more than 2,000 other political prisoners in Burma’s jails, half of whom have been incarcerated since last September’s “Saffron Revolution”, when tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and political activists took to the streets in a failed uprising against the junta.
Saw Wai’s poem, entitled ‘14th February’, was ostensibly a Valentine’s Day verse published last January in a popular weekly magazine. “You have to be in love truly, madly, deeply and then you can call it real love,” it read. “Millions of people who know how to love, please clap your hands of gilded gold and laugh out loud.” But the first word of each line spelled out a pithier message about the leader of the country’s military government: “Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe”. Saw Wai was arrested the next day.
Nay Phone Latt, who runs a blog describing the difficulties of day to day life in Rangoon, was regarded as an inspirational figure among Burmese bloggers. He was also convicted of crimes against 'public tranquility', and was expected to receive only a 10-12 year sentence. His 20-year sentence shocked even the most hard-line observers.
According to Bo Kyi, of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese exile group based in Thailand, said: “Trials of political activists are totally unlawful. There is no possibility of justice through these proceedings. Detainees are being denied food and water during hearings and are forced to stand for long periods of time. When they try to protest by turning their backs to the court, they are grabbed by the neck and forced to face the court. These proceedings amount to further mental torture for activists.”
Monday, November 10, 2008
The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy. The Big O himself has signaled he intends to reverse Bush's controversial limit on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a decision that scientists say has curtailed the search for cures for various diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In addition, the federal Bureau of Land Management is opening about 360,000 acres of public land in Utah to oil and gas drilling, a move that the Big O is expected to rescind.
The new president is also expected to lift the global gag rule barring international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from counseling women about the availability of abortion, even in countries where the procedure is legal. Obama has said that he intends to quickly reverse Bush's decision to deny California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. It is also expected that the new administration will sign an executive order requiring that greenhouse gas emissions be considered whenever the federal government examines the environmental impact of its actions under the eisting National Environmental Policy Act.
Despite enormous pent-up Democratic frustration, however, Obama and his aides have said in interviews that they realize that they must strike a balance between undoing Bush actions and setting their own course. I guess it took eight years to get into this mess, and it may take a while to dig us all out.
The New England Patriots are none too fond of cheerleaders who draw penises, swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs on drunk people.
18-year-old Caitlin Davis got the boot from the football team's cheerleading squad after several inappropriate and downright offensive pictures featuring Davis defacing a drunk person were found on her Facebook page. Using a sharpie, Davis participated in drawing penises, swastikas and writing "I'm a Jew" and other slurs on the passed-out party goer. Team owners Bob and Myra Kraft are huge in the Anti-Defamation League and, while Caitlin might have been given a pass on the penises, the swastikas were a definite no-go.
FYI -- Davis recently dressed up as an angel for the team's Halloween celebration.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Well this old broad is hurt. Clearly I didn’t start this blog to call Sarah Palin a bitch…or John McCain an ass… or even George Bush a jackass. I am so sorry if I have offended any of you.
I will stop calling George Bush a jackass when he stops calling me a terrorist ("Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists").
I will stop calling John McCain an ass when he stops calling Barack Obama a socialist at every dog and pony show on the Straight Talk Express tour.
I will stop calling Sarah Palin a bitch when she stops calling Obama a terrorist sympathizer. And I will stop calling Sarah Palin a bitch when she stops calling the parts of the country where I don’t live more Pro-American than the part of the country where I do live.
I am tired of Rush Limbaugh suggesting that feminism is a dirty word. How hard did he fight to gain the right to vote? Or own property in his own name? Or get equal pay for equal work?
And I am tired of Sean Hannity suggesting I am un-American because I don’t think that war is the answer to everything. How many bullets has he taken defending his country in battle?
And I am tired that Sarah Palin can decide what she wants to do with her body but other women can’t make that decision for themselves.
Oh…and one last thing. Elisabeth Hasselbeck is still a moron. There is just no way around that, Folks.
I woke up the next morning still under the spell of solidarity and love. I decided to make the spell last. I gave away my tickets to a performance of some late Shostakovich quartets, because for once I was not interested in the despair. Instead I spent the day listening to the Ebonys and the Chi-Lites and the Isley Brothers. For lunch I went to Georgia Brown’s for fried green tomatoes.
Leading off an expected wave of post-election regulations, the Bush administration narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid’s outpatient hospital benefit. Public hospitals and state officials immediately protested the action, saying it would reduce Medicaid payments to many hospitals at a time of growing need.
Bush's action contradicts efforts by Congressional leaders and governors to increase federal aid to the states for Medicaid as part of a new economic action plan. Obama is also on the right side of this issue, saying at a news conference on Friday that legislation to stimulate the economy should include “assistance to state and local governments” so they would not have to lay off workers or increase taxes.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
The only blemish on an historic and otherwise fantastic election was the shocking display of bigotry from Californians as they voted for state-sanctioned discrimination against gay people. But Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish tells us not to freak out, as progress in changing people's attitudes is often a gradual process. If Obama has taught us anything, it is to keep our eyes on the prize, and not always to react impulsively to hatred, bigotry or simple ignorance by exaggerating its power over us.
Read his full post here.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
William Easterly, Professor of Economics, NYU
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Come to think of it-- having an idiot a heartbeat away from the presidency technically isn't as bad as having an actual idiot as president.
Under current plans, Australia will be joining the likes of China by spending spend $50 million dollars on an official program of censoring the internet for anyone using a computer down under. Government officials had initially promised that citizens would be able to opt-out of the two-tiered system, but they have no reneged on that promise. The first tier, which internet users would not be able to opt out of, would block all "illegal material".
The second tier, which is still optional, would filter out content deemed inappropriate for children, such as pornography. But neither filter tier will be capable of censoring content obtained over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which account for an estimated 60 per cent of internet traffic.To make matters worse, it has been reported that the Australian Government is attempting to silence critics of its controversial internet censorship plan, which experts say will break the internet while doing little to stop people from accessing illegal material such as child pornography. Internet providers and the government's own tests have found that presently available filters are not capable of adequately distinguishing between legal and illegal content and can degrade internet speeds by up to 86 per cent.
In an over-the-top accent, one half of the duo claims to be the president of France as he describes sex with his famous wife, the joy of killing animals and Hustler magazine's latest Sarah Palin porno spoof. Check out the recording below (a written transcript can be found here):