Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hotel to Guests: "You're A Fucking Thief, And We Know It!"

While The Poppies Bloom, The Seeds Of Democracy Whither


You've heard of Afghanistan, right? It's the country where we have spent over $10 Billion to overthrow the Taliban and promote democracy. It's the same country whose courts have sentenced this kid to death. It's also the same country whose legislature recently voted to uphold the death sentence. His crime? 23-year-old Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, doing some research for a college class, downloaded and distributed an internet article on women's rights Ahhh, so much for the democratic principles of freedom of thought and self-expression.

According to prosecutors, Sayed downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed. He then then distributed the article to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim of provoking a debate on the matter.

The Afghani parliament's most prominent female member, Malalai Joya, was even suspended by her male colleagues after criticizing the decision to uphold the death sentence. Adding insult to injury, political and religious leaders in Afghanistan urged the government and the courts to carry out the sentence as soon as possible to avoid coming under pressure from foreigners.

Democracy (and Good Humor) Still Alive In Ecuador


Protesters at an Anti-Correa march organized by Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot carry a banner portraying Ecuador's President Rafael Correa (left, 'Larry') Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (center, 'Moe') and Bolivia's President Evo Morales (right, 'Curly') as the Three Stooges. The phrase on top of the banner reads in Spanish: "Independent Guayaquil against the Three Stooges of Latin America."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Da-Kook" Of The North (a.k.a. Vancouver Ca-Nut)

An Air Canada flight made an emergency landing in Ireland after the pilot suffered a mental breakdown mid-flight. A passenger said the pilot was carried from the plane shouting and swearing, saying he wanted to talk "to God".

"At no time were the safety of the passengers or crew in question," said an Air Canada spokesman. "The flight was met by medical personnel and the individual is now in care."

One of the passengers said he saw the co-pilot being carried into the cabin in restraints. "He was very, very distraught. He was yelling loudly at times," he told the press. Passengers were put up in hotels while another crew was found. They eventually arrived in London eight hours late.

Another Reason To Watch What You Eat

Yogurt health drinks are at the center of safety fears in Europe after 24 patients died during clinical trials of probiotics (the dietary supplements containing "beneficial" bacteria).

The Dutch Patient and Consumer Federation has demanded an investigation into dairy products, such as Yakult, which contain active bacteria. A spokesman said: "Yakult and other drinks contain probiotics and we feel this research might create panic. It is up to the health authorities to start investigations and respond to people's fears." She added: "Probiotics may not be as innocent as industry claims them to be."

Researchers at the University Medical Center in Utrecht disclosed that 24 people had died between 2004 and 2007 during a study on whether probiotics affected inflammation of the pancreas in 296 people. An unknown number of those who died could still be alive if they had not been given the probiotics, researchers said.

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part X

Trophy wives don't come more decorated than Brooke Shields, a four-time People's Choice winner, former Calvin Klein model and ex-wife to eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi. They were married in early 1997, a year which marked the low point of Agassi's career. His wrist injury resurfaced, which limited him to just 24 matches and saw his ATP ranking plummet to a career-low #141. Soon after the couple's 1999 divorce, Agassi rebounded to a 6th-place world ranking, a landmark win in the French Open (a win that made him the fifth man to net all four Slams in a career) and--best of all)--landed him in a relationship with Steffi Graf, whom he married two years afterward.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bush's "Unfinished Agenda"

I didn't see the State of the Union last night, but it sure read like it could have put you to sleep. Lacking any new ideas, I guess his speech writers wanted to put together a list of "Bush Greatest (mis) Hits". Just about the only thing that has seemed to "stick to the wall" is his anti-earmark rhetoric-- but it can't be a good sign if the highlight of a state of the union speech is a wonky, congressional budget issue (yawn!)

Even that rant is coming off a bit hypocritical, as the Republicans have been the biggest earmark abusers. The number of earmarks exploded under Republican leadership in the House-- when Republicans took over Congress in 1994, there were 4,000 earmarks on appropriations bills (see here and here). At the end of the 109th Congress in 2005, there were 15,000. In contrast, the current (Democratically-controlled) congress has cut earmarks in half.

I know I'm cherry-picking, but here are a couple of other misfires:

In his speech, Bush said: "Last year, the Congress passed legislation to help us [monitor terrorists' communications]. Unfortunately, the Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1. This means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger." In fact, Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a New York Times interview this month that if the August bill was allowed to expire in 10 days, intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year under the law.

In his speech, Bush said: "“And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [in Africa] is treating 1.4 million people. . . I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success.” In fact, the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa has said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]. To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa.”

Pissed Off Now

The New York chapter of NOW (National Organization of Women) issued the following press release last night after Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton:

Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, and the Family and Medical Leave Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). “They” are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). "They" are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America, democrats.com, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women's money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future.

This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation- to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who “know what’s best for us.

If Kennedy's endorsement of Obama is misogynistic, does that mean anybody who supports Hillary instead of Obama is a racist?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Holy Snip, Wholly Nipped

With all the pre-holiday rush, I forgot all about this story-- but it was too good to pass up.

It seems that freelance David Farley has been searching far and wide for the Holy Prepuce. This relic is claimed by believers to be the foreskin of Jesus-- and thus, (according to Farley) one of the only conceivable parts of his body that could have been left on earth.

The circumcision of Jesus is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke and the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, still celebrated by many churches, falls on January 1st. At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess it, sometimes at the same time. Naturally enough, various miraculous powers have been ascribed to it over the years.

According to the best-documented history of the holy prepuce, it resided in a church in Calcata, Italy, for more than 400 years until it was apparently stolen in 1983. Calcuta residents attribute the disappearance to several sources-- some accuse satanists or neo-nazis, but the culprit named most often is the Catholic Church itself, which has attempted to suppress the veneration of relics in general and of the holy prepuce in particular.

According to the Star Tribune report, Farley says the Vatican issued decrees in 1900 and 1954 threatening to excommunicate anyone who encourages "irreverent curiosity" by even mentioning the foreskin. He plans on publishing a book next year which will bring the topic (and the identity of the mysterious thief) to the fore.

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part IX

The most prolific member of the "New York Sack Exchange", Mark Gastineau abruptly quit seven weeks into the 1988 season to spend more time with his new fiancé, Brigitte Nielsen, who was feared to have uterine cancer (it ended up to be a false alarm). Later he admitted part of the reason he quit was the fear of testing positive for steroids. Two years later a comeback attempt in the CFL lasted only four games. He then moved on to professional boxing with little success.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Little Development Bank That Could

Hugo Chavez has now urged his Latin American allies to withdraw its reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming U.S. economic crisis. Chavez rhetorically asked, "Why does that money have to be in the north? ... You can't put all your eggs in one basket."

To help pool resources within the Caribbean/Latin American region, Chavez launched a new development bank at the meeting of the fledgling Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America (ALBA). The new regional trade alliance (the brainchild of Chavez) is intended to offer a socialist path to integration while snubbing U.S.-backed free-trade deals. The ALBA summit was attended by the presidents of four of the 36 independent countries in the Caribbean and Central & South America (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua). The highlight of the summit was the welcoming of its newest member: the 290-square-mile island nation of Dominica.

At the Chavez-organized meeting, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega criticized the U.S., saying "the dictatorship of global capitalism ... has lost control." Three days earlier, Ortega had shouted "Long live the U.S. government" as he inaugurated an American-financed section of highway in his home country.

It was announced that the new ALBA bank will be capitalized in the amount of $1- 1.5 billion. In comparison, the Inter-American Development Bank (which has the same goal of supporting Latin American and Caribbean development) is capitalized in the amount of $101 billion.

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part VIII

John McEnroe had won seven majors and was ranked No. 1 in the world (from 1981 to 1984) when he took a six-month break from the tour and married the "Bad News Bears" actress in 1986. Unfortunately, it was also bad news for his tennis career. He never reached the finals of a Grand Slam ever again and won just seven titles after winning 70 prior to his marriage. The two divorced in 1992 and later trashed each other in tell-all books.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Countdown To Crawford: Day 360

George W. Bush's intellectual capabilities have long been questioned by the press, politicians, and the public at large on numerous occasions. A study published in 2006 by the scientific journal Political Psychology estimated the IQ's of all US presidents since 1900 by analyzing each president's speeches and publications. The study ranked Bush second to last, with an estimated IQ between 111.1 and 138.5, and a mean of 120 In an interview, it was noted by the study's director that "Bush may be 'much smarter' than the findings imply" but that he "scores particularly unimpressively for 'openness to experience, a cognitive proclivity that encompasses unusual receptiveness to fantasy, aesthetics, actions, ideas and values.'"



Quotes For The Ages:


"I don't know whether I'm going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I'm ready for the job. And if not, that's the way it goes."

-Des Moines, Iowa, August 21, 2000



"Keep good relations with the Grecians."

-The Economist, 1999

Disabled Spy Satellite Hurtling Toward Earth

The Associated Press broke a story this afternoon on a spy satellite that had lost power and was expected to crash to Earth in late February or early March. The satellite, which no longer be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down.

The reports did not mention or raise the possibility of a connection to reports from as far back as 2006 that China had gained the ability to attack or disable orbiting satellites with ground-based lasers. At that time, those reports were met with some skepticism-- but it was only a short time later-- in early 2007-- when the Pentagon confirmed that China had indeed, blocked a U.S. spy satellite with a ground-based laser. Check out this article from U.S. News and World report on how dependent even ground-based warfare is becoming on satellite-based navigation.

Super-Duper Screw Job

John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog.com has a good primer on one crucial aspect of the Democratic Party's nomination process. Although Clinton and Obama are fairly even on elected delegates, Hillary holds a huge lead in overall delegate count.

What's the deal? What's little known (or rarely discussed in television coverage) is the existence of "super delegates"-- members of congress and Democratic Party VIPs who can swing the party's nomination toward a candidate even though he/she doesn't win the majority of elected delegates. Read all about it here.

One Hot Mama Gets The Shock Of Her Life

A sizzling sex session this week ended with the death of a woman and the arrest of the husband. When Pennsylvanian paramedics responded to a 911 call at the couples' house, 37-year-old Toby Taylor first claimed that his wife Kirsten was shocked by her hair dryer. During questioning, he then admitted that the couple was "into weird sexual behaviors," according to the affidavit posted on the Smoking Gun website. Taylor then went into further details on their sex routine, explaining that he like to hook clips to his wife's nipples and "plug the cord into a electric strip", shocking her.

Upon further questioning, the sizzling details came out. On the night of the incident, Taylor's wife Kirsten removed her clothes, attached the clips, and shocked herself. Taylor then admitted picking up the electric strip and shocked her several more times, adding that he had placed a piece of electric tape over her mouth during the jolts. After the last shock, 29-year-old Kirsten fell over onto her face. Taylor initially thought his wife was joking, but quickly realized she was unconscious. He then dressed her-- in preparation for driving to the hospital-- but instead called 911 when he discovered that she had stopped breathing.

Taylor, who had been engaging in electric shock sex and other types of extreme bondage for about 2 years, was charged yesterday with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment and was jailed on $100,000 bail.

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part VII

The Material Girl famously "played host" to the former American League MVP, Jose Canseco, in her New York hotel room in May 1991. Though he finished the season with 44 home runs, his career went downhill quickly from there. Injuries limited his playing time-- he wouldn't play close to a full season again until 1998, when he appeared in 151 games for Toronto.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Week That Was: 1/25/08

Nevada Non-Event: Romney buys his way closer; Hillary wins vote; Obama takes more delegates-- things are as muddled as ever, and Super Tuesday may not settle things at all.

Bird's Nest of Controversy: Reports surface of China's covering up deaths at the Olympic Stadium construction site. Is anybody really surprised? Is anybody going to bother watching the games anyway?

Federal Bureau of Obfuscation: FBI is accused of covering up the theft of nuclear secrets by a Turkish-Israeli network. After eight years of Cheney, I can hear the nation's collective yawn.

There Will Be Mud: Oliver Stone is prepping a movie on George W. Bush, with Josh Brolin is set to star as "the nation's decider". I wanna know who's playing the twins, and will it be rated "R"?

Heath Death: 28-year-old actor found dead in NYC apartment. No early indications of foul play or suicide. Fans anxiously awaiting autopsy results for details.

Two Down, More To Come: Thompson and Kucinich drop out of the presidential race. No endorsements, no fall-out-- it's as if they were never running to begin with. Mmmm . . . .

Back To Crack: Amy Winehouse caught on video smoking crack. Police seize video. Singer reportedly going to rehab. The British tabloids have all the details. VH1 is already working on the script.

Featherbrains In India: It looks as if stupidity is an early symptom of the bird flu. Amid the worst outbreak yet in India, reports are coming in that villagers in rural India are hiding chickens from inspectors or outright refusing to hand over birds for culling. I guess having a few extra bucks is more important than being alive.


This Weekend At The Movies: Two-step your way past "How She Move" and rhumba your way past "Rambo". If you can find it on a screen near you, check out "U2 3D". Otherwise, be sure to see some of the Oscar contenders-- "There Will Be Blood", "No Country For Old Men", "Sweeney Todd" and "The Savages". I expect the box office receipts for the new Diane Lane movie will be "Untraceable".

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part VI

Chicago Bears' star linebacker Brian Urlacher had his worst season statistically in 2003 after being spotted with the hotel heiress socialite in Las Vegas. Hilton also attended a Bears home game wearing his jersey shortly after; Chicago lost. Urlacher would not return to form until 2005, when he played in all 16 games and made 121 tackles with six sacks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eat Your Heart Out, Boys

Milton Blahyi, a former feared rebel commander in Liberia's brutal civil war, has admitted to taking part in human sacrifices as part of traditional ceremonies intended to ensure victory in battle. He said the sacrifices "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat." According to the BBC story, there had been numerous rumours of human sacrifices during the 1979-93 conflict but this is the first time anyone has admitted publicly to the practice.

37-year-old Blahyi is better known in Liberia as "General Butt Naked" because he went into combat with no clothes on, to scare the enemy. Blahyi said he had first become exposed to killings in 1982 when, at the age of 11, he was ordained "the traditional priest of my tribe." When a rebellion broke out against President Samuel Doe, he had to go to war on behalf of the president, as they were from the same Krahn ethnic group. He fought against the militia of Charles Taylor, currently on trial for war crimes in The Hague.

As the traditional priest, he says he persuaded the "hesitant" political leaders of his faction to make a human sacrifice before going into battle. "They asked me to do it in secret; but some of the sacrifices are supposed to be as a ceremony; so my boys and I made some of the sacrifices in the open." He said he thought that confessing to what he had done and asking for forgiveness could help heal the country's wounds.

Blahyi stopped fighting in 1996, saying God appeared to him as he was charging naked into battle and told him he was doing Satan's work. While asking for forgiveness, Blahyi says he's ready for whatever the authorities decide to do to him. "I could be electrocuted, I could be hanged," he said. "But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go." He also urged other former fighters to confess their doings because "wherever they go there is a stigma on them."

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part V

This was truly a match made for the headlines: Chris Webber was an All-Star power forward with the Sacramento Kings; Tyra Banks was a swimsuit cover girl whose "fierce" beauty set tongues wagging on the NBA's press row. Webber's frustrations with the press and gossip hounds peaked in 2003, when a potential MVP season was cut short by a career-threatening knee injury, and he decided to take a timeout from Tyra after more than three years together. In the years since, Tyra has reinvented herself as a television mogul; Webber has been a shadow of his former self since undergoing microfracture surgery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Running Out Of Things To Seize

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez will soon be running out of industries he can threaten to seize. After huffing and puffing about retailers a few weeks ago, the Bolivarian blowhard has now threatened to nationalize farms, in an effort to tackle food shortages.

Government controls keep food prices low in shops to help even the poorest Venezuelans feed themselves. But in response, some farmers sell their produce in neighboring countries where prices are higher, leading to shortages of bread, milk, eggs and meat. In his weekly TV show, Chavez said farmers doing this should have their farms "expropriated".

Over the weekend, Chavez also threatened to seize banks which did not give enough low-interest loans to farmers. Banks are not allowed to charge farmers interest higher than 15% - even though inflation last year ran at 22.5%. Critics say complying with government policy could drive some businesses into bankruptcy.

Oil, telecommunications and electricity industries in Venezuela have already been nationalized.

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part IV

Tennis Magazine dubbed her "The Black Widow" for the venomous effect she has had on the career of her tennis-playing boyfriends. The list of victims includes Justin Gimelstob, Julian Alonso, Magnus Norman, all of whom took a tumble in the rankings after dating Hingis. The harshest bite was inflicted on Norman, who reached No. 2 in the world after playing in the 2000 French Open final, and began seeing Hingis around the same time. He hurt his hip in 2001 and retired prior to the 2004 Stockholm Open after missing the previous year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations Are Out

The Oscar nominations were announced today-- no real surprises, though. "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" led with eight Academy Awards nominations each, among them best picture and acting honors for Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem. "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" trailed with seven nominations each, including best actor for George Clooney in the title role of "Clayton."

The lead players in "Atonement," Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were shut out on nominations-- not a big deal, however. McAvoy didn't make much of an impression in "The Last King of Scotland" and Knightly was pretty much the weakest link in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. If she can't pull off stock roles like that, there's no hope for her in more heavyweight fare. As anticipated, Laura Linney scored a nom (excellent in "The Savages") as well as Ruby Dee (who slapped Denzel around in "American Gangster"). The full list is as follows:

Best Picture:
"Atonement"
"Juno"
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Actor:
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Best Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

Best Director:
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Jason Reitman, "Juno"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"

Best Foreign Film:
"Beaufort" (Israel)
"The Counterfeiters" (Austria)
"Katyn" (Poland)
"Mongol" (Kazakhstan)
"12" (Russia)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Christopher Hampton, "Atonement"
Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"
Ronald Harwood, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"

Best Original Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, "Juno"
Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
B. Bird, J. Pinkava, J. Capobianco, "Ratatouille"
Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages"

Best Animated Feature:
"Persepolis"
"Ratatouille"
"Surf's Up"
Best Art Direction:
"American Gangster"
"Atonement"
"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Cinematography:
"The Assassination of Jesse James"
"Atonement"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Sound Mixing:
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"
"Ratatouille"
"3:10 to Yuma"
"Transformers"

Best Sound Editing:
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"
"Ratatouille"
"There Will Be Blood"
"Transformers"

Best Original Score:
"Atonement" Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" Marco Beltrami.

Best Original Song:
"Falling Slowly" from "Once"
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted"
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush"
"So Close" from "Enchanted"
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted"

Best Costume:
"Across the Universe"
"Atonement"
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
"La Vie en Rose"
"Sweeney Todd"

Best Documentary Feature:
"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming: The Wartime Experience"
"Sicko"
"Taxi to the Dark Side"
"War/Dance"
Best Documentary (short subject):
"Freeheld"
"La Corona"
"Salim Baba"
"Sari's Mother"

Best Film Editing:
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Makeup:
"La Vie en Rose"
"Norbit"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

Best Animated Short Film:
"I Met the Walrus"
"Madame Tutli-Putli"
"Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis"
"My Love (Moya Lyubov)"
"Peter & the Wolf"

Best Live Action Short Film:
"At Night"
"Il Supplente"
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets"
"Tanghi Argentini" "The Tonto Woman"
Best Visual Effects:
"The Golden Compass"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
"Transformers"

Time For Some More Bill Balsamico

Bill, the witty owner of the Casa D'Ice lounge, has a soft spot for illegal immigrants (as you can tell).




Athletes Cursed By Women: Part III

Many believe this blonde bombshell is responsible for defusing the Russian Rocket. Pavel Bure played in six All-Star games prior to a rumored engagement to Anna Kournikova in February 2000. His numbers afterward dropped precipitously and he retired in 2003 after a lingering knee injury. Although she denies it, Sergei Fedorov said he married Kournikova in 2001 and divorced her in 2003. He made six All-Star teams and won three Stanley Cups prior to 2003. Over the past three years he has scored just 38 goals in 179 games.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Fueling The Food Shortages?

The EU is being urged by British MP's to abandon its biofuels targets because they are damaging the environment. They say biofuels are ineffective at cutting greenhouse gases and can be expensive. The recommendation comes just before the EU is due to embark on a completely new climate change strategy. Critics of that strategy say the EU doesn't know how to ensure that biofuels production on agricultural land will not push up food prices or displace food production, forcing peasants or other agri-businesses into felling other virgin forest to grow food crops.

The British government's Environmental Audit Committee says that the EU and the UK government should concentrate on the use of "sustainable" biofuels. According to committee chairman Tim Yeo, "Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . but at present most biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall." Even an internal EU report leaked to reporters late last week criticizes the EU's plan to boost the use of biofuels in transport, concluding that their costs outweigh the benefits.

Last fall, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen published findings that the release of nitrous oxide from rapeseed oil and corn can contribute as much or more to global warming than the fossil fuels they displace. In his paper, Crutzen goes on to say production of biofuels from grasses (with less nitrogen demand) have more favorable climate impacts.

Meanwhile, the soaring cost of food is threatening millions of people in poor countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned last month. Food prices have risen an unprecedented 40% in the last year and many nations may be unable to cope, the agency said.

Of course, George W. thinks that biofuel production is a fantastic idea-- he recently made a partial payment on his political debt to corporate agriculture by providing $160 million for the construction of three bio-refineries to expand U.S. ethanol production. Archer Daniels Midland, one of our country's top polluters, has contributed over $3 million to political campaigns the last eight years-- and was also a leading force in lobbying for the 54 cent per gallon tariff that the U.S. government has imposed on imports of sugar-cane based ethanol from Brazil, which is cheaper than ADM’s corn-based fuel.

Check out this posting by Dan Welch for many more details on the Bush administration's relationship with corporate agriculture and their (sordid?) love affair with corn-based ethanol.

Apple's New Year Ad Says It All

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part II

She's a real baseball fan, but be wary whenever she dates an athlete, especially if he's on your favorite team. Milano has dated former NHLer Wayne McBean (No. 4 overall in the 1987 draft), Carl Pavano, and Barry Zito, all of whom suffered statistically after dating the actress. (Ex-boyfriend Brad Penny has proven to be an exception.) Former All-Star Pavano has been inactive so long that he has been tabbed by the New York Post as "American Idle."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Athletes Cursed By Women: Part I

Call her Yoko Romo. After the singer-temptress and the Cowboy Pro Bowl quarterback became an item last year, Dallas suffered a 10-6 loss to the Eagles on December 16 as Simpson watched from a luxury box. The Jessica Jinx struck again last weekend when it hurt the most; a 21-17 playoff loss to the Giants in Dallas after the couple enjoyed a vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. Romo is scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl, which means you should pick the AFC in that game.

The George W. Bush School For Construction Workers

"W" Stands For Waiting

One year from today we will have a new president-- whether he be a she, Democratic or Republican, that day unfortunately can't come too soon. No sooner had Bush made his speech last Friday on the economy, the stock market took a nosedive.

While economists at the Federal Reserve predict that growth in the U.S. economy this year will be "slow" and "below trend", the International Monetary Fund is predicting healthy growth in the Iraqi economy-- 7% for 2008 and 7-8% the year after that. Why are we continuing to print money and burn it over in Iraq when our own economy is failing? If Bush had taken just a fraction of the nearly $500 billion we've spent in Iraq over the last five years and invested that in the U.S., there's no telling where we'd be at this time.

Message to George: I'm not sure anybody is really listening to you anymore; just let Congress take care of getting us out of the recession. The only thing we need you to do in the next 366 days is get us out of Iraq-- short of that, just stay at home and play with Barney and Miss Beazley. No foreign trips, no speeches on terrorism or immigration-- you'll only piss off the few remaining countries that don't already hate us.

Getting Knocker-ed Around

A British man who has a condition which has caused him to develop abnormally large breasts says he is frustrated he has been repeatedly turned down for surgery by the National Health Service.

23-year-old Lee Jardine, from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, suffers from a condition called gynaecomastia. The causes of common gynecomastia remain uncertain, although it has generally been attributed to an imbalance of sex hormones. In 10-20% of cases, gynecomastia in adults can be attributed to medications such as androstenedione (a performance-enhancing food supplement) or antiandrogens (a prostate cancer treatment). In older men, it can sometimes be attributed to declining testosterone levels.

Jardin's doctor says he needs to lose weight but Jardine said this made no difference to the size of his breasts. "I've got a rare condition that not many people know about that I refer to as man boobs," said Jardine. "When I go out, I strap a belt around my chest, put a couple of t-shirts on, a thick jumper and a baggy coat to hide my body."

Jardine has visited his doctor twice to ask for the breast reduction surgery, which would cost somewhere between $7,000 and $13,000. The first time he weighed 147 pounds (a healthy weight for his height) but said he was given no clear reason for not having the surgery. At his second visit, Jardine (who now weighs 200 pounds) was told to lose weight before they would consider an appeal against the initial decision not to fund the surgery. Jardine said he was now considering asking for anti-depressants because he was so unhappy about his breasts.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Christian Groups Worked Up And Ready For Action Over "Blasphemous" Sculpture


A British art gallery is under attack from Christian groups, due to a sculpture exhibition which depicts Jesus with a hard-on.

Evangelical group Christian Voice expressed outrage at the work, calling it "blasphemous." Christian Voice National Director Stephen Green fumed, "It's the Lord Jesus Christ being humiliated, ridiculed and vilified. It's just so disgusting, pornographic and offensive, it's hard to find words to express the outrage. I have written asking for the statue's destruction."

The statue is one of 74 plaster models erected by Chinese-born artist Terence Koh, in an exhibition titled "Gone, Yet Still," which features replicas of various figures-- from Michelangelo’s David to E.T. The artwork is on display at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, which last fall was at the center of an investigation over whether photography from the private collection of Elton John constituted child pornography.

A gallery spokesman said: “Koh is trying to explain all the things which have meant something to him. It is a sort of mausoleum.” The Center's plans to keep the exhibition open until the end of its run has only stiffened the opposition, who have staged a series of protests.

Chris Matthews Gets 'Hardballed'

For 10 days, the MSNBC host of "Hardball" doggedly deflected criticism for uttering the following remarks on Joe Scarborough's "Morning Joe" show:

"The reason [Hillary Clinton's] a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit."

Critics of those remarks have pointed out that Matthews has had a long history of displaying a sexist attitude toward female politicians, pointing to other examples in which the combative commentator referred to Clinton as a "stripteaser" and called her "witchy." When Nancy Pelosi was in line to become House speaker, Matthews once asked a guest if Pelosi was "going to castrate Steny Hoyer" if the Maryland congressman was elected majority leader.

On last night's broadcast, Matthews issued an apology, saying that it wasn't fair for him to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband. Noting that it would be just as unfair to attribute John McCain's political success to having been shot down in the Vietnam War, Matthews said: "Saying Senator Clinton got where she's got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous, and I can see now, came across just as nasty -- worse yet, just as dismissive."

Western Stock Show Has A History of Going Too Farr

A Greeley businessman apologized this week for uttering a racially-tinged joke about Illinois Senator Barack Obama that fell flat during the National Western Stock Show's annual Citizen of the West banquet.

William R. Farr was pretending to read telegrams congratulating this year's award recipient, University of Colorado President Hank Brown, when he pulled out a piece of paper and said, "I have a telegram from the White House." Then he added, "They're going to have to change the name of that building if Obama's elected."

Witnesses said they could hear people gasp in the ballroom of the Adam's Mark Hotel. "I think it was uncalled for and atrocious," said U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who was also in attendance. Afterward, Farr said he regretted making the remark and apologized to anyone offended. "I mistook it to be humorous, but it was something I shouldn't have said."

This was not the first time the National Western Stock Show has been a center of controversy for offensive remarks. In 1997, a couple of other incidents of racially insensitive remarks spoken by Stock Show announcers outraged patrons. Between calf roping contests, a black rodeo clown, Leon Coffee, attempted to rope a calf without success. After an announcer pointed out that Coffee couldn't rope very well, rodeo clown Eddie Hatfield, who is white, responded by saying that Coffee knew everything about roping because his father and grandfather had died at the end of a rope. Since Leon Coffee wrote the scripted banter, he was not asked back the following year-- Eddie Hatfield essentially got off the hook.

In the same year, Rodeo announcer Hadley Barrett commented that a horse buyer had "jewed down" the price. He later apologized to the Jewish community and to the National Western Stock Show for his choice of words, promising to never use them again. Barrett's contracted was not renewed.

Survivor: Australian Outback

A married couple who died in the Australian outback used the last of their water on a leaking car radiator, according to the sole survivor of the tragedy. The elderly man was found wandering alongside a remote road about 61 miles from Nyrippi, west of Alice Springs.

A ground search had been mounted to find the man and his two companions after a report was made to police that an overdue party was missing after setting off from the Aboriginal community of Kintore. The man, believed to be aged between 60 and 70, told police that the station wagon they had been traveling in broke down 71 miles from Nyirripi two days prior to his rescue.

The group then ran out of water after using it to fill up a leaking radiator, he said.

Based on information learned from the elderly man, police found the car a few kilometers further along the road but there was no sign of the couple. Lights and sirens were used to try to attract the missing pair as the search team travelled slowly back to the community, leaving water bottles along the way.

Police eventually came across the 31-year-old woman, barely alive, by the side of the road. Her tracks led to the body of her 34-year-old husband who had died about 300 feet from a dry waterhole. The woman was taken to a health clinic where she was pronounced dead soon thereafter.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Week That Was: 1/18/08

Apple Debuts MacBook Air: The tiny new laptop is very slim and despite being light on features (No ethernet, no mobile broadband, no SD card slot, no firewire, non-removable battery) will likely fly off the shelves.

Monopoly Money: Zimbabwe is planning to issue its largest-denomination note ever-- $10,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars. In a country with an inflation rate thought to be in excess of 50,000%, that will be just enough to buy a few beers, perhaps (US$3.90).

Mitt Takes the Field: Romney's win in Michigan totally fucks up the whole Republican race. Will Rudy ride to the rescue? Or has Bush made such a complete mess of things that it doesn't matter who is nominated?

Not-So Buenos Aires: Bedlam reigned at Argentina's main airport after the country's main airline canceled international flights for a second day in a row. Frustrated passengers smashed ticket counters and threw objects at airline staff in the wake of a walkout by baggage handlers and ticket counter workers. Airline rights for everyone!

Back In Black: Scientists discover the 'darkest material" ever known to man. No, they didn't do a biopsy of Dick Cheney's brain-- they rolled up sheets of carbon nanotubes, silly. And how is this important, again?

Check (Out) Mate: Chess legend Bobby Fischer is dead at age 64. He had pissed off a lot of people for some anti-Semitic comments and for expressing support for the 9/11 attacks. He was just a nutter in his later years, I suppose.

Gordon's Organs: Britain's Prime Minister Brown is backing a proposal that would result in consent for organ donation after death being automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected. It's about time that we adopt the same system in the U.S. More than 100,000 patients are waiting for an organ donation at any given time in the U.S.-- 75% of which are waiting for kidneys, with over half of those dying before one becomes available.



This Weekend at the Movies: You'll be mad if you spend money on the new Diane Keaton/Katie Holmes/Queen Latifah comedy. And I can give you 27 reasons not to see "27 Dresses"-- not the least of which it stars someone from TV's "Grey's Anatomy". "Cloverfield", a modern take on the classic monster flick (from the producer of "Lost"), is getting some pretty good reviews-- but it has a lot of hand-held camera work, so bring some dramamine.

Monkeying Around

Japanese and U.S. researchers have announced that they have created a humanoid robot that acts according to the brain activity of a monkey. A laboratory in the western Japanese city of Kyoto unveiled a 62-inch humanoid, with a friendly-looking face and bulging black eyes, who walked using the brain signals transmitted via the internet from the cortical stems of a monkey walking on a treadmill at Duke University in North Carolina.

In a related story, Indian cricket fans (with little funding-- only enough for the cost of a few beers, apparently) have demonstrated that they too can act like monkeys, as in this picture from an India-Australia test match featuring Andy Symonds. The India-Australia cricket series remains on schedule despite the controversy over several incidents of poor sportsmanship.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Death By Blow (a.k.a. "Stiff by Sniff" or "Taking A Powder")

Soul legend Ike Turner, who died last month at the age of 76, was killed by a cocaine overdose, Californian coroners have established.

"We are listing that he abused cocaine and that's what resulted in the cocaine toxicity," said an official at the San Diego County medical examiner's office. Cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema were also given as "significant" factors in the death.

Turner's daughter Mia said she was shocked by the report. The singer had waged an "ongoing struggle" with drugs, she said, but the coroner was "overstating the situation".

Rising to fame in the 1960s, the musician is best remembered for his musical partnership with Tina. Their stormy marriage, in which she said he abused her, overshadowed his considerable achievements in popular music. In his autobiography, he estimated he had spent $11m to support his cocaine habit in the 1970s and 1980s.

Just months before he died, Turner was at the center of controversy in St. Louis, when Mayor Francis Slay turned down a request from organizers of the Big Muddy Blues Festival to make September 2 "Ike Turner Day." Turner was the headline performer that day at the blues festival in St. Louis.

After his death last December, the New York Post reported his demise with the headline: "Ike Beats Tina To Death"

Attracting Picky Tourists

A British council's attempt to promote a tourist attraction has been undermined by an unfortunate picture, according to critics.

A leaflet extolling the beauties of Thornham Walks (a 12-mile footpath network in Suffolk) unfortunately featured a picture of a young girl picking her nose.

Andrew Stringer, a Green councillor, says that "it does not represent our youth in the best light" and wants the "amateurish" pamphlet to be withdrawn.

A Mid Suffolk District Council spokesman admitted: "It's not the best photograph", but added: "They wanted a real picture, not a typical staged one."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reverend Paulk Balks At Talking About His "Faulks"

The 80-year-old leader of a mega-church has pleaded guilty to lying under oath about his sexual affairs and was sentenced to 10 years' probation. Reverend Earl Paulk, who has been in ill health, was also fined $1,000 on a single felony count.

The charges stem from a 2006 deposition Paulk gave in a lawsuit against him, his brother Don and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Church by former church employee Mona Brewer, who said she was coerced into having sex with Reverend Earl.

Under oath, Earl said that the only woman with whom he had ever had sex outside his marriage was Brewer. But results of a court-ordered paternity test later revealed that Earl was the biological father of his brother's son, D.E. Paulk, who is now head pastor at the church. After that revelation, eight additional women gave sworn depositions that they were coerced into sexual relationships with Earl Paulk.

Paulk turned himself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest. At its peak in the early 1990s, the Cathedral at Chapel Hill claimed about 10,000 members and was a media powerhouse. The church was able to build a Bible college, two schools, a worldwide TV ministry and a $12 million sanctuary outside Atlanta. Today, membership is down to about 1,500 and the Bible college and TV ministry have closed — a downturn blamed largely on fallout from the sex scandals.

British Film Award (BAFTA) Nominations Announced

The major categories (see here for the full list):

Best film
American Gangster
Atonement
The Lives of Others
No Country Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Leading actor
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy - Atonement
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Ulrich Muehe - The Lives of Others

Leading actress
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Keira Knightley - Atonement
Ellen Page - Juno

Supporting actor
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Paul Dano - There Will Be Blood
Tommy Lee Jones - No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Supporting actress
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Kelly Macdonald - No Country for Old Men
Samantha Morton - Control
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Director
Atonement - Joe Wright
The Bourne Ultimatum - Paul Greengrass
The Lives of Others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
No Country For Old Men - Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
American Gangster - Steven Zaillian
Juno - Diablo Cody
The Lives of Others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Michael Clayton - Tony Gilroy
This is England - Shane Meadows

Adapted screenplay
Atonement - Christopher Hampton
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Ronald Harwood
The Kite Runner - David Benioff
No Country for Old Men - Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Unfortunate Seating Assignments At The Fiesta Bowl

University Preaches A Lesson: Say Nope To Pope

Pope Benedict XVI cancelled a speech at Rome's La Sapienza university in the face of protests led by scientists opposed to a high-profile visit by the head of the Catholic Church. Many scientists fault the intellectual, conservative and tradition-minded pope for a series of positions he has taken that they say subordinate science and reason to faith.

Students opposed to the visit kicked off "an anti-clergy week" by showing a film on Galileo, the 17th-century physicist who ran afoul of Church doctrine by insisting that the Earth orbits the Sun. Protesters of the planned visit called attention to a 1990 speech in which the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger condoned the Inquisition's verdict against Galileo in 1633, saying the ruling was "rational and just".

One of the protesting professors, Carlo Cosmelli, told reporters: "Since the conviction of Galileo ... physicists are especially sensitive over interference by the Catholic Church in the scientific domain." The pope -- who also faces criticism for perceived interference in Italian political and social affairs -- "has made more and more remarks on the theme of the necessary subordination of science to faith," Cosmelli said. In September 2006, Pope Benedict held a church conference in which the "intelligent design" movement was given precedence over the theory of evolution.

The scientists' revolt, initially discreet, snowballed after radical students took up the cause. Physicist Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of La Sapienza, said of Benedict: "By cancelling, he is playing the victim, which is very intelligent. It will be a pretext for accusing us of refusing dialogue."

Monday, January 14, 2008

The [Foldin'] Globes

The Golden Globe awards were announced in a half-hour press conference yesterday. The results? Read on:

Best film (drama): Atonement
Best film (musical or comedy): Sweeney Todd
Best director - film: Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best actor (drama): Daniel Day Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Best actress (drama): Julie Christie - Away from Her
Best actor (musical or comedy): Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Best actress (musical or comedy): Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose
Best supporting actor: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Best supporting actress: Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Best foreign language film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France and US)
Best animated feature film: Ratatouille
Best screenplay: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - No Country for Old Men
Best original song: Guaranteed - Into the Wild
Best original score: Dario Marianelli - Atonement

New Art Exhibit A "Load" Of Rubbish

An exhibition of drawings, made by masturbating over paper, has prompted an angry outburst from the Clergy. Controversial performance artist Jordan McKenzie, 40, is exhibiting 55 images he made by ejaculating over canvas and sprinkling carbon over the results to immortalise them.

The results of his handiwork, entitled 'Spent' are to go on display at the Centre for Recent Drawing in Highbury, north London, for a month. Father Kit Cunningham, of St Etheldredas Church in Clerkenwell, said: “All we can do is pray for the artist.”

The clergyman, based at the oldest Roman Catholic church in London, stressed: “The extraordinary thing is that someone actually thought it was art and put it on at his gallery. “We are clearly dealing with a very mixed-up person."

Art lover and artist David Gleeson said: “Tracy Emin showed her knickers but this is a different thing entirely. I am in favor of almost any form of expression but I do baulk at ejaculating over a piece of paper."

Jordan, who intends to create three drawings a week, said: “This is only the first batch of them. It is a diary of my ejaculations they are heartfelt and delicate." He admitted his mother had no idea about his latest work, but added: "I don't think it would bother her that much."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

All Of This Back and Forth Is Pure Torture

U.S. national intelligence chief Mike McConnell has said the interrogation technique of water-boarding "would be torture" if he were subjected to it. He also said there would be a "huge penalty" for anyone using it if it was ever determined to be torture. CIA officials have been quoted as saying that water-boarding has been used on three prisoners since 2001, including al-Qaeda recruiter Abu Zubaydah, but on nobody since 2003.

The U.S. Attorney-General has declined to rule on whether the method is torture. However, Michael Mukasey said during his Senate confirmation hearing that water-boarding was "repugnant to me" and that he would institute a review.

In December, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques such as water-boarding. George Bush has threatened to veto the bill (which would require the agency to follow the rules adopted by the US Army and abide by the Geneva Conventions) if the Senate passes it.

Impressive Hang Time

A man in Burnaby, British Columbia, is recovering in hospital after an amateur attempt to film his own fake hanging nearly turned real.

The 23-year-old man and his 22-year-old friend went to a park in north Burnaby to stage the mock hanging and capture it on video. "The two [amateur film makers] thought they were well prepared and had taken the proper safety precautions by having the one male wear a harness," the RCMP said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and [one of them] was unintentionally hung from the rope he had placed around his neck. "Due to the fact this was intended to look like a real hanging, the one filming it let his friend hang for a period of time before realizing that something had gone wrong."

Eventually the cameraman realized the man was unconscious and called 911 while he attempted a rescue. The 23-year-old injured man was taken to hospital and was being treated in the intensive care ward, where his condition has improved. His friend was questioned and released without any charges being laid, police said. The RCMP noted neither man had any formal stunt training. "The 'don't try this at home!' disclaimers on commercials and in movies are there for a reason," the RCMP noted.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Worst Album Covers Of All Time

These are a few of my own favorites-- browse for yourself here.




I'm Going To Take Away Your Stuff If You Don't Do What I Want!

In the midst of soaring inflation (22.5% in 2007-- the highest official rate in Latin America) President Hugo Chavez has threatened again to seize property from businesses if they are caught hoarding products.

Chavez warned that his government would expropriate property from individuals or companies that purportedly sit on goods for months to sell later them at inflated prices. Hugo has made similar threats in the past, but no such takeovers have occurred so far. Many of the country's supermarkets and food distributors are still privately owned.

Leading retailers deny hoarding products. Most experts say that currency controls established in 2003 are primarily responsible for higher prices, because businesses are forced to buy imports using black-market dollars at more than twice the official exchange rate. In addition, heavy government spending bankrolled by soaring oil profits has also pushed up prices.

Evil Kitten Lures Woman To Her Death

A woman drowned when she apparently tried to retrieve a kitten from a 55-gallon rain barrel at her home southeast of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said 48-year-old Deborah Hill was found by her husband Sunday afternoon after he returned home from running errands. Solano said the couple had dragged the plastic barrel inside their home because they wanted to thaw ice that had formed in the barrel.

The barrel, which Solano said was tied to a door so it wouldn't tip, was about one-third full of water when the kitten fell in. Solano said Hill apparently was standing on something to reach down for the kitten when she slid in. Detectives said the kitten is alive, and most likely climbed out over Hill.

Too Drunk To Smell Shit

A Durham man accused of drunkenly driving into a yard was found after police followed a smelly trail of dog feces footprints.

Police said 18-year-old Josue Herrios-Coronilla drove his black Camaro on the wrong side of the road and then crashed into the yard of Bill McDonald, the owner of four dogs. When police arrived, they found crushed bushes, a damaged fence, an inoperable car - and a fresh shoe print in a pile of dog feces.

Following an odoriferous trail down the street, Durham police Sgt. Dale Gunter noticed a white van driving toward him. When he asked the passenger to step out, he noticed alcohol on the man's breath and evidence all over his shoes. Herrios-Coronilla was charged with driving while impaired and drinking underage.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Week That Was: 1/10/08

Eurotrash: Rubbish piles up in Naples; politicians have to deal with all the crap.

She Cries, She Scores: Hillary wins New Hampshire after a rare show of emotion. Get your kleenex ready for South Carolina.

Wearing Down Under: Australia launches the first regular air service with Antarctica.

By George, the Bastard Finally Knocked Off: Legendary explorer Sir Edmund Hillary is dead at the age of 88.

Blame The Dead: Musharraf, who denied Benazir Bhutto many basic security measures that he himself enjoys, blamed her for her own death.

As The "Monde" Turns: Rumors abound that France's Sarkozy plans to marry his girlfriend; his soon-to-be ex-wife says that he is a cheap bastard and doesn't deserve to lead the country. Meanwhile, his 23-year-old son joined a group of Sarkozy-hating rappers.

Illiterate, and That's The Way They Like It: New reports claim that nearly half of all Arab women can't read. Islamic leaders react in alarm, and plan to step up their efforts to oppress women even more.


At the Movies: "The Kite Runner" is getting middlin' reviews, and of course "The Bucket List" is pure drivel (sorry, Jack). If you're into horror flicks, "The Orphanage" (from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona) is getting good reviews. Or you could just spend time catching up with all the potential Oscar bait before the nominees are announced . . .

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Telecoms Feeding Us A Line

Can you hear me now? The same phone companies who, in the interest of national security, were eager to violate our rights to privacy and turn over private phone data (without the necessary court order) are now willing to stop that same surveillance because the feds didn't pay their bills on time.

The NYT has reported that a Justice Department audit has blamed lost wiretaps on the FBI's lax oversight of money used for undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000. A wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation ''was halted due to untimely payment,'' the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used to allow non-court-approved eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

''We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,'' according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows.

The report released Thursday was a highly edited version of an 87-page audit that the FBI deemed too sensitive to be viewed publicly. The American Civil Liberties Union called on the FBI to release the entire, unedited audit. In a statement, the ACLU said, ''It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being 'good patriots' when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills. To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when the FBI says the warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail.''

Camille Rings In The New Year

From her latest column at Salon.com:

I will vote for Hillary if she is the nominee of my party, because I want Democrats appointed to the Cabinet and the Supreme Court. But I plan to vote for Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary because he is a rational, centered personality who speaks the language of idealism and national unity. Obama has served longer as an elected official than Hillary. He has had experience as a grass-roots activist, and he is also a highly educated lawyer who will be a quick learner in office. His international parentage and childhood, as well as his knowledge of both Christianity and Islam, would make him the right leader at the right time. And his wife Michelle is a powerhouse. The Obamas represent the future, not the past.

. . .

I have never understood the logic by which certain nations in the world have determined that they have a perfect right to nuclear weapons while other, emergent nations do not. Naturally, it would be a far safer world if no one had them. But it's the U.S., which first used the atom bomb in warfare, that began this process.
Unfortunately, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has made it more likely, not less, that smaller nations will seek nuclear weapons by any means necessary: Nukes are the only possible equalizer against a superpower like ours with overwhelming military might.

. . .

I'm uncomfortable with the formulation "good guys"/"bad guys" that one also constantly hears on talk radio. By what reasoning or authority have Americans concluded that we are invariably the "good guys"? And that it is our moral right to define who the "bad guys" are and to exterminate them, or anyone who looks like them or happens to be in the area, at will? To claim purity on the basis of good intentions alone isn't virtue -- it's complacence. Stereotyping diverse people into generic groups makes it easier to wage war on them. They cease to exist as individuals, with their own aspirations and capacity for suffering. Hence the full scale of the brutalization and destruction of Iraqi civilians has been underreported by the American press and has never been mentally processed by most U.S. citizens.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Please Remember To Remove All Jewelry To Avoid Damage To The Microwave Oven

An Idaho man who believed he bore the "mark of the beast" amputated one of his hands, put it in a microwave and then called police, according to the Kootenai County sheriff's office.

The man, in his mid-20s, was calm when deputies arrived at his home last weekend. Neither he nor the severed hand bore any noticeable tattoo or other mark, sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger said. "[The hand] had been somewhat cooked by the time the deputy arrived," he added.

The man (whose name was withheld) was in protective custody in the mental health unit of Kootenai Medical Center, where he and the hand were taken by ambulance. Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Johnson would not say whether an attempt was made to reattach the hand. "He put a tourniquet on his arm before [the incident], so he didn't bleed to death," Wolfinger said. " That kind of mental illness is just sad."

The Book of Revelation contains a passage in which an angel is quoted as saying, "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God." The book of Matthew also contains the passage, "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for you whole body to do into hell."

Weekend At Bernie's: New York Edition

Earlier this week, two men were arrested in New York's Hells Kitchen after pushing a corpse, seated in an office chair, along the sidewalk to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man’s Social Security check.

According to reports, a friend and the roommate of 66-year-old Virgilio Cintron seized the opportunity to lay their hands on his $355 benefit check after Cintron died of natural causes at his West 52nd Street apartment. “Hell’s Kitchen has a rich history,” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, “but this is one for the books.”

The roommate, James P. O’Hare, and his friend, David J. Dalaia, both 65 and unemployed, placed Cintron’s body in the chair and wheeled it around the corner, south along Ninth Avenue. The men parked the corpse-laden chair in front of Pay-O-Matic, a check-cashing business that Mr. Cintron had patronized. They went inside to present the check, but a clerk said Cintron would have to cash it himself, and asked where he was. “He's outside,” O’Hare said, indicating the body in the chair. The two men then started to bring the chair inside, but it was too late.

Their sidewalk antics had already attracted the stares of passers-by who were startled by the sight of the body flopping from side to side as the two men tried to prop it up, the police said. An off-duty detective eating a late lunch at a nearby Empanada Mama saw the crowd and notified the Midtown North station house. Police officers and an ambulance arrived as the two men were trying to maneuver the corpse and chair into the check-cashing office.

The two men were taken into custody and questioned. The police said they were considering charging them with check-cashing fraud.

U.S. Health Care Costing Lives

France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations.

If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers.

Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, and ranked nations on how they did. They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a country's health care system.

Nolte said the large number of Americans who lack any type of health insurance -- about 47 million people in a country of about 300 million, according to U.S. government estimates -- probably was a key factor in the poor showing of the United States compared to other industrialized nations in the study.

"I wouldn't say it (the last-place ranking) is a condemnation, because I think health care in the U.S. is pretty good if you have access. But if you don't, I think that's the main problem, isn't it?" Nolte said.

In a similar ranking done ten years ago, France and Japan topped the list with the U.S. coming in at 15th-- representing a drop during the last decade. "The fact that other countries are reducing these preventable deaths more rapidly, yet spending far less, indicates that policy, goals and efforts to improve health systems make a difference," Schoen added in a statement.

Vietnam and Iraq: Thirty Years On

It's now official. In a recently declassified report, the NSA (responsible for much of the United States' codebreaking and eavesdropping work during the Vietnam War) has admitted that there was no attack at the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. In August of that year, reports of a North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers helped president Lyndon Johnson justify a sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam.

I wonder what history will say thirty years on about the events of March, 2003?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Texas Killer Gives Police An Earful

A Tyler, TX man has been chargeded with capital murder after police said they found his girlfriend's body, an ear boiling in a pot on a stovetop, and a hunk of flesh with a fork in it on a plate at the crime scene.

25-year-old Christopher Lee McCuin is being held on $2 million bond pending further investigation. The judge sealed the arrest and search warrant affidavits and issued a gag order in the case, which has shocked this East Texas town about 110 miles east of Dallas.

Officials believe 21-year-old Jana Shearer was taken by McCuin from her home late Friday night and killed. Authorities said McCuin then drove to his estranged wife's home, where he stabbed William Veasley, 42.
McCuin was still at his estranged wife's home when deputies arrived, but he jumped into his car and escaped after a short chase.

McCuin wasn't seen again until Saturday morning, when he arrived at the home he shared with his mother and called her into the garage so she could ''come see what he had done,'' according to reports.

His mother and her boyfriend saw the remains of Shearer, authorities said. McCuin's mother and her boyfriend fled the home and flagged down a police officer. McCuin dialed 911 after they left and told an emergency dispatcher he had killed Shearer and was boiling her body parts.

Authorities believe McCuin may have intended to eat his girlfriend's remains, but said it is unclear whether McCuin consumed any part of her body. McCuin told investigators that "God told him to do it."

McCuin and Shearer had only been dating a few months. ''You can't sleep. You can't think straight anymore,'' said Amy Gage, a friend and neighbor of the victim, Jana Shearer. ''Then you just keep finding out more and more. It's the most difficult thing anyone can go through.''

Monday, January 7, 2008

Attention All Couch Potatoes!

The U.S. will be switching to all-digital TV transmissions in February, 2009. If you have cable or satellite, you won't have to worry about anything. However, if you receive any stations over the airwaves, your TV may not be able to handle the new [digital] transmissions. Converter boxes will go on sale soon for about $50 at most stores (Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart, Target, Sam's Club, Sears, RadioShack, Wal-Mart etc.)

Starting this month, the Federal government is giving away free $40 coupons (while supplies last) to offset the cost of buying the converters. If you have an extra TV somewhere that is pulling a local station over the air, you should probably go to this site ( www.dtv2009.gov ) to apply for the coupon and save yourself some bucks.

Coupons are worth $40 each, to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes. You can also call a 24-hour hotline-- 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009) as well. The Feds will provide you a list of eligible converters and participating retailers when coupons are mailed. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, and only one coupon can be used to purchase each coupon-eligible converter box.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Fuck Mexico-- Discover The Rest Of Central America!

According to mass media reports, surfers and kayakers are frightened to hit the waters of the northern Baja California peninsula (Mexico, for all you geographically challenged)-- long popular as a weekend destination for U.S. tourists. Weddings have been canceled. Lobster joints a few steps from the Pacific were almost empty on the usually busy New Year's weekend.

Americans have long tolerated shakedowns by police who boost salaries by pulling over motorists for alleged traffic violations, and tourists know parts of Baja are a hotbed of drug-related violence. But a handful of attacks since summer by masked, armed bandits — some of whom used flashing lights to appear like police — marks a new extreme that has spooked even longtime visitors.

Lori Hoffman, a San Diego-area emergency room nurse, said she was sexually assaulted in October by two masked men in front of her boyfriend, San Diego Surfing Academy owner Pat Weber, who was forced to kneel at gunpoint for 45 minutes. They were at a campground with about 30 tents, some 200 miles south of the border. The men shot out windows of the couple's trailer and forced their way inside, ransacked the cupboards and left with about $7,000 worth of gear, including computers, video equipment and a guitar. Weber, who has taught dozens of students in Mexico over the last 10 years, now plans to surf in Costa Rica or New Zealand. "No more Mexico," said Hoffman, who reported the attack to Mexican police. Being Mexico, naturally, no arrests have been made.

News of harrowing assaults on American tourists has begun to overshadow the appeal of the northern part of the peninsula, home to drug gangs and the seedy border city of Tijuana. The southern tip, known for its cliched and overrated Los Cabos resort, still looks safe-- albeit overgrown with Hollywood celebrities, ageing anglers and other foreign tourists.

Mexican officials have finally acknowledged crime has threatened the lifeblood of Baja's economy. It´s gotten so bad there that even local police officers were forced to surrender their weapons last month for testing to determine links to any local crimes. Just last week, the bullet-riddled bodies of a Tijuana police official and another man were found dumped near the beach. "We cannot minimize what's happening to public safety," said Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Baja's new secretary of tourism. "We're going to impose order. We're indignant about what's happening." (note from the Daily Dude: Yeah, right!)

In Rosarita Beach´s tourist enclave, restaurant managers said sales were down as much as 80 percent from last year. One Saturday afternoon in October, masked bandits wielding pistols openly walked the streets and kidnapped two men — an American and a Spanish citizen — who were later released unharmed. Two people who were with them were shot and wounded.

Omar Armendariz, who manages a Puerto Nuevo lobster restaurant, is counting on the new state and city governments to make tourists feel safer. He has never seen fewer visitors in his nine years on the job. "It's dead," he said.

Final note from the Daily Dude: If you want surfing, come to Panama-- gringos here say the waves on the southern coast are great.

(Truly) Final Note from the Daily Dude: I've been to Central Mexico, the Yucatan, Chiapas (southern Mexico), as well as Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. I've never felt even remotely threatened by any criminal element anywhere-- with the glaring exception of Mexico City.

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