Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hold On-- I'm Quite Sure I Didn't Order That!

The owner of a British restaurant is apologizing profusely after a member of its kitchen staff added a profane comment to a customer's tab.

After complaining about poor service, a group of ten diners at Joe Delucci's Italian restaurant found the abusive message printed on their bill. In capital letters, the message read, "SUCK MY DICK FUCK FACE." On the bright side, no charge was added to the bill for the insult.

Diner Clare Watkin said, "I couldn't believe it. The bill read 'fish cakes', which one of us had for a starter, and it was written right above it - absolutely disgusting language. We actually booked the table for 8 o' clock in the evening, by the time they had taken our order it was quarter to nine and we didn't actually receive our food until quarter past 10." She added: "I'd like a written apology from the restaurant and I'd also like some compensation.

Owner Nigel Langsdon said the message had been meant to be seen only by kitchen staff and he did not know how it ended up as an item on the receipt. The cost of the meal came to $553, including a 10% service charge.

World-Class Traffic Jams: Italy

New Hope For Florida's Kids

The teaching standards for Florida schools now include the word "evolution" for the first time, under a decision by the state school board. The board approved the use of the term "scientific theory of evolution" in public schools science standards.

Adding the term "scientific theory" before the term "evolution" was a modified proposal at least one board member called a compromise. Board member Roberto Martinez said that the revision had been made to "placate" people who disagreed with the standards.

Terry Kemple, the executive director of the Community Issues Council in Tampa, opposed adding the language "scientific theory". According to Kemple, adding "scientific theory does not begin to even address the problems" with the standards, which were drafted over approximately the past year.

Welcome to the 21st century, Floridians.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Week That Was: 2/25/08

Huck Fuckabee: Huckabee rolls on.  The presumptive GOP nominee tells the former governor to quit McRaining on his parade.

Brad Renfro'd: Another young actor drugs his way to the great beyond.

Sexual Predator Assaults the Vault: Rapist scratches a different itch and hits it big. Look at it this way-- at least now he'll be able to hire a hooker to get his kinks instead of preying on innocents.

No Frills Mills: Modern-day Yoko Ono decides to represent herself in her divorce. Legal experts say she doesn't have a leg to stand on.

You're Gonna Need A Bigger Coffin: Film actor Roy Scheider is dead at 75-- "Jaws" was the first time I had the shit scared out of me at the theater.

The War Of The Words Against the Empire Of The Yuan: Spielberg tells the Chinese to fuck off, and that they should do more to end the crisis in Darfur. Yeah, yeah-- Bush should do more too, but he's wasted all our political capital on Iraq and we gave up expecting anything from him long ago.

A Swing And A Miss: Clemens and his former trainer contradicted each other in congressional testimony this week. The former pitcher doesn't have credibility on his side, and could soon be under investigation for perjury.

Pardon My Husband: Hillary's handling of her husband's terrorist pardons back in 2000 may come back and haunt her. The WSJ had an interesting op-ed on the topic this week.

Scribes Scratch Strike: Hollywood writers are going back to work, with many of the shows returning with shortened seasons in about 4-6 weeks. Couch potatoes who were starting to lose weight can breath easier and look forward to packing the pounds back on. "Lost" is being shortened to a 13-ep season (to end on May 22) and "24" being postponed to 2009 altogether.

Chavez The Chicken: Hugo backs down on his threat to cut off U.S. oil supplies and decides to pick on a smaller target-- cutting off sales to Exxon. The sound you don't hear is Exxon not trembling in its boots.

At The Movies: A lot of crap at the multiplex this weekend-- "Spiderwick Chronicles" (Bites); "Definitely, Maybe" (Definitely, not); "Step Up 2" (Step away from the ticket window). The Daily Dude's best bet is "Jumper", which is being dumped on by the critics-- but it might have some cool effects, and it does star Samuel Jackson, so there might be some decent highlights.

World-Class Traffic Jams: China

Countdown To Crawford: Day 340

And now, time for some more classic quotes:

"You Fucking son of a bitch. I saw what you wrote. We're not going to forget this."

-While on a 'charm offensive' with Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt, 1988

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

-Saginaw, Michigan, September 29, 2000

"I think we need not only to eliminate the tollbooth from the middle class, I think we should knock down the tollbooth."

-The New York Times (quoted by Gail Collins) February 1, 2000

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Freedom Of Thought Still Alive In Britain

The convictions of five young Muslim men jailed over the possession of extremist literature have been quashed by Britain's Appeal Court. Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said there was no proof of terrorist intent. The lawyer for one said they had been jailed for a "thought crime".

The prosecution was a closely-watched test case of Britain's 2000 Terrorism Act. Critics of the Act say that it has been used as a blunt instrument to prosecute young Muslim men and students where there is no proof of genuine links to terrorism. Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik and Akbar Butt were jailed for between two and three years each for downloading and sharing extremist terrorism-related material. But the Court of Appeal said that while the men had downloaded such material, there was no evidence it was in relation to planning terrorist acts.

"It is a great thing to live in a country where the Lord Chief Justice takes the time from hearing important cases to see if a group of unknown students have been fairly convicted for reading the wrong kind of literature," Malik said in a statement to the press. "As I said when I was arrested, I do not, have not and will not support terrorism in any form against innocent people. Today's decision means no first year student can ever be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist literature."

World-Class Traffic Jams: Katmandu

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Camille

Camille Paglia has a few choice quotes on the election in her Salon column, published today:

The galvanizing energy aroused by Barack Obama's thrilling coast-to-coast victories gives Democrats a clear shot at regaining the White House. However, the three-faced Hillary, that queen of triangulation, would be a nice big gift to Republicans, who are itching to romp all over the Clintons' 20-volume encyclopedia of tawdry scandals.

. . .

Hillary's gonads must be sending out sci-fi rays that paralyze the paleo-feminist mind -- because her career, attached to her husband's flapping coattails, has sure been heavy on striking pious attitudes but ultra-light on concrete achievements.

. . .

As a national candidate, the stumpy, uptight McCain is a lemon. Oy, that weaselly voice and those dated locutions and stilted intonations. Who needs a weird old coot with a short fuse in the White House?

Read the full column here.

Bush Administration Ignores The War On Women

While the U.S. continues a war in Iraq for dubious reasons, our Arabian allies continue their war of oppression against women. A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia's religious police for the "crime" of sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh. Yara (who did not furnish her last name to the press, out of fear of retribution) was bruised and crying when she was freed from prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom's Mutaween police.

The Mutaween, comprise of 3,500 officers and thousands more volunteers, are tasked with enforcing Sharia throughout Saudi Arabia. They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, any one engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. They ensure that alcoholic beverages and pork are not sold or consumed in public, as well as seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CD's/DVD's of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). The most widely criticized incident attributed to the Mutaween occurred in 2002, when they prevented schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca, because the girls were not wearing headscarves and abayas (black robes). Fifteen girls died and 50 were injured as a result.

Yara's recent ordeal began with a routine visit to the Riyadh offices of her finance company, where she is a managing partner. After power went out in the building, she and her colleagues (all men) went next door to the Starbucks to use its wireless internet. She sat in a curtained booth with her business partner in the café's “family” area, the only seats where men and women are allowed to mix.

In Saudi Arabia, public contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited-- and after a while, men approached the two asking why they were sitting together. "They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” recalled Yara, who wears an abaya and headscarf, like most Saudi women. Unfortunately for Yara, the men were from the Mutaween.

After taking her cell phone, the men pushed her into a cab and drove her to Malaz prison in Riyadh. She was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her “crime”. “They took me into a filthy bathroom, full of water and dirt. They made me take off my clothes and squat and they threw my clothes in this slush and made me put them back on,” she said. Eventually she was taken before a judge, who told her she was "sinful . . . and [was] going to burn in hell."

Yara's husband used his political contacts in Jeddah to track her whereabouts, and eventually was able to secure her release. “I was lucky. I met other women in that prison who don't have the connections I did,” she said. Her story has received rare coverage in Saudi Arabia, where the press has been sharply critical of the police.

You would think that mistreatment of a U.S. citizen such as this would be taken seriously-- well, you would be wrong. A (Bush administration) embassy official said that the arrest was being treated as “an internal Saudi matter” and refused to comment on her case.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bush Rushes To Complete His Stalinesque Makeover Of The U.S.

It seems that every week brings yet another reason to wake up and pray fervently that the U.S. election will come sooner than expected. Now comes another reason to hope that this xenophobic moron we have as a president will be gone before he does any permanent damage to our international relations.

News has come in that the Bush administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of intrusive and possible illegal new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by U.S. airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on European flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as "blackmail"-- and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have U.S. visas if their governments refuse to cooperate. Bush officials are also demanding that EU states supply personal data on all air passengers overflying the U.S.-- even if they are not landing there-- in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America.

And within months, the Homeland Security agency will be imposing a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travelers to apply online for permission to enter the country BEFORE booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

The Bush administration is also asking European airlines to provide personal data on family members who are allowed inside the departure area to assist elderly, young or ill passengers-- a demand the airlines reject as absurd, since they typically arrive just hours prior to the flight and no records are kept of their identity anyway.

For the past few months, the EU has been supplying the American authorities with 19 items of information on every traveller flying from the EU to the U.S.-- but the new American demands go well beyond what was agreed under the current system and appear to violate several privacy laws already in effect in many of the EU states.

Nobody Turns Into Someone And Some Body

Workers responding to neighbors' complaints of a bad smell coming from an apartment in western England discovered a body that lay decomposing on a couch for years while another resident lived there. According to reports, neighbors of the Bristol, England apartment had been complaining for years about the stench when cleaning workers finally found the body. A neighbor said he assumed the tenant suffered from poor hygiene and even offered him air fresheners. Officials said the body was thought to have been in the apartment for at least eight years.

Police arrested the apartment's tenant after the body was found, but concluded the death was not suspicious. The occupant, also in his 70s, apparently failed to report the death because he suffers from mental health problems.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Shammy Grammy's

Last night, Amy Winehouse tied the record for most Grammy awards won on a single night with five-- but she was shut out of winning the big one (Album of the Year) by yet another instance of moronic voting by the Grammy voters.

In mind-boggling fashion, the voters decided that the best album last year was Herbie Hancock's CD of Joni Mitchell covers (Huh?). This is the same lame-brained group that thought a weezy collection of Ray Charles duets was better than Green Day's "American Idiot"; that a movie soundtrack of folk tunes was better than Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft" or U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind"; that a chilly re-union CD by Steely Dan was better than Radiohead's "Kid-A"; and that a slap-dash Celine Dion collection (14 producers!) was better than Beck's "Odelay"-- and I'm only going back ten years.

And these ding-a-lings give out almost 200 awards every year (over 20 in the gospel category alone-- who buys gospel albums anyway?). Surely there must be another way to recognize the recording academy's special darlings and let the big awards go to more deserving, truly memorable work. Jeez!

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part X

Sunday, February 10, 2008

McCain's Campaign Brain Strain

There was much ado this weekend over MSNBC's David Shuster's comment that the Clintons seemed to be "pimping out" their daughter Chelsea. Blogger Will Bunch at Attytood got it right when he said that comment wasn't the worst thing to be said in public about Chelsea. This doozie came out in 1998, when Chelsea was barely 18 years old:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." -- Sen. John McCain, speaking to a Republican dinner

To freshen up your memory, here are some other McCain classics:

In his 1986 senate campaign, McCain referred to the Leisure World retirement community as "Seizure World", where "97 percent of the people vote and the other 3 percent are in intensive care."

Up until his 2000 election run, McCain openly used the term "gook", in reference to his Vietnamese torturers during the Vietnam War. After growing criticism from the Asian American community in the politically important state of California, McCain reversed his position.

In March 2007, McCain apologized for using the term "tar baby"-- although he was not using the term in reference to African Americans, he agreed he was wrong to use a term that some view as having racist overtones.

During a campaign appearance on April 18, 2007, McCain sang the words “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the melody of the Beach Boys' song "Barbara Ann". , Asked whether the joke he made was insensitive, McCain retorted, "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

On May 18, 2007, during a meeting to negotiate immigration legislation, Senator John Cornyn told McCain, "Wait a second here. I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day-- You're out of line." McCain replied, "Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room."

First, Homemade Bombs. Now It's Poison Cakes

Ten Iraqis have become seriously ill from eating cakes laced with the poison thallium. Two of the victims, both children, died after eating cake delivered to a military club in Baghdad. The others are being treated in hospital in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

It is the first time the deadly toxin has been used since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, whose regime used it to kill its opponents. At least two of the poison victims, the secretary of the Iraqi air force club and his daughter, are critically ill. They and half-a-dozen other patients suffering from thallium poisoning were flown from Baghdad to Amman as the necessary treatments and antidotes were not available in Iraq.

Thallium is an ideal assassin's tool, being tasteless and easy to administer, and its effects take some time to appear. It then causes a lingering and painful death. An antidote known as Prussian Blue can be effective if taken quickly. An investigation is under way in Baghdad. The manager of the air force club told the BBC he believed it was carried out by people with a grudge against the club's administration-- a former official is believed to have delivered two poison-laced cakes in the guise of a goodwill gesture. They were taken home and eaten by two officials' families, who all fell ill.

Whaling Away On Japan

Last week, Australia released graphic pictures of minke whales caught by a Japanese hunt in the Antarctic. It is believed that the pictures, taken by Australian customs officers tracking the hunt, show a harpooned mother and calf being dragged from the sea. Japan denied that claim and called the pictures "emotional propaganda".

"To claim that this is in any way scientific is to continue the charade that has surrounded this issue from day one," said Australian environment minister Peter Garrett. Japan had planned to kill up to 900 minke whales during the current season.

Japan's whale research is conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), a privately-owned, non-profit institution. The institute receives its funding from government subsidies and Kyodo Senpaku, a for-profit company which handles processing and marketing of the "by products". Kyodo Senpaku, a consolidation of earlier commercial whaling departments of Japanese fisheries, sells roughly US$60 million worth of whale products each year. ICR's whaling research program costs $4.6 million per year.

According to the ICR's website, the objectives of Japan's whale research are as follows:

1. Estimation of biological parameters to improve the stock management of the minke whale,
2. Examination of the role of whales in the Antarctic marine ecosystem,
3. Examination of the effect of environmental changes on whale populations,
4. Examination of the stock structure of minke whales to improve stock management.

When someone keeps talking about "stock management", it seems to me that the ultimate goal is the harvesting of animals, not their preservation. In addition, the ICR claims that the number of minke whales to be taken each year is the smallest number required to obtain statistically valid results. The International Whaling Commission estimates that the mink whale population currently stands at 761,000. To obtain a 95% confidence level (with a confidence interval of 4%), the necessary sample size would be 600-- far less than the 900 whales sought by Japan. Hmmmm . . .

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part IX

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The World Of Plastic

Oceanographer Charles Moore is calling attention to a "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean that is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches.

Moore, who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. According to Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the U.S.-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added. Because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water's surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs. "You only see it from the bows of ships," Moore said.

According to the U.N. Environment Program, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.

There has been a growing global effort in the past several years to deal with this issue.

In Australia, about 90 percent of retailers have signed up with the government's voluntary program to reduce plastic bag use. They have been banned outright in the state of Victoria and Australia is pursuing a nationwide ban to be put in place by the end of this year.

In 2002, the South African government required manufacturers to make plastic bags more durable and more expensive to discourage their disposal—prompting a 90-percent reduction in use. That effort is now building momentum throughout the African continent.

Ireland instituted a 15 cents-per-bag tax, which led to a 95% reduction in use.

A 2003 law in Taiwan required restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores to charge customers for plastic bags and utensils. Within a year, it resulted in a 69 percent drop in use of plastic products.

A year ago, San Francisco was the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets and large chain pharmacies.

Just last month, China’s cabinet completely banned super thin plastic bags and is imposing a compulsory charge on plastic carrier bags as of June 1st. Disposable plastic bags had become a major source of pollution for China, with estimates suggesting that Chinese citizens use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day! The cabinet also announced that they plan on creating more incentives for companies separating bags out from waste for reprocessing.

Whole Foods abruptly decided December to end the use of plastic bags in all its store nationwide, beginning this year.

Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The U.N. Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. The pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. "What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It's that simple," Eriksen said.

Beija-Flor Champions Again In Rio

Samba group Beija Flor was declared champion of Brazil's carnival for the fifth time in six years this week, wowing judges with extravagant floats featuring winged dancers and rich, green jungle displays. Beija Flor's samba parade honored legends of the Amazon rain forest and received a near-perfect score of 399.3 out of a possible 400 points. The Salgueiro group came in second with a score of 398 for their parade celebrating Rio de Janeiro; Grande Rio came in third.

While Beija Flor's dancers were topless, the judges drew the line at going bottomless, penalizing the rival Sao Clemente group for breaking a rule against display of genitalia during its 80-minute parade. They didn't name the offender, but she was widely believed to be samba queen Viviane Castro, who danced wearing only a 1.6-inch patch of fabric, believed to be the smallest in Rio parade history. As a result, Sao Clemente will be relegated to the second league of samba schools.

During the wild celebrations after the announcement of the winners, three people were injured in a shooting in front of Beija Flor's headquarters, according to Globo TV. Two had to be hospitalized. Police said they did not know what caused the shooting. An earlier fight inside the headquarters had prompted the school to halt distribution of alcoholic drinks and the party was cut short.

Beija Flor-- which means "Hummingbird" in Portuguese-- has dominated recent competitions, but its reputation was marred by accusations that directors conspired to steal last year's championship by intimidating judges. An investigation yielded an inconclusive report. Another controversy involved the Viradouro school, which was prohibited by a judge from parading with a dancer dressed as Hitler on a float covered in naked Holocaust victims. Worldwide outcry from Jewish groups prompted the judge's order-- after which Viradouro changed the float into a free speech exhibit featuring dozens of gagged men and women in white robes.

The final vote tallies are as follows:

1. Beija-Flor (399.3 pts)
2. Salgueiro (398)
3. Grande Rio (396.9)
4. Portela (396.8)
5. Unidos da Tijuca (396.5)
6. Imperatriz (396.5)
7. Viradouro (396)
8. Mocidade (395.1)
9. Vila Isabel (394.6)
10. Mangueira (393.9)
11. Porto da Pedra (388.2)
12. São Clemente (387.5)

The Legacy of George Bush: Anything You Know, Believe, Have Ever Thought Of-- Can And Will Be Used Against You

WaPo reported this week that the dubiously legal seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now have to worry about traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras or cellphones. In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

Two civil liberties groups in San Francisco plan to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including which rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices. They also want to know the boundaries for asking travelers about their political views, religious practices and other activities potentially protected by the First Amendment. The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts.

The lawsuit was inspired by two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics. The reasons for these searches are not always made clear. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives, which represents 2,500 business executives in the United States and abroad, said it has tracked complaints from several members, whose laptops have been seized and their contents copied before being returned days later, according to Susan Gurley, executive director of ACTE. Gurley said none of the travelers who have complained were ever charged with a crime.

Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, said her company laptop was seized by a federal agent as she was flying from Dulles International Airport to London in December 2006. Udy, a British citizen, said the agent told her he had "a security concern" with her. "I was basically given the option of handing over my laptop or not getting on that flight," she said. "I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days," said Udy, who has received neither her laptop nor an explanation over a year later.

The U.S. government has argued in a pending court case that its authority to protect the country's border extends to looking at information stored in electronic devices such as laptops without any suspicion of a crime. In border searches, it regards a laptop the same as a suitcase.

"It's one thing to say it's reasonable for government agents to open your luggage," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. "It's another thing to say it's reasonable for them to read your mind and everything you have thought over the last year. What a laptop records is as personal as a diary but much more extensive. It records every Web site you have searched. Every e-mail you have sent. It's as if you're crossing the border with your home in your suitcase."

If the government's position on searches of electronic files is upheld, new risks will confront anyone who crosses the border with a laptop or other device, said Mark Rasch, a technology security expert with FTI Consulting and a former federal prosecutor. "Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded," he said. "Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line."

Shirin Sinnar, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said that by scrutinizing the Web sites people search and the phone numbers they've stored on their cellphones, "the government is going well beyond its traditional role of looking for contraband and really is looking into the content of people's thoughts and ideas and their lawful political activities."

If conducted inside the country, such searches would require a warrant and probable cause, legal experts said.

This is the legacy we have, thanks to George Bush and his so-called "war on terror" . . .

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part VIII

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Week That Was: 2/8/08

McCain Reigns; Mitt Quits; Huckabee Key: The former 'Nam POW powers through Super Tuesday with a commanding lead. After flip-flopper Romney bows out, speculation is rife that Huckabee is staying in to broker a VP slot. Stay tuned.

Bama and Mama: Despite splitting Super Tuesday evening with Hillary, Barack is still painting himself the underdog. There is much speculation that Obama will end up as the veep candidate at a brokered convention-- there's no way Hillary will play second fiddle to a man again. It's now or never for her.

White Men Can't Prosecute: Wesley Snipes pulled an O.J, getting cleared of tax fraud charges. I guess we can all look forward to "Blade: Quatro"

Calling Miss Utility: To make matters even worse for Asia and the Middle East, a third underwater cable was cut-- interrupting internet service even further. Millions of folks were forced outside their homes, where they weren't be able to drink (Saudi Arabia), kiss women in public (India) or openly criticize their government (China). Fellas-- let's get that internet going again, so people can go back indoors and have some fun . . .

Joran [in the] Van: [I dumped] der Sloot: A Dutch reporter finally gets the scoop on the Natalie Holloway story-- by getting the snotty little cretin to admit on film that he was involved with her death and that he arranged to have her dead body dumped into the ocean. There is no justice in Aruba or anywhere for U.S. citizens if this asshole doesn't get jail time.

They Might Be Giants: The almighty Patriots fall to the New York Giants in a highly-rated and close Super Bowl, making it back-to-back rings for the Manning family. In return, Eli and company get the first ticker-tape parade in NYC since 2000.

Not A Prayer, Blair: Despite heavy politicking, European diplomats say it'll be a cold day in hell before Tony gets the EU Presidency. War's a bitch, dude.

Head Over Heels For Good Sex: An Italian doctor says that wearing high heels strengthens your pelvic muscles, which will therefore improve your sex life. There was no mention of how much "field work" was done for the study, buy of course the advice applies only to women, not men.

At The Movies: The weekend movie selection is a little bit like Super Tuesday-- something for the white folks and something for the black folks. And in the end, everything gets split up the middle. The new Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey film must surely be named for any fool that parts with his gold to go see it. And even the commercials for the new Martin Lawrence comedy ("Roscoe Jenkins") are cringe-inducing.

What's getting so-so reviews might be worth a change of pace-- Vince Vaughn's "Wild West Comedy Show". Not a standard comedy, but a documentary of a 30-day road tour of four stand-up comedians. "In Bruges", garnering good marks for Collin Farrell and Ralph Fienes performances, looks to be a fun piece of filmmaking as well.

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part VII

DNA Stands For "Do Not Acquire"

Police officers in Daytona Beach are swabbing the mouths of male drivers during traffic stops with special DNA kits in the hunt for an elusive serial killer, according to a local news source. Police chief Mike Chitwood said that his officers obtain consent before collecting the samples. The DNA kits are also being used to collect samples from suspects rounded up in prostitution stings, in which case they obtain warrants before collecting DNA from suspects in custody.

Investigators said they believe the same man has killed four women execution style in the Daytona Beach area, and are in possession of the killer's DNA. Daytona police chief Mike Chitwood said, "Sooner or later, we will match the DNA to the physical person and bring closure to everything that is going on."

The ACLU is investigating the Daytona police chief's tactics, saying that it is getting complains. All collected DNA samples are sent to a federal database, which the ACLU also claims is a violation of a person's rights.

This intrusion of individual civil liberties is also gaining foothold in England, as police there announced last August that they are seeking powers to take DNA samples from suspects on the streets and for non-imprisonable offenses such as speeding and dropping litter.

Boneheads in Denver are also pushing for legislation to seize DNA from anybody even arrested for felony-- despite the lack of specifics on what would happen to the DNA samples in a case in which someone is arrested for a felony but not convicted.

If any of this doesn't already scare you, remember-- all it takes is one testosterone-jacked pinhead with a GED to arrest you on a suspected felony. Before any of it would be sorted out by level-headed authorities, your DNA profile will have sped its way to the Feds, where it would sit like a time-bomb ready to wreak damage to you for the rest of your life.

Next thing you know, your DNA will be used by the state or the Feds to collar your relatives for suspected crimes. After that, your DNA will be subject to subpoena in any future civil litigation you're involved with. If you find yourself in a divorce or custody hearing, your DNA will almost certainly be used against you. At some point, HMO's and insurance companies will get access to your DNA and use it to deny health coverage or avoid paying claims in some way (remember that old standby, "pre-existing condition"-- anything you're born with in your DNA could be construed to be a "pre-existing condition").

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Abusing Prescription Meds No Joke

The New York City medical examiner announced yesterday that Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and other prescription drugs. The cause of death was "acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine".

The drugs are the generic names for the painkiller OxyContin, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller. The coroner didn't say what concentrations of each drug were found in Ledger's blood, or whether one drug played a greater part than another in causing his death. "What you're looking at here is the cumulative effects of these medications together," she said.

OK, so let me get this straight-- Heath Ledger just accidentally was abusing prescription drugs . . . wouldn't common sense tell the average person that you shouldn't take six medications at the same time?

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part VI

Show Some Skin In India? You'll Be "Sari"

World-ranked tennis player Sania Mirza says she will stop appearing in tennis competitions in her native country of India to avoid controversy. The 21-year-old tennis player has been at the center of several disputes involving her dress and disrespecting India's national flag.

Ranked #29 in the world, Mirza recently revealed she had come close to quitting the game after she was accused of disrespecting India's flag during a tournament last month. She was pictured sitting with her feet resting on a table next to an Indian flag. Although Mirza said the pose was accidental, a private citizen filed a complaint with a court in the central Indian city of Bhopal under the Prevention of Insult to the National Honor Act.

Police in her hometown of Hyderabad have also registered a case against her for criminal trespass as a result of an advertisement filmed near a mosque. Mirza has also angered sections of India's Muslims because of her "indecent" choice of dress-- wearing shorts and sleeveless t-shirts while competing on court.

According to the tennis star, "Every time I have played in India there has been some kind of problem. It is not easy to be dealing with stuff like that. I felt great lows in the last few weeks."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Think Somebody Needs A Stimulus

The Senate fell short one vote today to break the Republican filibuster and pass a much-needed stimulus package. Hillary and Obama took a detour from the heated campaign trail to cast their votes-- but guess who didn't show up? Sen. "The Economy Isn't My Strong Suit" McCain.

Harry Reid had this to say:

“It is incredible that not even nine Republicans would join us to strengthen our weakening economy by helping those who need it most. When given the opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner to help people hurt by our struggling economy, Republicans chose politics first. And while they may view this vote as a win, the American people lose.”

Kabul Cable Cabal?

Hmmm . . . there are now five undersea cables cut so far. Lazy anchor? Godzilla? Dick Cheney? OK-- I only threw in the Pakistan reference 'cause it made the headline sound better.

Rule Number One: Never Piss Off A Judge

A Tucson woman got a longer jail sentence after a judge heard a recorded jail conversation during which she made light of the bicyclist she had killed. 27-year-old Melissa Arrington was convicted two months ago of negligent homicide and two counts of aggravated DUI for running over and killing bicyclist Paul L'Ecuyer. She could have gotten as few as four years behind bars, but Pima County Superior Court Judge Michael Cruikshank sentenced her to 10 ½ years, one year shy of the maximum.

The judge said he found a telephone conversation between Arrington and an unknown male friend (recorded a week after L'Ecuyer was killed) "breathtaking in its inhumanity." During the conversation, the man told Arrington that a friend of theirs believed she should get a medal and a parade because she had "taken out" what he said was a "tree hugger, a bicyclist, a Frenchman and a gay guy all in one shot."

Arrington laughed, and when the man said he knew it was a terrible thing to say, she responded, "No, it's not."

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part V

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Countdown To Crawford: Day 350

Over the years, many of George's critics have found his behavior to be juvenile and appalling. During George's "missing year" (May 1972 to May 1973, when he went missing from his National Guard service), he spent legendary amounts of time partying with booze and cocaine. At one point, he caused nearly $5,000 (adjusted to 2007) in party damage to a Montgomery, Alabama house he rented from an old woman confined to a nursing home-- which he never paid back.

In the book "The End of Faith", author Sam Harris recounted how during his career as governor of Texas, Bush mocked a female prisoner who appealed to him to lift her death sentence by mockingly imitating her pleas for mercy. On another occasion during his term as governor, he flipped the "bird" to a TV producer while on camera just before taping an appearance.

When Bush appeared on the "Late Show With David Letterman" during his 2000 campaign, he was caught on tape committing a heinous breach of social etiquette. During a commercial break, producer Maria Pope was on stage discussing something with Letterman-- and while she was standing there in front of Bush, he leaned forward, grabbed the back of her sweater, and used it to clean his glasses.

At the 2006 G-8 summit, presidential observers went crazy after George (while chewing with a mouthful of food) interrupted Tony Blair, using the word "shit". Later that week, he gave German chancellor Merkel an unwelcome neck rub while she was talking to the Italian prime minister-- which was dubbed the "love attack" by European press and earned him the nickname "Groper In Chief".

Another more recent example was in May of 2007, during a commemorative ceremony in which Bush presented the mothers of dead soldiers with a Presidential coin. George jokingly commented to one of them: "Now don't go sell it on eBay!"

Quotes For The Ages:

"I understand small business growth. I was one."

-- New York Daily News, February 19, 2000

"More and more of our imports come from overseas."

--Beaverton, Oregon, September 2000

As If We Needed Another Story About The Crooked Bush Administration

According to a story first reported on the Washington DeCoded blog, a new book claims that Philip Zelikow (Executive director of the 9/11 commission) had closer ties with the White House than publicly disclosed and tried to influence the final report in ways that the staff often perceived as limiting the Bush administration's responsibility.

Blogger Max Holland disclosed that Zelikow failed to disclose several egregious conflicts-of-interest, among them, the fact that he had been a member of Condoleeza Rice’s NSC transition team in 2000-01. In that capacity, Zelikow had been the “architect” responsible for demoting Richard Clarke and his counter-terrorism team within the NSC. As Shenon puts it, Zelikow “had laid the groundwork for much of went wrong at the White House in the weeks and months before September 11.

Philip Shenon, in his upcoming book "The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation", says that Zelikow once tried to push through wording in a draft report that suggested a greater tie between al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and Iraq, in line with White House claims but not with the commission staff's viewpoint.

In addition, Zelikow sought to intimidate staff to avoid damaging findings for President Bush (who at the time was running for re-election) and Rice. Zelikow and Rice had written a book together in 1995 and he would later work for her after the commission finished its job and she became secretary of state in 2005.

Sexually Permissive Gun Registrants Offended (???)

Pasquotank County officials have decided to change the above sign in the Public Safety building after the National Rifle Association joined local gun owners who complained that it made them embarrassed to have to stand in line with sex offenders.

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part IV

Monday, February 4, 2008

More Details On India's Outbreak Of Bird Flu

I just came across some further details on the bird flu outbreak in India, which in my opinion, is being under-reported here in the states.

Villagers in India's West Bengal region are continuing to eat chickens killed by bird flu and there are signs the virus may be spreading among poultry, a minister has said. Animal Resources Minister Anisur Rahaman said the situation in the affected areas was "horrible", and that more suspect cases had been reported on the state's borders with Nepal and Bangladesh.

The ignorance of villagers is one of the main hurdles. According to Rahaman, they are carrying the dead chickens without any protective gear. "Most villagers are not aware of the disease. They are eating the dead chickens. Their children are playing with the infected chickens in the courtyards," he added.

Six districts in West Bengal state have reported outbreaks of avian flu among poultry. Rahaman said there were fears it could be spreading further afield in the eastern state, with suspect poultry spotted in the hill resort of Darjeeling on the border with Nepal, and in several villages in Coochbehar bordering Bangladesh, which is also fighting a bird flu outbreak. People typically catch the disease by coming into direct contact with infected poultry, but experts fear the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus may mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans.

The epicenter of the outbreak is Margram village, 150 miles from the state capital Kolkata. Rahaman said authorities had so far killed 200,000 chickens and ducks, and were planning to cull 500,000 more in the next three to four days. The outbreak is the third in India since 2006 but it has not had any human cases, although it is the worst so far because it is more widespread, according to the World Health Organization. Roughly $US 770,000 has been set aside to compensate poultry owners although farmers are reportedly opposing the slaughter of their birds because they want the cash immediately.

As the spread of bird flu outpaces culling, the deadly virus is taking human lives even indirectly - a chicken seller committed suicide on Sunday by jumping in front of a train. He was driven to desperation by the fall in sale of chickens. In Nadia district, about 100 miles from Kolkata, a wedding was put on hold because the bride's family rears chickens. The parents of the groom chickened out and informed the girl's family about their decision to postpone the wedding after poultry deaths were reported from the area last week. "The groom's family told us to get rid of the birds and stop poultry farming. They said the marriage cannot take place now as the entire block has been infected by the virus," said the girl's mother.

The Attack Of The Blob

A large, mysterious blob took over a major sewer line in the city of Lewiston, Maine recently, leaving public works crews stumped as to how to budge it. According to city officials, the stretch of 12-inch pipe backed up on January 13, and for over ten days, the city tried unsuccessfully to clear the line.

Deputy Public Services Director Kevin Gagne told reporters that the doughy, 90-foot mass was comprised of grease, flour and rags. After surrendering to the blob, Gagne said the city chose to replace the 170-foot line at a cost of between $40,000 and $60,000.

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part III

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Obscenity On The Loose In Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach police carted away two large promotional photographs from a local Abercrombie & Fitch store and cited the manager on charges of "displaying obscene materials in a business that is open to juveniles." Adam Bernstein, a police spokesman, said the seizure and the issuance of the summons came only after store management had not heeded warnings to remove the images.

Bernstein confirmed that one depicts three shirtless young men from the back, walking through a field. The man in the lead appears to be about to pull up his jeans, which have slipped down enough to reveal his upper buttocks. The other image is of a woman who is topless and whose "breast is displayed with her hand covering just the nipple portion," Bernstein said. "You could still pretty much see the rest of the breast." According to reports, the seizure was "prompted by several customer complaints," Bernstein said.

It should be pointed out that the official state seal of Virginia qualifies as obscene, using the same criteria. In it, a woman is depicted with an uncovered left breast, with her nipple fully exposed.

Update On Afghan Journalist Sentenced To Death

International pressure is beginning to mount on Afghanistan in the case of the college student sentenced to death for printing from the internet an article on women's rights.

Reporters Without Borders and the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, are now alleging that the charges against Kambaksh are actually in retaliation for his brother's investigative journalism, which detail human rights abuses at the hands of political and paramilitary factions in northern Afghanistan. Kambaksh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi (who is a leading independent journalist in the region) has published articles naming government officials who extort money from locals in some articles, according to Jean MacKenzie, country director of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

In another piece by Ibrahimi (which is among the articles he is best-known for) he describes the "dancing boys," teenage boys who dress up as girls and dance for male patrons at parties thrown by some commanders in northern Afghanistan.

Proposed Mississippi Law Doesn't Stand A Fat Chance

Mississippi legislators have introduced a bill that would make it illegal for state-licensed restaurants to serve obese patrons. The bill (which can be linked to on The Smoking Gun), is the bird-brained idea of three members of the state's House of Representatives-- Republicans Ted Mayhall and John Read, and Democrat Bobby Shows.

The Daily Dude was unable to obtain photos or statistics on Mayhall, Read or Shows to find out whether they would automatically be disqualified from eating out if their bill were to become law. But according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly a third of all folks (i.e., classified as "obese" with a body mass index of 30 and above) would be unable to go to a restaurant in the state of Mississippi. The proposed bill calls for the Mississippi Department of Health to establish weight criteria for restaurants to use when deciding whether to serve potential patrons. No penalties have yet been proposed.

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part II

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Elections In South Korea Turn Gravely Serious

In South Korean elections, digging up dirt takes on a new meaning. It all has to do with the belief that the location of a family's ancestral grave can determine their fortunes. During last December's elections, Korean politicians apparently took this to heart, with several moving graves to places that fortune tellers said would help them get votes.

"Every individual's destiny is influenced by where that persons ancestors are buried," said Park Min-chan, an expert in "poongsoo", which is a belief that placing objects in a harmonious way with their surroundings will help tap into the mystical power of nature. Poongsoo is similar to the Chinese practice of feng shui and both mean "a reading of wind and water". Korean followers of poongsoo, however, place more emphasis on the arrangement of grave sites than followers of feng shui. Former President Kim Dae-jung, who failed twice to win an open election for the presidency called in a poongsoo expert and moved his ancestral graves. Two years later he won the presidential election.

Park was called in by one Lee Hoi-Chang in advance of the December 19 election to move the graves of nine ancestors in order to secure a good outcome in the vote. "I selected a site on a mountain. The mountain resembles a person reading a book," Park said in an interview.

54-year-old Chung Dong-young, who trailed Lee Hoi-chang and Lee Myung-bak in the polls leading up to the election, went ahead in 2005 with large-scale renovations of a family cemetery that included dozens of graves. In the final tally, he was able to improve his standings and finish second. The ancestors of eventual winner, Lee Myung-bak, were already deemed to be at rest in an already favorable spot. More graves are almost certain to be moved ahead of the April parliamentary elections.

Oh, Those Clever Christians: Part I

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Week That Was: 2/1/08

And The Race Goes On: Obama romps on South Carolina; Hillary wins a beauty contest; McCain shines in Florida. With everyone turning on Romney, the GOP is losing excitement-- but the Dems look to have a real fight on their hands.

Stand By Your Man: Like a high-stakes game of musical chairs, there seems to be a rush of folks taking sides. The Kennedy clan backs Obama as does Paul Volcker and Tiger Woods; Guiliani and Schwarzenegger stand up for McCain, who scored big with the endorsement by the Florida governor; At the moment, Mitt and Hillary look a little bit like wallflowers at the prom. Like a true lawyer, Edwards seems to be gaming the situation a bit before he commits.

Redefining the "quarter bag": California begins distribution of marijuana via vending machines. If Japan can do it with soiled panties, why not pot?

Where The Rubber(s) Hit The Road: Brazil's Carnaval is cranking up and they seem to be making the proper preparations. Mangueira, Oh Mangueira! At the same time, however, shocking statistics on the number of Brazilian murders in the last ten years seem to have little impact

(Chicken) Nuggets of Wisdom: In England, McDonald's has been approved to offer college-entrance exam level courses. I wonder if Cliff Notes will be available.

This Week At The Movies: If you have eyes for Jessica Alba, for god's sake-- surf the web and save yourself ten bucks. Over my dead body will anybody I know be allowed to see the new Eva Longoria flick-- it looks to be lamer than a "Desperate Housewives" re-run. If you're a girl under the age of 15, then you have special dispensation to see the Hannah Montana movie-- otherwise use your weekend wisely to catch up on the remaining Oscar nominees. I saw "There Will Be Blood" last weekend, and I thought it was a freakin' masterpiece ("I drink your milkshake-- I DRINK IT UP!")

Saying "No" To Abstinence-Only

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has rejected $1 million in federal funding for abstinence-only education, telling the Bush administration that the programs just don't work.

The move makes Arizona the 16th state to reject federal funding for abstinence-only programs. Study after study (the most recent being last November) has shown that teaching "abstinence only" in schools has done nothing to reduce teen sex.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

Since 1996, the federal government has wasted over a half a billion taxpayer dollars on abstinence-only programs. A 2006 study by the independent Society for Adolescent Medicine called the programs “scientifically and ethically flawed”.


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