Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cheney Needs To Be Taken To Task

Now that Darth Chaney will soon be out hawking his memoirs on a book tour, I think it's about time that reporters start pressuring him more on questions that he failed to deal with in his self-serving, history-rewriting book.  Some suggestions (several of which courtesy of HuffPo):

How can you possibly not call waterboarding torture? And just how involved in it were you?

Why torture detainees if it doesn't even work?

Do you fear being charged with criminal conduct?

Do you fear being charged with a war crimes?

The United States has prosecuted individuals who engaged in waterboarding, so why is there now an exemption from those in the Bush administration?"

When do you plan to travel outside the United States next?

What do you consider a violation of human dignity, exactly?

Did you tell Scooter Libby to leak Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent to the press?

What agreement did you have with Karl Rove to divide policy responsibilities?

Just how much surveillance do you think the government can do without a warrant?

Who was really in charge the morning of 9/11-- you or Bush?

How much did you have to drink before you shot your friend in the face?

How much did you know about Halliburton's massive bribery scheme in Nigeria?

Why did you allow Pakistan to airlift Taliban and Al-Queda officials out of Kunduz in 2001?

Why did you and Bush fail to capture or kill Bin Laden at Tora Bora?

Why didn't you and Bush take the threat of a Bin Laden attack more seriously the month before 9/11?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Shocking Indifference Of African Leaders

If African leaders won't help their own, why should anybody help them at all?  From the Independent:

African leaders have come under fierce criticism after a much-delayed African Union summit to tackle the food crisis in the Horn of Africa raised less than 4 per cent of the shortfall needed. Only four heads of state – from Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea – attended the meeting, designed to gather urgently needed funds to help save the nearly 13 million people now at risk of starvation on the continent.

Only 21 out of the 54 countries in the AU made pledges, with $20m of the $46m promised coming from three states – Algeria, Angola and Egypt. Aid groups say they need $1.4bn to meet the shortfall in tackling the emergency. Jean Ping, chairman of the AU commission, announced the summit had raised more than $350m, but the bulk of the sum was in fact a $300m loan from the African development bank and not a grant at all.
 On top of this, the African Union is still dragging its feet in recognizing the National Transitional Council in Libya.  Many are even suspicious that members of the AU are still secretly backing the Libyan dictator, as his whereabouts continue to be unknown.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peace Corps Throws Its Volunteers To The Wolves In Order To Save A Buck

Four years ago, a Peace Corps volunteer named Erin Bingham was raped in Bolivia. Within hours, agent Julie De Mello was on an airplane from Washington to meet the victim. De Mello, employed by the Peace Corps inspector general as a senior federal agent investigating crimes against volunteers, worked with the 23-year-old victim to sketch the attacker. De Mello went with Bingham to a police lineup, hired a lawyer to represent her, and worked with local police to track down witnesses. De Mello believes her advocacy helped convict the rapist in 2008. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

As profiled by Lisa Rein of the Washington Post, today's Peace Corps response would be a much different story. A Peace Corps volunteer who is the victim of a violent crime is now much less likely to get the necessary support from the U.S. government. De Mello herself left the Peace Corps three years ago, after the agency grounded her and the four other investigators who traveled the world helping victimized volunteers.

What happened? The Peace Corps in 2008 moved the responsibility for supporting volunteers and working with local police from experienced agents to its own in-country staffers, most of whom have little or no law enforcement training. After the change, the rate of prosecutions in sex crimes committed against volunteers has dropped.  Despite that fact, Peace Corps officials claim the new system is working, and maintain that the decision to move crime response to local personnel “was made to ensure a proper alignment of functions." (whatever that means!)

Victims and critics say the change was among many missteps the Peace Corps has made in protecting its 8,655 volunteers and trainees. The Peace Corpos has come under fire in recent months for its handling of sexual assaults and the death of a volunteer in West Africa. The young woman, Kate Puzey, was killed days after she told Peace Corps staff that a fellow teacher was molesting students.

Following that incident, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams acknowledged problems and promised changes at a congressional hearing. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.), chief House sponsor of a bill that would force the Peace Corps to give sexual assault victims more support, said in an interview that he did not know the Peace Corps had shifted responsibility for crime investigations to in-country personnel. “It would seem to me that in criminal cases, you need trained officers responding rather than people who have other duties,” he said.

Former agents and inspectors general at the Peace Corps said they believe that shifting responsibility to the security staff lessened the chances that crimes will be solved.

Peace Corps volunteers always have faced dangers abroad. Volunteers reported more than 1,000 rapes, attempted rapes and sexual assaults from 2000 to 2010, statistics show. Because many crimes go unreported, Peace Corps officials believe the real numbers are higher.

Peace Corps volunteers who become crime victims are now often left to their own devices, forced to deal with police officers who are overloaded with work and undertrained, and without experienced representation, usually get no special treatment. The resulting drop in sexual assault cases that result in prosecutions — from about 60 percent to 46 percent (according to figures provided to a congressional committee) underscores what critics call a serious step back for Peace Corps volunteers.

Volunteers and their families have continued to complain about the problems dealing with local police forces, and some believe the decision to rely on in-country security staffs has seriously hampered their quests for justice.

According to Erin Bingham, her case would have languished without the involvement of a trained investigator. Prosecutors in the small city where she was attacked had never tried someone for rape — let alone used DNA evidence in court. “Julie was so experienced,” Bingham said. “She fought so hard for me in all aspects.”

Maybe the Peace Corps should fight a little bit harder for its own volunteers.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chicago Jury Says That Recording Police Activity Is OK

Finally, signs of common sense when it comes to the recording of police behavior.  Even though more and more jurisdictions are passing restrictions or outright bans on citizens recording the public behavior of police personnel, an Illinois jury of everyday people has spoken loud and clear on the subject.

A former stripper, who secretly recorded two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators while filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer was acquitted on eavesdropping charges.  “I’m feeling a lot better now,” a smiling Tiawanda Moore said after a Cook County jury returned the verdict in a little over an hour.  The 20-year-old Indiana woman admitted she taped the [internal affairs] officers on her Blackberry in August of last year. But she said she only did it because the investigators were coaxing her to not go forward with her complaint.

Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the verdict “reflects a repudiation of the eavesdropping law in Illinois. Clearly, the public believes that individuals should be able to record police engaged in their public duties, in a public space in an audible voice.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gamestop Stores Admit to Stealing From Customers

Video game retail giant GameStop has been opening up brand new PC game boxes of the critically-acclaimed shooter Deus Ex: Human Revolution and removing packed-in $50 coupons granting free copies of the game to users of the OnLive cloud gaming service.

Why? Because Gamestop, which has its own digital distribution platform, didn't wan't to help promote the competition. A letter sent out to GameStop employees instructing them to "immediately remove and discard the OnLive coupon from all the regular PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution" has been widely circulated, and GameStop has since officially confirmed the practice.

"Regarding the Deus Ex OnLive Codes: GameStop's policy is that we do not promote competitive services without a formal partnership," GameStop says on its Facebook page. "Square Enix packed a competitor's coupon within the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons."

GameStop lamely tried to paper over by trying to assure customers that while they're breaking the seal on your new game box, your game itself should be fine. They issued a statement to customers and the public, saying "While the new products may be opened, we fully guarantee the condition of the discs to be new. If you find this to not be the case, please contact the store where the game was purchased and they will further assist."

Nice try, Gamestop. What you're conveniently ignoring is that you are committing THEFT. You are stealing something worth $50-- something which each customer has bought and paid for and you are cheating them out of.

Depending on how many of these units have had the coupons removed, Gamestop's actions could constitute grand larceny. It's possible that Gamestop has now realized that, since they are trying to save face by now refusing to sell the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution altogether.

Hate Is Costly

I really wish there was more investigation and follow-up on these so-called "money saving" ideas that the GOP ram down our throats. Remember when they cut illegal immigrants out of health care reform? It's turning out (like it was fairly obvious then) that those same immigrants can simply go to the emergency room and get free treatment which costs the states four times as much.

The latest example of a hate-motivated policy dressed up as a cost-saving measure is the one in Florida, where families applying for cash welfare benefits are required to take drug tests first. The law, which went into effect July 1, makes applicants pay for the drug tests up front and reimburses individuals if they test negative. It has been widely believed that the testing itself would cost Florida more than what they would save in cutting welfare money off to drug users. Great idea in the current economic environment!

The ACLU predicted that this program would be a failure and cost the state of Florida much more money than they would save. In just the few weeks that the program has been in effect, the ACLU has been proven right.

The Department of Children and Families' central region has tested 40 applicants since the law went into effect six weeks ago, and of those 40 applicants, 38 tested negative for drugs. The cost to the state of Florida to reimburse those 38 individuals who tested negative was at least $1,140 over the course of six weeks. Meanwhile, denying benefits to the two applicants who tested positive will save Florida less than $240 a month.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tripoli In The Balance

Saif . . . not exactly safe
Reports are coming in that Tripoli is mostly in the hands of the rebels, but loyalist forces are still mounting resistance in many pockets throughout the capital . . . The only working hospital is overwhelmed with casualties and not enough doctors to handle the volume . . . NATO has been dropping leaflets in the area of Tripoli, The majority of the leaflets were intended to encourage pro- Gaddafi soldiers to lay down their weapons and to join the Libyan rebels and the wider Libyan people . . . Libyan rebels have sent more fighters and weaponry by sea to Tripoli from their coastal enclave of Misrata, about 200km further east . . . As of tonight, here are the known whereabouts of the various members of the Gaddafi clan:

Muammar (Big Daddy): Whereabouts unknown; not believed to have left Libya.

Mohammad: At first captured by rebel fighters in Tripoli, but later escaped.

Saif al-Islam: Not yet captured (as previously reported)-- last seen tooling around the city in an armored convoy.

Saadi: Captured by rebel fighters in Tripoli.

Hannibal: At large.

Mutasim: At large.

Saif al-Arab: Killed by a NATO airstrike in April.

Khamis: At large; unsubstantiated rumors that he was killed.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bachmann Rewriting History . . . Again!

Michele Bachmann has, by now, virtually eliminated any doubt over what was obvious a long time ago-- that she is just a pathetic retread of Sarah Palin-- uninformed, inexperienced and error-prone.  After most recently confusing John Wayne with a serial killer and reclassifying John Quincy Adams status as a new founding father, Bachmann this week rewrote 20 years' of Russian/Soviet history.

In a radio interview, the Minnesotan loon said, "What people recognize is that there's a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward."  Hello . . . earth to Michelle . . . the Soviet Union went out of business almost two decades ago.  It's only a threat in that pea-sized brain of yours.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mid-Air Battle For Armrest Supremacy

A fight over "arm rest supremacy" aboard an American Airlines flight resulted in two men being investigated by the FBI.

Approximately one hour into a flight from Chicago O'Hare to Los Angeles, three men, seated three across in an exit row, began to struggle over who could use the arm rests.  "They're just going at it, throwing elbows, like they're going for position at a basketball game," another passenger said.

According to the passenger, the man in the middle seat then complained to a stewardess that he might have sustained an injury in the scrum and requested the plane be diverted to the nearest airport.  "He [the man in the middle] complained that he'd been injured and may have a broken rib and apparently was insisting that the flight be diverted and the passengers next to him be charged with assault," the passenger said. The flight was not diverted.

At that point, an off-duty pilot  intervened in the incident-- moving the aisle and middle seat passengers to different seats on the plane, and taking the middle seat next to the window for the remainder of the flight.  According to the passenger, all the men involved in the incident appeared to be businessmen in their 40's or 50's. The flight continued to Los Angeles without further incident where the men were met by FBI agents and Los Angeles Airport Police.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Michele Bachmann Tied To Terrorist Bigot

The man running outreach to faith-based communities for Republican Michele Bachmann's presidential nomination campaign has been tied to the key backer of the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.

The Atlantic reports that Peter E. Waldron had tried to be coy about his identity when confronted, at first refusing to provide his name, but journalist Garance Franke-Ruta discovered that the evangelical pastor was once imprisoned in Uganda for a supposed terrorism plot.  While Waldron was in Uganda from 2002 to 2006, the Republican political activist was reportedly arrested with a small weapons cache. The details are murky, but he spent more than a month in prison.

Waldron is also known to have visited the church of staunchly antigay, and dangerous, pastor Martin Ssempa.  Ssempa is well known for inflaming violence against gay people in Uganda, even screening gay porn to incite backlash.  According to The New Republic reporter Andrew Rice, Waldron regaled Ssempa's congregation with stories and seemed like a minor celebrity. Waldron spoke about his time in the military (which Waldron strongly implied was CIA-related), his visit to the White House, and he bragged about being cozy with the Ugandan president.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chavez Is Watching Too Much Fox News

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold reserves held in developed nations’ institutions such as the Bank of England as prices for the metal rise to a record.

Venezuela, which holds 211 tons of its 365 tons of gold reserves in U.S., European, Canadian and Swiss banks, will progressively return the bars to its central bank’s vault. “We’ve held 99 tons of gold at the Bank of England since 1980. I agree with bringing that home,” Chavez said yesterday on state television. “It’s a healthy decision.”

Many feel that this latest move to repatriate reserves is timed to occur before arbitration case rulings are handed down, in order to avoid a so-called attachment risk that could freeze international assets, according to Boris Segura, a New York-based strategist at Nomura Securities. The repatriation and diversification of reserves may also cloud transparency of government holdings, which would be a negative for the country’s credit, he said.

Of 17 arbitration cases pending against Venezuela in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, at least three of them are over mining ventures, including Crystallex International Corp. (KRY), a Canadian gold producer whose Las Cristinas mine was taken over by the government in February. “Today’s announcement is not surprising,” Doug Belander, Gold Reserve president, said yesterday in an interview. “We believe that their objective all along was to take over the entire industry.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Art Pranksters Stick It To Russian CIA

The Moscow art group The Members of War (aka Voina) have already become infamous for faking gay bashings at local malls and depicting Russia’s federal museum director in an orgy at a national art event. But their latest action — completed early in the morning on Che Guevara’s birthday — really delivered a big “fuck you” to Russian authorities. In just 23 seconds, the group drew a 213-feet-tall, 89-feet-wide “giant galactic space dick” on the famous Foundry Bridge.

When the bridge rose as scheduled, the enormous cock faced the windows of the Federal Security Service building (basically, the Russian equivalent of the CIA). Voina’s leader got arrested almost immediately and firefighters eventually blasted the paint off, but not before locals snapped a handful of photos. And while this “art protest” seems more like immature “graffiti vandalism” than anything else, subversion’s cool and huge cartoon penises are funny as balls.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Economic Downturn Has Unexpected Benefit For Potheads

The U.S. housing crash has lured some marijuana growers to move their operations south of the border, according to an internal Royal Canadian Mounted Police report.

According to the report, "Some VOC (Vietnamese Organized Crime) groups have moved their marijuana grow operations to the United States where the lower cost of real estate (in some regions) allows them to operate a more profitable enterprise and where they can also avoid police/customs detection at the border."

The report also points out that the "softening of marijuana laws" in some states has made the U.S. a more attractive destination for growers than it once was.

U.S.A.!   U.S.A.!   U.S.A!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not So Fast For The Holy And Hungry

Governor Rick Perry, whose April entreaty to his fellow Texans to pray for rain failed to alleviate the state’s devastating drought, led some 30,000 worshippers in The Response (informally nicknamed “Prayerpalooza”), a Christian prayer gathering at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Though Perry and others urged attendees to fast, concession stands sold nachos and smoothies throughout the seven-hour event. A San Angelo revivalist skipped lunch but eventually succumbed and bought a hot dog around 4:00 p.m. “That’s the agreement I made with God earlier,” he said.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Alternate Newsweek Cover

Mubarak A Role Model For SF Subway Officials

Attempting to stymie an upcoming protest against fatal shootings by transit police, San Francisco Bay Area Transit (BART) officials disabled underground cellphone service at San Francisco subway stations for three hours. BART insists the action was legal, but has not given concrete evidence to support the claim. The unintended risk created by BART's actions is that if a commuter needed police or emergency assistance as a result of the protest or a train accident, the commuter would be unable to call 911.

BART has been unusually specific about the method used, saying that it merely turned off the electricity to the cell phone transponders, as opposed to using cell phone jamming technology (this blogger doesn't see why that would make any difference). BART said that they had help from the carriers to execute the cell phone service interruption

Network outage is one of the FCC's greatest concerns, and the agency regulations require that the provider - usually the company to whom the customer pays - tell customers their service is going to go dark. Based on past actions taken by the FCC, such actions as blocking/interfering with 911 call access is considered illegal and usually warrants investigation. From an incident earlier this year:
The FCC is investigating the possibility that a Verizon service blackout prevented subscribers from connecting 911 calls and reaching the local fire department. The inability to complete the calls may have resulted in the destruction of Maryland woman's house...Many residents of Maryland's Montgomery and Price George's counties experienced similar disruptions of service, and the FCC is attempting to figure out the cause.

Let's hope that the protesters file suit against BART and pressure the FCC into launching an investigation into the actions of BART and the local cell carriers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Long Wait For Dumbo Spunk

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has been waiting for over a year for the South African government to release 16 liters of elephant jism so the zoo can start the first sperm bank for African elephants in North America.

Scientists collected the samples as part of Project Frozen Dumbo, an international effort to help zoos breed and conserve the largest living land animal. The program would enable zoos on several continents to breed elephants without the danger of transporting them thousands of miles. So far, there's enough spooge to inseminate 300 female elephants. Fortunately, scientists expect the frozen samples to last several more years.

At this point, South African officials have not commented on the delay or responded to press inquiries.

Part of the delay could be due to quarantine issues or paperwork required by international treaty, said Frank Goeritz, head of veterinary services and senior scientist for reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute. "The law and associated guidelines are different from country to country," said Goeritz, a reproductive consultant for Project Frozen Dumbo. "The problem is there is no standard protocol developed because it's a groundbreaking project."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Global Harming

A U.S. woman has died from asphyxiation after falling head first into a recycling bin. 62-year-old Sheila Decoster was discovered by her husband on Friday evening, upside down in a 65-gallon (295-liter) plastic bin at her home in Toledo, Ohio.

She was clad in her pyjamas and her slippers were on a porch by the bin. She is thought either to have lost her balance and fallen off a porch into the bin or fallen in while trying to retrieve an object, an official said.

No word yet from nut cases Sarah Palin, Texas Governor Perry or Michelle Bachman decrying the horrible evils of obama-style recycling . . . . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

No Chance Of A Handjob, I Guess

A Kiwi woman had her hand almost completely severed when a sex romp on a bathroom sink in Croatia went awry, according to reports.

A 28-year-old New Zealand woman was having sex on a bathroom sink with an Englishman in the island town of Hvar when the porcelain broke and the sharp edge of the broken porcelain sliced her wrist, leaving her hand hanging on by just a flap of skin.

The hand was reattached after a six-hour operation by surgeons in the city of Split. Her sex partner fled and Croatian police are seeking him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Citizens Still Under Attack For Recording Police Activity

A Las Vegas police officer is facing disciplinary charges after being caught on tape beating a videographer outside of his home. A police department review found that Officer Derek Colling violated police policies when he used "excessive force" on Mitchell Crooks.

According to reports, the incident occurred on the night of March 20, when the 36-year-old Crooks was in his driveway videotaping police as they investigated a burglary report across the street. Crooks said that when he refused to stop filming, Colling arrested and beat him, with much of the altercation recorded by the camera. In the video, Crooks can be heard yelling in pain while Colling can be heard telling him to "shut up" and telling him his decision not to turn off the camera put him in "a world of hurt."

Colling has been on paid suspension since April 1 and could be fired pending the outcome of a review by the officer's supervisors, the newspaper reported. "It seems like they're saying he was guilty, which is what I've been saying," Crooks told the newspaper. "I really hope he gets fired." In the meantime, Crooks' lawyer, David Otto, said he intends to sue Colling and the police department, the newspaper reported.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Killer Plant Eats Great Tit

A Tit in hand is worth two in the bush
A plant has killed and "eaten" a great tit at a garden nursery in England. Nurseryman Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, from West Pennard, was inspecting his tropical garden when he discovered one of his pitcher plants had trapped the bird.

He said he was "absolutely staggered" to find it had caught the creature. It is believed to be only the second time such a carnivorous plant has been documented eating a bird anywhere in the world.

"I've got a friend who's studied these particular plants extensively in the wild and he's never found evidence of any of them having caught birds," said Hewitt-Cooper. "The other documented time was in Germany a few years ago and that was in cultivation, not in the wild. The larger ones frequently take frogs, lizards and mice, and the biggest ones have been found with rats in them, but to find a bird in one is pretty unusual."

The pitcher plant is a genus of Nepenthes from South East Asia which attracts and traps insects in a pool of liquid which it then digests. Hewitt-Cooper said he thought the great tit had been attracted to the plant on Saturday by the insects and landed on its leaf. "I think it must have leant in to pluck out an insect that was floating on the fluid inside, tipped in too far and become wedged and unable to get out."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alabama Newlyweds' Lives Ruined By A Bigoted Walmart Security Guard

Wal-Mart's false accusation against two Alabama newlyweds caused the wife to be falsely arrested and lose her job, her husband to be deported, and both to lose their car, all their possessions and their house - though Wal-Mart's security video showed they had paid for the $2.90 bag of chicken bones they were accused of stealing.

The lives of Mary Hill Bonin and her newlywed husband (who was not yet a U.S. citizen) changed forever the day they decided to go shopping at the Adamsville, Alabama Walmart. They used the self-checkout counter to save time. The scanner would not register the $2.90 bag of chicken necks, so she asked a Wal-Mart employee for help. The employee checked the machine and told her "it's okay."

The Bonins left and showed their receipt to the greeter, but according to Mary Bonin, things went downhill fast when the security guard accused them of stealing the neck bones. The Bonins told the guard to look again as the item was on the bottom of the receipt. The security guard asked to see the identifications of the plaintiff and her husband, screaming that they were going to be deported. When the guard shouted that the Bonins were illegal and asked what were they doing in this country, the couple asked for a manager-- the guard responded by saying the newlyweds were going to jail.

Bonin and her husband offered several times to scan the chicken bones again, and asked the Wal-Mart guard to look at the security video, saying that the video would show that they scanned the items purchased. The guard refused to look at the video, but an assistant manager did. The assistant manager admitted that the video showed that they scanned all the items, but remained at an impasse with the security guard. The assistant manager then asked the security guard, 'Well what do you want to do?' The security guard said he wanted to put plaintiff and her husband in jail.

The guard refused to let the couple leave the store, going so far as to call the Wal-Mart where Mary Bonin worked and told them that she was being charged with theft. Overruling the assistant manager, the Wal-Mart guard called police, who arrested the couple.

The Wal-Mart guard is also believed to have called INS and had Mary Hill Bonin's husband deported. Mary Hill Bonin was denied bail and was not given an appearance before a judge. Eventually, Mary Bonin was exonerated-- but not after being fired from her job and being ruined financially try to defend against the charges (and losing her house being unable to make mortgage payments while in jail). After all the false charges were dropped, Mary Bonin says, Wal-Mart refused to refund the $2.90 she had paid for the neck bones.

Monday, August 1, 2011

China Caught Ripping Off Yet Another Retail Giant

Hot on the heels of being forced by global scrutiny to close a string of fake Apple stores, it seems that the next pirate Chinese store fills in the void.

11 Furniture, as the store is known, copies Ikea's blue and yellow color scheme, mock-up rooms, miniature pencils, signage and even its rocking chair designs. Its cafeteria-style restaurant, complete with minimalist wooden tables, has a familiar look, although the menu features Chinese-style braised minced pork and eggs instead of Ikea's Swedish meatballs and salmon.

This knock-off Ikea store is emblematic of a new wave of piracy sweeping through China. Increasingly sophisticated counterfeiters no longer just pump out fake luxury handbags, DVDs and sports shoes but replicate the look, feel and service of successful Western retail concepts -- in essence, pirating the entire brand experience.

22-year-old customer service rep for 11 Furniture, Zhang Yunping, is used to the questions about Ikea.  "If two people are wearing the same clothes, you are bound to say that one copied the other," Zhang said, shrugging her shoulders.

"Customers have told me we look like Ikea. But for me that's not my problem. I just look after customers' welfare. Things like copyrights, that is for the big bosses to manage," she said.  11 Furniture's owner could not be reached for comment.


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