Friday, February 28, 2014

Hate In Uganda On Full Display

A Ugandan tabloid has named the country's "200 top homosexuals", a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill toughening penalties for gay people.  Red Pepper's list appeared under the headline: "Exposed", raising concerns of a witch-hunt against gay people. 

Western governments have condemned Museveni's decision to approve the bill.  Homosexual acts were already illegal in Uganda, but the new law bans the promotion of homosexuality and covers lesbians for the first time.

The law mandates life imprisonment for gay sex (including oral sex), "aggravated homosexuality", (including sex while HIV-positive), and/or living in a same-sex marriage.  Violators can get seven years for "attempting to commit homosexuality" or promoting homosexuality.  Businesses or non-governmental organisations found guilty of the promotion of homosexuality would have their certificates of registration cancelled and directors could face seven years in jail

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told reporters that President Museveni wanted "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation".  The sponsor of the bill, MP David Bahati, insisted homosexuality was a "behaviour that can be learned and can be unlearned".

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not Really You Don't, Paula

“I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that black football player who recently came out. He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”

--Paula Deen

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Horny Herkimer Halfwits Hump Holsteins

"I need me some hot heffers!"
A farmer in Herkimer County, N.Y. couldn't figure out why his cows seemed more anxious than usual.  It seemed that they weren't producing as much milk as they normally do-- so he decided to set up a surveillance camera.

What he saw shocked him: two men were making a porn film, co-starring his livestock. The farmer, whose name has not been identified, contacted authorities who conducted their own investigation.  As a result, 35-year-old Michael Jones (left) and 31-year-old Reid Fontaine (right) were arrested for misdemeanor sexual misconduct.  According to reports, the footage showed Fontaine attempting to have sex with several cows while Jones filmed the encounters. The two were released on an appearance ticket.

The suspects aren't the first men accused of having bovine sex. In 2008, Brazilian cleaner Getulino Ferreira Paraizo was accused of having sex with over 400 cows. The 53-year-old told police he did not fancy women and only cows and horses got him randy.  He said he preferred the more tranquil animals. 

Before you think about romancing your own Elsie, be warned that a 2011 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who have had sex with animals were twice as likely to develop penile cancer as those who stick with their own species.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The New Cuba

Anger erupted among demonstrators in Caracas, as news broke of the Interior Ministry resolution that anyone detained for disturbing the peace and the public order or participating in acts of violence would be barred from leaving the country. "We're turning into Cuba", government opponents wailed as they once again took to the streets for the daily protests that have now claimed nine lives nationwide.

Maduro's government ordered paratroopers into the border city of San Cristobal, the birthplace of the protests where protesters have been engaged in fierce battles with security forces. The internet was cut off to that region and residents said they were living in a "war zone", with the town fully occupied by the army and military helicopters and planes constantly flying overhead.

The government's vice-like grip on televised media means the protests, and the opposition, have been largely kept off Venezuelan screens.  Maduro has also expelled a Colombian broadcaster and threatened to throw out CNN, accusing it of a "propaganda war" refusing or revoking press credentials for several of its journalists.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Another Judging Controversy In Olympic Figure Skating

Russian judge at women's final
 The issue of inflated scores for the Russians has been a hot topic of conversation at these Olympic Games, and the women's figure skating long program renewed the debate. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was the surprising winner of the gold medal, upsetting reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea and Italy's Carolina Kostner.

"It's sad that I just presumed Sotnikova was going to get a boost (in points) because this was in Russia," former U.S. Olympic figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger said in a phone interview. "Isn't it sad that I automatically thought that? Not one person in skating I've talked to said that's the way it should have gone."

"I was surprised with the result," Joseph Inman, a top U.S. international judge who was on the women's panel at the 2002 Olympics, said in a telephone interview.

Judges from the United States, South Korea, Great Britain and Sweden were excluded from the panel for the women's long program.  Two of their replacements were Ukrainian Yuri Balkov, who was kicked out of judging for a year after being tape-recorded by a Canadian judge trying to fix the Nagano ice dancing competition, and Alla Shekhovtseva, a Russian judge who is married to Russian federation general director Valentin Pissev. The two other new long program judges were from Estonia and France, which was the country that conspired with Russia to try to fix the pairs and ice dancing competition at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Russian judge hugging Russian winner
The controversy was further fueled by the unexplained actions of Adelina Sotnikova immediately following the conclusion of the competition.  She was seen coming back onto the ice and embracing Russian judge All Shekhovtseva in apparent gratitude.

What happened in the women's figure skating competition was worse than the 2002 Salt Lake City judging scandal because, this time, we'll never find out who might have done what because (due to the new judging system) all the judges' scores are now anonymous.   The idea was to help eliminate bloc judging and cheating, but the result is that the system now hides, and even can protect, those who are not playing by the rules.

"People need to be held accountable," U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist Ashley Wagner said after the competition, "they need to get rid of the anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base because you can't depend on this sport to always be there when you need it. ... This sport needs to be held more accountable with its system if they want people to believe in it."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ukraine: It's All About The Money

You know what they say about elections-- "it's about the economy, stupid" ?  Well, it's basically the same thing with Ukraine.

Ukraine's protesters want to pry their country away from Russian influence and move closer to the European Union.  You just have to look at neighboring Poland (which did just that) to know why.

The two countries emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago in roughly similar economic shape. But Poland joined the EU and focused on reforms and investment — and is now three times richer than Ukraine.

Ukraine, on the other hand, sank into a post-Soviet swamp of corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia.

Even when adjusted to the lower cost of living, Ukraine's per capita economic output is only around $7,300, compared to $22,200 in Poland and around $51,700 in the United States.  In terms of economic output, Ukraine ranks 137th worldwide, behind El Salvador, Namibia, and Guyana.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  Ukraine has a large potential consumer market (46 million people), an educated workforce, and a rich potential export market next door in the EU. It has a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland.

NY Post Has A Way With Words

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ukrainian Athlete Gives Up Her Olympic Dreams

Ukrainian skier Bogdana Matsotska has withdrawn from the Olympics in response to the deaths of anti-government protesters in her country.  "I don't want to participate when in my country people die," the anguished athlete told reporters. "I am in Maidan but just with my soul."

The 24-year-old skier is now refusing to ski Friday in the slalom, despite the fact that it is her best event at the Sochi Olympics.

Matsotska wants to leave the Olympics immediately to join protesters in the camp (known as "Maidan") in Kiev's Independence Square, but said she has been unable to book a flight home.  Matsotska has the full support of her father and coach Oleg Matsotskyy.  "We made this decision together. It is really hard for a sportsman and coach," she said. "The people are dying and my friends and family are there and I cannot race after all this in Ukraine going on."

"I think as a minimum [President Yanukovych] has to be jailed, and for a long time," Matsotska added. "For all the lives that he took, for all the lives of innocent people that came peacefully to stand for their opinion.  I hope that I will be heard by the world and that probably somebody will step in and will help.  Instead of resolving the conflict through negotiations (which we had hoped he would when we left for Sochi), he has drenched the last hopes of the nation in blood."

Stakes Are High In Olympic Hockey

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Obama Officials Got Comcast's Back

The news that cable and news giant Comcast has struck a deal to purchase Time Warner, another large cable business, has raised serious concerns over market concentration.   The merger would make the combined company the dominant provider in 19 of the top 20 markets in the United States,

A Seattle Times editorial has pointed out that the recent wave of media consolidations has diluted the breadth and quality of journalism in America, and that regulatory failures have eliminated almost all oversight of broadband and Internet services.  Putting all the access under ever fewer corporate brands, and decreasing already limited competition raises basic concerns about prices.

When Comcast purchased NBC Universal in 2011, lobbyists were hired to ensure the merger went through. After signing off on the Comcast-NBC deal, FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, (married to the son of Republican James Baker) was hired by Comcast for an undisclosed amount.  FCC Commissioner Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell) then became head of the industry lobbying association for a seven-figure salary.

The current head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is the former head of both the largest cable lobbying organization (National Cable & Telecommunications Association), as well as largest wireless lobby (CTIA – The Wireless Association).  The recently installed head of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, William Baer, was a lawyer representing GE and NBC in their push for the merger with Comcast.  Maureen Ohlhausen, one of four commissioners on the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees antitrust enforcement, provided legal counsel for Comcast as an attorney just before joining the FTC.   In addition, FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright currently works for a consulting firm that worked to secure antitrust clearance from DOJ and the FCC for the NBC-Comcast merger.

Unless the public rises up in outrage over the proposed merger, the deck is stacked against the consumer. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Suspicious Death Of Chinese Panda

This week, officials at China's Zhengzhou Zoo initially explained the disappearance of Jin Yi, a 7-year-old female giant panda, by saying she had been sent away for "mating."  But after intense public interest and pressure, they admitted a few days later that the panda had died of organ failure after bleeding from gastroenteritis.

According to its keepers, the panda began refusing food two weeks ago. The next day, its health allegedly "deteriorated," and it died the next morning.  But after the zoo's initial false statements, some observers have questioned whether the panda had been abused or even tortured to death.

When journalists visited the panda enclosure after Jin Yi's death, they reported seeing the habitat riddled with feces, some of it even mixed in with the bamboo.  Visitors also reported seeing zoo officials make money by forcing the panda to pose for pictures with guests in the summer heat, whipping her if she disobeyed.  There were also reports that the panda was fed a meager diet of corn cakes instead of a proper diet of bamboo.

The zoo has categorically denied all allegations of mistreatment.  Nonetheless, the panda's sudden demise left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, some of whom saw it as another example of a society gone awry.  "The death of the Zhengzhou Zoo's panda reflects reality," according to one Chinese microblogger. "First, it's customary to lie to the public. Second, anyone with even a little bit of power uses it to oppress people or animals... they have no respect for the world."

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Tragedy Olympics" NBC's New Ratings Ploy

"The interview isn't over until you cry"
Media exploded with anger and outrage over an NBC Olympic interview with American skier Bode Miller just after he won a bronze medal in the men's super-G ski race.

Interviewer Christin Cooper peppered Miller with multiple variations of the same question about  the passing of his younger brother and what it meant to him in the competition.  Miller starting tearing while answering the first question and eventually broke down physically and emotionally.  Overcome with emotion, he was't able to finish answering the third question, handing onto a railing as he sobbed and eventually lowering himself to one knee in the snow.  His wife, who was nearby, leaned over the spectator barrier to comfort Miller.  NBC showed Miller in despair for more than a full minute, despite having had several hours in which to edit the footage before airing it on American television.

Bode's brother, Chelone Miller-- a professional snowboarder and Olympic hopeful-- died of a seizure last April.

The NBC interview, which aired on tape delay, was bashed by people inside and outside of the television business.  Richard Sandomir of The New York Times called it "overkill."  Kami Mattioli of the Sporting News said Cooper "repeatedly badgered" Miller and the AP's David Bauder called it "a shameful spectacle."  An AP article on the interview stated: "It was tone-deaf and cruel, and short-circuited the thoughtful, intelligent perspectives Miller had started to offer until he couldn't talk anymore."

Miller, Tweeted a response the next day: "I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Legacy of Bush and Fox News

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

― Isaac Asimov

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Putin's Russia Censors Negative Coverage On Sochi

In the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, Russian media organizations -– with the exception of some independent outlets –- have largely avoided controversial issues that might cast a negative light on President Vladimir Putin’s grand project on the Black Sea.

Nina Ognianova, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in an interview that “the domestic media is absolutely gagged” from reporting on human rights issues and corruption claims. The price tag for turning Russia's summer resort city into a winter Olympics wonderland has ballooned to over four times more than planned.  “The majority of the news outlets, particularly those that are controlled by the state,” she said, “prefer to cover Sochi, the Olympic city, the way they would cover a deceased man: either in a positive light or not at all.”

Russia's largest television networks and news agencies (which, under Putin, are now state-controlled), are unlikely to air reports questioning the country’s costly preparations for the games, the concerns of LGBT athletes, or the environmental impact of drastically changing the landscape in Sochi.

An unnamed Sochi correspondent for a Russian news organization recalled filing three stories to editors in Moscow-- one on the arrest of a journalist, one covering dysfunction at a newly built construction project, and another on a major storm expected to hit Sochi. All three were rejected in Moscow.  “You may have a storm, a twister, and even a 9-Richter-scale earthquake; still, we have to write that all skies are clear over Sochi,” the correspondent recalled her editor saying.

Censorship in authoritarian countries can be overt, as when negative stories are spiked, or more subtle, creating a climate where journalists self-censor out of fear of risking their livelihoods.

Private ownership doesn’t necessarily lead to objective coverage.  Olga Allenova, an award-winning journalist with business-focused daily Kommersant, was taken off the Olympics beat for reporting aggressively on human rights abuses.  Allenova’s editor was also later fired from the publication, which is owned by a billionaire friend of Putin's.

More on Putin's Potemkin Village and other controversies surrounding the Sochi Olympics later this week.


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