Nine Weekly Learnings

Week of 15 June 2008

1. George Bush, explained.

The devil made him

” ‘Evil exists in politics, quite often in fact,’ Father Amorth said. ‘The devil loves to take over business leaders and those who hold political office. Hitler and Stalin were possessed. How do I know? Because they killed millions of people. The Gospel says: ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ Unfortunately, an exorcism on them would not have been enough, since they were convinced of what they were doing. We can’t say it was a possession in the strict sense of the word, but rather a total and voluntary acceptance of the suggestions of the devil.’ ”

2. Ships of the Damned.

“The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as ‘floating prisons’ since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.”

3. And so it begins. (1)

“His wife going off on a rant about how evil “whitey” is, and conspiracies that he is a covert Muslim trying to infiltrate our democracy are nothing more than rumors…at least at this point. However, there are plenty of things the media don’t put enough focus on that are true about the Obamas. Instead they would rather focus on things like his playful fist-bump. They have to keep their priorities on the important issues.”

4. And so it begins. (2)

The victim of a plagiarized lie

“Despite the tenuousness of this rumor, Obama was actually asked about this non-existent video in front of the national press by a reporter the other day. Understandably, he pushed back hard on the notion that he should have to answer such a question.

Now Jim Geraghty of National Review has claimed that the rumor may be based on…fiction. A political thriller called The Power Broker, published in 2006 by Stephen Frey, features the presidential campaign of Dem candidate Jesse Wood, who’s aspiring to be the country’s first African-American president.

We went out and got the book. And sure enough, in the novel, Wood’s opponents discover video of the candidate himself — not his wife — discussing with a radical black minister how he will ‘f— whitey’ when he gets into office, despite all his public rhetoric about racial reconciliation.”

5. We’re shocked. Really. (1)

“The space agency’s internal watchdog, the inspector general, reports that from autumn 2004 until early 2006 Nasa’s central public affairs office handled global warming in a way that ‘reduced, marginalised, or mischaracterised climate change science made available to the general public’.

The confirmation of political interference is vindication for James Hansen, Nasa’s chief climate scientist and one of the first to sound the alarm over global warming. Claims of political dallying surfaced when Hansen said he had been blocked from taking part in a National Public Radio interview in December 2005.”

6. We’re shocked. Really. (2)

” ‘In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent,’ Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee chairman, said at a news conference. ‘As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.’

The report, the last and most contentious of a series of Senate reviews of prewar intelligence, sought to compare the administration’s public claims about Iraq with the intelligence reports available to them at the time. While many of the White House’s statements — such as Bush’s warnings about a secret Iraqi nuclear program — were amply supported by intelligence files at the time, the report said, others were not.”

7. Still dead.

Miracle of the embalmer’s art

8. Must-read essay of the week.

“I am not blind to the imperfections of this America, or the failures to always meet these ideals at home and abroad. I spent 20 years of my life in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans as a foreign correspondent reporting in countries where crimes and injustices were committed in our name, whether during the Contra war in Nicaragua or the brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. But there was much that was good and decent and honorable in our country. And there was hope.

The country I live in today uses the same words to describe itself, the same patriotic symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be nearly unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. The “consent of the governed” has become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science are obsolete. Our state, our nation, has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish political elite, a small and privileged group which governs on behalf of moneyed interests. We are undergoing, as John Ralston Saul wrote, ‘a coup d’etat in slow motion.’ We are being impoverished — legally, economically, spiritually and politically. And unless we soon reverse this tide, unless we wrest the state away from corporate hands, we will be sucked into the dark and turbulent world of globalization where there are only masters and serfs, where the American dream will be no more than that — a dream, where those who work hard for a living can no longer earn a decent wage to sustain themselves or their families, whether in sweatshops in China or the decaying rust belt of Ohio, where democratic dissent is condemned as treason and ruthlessly silenced.”

9. Because they can.

Week of 1 June 2008

1. Too much coffee, we think.

Jihadi donuts

“The apparently inoffensive magazine ad shows Rachael Ray, purveyor of quick and easy recipes to millions of Food Channel viewers, in a black and white paisley scarf, clutching her iced latte in front of a row of cherry trees.

The offending item, though, is the scarf, which reminded one blogger of the keffiyeh head-dress worn by Arab men, an item which a second blogger – picking up the theme and running several miles with it – dubbed ‘jihadi chic’. The Little Green Footballs blog, a conservative favourite, accused Dunkin’ Donuts of ‘casually promoting the symbol of Palestinian terrorism and the intifada’.”

2. What recession?

“Two reports released on Tuesday captured the bleak picture. One showed that home prices nationally fell 14.1 percent in March from a year earlier. The other showed sales of new homes, although up slightly in April, remained mired near their lowest levels since 1991.”

3. Me ne frego.

“True to his Fascist roots, the newly elected Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno has said he intends naming a street in the city after Giorgio Almirante, the first leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), the party that took up Fascism in 1946 where Mussolini had left off.”

4. At last, something useful on Ebay.

“A seven-month-old baby has been taken into care in Germany after his parents offered to sell him for one Euro (80 pence) on an internet auction site.

The couple, from the south German town of Memmingen, posted the advertisement to sell their son Merlin on eBay last week after he became ‘too loud’.”

5. At last, something useful on Craigslist.

“A Vancouver couple have been arrested but will not be charged after posting an Internet ad on Craigslist, offering their seven-day-old baby for $10,000, police said Tuesday.”

6. No freedom, please, we’re British.

“A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the ‘psychological torture’ he endured in custody. Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.”

7. Good thing she’s not une maudite anglaise.

“In an article published Wednesday in the independent monthly magazine, Victor-Levy Beaulieu said Ms. Jean was appointed to the governor general’s post because she was ‘black, young, pretty, ambitious, and because of her husband, certainly a nationalist as well.’ In an interview with La Presse, the author defended his text, saying he had not intended to be racist. However, his eight references to the ‘negre reine’ caught the attention of Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and Bloc MP Vivian Barbot.”

8. Dolly duel.

Out for blood

9. Fat Chance.


Week of 25 May 2008

1. We thought it was the cheese.

“The last remaining members of the Russian doomsday group True Russian Orthodox Church emerged from a cave outside Penza Friday, after enduring the toxic stench of rotting corpses from two deceased members of their group. Interfax quoted authorities who said that fumes from the corpses in the cave threatened the nine remaining members of the group with poisoning and intoxication.”

2. Appealing to a Higher Authority.

Even God has Her limits

“In October, a federal district court in Maryland found Pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr., Shirley L. Phelps-Roper, Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis and Westboro Baptist Church had invaded the privacy of and inflicted intentional emotional distress on the family of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by church members.

A jury awarded Albert Snyder, father of the Marine, compensatory damage of $2.9 million and punitive damage of $8 million. But on Feb. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett reduced the punitive damage to $2.1 million, for a total judgment of $5 million.”

3. A chip off the old block.

“Suspected souvenir hunters broke into Stonehenge and vandalised the ancient monument, English Heritage said today. Two men used a hammer and screwdriver to chip away at the Heel Stone – a 16ft (4.8m) megalith at the 5,000-year-old site – before they were spotted by security guards and chased away.”



4. Poor aim.

“An American soldier used a Quran, the Islamic holy book, for target practice in a predominantly Sunni area west of Baghdad, prompting an apology from the U.S. military, a spokesman said Sunday. Iraqi police found the bullet-riddled Quran with graffiti inside the cover on a small-arms range near a police station in Radwaniyah, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Col. Bill Buckner said in an e-mailed response to a query.”





5. This departure gate is closed.



Chocolates and more
“As for Tempelhof, the city’s popular mayor, Klaus Wowereit, led the push to shut it immediately and not wait for Schönefeld’s expansion. This partly explains why Conservative opponents in town changed course and vigorously campaigned to save it. They rallied nostalgic West Berliners. The conservative Springer newspapers joined in. So did Chancellor Angela Merkel. America, with its shaky standing, became a subtle undercurrent in the debate. But, through it all, neither side offered anything approaching a concrete plan for what actually to do with Tempelhof, whether it’s kept open or closed. An offer by the American billionaire Ronald S. Lauder to invest $500 million to turn it into a big health center, with its airport to serve wealthy patients, was shot down, never mind that the city is desperate for outside investment.”





6. The enemy is us.



Government May Have Massive Surveillance Program for Use in “National Emergency”

7. Something to chew on.

8. Why we are there.

“Pervez Kambaksh, the Afghan student sentenced to death after being accused of downloading internet reports on women’s rights, yesterday pleaded innocent to charges of blasphemy. He told an appeal court in Kabul that he had been tortured into confessing. . . He was convicted in proceedings behind closed doors in a trial which he said had lasted just four minutes and where he had been denied legal representation.”

9. From the guys who wear dresses.

Week of 18 May 2008

1. In paradisum deducant te Angeli; æternam habeas requiem.


Irena Sendler, 98: Rescued thousands from Nazis

2. The good news: there may be extraterrestial life. The bad news: they’re Mormon.

“In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion ‘doesn’t contradict our faith’ because aliens would still be God’s creatures. Ruling out the existence of aliens would be like “putting limits” on God’s creative freedom, he said.

Vatican: It’s OK to believe in aliens

3. Or living in Marietta, Georgia.

Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

“Marietta tavern owner Mike Norman says the T-shirts he’s peddling, featuring cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana, with “Obama in ’08” scrolled underneath, are ‘cute.’ But to a coalition of critics, the shirts are an insulting exploitation of racial stereotypes from generations past.”

Marietta Ga. Bar Owner selling Racist Obama T-shirts (Obama as Curious George)

4. And evidently, they can’t spell.

Where English is a second language

5. Leading to thousands of unemployed horses.

6. Not wanted on voyage.

But now British Airways has taken beef off the menu for economy passengers amid concerns about its ‘religious restrictions’.

The airline has instead switched to a fish pie or chicken dish option for the so-called ‘cattle class’ passengers.”

7. Avast mateys, thar’s depositions astern!

“The haul has been at the centre of a fierce international fight between the Spanish Government and the small, publicly listed company, run by a flamboyant former public relations executive who once served as Bob Hope’s fixer. The Spanish Government has accused Odyssey of modern-day piracy and plundering its archaeological sites for profit.”

8. Too much free speech is bad for you.

9. Where hard drives go after they die.


Week of 11 May 2008

1. Not saying there’s anything wrong with it.


The lesbian Lesbian. And vice versa

“”My sister can’t say she’s a Lesbian,’ he complained. ‘Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos.'”

2. Not set in stone.

Stalin, eat your heart out

“A powerful federal arts commission is urging that the sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. proposed for a memorial on the Tidal Basin be reworked because it is too “confrontational” and reminiscent of political art in totalitarian states.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks ‘the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed statue recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries.'”

3. Not playing well in India.

“Bush noted that much of the developing world was prospering and that U.S. businesses could benefit. As an example, he cited India, where the ‘middle class is larger than our entire population.’

But ‘when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food,” he said. “And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.’ [. . .]

To Westerners, Bush’s comments might seem innocuous. But after decades of slow national growth and forced austerity, middle-class Indians are now extremely proud of their newfound prosperity and are quick to react if they feel picked on by affluent nations.”

4. Thankfully, the bureaucracy still functions.

“Because he does not hold a Zanu-PF membership card, it was assumed he was an MDC supporter. And the worst part was that he was given a ‘certificate’ to show he had received his beating. He was told to produce it whenever someone else wanted to beat him as proof that it had already been done.”

5. Thankfully, equivocation isn’t a sin.

The Straight Talker and the Double Talker

6. Thankfully, logic isn’t our strong suit.

Preventing abortions causes abortions. Or something.

“On June 7th, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that gave married people the right to use contraception, the American Life League, along with Pro-Life Wisconsin and Pharmacists for Life International Associate groups want you to join them in protesting in front of facilities that distribute birth control products. The national day against contraception, Protest the Pill Day ’08: The Pill Kills Babies, was started to convince the American people of a simple and imaginative idea: attempting to prevent abortion is abortion too.”

7. The food is fearful too.

Offensive to children and chickens

“‘The cartoon image of Colonel Sanders killing a chicken on our leaflet is obviously a caricature – a comic. We cannot imagine that our leaflet would provoke fear in anyone unless the reader was a chicken.'”

8. Tories search for rocks to drop on critics.

The Secret Weapon

9. This bandwagon is already full.

Trend spotter


Week of 4 May 2008

1. A very funny account of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

“Bush made this astute observation: ‘Pamela Anderson and Mitt Romney in the same room? Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?'”

The protector of endangered species

2. Further evidence that Dick Cheney is a knob, if you needed any.

3. Multiply this by about a million, and there might be hope.

4. Flogging is too good for him.

5. They ran out of rhinocerous horn.

6. New Home for Ministry of Love.

“Federal officials will seek approval starting this week for plans to build a giant headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, a $3 billion undertaking that would transform a dilapidated but historic site in Anacostia.

The plans call for one of the largest construction projects in the Washington area since the Pentagon was built in the 1940s. The complex would have 4.5 million square feet of office space for 14,000 employees.”

7. No comment necessary.

“Du’a Khalil Aswad, 17, from Nineveh, was executed by stoning in front of mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a boy outside her Yazidi tribe. Mobile phone images of her broken body transmitted on the internet led to sectarian violence, international outrage and calls for reform. Her father, Khalil Aswad, speaking one year after her death in April last year, has revealed that none of those responsible had been prosecuted and his family remained “outcasts” in their own tribe.”

8. Dry land is starting to look good.

On the menu

9. Proof chickens are evil (and another good reason to eat them.)

“Collagen preserved within a T. rex bone was broken down and analysed with a mass spectrometer for its amino acid content, which could then be compared to other species. Researchers then compared the molecular profile of chickens and ostriches to that of T. rex and found a close match.”

One Response

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