Saturday, February 10, 2007


A Dutch journalist asked an Amsterdam court on Friday to convict him for eating chocolate, saying by doing so he was benefiting from child slavery on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast.

Teun van de Keuken, 35, is seeking a jail sentence to raise consumer awareness and force the cocoa and chocolate industry to take tougher measures to stamp out child labor.

"If I am found guilty of this crime, any chocolate consumer can be prosecuted after that. I hope that people would stop buying chocolate and thus hurt the sales of big corporations and make them do something about the problem," van de Keuken said.


The "Work" of Journamalism in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Michael Gordon is actually... a tape recorder!
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller today announced that the paper's longtime staff writer Michael Gordon is not an actual person, but rather a voice-activated tape recorder.

"I'm not sure why everyone didn't figure this out before now," said Keller, pointing to the fact that, in Gordon's 26-year career, all of "his" stories have consisted entirely of transcribed statements by anonymous government officials.

According to Jill Abramson, the paper's Managing Editor, Gordon was purchased for $27.95 at a Radio Shack on West 43rd Street. Describing the situation as "a prank" that had "gotten slightly out of hand," Abramson said the paper had decided to acknowledge Gordon's identity because—after the tape recorder's front page story today, "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says"—there "was no place left to take the joke."

Keller described how he and Abramson "really had a good laugh" while editing the Iran story...

"You can't deny that's funny," said Keller, adding that the lack of skepticism displayed by Gordon was "literally inhuman." Keller and Abramson asserted that the Iran article is "even more hilarious" than Gordon's 2002 stories on Iraq's purported nuclear program, written with Judith Miller.

According to the paper's management, the Times plans to keep the tape recorder on its staff indefinitely, given that it does not require health insurance and its voice-activation feature "saves a lot of tape."


It's Wrong to Hate, But...

I have a really hard time not seething with hatred for this man and his ilk:

"The Corner" at the National Review Online reports that at a Republican luncheon yesterday, White House adviser Karl Rove was overheard explaining the Bush amnesty immigration plan by saying, "I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."


Baptists on the Side of Right

Rather than just on the Right, for a change:

Texas' largest Baptist group is taking a rare step into environmental advocacy, working to block Gov. Rick Perry's plan to speed the approval process for 18 new coal-fired power plants.

The Christian Life Commission, the public policy arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is mobilizing Baptists against the coal-fired plants and urging the convention's 2.3 million members to voice their opposition to state lawmakers.

"A lot of people felt like our industries, our policy leaders, are going to take care of these big issues like air quality, (and) it's not going to be something our local people are going to have to get up every day and worry about," said Suzii Paynter, director of the commission. "It can't be left to big interests to make these decisions in our behalf."

The Baptists stress that they are not jumping into full-blown activism, but even a small move toward environmentalism is significant.


F*** Landlords

The company that bought a huge housing complex in lower Manhattan in the largest residential deal in American history has employed a private detective to catch tenants in breach of the letting rules.

Tishman Speyer paid $5.4bn (£2.8bn) in October for more than 11,000 apartments clustered in 110 tower blocks along the east side of the island. There was speculation from tenants' groups that the firm would seek to end controlled rents in many apartments to get a return on its investment. The New York Sun yesterday revealed that the company has brought in private detective Fred Knapp to find tenants in breach of rental controls.


Friday, February 09, 2007


If there's a more vivid way of calling attention to the brutality of Africa's civil wars, I can't think of it at the moment:
Freetown/Nairobi- Three African countries whose civil wars left thousands maimed and limbless are set to compete in the first All-African Amputee Football Championship in the West African nation of Sierra Leone on Friday. The FIFA-sponsored event will pit Nigeria against the home team in the first match, but the event will also include Angola, Ghana and Liberia.

"Our two-legged people are failures long since, we want to bring
football back to life through these amputees," Sierra Leone coach Mose Mambu told the BBC, referring to the country's national football team.

Many of the players lost their limbs in brutal civil wars and use crutches. However, according to the rules, a "handball" is called if a crutch is used to kick the ball.

The beaches of the capital Freetown are often filled with footballing amputees who lost limbs during the country's 11-year civil war.

Angolans endured an on-and-off civil war for three decades and Liberians a seven-year battle that killed some 200,000.

Each team will have six one-legged players and a one-armed goalkeeper and the winner will move on to the world championship in Turkey later this year.
UPDATE: Thanks to lovely loyal reader VictoriaB, here are some incredible photos of the football league.


Catblogging: The Drama of Undergarments

(Reposted to bring it up to the top.--ror)

My bra! Mine! Mine!

Yeah. It's a bra. Believe me, I've seen a lot of these.


Gotta Love Them Christians!

Jesus is one thing, but high-intensity protein shakes are quite another:
One of Hampton Roads' highest-profile Christians stands accused of a not-so-Christian act.

A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Pat Robertson says the televangelist threatened his life and that of his family at a legal proceeding Wednesday in the Norfolk federal courthouse.

The accuser, Phillip Busch, is suing Robertson for misappropriation of his image in the promotion of Robertson's protein diet shake.

According to a complaint Busch filed with the Norfolk police, Robertson entered a room in the courthouse Wednesday afternoon to be questioned for a deposition - an out-of-court form of testimony - and told Busch: "I am going to kill you and your family."


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bush: Objectively Pro-Drug

I have to say, this administration certainly makes me want to get high and escape reality:

President Bush has proposed a significant jump in funding for an anti-drug advertising campaign that government-funded research shows is at best useless and at worst has increased drug use among some teens.

The administration has asked for a 31 percent increase in funding for the advertising campaign that a nearly five-year study concluded had increased the likelihood that all teens would smoke marijuana. The White House proposal would increase the program's budget to $130 million over the next year.


Viva Italia!

Take that, Pope Ratzi (here's hoping the Parliament follows through):
The cabinet of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Thursday approved legislation creating civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

The bill is expected to be presented to Parliament later this month but its passage is far from certain. Prodi's left of center coalition has a razor thin majority and the the opposition right of center coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi and aligned with the Vatican, is opposed to the measure.


Political Police

Thank goodness for these good police officers:

Hundreds of protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention were held for up to six times longer than those arrested on charges unrelated to the convention, according to city documents made public Thursday.

More than 1,800 people were arrested at the four-day convention at Madison Square Garden, where President Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term in office.

The legitimacy of the arrests was challenged on civil rights grounds in lawsuits brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of some of those detained.

A judge last month rejected the city's effort to keep secret most of the files and videotapes documenting the arrests, leading to their release.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the NYCLU, said the documents "reveal that the long detentions of the thousands of protesters arrested for minor offenses at the convention were the result of deliberate policy decisions by the NYPD."

"During the convention, you got to a judge much faster if you were a bank robber than if you were charged with parading without a permit," he said.


Coburn: WATB

If the job is so hard, Coburn, why not quit? Go get one of those cushy minimum wage jobs; they pay better now, in spite of your "hard work."

An ethics bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate is so burdensome that Sen. Tom Coburn says he won't run for re-election if it becomes law.

Coburn, one of just two senators who voted against the bill, which was touted as cracking down on free gifts and travel for members of Congress, said he is troubled by the legal and political consequences that lawmakers face if the measure succeeds.


Coburn said being a senator is difficult.

"This isn't a fun job," he said. "I mean I don't know anybody who really thinks this is that great of a job.

"It's not a fun job. It is a tremendously burdensome job, knowing that you can't change things to fix the future and you have to work every day to try to do that," he said.


"Health Official"

US-backed Iraqi troops have arrested the Iraq health ministry's second highest official, charging that he murdered opponents and funnelled millions of dollars to rogue Shiite militia groups.

"Special Iraqi Army Forces captured a senior ministry of health official today who is suspected of being a central figure in alleged corruption and rogue Jaysh Al-Mahdi infiltration of the ministry," a US statement said Thursday.

Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM) is the Arabic term for the Mahdi Army, a powerful militia group loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.


Public Service Academy

Fire up your fax machines, people. The information I have is specific to Houston and Texas, but it's federal legislation, so jump on your congresscritters NOW:
An attorney at Susman Godfrey is working to enact federal legislation that would create a public service academy on par with the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy, but for public service. (And based, perhaps, right here in Houston, in recognition of how people worked together to help folks post-Katrina.) Check out
So we need people to fax handwritten letters or call Kay Bailey Hutchison's office asap. (Snail mail will be too slow).
The mission of the United States Public Service Academy is to build a
corps of civilian leaders who have the moral character, academic
training, and leadership experience necessary to serve the American
people honorably and effectively, and who are committed to devoting
their lives to public service.

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senate
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4304

OFFICE PHONE 202-224-5922
FAX 202-224-0776

This is easy, and the people answering the phone get calls like this
every day. Here's a sample script:

"Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent of Senator Hutchison's in
Houston. I'm calling to let the Senator know that I hope she will
join her colleagues in support of the United States Public Service
Academy Act which will come before the Senate next week. Thank you so

They may ask for your contact info, or they may just say thank you and
move on to their next call.

A letter doesn't need to say much more than the phone call, but of
course it is nice to include a reason you want the Senator to support
the Act.

Your first sentence should say that you are writing to ask the Senator
to support the US Public Service Academy Act.

You might add a line or two:
a) It was inspiring to see how Houstonians came together during
Katrina. Imagine how much better prepared we could be for another
disaster like Katrina if we had a trained and dedicated corps of young
people ready to answer the call for help? The USPSA will make that

b) This academy will help our country cope with the shortfall of
public servants that has the capacity to cripple our infrastructure.
The Academy will ensure that the next generation is always ready to
step into leadership roles around the country.

c) The US Public Service Academy will allow students to go into public
service regardless of their economic status. Now, too many students
who want to go into public service face massive school debt that
forces them to choose employment in the private sector. This
investment in their future will be an investment in everyone's


Career Advice: Call People "Fat Lesbian" and "Fags"

Worked for this guy
(Nota bene: He doesn't mean "gay fag"):
Three months after he was fired from a Boston radio station for calling a gubernatorial candidate a "fat lesbian" talk show host John DePetro is back on the air - this time in Rhode Island.

Providence radio station WPRO confirmed Wednesday that it has hired DePetro for its morning show.

"John brings to WPRO a rock solid history of high ratings, provocative conversation, investigative reporting and a fast-paced and highly entertaining broadcast,” WPRO program director Paul Giammarco said in a press statement.

In November DePetro was fired by Boston's WRKO after his slur against Green-Rainbow gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross, an out lesbian. (story)

"This corporation has zero tolerance for this type of nonsense,'' station spokesperson George Regan said at the time. "It will not be tolerated.''

DePetro issued an apology but it wasn't the first time the outspoken DePetro had come under fire for homophobic remarks on the air.

Last July he was suspended for calling the head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority a "fag". At the time Amorello was under fire after a concrete ceiling panel on a turnpike tunnel fell on a car killing a woman.

On the program DePetro referred to Amorello as "Fag Matt." (story)

"And I don’t mean gay fag, I just mean the way when you’re a sophomore, juvenile, in grammar school and somebody would say you’re like a sissy boy fag,” DePetro said.

"I don’t mean gay fag. I mean like sissy boy. He’s a little sissy boy. Wife wears the pants."


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pot, Kettle

I honestly have no idea what the long-term effects of China's investment in Africa will be, but I damn well know what the IMF and the World Bank have done to many countries on that continent, and the UK hardly has much credibility to preach on the matter:
Britain has warned China that its offer of billions of dollars in unconditional aid and cheap loans to African governments risks driving back into debt countries that have only just benefited from debt relief, and undermines efforts to create democratic and accountable administrations.

The international development secretary, Hilary Benn, on a visit to Malawi, told the Guardian that Britain has already made its concerns known to Beijing but that it is planning to "ratchet up" the level of representation on the issue.


I've Lost a $20 Here and There...

but never a ton of money, much less 363 tons:
The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent.

The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US congressional committee.

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.

Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"

Who in their right mind? I think you need to check your assumptions, there, Waxman.


Killing American Soldiers, Slowly

The Pentagon lied. How many soldiers will die?
A special investigation on the effects of depleted uranium reveals the Army made a tape warning of the effects of depleted uranium which was never shown to troops despite the fact the Pentagon knew the agent to be potentially deadly, CNN reports Tuesday.

Depleted uranium -- or DU -- was used in the Gulf War as a projectile that could penetrate tank armor. A group of soldiers are suing the US government because they are sick from exposure; despite the unshown video, the Army denies that depleted uranium represents a serious health risk.

CNN reporter Greg Hunter explains. The soldiers "report similar ailments. Painful urination, headaches and joint pain. They say Army doctors blame their symptoms on post traumatic stress. We showed them a tape the Army made in 1995, a tape the Army never distributed. It warned of potential D.U. hazards. The army's expert on D.U. training concedes some information contained on the tape is true. For instance, radioactive particles can be harmful."

A doctor who once investigated DU for the Army now believes that the health risks are serious.

"In the 1990s this doctor studied D.U. health effects for the U.S. military," Hunter says. "Now a private researcher, he says his own test of these veterans showed abnormally high levels of D.U. this their urine and that those levels pose a serious health threat."

"One doctor... calls it, quote, 'a radiological sewer,'" Hunter adds. "The Army adamantly denies that."


Can You Say, "Posturing"?

I knew you could.

Listen. If, at this early stage, the "GOP circles" are proclaiming Clinton to be unbeatable, it means they want her to win the primaries and run.

I truly do not want her to win, because she is far too right-wing, but much less do I want her to run and lose to a Republican:

What many conservatives regard as the nightmare scenario -- President Hillary Rodham Clinton -- is increasingly seen by veteran Republican politicians and strategists as a virtual inevitability.

In GOP circles, the Democratic front-runner is seen as so strong, and the political climate for Republicans so hostile, that many influential voices -- including current and former lawmakers, and veterans of President Bush's campaigns -- have grown despairing. These partisans describe a political equivalent of the stages of grief, starting with denial, then resentment and ending with acceptance.


A Good Way to Find No Evidence

Don't ask, so they can't tell:
An Army officer who investigated possible abuse at Guantanamo Bay after some guards purportedly bragged about beating detainees found no evidence they mistreated the prisoners — although he did not interview any of the alleged victims, the U.S. military said Wednesday.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

KKK Reborn

What a great, proud time this is to be an American:
Huge street protests made millions of immigrants more visible and powerful last year, but they also seem to have revived a hateful counter force: white supremacists.

Groups linked to the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis grew significantly more active, holding more rallies, distributing leaflets and increasing their presence on the Internet - much of it focused on stirring anti-immigrant sentiment, a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League says.

"Extremist groups are good at seizing on whatever the hot button is of the day and twisting the message to get new members," Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights director, said Monday. "This one seems to be taking hold with more of mainstream America than we'd like to see."

Old Klan chapters have been revived and new ones started throughout the South, historically the heart of the group, and in other places such as Michigan, Iowa and New Jersey, says the report, which was scheduled for official release Tuesday.


"The Klan is increasingly cooperating with other extremist groups and Neo-Nazi groups," Lauter said. "That's a new phenomenon."

Between 2000 and 2005, hate groups mushroomed 33 percent and Klan chapters by 63 percent, according to Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes.


Catblogging: The Drama of Undergarments

My bra! Mine! Mine!

Yeah. It's a bra. Believe me, I've seen a lot of these.


The New Iraq: Harboring Terrorists in the Parliament

Well done. Thank goodness we had those elections:

This morning on CNN, reporter Michael Ware revealed that a member of the new Iraqi Parliament was convicted in 1984 by Kuwaiti authorities of having bombed the US Embassy in that country in 1983. The Kuwaiti government has sentenced him to death for the attack.

Jamal Jaffar Mohammmed has also been accused by US authorities of being a "conduit" for Iranian influence and weapons smuggling in Iraq after serving in the Iranian military. His membership in the Parliament grants him immunity from prosecution for assisting Shi'a insurgents.


Shocking News!

The "surge" is underequipped!
They still can't get the most basic military logistics right, even after all these years:
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace admitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday equipment will be a problem when U.S. forces in Iraq are increased.

During testimony over the $481.4 billion fiscal 2008 defense budget, Pace said the military has about 41,000 armored vehicles in Iraq -- fewer than will be needed "to cover all of the troops that are deploying."

Pace said it will be July before enough equipment is in place.


Child Soldiers, At War in Iraq

At a UNICEF conference in Paris on Tuesday, a resolution was passed against child soldiers. (If you missed the New York Times Magazine's harrowing memoir by former Sierra Leone child soldier Ishmael Beah, you should go read it now.) Deutsche Welle news service (article is in German, sorry) notes that while the resolution is a positive step, the convention isn't worth much if Great Britain and the United States persist in sending minors to Iraq, thereby undermining the effort. [Edited here to correct my prior misreading - the article doesn't say how old these underage soldiers are, other than under 18 and (probably) at least 15; the U.S. military requires they be at least 17.] I don't mean to compare underage service in the U.S. or U.K. to the kind of service Ishmael Beah was forced into (just that you should read that article of his). But in the context of this debate (which to me also ties into the debates about younger and younger children getting tried as adults in court), it is worth thinking about why we do not think 17-year-olds are capable of deciding who to vote for, but we will send them to die.

"We," of course, in a rather broad sense...


Marriage Equality

Better get busy cranking out the babies, heteros:

An initiative filed by proponents of same-sex marriage would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriage annulled.

Initiative 957 was filed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. That group was formed last summer after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage.


Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment.


Three Weeks to Straightness

It's a miracle!
Praise Jeebus!
Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling convinced he is "completely heterosexual" and told an oversight board that his sexual contact with men was limited to his accuser.

That is according to one of the disgraced pastor's overseers, who on Monday revealed new details about where Haggard has been and where he is headed.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The First and Last Word on Intelligent Design

Origin of Species by Chris Smither


The Worst Refugee Crisis Since 1948

Good job displacin' them Arabs, Bush:

As the fourth year of war nears its end, the Middle East's largest refugee crisis since the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948 is unfolding in a climate of fear, persecution and tragedy.

Nearly 2 million Iraqis -- about 8 percent of the prewar population -- have embarked on a desperate migration, mostly to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The refugees include large numbers of doctors, academics and other professionals vital for Iraq's recovery. Another 1.7 million have been forced to move to safer towns and villages inside Iraq, and as many as 50,000 Iraqis a month flee their homes, the U.N. agency said in January.

The rich began trickling out of Iraq as conditions deteriorated under U.N. sanctions in the 1990s, their flight growing in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Now, as the violence worsens, increasing numbers of poor Iraqis are on the move, aid officials say. To flee, Iraqis sell their possessions, raid their savings and borrow money from relatives. They ride buses or walk across terrain riddled with criminals and Sunni insurgents, preferring to risk death over remaining in Iraq.

The United Nations is struggling to find funding to assist Iraqi refugees. Fewer than 500 have been resettled in the United States since the invasion. Aid officials and human rights activists say the United States and other Western nations are focused on reconstructing Iraq while ignoring the war's human fallout.

"It's probably political," said Janvier de Riedmatten, U.N. refugee agency representative for Iraq, referring to the reason why the world hasn't helped Iraq's refugees.

"The Iraq story has to be a success story," he said.


An Honest Man

I don't yet know if I like all the specifics of Edwards's plan for health care, but at least he's being up-front about the fact that it will, indeed, cost money:
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Sunday his plan for universal health care would require higher taxes and cost up to $120 billion year.

“We're asking everybody to share in the responsibility of making health care work in this country,” the 2004 vice presidential nominee said.

“Yes, we'll have to raise taxes. The only way you can pay for a health care plan that costs anywhere from $90 (billion) to $120 billion is there has to be a revenue source,” the former North Carolina senator said.

Edwards said his plan would aim to provide health care coverage for the 47 million people who currently lack it and reduce the cost of health care coverage for middle-class families, partly by making health care programs more efficient.

Edwards cited health care insurance premiums that have risen 90 percent over the past decade.


1,ooo Last Week

I'm sure the right wingers will protest that it would have been more if we hadn't invaded, or something:
The Iraqi Interior Ministry estimates that about 1,000 people have been killed throughout Iraq in the past week due to gunbattles, drive-by shootings and bomb attacks, a ministry official said Sunday.

The figure includes members of militia and terrorist groups, civilians and Iraqi security forces. The official said the data was gathered by Iraq's Interior, Health and Defense ministries.

The grim estimate came just a day after a bloody bomb attack on a crowded market in central Baghdad that killed 128 people and wounded 343 others Saturday, according to a Health Ministry official.


Stay Home, Ralph

Do not inflict yourself upon us again:
Consumer champion Ralph Nader, whose candidacy in 2000 may have cost Democratic nominee Al Gore the US presidency, said he was open to a possible run for the White House in 2008.

Nader, a veteran of three attempts at the White House under the Green Party and independent banners, told CNN television he had not decided yet but that he is committed to offering voters more choices than the two mainstream parties, the Democrats and Republicans.