May 04, 2004

A Canadian's Perspective on US Actions

A longtime link-suggester, who turns out to be Canadian, engaged me in the following interesting email exchange this morning. With his permission, I'm running it here with his identifying information removed.

From: [email deleted]
Subject: A Note From Abroad

Dear jbc:

Just wanted to give you a take on the "word on street" from abroad -- in this case, Canada.

The general sense here is that the US has completely lost it. Not just in regards to Iraq, but across the board. This torture scandal has pretty much tied it.

Particularly telling is that even the rightmost-leaning of my friends, who previously (grudgingly) supported the US invasion of Iraq, have abandoned their positions. (And for the record, there weren't very many of those people in the first place up here.)

And for the vast majority of "people on the street" in Canada, it looks for all the world like you guys have simply gone insane. No media outlets in Canada ever pushed a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, which means that the whole supposed war rationale was a transparent sham from day one. (And we were already scratching our heads over the theft of the federal election!)

So here's what we see: a rogue superpower, doing whatever it wants, answerable to no one (foreign or domestic), throwing dissenters at home and abroad in jail forever, flouting international law and its own laws on any whim, starting wars for fun and profit, alienating the world and even its closest allies, run by (at best) a mediocre intellect with a criminal background who blatantly stole the "election". The populace of this rogue state is too cowed and terrified of being labelled as "unpatriotic" or singled out for punishment to speak up for their basic rights, more of which disappear -- perhaps forever -- every day.

There's a word for this, and it's not democracy. It's despotism.

When the US is on its game, it is a shining example to the world. But when it slides down into despotism, it's the scariest thing in the world.

And believe me, we are shared shitless of you guys.

Jesus, guys -- if the US can slide into despotism, who the hell can't?

(As always, please don't publish my full name -- I, too am scared of retribution.)

From: John Callender
To: [name and email deleted]
Subject: Re: A Note From Abroad

Could I run your letter as an item on the site, assuming I remove all identifying information from it?

From: [email deleted]
Subject: Re: A Note From Abroad

Of course, provided you agree to fix my typo of "supporters" to "supported" in the third para. (And any other typos you see.)


Listen, I've re-read a couple of my letters to you recently, and they were pretty condescending and holier-than-thou. In retrospect, I really regret this.

You have to understand that many in Canada look to the US as a big brother -- which is not so inaccurate. We do have the same parents -- but where you guys are the rebels that stole the family Thunderbird and peeled off in a cloud of burned rubber, we are the quiet nerds that lived in the basement of the family home until we were 35.

This means that we have a unique perspective. When you exceed us -- as you often do -- we love you for it, since you're family, and we're rooting for you. Plus, like all little brothers, we secretly envy you.

And yet, when you go astray, we strangely feel guilty (guilt, by the way, is the Great Canadian Emotion(tm)), because we feel we should have been able to help you somehow. Plus we feel sad, since you are family, and we love you. And lastly, like all little brothers, we are worried about you.

But right now, it's like we've just learned our big brother has ditched all his friends and gone on a crime spree, robbing banks and blowing people away. We love you, but we're scared you'll show up on our doorstep some night, drunk, with a gun on the seat of the old, idling Thunderbird, and demand that we join you.

I guess I'm saying we know we're not superior to you. Quite the reverse -- we will likely always play second fiddle to our big brother. But this raises the critical point I mentioned before -- if our big brother can go bad, can't we?

(Maybe you can wrap these two letters together somehow.)

Posted by jbc at 12:12 PM | view/comment (10) | TrackBack (1)

April 14, 2004

The Plain-Jane Russian Beauty Queen

Here's a thought-provoking item from the BBC: Anti-Barbie becomes Russian icon.

Posted by jbc at 01:41 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2004

'Against Us' Gaining in the 'With Us/Against Us' Equation

Kos has an excellent piece today: Losing allies on the WOT. It runs through some of the bad news that has come out in the last few days regarding the rapidly thinning ranks of Bush's "Coalition of the Willing".

It's not just lefties like Kos, and craven appeasers like the Spanish, who are increasingly having a problem siding with Bush in his "with us or against us" world. Check out the following from the Los Angeles Times editorial writers, a group that tends to be pretty little-c conservative, at least from my perspective: A war's woeful results. An excerpt:

At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein. But he's the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it's fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not. Although ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was the administration's major selling point for the war, it is now clear that Hussein's regime no longer possessed those weapons. And European allies, including Poland -- which Bush on Friday used as a post-communist model of how Iraq could evolve -- feel misled and more worried than ever about their security.

Hussein's Iraq played no part in 9/11, even as the administration insisted that the war in Iraq was an inevitable consequence of the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda followers, perpetrators of the assault against the United States, were and still are more likely to be found within the borders of U.S. ally Pakistan than within the borders of Iraq. Islamic radicals were able to portray the war as an imperialist ploy of the U.S. and its reluctant followers, invading Iraq because it was a Muslim nation with a stand-up Hussein as leader. That propaganda, which the Bush administration helped mightily to feed through its hubris and miscalculations, has spawned a new generation of recruits for terror. Those recruits have joined Hussein's followers to kill U.S. soldiers and Iraqis cooperating with the occupation forces. More than 570 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, along with soldiers from Britain, Spain, Italy and other nations. The war has killed thousands of Iraqis as well. Nations must retaliate for attacks like those on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and expect casualties in war. But the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- a nation that did not pose an imminent threat -- and the shameful underfunding of homeland security have not lessened U.S. vulnerability. The U.S. grows increasingly isolated from its allies, and that gives comfort and strength to its enemies.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

Posted by jbc at 12:38 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2004

Scott Forbes Compares Blair, Bush

Here's an interesting item from a few days ago: Why words matter. It compares Tony Blair and George Bush in terms of their respective justifications for the war on Iraq, a comparison that doesn't reflect at all well on Bush.

Posted by jbc at 10:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 31, 2004

Armin Meiwes - Euthanasia By Cannibalism

(I can NOT believe we haven't mentioned this story on before)

Armin Meiwes was found guilty of manslaughter in a German court this week, and sentenced to 8.5 years in prison. Armin recieved this sentance for castrating his victim, eating his flesh while the victim bleed to death, and then butchering and freezing his body to eat over the course of several months -- all of which he recorded on video for later sexual gratification.

Now brace yourself -- none of that is the bizarre part.

The bizarre part is that the victim was a willing participant in the whole experience -- and even choose to eat some of his own flesh before dying. (I know, it sounds like i'm plagiarizing "Hannibal" but I'm not.) Like Meiwes, his victim "Bernd-Juergen Brandes" was a cannibalism fetishist, with a Hansel and Gretel obsession, who prepared a very detailed will, and sold most of his property before going to Meiwes's house and asked to be eaten. The two met had met online, when Brandes responded Meiwes's Internet chat room post: "Gay male seeks hunks 18-30 to slaughter."

This all happened back in 1995. Meiwes wasn't arrested until December of 2002 when police were tiped off by chat room users after Meiwes posted again, looking for another victim.

The German news organization "DW World" seems to have the most comprehensive coverage, so Here's a breif timeline of their articles...

(That last video link includes a great straight faced delivery by the News anchor asking the reporter why legal experts are saying that this case is so "unique").

Posted by hossman at 05:48 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2004

Print This Finger

I remember hearing about the US's new Fingerprint & Photo rule for visitors with visas while I was in Australia earlier this year (not sure how much press it got here, it was *HUGE* overseas). And I remember hearing that Brazil had decided to reciprocate by requiring that any US citizen travelling to Brazil would have to do the same. But somehow I managged to miss seeing this story untill now....

An American Airlines pilot was detained/fined ~$13,000 for making an "internationally recognized obscene gesture while he was being photographed for identification." Now admittedly, I wasn't there ... I don't know what he said when the picture was taken, or what his overall demeaner was ... but I don't understand how they can possible justify arresting the guy based purely on the picture. I know lots of people who might hold up a piece of paper like that.

Posted by hossman at 10:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 23, 2003

Mitchell on the Atta-Prague Story

Oh, look: Yet another story claiming that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with representatives of Saddam Hussein's intelligence service in Prague shortly before the attacks. Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher doesn't think much of it: When will press stop circulating dubious Iraq claims?

Posted by jbc at 12:47 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush-Blair Love Spat?

My apologies to loyal readers for shirking my posting duties lately. Reader Steve D. has been keeping up a steady stream of interesting story suggestions; here's one, with several more to follow. Thanks, Steve!

Anyway, from The Mirror: Bush and Blair: The big fall-out. Seems Tony Blair is getting annoyed at Uncle Sam's puppeteer's hand currently rammed up his backside, or something. The story is short on detail, but fun nevertheless.

Posted by jbc at 12:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yahoo's Offbeat Year End Wrap Up

As we approach the holiday season, people tend to reflect back on the 2003 and their accomplishments. What better time to take stock of some of this years accomplishments (and misshaps) of people even more disfunctional then yourself.

Posted by hossman at 12:47 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 12, 2003

Dogpile on Kynn!

Kynn of Shock & Awe does a really nice job of pointing out some glaring hypocrisy from reigning überblogger Glenn Reynolds: Instapundit and Communist protesters. Everybody else is linking to him, so I thought I'd get my head in the trough.

Posted by jbc at 07:48 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 24, 2003

The Spirit of the Season: Eat a Homeless Mute Boy

This time of year, many people get into the spirt of giving, and donate food/money to programs that help feed the Homeless -- particularly homeless children. Other people kiddnap them, tie them up in a sack, tell people they are a stray dog, and sell them to be used as food.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by hossman at 11:40 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2003

Drezner on Lileks on Pax

Proving once again the he is a rare beacon of reason among his right-wing brethren, Daniel Drezner points out that really, the people of Iraq deserve a little slack if they choose to be less than enthusiastic about having been bombed, maimed, burned, killed, dispossessed, and otherwise liberated: Why James Lileks is flat-out wrong. (Warning: Academic using the F-word ahead.)

Posted by jbc at 06:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2003

A Quick Quiz on Arabs, Islam, 9/11, Racism, and Ignorance

Here's a fun little item from Counterpunch's Gary Leupp: The matrix of ignorance. It features the following pop quiz:

Which of the following best indicates the relationship between Arabs and Muslims?
  1. All Muslims are Arabs.
  2. All Arabs are Muslims.
  3. Most Muslims aren't Arabs.
  4. Most Muslims are Arabs.

In which Muslim countries do Christian churches and Jewish synagogues operate legally, as well as mosques?

  1. Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq.
  2. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Somalia.
  3. Pakistan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates.
  4. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. government (which may or may not be accurate in its report), the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were of what nationalities?

  1. 15 Saudis, 4 Iraqis.
  2. 14 Iraqis, 3 Saudis, 2 Yemenis.
  3. 15 Saudis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Lebanese, 2 from union of Arab Emirates.
  4. 14 Iranians, 2 Afghans, 2 Lebanese, 1 Iraqi.

Scroll down, or follow the link below, or just see the whole Counterpunch article at the link above, for the answers. (Note me smirking smarmily at my 3-for-3. See? That Poli Sci degree and the obsessive news-junkie behavior was good for something.)


Posted by jbc at 06:36 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (2)

September 11, 2003

World Opinion Sours on US, Bush

This isn't really news, but it provides a good summing up of a sad situation. From the New York Times: Foreign views of US darken since 9/11.

Posted by jbc at 08:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 09, 2003

The Onion on U.S. vs. Them

Fun item from The Onion: Relations break down between U.S. and Them. Thanks to badass Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 08:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 02, 2003

Baer on Saudi Arabia

From Salon comes another story good enough to justify sitting through a commercial to get the one-day pass: Terror in the Saudi kingdom. It's an interview with former CIA officer Bob Baer, who has a new book out called, "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude."

Posted by jbc at 03:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2003

Falk on the New Global Fascism

Interesting Q&A from the latest issue of Adbusters magazine: Early signs of fascism. Thanks to awesome link-suggesters Glen & Pilar for the link.

Posted by jbc at 02:30 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 03, 2003

Man of Inspiration or Suspicion?

It appears that the U.S. is tentatively backing Mahmudali Chehregani, an exiled former PM from Azerbaijan, in Northern Iran, to be a catalyst in spreading the unrest within the country. The Azeri population is a large minority within Iran, and Chehregani is going to try to inspire this group, who has always been a bit cool toward Tehran, to join in the open protests of the Iranian leadership.

The main thing this unrest has been missing is a central figure who can consolidate various ethnic groups and classes into a relatively unified force. I have doubts that this person will be the one. First, he is a bit too closely tied to the US, which will make too many dissidents wary. Also, he has supported in the past, and apparently still advocates, a reunification of the Iranian region of Azerbaijan with the Republic of Azerbaijan, just across the border. This doesn't seem to be a popular idea with the rest of the population in Iran. Chehregani also publicly promotes having a federation of "states" within Iran, of which the region of Azerbaijan would be one. But which option do Iranians feel he would actually pursue if he obtained power?

If nothing else he will serve to ratchet up the scale of unrest that will continue to ferment until a real voice of the people emerges.

Posted by Craig at 05:24 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

Whitman's Not-So-Comprehensive Environmental Report

Much ruckus being kicked up regarding the New York Times' article, yesterday, that blew the whistle on the White House having so watered down the section on global warming in the EPA's upcoming big-ass report on the state of the environment that it was eventually decided to just remove that section altogether: Report by the EPA leaves out data on climate change. Editorial/opinion pages are pretty universally taking up the call against such politicization of scientific findings. From Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe: Bush fries climate change. SunSpot: More revisionist history. And the NYT itself: Censorship on global warming.

It's part of the same pattern that gave us sexed-up evidence of Iraqi WMDs. Bush & Co. have little use for expert opinion that doesn't square with their political agenda. Yeah, I realize all politicians do the same thing to some degree, but with Bush it's off the charts. And since simply pretending very, very hard that things are true that really aren't, or aren't true that really are, has a poor track-record in terms of actually changing reality, this becomes pretty scary for anyone who has to live with the consequences of the resulting decision-making.

Posted by jbc at 09:55 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2003

Is Bush Serious?

After looking more like a fratboy at a kegger than a sober statesman in most of the images to come out of the European stops on his current trip, Bush apparently got serious upon arriving in the Middle East. He reportedly met with five Arab leaders with only translaters (and no handlers!) present, and was so caught up in this whole "leader of the free world" thing (or is it religious fervor?) that he persisted in speaking his own words even when Egyptian TV cameras were rolling (though apparently that was an accident). Anyway, interesting stuff. From the NYT: On camera but unaware, Bush displays his fervor.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Sharon Serious?

Aaron passed this story on to me, with the comment, "Holy fucking crap. Sharon might actually be serious about this." "This," in this case, is the whole roadmap thing, including recent statements by Sharon that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an "occupation" that needs to be ended. Which is sort of like Bush using a press conference to push for US energy independence achieved through tough new fuel-efficiency standards and a special tax on gas-guzzling SUVs.

My own take is that the extent of Sharon's reversal, and the timing of these statements, are pretty suspicious. I'm inclined to view it as political payback to Bush for the overthrow of Saddam, with a lot of surprising talk now, but an eventual reversion to the Sharon we know.

Anyway, here's the story: Sharon mystifies, scares supporters.

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June 01, 2003

More WMD Heat for Blair

While Bush has fun playing president in Europe, Tony Blair is coming in for some grown-up-sized criticism regarding the WMD thing. I found the following analysis in The Scotsman interesting: Blair: Dossier will prove we were right to have Iraq war.

Posted by jbc at 10:08 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 30, 2003

A Little Liberal Levity

Here's some clever cartoon animation regarding the war and the world from Mark Fiore that you may enjoy.

Posted by Craig at 05:42 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2003

Gwynne Dyer, 1/3: Blair Mocked on WMDs in Moscow

I liked this column by Gwynne Dyer, and think it makes an interesting counterpoint to Craig's recent WMD posting: The missing WMD. It tells the story of how Vladimir Putin mocked Tony Blair about Iraqi WMDs during a Moscow press conference. Ouch.

Posted by jbc at 07:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2003

The Mt. Everest QTVR Panorama

Everyone's linking to this really cool panorama taken atop Mt. Everest, so I will, too.

I remember when I first saw a QTVR panorama; it was of a hiking trail in Arizona or New Mexico or somewhere like that, and it blew me away. Wow, I thought. This Web thing is amazing!

These days the novelty of bandwidth-hogging 360-degree images that you can rotate and zoom around in has worn off somewhat, but that Everest panorama is still very much worth a look.

Posted by jbc at 06:29 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2003

Putin the Principled?

Some people seemed to believe that Putin was trying to make Bush squirm by refusing to drop U.N. sanctions without a declaration of the non-existence of WMD's, in order to win the moral point for all the brave countries that stood up to the US agression. Surprise! This USA Today article sheds light on a possibly more self-interested motive of Mr Putin and his diplomatic cronies.

This just still makes the world go 'round.

Posted by Craig at 06:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2003

Saddam Hussein Terrorist

Since everyone has a different opinion of Saddam Hussein being connected to Osama bin Laden, why shouldn't a judge join the fray?

Judge Harold Baer said the experts "provide a sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to draw inferences which could lead to the conclusion that Iraq provided material support to al Qaeda."

9/11 victims awarded $104 million

Posted by the_web_walker at 02:36 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

Putin Wants WMD Clarification Before Lifting Iraq Sanctions

The Washington Post has an article today that puts an interesting twist on things: Putin opposes US, Britain on lifting Iraqi sanctions. It seems the Russian president is taking the position that UN sanctions on Iraq can be lifted only when the country no longer has weapons of mass destruction. Which actually sounds somewhat reasonable, since it was the possession of those WMDs that the original sanctions were based on. So now Bush and Blair are in something of a Catch-22: They want the sanctions lifted, so they can begin exporting more Iraqi oil than is allowed under the oil-for-food program. But they can't produce Iraqi WMDs and destroy them, since they haven't been able to find any. So the only way to get the sanctions lifted would be to argue that the WMDs weren't actually there in the first place. But that, of course, would constitute an admission that the justification for the invasion, as presented to the UN, was itself a lie.


Posted by jbc at 01:02 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 18, 2003

Dean, Krugman on Bush's Isolationism

Here are a pair of pieces looking at the fences our uniter-not-a-divider president is building between the US and the rest of the world. From the New York Times' Paul Krugman: Rejecting the world. And from Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean: Bush: It's not just his doctrine that's wrong.

Posted by jbc at 03:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2003

Berkowitz on Afghanistan

An update on where things currently stand in our previous toppled regime is available from WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz: Report card Afghanistan. Among the points he makes:

  • US troops are still engaged in sporadic fighting.
  • Our installed government under Hamid Karzai is essentially only in charge of Kabul.
  • The much-hailed liberation of Afghanistan's women is being steadily rolled back to a Taliban-esque repression.
  • Opium cultivation has exploded. According to the State Department Afghanistan is now the world's leading producer of heroin, with roughly 20 times as much land being used for opium cultivation as was used in 2001.
So, the bottom line is that the current team running things in Washington, while they've got this whole bombing and invading thing down cold, clearly suck ass when it comes to putting things back together afterward. Expect more of the same in Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 07:07 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Syria

Nice piece at Daily Kos: Syria countermoves, scores against US. It lists some of the advantages Syria enjoys (compared with Iraq) in the current confrontation with the US, and goes on to discuss Syria's recent move to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council banning all weapons of mass destruction throughout the middle east. Kos calls the move "nothing short of genius."

If the US is truly serious about ridding the Middle East of WMDs, it should have no problem endorsing a resolution that would compell Syria to disarm. Right?

Wrong. The resolution would have the (intentional) effect of forcing Israel to surrender its nuclear arsenal -- a course of action Israel would never accept. And the US, Israel's most loyal ally, will thus be forced to veto the resolution.

So picture this -- the US vetoing a resolution calling for the banning of all WMDs from the Middle East. In one fell swoop, Syria has negated the charges of WMDs against it, exposed the US's hypocrisy on WMDs (our allies can have them, everyone else can't), solidified its leadership of the Arab world, and forced the US to veto a seemingly common sense resolution, after blasting France and Russia for threatening vetoes on Iraq.

It's clear that this administration has zero ability to wage a competent foreign policy. We may be able to wage war, but even that has its limits.

Posted by jbc at 06:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2003

Superabundant Power vs.

I'm not sure how it came about, but both these stories ended up in front of me at the same time, and they seem to share a certain ineffable something, so I'm posting them together. So there.

First, from Janus: the Reuters Oddly Enough story of "The Great Sasuke": Masked wrestler wins Japan assembly seat. Good stuff, especially the part about how "the wrestler said he now hopes to demonstrate his 'superabundant power' outside of the ring as well as in it."

Because who could hear about a Japanese wrestler-turned-politican wielding his "superabundant power" without immediately thinking of, the ninja-tribute site created by faux-12-year-old Robert Hamburger. I previously posted a item about the site; that item continues to be one of the top comment-getters here.

Including the recent comment from reader Jeremy, who pointed to a really excellent piece from Studio 360, the public radio show, featuring an interview with the site's creator. It's actually worth enduring the suck of Realplayer to listen to it; that guy Robert (the real Robert, not his 12-year-old alter ego) is so cool it makes my pee pee hurt.

Update: Be sure to check out, which appears to be the work of the same subversive character. Thanks to Beck for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sorenson on the History of US Involvement in the Mideast

Columnist and self-described "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen has this nice little historical summing up in today's Occupational hazard. A sample:

We won the war, but will we win the peace? If you believe George W. Bush, who is saying all the right things, we will. Bush is saying that Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis. And, he says, the U.S. will stay in Iraq "not a day longer than necessary," these words spoken by Bush's puppy dog, Tony Blair.

Unfortunately, Bush himself sometimes seems a bit dyslexic in his public statements. If he says Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis, what he really means is, the Iraqis will get what's left after we skim what we want. As for when we leave Iraq, "not a day longer than necessary" means, in Bush-speak, when hell freezes over.

Posted by jbc at 07:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 30, 2003

Kim Jong Il's LiveJournal

I'm not sure if this is only going to be funny to long-time computer-mediated-communication obsessives like me, but God, is this funny. From daypop: Kim Jong Il (the illmatic)'s LiveJournal.

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March 29, 2003

Ferraro on World Saving

Vincent Ferraro, a professor of international politics at Mount Holyoke College, gave the following convocation address at Pomfret School, a Connecticut prep school, this past September: Saving the world. Seemed appropriate.

Posted by jbc at 07:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2003

More Detail on US Violations of the Geneva Convention

Here's a nice article from The Guardian that provides more specifics on how the US has been violating the Geneva Convention with respect to prisoners from Afghanistan, making it kind of silly for Rumsfeld to issue stern pronouncements about how he expects the Iraqis to toe the line in their handling of US prisoners: One rule for them. Thanks to reader michael for the link.

Posted by jbc at 07:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2003

Parade Float of the Week

In some ways the folks in Europe are just so far advanced compared with us colonials that it's not even funny. Except when it actually is pretty funny. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 05:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Birthday in Baghdad

From comes this relatively upbeat story to counter some of the stuff we've been seeing lately: Amal Shamuri's thirteenth birthday party. "When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Amal - whose name means 'hope' in Arabic - smiled and simply replied, 'All I want is peace.'" Happy birthday, Amal. May you get your wish.

Posted by jbc at 10:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2003

Barnett on the Emerging Power of World Opinion

It's a little starry-eyed, and a little long-winded, but still, there's something there that's worth thinking about. I'm referring to Anthony Barnett's World opinion: the new superpower?

Posted by jbc at 02:21 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 15, 2003

Meyerson on the Neocon/Xenophobe War

Here's a story that ties together all my recent obsessions, making it hard to classify. From the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson, On the Brink: The neocon-xenophobe war. It's about the real reasons we're going to war, and the weakness of the publicly stated ones; the larger context in terms of why the rest of the world is so uniformly opposed to what we're doing; and the unpleasant truths about where Dubya is coming from, psychologically. Much thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2003

The Iraq War/Greenhouse Gas Connection

From Tom Athanasiou comes Two futures, and a choice, a nice look at the common elements in the U.S.'s current mania for blocking international accords on greenhouse-gas production and invading/occupying oil-rich nations.

Posted by jbc at 11:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 04, 2003

Isioma Daniel's Story

I missed this when it first appeared, but it's very much worth reading: Isioma Daniel's story of the events surrounding her writing of the piece that provoked the Miss World riots in Nigeria, and the subsequent issuing of the fatwa against her.

Posted by jbc at 04:44 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

February 28, 2003

Saddam Crazy Legs Gets Monitored

I think I'd prefer to live in the world where this image gives an accurate depiction of world leaders' obsessions with each other. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

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February 27, 2003

Canadian Politician Labels U.S. 'Damned Bastards'

From Reuters/Yahoo/Janus comes this fun story: Canada Politician Says Americans Damned Bastards. The politician has since apologized for her remarks, but I can't see why; we clearly are damned bastards.

Posted by jbc at 10:38 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2003

Jerrold on Kim Jong Il's Love of Movies

From Bravo comes word of this cool op-ed piece from the L.A. Times (login with cypherpunk98/cypherpunk): North Korea: The Movie. By political psychologist Jerrold M. Post, it looks at some of the cool wackiness behind North Korea's leader.

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February 14, 2003

Cockburn with a Final Post-Mortem on Powell's UN Speech

Alexander Cockburn has a pissed-off retrospective on the truth value (or lack thereof) in Colin Powell's speech to the UN on February 5. All I can say is, yeah, really. What was that, anyway?

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January 29, 2003

Interesting Factoids from the December Harper's Index

Whenever I read Harper's I always find myself vowing to get a subscription, and then I never do. I suck that way, I guess. In the meantime, though, the December Harper's Index, brought to my attention by Janus, contains some fun factoids. Like: Number of times George W. Bush has said Osama bin Laden's name in public since July 8 : 0. And how about this: Rank of Israel and Turkey among nations in violation of the largest number of U.N. Security Council resolutions : 1, 2. Sweet.

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January 28, 2003

Join us for dinner?

It seems members from the Congolese Liberation Movement are seeking the strike fear in the opposition and have resorted to Cannabilism as a method of intimidating their opposition. Do you prefer your Pygmy with or without salt?

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December 13, 2002

Jimmy Carter Scolds Dubya on Taking Sides with Israel

While acknowledging that he'd be willing to play a mediator's role in the Arab-Israeli conflict if both sides, and the U.S. president, asked him to, Jimmy Carter opened a mild can of moral-authority whoop-ass on dubya the other day by pointing out that he (dubya) is unique among recent U.S. presidents in siding wholeheartedly with Israel in that conflict, rather than offering at least an illusion of even-handedness (which, granted, is fairly academic anyway, given the U.S.'s consistent role in funding the Israeli military machine throughout that period). In any event, Carter has since acknowleged that he doesn't have a snowball's chance of being asked to mediate anytime soon.

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December 12, 2002

Academic Boycott of Israel?

From the Guardian comes an interesting, if lengthy, piece on a small but growing movement, centered in British academic circles, to boycott Israeli academic researchers. Among its other virtues, the article offers some insights into the range of viewpoints within Israel, or at least Israeli academia, toward the current bury-them-in-rubble approach to the Palestinian issue espoused by Sharon.

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December 11, 2002

Vicar Spills Beans on Santa Hoax

I'm intrigued by the story of Lee Rayfield, a British vicar who reportedly reduced youngsters in his audience to tears when he delivered a sermon pointing out that the Santa Claus myth defies the laws of physics. I look forward to his next sermon, in which he explains how Christ could not actually have turned water into wine, raised Lazarus from the dead, or appeared to his followers three days after his crucifixion.

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November 21, 2002

The Decline and Fall of the F-word

The Guardian has an interesting piece on the growing acceptance in Britain of the word fuck. My favorite head-scratch-inducing quote: "In research, 50% or more people said the words that should never be broadcast are cunt, motherfucker, nigger, Paki and spastic. Young women also don't like whore, slag and twat. But fuck wasn't on the list." Spastic? Anyway, thanks to plastic for the link.

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November 15, 2002

John Bender's Switch Ad

One of the better parodies of Apple's Switch campaign is offered up by U.S.-born John Bender, who became a Canadian in 1996 and is never going back. Courtesy of Janus (who is actually onan).

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Freund on Aghajari

Reason's Charles Paul Freund has a nice piece on Hashem Aghajari, an Iranian academic who gave a lecture in June calling for political reform and religious renewal, and asking his fellow Iranians not to blindly follow the religious authorities. As a result, he has been jailed, convicted of apostasy, and sentenced to be hanged. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

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November 06, 2002

Brits Scandalized by Hospital Sex

I continue to be entertained by the British. From The Straits Times, via Hiro, comes an article about an apparently dead-serious study on "Violence, Disorder and Incivility in British Hospitals." Titled Sex on the Wards, the article focuses on the racier stuff from the report, but it also includes such shocking revelations as a female patient who took a call on her cell phone in the midst of a gynecological exam. The horror!

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November 04, 2002

U.S. Blows Up Yemeni Bad Guys

U.S. military forces (actually, the CIA, it turns out) apparently used a missile to blow up a car in Yemen early today, thereby killing six people, at least one of whom was believed to have been a high-ranking al Qaeda member. Welcome to the doctrine of pre-emption.

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October 30, 2002

People for Sale

Geov Parrish shines again, this time with an important, albeit disturbing, article about the 21st century's hot growth industry: the buying and selling of human beings. Isn't it neat being the world's sole superpower, able to spread our values of truth, justice, and liberty from sea to shining sea?

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October 26, 2002

Pravda: Bush Offers Putin $10 Billion in Return for a Free Hand with Saddam

As always, an enjoyable mixture of fact and fancy from the folks at Pravda, as they explain how Dubya is trying to bribe Putin into supporting the U.S. campaign to get rid of Saddam and take control of the Iraqi oil fields. Courtesy of

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October 18, 2002

Man Violates Parole with Beer-Keg Baby

Canadians, Part II: Chynne Harley Kahnapace of Regina, Canada, has pleaded guilty to a parole violation involving pushing a baby stroller containing a keg of beer. Oh, Canada.

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See? We haven't abandoned Afghanistan!

The US army has been alleviating the harsh aftereffects of war, engaging in altruistic nation-building... by handing out weapons to local "warlords." I can only hope that we display similarly keen insight into our nation-building in Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, and France.

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October 17, 2002

North Korean Nukes a Problem for Dubya Policy

From The Scotsman comes an interesting analysis of the history of the United States' actions with respect to North Korea's nuclear arms program. With the admission by the North Koreans this week that they've been blowing off the agreement they'd previously entered into not to be naughty in this particular way, it puts dubya on the spot. Aren't actual North Korean nukes (along with the missiles to deliver them) a more urgent problem than hypothetical future Iraqi nukes? Unless, of course, the fact that Iraq is sitting on 20% of the world's petroleum supply is part of the equation.

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October 16, 2002

Saddam Gets Perfect Score

Thumbing his nose at didn't-even-get-the-MOST-votes dubya, Iraq's Saddam Hussein is trumpeting the results of Iraq's latest presidential referendum, in which the dictator received an impressive 100% of votes cast by eligible voters, confirming his tenure for another 7-year term. Why can't we have a leader who enjoys that kind of support?

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September 26, 2002

Sighted Car. Sank Same.

from the watch-out-for-that-puddle dept.

From Jason comes this cool series of photos showing a woman unwittingly driving into a puddle that swallowed her car. Yay for amateur photojournalism.

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September 24, 2002

Living on a Really Expensive Boat

from the see-the-world-on-pennies-a-day.-a-LOT-of-pennies. dept.

From Rohirrim, via Natrooski's TV-viewing habit, comes one of those stories I'd be much more up on if I only stared at the tube more often: life aboard The World, a mega-luxurious cruise-ship-cum-floating-home. You can buy a decent-sized residence aboard the ship for somewhere between $2.5 million and $7.5 million, or, if you're tight for cash, you can rent for $2K to $4K per day. I've never been one to obsess about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but browsing through the descriptions of the amenities on this thing, I confess I found myself boggling at the thought of what life aboard her must actually be like.

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September 18, 2002

Not Tony Blair's Email

from the signs-of-life dept.

Janus points out this cool story about Tony Blair's email (sort of), and an attempt to pressure him into being more responsive to the desire of the great unwashed masses to mingle with him electronically.

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September 12, 2002

We're All Bastards

from the appetite-for-destruction dept.

Here at we revel in the general editorial principle of pointing out the shortcomings and wrong doings of the good ol' USA. Today we're going on a little world tour to take our minds off the whole USA/terrorists/Iraq issue and examine some poor behavior in Russia, Kashmir, and Guatemala.
The international news is cool.

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July 30, 2002

A River Runs Under It

from the lost-world dept.

Indian satellites have discovered the mythical river Saraswati,which flows under the Thar desert in Rajasthan. The river is mentioned in the Rig Veda and is believed to have flowed parallel to the Indus.

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July 16, 2002

Russians embrace Nazism

from the red.menace dept.

Forgetting the fun that gramps had in the Great Patriotic War, racism with Nazi trappings is on the rise in Russia. Panzers vorwarts!

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Muppets with AIDS

from the innocence-completely-lost dept.

"This character will be fully a part of the community," Schneider said. "She will have high self-esteem. Women are often stigmatized about HIV and we are providing a good role model as to how to deal with one's situation and how to interact with the community."
Name and color have not yet been decided.

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July 06, 2002

Accused Child Molester Crucified on Cactus

from the don't-mess-with-Mexico dept.

From the Arizona Republic comes the story of Mark Adam Younglove, who apparently took his last name a little too seriously and engaged in sexual abuse of some neighbor kids in Chandler, AZ. Confronted by the kids' parents, Younglove took off three years ago, and was eventually indicted in absentia and listed on various most-wanted posters. Now his bad karma seems to have caught up with him; on June 23 he was found beaten comatose and impaled on a cactus in Empalme, Mexico. Ay, caramba!

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June 07, 2002

Chinese Newspaper Fooled by Onion Article

from the too-rich dept.

I love this one. The Beijing Evening News, one of the largest-circulation dailies in China, earlier this week ran a story about how the U.S. Congress was threatening to move out of the Capitol building unless it was renovated. The only problem was, the article was a complete fabrication, copied more or less verbatim from a story that ran recently in The Onion. Even better, when contacted by phone for comment, the Chinese paper's international editor got pissy, demanding, "How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?"

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June 06, 2002

Woman in Nigeria Faces Stoning for Having a Child

from the penpals-from-aroooound-the-world dept.

Coward writes "According to CNN, a woman in Nigeria is facing death by stoning for having a child more than 9 months after her divorce. Fortunately she has 2 years for appeals, as the court has allowed her time to wean her child.
For more information on Nigeria and its interpretation of Sharia, please take a look at Africa Action's page. A good (non-partisan) definition of Sharia can be found here."
This is so cool. Not that the woman is facing stoning under an oppressive misogynist tradition (that sucks), but that I heard someone mention this story yesterday, and didn't have time to post it, and I wake up this morning and bam, a helpful reader has submitted it, complete with supporting links. That rules.

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June 04, 2002

Mubarak: Egypt Warned U.S. About 9/11

from the retroactive-foreknowledge dept.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, speaking to a reporter for the New York Times, has said that Egypt delivered a warning to U.S. officials that a major al Queda terrorist operation was in the works in the week before the 9/11 attacks. Not so, says an unidentified "senior U.S. intelligence official," also quoted in the article. "The Egyptians gave us some threat information, earlier in 2001, of possible attacks against U.S. or Egyptian interests... There was nothing about hijackings, nothing about an attack inside the U.S. It did not come in the days before 9/11." Mubarak acknowledges that the warning was non-specific, and that it didn't mention hijackings or attacks inside the U.S., but insists it was given just a few days before the attacks. So, one of these sources (at least) is lying. Cool.

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May 29, 2002

'Liar' Byers Ousted From British Cabinet

from the trains-not-running-on-time dept.

So, Stephen Byers, former transportation secretary for British prime minister Tony Blair, has been forced out of his cabinet post, apparently in response to the really bad publicity accompanying a string of gaffes and misstatements. The principal event in his downfall, as near as a typically self-absorbed yank can reconstruct it, was when he failed to fire an underling spin doctor, Jo Moore, in the wake of an email she sent on September 11, advising recipients that it would be a "good time to bury bad news."

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May 23, 2002

Contracting Cancer to Cure AIDS?

from the weird-juxtapositions dept.

No, I'm not just running a Reuters photo of a not-quite-topless woman with flaming nipples because it's May-sweeps month in blog-land (though you're welcome to link to and boost my googlerank regardless). No, I'm commenting on the irony of the other woman in the photo, the one smoking a cigarette she has lit from the first one's flaming hooters. See, the photo is from a charity gala intended to raise money to fight AIDS. I guess the Reuters censors wouldn't let them run the photo of the person contracting AIDS in order to fight lung cancer.

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Escaped Canadian Prisoner Didn't, Actually

from the not-quite-freedom dept.

From Reuters Oddly Enough (via Yahoo News) comes the story of Raymond Tudor, a Canadian double murderer serving time in the Drumheller medium-security prison in Alberta (guess he didn't murder anyone too important). Two months ago Tudor disappeared, and authorities assumed he had escaped. Turned out he hadn't, though; he was hiding out in the prison's ventilation ducts (shades of Star Trek: The Original Series). He lost 30 pounds over the course of his almost-but-not-quite escape. I can't help but wonder what sorts of conversations he had with himself during that time, as to the philosophical nature of freedom, and the extent to which he was actually experiencing it.

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May 17, 2002

Schroeder Wins Hair-Dye Case

from the methinks-he-doth-protest-too-much dept.

Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has won his battle against German news agency DDP, with a Hamburg state court issuing an order that the news agency stop running stories alleging that Schroeder dyes his hair. I'm sure we'll all sleep better now.

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May 15, 2002

John Malkovich Wants to Shoot Scottish Politician

from the just-testy-'cause-his-recent-movies-suck dept.

The BBC has the story of actor John Malkovich's recent comment that Glasgow Kelvin MP George Galloway is one of two people he would most like to shoot, apparently because of the latter's criticisms of Israel and of the West's sanctions against Iraq.

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May 14, 2002

Japanese Finance Minister Makes $499,950,000,000 Mistake

from the billion,-schmillion,-whatever dept.

Speaking to the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Shanghai on Saturday, Japanese finance minister Masajuro Shiokawa caused hearts to race when he announced that Japan would be making a $500 billion contribution to a regional poverty fund. Except that when the prepared text of the speech was distributed, the actual number turned out to be $50 million. Oh, well.

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May 10, 2002

Elderly Brit Travelers Turn Up Safe and Sound

from the screw-this.-let's-go-somewhere-else. dept.

Three elderly British vacationers, who left for a French resort last Saturday and hadn't been heard from by their friends and family since, turned up none the worse for wear today, after an increasingly frantic manhunt in France, Spain, and Britain failed to locate any sign of them. It turns out they didn't like the stairs that led to their originally booked accommodations, and ended up staying in a different town, nearby, without bothering to tell anyone. This has "lighthearted romantic comedy" written all over it, don't you think? With quick cuts back and forth between the stressed-out relatives and their pleasantly vacationing elders, and with any number of homey messages at the end. I'm seeing Meg Ryan as the daughter of one of the missing, and Colin Firth or Hugh Grant as the son of another, with them initially worried sick and blaming each other, but with wedding bells by the final reel. Ron Howard will direct.

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May 08, 2002

Oil Rig Rams Ship

from the I-(heart)-headlines dept.

I'm linking to this one only because I liked the headline: Oil rig evacuated after collision with ship. It joins such previous memorable stories as, "Fire hydrant appears out of nowhere and collides with drunk's car" and "World Trade Center collapses after smashing into hijacked jets."

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May 07, 2002

Myanmar Opposition Leader Released; State-Run Media Silent

from the maybe-if-we-ignore-her-she'll-just-go-away dept.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released after 19 months of house arrest by the country's ruling junta yesterday, and was reportedly mobbed by supporters during her first day of freedom. Interestingly (well, at least to someone raised outside the realm of state-controlled media), Myanmar's government-controlled newspapers studiously ignored any mention of the event, as Malaysia's The Star Online reports.

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Scheer on the Saddam-9/11 Non-link

from the can-we-bomb-him-anyway? dept.

Robert Scheer's column today calls NYT columnist William Safire to task on the latter's wholehearted embrace of the Mohammed-Atta-met-with-Iraqis story, first floated by the Czech government and widely cited by the Bush Administration as justification for taking the War on Terra to Iraq. Except that it turns out pretty much everyone now agrees that the meeting never took place, and the FBI and CIA, despite plenty of effort, have basically concluded that there simply isn't any evidence linking Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks. I like Scheer's closing thought: "Bush's foreign policy is based on a fairy tale, the persistent if childish hope that all of our problems can be solved by one solid blow to the latest Evil Empire, now found in Baghdad. Someone needs to read the president a better bedtime story."

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Escape Artist Outfoxes Israeli Security

from the myth-in-the-making dept.

Abu Jamous is a master burglar with a string of successful heists. He's also a Palestinian, one who has been accused of working with Yasser Arafat's Fatah group to help Palestinians elude Israeli security. Captured once, he escaped as he was being brought to court. A special police unit formed to recapture him eventually succeeded, but now he has escaped again, this time from a fortified police bus where he was secured with handcuffs and leg restraints, accompanied by two other security vehicles and guarded by 10 elite prison guards. Wow.

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April 27, 2002

Four Arrested in Who Wants To Be a Millionaire Scam

from the cheaters-never-prosper dept.

A fourth person has been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation into alleged cheating on the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire television program - the original, British version, not the American version with Regis Philbin that is (thankfully) no longer running 24/7 this side of the Pond. Investigators believe that contestant Major Charles Ingram was helped to win by a conspirator planted in the audience who used carefully timed coughs to feed him the answers.

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April 23, 2002

Play Based on Saddam Hussein Novel to Open in Baghdad This Week

from the what-he-really-wants-to-do-is-direct dept.

A romantic novel widely believed to have been written by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been turned into a play that will open this week in the Iraqi National Theater. The novel, titled Zabibah and the King, is the story of a king who falls in love with an unhappily married woman. The woman in the story is raped on January 17 - the same day the U.S.-led attack on Iraq began in 1991 - after which the king captures the rapists, restores the woman's honor, and dies. Although the novel was published anonymously, the enthusiastic reviews it received in the state-controlled Iraqi media left most observers convinced it was actually written by Saddam.

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April 22, 2002

Attempt to Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes Fails

from the what-doesn't-kill-you...-raises-your-speaking-fees dept.

In an interesting followup to the story I posted the other day (on how Henry Kissinger's lies on Angola and Cuba have recently been exposed), a British activist has been denied in his bid to have a court issue a warrant for the arrest of Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, who is due to address a gathering in London's Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, was the chief architect of U.S. foreign policy during the period when the Nixon administration conducted indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam; human rights activist Peter Tatchell says that's a violation of the Geneva Convention, and wants Hank arrested. District Judge Nicholas Evans declined to act, however, saying Tatchell needed the backing of Britain's Attorney General, something he currently lacks.

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April 18, 2002

French Prime Minister Squirted with Ketchup

from the would-you-like-fries-with-that? dept.

From Ananova comes this cool photo+story showing what kids do for fun in France these days: they squirt ketchup on the prime minister. After the attack the PM apparently escorted the kids outside and gave them a stern talking-to, after which they reportedly were "very sheepish". This contrasts with the likely aftermath if a pair of U.S. teens tried that on dubya; in our current hyper-vigilant climate I doubt there'd be enough of them left for their parents to identify.

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April 17, 2002

Lurie: Osama bin Laden Is Dead

from the news-of-the-world dept.

Ranan Lurie has an opinion piece in today's L.A. Times where he speculates that Osama bin Laden is dead. He reasons that, given the imperatives of Middle Eastern leadership, which place a premium on developing and maintaining a cult of personality, bin Laden surely would have demonstrated that he is still alive in the latest round of released videotapes, had that been possible. That he is shown only in what appear to be old scenes pre-dating the 9/11 attacks says, to Lurie, that he is either horribly disfigured, deathly ill, or dead, with the last option being the most likely.

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April 14, 2002

Syberpunk's Engrish Collection

from the guilty-pleasure dept.

I'm ugly-American enough to get a kick out of Engrish (wacky English, as delivered by our good friends in Japan), and this collection from is one of the best I've seen.

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April 12, 2002

German Chancellor Sues Over Hair-Dying Allegation

from the does-he-or-doesn't-he? dept.

CNN has a story about German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder's efforts to get a court to stop a German news agency from saying he dyes his hair. The court declined to make a decision today, instead postponing its ruling until May 19. Apparently the issue is important to him because some conservative opponents have suggested that the 58-year-old's alleged hair dying reflects poorly on his trustworthiness.

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