Archive for June, 2002

Chinese Newspaper Fooled by Onion Article

Friday, June 7th, 2002

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?”

Fired Coach Really Did Have Two Degrees

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the who-you-gonna-believe? dept.

Whoa. Tom Collen, you’ll remember, is that coach who was recently forced to resign a day after he was named as Vanderbilt’s new women’s basketball coach. Reporters had discovered that the resume from his previous job listed him as having two degrees, while the resume he submitted to Vanderbilt, and the transcript from his alma mater, Miami of Ohio, only listed one degree. The folks at Vanderbilt assumed this was evidence that Collen had lied in order to get his previous job, and ousted him on the basis of the supposed dishonesty. But it turns out now that he really did have two degrees all along; Miami of Ohio made a mistake on his transcript. Meanwhile, the people at Vanderbilt have hired a new head coach, and stand by their decision to replace Collen. “We’re going to be moving forward,” said Mike Schoenfeld, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public relations. “We’re going to look like idiots either way, so we’d just as soon brazen it out and pretend we didn’t do anything wrong, rather than trying to correct our mistake.”

White House: Brazilian President’s Story of Dubya Gaffe ‘Total Crap’

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the can-they-say-that? dept.

So, did the White House actually say that Brazilian President Cardoso’s account of a really clueless dubya comment (betraying ignorance of the fact that yes, Brazil has a large black population) was “total crap“? So says the Washington Post, quotation marks and everything. Which means, what, it was an Ari Fleischer statement? Anyone have anything more on the story?

Falwell Denounces ABC’s Bleeping of ‘Jesus’

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the Jesus,-what-next? dept.

On a recent episode of ABC’s “The View” (a daytime chat show), one of the on-air personalities, Joy Behar, said of her having ended televised weigh-ins as part of an ongoing diet feature, “Yes, and thank you, thank you, Jesus, is all I have to say.” ABC ran the statement uncut in the show’s live broadcast, but when us poor relations on the West Coast saw the tape-delayed version, the word “Jesus” had been bleeped out. Which would be a perfectly good story in and of itself, but then it gets an extra layer: televangelist Jeffy Falwell has apparently objected to the bleeping, though I’m not sure why. According to the AP story on the incident, “Falwell, in a newspaper column, said he believed ABC’s action was wrong. What makes it worse, he said, is that many cable television networks are habitually blasphemous.” Huh? But see, they bleeped the word precisely because they were worried that its use as a casual exclamation would offend peckerheads like him. I tried to track down the column in which he made the statement, but after several minutes of plowing through his words of wisdom at (plus an entertaining detour through I gave up. If any of you happen to come across it, would you let me know? Thanks. Update: Lucy tracked it down for me. Here’s Falwell’s column, where he (of course) intentionally misconstrues ABC’s action as being part of a blanket erasing of the word “Jesus” from all broadcasts, ignoring that the network uses it all the time to actually refer to Jesus, and only has a policy of bleeping its use as an irreligious exclamation. That guy is such a pud whack.

Winona Back in Court

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the when-celebrities-go-bad,-part-II dept.

Winona Ryder’s preliminary hearing resumed yesterday, with five witnesses testifying as to her behavior during her alleged shoplifting spree. The defense was pretty low-key, limiting itself to some sarcastic questions of store security guards (“And do you get a lot of homeless people wearing three-quarter-length cashmere coats?”), and then alleging almost (but not quite?) perjury in comments to reporters on the courthouse steps. Anyway, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence for a trial, so the fun will continue.

Woody Harrelson Arrested After London Taxi Chase

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the when-celebrities-go-bad,-part-I dept.

Yay! Another celebrity has had a run-in with the law under weird circumstances. Specifically, actor Woody Harrelson (Cheers, Natural Born Killers, White Men Can’t Jump) apparently got into a disagreement with a London cabbie involving a broken ashtray and a damaged door, then jumped out of the cab and into another, leading to a high-speed chase and his eventual apprehension by police. He’s now out on bail, with a hearing scheduled for July 1.

Dubya Grabs Headlines with Proposal for Homeland Security Department

Friday, June 7th, 2002

from the getting-in-front-of-the-parade dept.

Along with all the coverage of dubya’s proposal for a Cabinet-level department to handle the domestic side of the War on Terra, there are some interesting articles that discuss his real motivation in reversing his earlier stand against such a department. From the Chicago Tribune, Proposal diverts attention from intelligence failing, and from The Globe and Mail, Bush plan an effort to silence chorus of what-ifs. Dubya continues to insist (most recently, in his speech last night) that no one could have prevented the events of 9/11. Proposing a new cabinet-level department is one way to drive those arguing the opposite off the front page. But what does he do for an encore? Invade Iraq?

Britney Will Call Your Cellphone for $19.99

Thursday, June 6th, 2002

from the a-day-without-Britney-is-a-day-without…-Britney dept.

I really don’t know why Britney Spears has seeped so far into the consciousness, but there it is: I can’t help posting anything I see about Britney. Like this: an obsessed-fan package from your wireless provider that costs $19.99 and comes with a membership card, a decal, and three months’ worth of personal cellphone messages from the Goddess Herself describing everything she’s up to. I so want this, though I’m pretty sure I’d find it really, really stupid after the first couple of minutes. So I’ll just go on wanting it, which sounds way better to me, all things considered.

Beware the Candiru Menace

Thursday, June 6th, 2002

from the very-scary-fish dept.

Not exactly news, maybe, but news to me. I was reading a cool book about the schizophrenic doctor who helped create the Oxford English Dictionary (The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester), and there’s this wacky digression about the candiru, a South American fish that allegedly will follow a stream of urine through the waters of the Amazon to embed itself, via backward-pointing spines, in your urethra (ouch!). So I’m describing this to my wife, and she starts making fun of me for being such a sap as to believe such an obviously mythical story. So I turn to Google, and low and behold, the story is true. Or at least, true enough to take in the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the normally quite skeptical folks at alt.folklore.urban. The candiru has inspired any number of web sites, including some with detailed descriptions and actual photos of the little monster. And the deeper I dug into the Google links, the wackier it got: there’s candiru poetry, more candiru poetry, and a metal band named after the fish. So what was it, exactly, that we used to do for fun before we had the Web?

Conservative Republicans Take the Point on FBI/CIA Criticism

Thursday, June 6th, 2002

from the wacky-world-of-politics dept.

Ronald Brownstein at the L.A. Times (login required; cypherpunk/cypherpunk) has an interesting story about how the political assault on the FBI and CIA over missteps leading up to 9/11 is being led by an unlikely trio of senators, all of them conservative Republicans: Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. The three have a history of annoyance with federal law enforcement that dates to the Clinton/Janet Reno era. Also, I have to wonder if they’re going after FBI Director Robert S. Mueller in order to keep the blame from working its way up to Mueller’s boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is both a darling of the right and a former senator himself. My favorite quote from the article is the one where an unidentified “senior Senate Democratic strategist” says “I am more than comfortable letting the Republicans stake out this turf… It is just much, much safer.” Safer. Right. Don’t run any political risks to protect your constituents from terrorism; it’s much more important to ensure your own re-election. I know that makes me feel safer.

Woman in Nigeria Faces Stoning for Having a Child

Thursday, June 6th, 2002

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.

Scheer on Racial Profiling

Thursday, June 6th, 2002

from the evaporating-freedoms dept.

Robert Scheer had a nice piece yesterday, which, since I held off on linking to it until now, I can point to on his own site, rather than on the (grumble) registration-required L.A. Times site. Titled We’ve Had Enough Witch Hunts, it questions the wisdom of letting freedom-hating folks like John Ashcroft and Dianne Feinstein push through racial profiling as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Deep-Fried Twinkies

Wednesday, June 5th, 2002

from the gourmets-take-note dept.

Christopher Sell, an expat Brit who runs a Brooklyn restaurant called ChipShop, is making headlines with a dessert item that apparently has diners coming back in droves: deep-fried twinkies. Yum. As a bonus, if eating the sugar-cum-cholesterol explosion drives you to assassinate one or more politicians, you have a guaranteed defense, a la Dan White. Cool.

Air Force Colonel Suspended for Ridiculing Dubya

Wednesday, June 5th, 2002

from the but-what-if-the-president-really-IS-a-joke? dept.

Lt. Colonel Steve Butler was planning to retire from the Air Force in a few weeks. In a case of really bad timing, though, he didn’t wait until then to send a letter to the editor of the local newspaper ripping dubya for being an ineffectual wuss: “He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism… This guy is a joke.” Oops. Turns out that one of those things you sign away when you join the military is the right to criticize the commander-in-chief. Butler has now been suspended pending investigation into his violation of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits commissioned officers from using “contemptuous words” against the president and other political leaders. Maximum penalty: dismissal, forfeiture of all pay, and confinement for a year.

Dubya: 9/11 Could Not Have Been Prevented

Wednesday, June 5th, 2002

from the doth-protest-too-much? dept.

In a speech delivered at the National Security Administration’s headquarters yesterday, President Bush acknowledged that the CIA and FBI had failed to share important intelligence about terrorist activities prior to 9/11. He continued, though, “I’ve seen no evidence today that said this country could have prevented the attack.” Guess he wants to leave himself some wiggle room, in case more evidence surfaces tomorrow. In the meantime, it sure seems like he’s handing his political opponents a big stick. “The President says global warming will cause great hardship, but gosh, there’s just nothing that can be done to stop it. He says terrorist attacks will cost thousands of innocent Americans their lives, but gee, there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. To that I can only say, perhaps it’s time we put another team on the field, one that is willing to fight on behalf of the American people, rather than conceding defeat before the contest has even been decided.”

Winona Injures Arm. Or Maybe Not.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2002

from the same-story,-different-celebrity dept.

Actress Winona Ryder, who appeared at a preliminary hearing yesterday in connection with charges she had shoplifted and possessed painkillers without a prescription, requested, and was granted, a delay after she said that her arm had been injured while she was pushing her way through the throng of reporters surrounding the courtroom. Interestingly, her lawyer said her right elbow had been broken, but it was actually the left arm that she appeared to be cradling when she entered the courtroom. Oops. Anyway, the hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday. (Disclosure: I think Winona Ryder is way cool, even if – no, especially if – the charges against her are true. So shoot me.)

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

Tuesday, June 4th, 2002

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.

Dubya: Global Warming Caused By Humans

Tuesday, June 4th, 2002

from the but-we-still-should-keep-burning-fossil-fuels dept.

Acknowledging what it had hitherto denied (or at least swept under the needs-more-study rug), the Bush administration has issued a report that admits that global warming is real, and is the result of human activities. The report goes on, however, to say that continued global warming as a result of those activities is inevitable, so we (meaning the citizens of the world) will just have to learn to live with it, while we (meaning the citizens of the U.S.) continue to burn fossil fuel like there’s no tomorrow.

Madonna Pregnant. Or Maybe Not.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2002

from the immaculate-conception dept.

Is Madonna pregnant with her third child? Rumors started flying when she was seen having her 17-month-old son Rocco pat her tummy during a shopping excursion. Then her dad, Tony Ciccone, told a reporter that she was expecting. “We were delighted when we heard but I can’t speak about it.” Oh, hey, nice compliance on that request, dad. Anyway, now Madonna’s publicist has issued a blanket denial: “It’s completely untrue.” Sure it is.

Horny Dolphin Scares Swimmers

Tuesday, June 4th, 2002

from the intra-species-love dept.

So, what are we going to do about Georges, the overly amorous bottlenose dolphin who has been trying to mate with swimmers at the British resort of Weymouth? Ric O’Barry, a dolphin expert whose credentials include a stint as trainer on the Flipper T.V. show, has been brought in to lend his expertise, but to no avail. Personally, I think they need to fly in that guy who runs the web site. Let him and Georges go at it for a while, and I’ll bet the dolphin will swear off humans for life.