Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In Memoriam

Syndicated American columnist Molly Ivins holds the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2005 she received from the International Womens Media Foundation, in New York. Best-selling author and columnist Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

(Photo - AP / Henny Ray Abrams)

Culture Wars

Hérouxville has one immigrant family in its 1,300 population (Photo - Getty)

A rural Québec town has declared itself subject to a few simple rules that "Muslims have branded shocking and insulting." Since Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, is the only name I've seen quoted anywhere, it must be admitted that precisely how many Muslims are offended remains hazy at best.

Here's a sampling of the offending declaration :

"We consider it completely outside norms to... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc." It also bans "Sikh children from carrying ceremonial daggers to school, even though the Supreme Court has ruled they can," but the facts are of little concern to Mr. Elmenyawi. "It set back race relations decades," he told Reuters news agency, conveniently ignoring the fact that race and religion (i.e., Islam) are two completely different things. "I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our religion."


Muslim women still have acid thrown in their faces for the crime of not properly veiling.

Muslim women are still being raped to settle tribal vendettas.

Muslim women are still being murdered in the name of family honour.

Muslim women protest regularly against their second-class status. So do non-Muslim women, in fact.

Mr. Elmenyawi should take some time to consider that not everybody wants to live as a Muslim. He should also consider that in a good number of non-Muslim lands, including China (many, many centuries ago in fact), humanity has adopted the attitude that religions (ALL of them) should remain in the sphere of personal belief. It's called secularism (which, incidentally, protects the rights of Muslims to keep their religion), or in French laïcité. (Oops! I meant here.) There is nothing in the declaration saying that Muslims are not welcomed : it is simply saying that if Muslims (and Sikhs - or don't their rights count for anything when compared to "Islam and your religion," Mr. E?) want to live in Hérouxville, they must agree to live according to these simple rules. Religious dogma is not license to emulate tenth century mercenaries whenever you feel your cultural or religious sensibilities have been affronted. And if you don't like the rules, feel free to practice your beliefs elsewhere.
Most Québécois and Québécoises don't pay much attention to the Vatican any more either. Despite the fact that they still call themselves Catholics, it's now a cultural identity instead of the theocracy it used to be. So why should a state which has struggled mightily to rid itself of centuries of religious domination and establish a secular way of life, why should this state now offer Muslims special dispensations it isn't preapared to offer anybody else? Answer : it shouldn't.

For all you French readers out there, here's a tidy overview of the evolution of Québec's laïcité from Paul Bégin, the province's former Minister of Justice :

Finalement, on en est venu à connaître des États où les religions ne jouent plus, directement ou indirectement, de rôle officiel auprès des dirigeants de ces États, ni dans leurs décisions ni dans leurs institutions. La séparation des Églises et de l'État est chose faite.

You can read the whole letter here, Mr. Elmenyawi.

[Update le 5 février, 1400h]
Le Congrès islamique canadien, le Forum musulman canadien et la Fédération canado-arabe sont en train de préparer une plainte devant la Commission des droits de la personne relativement à cette affaire.

La municipalité est accusée d'incitation à la haine et au racisme et de « jeter de l'huile sur le feu ».

[1730h] Féderation canado-arabe ne partage plus de cela : l'article maintenant cite seulement les deux autres.

What was that about "false stereotypes" again?

A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.


Don't Pull That Plug

An Oscar-nominated film based on the plight of Hindu widows is to be released in India seven years after it created huge controversy. Director Deepa Mehta, an Indian-born Canadian citizen, was forced by Hindu fundamentalists to stop shooting the movie, Water, in the town of Varanasi.

The third of Deepa Mehta's "Elements" trilogy, the film is set in the holy city of Varanasi in the 1930s and depicts the lives of Hindu widows. Even today many Hindu widows in India lead difficult lives, especially in small towns and rural areas where remarrying is looked down upon.

Often disowned by their families, they are forced to beg and resort to other desperate means to survive. Ms Mehta shot some of the film in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh with Bollywood actresses Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das but had to stop midway following protests from Hindu fundamentalists.

In 2000 they ransacked the movie set, arguing that the film tarnished the city and denigrated Hindu traditions.

Never mind the fact that Hindu traditions denigrate women. Freedom of religion! Meanwhile, across the way...

Police in southern Pakistan have arrested six men in connection with the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl. The girl's family say the rape was in revenge for her cousin eloping with a female relative of the accused.

The victim's father filed a complaint the same day in Ubaro police station, saying a group of 11 men had kidnapped his daughter, raped her and forced her to walk home naked. Although police initially expressed scepticism over the attack, rape was confirmed in a medical examination carried out on Tuesday, following which the girl left hospital in Sukkur.

On Wednesday, hundreds of political activists and locals blocked the national highway that links Karachi's port to the north of the country for more than two hours in protest at the incident.

Faith Healing

Do you have Restless Leg Syndrome?

How about insomnia?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome?


Come on. You've got to have something wrong with you. Most of us come away from watching drug ads -- about 16 hours a year -- thinking just that. We then go running to our doctors asking for the magic pill, nasal spray or shot.

Although most ads made some factual claims, a study indicates that 95 percent of them made emotional appeals, showing "characters that have lost control over their social, emotional or physical lives without the medication."

Say "No" to drugs...
but not ours, the other guy's.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Healing Faith

PARIS: A report issued Monday by a government-appointed panel recommended that France adopt a charter to keep religious traditions and beliefs out of its hospitals and other institutions.

Far softer than a 2004 law that banned Muslim head scarves and other "ostentatious" religious signs from public classrooms, the proposed charter is, like the head scarf law, an effort to ensure the secular nature of France.

In May, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin asked the High Council on Integration to prepare recommendations to ensure secularism in public institutions. It submitted its proposal for a charter on Monday.

Male doctors, particularly in maternity wards, say they are increasingly subject to insults, even blows, most often by men opposed to nudity or physical contact with their wives and daughters.

The conviction last week of Fouhad Ben Moussa highlighted the issue. He pulled Jean-François Oury, head of the maternity ward of Robert Debré Hospital in Paris, from a hospital room in September and slapped him after the doctor examined his wife, who had hemorrhaged after giving birth, according to court testimony.

The National Congress of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians, unusually, issued a statement in October asking, "Do gynecologists and obstetricians now need police protection to practice?"

The statement affirmed that male and female doctors would treat patients "whatever their sex," and said it was the woman who had freedom "to determine contraception, abortion, sterilization without the opinion of her husband."

No word yet on whether doctors will still be allowed to pray over patients whenever surgeries go awry.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Go For Gold

China is determined the Olympic Games will be a triumph (Photo -AP)

Chinese authorities have warned government and Olympic officials not to indulge in corrupt or immoral behaviour during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The city's Communist Party boss warned officials not to have their energies "dissipated by wine and women".

BEIJING, Jan 29 (Reuters Life!)
Treadmills are run-of-the-mill - Luo Lan wants the Chinese masses to pole dance instead. As manager of Beijing's first pole dancing school, Luo says she is trying to make exercise fun - and not morally corrupt anyone in a country where this kind of dancing is associated with seedy bars and sex is still a taboo topic.

How likely is it these games will turn into a repeat of last year's World Cup in Germany, where "as many as 40,000 sex workers" showed up to help handle the increased demand? Or better yet, will the Chinese cordon off a little corner of the Olympic Park and take a hint from the Italians?

A park where passionate young couples can have sex freely is set to open. They will pay £2 to enter the park in the southern port of Bari and £1 for every 30 minutes they stay.

That's not free.

Sex, Drugs & All-out Profiteering

They are concerned about continuing to invest in a country where the government cannot provide a basic guarantee for the safety of their assets," the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers' Association (Prema) said.

Still on the subject of sex and drugs, the above citation is, of course, in response to Thailand's health ministry, which "approved the production of cheaper versions of patented anti-Aids and heart disease drugs." What are these people, crazy? The lives of people suffering thanks to their own degenerate ways are nothing compared with profits. Let's see how long before the Thai government is convinced to reconsider this ridiculous, bleeding-heart decision.

Mapping Family Planning

Map Courtesy UN/BBC

After the last pope "compared abortion [with] the Holocaust... say[ing] both are the result of governments clashing with divine law," it only seems fitting that the current pontiff's stance "has raised concerns in the European Union about the loss of rights for women."

But obviously Europeans don't seem too interested in offering any serious resistance. Even in ostensibly secular countries women must still demonstrate their "state of distress" (Belgium and France), "must receive [state-regulated] counselling three days before the inform them that the unborn have a right to life and to try to convince her to continue her pregnancy," (Germany) or obtain parental permission if they're under the age of 18 (Italy). Make sure to keep taking them birth control pills and an ample supply of condoms on hand, might be a while.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bombs Away

(Photo - AP)
India says it is to build an aerospace defence command aimed at preventing possible attacks from space. In the wake of China's test, in which a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile was used to destroy a weather satellite, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a "weapons free outer space".

How better to ensure a "weapons free" world than to keep up with the Joneses? "Russia will build four nuclear power reactors in India under a draft deal signed by their two leaders," according to a story from last Thursday. Don't hold your breath for a peaceful resolution to anything any time soon.

Trigger Happy

(AP) An analysis of state records show the roughly 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry hidden guns included 1,400 who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 with outstanding warrants, 128 named in active domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The newspaper said it found that concealed weapons permits have soared from roughly 25,000 in 1987, the first year carrying a concealed gun was legal in Florida, to more than 410,000.

...the newspaper obtained the state's concealed weapons permit list shortly before state lawmakers sealed it from public scrutiny...

Of course, the NRA said responsibility lies squarely with "bleeding-heart, criminal-coddling judges and prosecutors," not a national addiction to firearms.

Mass Mobilization

Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq and the new strategy is designed to do just that. -White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe

Thanks to Joe Tresh.

Thanks to Alexis Fisher.

Thanks to clockwerks.

United for Peace and Justice has posted these and 300+ other photos here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pinkos On The March

Now it's time for action. Join CODEPINK in a national march to D.C. on January 27-29, to send a strong, clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration: The people of this country want the war and occupation in Iraq to end and we want the troops home now!

Women's Call for Peace: An Urgent Appeal

We, the women of the United States, Iraq and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and the cruel attacks on civilians around the world. We've buried too many of our loved ones. We've seen too many lives crippled forever by physical and mental wounds. We've watched in horror as our precious resources are poured into war while our families' basic needs of food, shelter, education and healthcare go unmet. We've had enough of living in constant fear of violence and seeing the growing cancer of hatred and intolerance seep into our homes and communities.

This is not the world we want for ourselves or our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up - across borders - to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction.

Ninety minutes into the March, an AP report appeared in the CBC :

WASHINGTON (AP) - Thousands of anti-war protesters, energized by fresh congressional skepticism about the war in Iraq, were demanding a withdrawal of U.S. troops in a demonstration Saturday featuring a handful of celebrities such as Susan Sarandon and Jane Fonda.

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, said there has been intense interest in the rally since Bush announced he was sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. He termed the increase a "surge" aimed at quieting chaos in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The group said its Internet site received more than five million hits this month, including 650,000 on Wednesday - the day leaders held a media briefing about the protest.

Next week of course, keep an eye on the post-March spin the media will offer as a response that is sure to include skewed numbers, reports of "riots" incited by godless, promiscuous feminists who want nothing more than to undermine the foundations of the American way of life. Or else they'll respond with nothing more significant than a deafening silence.

Home Of The Brave, Not The Free[thinker]

Article VI, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution reads :

"... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

But state constitutions, obviously, are another matter altogether. Article 19, Section 1 of the Arkansas State Constitution, (under "Miscellaneous Provisions"), reads as follows:

No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.

By clicking on the link you'll see that there are others. But what's to stop any industrializing, slave-driving, free-market atheist from hiding behind devout proclamations of belief in "god" so that fleecing the teeming millions of truly believing sheep appears not as the work of the devil but as the order declared by a righteous, merciful deity?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What Church You From?

So much for God and country, at least during some in-flight showings of the Oscar-nominated movie "The Queen."

All mentions of God are bleeped out of a version of the film distributed to Delta and some other airlines. Jeff Klein, president of Jaguar Distribution, the Studio City, Calif., company that supplied the movie to the airlines earlier this month, said it was a mistake, committed by an overzealous and inexperienced employee who had been told to edit out all profanities and blasphemies.

Klein said he discovered the mistake after a London-bound Air New Zealand passenger complained. Jaguar has been sending out new, unedited copies to the airlines.

Thank (bleep) for small mercies.
And the CBC

Undercover..? Check. Underwear..? Don't Need 'Em

VICTORIAN Premier Steve Bracks has defended the state's prostitution laws after it was revealed private investigators were having sex with prostitutes to prove the case against illegal brothels. Legal confusion over how much evidence is needed before a court has forced at least six Melbourne councils to send in private investigators to buy sex at illegal brothels.

Australia sounds like a mess. Ban smoking, all kinds of illegal bars spring up. Legalize prostitution, compulsively investigate illegal brothels. Must be all that living upside down.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let The Games Begin

From the BBC :

Climate change, the rise of Asia and the next web revolution will dominate the agenda when the World Economic Forum starts on Wednesday in Davos.

More than 30 trade ministers will meet on the sidelines in the hope of reviving stalled global trade talks. Among the business leaders at this year's World Economic Forum will be the bosses of more than 70 of the world's 100 largest companies.

They will be joined by technology pioneers, social entrepreneurs running not-for-profit companies, and campaigners from organisations like Greenpeace, Oxfam and Islamic Relief.

As for this year's theme of The Shifting Power Equation, Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, had this to say :

"Globalization offers people everywhere great opportunities for enhanced freedom and prosperity. To release the positive forces of globalization, we must reduce global imbalances in public finances and world trade.... I have no doubt that with the right conditions in place, all people have the chance to become winners of globalization."

Check out the differences in the responses recorded in the two surveys entitled "Voice of the Leaders" and the "Voice of the People." ...More fun than laughing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Finally, Some Good News!

To scientists, he is the world's happiest man. His level of mind control is astonishing and the upbeat impulses in his brain are off the scale.

Now Matthieu Ricard, 60, a French academic-turned-Buddhist monk, is to share his secrets to make the world a happier place. The trick, he reckons, is to put some effort into it. In essence, happiness is a "skill" to be learned.

"The mind is malleable," Mr Ricard told The Independent on Sunday yesterday. "Our life can be greatly transformed by even a minimal change in how we manage our thoughts and perceive and interpret the world. Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time."

Getting closer...

The Numbers Don't Lie

(Photo - Reuters)

The Vatican's attorney general Nicola Picardi released the astounding statistic at the start of 2007: The tiny nation's justice department in 2006 had to contend with 341 civil and 486 criminal cases. In a population of 492, that measures out to 1.5 cases per person -- twenty times the corresponding rate in Italy.

By this measurement at least, crime is soaring in the Vatican in spite of a security force that would put a police state to shame. The seat of the Catholic Church has one Swiss guard for every four citizens, not to mention museum guards and police assigned to the Vatican by Italy.

And this comes from a der Spiegel story called "Is the Vatican a Rogue State?" That news organization, incidentally, is native to the current pontiff's German Fatherland. "Let us pray," said the pontiff, "for the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary."

Maybe he should think about taking up karate instead.

Armed And Dangerous

Michael Rhodes, founder of Blue Ridge Karate Club, has studied karate for 26 years [and offers] a homecoming for members of Karate for Christ in the gym of Victory Baptist Church in Buena Vista.

Karate for Christ has more than 20,000 martial arts teachers as members, said member Mark Abraham of Portsmouth. More than 400,000 people have committed to Christ through the group's ministry, according to its Web site.

If only the Prince of Peace knew what people are doing to his reputation...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cry From The Wilderness

(Photo - AFP)
I positively LOVE this story out of the BBC :

Followers of the 12 Greek Gods, who, according to mythology, ruled the Ancient World from Mount Olympus, have cast a thunderbolt at their Orthodox opponents.

"They are a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past," said Father Efstathios Kollas, the President of Greek Clergymen.

Welcome to the real world, Father.

Says Who, Brainiac?

From "The Most Popular Myths in Science" [of the 20 in the linked item] :

3. There is no gravity in space

4. Humans use only 10 per cent of their brains

7: Adults don't grow new brain cells

For a whole range of science-related topics go to ... they can't beam anybody up as yet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ladie$ Night

Here's one to keep an eye on.

A self-described "agitator’’ against feminism declared ladies nights at Colorado nightclubs dead today after prevailing in a civil rights complaint against The Proof NiteClub in southeast Denver.

Steve Horner learned Thursday that the Division of Civil Rights for the Department of Regulatory Agencies sided with him in his complaint that men were unfairly having to pay cover charges and higher drink prices than women at the Proof’s Ladies Nights.

Yeah Steve. Probably because most bar owners know from experience one drunken dick can do more property damage than a pair of Katrinas.

"I will now make it a point to visit as many ladies nights as I can every week. I’ll have my rights violated, then I’ll sue them in county court and collect my $500 (each time)," Horner said. "I feel it could net me $3,000 to $4,000 a week easy and I’m going to do it. It takes me five minutes to be discriminated against."

Does this mental defective have more money than unresolved issues?

Horner, a 59-year-old corporate speaker, says he’s been on an anti-feminist crusade since his wife left him with two young children several years ago...

That's better.

Who Needs Credentials?

Tragedy in the nation's capital : pastor snubs both church and state!


The town of Bancroft, and its surrounding communities, are reeling today after the bombshell dropped that a popular United Church minister ignored her credentials being revoked four years ago, and then went on to conduct dozens of marriages that were never legally registered.

"My son and daughter-in-law want the date of their wedding to be legally recognized by the province -- for their sake and for their child's sake," the Bancroft-area woman-of-the-groom said. "But, right now, they are at a loss as to what to do. Everyone is simply in shock."

"Peterborough Presbytery and Bay of Quinte Conference also said that I should never have been ordained. Once again, they are correct. To that end, I am instructing the United Church of Canada to revoke my ordination."

Uhh, Maggi... they did that in 2001. But I'm interested in the one question the journalist who wrote the story didn't seem too interested in asking : What about all those people who are, obviously, living in sin? Will they be joining their pastor in hell as punishment for believing her in the first place?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Going Under

In Australia people just don't know what to do with themselves these days. For example, what has an all-out ban on smoking led to in Tasmania, "the first state to place a blanket ban on smoking in bars 12 months ago"?

...a spate of backyard establishments. With the rest of Australia having brought in, or in the process of bringing in, their own smoke-free laws, the number of illegal, unlicensed drinking houses was expected to spread, said AHA national executive director Bill Healey.

"It's an illegal activity no different from drug-pushing. We want it nipped in the bud as quickly as possible," said Healey. Australian Hotels Association, Tasmanian manager Daniel Hanna said, "The situation is setting the scene for irresponsible drinking, drink-driving and the sale of alcohol to minors."

Maybe all those people who told you pot only leads to harder drugs were onto something.

The Joke's On You

A court in Casablanca has given two Moroccan journalists suspended sentences of three years for defaming Islam and breaching public morality. The journalists' weekly magazine, Nichane, had published an article entitled How Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics.

The journalists said the jokes they published were in common usage. The prosecutor had urged sentences of three to five years, saying journalists must balance liberties and responsibilities.

Their article had featured jokes about God, the prophets and the Moroccan king, which deeply insulted many ordinary Moroccans and their religion, says the BBC's Richard Hamilton in Casablanca.

It's amazing how thin-skinned Omnipotence can be and how diligently human beings must protect him from... ink.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bilingualism, Brains And Bromides

From Reuters, here's a conclusion anybody with half a brain could have come up with on their own, but in English-speaking Canada takes a study :

Researchers said the extra effort involved in using more than one language appeared to boost blood supply to the brain and ensure nerve connections remained healthy -- two factors thought to help fight off dementia.

Friday, January 12, 2007

School Daze

"Please sir, can I have some food? It's lunchtime."

"Ok Timmy."

"Thank you sir."

"Go on over to that constable and give him a copy of your prints first. And try not get any ink on your nice white shirt."

"But why?"

"Because we adults know what's best for you children. Now off you go."

"Thank you sir."

If It's Broke, Don't Fix It

...America will change our strategy...
to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence—and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

How does sending more troops constitute a change in strategy or solve a problem that the first batch of troops created? For annotations of W.'s entire speech go to Common Dreams.

The Great Fish Flush

The Fish 'n Flush is a clear two-piece toilet tank that replaces a standard toilet tank, with a see-through aquarium wrapping itself around a conventional toilet tank.

About time.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oil Me Up... I'm Goin' In

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Little More, Please

Some surveys in America show that public speaking is the number one phobia. The fear of death is number seven!

Friends, if this sounds like you [notwithstanding the Grim Reaper's anomalously poor showing] then we've got just the solution for you. It proved the most cost-effective, de-stressifying solution of them all, according to a study at the University of Paisley.

...having sex may be the best way to prepare for giving a speech.

They needed a study?!?! Well, it was conducted in Great Britain.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Little Perspective, Please

On October 13, 1994, the famous astronomer Carl Sagan was delivering a public lecture at his own university of Cornell. During that lecture, he presented this photo :

The photo above was taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it sailed away from Earth, more than 4 billion miles in the distance. From Voyager's vast distance, the Earth was captured as a infinitesimal point of light (between the two white tick marks), actually smaller than a single pixel of the photo.

The avowed agnostic that Sagan was, his speech went something like this :

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

What Does Nature Know?

Here's a news flash from the BBC for all you Earthlings who mistakenly assumed we've been eating great while astronauts and the crew of the Starship Enterprise have been dining on rat's asshole.

[Click here for the North American version.]

There is no evidence organic food is better for you than conventional food, minister David Miliband has said.

The environment secretary said organic food was more of a "lifestyle choice that people can make".

There is no "conclusive evidence either way" concerning the health effects of pesticides, he told the Sunday Times.

Oh Deer

"The Deer Commission for Scotland estimates that up to 10,000 deer are killed every year on the roads," reports the BBC. And so the most logical solution according to some people is...? ... a cull of Scotland's deer population.

Isn't that kind of like Charles Lamb's Chinaman, who burned down the house trying to roast a pig?

What Virgin?

(Photo - AP)
A North Carolina artist intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line.

The painting has gotten much attention from celebrity web sites and blogs. Since the buzz started, the number of daily unique visitors to Kate Kretz's own blog has jumped from an average of 30 to 15,000 on Wednesday.

The painting is for sale for $50,000 through Chelsea Galleria in Miami, which represents Kretz.

Angelina should sue Kretz's sorry ass : she's no virgin.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Come Here Often?

I told you we were missing a couple of pages!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Home, Battered Home

Undated NASA composite image shows a fully dark (city lights) full disk image centered on the North Pole. (Photo - AFP/NASA-HO/File)

From Common Dreams, perhaps a little good news...

Researchers from some 60 countries will try to better understand the Earth's poles in 2007 and the effect of climate change as part of the first "International Polar Year" since the 1950s. "Close to 60 percent of what is known about the polar regions, particularly the Arctic, comes from research carried out in 1958," said Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network on the Arctic. "The difference today is that the new polar year will occur in the context of global warming," Fortier told AFP.

Then from the BBC, a little bit of bad : 2007 to be "warmest on record." Once the summertime Polar Ice Cap is gone, in another 90 years or so, the linked photograph will be a collector's item. I'm stuffing one into my time capsule right now.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Britney Spears is commissioning a nude portrait of herself.

This from the woman who... "has been pictured four times not wearing any underwear"?

In an unrelated story, Britney's new best friend, "PARIS HILTON, turned down the chance to have a sex doll made in her image -- because the idea freaked her out."

This from the woman who... starred in "1 Night in Paris"?

Feminism, Fashionistas And Freakouts

(Photo - AFP)
...concerns about sex outside marriage have kept most from going as far as secular schools in mixing genders in dorms. While it's not unheard of for Christian colleges to have opposite genders on different floors of the same dorm, most opt for separation by wing or even building...

...Oops!! That's a story from the Christian Science Monitor, in which [in 2007, mind you] "Not all parents oppose students cohabitating on campus." Sorry.

The story that goes with the picture, on Iran's fashion police :

For the first time live models have been allowed to appear in a fashion show in post-revolutionary Iran. According to the law, a woman who does not cover her hair and body in public can be fined or imprisoned for up to two months. But many of the women on the streets of Tehran do indeed look more like Western fashion models than the models on the catwalk. In skimpy tight overcoats and high heeled shoes and token headscarves perched on the back of their dyed hair, they are what the authorities call "western dolls".

Hot stuff.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Darwin, Wherefore Art Thou?

As of Dec. 30, 122 people had been killed while walking on South Carolina's roads. That's up more than 25 percent from 2005...

In almost a third of the deaths, the official cause was listed as "lying illegally in road."

The Truth may be free, but "lying in the road" Permits will cost ya.

Mmm... You Can Really Taste The Goat

A Swedish straw goat frequently attacked by vandals over the Christmas period has been taken down - unharmed - at the end of festivities. The 13m goat in the city of Gavle survived Christmas for only the 11th time.

The 2006 goat was flameproofed ... (Photo - AP) ... the 2005 goat was not.

Goats of Christmas past have been burned down on 22 occasions, ram-raided or simply smashed to pieces. Authorities said the goat's longevity in 2006 was down to a special flame-resistant chemical coating. In 2005, arsonists dressed as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man burned the goat to the ground... Gavle's Christmas goat was first installed in the town's central square in 1966. Some have been burnt down within hours of being erected during the first week of December.

A trojan goat full of explosives would make things interesting.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Asses To The Future

Yet again, a story that has outlived its usefulness, this time in what calendrites once called 2006 :

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday [June 13, 2006].

Only this time the story is more friendly because there's more to it than the familiar we own this motherfucker and anybody who gets in the way is gonna get what's coming to 'em approach. God save our land, glorious and free...

Canadian Space Agency officials are hoping a Canadian will be part of an international team that could be living on the moon within 20 years... The project involves drilling holes on the moon, "Why not!" exclaims Alain Berinstain, the Canadian Space Agency's director, "in Canada, we're good at making holes in the ground and bringing stuff up ... we do that already every day and we do it well..."

NASA must be banking on the fact that we have a genetic pre-disposition for settling near oil patches, tar sands and off-shore deposits. Just so they know, however, the off-shore variety might be difficult to find on the Moon.

New York, New Year, Old Times

Reaching way back into last year's story archives (*See Arctic Melt), here's something from good old Mother Jones :

Does ExxonMobil Pay the New York Times a Premium to Run Ads Next to Global Warming Stories?

So I've noticed this is a pattern with ExxonMobil, which seems to always just happen to run a corporate responsibility ad next to NYT op-eds and stories that have to do with global warming. So is the NYT ad sales staff selling against this content? Does ExxonMobil have a standing request to place ads next to global warming content? Or is it all a coincidence?

Not likely if the Union of Concerned Scientists is to be believed.


Lake Superior State University on Sunday released its annual "List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness." Critics piled on the media's practice of combined celebrity names such as "TomKat" or "Brangelina." One said, "It's so annoying, idiotic and so lame and pathetic that it's lamethetic."

Other lucky winners include the real estate industry's over-use of "boast," the advertising industry's "ask your doctor" and Stephen Colbert's "truthiness."

The University, however, is banking on its reputation. Having compiled the list as far back as 1976, and closing in on its one-thousandth official catch-phrase train wreck, this year they managed to restrain themselves :

"A total of 16 words or phrases were selected by a university committee from more than 4,500 nominations," according to the Associated Press.

2007..."Mooove Over 2006"

US body backs sale of cloned food

Meat and milk from cloned animals is safe for human consumption, the US food regulator said in a draft ruling. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that cloned cattle, pigs and goats produced food "as safe as the food we eat every day".

The agency suggested that the results meant it would be unlikely to recommend placing special labels on food from cloned animals. But consumer groups were less keen on the ruling, which could see the US become the first country to allow cloned food products into the food supply. ... .. . .. (Photo - AP)

If the meat is really safe as the US authorities claim, why can't they label it and allow consumers to decide?

-Padma Rao, Singapore

In an unrelated story*, US and Japanese scientists claim they have used genetic engineering to produce cattle that resist mad cow disease. It is hoped the cattle can be the source of herds that can provide dairy products, gelatin and other products free of the brain-destroying disease...

* Under current regulations, selling food from cloned animals is forbidden in Canada. -CBC