Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Le Nazi de Soupe

Not a Seinfeld reprise, and the gendarmes are not amused:

...With steaming bowls of the fragrant broth soon passing through the crowd, Odile Bonnivard, a secretary turned far-right firebrand, climbed atop a dark sedan with a megaphone in hand and led the crowd in a raucous chant: "We are all pig eaters! We are all pig eaters!"

.... Made with smoked bacon, and with pigs' ears, feet and tails, together with vegetables and sausages, the soup is meant to make a political statement: "Help our own before others."

....In other words, the soup is meant to exclude those who do not eat pork - for the most part, Muslims and Jews.

.... In December, Bonnivard said, a van of plainclothes police officers chased her soup-bearing car through the streets, and several busloads of police officers arrived to stop her group from setting up at their usual spot near the Montparnasse train station, citing "the discriminatory nature of the soup." She and her group filed an appeal.

A Paris police spokesman said the appeal is pending and would be decided "on the basis of the current regulations, in particular concerning risks to public order and incitement to racial hatred."

.... This being France, most soup kitchens provide the downtrodden with a complete French dinner, including cheese and dessert. Bonnivard's group even offers a glass of red wine with every meal.

"The only condition required for dining with us: eat pork," reads the group's Web site, which bears the image of a wanted poster for a cartoon pig in a pot framed by the words, "Wanted, Cooked or Raw, Public Disturbance No. 1."

The site adds that, "cheese, dessert, coffee, clothing and candy go with the pork soup. No soup, no dessert."

You're Welcome, Big Guy

Karl Rove says we helped:

Rove considers Memogate a watershed in the rise of the alternative media.

“The whole incident in the fall of 2004 showed really the power of the 'blogosphere',” he said in his West Wing office.

“Because in essence you had now, an army of self-appointed experts looking over the shoulder of the mainstream media and bringing to bear enormously sophisticated skills,” he added.

....Rove said Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, were gunning for the president and trying to help his challenger, Sen. John Kerry, by broadcasting the forged documents in the heat of the presidential campaign.

“From her body language and his body language, their enthusiasm for this story was in large measure fed by the belief that they were playing a constructive and perhaps determinative role in the presidential campaign,” Rove said of Mapes and Rather.

“They made a decision in this instance – I think quite prematurely and quite unfairly – to pursue a story that attacked the president,” he added. “And I thought it was, to me, one of the most incredible examples of how fundamentally unfair it was.”

Rove expressed astonishment that CBS ignored the warnings of document experts hired by the network to authenticate the National Guard memos.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

But, do they come when you call them?

Jerry Van Dyke might want to remake My Mother the Car for Brits:

London - Nearly half of motorists regularly talk to their cars, giving words of encouragement ahead of a long trip and lavishing praise for a job well done at journey's end, according to research on Monday.

A survey of 2 000 owners also found 40 percent thought their car had a personality and was capable of being upset whilst 19 percent worried about how their car was feeling.The poll, conducted by organisers of July's British International Motor Show found women rather than men tended to have a close relationship with their car. Giving a pet name to their car but not their human partners was admitted to by 20 percent of women

There's no 'i' in 'meal'?

Being a team player could have kept you from being eaten eons ago:

New computer simulations lend further support the notion that cooperation helped early humans escape becoming prey for other animals, researchers report.

The work suggests that teamwork could have given Australopithecus – a group of hominids closely related to humans – an important advantage over their cousins Paranthropus, contributing to their extinction.

.... there is hard evidence that early humans were preyed upon, such as holes in skulls that match the size of sabre-toothed cat's fangs. "Then we find that, especially in South Africa, a lot of the fossils are in these big piles in caves where predators dragged and dropped them," [say researchers]

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Fine Romance

With no kisses.

In Wales the play is not the thing:

Romeo will no longer be allowed to seal his love for Juliet with "a righteous kiss" or, indeed, any kiss at all under new guidelines for school plays drawn up by the Welsh Assembly.

The advice, which could soon be extended to the rest of the UK, says love scenes between pupils should "stop at a peck on the cheek to protect youngsters from abuse".

It goes on: "Drama teachers must cut or adapt plays if they have to in order to protect children and young people. They should not rely on arguments about the artistic integrity of the text."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

'...make me smile with my heart '

Each day is Valentine's day

It's a riot

Valentine's Day in India provides another excuse for outpourings of indignation:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hardline Hindu groups and radical Muslims burnt Valentine's Day greeting cards on Tuesday and held protests across India against celebrating the festival of love, saying it was a Western import that spread immorality.

Saint Valentine's Day has become increasingly popular in India in recent years, a trend led by retailers who do healthy business selling heart-shaped balloons and fluffy teddy bears.

But the growing popularity of the day in officially secular, but mainly Hindu India has also sparked protests which have sometimes turned violent.

On Tuesday, protests were held in the capital New Delhi, some towns in the country's south and the only Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, where an Islamic insurgency has raged since 1989.

About two dozen women separatists, veiled in black from head to toe, rummaged shops and burnt Valentine's Day cards in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, witnesses said.

"Valentine's Day spreads immorality among the youth," Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Muslim Faith), a group of women separatists, said in a statement.

"We appeal to our children to stay away from this western culture."

In Bangalore, India's technology capital, as well as Hubli town, both located in the southern state of Karnataka, groups of Hindu nationalists burnt a big heart-shaped card.

Monday, February 13, 2006

They used to be the Gallopin' Gaels

It isn't called the Kennel for nothing:

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Fans of No. 5 Gonzaga have been asked to stop yelling "Brokeback Mountain" at opposing players.

The reference to the recent movie about homosexual cowboys was chanted by some fans during Monday's game against Saint Mary's, and is apparently intended to suggest an opposing player is gay.

The chants were the subject of several classroom discussions over the past week, and the faculty advisers for the Kennel Club booster group urged students this week to avoid "inappropriate chants" during the Bulldogs' Saturday game against Stanford, which was nationally televised on ESPN.

"We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation this weekend what makes Gonzaga different," Kennel Club advisers David Lindsay and Aaron Hill wrote in a letter in the student newspaper, the Bulletin.

Well, isn't that what they were doing?

The Freshmen

Seattle's public schools invent a way to raise the average score on the sophomore level Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Wave a magic wand over the sophomores and transform them into freshmen:

One in four sophomores in Seattle Public Schools has failed so many classes that the district has "reclassified" them as freshmen.

....The 827 students districtwide can remain with their peers in classes, sports and other activities but must make up the credits in night or summer school in order to graduate on time.

The reclassification — of which parents and students were notified in recent weeks — is intended to delay the Washington Assessment of Student Learning for 10th-graders who are struggling academically. The class of 2008 is the first that must pass the WASL to graduate.

By removing hundreds of potentially low-scoring students from this spring's WASL, Seattle's WASL scores will likely increase.

But district officials say it's about making sure students are prepared for the high-stakes exam.

And...and...Ann Coulter uses the 'R' word...

Al Gore (D, Jiddah, SA) on the political comeback trail:

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Head Cold; Moscow Nights

A combination that was lucky for a hapless thief:

A man who attempted to rob a taxi has survived after the driver stabbed him in the head with a knife.

Samuit Ibragimov, 23, took a taxi and demanded cash from the driver threatening him with a gas gun. However, the driver snapped up a folding knife and stabbed the hapless robber in the head, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported on Friday.

Ibragimov rushed out of the taxi with the knife still stuck in his head and was noticed by a police patrol. However, policemen were unable to detain him immediately. The man was hiding from the police about half an hour. He even got frostbite on his fingers because outdoor temperatures in Moscow have fallen to almost to —30 Celcius in recent days.

Finally, Ibragimov was caught and taken to hospital. The surprised surgeon drew out the knife very slowly after fixing the patient’s carotid. The knife was stabbed 10 centimeters deep but did not hit the brain nor blood vessels.

The physicians quoted by the paper explained that the heavy frost had not let the blood vessels widen. Now, Ibragimov is safe.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rascally Romanian Royal; RIP

Before there was Paris Hilton, celebrity news was usually made by royalty:

HRH Prince Carol of Romania, who has died aged 86, spent much of his life in the quest to prove his legitimacy.

His paternity was never in doubt. He was the son of Crown Prince Carol of Romania (later King Carol II) and Jeanne Marie (Zizi) Lambrino, an aristocratic Romanian girl whom the future King had married in contravention of the rules of the Royal House.

Carol's birth caused grave problems. His father was the eldest son and heir of King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie (daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh - later Duke of Saxe-Coburg - and thus a granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The Crown Prince was handsome and intelligent, but not without an element of instability in his character. He was also highly sexed, some believing that he suffered from satyriasis. Anatomical descriptions, when overheard, were mistaken for descriptions of the Eiffel Tower.

As the result of being trained by a socialistic Swiss tutor, doubts were sown in his mind about the merits of royal life. Madly in love with Zizi, he took her over the Russian border from Jassy, thus effectively deserting from the Army, a crime punishable by death. The pair were married in Odessa on September 14 1918. The Crown Prince's mother, Queen Marie, described the crisis as "a staggering family tragedy which hit us suddenly, a stunning blow for which we were entirely unprepared".

A week later Queen Marie had the Crown Prince confined in a monastery, while his bride returned to Jassy, feverishly searching for an announcement of her wedding. Then King Ferdinand forced an annulment in January 1919 at Bucharest. But Carol remained attached to Zizi, who was by now expecting his child.

Whose death is the subject of this obituary. Read it for a story that should have been a film starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman...with a bit role for Magda Lupescu.

If you can't say something nice...really, really nice...

Your congressman might put his foot in his mouth. In Washington state:

Our story begins last summer when Kevin Nelson of Centralia College sent a typed, four-sentence letter to Congressman Brian Baird, a Democrat from the Vancouver area. The lawmaker and his wife had awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the student, a spokeswoman for Baird said. Nelson put the amount at $500. Whichever the amount, he was grateful.

"I would like to thank you for your generous scholarship," Nelson wrote. "These funds will greatly assist me in my pursuit of higher education. ... The money I save will go toward my goal of attending business school and law school. Thank you again."

The letter of appreciation apparently didn't satisfy Baird, who fired back a missive that raised eyebrows, mine included.

"Your note, a copy of which is attached, was quite frankly, not very impressive to say the least," the congressman said, blasting the well-meaning young man.

...."Perhaps you have not been given instruction in how to write formal letters, but let us suggest that you learn," Baird wrote in his December reply. He said Nelson should have penned gratitude on "some form of nice card" or letterhead.

"What is more," Baird piled on, "if you wish to advance in life, it will behoove you to learn how to draft a truly thoughtful and expressive letter."

.... "When someone contributes rather generously and selflessly to your benefit," Baird wrote, "you owe them a sincere and heartfelt expression of gratitude."

Say, like Jack Abramoff would do?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No Blood for Oil?

Tell it to the terrorists:

Iraq's insurgency is receiving millions of dollars from smuggling oil through a network of supporters working in its oil industry, the government and American officials say.

The director of an oil storage plant near Kirkuk was arrested with several of his employees and charged with helping to orchestrate a mortar attack on the plant last week.

The bombardment resulted in a huge pipeline fire that shut down all oil operations in the area. The attack is believed to have been launched after anti-corruption agents uncovered insurgent thefts being orchestrated from the plant.

Ali Allawi, the finance minister,.... highlighted the situation at a northern oil refinery near Baiji where insurgents were found to have infiltrated senior management positions and tapped the pipeline for their own use. ....

Iraq's commission on public integrity announced that Meshaan al-Jaburi, a Sunni member of parliament, had been charged with stealing millions of pounds intended for pipeline protection and funnelling a portion of the money to rebel groups.

....Mr Jaburi fled the country before an arrest warrant was issued and is believed to be in Syria.

You’ll take my beer when you pry it from my cold dead fingers?

Self-image doubts are surfacing in Denmark:

Danes tend to regard their nation as a paragon of reason and liberalism, pointing to the many immigrants it has accepted in recent decades, its willingness to take part in peacekeeping but not combat, and the presence of Danish aid workers in some of the world's most wretched places.

But Muslims in Denmark — 200,000 of the country's 5.4 million people — often see a much different image. They complain of being discriminated against and being denied jobs because of their religion. Many were distressed by statements by Queen Magrethe II in an official biography last year.

There is "something scary about such totalitarianism that is also part of Islam," she said. "Resistance must sometimes be shown, although one risks getting a not-so-flattering label."

.... the comments added to tensions for Muslims in a country where the prevailing secularity, liberal sexual mores and affection for beer are deeply at odds with Islam.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Blue (Man Group) Monday

In Seattle, it's sick of referees day, so at least there's a legit excuse:

Today, the first Monday in February, is "national sickie day" - when bosses are most likely to discover that staff have stayed at home.

The main reasons, a poll says, are likely to be increasing workload combined with a dissatisfaction with the perceived small amount of holiday entitlement employees are given.

Unwilling to sacrifice a paid holiday day so soon in the year, workers are apparently resorting to less official options.

Psychologists say that post-Christmas blues, burn-out and the seemingly distant summer all contribute to people needing to take a "home holiday".

The survey of more than 4,000 full-time employees for Sky Travel found that seven people in 10 would choose a Monday for a sneaky day off and that most opted for the first Monday in February.

Almost one in five considers it "appropriate" to tell the boss by text message.

Those who choose to face their managers employ their acting skills, with 28 per cent pretending to cough and splutter in the office before their sick day and 55 per cent carrying on with the act after their return.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Head First

One less nuisance for Portland, Oregon to worry about:

Stew Albert, one of the creators of People’s Park, a former editor of the Berkeley Barb and a founder of the Youth International Party—the Yippies—died Monday at his home in Portland, Ore.

He was 66, and an unreconstructed radical to the end.

According to longtime friend and almost-codefendant Paul Krassner, Albert died of liver cancer.

....Albert achieved his greatest notoriety during the Republican National Convention in 1968, when he and other members of the Yippies ran a counter-presidential campaign with Pigasus as their chosen standard-bearer.

Fellow Yippie Krassner, a satirist who now lives in Desert Hot Springs, said that he and Albert were originally slated to be prosecuted as defendants in what became known as the trial of the Chicago Seven, radicals charged with crossing state lines for the purpose of conspiring to incite protesters to riot at the convention.

Krassner said Albert may have been the first to have had his head smashed by a Chicago lawman during what was later characterized as a “police riot” by politicians and the media.

Super Omen


In addition to Condi Rice picking Pittsburgh to win, Seattle radio station KTTH's top of the hour news, this morning reported that Trader Joe's has run out of Tofurkey, as thousands of veggans prepare for their Super Bowl LX parties.

Oddsmakers, prior to this news, had the team from Tofurkey-eatersland as 4-1/2 point underdogs to the men from the Steel City.


(Update) Now the Seabirds have Martha Stewart to contend with:

So most of the pundits are predicting that the Pittsburgh Steelers will stomp all over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

At least we've got America's most domestic diva on our side. Martha Stewart, who was teaching NFL players and twins Tiki and Ronde Barber how to make chili on her show, said she's rooting for the Seahawks.

Why? "I like Seattle," she said.

Plus, she added, team owner Paul Allen is a pal, and it's good to support friends.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Got Plenty of Mutton?

Here's the man with plenty of time on his hands to sell it for you:

Prince Charles is launching a special club dedicated to mutton.

Charles's new industry-wide organisation has been set up to bring together those who produce, process and sell the meat.

Mutton has undergone a revival in the food industry since the heir to the throne began championing it several years ago.

The Mutton Renaissance Club will gather at the Ritz for its first meeting - a black tie dinner to sample some of the mutton dishes on offer.

....It follows on from the Mutton Renaissance Campaign - a joint effort by the National Sheep Association and the Academy of Culinary Arts launched by the Prince two years ago to put the meat back on the menu.

Earlier this week, Charles cited mutton as his favourite food when asked by a group of school children.

"It's an older type of sheep. When I was your age I lived off mutton and I can't tell you how wonderful caper sauce is," he told them.

The Birds

Bird-brained liberals in Seattle aren't the only casualties of drink:

VIENNA, Austria -- Experts who conducted tests on 40 songbirds found dead in Vienna say they didn't die of bird flu as initially feared, but slammed into windows after becoming intoxicated from eating fermented berries.

The birds - whose remains were carefully examined to ensure they were not victims of avian influenza - had livers so diseased "they looked like they were chronic alcoholics," Sonja Wehsely, a spokeswoman for Vienna's veterinary authority, told Austrian television Thursday.

All died of broken necks after slamming into windowpanes, apparently after gorging themselves on berries that had begun to rot, turning the juice inside to alcohol, Wehsely said. She said the juice probably continued to ferment as the birds digested the berries, causing them to become disoriented and fly into the panes.

Driven To Drink

By W, in Blue Seattle. It's think illogically, drink liberally:

Toward the end of the speech, it sounded as if several members of the group were suffering from a unique, left-wing strain of Tourette's syndrome.

"You (blank)!"

"God, I wish he would shut the (blank) up!"

It was a special night for the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally, a group of left-leaning folks who meet weekly at the Montlake Ale House to imbibe and talk politics.

President Bush, antagonist numero uno, was giving his annual State of the Union speech, and a crowd of about 30 mostly young, professional-looking liberals were there to jeer him on.

....Tuesday evening, attendees drank when Bush spoke phrases such as "September 11" or "terrorist." They laughed when he appeared to mispronounce certain words. They booed when he called for the renewal of the Patriot Act. And they cheered loudly for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) when she was shown smiling and shaking her head as Bush defended his use of warrantless telephone wiretaps.

"It's not Bush that I hate," said Jeff Evans, a software programmer from Seattle. "It's the military-industrial complex he represents. Look at Exxon's recent profits if you don't believe me."

Added Ellen Meserow in between sips of red wine: "I just can't even start. It's like every day in the last six years he's slapped me in the face."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Gentle Rain From Heaven

But, in Zimbabwe it isn't twice blest...him that gives and him that takes:

Food crops in Zimbabwe have failed again despite ample rainfall.

Zimbabwe is expected this year to grow less than half of what it needs to feed the population and the rains have denied President Robert Mugabe his standard explanation of poor weather for slumping production.

Foreign exchange-earning crops, such as tobacco, flowers and coffee, are now almost too small to count.

More than 20 million acres of Zimbabwe's well-developed agricultural land has been confiscated from about 4,000 experienced white farmers since 2000 and handed to Mr Mugabe's cronies, senior civil servants and members of his extended family.

About 90 per cent of that land is now fallow and the infrastructure is destroyed.

Super Pizza Bowl

The teams are practicing for the big day:

Pizza orders typically surge during commercials and at halftime, which is where the in-store TV sets can help. Some Domino's stores in Philadelphia will have their drivers tuning into XM Satellite Radio, which will air the game.

And it isn't only the football players who will be watching film this week. In an effort to get Papa John's stores fired up for the game, managers and assistant managers from 20 outlets in Jacksonville, Fla., will gather to see a video of a successful delivery last year of a single order of 650 pizzas.

"We'll get everybody pumped up," says Bob Simms, operating partner for the stores.

On Super Bowl Sundays, many Domino's stores sell double the number of pizzas than they would on a normal Sunday, and some end up selling four times as many.

Because of this surge in demand, pizza managers typically require all their employees to suit up on game day, but it can be hard to enforce that. In order to fill out his roster, Dan Shanahan, who owns two Domino's stores in Wisconsin, a rabid football state, had to pay all his employees double-time rates in 1997 and 1998, when the Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl. That is on top of giving drivers twice their usual commission per delivery.

And, Adam Smith call your office:

To keep up with the volume of orders, which some store owners say can exceed 200 pizzas an hour during the Super Bowl, Domino's employees each are assigned an unusually narrow task: Some do nothing but put order slips on the pizza boxes. For others, the sole job is to keep drivers well-stocked with small bills. The best pizza cutters slice pizza, while the most logistically inclined are put in charge of matching orders with drivers in the most efficient way possible.