Thursday, August 31, 2006

Know an Eight Letter Word for 'Unfair'?

Yeah? Wait til Saturday:

A crossword-solving computer program yesterday triumphed in a competition against humans. Two versions of the program, called WebCrow, finished first and second in a competition that gave bilingual entrants 90 minutes to work on five different crosswords in Italian and English.

.... WebCrow uses four techniques in parallel to find possible answers to a clue. Two involve looking for the clue or a near match in a database of solved crosswords or using a dictionary. Another uses rules known to work on a kind of Italian clue with two letter answers and the fourth technique is to search the internet.

It's time for the tomatoes

In August, in Spain:

BUNOL — Photographs of revelllers splattered in tomatoes adorned newspapers in Spain and abroad on Thursday after the town of Bunol's traditional 'Tomatina'.

The Tomatina (Get Juicy) is friendly fight in which the only weapons employed are more than 110 tons of overripe tomatoes.

As it has being going for the past 61 years in this small town near Valencia
Tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world arrived to take part.

In addition to local residents, visitors come from the Americas, Asia and the rest of Europe.

....According to the town councillor for Parties, Fairs, Culture and Sports, Pilar Garrigues, "the people are given various recommendations before starting the fight, one of which encourages them to use common sense so as to not cause harm to others."

"Here one comes dressed in white and should leave (dressed) in red if they had a good time; that's what the Tomatina is all about," Garrigues said.

Not going to do it. Wouldn't be prudent.

Byron York attempts to talk to David Corn about his conspiracy mongering past in this video.



The reason Corn doesn't want to talk to York is because he knows that York will demolish his claims not to have promoted conspiracy theories. York mentioned two pieces that do just that;

1. Rove Scandal: A Conspiracy Charge for the White House?

2. The Cheney Conspiracy?

From #1 above we can read him relating what a friend who is a prosecutor told him:

...check out Title 18, Section 371, of the US Code, he advises. It's entitled "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States." straightforward and rather wide-ranging:

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

....Under this law, if there was any conspiring among the leakers--say, one White House aide suggested to another that they use the classified information in hand to disclose Valerie Wilson's connection to the CIA in order to undermine Wilson's account of his trip to Niger--then the acts of each conspirator can essentially be charged to the other(s).

If I understand this correctly--did I say I was no lawyer?--that means if one person violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (or lied to Fitzgerald or the grand jury) any one who conspired with them to make the leak happen (or concoct the false account) could be nailed. "From a prosecutor's standpoint," this former prosecutor says, "a conspiracy charge is how you get in each strand--all the strands--of what happened."

Nabbing Karl Rove on a conspiracy? To some that might sound rather appropriate.

[emphasis the FLUBA's]

What's in a name?

Geography and migration patterns for one thing:

The biggest concentration of people called Salt is in Stoke-on-Trent, as is the greatest number of people called Pepper, according to a new study which maps the spread of British names across the globe.

The number of people with either surname is roughly equal so the reason for this is likely to be that both Salts and Peppers derived their names from people who made pots for condiments in the Potteries, according to the authors of the study, published at the Royal Geographical Society's annual conference yesterday.

What the study of 20,000 British surnames over five generations has enabled researchers to do for the first time is to track the migration of people with British names and to see where the largest concentration of people of that name lives.

And, for another, who's movin' on up:

Researchers compiled a list of "most embarrassing" names, which people have tended to change.

There were 3,211 Cocks in Britain in 1881 — when most were centred around Truro — but only 826 in 1996. Likewise, the number of Handcocks, Smellies, Haggards, Slows, Willys, Piggs, Hustlers, Nutters and Glasscocks has fallen.

Conclusions can also be reached about Christian names. The upper classes, defined by educational achievement, have tended to stick to the same Christian names over time — the top 10 being Felicity, Katherine, Phillippa, Penelope, Elizabeth, Hilary, Giles, Annabel, Alastair and Jeremy. The lower classes, defined by education, are more likely to choose newer names. Tracey or Tracy, topping the list, followed by Michelle, Lee, Darren, Jason, Donna, Annie and Kelly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We've been over into the future...

...and it's getting grim for Europe's pensions:

The looming deficits in [Greece's] troubled pension system have spurred the government to push for reforms which some consider controversial because they could cut benefits and force people to work longer.

....Total spending on health and welfare this year will demand 18.82 billion euros from the national budget compared to 17 billion euros last year.

Workers are expected to hand over 9.6 billion euros to funds this year. more retirees draw pensions, fewer workers are contributing to social security funds, according to the government’s data.

This year, there are 3.93 million workers paying into a system that supports 2.21 million pensioners. This figure means that for each pensioner there are 1.77 contributors. In 2005, the respective figure was slightly higher at 1.79 while more than 15 years ago it stood at 2.4.

Experts believe that there needs to be four active workers for every pensioner in order for the system to be viable.

Gone Fishin'

David Corn decides to duck and run from Christopher Hitchens:

A bunch of emails arrived today from people asking for (or, demanding) a response to Christopher Hitchens' attack in Slate on me and my coauthor Michael isikoff. I'm going to refrain from taking the bait, as we prepare for next week's release of our book. HUBRIS ....

Sure, David. You're just toooo busy to respond to Hitchens' juxtaposing what you said back in July 2003:

The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.

With what he and Isikoff are saying now:

The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.

Hitchens accurately comments:

In the stylistic world where disclosures are gleaned and ironies underscored, the nullity of the prose obscures the fact that any irony here is only at the authors' expense.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Prohibition, The Sequel

Easy to have predicted too:

A number of illegal "smoke-easies", reminiscent of the speakeasies set up in the United States during the Prohibition era when alcohol was banned, have sprung up across Scotland.

Forest, the pro-smoking lobby, said such "lock-ins" had started up in Ireland and New York after their smoking bans were imposed.

Latest figures from New York, which implemented a ban in 2003, show that the city's health department issued 601 'violations' in the 12 months to May to premises operating "smoke-easies".

One smoker, who has been invited three times to join a selected group after closing time in his local pub in the east of Scotland, said: "We tend to sit and wait to be given the signal. Then the door was slammed and locked and the ashtrays came out. I think the manager drew the curtains as well.

"There was about ten-12 of us, men and women from ages about early 20s to their 70s, and we had another couple of drinks and a smoke.

"It felt like such a treat. I think in a way it's nostalgic for me because I associate pubs with the smell of smoke and beer. Although in general I think the ban is a good thing, it will be horrible for people being forced to go outside on cold winter nights."

Dirt Cheap

And going fast:

Rome, August 29 - Italian environmentalists are worried about the future of the country's finest beaches, which they say are threatened by a growing trade in 'souvenir sand'.

Concern flared after it was discovered that an enterprising German was trying to sell packets of sand from a beach on the island of Elba over the Internet.

The seller, who is still nameless, posted an advert on the German eBay website offering packets of sand for 1.99 euros each. There were photos of the little sachets alongside the offer.

"It's a new fad for collectors which is putting our natural resources in danger," said Umberto Mazzantini of Legambiente. Illegal trading in sand from Italy's beaches was aimed at a market of sand collectors which was expanding fast, he continued, adding that buyers were both tourists and people interested in minerals.

However, when property rights were introduced, the story changed:

One famous case involved the 'Spiaggia Rosa', a Sardinian beach famed for its pink sand. The sand appealed to many visitors so much that they started taking it away and the beach began to lose its distinctive colour.

Here the problem was confronted by limiting the number of people allowed onto the beach in a day and making them pay for the privilege of being there.

Some expected this approach to make people even keener to take away some sand, as a sort of payback for their entry fee. But in fact it seemed to make visitors more aware of the beach's value and fragility .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Okay...maybe one bad companion

Austrian teenager and recently escaped kidnapping victim Natascha Kampusch, finds a silver lining amongst the clouds:

In my view his death was unnecessary. A penalty would not have been the end of the world. He was a part of my life and this is why I am, in a way, mourning him.

Of course it is true my youth was different from many other people. But generally I don't have the feeling I missed anything. I spared myself many things, I did not start smoking or drinking and I did not hang out in bad company.

Sittn' on the bottom of the world...

Means it's winter in August, and you've got an export market wide open to you:

Not content with taking on the French at making wine, Australians are now getting into another hallowed Gallic tradition - truffle cultivation.

The first Australian truffle farm was established in Tasmania and the first "black diamond", as the French call them, was triumphantly plucked from the ground in 1999.

Since then around 50 truffle plantations have been established in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.

The business has been pioneered by Duncan Garvey, a former agricultural economist....

He has brought along his trusty truffle-hunting hound, an English springer spaniel called Pickles.

.... Duncan encourages his dog in a soft voice: "Find truffles, Pickles, find truffles."

....The plantation around which we are walking is the property of husband and wife team Bill and Pat deCorsie.

....This is the deCorsie's first harvest and so far they have gathered around six kilograms of the black treasure. That does not sound much until you learn that a kilo of good quality truffles sells for USD $2,300.

....Earlier this month, a small consignment of truffles was sent to a gourmet restaurant in Tokyo. It was the first time that Australian truffles had been exported abroad.

Duncan says the Japanese were "blown away" by the fact that they were eating fresh truffles in August - Europe's truffles will not be ready for harvest for another six months, which is why the Australians think they can compete with Italy and France.

[Thanks to This French Life]

Do they not take the entire afternoon off?

Spain finds it can import prosperity:

MADRID — Large scale immigration to Spain in recent years has been behind the country's rapid economic growth, according to a report published on Monday.

The study, by the Caixa Catalauna savings bank, said the Spanish economy grew by 2.6 percent each year in the past decade on average because of the input from immigrants.

If large-scale immigration had not happened, the per capita GDP of the country would have actually fallen by 0.6 percent, the report adds.

Raquel Vazquez, head of studies at Caixa Cataluna, told the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser: "More than 50 percent of the rise in employment has been due to immigration."

Vazquez said immigrants had also helped to boost domestic demand and the building boom and increase demand for homes.

The size of Spain's immigrant population, who represents about 9 percent of the population of more than 44 million, is well above the European average.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Zoned Out

Mark Thoma excerpts a lengthy bit from a Washington Post article on the shortage of 'affordable housing'. The Fly Under the Bridge Academy Committee on Making it Short, but Sweet edits for the Bingo Moment: many communities, local regulations have stifled multifamily housing and even modest single-family housing. Minimum lot requirements, minimum parking requirements, density restrictions and other controls go well beyond the traditional mission of the building code and end up artificially reducing the development of safe, affordable housing.

.... Economist Christopher Thornberg notes that California's private market added 120,000 urban rental units in 1987; in the first half of 2006, the total was just 232. The main obstacle, Thornberg concludes, is "the intransigence of local zoning boards."

In other words, the best thing local officials can do to promote affordable housing is to get out of the way....

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Berry, Berry Good For Him

Thanks to Katie Newmark, we congratulate Chicago's newest economist:

After a long and fruitful career, 79-year-old master’s degree graduate Herbert Baum has returned to the University of Chicago to earn his Ph.D. The oldest person ever to be awarded a doctorate by the University, Baum will receive the degree in economics Friday, Aug. 25.

When he left the University in 1951 to become a government agricultural economist in Washington, D.C., Baum had a master’s degree and was just short of writing his dissertation to earn a doctorate.

His dissertation contributes to agricultural economics by examining how to measure the impact of fees charged producers for commodity promotion and research. The thesis, based on a case study of the strawberry industry in California in which he was a leader, developed a model for researchers to understand the long-term value of the fees assessed growers. The model shows how the policies of the state strawberry commission, which supported research into improved varieties, improved production per acre and grower profitability.

.... Baum’s work with strawberries began shortly after he went to work in California in 1953 after working for the federal government upon completing is master’s degree. Inspired by former professor and free-market economist Milton Friedman who went on to receive a Nobel Prize, Baum decided to find work in private industry. He went on to became a leading figure in the development of the state’s strawberry industry.

....Friedman, the Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics, was one of the faculty members who approved granting Baum a Ph.D. Joining Friedman on the committee were Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics, and committee chair [and also a Nobelist] James Heckman. Roger Myerson, the William C. Norby Professor in Economics, also served on the committee.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Size Matters

To some women, the size of the wallet:

Wealthy Men is the one and only online personals dating site dedicated to those men seeking a higher quality online dating experience. Women who visit Wealthy Men, will find that each profile is of real men who have excelled greatly in their life, but are still seeking a partner to share their experiences with. All women can set up a free profile, however, only a select few men can join Wealthy Men as each of our members are verified by a salary approval process.

Duh Reich Stuff

Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich is stumped:

I 'm baffled by the way the press has covered the tenth anniversary (this week) of Bill Clinton's welfare reform -- full of praise for a policy that has led to more poverty in America among single mothers and their children than before.

Let us help; from Brookings we can produce some facts:

From 1993 to 2000 the portion of single mothers who were employed grew from 58 percent to nearly 75 percent...employment among never-married mothers, most of whom join the welfare ranks within a year or two of giving birth, grew from 44 percent to 66 percent. Before [the Welfare Reform Act] 1996 never-married mothers were the ones most likely to be school dropouts, to go on welfare, and to stay on welfare for a decade or more. Yet their employment over this period grew by 50%. Employment changes of this magnitude over such a short period for an entire demographic group are unprecedented in Census Bureau records.

[all emphases the FLUBA's]

But, faux economists might ask, how about their economic well-being:

Census Bureau data for female headed families in the bottom 40 percent of the income that...earnings had leaped by an astounding 136 percent....

...with earnings and EITC payments leading the way, the total income of these low-income families increased by about 25 percent [in real terms]. Even after the recession of 2001, earnings remained above their 1993 level. The predictions of doom turned out to be wrong.

Anyone remember all the critics predicting that Welfare Reform would throw over one million children into poverty? 2000 the poverty rate of black children and of children in female-headed families was the lowest it had ever been. The percentage of families in deep poverty, defined as half the poverty level...also declined until 2000, falling about 35% during the period. Even after four consecutive years of increasing child poverty [following the recession of 2001] poverty was still 20 percent below it 1993 peak.

Even the very bottom (by income) 10% of single mothers who show a decrease in income after 1996, show increased consumption at the same time.

Even Christopher Jencks, a well known critic of the 1996 law, found that:

...single mothers had fewer problems related to food in 2001 than in 1995, the last year before welfare reform. ...that, although the number of low-income mothers receiving welfare between 1995 and 1999 fell from 58 percent to 29 percent, food related problems dropped dramatically.

The question now on the table being; just where did Reich get the idea that Welfare Reform was 'a policy that has led to more poverty in America among single mothers and their children than before'?

Chocolates on the Pillow?

Scotland takes pains to be its prisoners:

STAFF IN Scottish jails should always refer to prisoners as “Mr” or “Mrs” or call them by their first names—and should knock on the door before entering their cells.

This was just one of the standards laid down yesterday by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland Dr Andrew McLellan.

Dr McLellan said he expected that if a lavatory is in a cell it should be enclosed to provide privacy, and if prisoners have to call for the cell door to be opened to use a lavatory staff should respond within a stated time that is “reasonable.”

Each prisoner should get at least one hour in the open air each day, in space large enough for “meaningful” exercise.

If it was cold, raining or snowing, “appropriate” bad-weather clothing must be provided.

Every prison should have sufficient phones to enable every prisoner to have daily access.

The phones, he said, should not be in noisy places where prisoners cannot hear properly, and they should be able to talk on the phone without being overheard by other inmates.

Healthcare in prison should be of the same standard as in the outside world.

Prisoners should be treated with respect by staff.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You can't take it all off with you?

Funereal is as funereal does:

CHINA may be giving striptease funerals the last rites after officials arrested five people and ordered an end to the practise.

Strip shows have been commonly used to attract more mourners to funerals, as villagers believe a crowded send-off brings more honor to the deceased, Xinhua news agency said.

....Wealthier families in villages often employ two troupes of performers to try to draw a crowd at the funerals of their loved ones.

....A hotline was also set up for residents to report on "funeral misdeeds," it said. The funeral striptease is also a popular custom in parts of Taiwan.


Aristocrat, architect, bicycle racer, painter, politician, WWII bomber pilot, and elderly pornographer.

Where else, but England:

The 6th Lord Deramore, who died on Sunday aged 95, was an example of that breed of mildly eccentric hereditary peer whose presence for generations embellished, informed and entertained the "unreformed" House of Lords.

Deramore was a man of diverse talents and enthusiams. As a young man he won the 1½ litre class in the Paris to Nice Trail in an HRG open sports car, and he held a cycling record of 149 miles in one day - from York to Cambridge.

He became an architect, and was a stalwart of the Conservative Party in north Yorkshire (he briefly abandoned the Tories for the UK Independence Party in the 1990s) and an assiduous writer of letters to editors, his favourite topic being the evils of bureaucracy, both the Brussels and the home-grown varieties. He was also a keen and reasonably proficient amateur watercolourist.

Deramore's chief claim to fame, however, or at least so far as the press was concerned, was as a writer of erotic fiction. Sadly, much of his work remains unpublished - he was engagingly frank about his ever-growing pile of rejection slips.

But success finally came in 1997 when, aged 85, he published his first novel. Illustrated on the cover with one of the author's own watercolours, of a naked girl with a teddy bear, Still Waters concerns a young woman who is seduced by a female friend.

After the friend is killed in a motor accident, she falls in love with a divorced man, but cannot have sex with him because she suffers from a rare clinical condition called vaginismus.

According to the author's account, the book concerned "a not very attractive girl who has a bad complex about a small bosom". His inspiration for the more eye-popping gynaecological details came from a newspaper article on an embarrassing medical condition, and his motivation was altruistic: "I wanted to show how there is hope for a woman, even if she is not very attractive."

.... Asked why he had written such a novel at his age, he replied: "I'm old, so there's not a lot else I can do."

How about sports car sales?

Eric Clapton wannabees abound in Britain:

Guitar sales in Britain hit a record £110 million last year, according to figures released yesterday.

Almost a million of the instruments - 470,000 electric and bass guitars and 520,000 acoustic guitars - were bought; twice as many as in 1999 and an increase of 200,000 on 2004.

....Guitars are now the most popular instrument in schools, and there has also been an increase in middle-aged lapsed players joining bands for the first time since they were in their twenties.

The [Music Industries Assoc.] said the number of guitars sold had risen even more sharply than their value because cheaper imports from countries such as China had brought down the average cost.

....Paul McManus, the chief executive of the MIA, said: "....we have an ageing population, with over-50s accounting for more than a third of the population.

"This ageing population is refusing to go quietly into the night. They want to return to things they did when they were young.

"An enormous number of guitars are being bought by these older people.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Uh, aren't they supposed to know this...

one big thing for sure; stay out of the ice cream container:

In 2002, McDonald's agreed to look into redesigning the McFlurry cup after ten hedgehogs needed treatment at the SSPCA's Middlebank Wildlife Centre in Dunfermline.

Now they have come up with a new lid for their cartons which will have a hole big enough to get ice cream out of, but too small for a hedgehog to crawl though.

The new lids are set to be rolled out at fast food outlets across Europe.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) warned about the problem in a recent newsletter. "In the hot weather we have been having, more ice cream is sold, and hedgehogs are desperate for food as the ground is hard and natural food is scarce," it said.

"Unfortunately we also get reports of hedgehogs found dead with heads stuck in McFlurry containers, and we can only guess the amount that are never found and die a slow death in a secluded spot."

Feets Don't Fail Me Now

Eastern Europeans flee the welfare state in droves:

POLISH economists are warning of a further mass exodus to Britain and the Irish Republic to escape high taxes and low wages.

The thousands of young Poles now flocking to the UK are fleeing from crippling tax burdens, laid on them by economically inactive parents and grandparents.

It's a vicious circle, however: the more Poles of working age that leave, the fewer that are left to bear the brunt of Poland's punishing social insurance demands, economists say.

It also means there are more pensioners voting for the government that guarantees pension rights, and as a result young Poles see no chance of a change and are voting with their feet - especially if they want to be able to afford to have children of their own. About ten million of Poland's 38 million population are pensioners.

Taken to the Cleaners

German office building owners:

BERLIN - Seeking to cut the number of foreigners flooding into Germany to work as low-cost cleaners, the Berlin government Wednesday approved a minimum wage for all people employed in the sector.

The law - mainly aimed at workers coming from central and eastern Europe - imposes a 7.87 euros (10.09 dollars) per hour wage in western Germany and 6.26 euros per hour in the east.

A total of 850,000 people are employed in Germany's building cleaning sector and there have been repeated complaints that foreign workers sent to Germany are driving down the already low wages paid to cleaners.

Which reminds the FLUBA Committee on Pre-Bush Deranged Paul Krugman of this piece from 1999:

Well, here's my theory: The real divide between currently successful economies, like the U.S., and currently troubled ones, like Germany, is not political but philosophical; it's not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it's Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative vs. William James' pragmatism.

What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth, the basis of morality, when shops will be open, and what a Deutsche mark is worth. Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: They go with whatever seems more or less to work. If people want to go shopping at 11 P.M., that's okay; if a dollar is sometimes worth 80 yen, sometimes 150, that's also okay.Now, the American way doesn't always work better.

....But the world has changed in a way that seems to favor flexibility over discipline.

....And so Germany is in trouble--and with it, the whole project of a more unified Europe. For Germany is supposed to be the economic engine of the new Europe; if it is a drag instead, perhaps the whole train in the wrong direction goes, not so?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In a Lemon Economy

Learn to like lemonade:

France's economic growth in the second quarter of 2006 was its best in 20 years, its finance minister has said.

Thierry Breton described the 1.1% expansion of the economy between April and June as "exceptional".

France's gross domestic product (GDP) is now set to grow by 1.9% for 2006 as a whole, official figures suggest.

And then, when the sun shines, take the month of August off to make for the beach?

"Obviously, France will not sustain this kind of growth rate. But what we're seeing is an upshift in the underlying trend of growth and we don't see yet any signs of a deceleration, at least near term."

Moon, Spoon, Jun?

Just your ordinary 'Hey kids, let's put on a play'--we can borrow against our kidneys to raise the money--musical:

To get "Yoduk Story" produced, the director had to put his kidney up for collateral.

Fortunately for Jung Sung San , South Koreans liked the idea of a musical about the horrors of North Korea's prisons. He raised the money and now has a hit in Seoul that he is hoping to bring to the National Theatre. a prison 70 miles northeast of Pyongyang, and the musical is a story of forbidden love. An officer gets drunk and rapes an inmate -- an imprisoned famous actress. A baby is born and an affection grows between the officer and the actress. When the chief warden finds out, the officer is also put in prison. The couple is killed in the end.

The 37-year-old director entered North Korea's cruel gulag himself in 1994, arrested for listening to a South Korean radio broadcast when he was a soldier. He describes being beaten unconscious with a thick wooden handle, then dragged off to a facility he said was known as the "Station of Wolves."

....He escaped after 2 1/2 months while being moved from one detention center to another when the van he was in flipped on a slippery road in torrential rainstorms.

He ran for a day and, under the cover of darkness, escaped through the woods across the Chinese border....He was discovered by a hunter who fed him and gave him money to make his way to Hong Kong.

.... There he asked for asylum to South Korea and eventually made it to Seoul.

He worked odd jobs. He washed dishes, cars and cadavers to make a living. He panhandled in the streets, making money by exposing a leg injury he suffered when guards shot him during his escape. He sold food from a cart.

....[then] Jung, who had studied film and theater in North Korea, had written plays and television dramas about the harem of the country's leader, Kim Jong Il . South Korean refugees told Jung his father was beaten in front of hundreds of spectators in an auditorium as punishment.

After he had written "Yoduk Story", he could not find investors. He put up his kidney as collateral to raise the first $20,000 from loan sharks, who told him to pay $30,000 by April 2006 if he wanted to keep both kidneys. He did.

.... when a journalist he befriended wrote about his crusade, South Koreans started donating money for the project. He raised $100,000. The musical made its debut on March 15 and "everything went crazy," he said. ....

More than 75,000 have seen the show, Yung said Sunday over lemonade at T.G.I. Friday's. Jung said it is easy to understand his production's success.

"People like it because it is true. This is what is currently occurring in North Korea," he said. He said he is hoping the musical will be staged at the National Theatre here with English subtitles. "When I first started making it, I knew I wanted to bring it to the United States, because America is a country that values life."

A Beautiful Mind...

But, a somewhat messy personality:

A maths genius who won fame last week for apparently spurning a million-dollar prize is living with his mother in a humble flat in St Petersburg, co-existing on her £30-a-month pension, because he has been unemployed since December.

....Grigory "Grisha" Perelman's predicament stems from an acrimonious split with a leading Russian mathematical institute, the Steklov, in 2003. When the Institute in St Petersburg failed to re-elect him as a member, Dr Perelman, 40, was left feeling an "absolutely ungifted and untalented person", said a friend. He had a crisis of confidence and cut himself off.

....Interviewed in St Petersburg last week, Dr Perelman insisted that he was unworthy of all the attention, and was uninterested in his windfall. "I do not think anything that I say can be of the slightest public interest," he said. "I am not saying that because I value my privacy, or that I am doing anything I want to hide. There are no top-secret projects going on here. I just believe the public has no interest in me."

He continued: "I know that self-promotion happens a lot and if people want to do that, good luck to them, but I do not regard it as a positive thing. I realised this a long time ago and nobody is going to change my mind. "Newspapers should be more discerning over who they write about. They should have more taste. As far as I am concerned, I can't offer anything for their readers.

"I don't base that on any negative experiences with the press, although they have been making up nonsense about my father being a famous physicist. It's just plain and simply that I don't care what anybody writes about me at all."

A Beautiful Mind...

But, a somewhat messy personality:

A maths genius who won fame last week for apparently spurning a million-dollar prize is living with his mother in a humble flat in St Petersburg, co-existing on her £30-a-month pension, because he has been unemployed since December.

....Grigory "Grisha" Perelman's predicament stems from an acrimonious split with a leading Russian mathematical institute, the Steklov, in 2003. When the Institute in St Petersburg failed to re-elect him as a member, Dr Perelman, 40, was left feeling an "absolutely ungifted and untalented person", said a friend. He had a crisis of confidence and cut himself off.

....Interviewed in St Petersburg last week, Dr Perelman insisted that he was unworthy of all the attention, and was uninterested in his windfall. "I do not think anything that I say can be of the slightest public interest," he said. "I am not saying that because I value my privacy, or that I am doing anything I want to hide. There are no top-secret projects going on here. I just believe the public has no interest in me."

He continued: "I know that self-promotion happens a lot and if people want to do that, good luck to them, but I do not regard it as a positive thing. I realised this a long time ago and nobody is going to change my mind. "Newspapers should be more discerning over who they write about. They should have more taste. As far as I am concerned, I can't offer anything for their readers.

"I don't base that on any negative experiences with the press, although they have been making up nonsense about my father being a famous physicist. It's just plain and simply that I don't care what anybody writes about me at all."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fee Speech for Me, But not for Thee

Lapsed blogger Jim Glass weighs in on the econblog brouhaha created by Paul Krugman's recent column accusing high income earners of using political connections for ill gotten gains. Pointing out how Krugman defended his taking $50,000 for a couple days work with Enron:

We know exactly what Krugman would say:

"In 1998-1999 my normal fee for a one-hour business speech in Boston or New York was $20,000...

"I was a hot property, very much in demand as a speaker to business audiences: I was routinely offered as much as $50,000 to speak to investment banks and consulting firms. They thought I might tell them something useful....

"If it still seems implausible that my advice might be worth that much, think about how I have been warning about Argentina for the past year and a half; a company that had listened to me and reduced its exposure would be rather grateful, don't you think?....

"The point is that the money Enron offered wasn't out of line with what companies with no interest in influence-buying were offering me. You may think I was overpaid, but the market - not Enron - set those pay rates."

So evil Republican social policy didn't make him rich! The free market did. He's worth it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fire Water v. Holy Water

Brits behaving badly, even in a church:

For millions of pilgrims, a visit to Lourdes to take its miraculous healing waters is an intensely spiritual experience. Since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary almost 150 years ago, the shrine has become a place of quiet contemplation and religious devotion.

But now the town's peace is being shattered by thousands of British tourists whose behaviour has become so bad that officials have brought in riot police. ....

"We are carrying out late- night patrols because of the threat to public order caused by increasing numbers of night-time drinkers," a spokesman for the CRS said.

....In Lourdes's busy streets, there is plenty of evidence of alcohol-fuelled exuberance in the town's numerous bars and clubs.

At Bar Angelus, a few hundred yards from the shrine, bare-chested men, and women wearing skimpy tops and crucifixes, swayed to the blaring music including Madonna's Like A Virgin and Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

"We come here to party after being reverential all day," said Susan Clare, a 19-year-old student from south London.

...."We're just typical Brits enjoying ourselves," said Phil Cross, a 22-year-old from Manchester, who was accompanying a group of handicapped pilgrims.

"None of us mean any harm, but the situation can get a bit tense when the police take exception to what's going on. You do see a few of the older pilgrims who are still up late looking a bit worried by what's going on, but you're only young once."

Later, as the bars continued to serve cocktails at £2.50 a time, revellers were seen running across the roofs of parked cars, indulging in mock fights and vomiting into gutters. It is these types of crime, along with minor acts of vandalism and "lewd behaviour" between amorous young Roman Catholics, that dominate the nightly reports of CRS officers.

"Offenders from Britain are easy to spot because they usually all wear the same coloured T-shirts and hats," said one CRS officer. "Last week a couple sneaked into the grounds of the Rose Basilica and became very amorous in a very holy place. It's not the kind of thing other pilgrims want to see."

Good Economics=Bad Politics

In Scotland (as well as among the so-called economists at Angry Bear) they deny the Law of Demand:

Bob Kiley, who stepped down as London's transport commissioner in January, condemns opponents of road tolls for Edinburgh and on the Forth Road Bridge in a hard-hitting Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast on Monday.

Labour's plans to charge motorists £2-a-day to drive into Edinburgh were rejected in a referendum last year by nearly three to one, while in March the Scottish Executive vetoed plans to raise bridge tolls from £1 to up to £4 at peak hours to stem congestion.

Mr Kiley tells the Dispatches documentary about Britain's transport problems: "Edinburgh has a congestion problem, but, even worse, the citizens of Edinburgh have some politicians who did not have the guts to push ahead and solve that problem. What's unbelievable here is that politicians derailed plans for the entire city."

....A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said it remained committed to "appropriate" congestion charging schemes.

However, the Executive's draft national transport strategy, launched in April, suggested it could do more to help back such projects. It stated: "We could assess whether there is any way the Executive could provide more policy support on individual schemes, rather than the current practice of remaining neutral because of our role in confirming charging orders."

Research conducted for the Executive, published in June, showed Edinburgh residents rejected congestion charging because they did not trust the council and thought traffic problems were caused by outsiders.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Fabio of the Bees?

Italians get bees in their bonnets:

(ANSA) - Rome, August 18 - Italians are taking their passion for homegrown produce one step further this summer, with dozens of converts to beekeeping.

According to the National Union of Italian Beekeepers (UNAI), more people than ever are setting up apiaries in order to produce their own honey.

Discussing the growing interest in apiculture, UNAI President Francesco Panella explained that people are drawn by the idea of a hobby that is close to nature and that is fairly easy to get started.

"All you need are two or three hives in order to get a real sense of this fascinating world," said Panella, noting that some urban dwellers were setting up hives on their terraces.

....Panella suggested that the craze for beekeeping may in part have been popularized by a recent spate of celebrities developing an interest in the hobby.

The two most famous of these are the British musician Sting, who also produces his own wine and olive oil on his 600-acre estate in Tuscany, and Veronica Lario, wife of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who personally tends the hives at her villa north of Milan .

Eats My Candy

But might as well drink my brandy in Amsterdam:

Customs officers at Schiphol have warned the public about bars of chocolate with hallucinogenic effects that are regularly found at the Amsterdam airport.

The police came across the chocolate on Thursday when a homeless person reported finding and eating a bar of it before becoming ill and suffering anxiety and hallucinations.

The Dutch Forensics Institute (Nederlands Forensisch Instituut) tested a similar bar to the one eaten and found it contained the hallucinogen psilocine, an active ingredient in 'magic mushrooms'.

Customs officials warned that the bars are found regularly at the airport. "We suspect that travelers have bought the bars elsewhere and then been too afraid to take them onboard their flight because there are drugs in them," customs spokesman Rob Stenacker said.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What Do You Say to a Naked Lady

In Russia, 'Hey, that's my car!':

People were relaxing at a river beach when a Toyota SUV stopped by and three beautiful girls got out of it. Eyewitnesses report that the girls fully undressed went knee-deep in the water and played there for a while.

Naturally, all attention was drawn to the girls who were later described by the victims as the complete resemblance of adult magazine models. Suddenly, the naked bathers got back into the SUV and quickly drove away. Only then did the people on the beach realize that four cars had been stolen. Other cars were broken into and various valuables were stolen as well.

All things considered...

we'd rather be in Philadelphia:

The mayor of a remote Russian Arctic city that was home to some of the most feared Soviet prison-camps plans to build a replica forced-labor camp and charge tourists hundreds of dollars for a few nights of incarceration, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Igor Shpektor, the mayor of Vorkuta, is looking for investors for his proposal to reconstruct one of the Stalin-era labor camps — complete with watchtowers, barbed wire, guard dogs and gruel.

He believes that there are plenty of extreme tourists who would be willing to fork over at least $450 for a three-day stay.

“I want to make a camp like those that existed in the times of the Gulag,” the mayor said... “The same regime will be followed as it was in those camps.”

....Shpektor’s proposal doesn’t stop with the recreated camp: he also suggests building a five-star hotel where those who suffer through the camp can be pampered afterwards.

“It’s definitely way off the grid of the beach-cruise, Las Vegas-type of circuit, which I think is fantastic,” says Shannon Stowell, the president of the Seattle-based Adventure Travel Trade Association.

“I think the smartest thing for them would be to make sure there are other things there for people — not many people would go clear out of their way just to stay at a concentration camp.”

Show Jerry the Money

It's no longer C-Note Brown:

A year after Jerry Brown was elected mayor of Oakland, San Francisco publisher Phil Bronstein introduced him at a luncheon of the American Society of Newspaper Editors as a politician who was trying to get big money out of politics.

...“In ‘92 he ran for president again, beating Bill Clinton in six state primaries, and was the only other candidate to make it all the way to the convention. In those races, as in his run for mayor of Oakland last year, he refused contributions over $100.”

....the Sacramento Bee quoted Brown as saying. “I’m the guy who limits my contributions to $100. I’m definitely concerned about the political process and how it’s become profoundly distorted by money.”

Running in the November general election for California attorney general, these distortions no longer seem to bother Jerry Brown. ....

An analysis reveals that in the two months between June 10 and Aug. 10, Brown collected $658,000 in contributions of $5,000 or more. Of those, 55 came from individuals contributing between $5,000 and the legal individual limit of $5,600 to Brown’s attorney general campaign. In the same period, Brown’s Republican opponent collected $167,525 in contributions of $5,000 or more.

....The analysis shows that Brown’s financial support is broad-based, with large contributions coming from unions, corporate interests, law enforcement associations and law corporations, and casino interests, as well as individuals. ... Brown received $5,600 apiece from Oakpac, the Oakland political fund that promotes business interests, and the Los Angeles County Council on Political Education, an AFL-CIO-based fund which said its purpose was “promoting working families issues” in its filing papers with the state as a political action committee.

Brown’s single largest interest group support in the last two months was from unions, from which he took in $192,300, the largest coming from labor organizations connected with the building trades industry. Brown has led a residential building boom in Oakland during his two terms as mayor, a policy that has benefited building trades unions.

Do they call on TV's Day?

T is for the total hold you have on them:

Sometimes the numbing effect of TV can be helpful. Especially if you're a kid being stuck with a needle at the hospital.

Researchers confirmed the distracting power of television - something parents have long known - when they found that children watching cartoons suffered less pain from a hypodermic needle than kids not watching TV.

....The study involved 69 children, ages 7 to 12, who were separated into three groups and then asked to rate their pain on a numerical scale when they were stuck with needle used to take a blood sample. The children's mothers also rated the kids' pain.

Those watching TV cartoons reported half the pain as those who were being soothed by Mom. When compared with children who just sat in a hospital room with mothers who didn't try to soothe them, the TV watchers reported one-third the pain.

Why he's an ex-Seahawk

More than 15 yards for a head slap:

The wife of a former Seahawks football player has been arrested by King County deputies in response to a domestic-violence complaint.

Tina Eaton, 33, was arrested at her home near Redmond on Sunday after officers responded to a report of a dispute.

Officers found former Seahawks tackle Chad Eaton with a bloody nose from a punch or slap to the face.

Under state domestic-violence laws, officers are required to make an arrest of the aggressor in such disputes if the offense occurred within four hours of the report, said Sgt. John Urquhart, sheriff's public-information officer.

The woman weighs more than 100 pounds less than her husband....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Don't Show Me the Money

Russian math nerds don't party, we guess:

Dr. Grigory Perelman, who has solved one of the most complicated math problems, is going to refuse the $1 million reward from a U.S. institute next Tuesday, claiming the prize was the solution of the problem. The Russian genius has found a solution to the century-old problem set by the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Jules Henri Poincare in 2002. The conjecture, which is difficult for most non-mathematicians even to understand, exercised some of the greatest minds of the 20th century. No one has been able to find a mistake in Perelman’s solution and there is a growing consensus that he has cracked the problem.

Next Tuesday Perelman is tipped to win a Fields medal. But even by the standards of troubled maths virtuosos such as John Nash, portrayed in the film A Beautiful Mind, Dr. Perelman is described as “unconventional”.

.... He has also refused a major European math prize, supposedly on the grounds that he did not believe the committee awarding the prize was sufficiently qualified to judge his work.

“I just don’t see him turning up in a stretch limo with four over-endowed women and waving his cheque in the air. It’s not his style,” said Jeremy Gray, a math historian at the University of Oxford.

“I think he’s a very unconventional person. He’s against being involved in pageantry and idolatry,” said Arthur Jaffe at Harvard University. “But he carries it to extreme which people might describe as a little crazy.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Won't you please come to Chicago

We can always eat in the suburbs:

CHICAGO — These are dangerous times for waterfowl in Chicago.

With the city's ban on foie gras — a delicacy made of duck and goose liver — days away from going into effect, upscale restaurants in the city are serving it up like never before. They've put together special menus featuring it in course after course — searing it, chilling it, tossing it into salads and turning it into sauce.

...."There are other things I might have ordered, but I thought, I'm on the clock," said Ben Goldhirsh, a mortgage banker who recently enjoyed the extensive "Foie Gras, Farewell To Our Good Friend" menu at the restaurant MK.

....More than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, have banned production of the delicacy.

....That helps explain why a group of distributors, producers, processors and others in the business have formed the North American Foie Gras Association and hired a lobbyist to make their case as other cities, including Philadelphia, contemplate following Chicago's lead. And why Durand helped found Chicago Chefs for Choice to raise money to fight the ban.

....many Chicago chefs say that in their world of four-star restaurants, the ban will have an effect.

"When things like this happen, it makes the city look silly," said Jean Joho, the chef at Everest.

"Colleagues around the world are laughing. They definitely make jokes about Chicago."

'Enlever l'intermédiaire' doesn't exist in french

But it should, if the French Consulate in Moscow is any indication:

Three officials pocketed between 10 and 20 times the official 35-euro (44-dollar) cost of a French visa in exchange for speeding up delivery, which had slowed due to increased demand, an embassy source told AFP.

"The consulate has asked the three officials to leave because there are strong suspicions of corruption surrounding them," said another embassy source, adding that an enquiry was under way and that other officials might be found to be culpable.

Last year France issued more visas in Russia than any other European country, 272,000 in all -- a 10-percent increase from the previous year and double the number in 2000.

Obtaining a visa at the consulate currently takes from two to three weeks. The consulate is looking into ways of improving the service, including registering applications on the internet or engaging a subcontractor.

Guys, you just told the subcontractors to get out of town.


Turn-ons include bananas and brachiating:

Zookeepers in the Netherlands are planning to hook up Dutch and Indonesian orangutans over the Internet and believe the link could at some stage be used as an online dating service where apes could get to know one another and keepers could work out whether they would be compatible mates.

...."We are going to set up an Internet connection between Indonesia and Apeldoorn so that the apes can see each other and, by means of pressing a button, be able to give one another food, for example," said Anouk Ballot, a spokeswoman for the Apenheul ape park in the central Dutch city of Apeldoorn.

She said the chance of two orangutans actually mating as a result of the online interaction was small due to the problem of transporting them between the Netherlands and Indonesia. "But I wouldn't rule it out completely," she told The Associated Press.

....She stressed that only orangutans who show a natural interest and aptitude will take part. The Apenheul park has 13 orangutans among its collection of apes.

There is still work to be done to set up the Internet connection. "We need to find ape-proof cables and screens," Ballot said, adding that the zoo hopes to have the orangutans online by the end of this year or early 2007.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Keep the Queu Orderly, Lass

Muddling through to your grave in Britain's National Health Service:

A Woman who was told that she had just six months to live has been forced to spend the past four months battling to get funding for the only treatment that could save her. Helena Simpson, from Backwell, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the beginning of May.

Due to the severity of her illness she has not been able to receive either radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Her only hope of survival is treatment with a drug called Tarceva (Erlotinib) which can destroy some types of cancer cells. But exceptional funding is needed from North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) for the drug.

....She has already been turned down for the drug twice and says delays in setting a date to appeal the decision could cost her her life.

...."They have taken away the best part of four months of the six months they said I had left. It feels so unjust."

....In a letter from Dr Max Kammerling, the director of public health and health improvement at the PCT, Lena was told: "We are aware of some weaknesses in our administration procedures for requests such as yours and we are working to improve them. I do apologise for the distress and confusion caused by this and I can assure you that are moving to address your concerns as quickly as possible."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lazy Faire?

Paris, the City of Light Hours:

Seoul has the highest, Paris the lowest working hours

....With a mean annual working time of 2088 hours, people work longest in the Asian cities. Based on a 42-hour work week, Asian workers labor about 50 days a year more than their peers in Paris, where a working year is just 1480 hours, or Berlin, where a years' work equals 1610 hours.

An analysis of the historical data produced by the UBS Study of Prices and Earnings, shows that Europeans have reduced their working hours in the last 30 years in favor of more leisure time.

Just Go Eat Worms

'Cause you can't sell them in Connecticut:

CROMWELL, Conn. — For the past three summers, Joey Cadieux has headed outside with his flashlight on rainy nights to collect night crawlers from his yard.

Purchased by passing fishermen for $2.50 a dozen, the worms brought him $7 to $10 in a good month, just enough for bike trips to his favorite neighborhood pizza joint.

But when a Cromwell official recently objected to his stenciled black-and-white "nite crawlers" yard sign, Cadieux's business got the hook.

....Cadieux, 13, who starts high school in a few weeks, is uncomfortable with the controversy and just wants to start earning some pizza money again.

....The brouhaha started in July when Al Diaz, a town Planning and Zoning Commission member, said the sign did not conform with Cromwell's rules and should come down.

...."In a residential zone, if you want to put up a business and work out of your home you really need a special permit," Diaz told The Hartford Courant in a story published Friday.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Break a Leg

In one Hungarian city, good luck:

VESZPRÉM residents need to pay particular care in coming times so as to not break any bones, as the city's hospital does not have sufficient funds and has sent several patients home as it ran out plaster for casts, Magyar Rádió online ( reported last week. According to Dr.Jenô Rácz, director general of the hospital, the coming month is going to be even worse, as the hospital has no money.

He said that in July, every third patient's attendance was financed by the National Health Insurance Office.

.... Hungarians... visit their doctor over twenty times a year, twice as often as the average number of surgery appointments in developed countries.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why pay for the milk...

...when the cow is stupid, and you're broke:

Matthew Bushell, 33, was quite happy to have Tracy Harper make a 100-mile journey to his home in Southport, Merseyside, and even happier to spend six hours in bed with her.

But when it came time to settle up he suddenly became a little reticent.

His first thought was to stall by inviting her out for a post-coital drink. Then he panicked, driving to a pub car park and speeding off as soon as she got out of the passenger door.

Later he sent her a text message saying: "Sorry Tracy. Had to do it. Did not have a penny at the time. Hope you got home safely."

Miss Harper, who had to return to Bradford, West Yorkshire, minus her £120-an-hour fee, was so angry that she lodged an official complaint with police.

Bushell was promptly arrested and charged with dishonestly obtaining sexual favours by deception.

....[Miss Harper] said last night: "I thought escorting wouldn't just be about sex - I thought it would be going out to events and maybe a bit glamorous.

"But Bushell didn't even give me a cup of tea, even though I asked him twice."

Miss Harper added: "I realise now that I was too trusting and naive. I just hope I can warn other girls who possibly think the escort industry isn't all about sex. Well, it is - and it's not worth it."

Even his wooden shoes were plastic

Euro Rappers? The idea deserves to be taken for a ride:

AMSTERDAM — Dutch rap stars Lange Frans and Baas B. have fallen victim to a bogus manager who organised fictional concerts in their names to get the unwitting venues to part with money.

The suspected conman has fled abroad, real manager Willem van den Brandt told RTL Nieuws on Tuesday.

His bogus counterpart has been masquerading as the manager, while in actual fact he had only worked as a touring assistant for Lange Frans and Baas B. on a freelance basis for over two years.

"As things stand now I know of three instances where he presented himself as the manager," Van der Brandt said. Using this ploy, the man spent months negotiating with Snoepy's disco in Salou, Spain about a performance there.

"Lange Frans and Baas B. were supposed to come to Spain, and the disco lodged EUR 12,500 in the man's private bank account as an advance, Van den Brandt said.

The performance was scheduled for June but at the end of May the owner of the disco was informed the duo probably would not be coming because they had received a "more attractive offer".

"So he also made Lange Frans and Baas B. look like real jerks," their manager said.

Real rappers not needing the help, he means?

Homage by Catalonia?

The Official Gang of Barcelona:

BARCELONA – The infamous urban gang the Latin Kings has been legalised in Catalonia, according to the newspaper El Periodico de Cataluna.

The Latin American gang has been the centre of a number of police investigations for street violence and clashes with its rival gang the Ñetas.

However, the regional government in Catalonia, the Generalitat, has approved the gang’s naming as a cultural association.

From now on, it will be called the Cultural Association of the Latin Kings and Queens of Catalonia.

.... The legalisation means the Latin Kings are now eligible for the benefits associated with being a legally registered body, such as financial aid, grants and subsidies.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

There must be fifty ways to leave your... for the French, at the companion site to the book 50 Reasons to Hate the French:

Want to know France's ten greatest military defeats? They're listed inside.

Want to know just how safe the Citroen 2CV is?


Want to understand how Jean Paul Sartre used existentialism to prove that bathing was unnecessary?


Click on a category on the site, and you're invited to pile on:

To add your experience in this category of the French BLOG, fill in your details below.
Your Experience Details


(Thanks to This French Life.)

Gather No Moss, but...

They're hell on the grass:

STUTTGART - The Rolling Stones might remain one of the most popular bands in the world, but officials at German Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart are not singing their praises at the moment.

The turf of the Gottlieb-Daimler stadium was ruined during a concert the aging rockers gave in the city on Friday, team manager Horst Heldt said on Monday. "The condition of the lawn is a catastrophe. Our worst fears have materialized," he said.

Being an anti-Israeli bigot means...

...never having to abase yourself ala Mel Gibson. Just ask Tom Ricks and Hugh Hewitt:

HH: ....I want to spend the vast bulk of our time on Fiasco and Iraq, but first, yesterday, you were on with Howard Kurtz' Reliable Sources, CNN, and in response to a question, you said that some military analyst had told you that Israel had, "purposefully left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon." That was reported on Powerline, Rush Limbaugh read it on the air today, quite a controversy. Anything to add to it, Thomas Ricks?

TR- Yeah, I wish I'd kept my mouth shut. What I said was accurate, that in an off-the-record conversation with some military analysts, a couple had said to me that they thought it was a smart strategy to leave some rocket pockets in place to help the Israelis shape public perceptions, and give their forces more freedom of maneuver in Lebanon. They weren't saying it was a bad strategy. They thought it was pretty intelligent, if it were the case. But I've since heard today from some very smart, well-informed people, that while such a strategy might be logical, and even morally defensible, that they thought the Israeli public just wouldn't stand for it, and they also expressed personal dismay to me that I had passed on the thought, which they thought was irresponsible.

HH: Do you want to name any of the analysts?

TR: No, it was an off-the-record conversation, and I want to honor that confidence.

HH: Okay, last question. Do you think they were leading you on at that point, or just telling you what they honestly meant?

TR: No, I think...I know from the context of the conversation, it was about many different things. That came up as a part of the conversation. These are very good, smart, retired U.S. military officers.

HH: Okay, Thomas Ricks, let's get to Fiasco, because that's really what I want to talk about, the Iraq war.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Now it's personal

Crime doesn't pay when the police are motivated:

Moments after the theft of the Viera's Bakery van was reported early Friday in Kennewick, police issued an all-points bulletin.

A Benton County sheriff's deputy quickly spotted the truck. After a chase at 30 to 35 mph, Richland police got it to stop and arrested the driver, Steve Swoboda, 19, for investigation of auto theft and felony escape.

Still intact was the entire load of glazed, sugar and cream doughnuts, as well as apple fritters, bear claws.

"In 24 years in law enforcement I've never had a call like that," Richland police Capt. Randy Barnes said. "To steal a bakery truck, how clever is that?"

Out with the old. In with the teens.

The One Bench Geezers lose even that in Holland:

AMSTERDAM — The official meeting place for senior citizens in the town of Oude Pekela in the north of the Netherlands has been taken over by the local youth.

Jan Romme, director of the national senior citizens fund, confirmed on Monday that the hang-out is in a run down state. Piles of rubbish and cigarette butts are building up and the bench has graffiti on it, with texts such as 'geile beer' (lecher).

The meeting place was announced in March with much fan fair to enable older people to socialise after the local supermarket introduced a general ban on groups gathering there.

After it was unveiled, a number of shopkeepers moved the 'hang-out' bench to a darker and less
attractive corner of the shopping centre.

Despite this, it was originally a great success. But as the weather became warmer the seniors made less and less use of the bench as a meeting place. This was a cue for teenagers to claim the place as their own.

Fight Club

In China, they encourage barroom brawling:

The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing lets customers smash glasses, rant and even hit specially trained workers, state media reported.

The owner, Wu Gong, told China Daily that he was inspired to open the bar by his experiences as a migrant worker.

Most of his customers were women working in the service or entertainment industries, he said.

The bar employs 20 men who have been given protective gear and physical training to prepare them for the job.

Clients can ask the men to dress as the character they wish to attack.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

At least Mel Gibson was drunk...

...when he slandered Jews. It didn't appear that the WaPo's Thomas Ricks had that excuse when he said the following on CNN's Reliable Sources today:

[HOWARD] KURTZ: Tom Ricks, you've covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don't have two standing armies shooting at each other?

THOMAS RICKS, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.

KURTZ: Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of it's fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?

RICKS: Yes, that's what military analysts have told me.

KURTZ: That's an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here.

RICKS: Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well.

Speaking of Fiasco.