Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama shuts down secret CIA prisons and rendition.

What is this weird feeling....? Is it... respect and pride for my president and country? From The Guardian:
Barack Obama embarked on the wholesale deconstruction of George Bush's war on terror, shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition, and calling for a new set of rules for detainees. The repudiation of Bush's thinking on national security yesterday also saw the appointment of a high-powered envoy to the Middle East.

Obama's decision to permanently shut down the CIA's clandestine interrogation centres went far beyond the widely anticipated move to wind down the Guantánamo Bay detention centre within a year.

He cast his scrapping of the legal apparatus set up by Bush as a way for America to reclaim the moral high ground in the fight against al-Qaida.

"We are not, as I said during the inauguration, going to continue with the false choice between our safety and our ideals," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "We intend to win this fight. We are going to win it on our own terms."

Milli Vanilli, Ashlee Simpson, Yo-Yo Ma?

I can't believe the insipid music I didn't bother listening to wasn't real! From Huffington Post:
The classical music played for millions of people watching President Barack Obama's inauguration was not the live performance it appeared to be.

Unless you were one of the fortunate few sitting within earshot of the celebrated performers, what you heard was a recording made two days earlier.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill made the decision a day before Tuesday's inauguration to use a previously recorded audio tape for the broadcast of the ceremonies.

Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the weather was too cold for the instruments to stay in tune.

"They were very insistent on playing live until it became clear that it would be too cold," said Florman in a telephone interview Thursday night.

People sitting nearby could hear the musicians play "Air and Simple Gifts", written for the inauguration by John Williams, but their instruments were not amplified.

Corrupt IL governor compares his arrest to attack on Pearl Harbor.

Just... wow. From FOX:
Illinois' embattled but defiant governor, so fond of reciting poetry as he defends himself against federal corruption allegations, has turned instead to the history books to describe the emotional strain his arrest put on him and his family.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Gov. Rod Blagojevich compared his early morning December arrest by FBI agents to Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

He says it was a "complete surprise" but he'll prevail, just like America in World War II.

Blagojevich says there's no chance he will resign before the start of the state Senate's impeachment trial next week. He says he will fight the allegations against him "to the very end."

How to read a wine label.

Submitted by reader Abby. Some good tips here for the non-snob (there are non-wine snobs reading the Wall Street Journal?). Article here, and some tips here:

Vintage. This is actually the first thing we look for ourselves. You don't need to have a vintage chart in your pocket or care whether 2001 or 2002 was a better year in the Sierra Foothills. The vast majority of wines at the store are meant to be drunk right away, so you want to make sure the wine isn't too old, particularly if you're buying it expecting lively, fresh fruitiness. We routinely see five-year-old Pinot Grigio and two-year-old Beaujolais Nouveau at stores, for example, so as soon as we see that kind of age on wines like those, we know we can skip them and move on (and possibly not shop there again).

Critter labels. In the past few years, there has been a profusion of inexpensive wines with cute animals on the labels. We have tasted these wines and they are generally less attractive than the labels. Of course, some good wines happen to have animals on the labels -- consider Stag's Leap or Iron Horse from California, for instance -- but, especially when it comes to less-expensive wines, we'd avoid wines where the cute animal seems to be the main point of the wine. A humdinger of a tale about the animal is often a clue that this is a wine to avoid.

Reserve. On American wines, this doesn't mean anything, so ignore it. There are various rules around the world concerning words like Reserva, but there's no guarantee it means anything in other parts of the world. Unless you know something about the rules concerning, say, Rioja, where it has genuine significance, don't worry about it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Boys from Brazil: Nazi doctor caused twin surge in Brazil town.

Twins are creepy to begin with. But a Nazi-created Aryan army of twin children? Yipes.

A notorious Nazi doctor known as the 'Angel of Death' is behind an alarming number of twins born in a small Brazilian town, a historian has claimed.

Josef Mengele was an SS physician in Auschwitz concentration camp where in a bid to create a master race for Adolf Hitler he carried out genetic experiments to find the key to producing twins.

The aim was to artificially increase the Aryan birthrate.

In 1945 he fled the advancing Red Army and made his way to South America.

It is there that the medic, who is believed to have been responsible for up to 400,000 deaths in medical experiments at Auschwitz, may have succeeded in his mission.

Baffled scientists had been struggling to come up with a reason for the high proportion twins in the tiny Brazilian town of Candido Godoi - most of them blond-haired and blue-eyed.

A staggering one in five pregnancies there have resulted in the birth of twins - the usual rate is one in 80.


Lame: Man reprimanded for having girlie calendar at work causes millions in damage.

Local: Fire at Mount Sinai. 600 patients moved.

Yipes: Enraged woman bites bus driver.

Health: Vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer's.

Hero: Girl, 10, saved hotel of guests from killer tsunami.

Band of the Day: Unicorn Dream Attack. 8bit awesomeness from Minnesota.

Duh: Britons were too polite to survive the Titanic.

Movies: Boring Oscar nominations. (But go Slumdog!)

Yipes: Earth's seasons now arrive two days earlier.

Penguin has unusual water phobia.

While his feathered friends dive happily through the icy depths, poor Kentucky the penguin perches hopelessly on his favourite rock.

Why? Because he’s afraid of WATER. The petrified penguin, described as a ’runt’ by his keepers, is terrified by the cold H20.

He refuses to take the plunge with his other 23 penguin pals at Blackbrook Zoological Park, in Leek, Staffs. Staff at the zoo have seen 11-year-old Kentucky become a surprise hit with visitors at the park due to his unusual phobia.

The hapless Humbolt penguin was born smaller than his Arctic brothers and sisters and has had malting problems since birth which make the water ’a bit too cold for him’, staff say.

25 arrested for protesting Zombie Lenin.

From Moscow Times:
Moscow police detained 25 people on Wednesday who had been planning to stage a protest to demand the removal of a mausoleum containing the embalmed body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin from Red Square.

Police closed Red Square ahead of the planned protest on the 85th anniversary of the death of Lenin.

"They were trying to hold a rally that the authorities had not allowed," a police spokesman said.

The group had intended to dress up as mummies and demonstrate outside the mausoleum with a cardboard coffin. Media reports described the group as Orthodox monarchists who want Lenin buried as an ordinary person.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cool interview with Anthony Bourdain.

Great interview, submitted by reader JenK. Interview here. I like Mr. Bourdain's reaction to Mario Batali's horrid Spain - On The Road show:
Okay, I'll just say it. I think the Spain show is f***ing awful. Mark Bittman comes off unsympathetic to say the least. Bringing someone who cannot or will not eat jamon [Gwyneth Paltrow] to Spain is a misjudgment. My crew grinds their teeth with rage looking at the crummy production values. Bad camera work, bad sound, bad direction. The whole thing sucks. It's unfortunate. It's mesmerizingly awful.

President Obama: Day 1 (Con't).

Obama orders freeze on White House pay.

Creates toughest lobbying rules of any administration.

Drafting executive order to close Guantanamo.

Israel admits using white phosphorus shells in Gaza.

Oh, but it's Israel. They're allowed to commit crimes against humanity. From The Guardian:

Israel has admitted – after mounting pressure – that its troops may have used white phosphorus shells in contravention of international law, during its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip.

One of the places most seriously affected by the use of white phosphorus was the main UN compound in Gaza City, which was hit by three shells on 15 January. The same munition was used in a strike on the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City the same day.

[...] According to army sources the brigade fired up to 20 phosphorus shells in a heavily built-up area around the Gaza township of Beit Lahiya, one of the worst hit areas of Gaza.

The internal inquiry – which the army says does not have the status of the full investigation demanded by human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – follows weeks of fighting in which Israel either denied outright that it was using phosphorus-based weapons, or insisted that what weapons it was using "were in line with international law".

[...] Phosphorus is a toxic chemical agent that burns on contact with air and creates thick white smokes in order to hide troop movements. However phosphorus shells are largely indiscriminate scattering large numbers of fragments over a large area, which can cause severe damage to both human tissue and property.


D'oh: Baby accidentally calls 911. Police respond and find 500 marijuana plants.

Prophesy: Britain pledges 3.4m pounds to investigate disappearing bees.

Follow-Up: England Attorney General to review lenient sentences for gang rapists/torturers.

Sad: Political activist brutally beaten to death in Moscow.

Creepy: Earth's oxygen the result from nickel-hungry bacteria?

Eats: Frogs are being eaten to extinction.

Man's shaggy eyebrows trimmed for charity.

George Whipple should do this! PS - Polio is still around? From Breitbart:
A 72-year-old Indiana man with eyebrows so long he brushed them each morning raised $1,600 for charity from people who paid to take turns trimming his out-of-control brows.

Some of the wiry hairs shorn from Si Burgher's shaggy eyebrows measured more than seven centimetres long because the former jeweller's brows had never been trimmed. Burgher's eyebrows were so long he used to brush them before leaving the house.

But he agreed to have the overgrown brows tamed last week by members of the Bloomfield Rotary Club to raise money for a polio eradication campaign.

President Obama: Day 1.

Awesome: Obama's first order is step closer to closing Guantanamo Bay.

Awesome: Malia and Sasha enjoy White House scavenger hunts, cool secret rooms.

Awesome: Calls Middle East leaders, including Palestinian president.

Obama's speech censored in China.

From BBC:

China has censored parts of the new US president's inauguration speech that have appeared on a number of websites.

Live footage of the event on state television also cut away from Barack Obama when communism was mentioned.

China's leaders appear to have been upset by references to facing down communism and silencing dissent.

English-language versions of the speech have been allowed on the internet, but many of the Chinese translations have omitted sensitive sections.

Swarms of worms invading Liberia.

Ugh, gross. From BBC:

Swarms of moth caterpillars that have devoured crops and plagued some 20 villages in central Liberia are now attacking neighbouring areas of Guinea.

Liberia's agriculture minister said it was the worst swarm of the insect, known as army worm, in three decades.

The bug, which can grow up to 5cm (2in) in length, is one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has sounded the alarm over the infestation.

"There is a need for immediate action otherwise it may create problems for food production," said Tim Vaessen, of the FAO.

Sugar permanently alters DNA.

Wow, this is nutty. Thanks Jen!
Human genes remember a sugar hit for two weeks, with prolonged poor eating habits capable of permanently altering DNA, Australian research has found.

A team studying the impact of diet on human heart tissue and mice found that cells showed the effects of a one-off sugar hit for a fortnight, by switching off genetic controls designed to protect the body against diabetes and heart disease.

"We now know that chocolate bar you had this morning can have very acute effects, and those effects can continue for up to two weeks," said lead researcher Sam El-Osta, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.

"These changes continue beyond the meal itself and have the ability to alter natural metabolic responses to diet," he told Australian Associated Press Friday.

Regular poor eating would amplify the effect, said El-Osta, with genetic damage lasting months or years, and potentially passing through bloodlines.

Rush's Retrospective III information and track list.

The last two decades haven't been Rush's strongest, but I could've come up with a much better track list. Blargh. From a press release:

Atlantic Records is pleased to announce details of the upcoming third installment in Rush’s continuing compilation series. “RETROSPECTIVE III (1989-2008)” arrives in stores on March 2nd in the UK (and March 3rd in North America) and features music from the rock trio’s last two decades with the label, including tracks taken from the albums - PRESTO (1989), ROLL THE BONES (1991), COUNTERPARTS (1993), TEST FOR ECHO (1996), VAPOR TRAILS (2002), and SNAKES & ARROWS (2007).

RETROSPECITVE III will be released as both a single CD and a 2-Disc CD/DVD set. The CD includes a previously unreleased live version of the song "GHOST OF A CHANCE" recorded in Atlanta during Rush’s 2008 "Snakes & Arrows Tour", plus remixes of the tracks "ONE LITTLE VICTORY" and "EARTHSHIINE".

The “RETROSPECTIVE III” bonus DVD gathers the band’s 10 stunning music videos during the Atlantic years, including clips for fan favourites such as “The Pass,” “Roll The Bones,” “Stick It Out,” “Driven,” and the Grammy Award-nominated “Malignant Narcissism.” The DVD boasts a trio of live videos filmed in Frankfurt, Germany during Rush’s 2004 “R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour,” highlighted by a masterful performance of The Who’s classic “The Seeker” (originally recorded by Rush for 2004’s “FEEDBACK”). As an added bonus, the band has included a rare TV performance of the classic “Tom Sawyer” and an interview.


  1. One Little Victory (Remix)
  2. Dreamline
  3. Workin' Them Angels
  4. Presto
  5. Bravado
  6. Driven
  7. The Pass
  8. Animate
  9. Roll the Bones
  10. Ghost of a Chance (Live)
  11. Nobody's Hero
  12. Leave That Thing Alone
  13. Earthshine (Remix)
  14. Far Cry


  1. Stick it Out
  2. Nobody's Hero
  3. Half the World
  4. Driven
  5. Roll the Bones
  6. Show Don't Tell
  7. The Pass
  8. Superconductor
  9. Far Cry
  10. Malignant Narcissism
  11. The Seeker (Live)
  12. Secret Touch (Live)
  13. Resist (Live)
  14. Interview Tom Sawyer (Live)*

*bonus material


These are from yesterday - I got inaugural fever and forgot to post them.

Trends: Japanese girls prefer video games as gifts over anything else. (Thanks Larissa)

Creepy: Synthetic sex smell lures vampire fish to its doom.

D'oh: Super leaves window open, causes $100,000's in damage.

PSA: Company recalls its "cuddly uterus" toy because the ovaries are a choking hazard.

Health: Epidurals are even safer than previously thought.

D'oh: Newlyweds leave wedding gifts in trunk of taxi.

Local: Federal judge lets Bloomberg overturn public referendums that would prevent him from being dictator for life.

Lame: Waiter plays Arabic chanting to frighten guests at Jewish wedding.

Awful: Proving again that England doesn't take rape seriously, gang rapists who tortured mentally challenged girl (and filmed her!) essentially get a slap on the wrist. Warning: this is as bad as it gets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hometown News: Kid stabbed at gory 3-D horror movie.

From the NY Post:

The credits rolled but the blood kept flowing.

A Long Island security guard allegedly stabbed a moviegoer after a showing of the gruesome splatter flick "My Bloody Valentine 3-D" in Valley Stream Sunday night.

A 16-year-old boy began fighting with 24-year-old security guard Ricardo Singh, of Uniondale, who had insisted that he leave the theater immediately after the film ended, said Nassau County police .

After some pushing and shoving, Singh allegedly pulled out a small pocket knife and jabbed the teen in the stomach.

The victim was taken to Winthrop University Hospital, where he received six stitches to close the wound and was released.

Singh was arrested and charged with second-degree assault. He is set for an arraignment hearing today.

The movie, a remake of the 1981 slasher classic, tells the tale of a pickax-swinging psychopath and promises it's audience a "3D ride to hell."

Israel destroys UN buildings in Gaza.

From BBC:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself.

Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a "full investigation" through proper judiciary systems.

He was speaking in front of the smouldering remains of the UN food warehouse destroyed by Israeli shells.

He said he would do all he could to help the population of Gaza.

Appearing stern and at times angry, Mr Ban called the attacks "outrageous" and demanded guarantees that it would never happen again.

"I have protested many times. I am today protesting again in the strongest terms. I have asked (for a) full investigation and (to) make those responsible people accountable," he said.

"I am just appalled. I am not able to describe how I am feeling, having seen this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound. This was an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations."

Israeli shells hit the UN headquarters as well as two UN schools during the recent three-week offensive.

The headquarters were badly damaged and nearly 40 people were killed near one of the schools.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Eats: Haagen-Dazs decreases the sizes of their containers.

Neat: 10 spectacular pools around the world.

Aww: New conversation heart slogans revealed. ("IM A SLAVE 4U" not one of them.)

Games: Play Street Fighter II using YouTube.

Architecture: Top 12 yonic monuments. ("Yonic" is the female version of "phallic.")

Awesome: Christopher Walken interviews Mickey Rourke.

Games: Top 10 most awesomely insane arcade games of the 1980s.

Politics: Keith Olbermann: 8 years of Bush in 8 minutes.

WTF: Australian man who insulted Thai royal family in book jailed for 3 years.

Film: Amazing Polish movie posters of American movies. Even the Short Circuit 2 poster is a modern art masterpiece.

Politics: If Bush established a think tank, would it be empty?

USDA defines "naturally raised" (and makes it worse).

It's good that the USDA creates standards that food producers need to abide by if they're making claims to consumers. But this "voluntary standard" essentially allows just about anything to be stamped "natural" - even when it defies common sense. From US Food Policy:
The USDA Agriculture Marketing Services has issued a voluntary standard for 'naturally raised' livestock and meat marketing claims.

Naturally raised, often used as a marketing tool to attract consumers concerned about animal welfare, has up until now not had a official definition.

The new standard states that livestock used for the production of meat and meat products have:

1. been raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics (except for ionophores used as coccidiostats for parasite control)

2. have never been fed animal by-products

The voluntary standard will establish the minimum requirements for those producers who choose to operate a USDA-verified program involving a naturally raised claim. USDA analyzed over 44,000 comments from producers, processors, consumers, and other interested parties in the development of this standard.

Many are concerned that:

a) the standards aren't stringent enough on what it means to 'naturally raise' an animal. Under this ruling, animals raised in CAFO's (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) can still be tagged natural.

b) the new label will undercut the USDA Organic certification and/or farmers pushing to establish sustainable raised meat.

The Consumers Union and Food and Water Watch say the new standards sanction un-natural practices.

"This regulation will allow an animal that has come from a cloned or genetically engineered stock, was physically altered, raised in confinement without ever seeing the light of day or green of pasture, in poor hygiene conditions with a diet laced in pesticides to be labeled as ‘naturally raised.’ This falls significantly short of consumer expectations and only adds to the roster of misleading label claims approved by USDA for so-called natural meat," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst at Consumers Union.

"These last minute rules for the 'naturally-raised' label on meat practically invite agribusiness to greenwash their products and rip off consumers" stated Patty Lovera, assistant director for consumer group Food & Water Watch. "Until these standards are revised, consumers will have to navigate another set of misleading labels at the grocery store."

It's official: Bush is least popular president ever.

Alternative headline: 22% of Americans brain dead or living under rock. From
President Bush will leave office as one of the most unpopular departing presidents in history, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Mr. Bush's final approval rating at 22 percent.

Seventy-three percent say they disapprove of the way Mr. Bush has handled his job as president over the last eight years.

Mr. Bush's final approval rating is the lowest final rating for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking about presidential approval more than 70 years ago.

The rating is far below the final ratings of recent two-term presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both ended their terms with a 68 percent approval rating, according to CBS News polling.

Recent one term presidents also had higher ratings than Mr. Bush. His father George H.W. Bush had an end-of-term rating of 54 percent, while Jimmy Carter's rating was 44 percent.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Duh: Kids have stopped collecting junk as hobbies.

Lame: LA getting into the drug trade by suing drug gangs.

Hot Cha Cha: Politician posts shower pic of herself on facebook.

Band of the Day: Doble Fuerza - the Argentine Ramones!

Inflation: Zimbabwe now printing $100 trillion note ($30 US).

Sad: 167 South African miners trapped underground.

Local: New York State wastes $54 million on failed statewide wireless project; kills rest of multibillion-dollar contract.

Science: Humans are the reason for animals' varied colors and coats.

Funny: Most awkward inaugural dance moves.