Search This Blog

30 March 2012

Cross your fingers! Clutch your rabbit's foot! Rub your horseshoe! / Bob & S.W.M.B.O. got 5 hot tickets in tonight's world record Mega Millions jackpot!

Click fantasy to get richer.

UK Newswire
Friday 30 March 2012

World record 

lottery drawing tonight!

by David Beasley
ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- Buzz is building around the largest lottery jackpot in world history -- at least $540,000,000 -- ahead of the Mega Millions drawing taking place in Atlanta late Friday night.

Buyers have lined up this week in 42 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands to purchase $1 tickets for the Mega Millions lottery.

In most participating states, tickets will be on sale Friday until 22:45 EST, lottery officials said.

The drawing will be held in Atlanta at 23:00 EST.

Odds of winning the entire jackpot are 175,000,000-to-1, said Margaret DeFrancisco, president and chief executive of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

If a single ticket matches all 6 winning numbers, the player would receive either a one-time payment of $389,000,000 or the full jackpot in 26 annual installment payments.

If there are multiple winning tickets, the winnings will be split equally among the lucky customers.

"There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement," DeFrancisco said on Friday.

The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.

It will be early Saturday morning before lottery officials verify whether there are any winning tickets, according to the Mega Millions website.

About half of the lottery money goes back to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.

If there is no winner Friday night, lottery officials are considering moving the next drawing to Times Square in New York City as the anticipation and jackpot build, DeFrancisco said.

"It's the number one media market in the world," she said. "It's the world stage."

(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Paul Thomasch)
- 30 -

29 March 2012

Bob & S.W.M.B.O. will soon be filthy rich / 5 hot tickets on the $500,000,000 Mega Millions jackpot!

Click to enlarge.

Mega Millions is a multi-state USA lottery game. The other Big Jackpot nationwide lottery is PowerBall.

You play Mega Millions this way:

Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 56
Pick 1 number  from 1 to 46

and pay $1 per ticket.

We got 5 tickets riding on Friday's drawing! If we win (and don't have to split the jackpot with too many other icky winners), S.W.M.B.O. says she wants a pony, and I think I would like to go traveling again -- Antarctica, Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego, Angkor Wat, Iqaluit, and oh yeah back to Yerp and Netherlands and maybe see the bonobo zoo in Belgium and go to Prague again and Budapest and see the spiffy new Klee Museum in Bern -- and C.E.R.N. and the Large Hadron Collider near Geneve. Oh and the Falkirk Wheel and the Ring of Brodgar.

And if the ticket price is reasonable, maybe a quick trip into orbital space on SpaceX or Virgin Space.


The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Wednesday 28 March 2012

Mega Millions jackpot
largest ever
at $500,000,000


ATLANTA -- The Mega Millions jackpot is now the largest in U.S. lottery history.

Georgia Lottery officials say the jackpot reached $500,000,000 on Wednesday.

A winner could get $19.2 million a year for 26 years, or a single payment worth $359 million. The next drawing is Friday 30 March at 23:00 EST.

Previously, the largest jackpot was $390 million, won by two players in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007.
- 30 -


i built a house inside a house
i bought a tiger to catch a mouse
disconnect my phone
i don't want to hear those poor folks moan
cause i'm rich

"I'm Rich" -- Geoff Muldaur

26 March 2012

Cahiers du Vleeptron: more analysis of Disney's sleep aid "John Carter of Mars"

Click magazine to enlarge.

Anonymous PatfromCH said...
I can only agree. Blockbuster Hollywood forgot to tell us a good stories the last few years. And they are a bit too fond of CGG. You have quoted the best and worst examples. Yet I have to exclude Lord of the Rings. When I heard that this would be made into a movie I had a laughing fit. Then I thought pleaseohpleaseohplease don’t let them eff that up ! As strange as it sounds LOTR would not have been possible with current CGG, even if Gollum looks a bit silly and director Peter Jackson was reluctant with the use of CGG. Otherwise the fans would have tarred and feathered him.Yet he did a good job I reckon. What he did to King Kong is a different matter though and how someone can eff up such a simple and effective story is beyond me (despite the brilliant Jack Black as impressario), same with Barsoon, even if I haven’t seen that and probably never will. Oh man was I upset when I saw 300 ! Nice idea, but it looked like a cheap PlayStation game just because of CGG overuse and far too much stupid violence. Old stuff like Forbidden Planet with the cool soundtrack and the cheap gadgets but a solid yarn are much to be preferred indeed. And Hollywood wonders why Green Lantern etc flopped at the box office. Throwing money at a weak story and thinkig that the multiplatform cross-selling merchandise will sell isn’t enough. Vleeptron is absolutely correct: Gimmie a good story and I am in. Best evidence are the numerous good indie and low-budget movies that came out over tha last years, not just out of Hollywood.
Sunday, 25 March, 2012

25 March 2012

Cynthia & Bob's & 5 Cats Sampler **now with GREAT HORNED OWL & DIGITS** / needlepoint / catamount / Brer Rabbit wallpaper by William Morris

Why certainly click on the Sampler to enlarge.

Okay! I've added our GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)!

Okay so like our infinitessimally teeny rural hilltown is making a Celebration Quilt for the Town Demisesquicentennial or somesuch significant anniversary (for North America, this town is Very Old -- it was homestead land to reward veterans [Hessians or Prussians mostly, their names are still on our neighbors' mailboxes] of the French & Indian War, our local corner of the Seven Years War), and they invited every household to submit an original quilt square. 

For as long as the 2012 Chesterfield Quilt lasts, everyone can see a hint, in Fabric Art (like the Bayeux Tapestry [which isn't, it's the Bayeux Embroidery), of what living here meant to Eileen and Ed Kaplowitz-McCoy and the kids and mammals and maybe a bird and a lizard and a goldfish.

S.W.M.B.O. informed me of the Town Project and appointed me Household Quilt Square Designer.

I missed the deadline -- I swear she was fuzzy and not clear about the date -- but I was getting into it, so screw the Town Quilt, here is Cynthia & Bob's 2012 Needlepoint Sampler.

There is So Fucking Much going on here in all seasons -- on Monday I woke up, looked out the window, and there were eight wild turkeys in the yard -- that I feel I need to add at least one piece of wildlife. We got Great Horned Owls (at least 2, or there wouldn't be any, they come in pairs), coyotes, bats, fox, the nasty fisher cat, Wild Turkey, an invisible brown bear (we found its scat), and there is ceaseless controversy over whether we got mountain lions (puma, cougar, panther, hereabouts called catamount) or whether the local farmers extincted them 60 years ago and they have obediently remained extincted. 

I say we got no Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and we got no Chucacabra or Loup Garou either.

Although the owls threaten to fly off with a kitten (we lock all cats indoors after sundown), I am very proud and fond of the owls; when I hear their call deep in the night, it is a moment of profound magic, like gazing at a comet. So I have needlepointed one of our owls.

I framed the Sampler and hung it on the wall. The wallpaper, of course, is by William Morris, his "Brer Rabbit," inspired by the enormously popular "Uncle Remus" folktales of African-American former slaves in the Deep South by Joel Chandler Harris (a white editor for The Atlanta Constitution). Brer Rabbit wallpaper hangs on the walls of Harris' mansion, The Owl's Nest, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Okay, this is Primitive Art or Folk Art -- if you want your owls depicted by Jean James Audubon, hire a real artist what went to a conservatory or something. I am Primitive Folk.

The needlepoint alphabet is hand-created, but largely filched from sewing craft websites. It was so labor-intensive to create from scratch on MSPaint that I stopped after the letters. Traditional needlepoint samplers also display the digits 0 - 9, and punctuation marks.


Like Paint By Numbers crapola, there are a lot of needlepoint sampler kits, where the needlepoint sewing buyer goes blind doing all the dreadful tedious hard work, but the kit provides the template design. A week or two of dreadfully hard work, but utterly no creativity or originality. Just follow the instructions, et voila! The Mona Lisa! Washington Crossing the Delaware! Abraham Lincoln! Anubis in Montmartre! Home Sweet Home!

23 March 2012

Cahiers du Vleeptron continued discussion of Disney's RealD Sleep Aid, "John Carter of Mars"

Click image to enlarge.

PatFromCH has left a new comment on your post "Cahiers du Vleeptron reviews Disney's RealD (tm) p...":

Hang mean...someone made a movie that is worse than Avatar ?? ohdearohdearohdear !!
Because those old Barsoon stories are not exactly High Literature they would be ideal for popcorn cinema, expecially with the CGG of nowdays.
and if Vleeptron says they were able to eff that up, alas, it cannot be otherwise. Hell, they have pree-screenings where people tell them what they think about the general release of a movie. If they don't like the ending, the haircut of the main actor or a side character it will be cut and redone. so now Disney effed up on a major scale, Tant pis, happens to every big studio every now and then, yet this was a movie I had some remote interest in. Bugger

Posted by PatFromCH to Vleeptron_Z at Friday, 23 March, 2012


The popcorn was great! I should have said that.

The unhappy consequence of RealD (tm) and the last 10 years of big-budget computer graphics -- like that synthetic troll Golem crap in "Lord of the Rings," and like "Avatar" -- is that weak-minded and badly educated studio execs forget the reason people want to pay $12 to sit in a dark theater for 110 minutes.

They want to be told a Story. A good Story. A Ripping Yarn, like "King Solomon's Mines." They want to go off on an Adventure they really find thrilling, exciting.

Without the "soul" of a good story, hyperexpensive noisy crap like "Avatar" and "John Carter" ... well, there I was on Barsoom watching Barsoomian blind hairy giant apes battle 4-armed horned Willem Dafoe, and I kept falling asleep. The theater seated 200+ people, and there were about seven or eight paying customers. This was an Astounding Adventure on Mars which utterly nobody gave a flying fuck about. They would rather have spent the 120 minutes at the dentist.

On the other hand, up in the right-hand corner of this blog is my "avatar," the Cyclops from "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," stop-motion effects ("Dynamation") by Ray Harryhausen. I first saw this thing when I was about 14, it struck me blind with amazement, and I have seen this magical shadow-picture story 40 times since then. 

Ditto, from the same era, "Forbidden Planet." (Disney studios cranked out the terrifying "Monster From The Id" as a contract job for MGM.)

I can watch a good story over and over again. I love great special effects -- but they have to be the work of an authentic Artist, someone with taste and imagination.

"Avatar" -- graceless, clumsy, silly, embarrassing both in the loud, junky FX and in the dumb story. (I hope Sigourney Weaver got cash up front.)

We neglected to mention the literary original of "John Carter": Edgar Rice Burroughs, more famed for "Tarzan." Of Boy Adventure Drek Lit, probably one of the worst. (H. Rider Haggard is actually a major shrine of interest and analysis for Jungians for "She.")

Did you happen to catch the recent re-make of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" starring Keanu Reeves as Klatu? One reviewer said Klatu came from The Planet Where People Have Only One Facial Expression.

These are movies where about 30 minutes in, you just want to stand up and scream: I DON'T CARE! WHO CARES?

Oh, an important warning. "John Carter" is a very long Adventure. Make sure you use the toilet before the show starts, especially if you bought a big Coke.


22 March 2012

Cahiers du Vleeptron reviews Disney's RealD (tm) piece o crap "John Carter"

Click image to enlarge.

My parents were a little prejudiced and were always terrified I would marry a chick from Mars.

For decades, the fantasy artist Frank Frazetta had the monopoly on this kind of barbarian outland hubba-hubba scantily clad hot otherworld babe and scantily clad big sword hunkola art (I think he did the iconic art for Schwarzeneggar's "Conan the Barbarian").

Frazetta was permanently transported to The Next Realm in 2010, so I don't know who filched his trademark style for this lobby art for Disney's "John Carter." But he/she/it was very good at capturing the Frazetta spirit.

Just one week into USA theatrical release, the buzz is that "John Carter" has nearly bankrupted Disney. Apparently in all North Amerrica, eleven people bought tickets to see it. Two of them were we.

There were about six other people in the Quadruplex MultiCineOdeon-28's "Extreme Digital Theater" to see this superspectacular piece of noisy crap. (S.W.M.B.O. called it "turgid," which was a charitable adjective for it.) While 8 species of alien Martians and their ferocious alien monsters battled it out on the alien 3D landscape of Barsoom, I fell asleep 3 times, only to be awakened by the next meaningless Dolby quadrophonic explosion.

I really like the new 3D movie tech called RealD, and have had lots of cool, nifty fun with Hollywood's latest carnival sideshow gimmick. So far the two best RealD movies we've seen are Brendan Fraser's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" -- a Family-Friendly gentle-spirited movie with an actual brain and some artistry -- but the RealD flick which totally won my heart a few months ago was "A Very Merry Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas."

SPOILER ALERT: Stranded in a deserted New Jersey industrial park at night with only a shotgun, Harold decides to summon help by shooting the shotgun in the air. A few seconds later a large fat white-bearded bleeding old man in a red suit crashes to the ground at their feet. The stoned idiots blasted Santa Claus out of his sleigh as he was bringing toys to girls and boys on Christmas Eve.

But anyway,

* "John Carter" totally sucked

* you probably only have less than a week to catch it in a big RealD or IMAX-3D theater.

Now I got to split, maybe later I'll add more to this review of Disney's pathetic attempt to clone "Avatar" -- which I had already decided was the worst movie ever made (including "Plan 9 From Outer Space"). "John Carter" was worse than "Avatar."

Oh, one of the stars was Willem Dafoe, but you can't tell because he has 4 arms and big horns and is computer animated. I hope he got cash up front.

21 March 2012

cancel our holiday in France / You can't go wrong going to the right / big shock: French hate Muslims and Jews, usually by mouth, this week by .45 caliber automatic / true Gauls rise up against barbarians

Click map to enlarge.

The Guardian
(UK broadsheet, originally The Manchester Guardian)
Wednesday 21 March 2012

French right caught up 

in the storm it helped create

by Fiachra Gibbons


Security is tightened across France as police search for a gunman who shot dead three children and a rabbi.

Xenophobic comments have fuelled the attacks on minorities.

Over the past few years of recession and regression, it has become a trite truism of European politics that you can't go wrong going to the right. Politicians across the continent have found a new magic formula for electoral success and survival by playing on fears of foreigners and particularly of Islam -- the wink and a nod that says that immigration has been the root of our social and economic decline.

This is by no means an exclusively right-wing vice. Anyone who has heard the Dutch Labour Party recently will have difficulty putting light between them and the demagogue Geert Wilders.

Until today, they might have tried to argue that there was no harm in it, that it's a rebalancing of the scales after two decades of biting our tongues and creeping political correctness.

The French airwaves have been full of such ugly equivocation these past few weeks as Nicolas Sarkozy has lurched his party wildly to the right in an attempt to save his skin, claiming there were ''too many immigrants in France'' and stoking Islamophobia with a ridiculous claim that the French were being secretly forced to eat halal; his Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, even said that Jews and Muslims should put their dietary laws behind them to embrace modernity. Claude Gueant, the Interior Minister, has been the most consistently xenophobic, championing the superiority of European Christian civilisation over lesser cultures that force their women to cover up -- yes, orthodox Jews and Muslims, he meant you.

The nadir came last week when Sarkozy's new immigration chief, Arno Klarsfeld, called for a wall to be built between Greece and Turkey to save Europe from barbarian invaders.

In Toulouse we have been given a horrific illustration of where such a delirious cynicism can lead.

All of those who have been shot or killed in and around the city in the past 10 days have had one thing in common. They are from visible minorities. They had names or faces that marked them out as not being descended, as Jean-Marie Le Pen would say, from ''our ancestors the Gauls''. Their roots -- both Jewish and Muslim -- were in the Maghreb or the Caribbean.

They were, in short, a snapshot of la France metissee -- the mixed race, immigrant France that works hard and ''gets up early'' to empty bins and look after children; the people who die disproportionately for France yet who are also most often locked up in its prisons and crumbling city fringe suburbs, or les banlieues.

Police are a long way from understanding what was going through the head of someone who could catch a little girl by the hair so he wouldn't have to waste a second bullet on her. But some things are already becoming clear. He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans, going about his grisly business in the cold, military manner oddly similar to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who massacred 77 people last northern summer.

As with Breivik, politicians will be quick to adopt the thesis of the lone madman. Another lone madman influenced by nothing but his own distorted mind, like the lone gang of neo-Nazis who had been quietly killing Turks and Greeks in Germany for years unbothered by the police, who put the murders down to feuds or honour killings.

What could be the link, they ask, between Jewish children and French military personnel? The link is they are both seen as symbols of all that has sabotaged la France forte, to borrow Sarkozy's election slogan. Confessional schools, be they Jewish or informal weekend madrassa, are seen as undermining the secular republic by activists of the National Front, as well as some members of Sarkozy's UMP, and even some on the left.

A black man or a Muslim, particularly one of Algerian origin, in a paratrooper's uniform touches a raw nerve among the old guard of the far right. It was the paratroopers who did the bulk of the dirty work to keep Algeria French, and who also tried to oust Charles De Gaulle when he went against them.

Not even Sarkozy, who has most to lose politically from these killings, is trying to hide the link with race and religion.

Just as he echoed the old National Front slogan ''Love France or leave it'' and then denied he ever said it, he has now called on the French people to stand up ''against hate'', having spent the past few months manically stirring it. The next 30 or so days will see whether he will be swept away by the storm he helped to start.

Based in Paris, Fiachra Gibbons worked on the Guardian for almost 15 years, as arts correspondent, comment editor and deputy arts editor. He is also a specialist on the southern Balkans and Turkey.
- 30 -

17 March 2012

Egypt Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III dies

Click photo to enlarge.

(newswire UK, founded circa 1850)
Saturday 17 March 2012

Egypt Coptic Christian 
Pope Shenouda III dies

by Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO -- Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12,000,000 Christians, died on Saturday from old age, his political adviser told Reuters.

Bells tolled in Cairo's Abbasiya district, site of Egypt's main Coptic cathedral, as the news spread.

Shenouda, 88, became the 117th Pope of Alexandria in November 1971, and was popular among Egypt's Christians and Muslims alike during his four decades in power.

His successor will play a central role in forging the church's position in the country after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak last year. Islamist parties have since swept parliamentary elections and will dominate the debate over drawing up the country's new constitution.

"He died from complications in health and from old age," adviser Hany Aziz said. Shenouda had recently returned from abroad where he had been seeking medical treatment.

Shenouda's criticism of the government's handling of an Islamic insurgency in the 1970s, in which Christians were targets, and his rejection of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel landed him in trouble with then-president Anwar Sadat.

Sadat banished him to the Wadi el Natrun monastery north west of Cairo and stripped him of his temporal powers.

Under more than a quarter century of President Mubarak's rule, relations between the government and the Coptic church were generally smooth, with the Pope portrayed in state media as a symbol of religious harmony, despite occasional outbreaks of sectarian violence.


On Saturday, condolences poured in from Egypt's Muslim leaders and from politicians.

"Egypt has lost one of its rare men at a sensitive moment when it most needs the wisest of its wise - their expertise and their purity of minds," said Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayib, grand imam of Egypt's highest Islamic authority, al-Azhar.

"He held the question of Jerusalem and the Palestinian problem in his conscious," the state Middle East news agency quoted him as saying.

Mohamed Mursi, chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said Pope Shenouda had a long journey of service during the nation's history.

"The Freedom and Justice Party sends its deepest condolences to the Egyptian people and our Christian brothers over the death of Pope Shenouda III," he said in statement on the website of the FJP, which took almost half the seats in Egypt's new parliament.

Father Anglos Ishaq, head of the church on Egypt's north coast, said a temporary replacement would be chosen until a new pope was elected.

"It is too early to know what will happen next, but what is known is that the oldest bishop in the Holy See will be chosen as charge d'affaires until a new pope gets chosen by elections from different church councils in the different provinces."

He said the pope's body was expected to remain in a coffin for three days, provided doctors gave their approval.

"All details about the burial and how long his body will remain for people to come and receive blessings will be decided by doctors," Father Anglos said. "But surely people will get some time to see the body and receive blessings."

A Vatican spokesman said Pope Benedict was immediately informed of Shenouda's death and offered prayers for him. "The Catholic Church joins Christians in their pain and prayer over the death ... of their spiritual leader," he said.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Dina Zayed; Writing by Patrick Werr; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
- 30 -

15 March 2012

Assad sends his poopsie a Country & Western tune / Assad muses about fleeing to Qatar / first lady of Syria won't give her e-mail addie to Turkish first lady / & other Dirty Laundry from Syria


Syria: Assad's emails, the aftermath - live updates

• Leaked emails suggest Assad received advice from Iran
• Assad refers to reforms as 'rubbish laws'
• Anniversary of the uprising marked by call for UN action

Bashar and Asma al-Assad
Bashar and Asma al-Assad in Paris in 2008. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
8.20am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. To mark the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising, the Guardian has published a cache of what appear to be several thousand emails received and sent by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. We'll be tracking reaction to the emails as well covering the latest developments in Syria.

Key revelations

Assad appeared to receive advice from Iran or its proxies on several occasions during the crisis. Before a speech in December his media consultant prepared a long list of themes, reporting that the advice was based on "consultations with a good number of people in addition to the media and political adviser for the Iranian ambassador".

Hussein Mortada, an influential Lebanese businessman with strong connections to Iran, urged Assad to stop blaming al-Qaida for twin car bombings in Damascus, in December. He said he had been in contact with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon who shared the same view.

Assad made light of reforms he had promised in an attempt to defuse the crisis. He referred the reforms as "rubbish laws of parties, elections, media".

A daughter of the emir of Qatar, Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, advised the Assads to leave Syria and suggested Doha may offer them exile. "I only pray that you will convince the president to take this as an opportunity to exit without having to face charges," she said.

Assad was briefed in detail about the presence of western journalists in the Baba Amr district of Homs. He was also urged to "tighten the security grip" on the opposition-held city in November.

Assad sidestepped extensive US sanctions against him by using a third party with a US address to make purchases of music and apps from Apple's iTunes. In a bizarre message apparently from the Syrian leader, he sent his wife the lyrics of a country and western song by the US singer Blake Shelton, and the audio file downloaded from iTunes.

Assad's coterie continued to enjoy a gilded lifestyle insulated from the slaughter around them. They appear to show how tens of thousands of dollars were spent in internet shopping sprees on handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques. A Dubai-based company, al-Shahba, with a registered office in London is used as a key conduit for Syrian government business and private purchases by the Syrian first lady.

Assad forwarded a YouTube video to one of his aides that showed a crude reenactment of the siege of Homs using toys and biscuits. "Check out this video on YouTube," Assad wrote to his media adviser, Hadeel al-Ali in the week that Arab League monitors arrived.


Foreign Policy magazine:
The emails paint a picture of a Syrian leadership that is more bumbling and oblivious than villainous: On the day after the Syrian military began shelling the city of Homs, for example, Bashar sent Asma a video of country crooner Blake Shelton's song God Gave Me You.
The Washington Post:
Information in the emails ranges from the shocking (Assad knew about Western journalists in Homs) to the absurd (his wife spent thousands on jewelry and furniture). But what it all adds up to is a picture of a family enjoying a plush lifestyle as it remains insulated from the ongoing violence on the streets.
• The Turkish daily Zaman is drawn to the revelation that Asma Assad refused to share her email address with Emine Erdogan, wife of the Turkish prime minister.It says the emails reveal "a deep rift between former good friends".

Gawker has created a Spotify playlist of the "crappy music" Assad bought on iTunes. It asks: Who knew that the soundtrack of murderous despotism was... Blake Shelton and Cliff Richards tribute acts?

• The Guardian has been blocked in Syria, according to contacts of the UK-based Syrian blogger Maysaloon. Of the emails the blogger writes: "They are hardly a smoking gun, and instead they show you a president and his wife who seem more interested in doing online shopping and swapping silly Youtube clips than anything else."


How do we know the Assad emails are genuine? It is impossible to rule out the possibility of fakes in the email cache, but several pieces of evidence suggest they are authentic

Latest developments in Syria

US intelligence agencies have concluded that the armed resistance is unable to mount a credible military threat to the Assad regime, senior officials told The Huffington Post. One said the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups are able to mount only sporadic hit-and-run attacks and anti-regime demonstrations in a handful of mostly urban neighborhoods and isolated villages.

Those who witnessed the fall Idlib this week have told Human Rights Watch that government forces used large-calibre machine-guns, tanks, and mortars to fire indiscriminately at buildings and people in the street. Its Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said: "City after city, town after town, Syria's security forces are using their scorched earth methods while the security council's hands remain tied by Russia and China."
On the eve of the first anniversary of the revolution regime forces pounded the southern city of Dera'a where the uprising began, the Independent reports. In the al-Balad district of the city on the southern border with Jordan, where the revolution broke out in earnest a year ago, around 20 tanks and armoured vehicles raked buildings with machinegun fire.

A coalition of 200 human rights group has urged Russia to back UN action to end the violence in Syria, in a joint statement to mark the first anniversary of the uprising. It said:
A coalition of 200 NGOs from 27 countries... is demanding that the UN Security Council immediately unite and pass a resolution calling on the Syrian government to stop indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods and other violations of international law, stop arbitrary arrests and torture and grant urgent access to humanitarian workers, journalists and human rights monitors.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has demanded further clarifications from Damascus over its response to his proposals for ending the violence. He is due to report back to a divided UN Security Council on Friday, with Russia and China still standing behind a defiant Assad while exasperated Western powers push for regime change.
or to join the conversation

Brian Whitaker's best blogs and analysis from the Middle East

    • 8 Mar 2012
    • Hamza Kashgari To Be Released

    • Hamza Kashgari, the detained Saudi writer accused of blasphemy, will be freed in the next few weeks after a court in Riyadh accepted his repentance, multiple sources said. Human rights activist Souad...
      From Saudi Jeans
    • 7 Mar 2012
    • Battle of the 100

    • While parliament debates the composition of the constitutional committee to draft the backbone of the state, Amani Maged anticipates heated discussion
      From Al-Ahram Weekly Online
    • 7 Mar 2012
    • ‘Reel’ freedom in East Jerusalem

    • The reopening of a landmark East Jerusalem cinema could provide local Palestinians with a much-needed dose of 'reel' freedom.
      From The Chronikler

Audio from our reporters

Bestsellers from the Guardian shop

Guardian Bookshop

This week's bestsellers

  1. 1.  Women of the Revolution by Kira Cochrane £9.99
  2. 2.  Spanish Holocaust by Paul Preston £30.00
  3. 3.  Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu £25.00
  4. 4.  Capital by John Lanchester £17.99
  5. 5.  Britain etc. by Mark Easton £14.99
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

a voice crying in the wilderness: Get the fuck out of Afghanistan immediately

Salt Lake City, perhaps the most boring large metropolis in North America, is also among the most politically conservative areas of the USA. It is, of course, the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). Founded by Joseph Smith in upstate New York, the unpopular visionary polygamous Christian sect wandered to the Midwest, where Smith was lynched by a mob, and then continued on to the Great Salt Lake, then largely an unpopulated wilderness. In the late 19th century, the Mormon territory (called Deseret) became the USA state called Utah.


The Salt Lake Tribune
daily broadsheet
Salt Lake City, Utah USA
Thursday 15 March 2012


Afghan massacre

Bring U.S. troops home

President Obama has declared that a U.S. soldier’s massacre of 16 people from three families in a village in Afghanistan will not derail his plans for an orderly winding down of the U.S. war there. The president is right that single events, even one so terrible as this, should not dictate policy.

But in the broader context of the fight there, the massacre near Kandahar is just one more ugly event that illustrates the broadening gulf among the U.S. military, the people of Afghanistan and the corrupt government there. Taken as a whole, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, and the United States cannot get out of the country fast enough.

Last month, riots broke out after burned copies of the Quran were found in garbage at Bagram air base. In the aftermath of that incident, two American officers were assassinated within an Interior Ministry compound in Kabul. That suggests that resentment of the continued American occupation runs so deep that the Afghan government cannot protect U.S. forces in any place in the country.

When the situation deteriorates to that extent, after more than 10 years of warfare, it is past time to bring U.S. forces home.

Late last year, there were conflicting assessments among U.S. officials about progress in turning back the Taliban and securing the country for the Karzai government. But that government is hopelessly corrupt and has little legitimacy among the people. No matter how hard it works to win the trust of the people of Afghanistan, the U.S. military is trying to accomplish the impossible. In such an atmosphere, the Taliban insurgency inevitably will make a comeback.

Not that the Taliban themselves are popular. But at least they are not outside occupiers and infidels.

The common people blame both the Taliban and the Americans for atrocities against the civilian population. That’s the context for the recent massacre by an American sergeant. When you are in company like that, you are not likely to win a contest for hearts and minds.

Nor has the United States found a way to stop the Pakistanis from supporting the Taliban. So long as insurgents have a ready haven in Pakistan, the insurgency will continue.

The U.S. and Afghan governments are in talks to continue a strategic relationship beyond the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of most American forces. Under the current circumstances, however, it is hard to see what will be accomplished by an additional U.S. investment of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. It’s time for the U.S. to cut its losses and come home.
- 30 -

a day late, sorry, but HAPPY PI DAY 3.141592654+ eat a pie read about the whack Pi brothers get the fuck out of Afghanistan last week

Click quilt, maybe gets bigger.

I'm sorry I'm a day late to celebrate Pi Day, i twisted my back and was on pain pills.

If you didn't eat a pie yesterday, eat some pie today. Apple of course is the most popular, but cherry pie kicks ass. Cheesecake is okay as long as it's round.

Isn't the annual celebration of the ratio of circumference to diameter better than a sucky 10+ year war against Muslims in Asia? No weeping on Pi Day, only Happiness and Laughter. No Hatred, no loss, no grief, no pain, no Dreams of Vengeance.

Just the beauty and passion of the heights of human thought and curiosity.

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare ...

Leave a Comment if you want Vleeptron to dig up the old New Yorker article "The Mountains of Pi" about the whack Chudnovsky brothers who broke the world's decimal Pi extension record 2 times on a homebrew supercomputer (cooled by hardware store fans) in a New York City slum apartment, just down the street from the dead body. The KGB used to beat the crap out of the Chudnovsky brothers but they managed to get out of Ukraine and come to the USA.

get that whacky psycho boy out of there quick like a bunny / still no public discosure of Whack Boy's name, but he's a Staff Sergeant (E-6)

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Thursday 15 March 2012

National / World News 2:46 a.m.

Afghans angry over

removal of accused
US soldier

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan lawmakers have expressed anger over the U.S. move to fly an American soldier accused of killing 16 civilians out of the country to Kuwait.

A U.S. helicopter flies in the sky after militants opened fire on delegation of senior Afghan officials in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March. 13, 2012. Taliban militants opened fire Tuesday on a delegation of senior Afghan officials including two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers visiting villages in southern Afghanistan where a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 civilians. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
Afghan villagers pray during a prayer ceremony for the victims of Sunday's killing of civilians by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March. 13, 2012. Taliban militants opened fire Tuesday on a delegation of senior Afghan officials including two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers visiting villages in southern Afghanistan where a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 civilians. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
Afghan villagers listen to a speech by an Afghan official, unseen, part of a delegation during prayer ceremony for the victims of Sunday's killing of civilians by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March. 13, 2012. Taliban militants opened fire Tuesday on a delegation of senior Afghan officials including two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers visiting villages in southern Afghanistan where a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 civilians. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

They said Thursday that the soldier should face justice in Afghanistan. They urged the Afghan government not to sign an agreement governing the presence of U.S. forces in the country unless that happens.

Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai, a lawmaker from southern Kandahar province where the killings occurred, says that trying the soldier in Afghanistan would be the best way for the U.S. to show locals they want to punish him.

Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, another Kandahar lawmaker, warned Afghans could rise up in anger.

The soldier was flown out Wednesday. The U.S. said a trial in Afghanistan was still possible.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans lawmakers have expressed anger over the U.S. move to fly an American soldier accused of killing 16 civilians out of the country to Kuwait.

They said Thursday that the soldier should face justice in Afghanistan. They urged the Afghan government not to sign an agreement governing the presence of U.S. forces in the country unless that happens.

Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai, a lawmaker from southern Kandahar province where the killings occurred, says that trying the soldier in Afghanistan would be the best way for the U.S. to show locals they want to punish him.

Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, another Kandahar lawmaker, warned Afghans could rise up in anger.

The soldier was flown out Wednesday. The U.S. said a trial in Afghanistan was still possible.

March 15, 2012 02:46 AM EDT

Copyright 2012, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


13 March 2012

Your cowardly rag blacked out Doonesbury? Vleeptron mirrors the hot potato strip on state abortion laws

Click comic strip,
maybe it gets larger.

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Monday 12 March 2012

Some USA papers 

wimp out, won't 
publish Doonesbury's 
abortion law strip

by Bill Draper

KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- A national syndicate is offering replacement "Doonesbury" comic strips to newspapers that don't want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said.

A handful of newspapers say they won't run this week's series, while several others said the strips will move from the comics to opinion pages or websites only. Many already have opinion-page placement for the strip by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, whose sarcastic swipes at society's foibles have a history of giving headaches to newspaper editors.

"We run 'Doonesbury' on our op-ed page, and this series is an example of why," said David Averill, editorial page editor for the Tulsa World. "Many of our readers will disagree with the political stance the series takes, and some will be offended by the clinical language. I believe, however, that this series of strips is appropriate to the abortion debate and appropriate to our op-ed pages."

The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion clinic and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a "compulsory transvaginal exam," and a middle-aged legislator who calls her a "slut."

One panel equates the invasive procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a "10-inch shaming wand."

"Our readers are accustomed to pointed political and social commentary in strips like 'Doonesbury' and 'Mallard Fillmore,'" Tom McNiff, managing editor of The Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner in central Florida, said in an emailed statement explaining the decision not to run the series. "But the language the author used to make his point in two of the strips was quite graphic for a general

Trudeau said Friday that "it would have been a little surprising" if there hadn't been any pushback against the series.

"Abortion remains a deeply contentious subject. Having said that, the goal is definitely not to antagonize editors and get booted from papers," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "It's just an occupational risk."

Texas' law does not specify the type of sonogram a woman must receive, but a transvaginal ultrasound is necessary to meet requirements that the doctor show the woman an image of the fetus, describe its features and make the fetal heartbeat audible in the first trimester. The procedure uses a wand inserted in the vagina to yield an image instead of a wand rubbed over a woman's belly.

Asked for comment on the "Doonesbury" series, Perry spokesman Catherine Frazier said the governor is proud of his leadership on the sonogram law.

"The decision to end a life is not funny," Frazier said. "There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending decision."

Sue Roush, managing editor at the Universal UClick syndicate, said newspapers uncomfortable with the abortion law series have the option of a set of substitute strips.

The [San Jose, California] Mercury News is running the abortion series in the cartoon's usual place, on the comics page.

Steve Shirk, manager editor of The Kansas City Star, said his paper would use the replacements in the comics section while moving the abortion series to the opinion page.

"We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family friendly comic page," Shirk said. "We felt that (op-ed) page was more appropriate for that story line."

Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star, said the newspaper would use an earlier "Doonesbury"
strip instead.

"We simply don't want to be part of the personalization and debasement of political discourse. We've had too much of that from all sides," Ryerson said.

Chris Mele, executive editor of the Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania said the paper will run the replacement strips during the week, but the Texas series will appear [Sunday] March 18 on the front of its op-ed section. He said the paper would try to "have a dialogue" with its readers about the debate.

Universal UClick president Lee Salem said he wouldn't be surprised if 20 to 30 of the 1,400 newspapers that carry "Doonesbury" decided to opt out and run the replacements.

"Once every five or six months there's usually something in 'Doonesbury' that causes a stir. Every two or three years there's something that causes a bigger stir," Salem said. 

"Historically, that's par for the course with 'Doonesbury' because Garry [Trudeau] explores topics on comics pages that are not normally there."

Six installments of "Doonesbury" satirizing the anti-abortion movie "The Silent Scream" were canceled in 1985 when the syndicate decided they were too controversial to be distributed.

Other states have enacted laws requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds, although Virginia removed a provision from its measure that specifically called for the invasive exam. The measure in its original form had become a target of national political columnists and the word "transvaginal" was mocked and parodied on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Associated Press writers Matt Moore in Philadelphia; Mitch Stacy in Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

- 30 -