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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Weird Situation in SoCal

OK, so, everyone knows that it's always warm in LA. The funny thing is that this isn't actually true--LA is supposed to be like a desert which means at night it gets cold. For the past couple nights it's been incredibly warm. Like, very warm. Like, let's go swimming at 1am, warm.

There's a reason and it's not connected to the weather--it's because of these giant fires ravaging the more wooded areas of SoCal. LA proper is generally safe from fire, but the suburbs are not. Houses are being threatened, and I believe some have been lost. Tonight TheWife said she could see where the fire was because of the soft, warm glow on the horizon. Earlier tonight I thought someone was doing a barbecue but then I realized it was the smoke from the fires.

It's real easy to get lost in our own problems--even days after the pair of she-bitch huricanes hit the gulf, most of us are back to business (and stress) as usual. Then these fires come along--lives and homes are at risk and you are forced to remember that there are bigger problems in the world than those we're facing in our immediate lives.

So, where ever you are in the world stop and just take a moment to think about how lucky you are to be in your shoes and not some firefighter who is staring down flames the size of multi-story buildings. Be glad you're not a relief worker in NOLA. Be happy and enjoy the good things in your life despite the fact that you have a few bad things to deal with, as well.

Life is too short to not enjoy the good things life has given you.

That reminds me, I've got some Lego collecting dust in the corner...

[http://news.google.com/?ncl=http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/30/california.wildfire/&hl=en|Find out more about the SoCal fires] at News.Google.com.

CHIEF JUSTICE FOR DECADES TO COME

This is the face of the youngest supreme court chief justice in 200 years, according to Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow.org. He's just 50 years old and without any experience on the US Supreme Court, the brilliant minds of the US Senate have confirmed him with just 22 Democrats voting against. This is a very bad thing considering the term a Supreme Court Justice usually serves--life. This means if Roberts is as white and power-crazed (in other words, power-crazed) as I think he is, he will be dying in office. When will he die? Well, if he lives as long as his predecessor did, he'll be with us for three more decades.

If he dies at 80, we'll be seeing news coverage of his funeral in the year 2035. If every presidential election from here until then were to be like the one in 2000, he'd be able to determine the next 7 presidents.

With every passing week I look at something the USG does and think to myself: "What the hell are they thinking?"

Come on, folks! Regardless of how this guy feels about Roe v. Wade or any other important SC case, THE DUDE is 50-YEARS-OLD!! Renquist had to serve on the SC from 1971 to 1986--15 years--before he was appointed to serve as Chief Justice.

Seriously--can the USG make us feel any less confident in their ability to govern?

Do I really need to make a list of the things they've done wrong?

I think my regular readers know full well the list of things the USG has screwed up. We can add "appointing a 50-year-old completely inexperienced supreme court justice to the bench of the highest court in the land" to that list.

Read more about this idiocy in [http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=1170126|an article] from AP.org at ABCNews.com.

STILL THINK CAPITALISM IS GREAT?

Don't worry--this won't be some giant diatribe against capitalism. I'm just going to say that I think no single system is 100% and that I also think that anyone who believes one system can meet all of humanities needs is a fool or is rich.

Oh yeah, I'd also like to point out that AP.org is reporting in [http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/business/12766470.htm|an article] at DuluthSuperior.com that overdue credit card bills are at an all time high. In other words, more Americans are late paying their CC bills than at any other point in human history.

The article cites a lot of issues that are probably the cause for this, but one issue I think they should have included is that wages haven't gone up hardly at all in years while prices on almost everything have. Hell, tonight, I'll be doing a screening at a facility I haven't worked at in about two years. Are they still paying me the same amount as they did in 2003?

You betcha!

Is that the same wage they paid back in 1999 when I first started working for them?

YEP!

It's my firm belief that we are slowly becoming a third-world country.

Posted on Wed, Sep. 28, 2005

Overdue credit card bills hit record high

JEANNINE AVERSA

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Charge it! That familiar refrain is producing an unwanted response for more Americans: Your bill is overdue! Surging energy prices, low personal savings and the higher cost of borrowing have combined to produce a record level of overdue credit card bills.

The American Bankers Association reported Wednesday that the percentage of credit card accounts 30 or more days past due climbed to an all-time high of 4.81 percent in the April-to-June period. It could grow in the months ahead, experts said.

The previous high of 4.76 percent came during the first three months of the year, in keeping with a generally steady rise over the past several years.

"The last two quarters have not been pretty," said Jim Chessen, the association's chief economist.

Chessen and other analysts mostly blamed high prices for gasoline and other energy products, but said that low savings and higher borrowing costs also played a role.

"The rise in gas prices is really stretching budgets to the breaking point for some people," Chessen said. "Gas prices are taking huge chunks out of wallets, leaving some individuals with little left to meet their financial obligations."

Pump prices were high before hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. After Katrina, prices jumped past $3 a gallon. Prices have moderated since but remain high.

The personal savings rate dipped to a record low of negative 0.6 percent in July. The negative percentage means that people did not have enough left over after paying their taxes to cover all of their spending in July. As a result, they dipped into savings to cover the shortfall.

When people have less money available money to pay for energy costs or emergencies such as a big car repair, many resort to credit. That option is getting more expensive, too.

The Federal Reserve has been tightening credit since June 2004. That has caused commercial banks' prime lending rate to rise to 6.75 percent, the highest in four years. These rates are used for many short-term consumer loans, including credit cards and popular home equity lines of credit.

Late payments may be bad news for consumers, but credit card companies do not necessarily mind them because late fees are a source of revenue.

"Credit card companies are increasingly addicted to their fees," said Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief at Bankrate.com, an online financial service. "Six years ago, all fees - including late fees - contributed only a minor portion to overall revenue. Today it accounts for more than 30 percent."

About half of all credit problems stem from poor money management. Credit problems due to the loss of a job, sickness or divorce play less of a role, said personal finance expert Susan Tiffany, director of consumer publishing at the Credit Union National Association.

"That tells us people have some ability to do a better job. They are not completely helpless in the situation, and that's good," said Tiffany, whose trade group also is involved in efforts to improve people's financial literacy.

Getting back on the road to financial health takes discipline and hard choices about what can be cut back or eliminated. If credit card problems are plaguing a family, all the members should work together to come up with a plan and pare down spending.

From an economic perspective, the current rise in delinquent credit card payments is not overly worrisome. But if the trend were to continue for a sustained period, it could spell trouble for the overall economy, said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Bank of America's Investment Strategies Group.

"It's a flashing yellow light that we need to watch," she said.

ON THE NET

American Bankers Association: http://www.aba.com/

FAIRWEAR.NET

Hey, here's a problem for so many of us who are broke but try to be responsible in how we spend our money. These days, virtually NO clothes are manufactured in the US. Sure, you can go to American Apparel stores and be [http://thepete.com/had-a-nice-nightmostly/|assaulted by sex] but you'll also pay a lot for those American-made clothes. With few exceptions, if you buy your clothes anywhere else, you'll be supporting sweatshop labor.

So, if you're stone-broke like me, buying non-sweatshop clothes is a must since you can't afford clothes made in the US, in presumably non-sweatshop-conditions.

Enter FairWear.net. They are a website that sells clothes made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh. Don't worry--there's a catch. They send one-third of their income back to the sweatshop to be divied up among the workers as a sort of profit-sharing thing. Put simply, the folks behind FairWear.net want to transform that sweatshop into a regular old factory that makes clothes. Will they be able to elevate those poor workers to a level at which they will actually be considered well paid?

Well, (if I had some money) I'd sure like to help them try.

Check out FairWear.net.

RETAIL SPACE AT THE WTC?

I'm not sure what to call the space of NYC that used to hold the WTC, but I do know that there's a bit of controversy going on about what to do with that space. People have said that the new International Freedom Center will be an eyesore and that some sort of mueseum has been "evicted" from the "memorial quadrant" of the site (whatever that means) for being contraversial.

Yeah, a museum where the WTC used to be--that's contraversial all right! People might learn something there!! We mustn't have that.

Well, odds are the thing would be riddled with pro-American-perfection propaganda and only serve to puff up the chests of tourists who are looking for reasons to hate Muslims, anyway, so perhaps moving the museum out isn't such a bad idea. Still, the alternative they're discussing now does not seem like that great an idea, either. What is this alternative? Why, it's retail space!!!

Yes, on the spot where 3000 souls died on September 11, 2001, soon will be stores and shops where you can spend way too much on coffe, clothes and other indicators of your supreme affluence.

Yeah, that's way more appropriate!

Read more about this mess in [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/nyregion/29cnd-rebuild.html?hp&ex=1128052800&en=427dce2236e5b12f&ei=5094&partner=homepage|an article] at the NYT. I don't get any of it. I really don't. If it were me, I'd say let's just rebuild the damn towers exactly like they were. Reserve a little corner for the victims to be remembered and then show the badguys that we're back to business as usual. All this bickering just costs more money, time and makes us look like fools.

September 29, 2005

Officials Reveal Retail Plan for World Trade Center Site

By DAVID W. DUNLAP

A day after evicting the International Freedom Center museum from the memorial quadrant at ground zero for being too controversial, state officials described a plan this morning to develop a half million square feet of retail space elsewhere on the World Trade Center site.

John P. Cahill, Gov. George E. Pataki's chief of staff and the top-ranking downtown development official, told business leaders that 200,000 square feet of retail space - roughly half the area of the old trade center shopping mall - will be built in the PATH terminal and transportation hub on which construction has just begun.

An additional 300,000 square feet are to be developed along Church Street, where most visitors now gather to view ground zero. The retail space would be developed, at least initially, by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"I'd expect an enormous amount of interest along the Church Street corridor," Mr. Cahill said. He said stores were needed for the growing number of residents downtown.

Mr. Cahill also said that the cultural building on the memorial quadrant, originally intended for the Freedom Center and the Drawing Center, will instead be used as the above-ground "complement" to an underground memorial museum devoted solely to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That museum is planned to be built within the trade center's foundations - a sore point for relatives of 9/11 victims, many of whom opposed the Freedom Center.

Use of the cultural building, designed by the Norwegian firm Snohetta, might increase by at least 40,000 square feet the amount of exhibition space for the memorial museum, which now stands at 110,000 square feet.

After Governor Pataki ordered the embryonic Freedom Center off the memorial quadrant on Wednesday, the center's founders responded almost immediately by putting an end to the entire project, saying it was intended exclusively for the ground zero site and could not be placed elsewhere.

The Freedom Center, picked for the memorial site by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, was envisioned as a living memorial in which the story of Sept. 11, 2001, would be told in the context of the worldwide struggle for freedom through the ages.

Critics said the sacred precinct of the memorial was no place for a lesson in geopolitics or social history, particularly when the memorial museum was planned entirely underground, within the trade center foundations.

The Drawing Center, an art museum in SoHo, has already begun looking for other new space downtown rather than directly answer the governor's demand that it pledge never to do anything that would "denigrate America." In a statement explaining his decision, Governor Pataki said, "There remains too much opposition, too much controversy over the programming of the I.F.C., and we must move forward with our first priority, the creation of an inspiring memorial."

He said he had instructed the development corporation, which is overseeing the development of the memorial and cultural buildings, to "work with the I.F.C. to explore other locations."

Less than an hour later, the center said in its own statement that there was no other location to explore, since the memorial quadrant was "the site for which the I.F.C. was created, at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's request, and as an integral part of Daniel Libeskind's master site plan."

"We do not believe there is a viable alternative place for the I.F.C. at the World Trade Center site," said the statement from the center's executives, Tom A. Bernstein, Peter W. Kunhardt and Richard J. Tofel. "We consider our work, therefore, to have been brought to an end."

Debra Burlingame, who led the opposition to the Freedom Center, beginning with an article in The Wall Street Journal, "The Great Ground Zero Heist," on June 9, congratulated Governor Pataki on his decision. Her brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was the pilot of the airliner that was crashed into the Pentagon.

"The International Freedom Center was an obstacle not simply for the families, the first responders and all those who were personally affected by the events of Sept. 11," Ms. Burlingame said in a telephone interview, "but for all Americans who will be coming to the World Trade Center memorial to hear the story of 9/11 and that story only.

"And I believe that story will be able to convey all the core values that Governor Pataki so eloquently enunciated," Ms. Burlingame said, adding that 9/11 was a story not only of loss but "an uplifting story of decency triumphing over depravity."

In 2004, the Drawing Center, an established art museum in SoHo, and the Freedom Center, which existed only as an idea, were picked as joint tenants of a cultural building to rise at the edge of the memorial, on Fulton and Greenwich Streets.

After critics expressed concern this summer that there would be anti-American exhibitions and programs in the cultural building, Governor Pataki demanded an "absolute guarantee" that neither institution would do anything "to denigrate America."

Rather than respond directly, the Drawing Center began looking for alternative space. But Mr. Bernstein, the chairman of the Freedom Center, and Paula Grant Berry, its vice chairwoman, pledged in a July 6 letter to the development corporation that their museum would never "be used as a forum for denigrating the country we love."

Criticism only grew. On Aug. 11, John C. Whitehead, the chairman of the corporation, instructed the Freedom Center to submit a report on its plans and programs, saying that its tenancy in the Snohetta building was at risk.

That report, issued last Thursday, did not assuage opponents, including three Republican congressmen, the police officers' and firefighters' unions and, as of last weekend, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York.

Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is identified strongly with the events of 9/11 and its immediate aftermath, supported Mr. Pataki's decision on Wednesday. "The governor has made the right decision," he said.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had recalled the importance of the planning process whenever he was asked to comment this summer, issued a brief statement. "Although I understand Governor Pataki's decision," he said, "I am disappointed that we were not able to find a way to reconcile the freedoms we hold so dear with the sanctity of the site."

In retrospect, the fate of the Freedom Center may have been sealed three years ago with the decision to create a clearly defined parallelogram, bordered by four streets, in which both the memorial and a cultural complex were to sit. Since this was the site of the twin towers, it may have been inevitable that the block would be seen as hallowed.

Gretchen Dykstra, the president of the memorial foundation, which will build and own the memorial and cultural buildings, said the governor had now "provided clear direction that the memorial quadrant should be devoted to telling the story of Sept. 11th."

(c) Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Bad News for the Nano--Par for the Course for Apple?

I love my iPod, but when it first came out, I didn't want one. As the price came down and my knowledge of the features grew, I came to want one. Perhaps the same thing will happen with the iPod Nano for me. I think the damn thing is too small in both physical size and storage space. The screen is tiny and, apparently, easily breakable. A great many Nano users are complaining that their LCD screens have been easily cracked--Apple, of course, has said this problem has occured with a tiny fraction of the Nano's out there, despite the flood of cracked-Nano-screen-related threads popping up on discussion forums around the 'net. To Apple's credit, they are replacing damaged units.

Still, this reminds me of all of the trouble I've had with the Apple company. I had a iBook G3 that died on me three times and then got lost in shipping when Apple assured me they'd have my beloved iBook back to me in 3 days time. They say they're replacing Nanos, but from the very first failure of my iBook, I demanded a replacement. Apple's last intent was to replace my iBook. Finally, after losing mine, they offered to replace it, but I demanded a refund instead. They jerked me around some more, but after a lot of agression from me, they finally gave in and sent me a full refund, including tax.

However, the Nano going south on people isn't just a familiar thing to me--apparently a great many people have noticed a certain cycle to Apple products. While it's probably not exactly accurate to every product Apple has released, this description of the [http://www.misterbg.org/AppleProductCycle/|Apple Product Cycle] at MisterBG.org certainly fits the Nano to a T. Here's a sample:
A minor, rarely occurring flaw in the device begins to be discussed in the Apple support forums. Whiny, artistic types post lengthy diatribes about how this terrible design flaw has made the device unusable and scarred them emotionally. Electronic petitions are created demanding that Apple replace the devices for free, plus pay for counseling to help traumatized users overcome their emotional distress.

There's a lot more to read, so check out that link.

Just as an FYI, I'm still a Mackie, but I truly coming to hate all corporations like Apple who seem to be oblivious to how so-called "minor" design flaws can be a serious waste of time for customers in a world where time=money in many cases literally. I'm also getting tired of having to beat good customer service out of companies and Apple is a good example of one such beating I took part in.

Don't get me wrong--I love Apple products--I just hate that the company responsible for making them is so typically like other companies these days in that they don't want to immediately step up to the plate to make it right for their customers.

Forget the old saying "The Customer is Always Right." The new saying is "The Customer is Always--wait do I actually have to talk to these people?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

PROBLEMS WITH TOM DeLAY

So, today, Tom DeLay got indicted for conspiracy and stuff--of course, his camp has already announced that the charges are baseless. Isn't it ridiculous how EVERY time someone "respectable" is charged with some crime their lawyer makes the same damn comment about how the charges are full of crap.

Just don't say anything, you morons!

We KNOW they're not full of crap because obviously some prosecutor somewhere thinks he or she has enough on your ass to nail you, so don't be stupid and say something that is worthless and a waste of time and effort. JUST SHUT UP and start working on your defense...

All of this being said, I'm almost disappointed that this could mean the end of DeLay's career. I'd just LOVE to see him suffer thanks to his own words asking the President to resign.

See, I was reposting some of my old blog entries from 1998 and stumbled across [http://thepete.com/starr-vader/|this post] where I wrote of DeLay way back in the heady days of the Clinton Years having some trouble with the current man in the White House. Here's part of what I said:
I know, I know - we’ve ALL had and heard enough of the Clinton/Starr/Lewinsky mess, but I still feel the need to vent about it, so here we go again. Last week, House Majority Whip (and Republican) Tom DeLay called on Clinton to quit. DeLay claimed that Clinton had done irreparable damage to the office of the President because he lied to the American People.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

This is a great example of how Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. Back in 1998 the WORST Clinton did was lie about oral sex. Right now, that would be the BEST thing Bush could admit to doing in the White House.

And where are the Republicans now? Are they going on and on about how Bush has squandered the global good will that the US had just post-911? Are Republicans raving about how Bush has spent $400+ billion on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has yet to find Sadam's WMD OR ObL? Are Republicans demanding impeachment thanks to Bush's admitted mishandling of the Katrina disaster? What about the minor but still illegal act of violating the Covert Propaganda law by producing uncredited video spots promoting Bush 43 Admin interests that look a lot like news segments?

Hypocrits. The lot of them.

And the Democrats could easily take back control next year if only they'd start calling Republicans on their hypocracies and contradictions. But they won't because ultimately they're one big happy party--two factions, but one party.

Man, how I hate parties!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Snake River Conspiracy

I don't usually write about music, despite the fact that I should have my iPod surgically implanted inside my brain, but I decided with just 5 minutes to kill before I leave I should mention this new band I stumbled across while doing some research for a screenplay.

Check them out at:

http://www.snakeriverconspiracy.com/

HOLY crap, they're awesome. Their cover of The Cure's Lovesong is INCREDIBLE. Well, if you like industrial music, anyway. They truly rock.

Monday, September 26, 2005

CONSTANT GARDENER, THE (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? DEFINITELY. But it's not for the tired or the young. Make sure you're wide awake and ready to listen closely to a lot of dialogue. This movie expects you to pay attention, follow along and take an active role in understanding what's going on with the characters and story. Dig it!

Technically any good? While the script may lost some people (see above) it's worth it for us folks who really dig intelligent films. We don't get enough of them and this is definitely an intelligent film. I can't recommend this movie enough. Beyond even the story, the acting is great and it's so wonderful to see such great actors in a movie that is so smart.

How did it leave me feeling? DEFINITELY SATISFIED. Good stuff all 'round. Didn't even have a happied-up Hollywood ending. Pretty damn cool.

Final Rating? GSN (remember, dope yourself up on caffeine before you go!!)

40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, THE (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Oh, my God--was it ever! I was worried this would be a dumb comedy and while it had dumb moments, generally, it was pretty un-dumb. (No, I can't say that it was a smart comedy, because it wasn't.)

Technically any good? The script is light and frothy and doesn't make any real powerful statements about humanity. What it did do that I really, really liked was refrain from making fun of virgins. It pretty much presents the state of virginity as an OK place to be--and a hard one since no one can understand why you might not want to have sex. Carell is hillarious and sure to get plenty more gigs thanks to this movie. We'll never be seeing him on The Daily Show again. ;)

How did it leave me feeling? Happy--though pained. My stomach hurt from laughing so hard. While the film's structure is ultimately predictable and hokey, it's so good-spirited enough that I don't feel like I should bother bagging on it for technical reasons.

Final Rating? GSN (Definitely a mood-lifter for anyone old enough to see naked boobies--well, boobies that they're not suckling from--YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!)

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Yes, definitely entertaining, but I felt it didn't have much soul, or resonance. I think the film could have been called "Tim Burton and the Plot Point Factory."

Technically any good? The acting was fine and the FX were generally fine, but at times completely unbelievable and the story was mechanical. There was no real flow to the story--it felt like just a series of events linked together by the film and not things that were part of an interesting story. I did like the squirrels. They rocked.

How did it leave me feeling? Ultimately unsatisfied. It is always interesting to see what different filmmakers will do with the same source material, but this is typical Tim Burton--all flash and very little substance. Plus, Charlie is barely a character in this movie--hell, there's almost no character in this movie at all.

Final Rating? DNS (See the original film--both darker and lighter and defintely better than this new version.)

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Generally, sure. Everyone in it are, on their own, enough to make a film entertaining. The thing is, sitting through 10 minutes of this movie is just as entertaining as the full-length.

Technically any good? Acting fine, FX quite good, but the film feels like it's 3 hours long because there's no real rhyme or reason to the memory-erasure scenes. Ultimately, the characters aren't terribly well drawn and the big names and faces in this movie are quite distracting. Maybe if the story had more meat to it instead of its "hey isn't this weird?" kind of thing going on, I wouldn't have been so easily distracted by the stars in this movie.

How did it leave me feeling? Tired. Why did we sit through that whole film just to learn what a Twilight Zone episode could teach us in 30 minutes?? It's better to have loved and lost than to have forgotten the whole thing--or something like that. Ultimately, there's just no point in this film. Neat premise, but that's it.

Final Rating? DNS (And I usually like scripts by this screenwriter.)

FORGOTTEN, THE (2004)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Yeah, but not very. I asked my mom what she had thought of this movie when she first saw it a few months ago and she couldn't remember anything. I didn't blame her--the title of this movie is appropriate.

Technically any good? Acting was fine, FX were "neat," but even George Lucas-style FX don't make up for crap story, as we all know. This movie sets up a premise that is evidence in the trailer but then does little-to-nothing beyond that premise with the movie. Fifteen minutes in, the script has already revealed all that it will reveal to us.

How did it leave me feeling? Like I wasted my time. I kept expecting a plot twist, but there wasn't one. In fact, the ending was a slap in the face--a happy ending is the last thing you want after sitting through all that.

Final Rating? DNS

Stressful Weekend...

Sorry for the lack of updates--things have been real hectic and I've been forcing myself to take some downtime. Everything but myself and my wife suffer when I do that, but that's the way it goes. I'm under a lot of stress--which is stupid considering I'm not exactly saving lives with what I'm doing with my life, but as I'm sure we all know, dealing with stress isn't always the easiest thing.

So, this weekend, I watched a pinch of anime and a stack of movies. The movies I'll be [http://pocketreviews.net|Pocket Reviewing] later today. I also spent a couple hours working on getting my bike back up and running. I think I may have sussed it out at this point. I'll have to explain how I did it later, assuming if it works...

Also later today I need to finish working on the website for ThePlay and the production comapany that is making it, tonight I have a production meeting and a rehearsal, and finally tomorrow I have to edit the program/stage bill. I am doing entirely too much for this damn show. I'm putting off so many other things I should be doing. I have a new fiction blog category I wanted to start and a short story to get to. I have a very minor "in" at a agency so I need to write them a cover letter and send them a script of mine. I also have a slew of stuff to do at ThePete.Com, too. You probably haven't noticed that I've been adding my bitch page posts from the late 1990s to my archives here at TP.c. I stumbled across them while backing up some old CDRs to DVDR. Click "TheArchives" above to check out the archives section but scroll down to check out my earliest blog entries from April to August, 1998. I have more entries to post from back then--I go clear up to June of 1999. I'm also toying with the idea of simplifying the categories--I simply have too many and now with the addition of [#thetags|TheTags], I can have more broad categories and more specific tags.

Oh yeah, and I really need to find some paid writing work. Anyone know an editor who needs some writing done? :)

Just thought I'd ask!

Oh and TheFam in Texas are all fine. As we all know by now Rita ended up being not that big of a deal which is good, obviously.

Friday, September 23, 2005

RITA RAINS ON GULF COAST

Just thinking that people out there might want to know where to go to find out the latest on the status of Rita quickly and easily.

First off, there is http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ for all of your storm-info needs. (Scroll down a bit for some links on Rita.)

Or hit [http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT18/refresh/AL1805W5+gif/151209W_sm.gif|here] for a graphic updated every four hours (or so) on Rita's progress toward the gulf coast.

Or to see Rita the way an orbitting camera sees her from space, [http://www.intellicast.com/Local/USNationalWide.asp?loc=usa&seg=StormCenter&prodgrp=FloaterImagery&product=Float5HIRES&prodnav=none&pid=none|go here].

Rita may have dropped down to a cat 3, but there's still a lot of damage she can do. If you got any gods you believe in, now would be a good time to start praying.

Progress on WiFi'ing Nintendo DS!

Things seem to be kind of slow, news-wise, today, so I thought I'd post something hacky about the Nintendo DS and its wifi. Now, you may think that it already has wifi and that various games use it--this is true. But what hasn't happened yet is that someone use wifi for something other than gaming. There are quite a few of us handheld holders who believe a browser, chat apps and email would make for awesome additions to the DS, but so far, no third party game publisher is trying to exploit our market.

Think about it--the DS is now $130. Imagine being able to surf the 'net, check your email, chat on an IM network and perform other 'net-related activities on something that cheap. Sure, there are cell phones, but the DS screen is bigger than most of those and could even serve as an alternative to one of those insanely expensive Blackberry/Treo/Pocket PC things that cost hundreds of dollars.

So, you can hopefully see the potential. That said, there are lots of people out there trying to crack the DS' wifi code. If someone can do it in a practical way and make it easy for the rest of us to implement, it could mean a whole new world of functionality for a device as inexpensive as the DS.

Many people are interested in this potential--so many that there has even been established a [http://sc.tri-bit.com/dswfb|bounty] to go to the first person who finds the wifi solution. Currently, the total is at $2229.12 and was raised by like-minded individuals who haven't had the talent/time to pursue it themselves. Many have given it a shot and report progress. Lately, the hacker who seems to be the closest to finishing the job is a guy called SgStair. He gave an interview to Kraln.com earlier this month and reported a lot of progress.

What's even better is that since then, SgStair has made even more progress than he claimed in that interview. A visit to [http://www.akkit.org/dswifi/index.html|his dswifi status page] today informed me that:
I've finally found the solution to a problem related to transmitting that has been causing problems, looks like smooth sailing from here!

That was dated September 23, 2005, so it looks like it could be over very soon.

Now, this doesn't mean you'll see me at the Boba Loca (my favorite internet cafe) surfing the 'net with nothing but my DS any time soon. See, when SgStair finally works out how to do it, he'll still need to package everything up into an app or two that we can all easily use. Even the best hacks are not the best until they can be used by everyone else--and everyone else is usually way dumber than the original hacker (I'm certainly not excluded from "everyone else"). So, with a little luck, we'll see something by the end of October we DS users will be able to use in a practical sense.

The next issue for me is figuring out just how I can get his hack on my DS since I don't have a flash cart or a PC with the right kind of wifi card to do the "wifime" thing. Oh well, I'll figure something out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lucked Out with Jury Duty

Just a quick update--I ended up lucky at jury duty, today. Sure, my cell phone was dead and I couldn't connect my PowerBook to the 'net anywhere (without paying $4/hr or $10 for the day), but in the end it wasn't so bad. After a couple hours killed sitting around playing my DS, I got sent into a court room where I proceeded to sit and watch prospective jurors get questioned by the judge and then the two lawyers. This took FOREVER... which is a good thing.

Noon rolled around and they gave us 90 minutes for lunch, which was useless for me, since I'm broke and even if I wasn't, there's no place around the airport courthouse to walk to. Sure, you can drive place, but, again, I don't have a car and my bike's out of commission. So, at 1:30pm it was back in the courtroom where I suddenly realized how much waiting to be selected is like being on Survivor Island--only, you want to get voted off.

So, these questions are all, essentially, about how dumb you are. If you understand how trials work, they want you to stay. If you're an idiot or you choose not to play along with the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing, you get kicked off. The problem is, when you get kicked out of the jury box, someone from the audience has to replace you. Today, that was me for about 5 hours.

White-knuckled, sweaty brow, cold chills, the whole deal--something about the entire experience was nerve wracking. And it only got worse as the hours passed because I knew the closer I got to the end of the day, the more likely it was that I'd get picked to replace some dumb/clever prospective juror. Finally, the two lawyers agreed to the jury and the two alternates and I was still in the audience--BUT WAIT--the judge then explains that they want two more alternate jurors, even though they have two already!!

This was very odd to me because I've always understood that two alternates were all that was normally needed. They call out two more juror ID numbers and neither are mine. The two jurors are asked questions and it's obvious both are going to get rejected. I can feel it as the entire audience of remaining prospective jurors tensed up.

The judge then asks for the two lawyers to meet her in "sidebar" for a short off-the-record discussion. "Sidebar" means away from the courtroom, but still in it--just sort of in the corner, or whatever. Anyway, so they do--she comes back and explains that in the interest of time the two lawyers have been kind enough to agree to having just two alternates and that we're excused.

YES!!!

However, we still have to head back to the juror assembly room where prospectives are dispatched to courtrooms. Luckily, it was 4pm and they let us go!

This means that thanks to LA's "1 day, 1 trial" system, I'm DONE!

Of course, knowing my luck with jury duty, I'll get my next summons card in 12 months time... just after I'm eligible to serve again.

Once every twelve months they say... I seem to get summons every year but never get called in...

Oh well...

Things are Crap All Over!

Wow, if I don't already have enough to deal with (being broke, my cell phone is dead, I'm in the middle of putting on a show, owe the USG $800 for taxes, my scooter is out of commission, and a few other things I've yet to blog about) I know have to show up this morning for jury duty.

Yes, I know there are plenty of people who have it worse than me.

Yes, I know it could always be worse.

But I'm getting real tired of everything. I just wish, for a while, for me and for the world, things could just go well for a little bit. Sure, I got married in Scotland and that was great and positive and whatever, but I shouldn't have to pay for good things happening to me with stacks of bad things happening to me. And what about the rest of the world, too?

Life seems like a never ending flow of obstacles, trials, tribulations and other pains in the collective ass. Sometimes I wonder why we bother.

Regardless, my heart and hopes go out to everyone who is having a shitty day today--whether it be me, stranded at the LA Airport Courthouse without a cell phone or internet connection for the day, my Dad and other family members in Texas who are now evacuating (hopefully). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I haven't heard from my dad since yesterday afternoon when Rita was still a Cat 4.

Wonderful time to be without a cell phone. Thanks, Sprint, for taking a week to get me a replacement!! (Glad I paid for that insurance!!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Play, Rita, and Some Other Junk

It has been a stressful month for me so far. I've been spending a LOT of time working on the play (not just writing it) and following the news and especially the weather has been pretty damn depressing. I feel like every morning I wake up and instantly feel like going back to sleep. I got 9 hours of sleep last night and I'm still ready for more sleep. I seriously need a real vacation. TheWife was commenting that we just got back from Scotland--but that was not a vacation--sure, we "vacated" but I think of more than just leaving LA when I think of a real vacation.

The good news is that my work writing the play is more or less done. After the table read last week I handed the script over to Dave, my co-writer and told him it's all his now. He has made some changes, some of which I don't like, but c'est la script. I've voiced my concerns and they may be ultimately ignored, but I know they'll be considered. We also had our first rehearsal last night and that went real well. Dana (the director) covered the blocking of the first act and then did this cool exercise with the actors--they had to improv their characters own backstories. To be honest, there were a couple of times where I wanted to speak up to "correct" them, but I held back--it's now the actor's job to continue creating the characters.

We've got another rehearsal tonight which I'm going to try to make it to and before I forget, my friend Asante is currently on his book tour--he's got signings coming up Philly, DC, Baltimore, San Diego and finally, in November, he'll be back in LA--check out his website Asante.info for more about him, his tour and his books. His new book is entitled Beautiful. And Ugly Too and it's poetry.

OH YEAH--and my cell phone crapped out on me. The power comes on and sometimes I can even get calls, but the screen is just white and the thing doesn't make any sounds when I press the buttons. I've got to hit a Sprint store today to get a new phone--of course, I'm broke, so who knows if I'll even be able to get one with a camera. Which reminds me--damn--I still have pictures I took on that thing that I never emailed to myself. Damn...

But there are bigger things to worry about right now than my little life. Rita has become a real powerhouse. I woke up this morning to read that not only had Rita hit category 4 but now it's approaching category 5!

In fact, I just checked with http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ and they're saying Rita has made it to Category 5.

Of course, that makes me think of my family--I have an aunt, uncle and cousins in Houston and upon calling my dad to find out about them, I am reminded that he and his wife are in Texas, too--about 150 miles from the ocean. My family in Houston have not yet decided to evacuate but I'm hoping/betting they'll leave now that Rita's a Cat 5. Dad got some supplies for his wife's family and they're going to sit tight there because my step-mom's folks are on the older side and might need help evacuating if they decide it will be required. I'm thinking it's required...

Anyway, so I'm off to the Sprint store in a bit. Man, there's stress all over the place. I think it's time we all take part in Globalgasm.com or at the very least, Hugnation.com...

We gotta do SOMETHING to relieve the world stress-level going on!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

KATRINA? MEET RITA

Well, here's some Katrina news for you mixed in with some news of yet another hurricane that is threatening the Gulf Coast. Yep, another she-bitch and her name is Rita--and she is definitely not working for Parking Enforcement...

Here's a clip from [http://abcnews.go.com/US/print?id=1142832|an article] from AP.org available at ABCNews.com covering the new girl:
Bars, restaurants and shops had just begun showing signs of life when the mayor suspended the reopening of the city and ordered nearly everyone to leave town again as a new hurricane headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The call for another evacuation came after repeated warnings from top federal officials, including President Bush, that New Orleans was not safe enough to reopen. Federal officials warned that Tropical Storm Rita upgraded to a hurricane Tuesday morning could breach the city's weakened levees and swamp New Orleans all over again.

Since this article was written Rita has been upgraded to a category 2 hurricane.

Thanks be to my buddy Morgan who just IMed me as I'm typing this:
04:02
ah man latest advisory's out

04:07
its up to 105 mph

04:14
if it gets up to 111, its a cat 3


[http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT18/refresh/AL1805W5+gif/151209W_sm.gif|Click here to check out the latest graphics showing us where Rita is]. That link brings you to NHC.NOAA.gov--the USG's weather service, which, to the best of my knowledge is a non-partisan group.

OH yeah and here's the bit relating to Katrina.

Did you watch the news the day Cheney went down to NO? Some dude yelled at him while he was being interviewed by various news reporters. The dude yelled something like: "Fuck off, Cheney!"

Well, I thought the story ended there, but it doesn't. My good friend (and sister-in-law!) Lisa Rein has [http://www.onlisareinsradar.com/archives/002503.php#002503|great post] up on her site (OnLisaReinsRadar.com) regarding how that guy got seriously harassed after throwing that comment at Bush. Here's a taste:
How The Guy Who Told Cheney To Go Fuck Himself Was Treated - By The Feds And EBay

And you can bet he wasn't treated well by either one. While he's looking through what's left of his house, a couple goons with M-16s handcuff him for a while to let him know who's boss. Meanwhile, E-bay removes his photos of the wreckage from his website.

Lisa has [http://www.onlisareinsradar.com/archives/002503.php#002503|more].

From AP.org and ABCNews.com:

Rita Prompts New Orleans to Close Again

Under Pressure From Government, Mayor Suspends Reopening of New Orleans As Rita Heads Toward Gulf
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
The Associated Press

Sep. 20, 2005 - Bars, restaurants and shops had just begun showing signs of life when the mayor suspended the reopening of the city and ordered nearly everyone to leave town again as a new hurricane headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The call for another evacuation came after repeated warnings from top federal officials, including President Bush, that New Orleans was not safe enough to reopen. Federal officials warned that Tropical Storm Rita upgraded to a hurricane Tuesday morning could breach the city's weakened levees and swamp New Orleans all over again.

There appeared to be little effort to enforce Mayor Ray Nagin's new evacuation order Tuesday morning, and some National Guard units were withdrawing from the city. The troops have been living tents in the city's Algiers section near a levee that officials fear could break.

Jill Sandars, a 55-year-old contract paralegal and Web site designer who lives in the French Quarter, did not evacuate before or after Katrina but said she may leave this time if New Orleans appears threatened. She said she is tired of the conflicting information from city officials about whether people should come or go.

"I don't have the energy for highs and lows any more," Sandars said. "I'm just maintaining day-to-day."

Maj. Arnold Strong of the Louisiana National Guard said Tuesday morning that at this point, the National Guard is not planning to go through the neighborhoods to push people to evacuate. "We've been doing that for three weeks," he said.

He said the Guard is pulling back to the town of Alexandria "so we can go to wherever we need to go" later. He said three inches of rain could cause a levee break that could flood New Orleans again.

"We want to handle this in an organized way," he said, "so we're planning for the worst."

Although Nagin backed off his plan to begin readmitting residents to parts of the city, a rift between local and federal officials remained.

On Tuesday, Nagin had harsh words for the federal government's top official in the city, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who he said "stepped outside his lane by talking directly to the citizens of New Orleans."

"I respect what federal officials are doing down here, but they do not fully comprehend what it's like to lose your home, to lose everything and not know and to be sitting out there for three weeks. So I think it's important for people to come back and at least take a look," Nagin said on NBC's "Today" show.

Nagin said he does not believe officials will have to enforce the renewed evacuation order. But some business owners who started selling cleaning supplies and serving po' boy sandwiches said they wanted to stay put.

Del Juneau, owner of a Bourbon Street lingerie shop in the once-raucous French Quarter, said it would be premature to order another evacuation based on the storm nearing Florida. "Where are you going to go? What are you going to do?" he said. "I'm not going anywhere."

The president was scheduled to make his fifth trip to the Hurricane Katrina zone on Tuesday to get an on-the-ground briefing on the cleanup and visit a business trying to get back on its feet.

The death toll in Louisiana jumped by 90 to 736 on Monday, as receding floodwaters allowed search crews to reach more of the city's devastated neighborhoods. The toll across the Gulf Coast was 973.

The mayor reversed course even as residents began trickling back to the first neighborhood opened as part of his plan, the lightly damaged Algiers section.

"Now we have conditions that have changed. We have another hurricane that is approaching us," Nagin said Monday. He warned that the city's pumping system was not yet running at full capacity and that the levees were still very weak.

Nagin ordered residents who slipped back into the still-closed parts of the city to leave immediately. He also urged everyone already settled back into Algiers to be ready to evacuate as early as Wednesday.

The city requested 200 buses to assist in an evacuation. They would start running 48 hours before landfall from the downtown convention center and a stadium in Algiers.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in a televised address Monday, urged residents of coastal southwestern Louisiana also to make preparations to leave.

"We will pray that Rita will not devastate Louisiana, but today we do not know the answer to that question," Blanco said.

Rita strengthened into a hurricane and lashed the Florida Keys with heavy rain and sustained winds of 75 mph Tuesday. The storm was expected to gain strength as it crossed the warm Gulf of Mexico and could hit Texas over the weekend. But forecasters warned it could veer toward Louisiana instead.

"We're watching Tropical Storm Rita's projected path and, depending on its strength and how much rain falls, everything could change," said Col. Duane Gapinski of the Army Corps of Engineers task force that is draining New Orleans and repairing the levees.

Brig. Gen. Robert Crear said the Corps hopes to have the levees back to being capable of handling a Category 3 storm by June, the start of the next hurricane season.

Under the mayor's original plan, the Garden District, the French Quarter and Uptown were supposed to reopen one ZIP code at a time between Wednesday and next Monday, bringing about 180,000 of New Orleans' half-million inhabitants back.

The dispute over the reopening was just the latest example of the lack of federal-local coordination that has marked the disaster practically from the start.

Nagin saw a quick reopening as a way to get the storm-battered city back in the business of luring tourists. But federal officials warned that such a move could be a few weeks premature, pointing out that much of the area does not yet have full electricity and still has no drinkable water, 911 service or working hospitals.

With the approach of Rita, the president added his voice, saying he had "deep concern" about the possibility that New Orleans' levees could be breached again.

"The mayor you know, he's got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream," Bush said. "But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans."

About 20 percent of the city is still flooded, down from a high of about 80 percent after Katrina, and the water was expected to be pumped out by Sept. 30.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

TWAT, MEET TWAP

K, this made me laugh. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be laughing at something like this, but maybe it's not so bad if I'm laughing like Charleton Heston in the beginning of Planet of the Apes. You know the laugh I mean--the "you silly fool, you're so off-the-deep-end that you make me laugh a desperate, end-of-the-world kind of laugh!" laugh.

Anyway, so here's what [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/19/AR2005091901570_pf.html|an article] from WaPo says is going on in the FBI right now:
The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

So, there you have it! TWAT (The War Against Terror) is over and now TWAP (The War Against Porn) is ready to take over!!

Apparently Osama bin Laden is no longer a big threat, nor is AQ, so let's dedicate manpower to fighting the next big threat facing America...

PORN???
From WaPo:

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; A21

The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

A few of the printable samples:

"Things I Don't Want On My Résumé, Volume Four."

"I already gave at home."

"Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves."

Federal obscenity prosecutions, which have been out of style since Attorney General Edwin Meese III in the Reagan administration made pornography a signature issue in the 1980s, do "encounter many legal issues, including First Amendment claims," the FBI headquarters memo noted.

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards -- along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit -- define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

"Based on a review of past successful cases in a variety of jurisdictions," the memo said, the best odds of conviction come with pornography that "includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior." No word on the universe of other kinks that helps make porn a multibillion-dollar industry.

Popular acceptance of hard-core pornography has come a long way, with some of its stars becoming mainstream celebrities and their products -- once confined to seedy shops and theaters -- being "purveyed" by upscale hotels and most home cable and satellite television systems. Explicit sexual entertainment is a profit center for companies including General Motors Corp. and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (the two major owners of DirecTV), Time Warner Inc. and the Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt hotel chains.

But Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."

Congress began funding the obscenity initiative in fiscal 2005 and specified that the FBI must devote 10 agents to adult pornography. The bureau decided to create a dedicated squad only in the Washington Field Office. "All other field offices may investigate obscenity cases pursuant to this initiative if resources are available," the directive from headquarters said. "Field offices should not, however, divert resources from higher priority matters, such as public corruption."

Public corruption, officially, is fourth on the FBI's priority list, after protecting the United States from terrorist attack, foreign espionage and cyber-based attacks. Just below those priorities are civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and "significant violent crime." The guidance from headquarters does not mention where pornography fits in.

"The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's top priority remains fighting the war on terrorism," said Justice Department press secretary Brian Roehrkasse. "However, it is not our sole priority. In fact, Congress has directed the department to focus on other priorities, such as obscenity."

At the FBI's field office, spokeswoman Debra Weierman expressed disappointment that some of her colleagues find grist for humor in the new campaign. "The adult obscenity squad . . . stems from an attorney general mandate, funded by Congress," she said. "The personnel assigned to this initiative take the responsibility of this assignment very seriously and are dedicated to the success of this program."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

BURNING BRIT PIC REMINDS UK OF IRAQUAGMIRE



Like that pic? Don't worry too much--[http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/tm_objectid=14079339&method=full&siteid=50143&headline=under-fire-name_page.html|the article I snagged the pic from] at Mirror.co.uk says the dude survived. However, he was one of 14 Brits who were injured in clashes with protestors in Basra. Oddly, the Mirror article linked to above claims they got caught in the middle of protestors, while [http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=13944401|an article] over at SIFY.com from www.AFP.com claims they were trying to rescue 2 Brit soldiers who were being held by local law enforcement.

Ultimately, the point is that you can listen to all the good things coming out of Iraq (just ask any Bushite and they'll give you a list) but to me the important question to ask is this: Are those positive things worth the pain and suffering USUK soldiers are going through? Are the lives our guys are losing worth Iraq's possible democracy?

Stay the course and pay the price in money and American and British blood--WHAT A GREAT LEADER!!
From Mirror.co.uk:
23 March 2004

UNDER FIRE


British troops injured as Basra clashes
By Tom Newton Dunn, Defence Correspondent

A BRITISH soldier is engulfed in flames after he and his colleagues are attacked by a mob hurling petrol bombs and grenades during a riot in Basra yesterday.

The soldier was among 14 troops injured - three seriously - in clashes with more than 500 protesters venting their fury over the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin at Gaza.

At least one of the men, thought to be from the Royal Regiment of Wales, suffered serious burns.

But today the three seriously injured troops were said to be in a stable condition and none of their injuries life threatening.

Advertisement
Falk AdSolution

Squadron Leader Jon Arnold, of the British forces headquarters in Basra, said: "All the casualties are in a stable condition. However, we cannot comment on numbers still under hospital care."

Officers believe trouble flared after a peaceful demonstration over job shortages was hijacked by religious extremists and Saddam Hussein supporters.

Some shouted slogans in support of Saddam and others chanted: "We are all sons of Yassin."

Troops feared a terrorist attack had happened after two loud blasts were heard near the riots in the centre of Basra, close to a British Army HQ.

Nine soldiers had blast and shrapnel injuries from a grenade hurled at them. A home-made bomb was set off to catch troops sent in to quell the rioting.

The injured troops were evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital at Shaibah in the desert. None of the injuries were life-threatening. The crowd was eventually dispersed with rubber bullets. Six Iraqi civilians were injured in the clashes.

An Army spokesman said last night: "The families of the injured are being informed and until then we are not able to release any information about them.

"The incident is not thought to be terrorist related but stemmed from a public order incident. The exact circumstances are being investigated.

"This will not deter the coalition forces, or the vast majority of Iraqis, from continuing to work to improve the security and infrastructure of Basra."

British military spokesman in Basra Major Tim Smith added: "The situation is calm but tense.

"I want to commend the soldiers' restraint under enormous pressure in dealing with the situation with the minimum of force."

It was the worst day of violence against the occupying forces in Iraq's second city since three days of riots last summer over fuel and water shortages.

From SIFY.com and www.AFP.com:

Fiery pictures puncture notion British troops safe in Iraq

Tuesday, 20 September , 2005, 21:09

London: Pictures of a British soldier engulfed by flames while leaping from an armoured vehicle firebombed by a mob in Basra punctured notions Tuesday that the country's forces are safer in Iraq than their US counterparts.

Newspapers in Britain ran front-page photos of a soldier fleeing a Warrior armored vehicle set alight by petrol bombs in Iraq's main southern city while the army was storming a jail to rescue two other soldiers.

The photos and events surrounding them rekindled long-held public anxieties over how safe British troops were in Iraq and how long the US-led occupation would last.

Such a dramatic photo "represents the actual, not the imagined, state of the British army in southern Iraq," the Evening Standard newspaper said in an editorial.

"We had been led to suppose that Basra, the center of British operations in Iraq, was a relatively peaceful area," it said.

"Now we know different," the daily said.

British forces have claimed they were winning over the Iraqi people by taking a softer approach than their US counterparts, such as conducting patrols without body armor.

The army said it ended up having to storm a police jail in a bid to rescue two soldiers detained by Iraqi police, allies in post-Saddam Iraq, after negotiations failed to win their release.

It added that the two soldiers were not in the jail but had been handed over to a Shiite militia, though officers said it was still unclear whether police had surrendered them willingly.

Meanwhile, a mob attacked the troops involved in the rescue, though three soldiers, including the one pictured in the photographs, escaped with only minor injuries, the defense ministry said.

The newspaper called for Britain to increase troops to re-establish order in the short run before launching a "speeded-up exit strategy."

The Daily Telegraph, which ran a front-page photograph of a soldier engulfed in flames, said the violence in the British-controlled sector cast doubt on the government's plans for an early withdrawal from the south of Iraq.

The Daily Mail ran the headline "Torched".

"Welcome to the surreal world of a 'liberated' Iraq where brave British soldiers are daily putting their lives on the line - and are cast as the villains of the piece for their pains," the tabloid said.

The Daily Mirror said it was a miracle that none of the men involved was killed.

The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, paid tribute to the soldiers' restraint, saying the temptation to lash out would have been huge.

"Despite almost certain death, they refused to fire at their attackers.

"Few would have had the courage and the discipline to keep calm."

© Copyright Sify Ltd, 1998-2004.

HUMAN STEM CELLS HELP MICE WALK AGAIN

NationalGeographic.com reports in [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0920_050920_spinalcord.html|an article] that human stem cells injected into mice with spinal cord damage (gee, I wonder how they got that!) caused the mice to heal and be able to walk again. Here's a clip from the article:
A new study shows that human stem cells injected into mice can repair damaged spinal cords and help partially paralyzed mice walk again.

Although many questions remain unanswered, the research raises the hope of using stem cells to help people with spinal cord injuries.

"We're very excited about these stem cells," said Aileen Anderson of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California, Irvine. "We're really on the cusp of making some big leaps forward."

Previous research has suggested that human stem cells can help rodents recover from spinal injuries. But the new study marks the first time that scientists have shown that human stem cells make connections with the nervous systems of the mice and are thus key to recovery from spinal cord injuries.

This brings up a lot of interesting ideas. I'm wondering if all animalistic life doesn't share the same type of stem cells. As in, you could take stem cells from a dog and they would create human skin cells, or a new kidney once they are put inside a human.

This could mean that we wouldn't need to take stem cells from peple, but could take them from animals, instead. This would make all those right-to-lifers happy while pissing off the PETA.

Oh well, let's keep our fingers crossed for science. It's taking quite a beating these days from those wacky Christian extremists...

DAN RATHER CALLS IT THE NEW JOURNALISM ORDER

Sure, most of us have heard the phrase "New World Order." Some of us even heard George H.W. Bush use the phrase during various speeches he gave back in the early 1990s--if I'm not mistaken, one of them was given on September 11, 1991. But I digress...

Dan Rather has come along and made the claim that there is a "New Journalism Order" where ratings and the bottom line are put first before delivering important and timely news reports. This is according to [http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=1141521|an article] from Reuters.com available over at ABCNews.com. Here's a clip:
Addressing the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, occasionally forcing back tears, he said that in the intervening years, politicians "of every persuasion" had gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a "new journalism order."

He said this pressure — along with the "dumbed-down, tarted-up" coverage, the advent of 24-hour cable competition and the chase for ratings and demographics — has taken its toll on the news business. "All of this creates a bigger atmosphere of fear in newsrooms," Rather said.

I'm sure this is a problem many of us already knew about, but it's nice that people on the inside of TheMedia are speaking out about it.

HACK YOUR HOTEL

Bet you didn't know that hotel room TVs are a great tool for hacking. Bet you didn't know that with a Linux laptop or other gadget with an IR emitter (and some knowhow) you can do some pretty cool crap. This is according to [http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,68370,00.html|an article] at Wired.com that was linked from hackaday.com. Here's a clip from the article:
A vulnerability in many hotel television infrared systems can allow a hacker to obtain guests' names and their room numbers from the billing system.

It can also let someone read the e-mail of guests who use web mail through the TV, putting business travelers at risk of corporate espionage. And it can allow an intruder to add or delete charges on a hotel guest's bill or watch pornographic films and other premium content on their hotel TV without paying for it.

Adam Laurie, technical director of the London security and networking firm The Bunker showed Wired News how he conducted such attacks at hotels around the world before he was to speak about the vulnerability Saturday at the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas.

Laurie is known as Major Malfunction in the hacker community. He also revealed how infrared used for garage door openers and car-door locks could be hacked, using simple brute force programming techniques to decipher the code that opens the doors.

"No one thinks about the security risks of infrared because they think it's used for minor things like garage doors and TV remotes," Laurie said. "But infrared uses really simple codes, and they don't put any kind of authentication (in it)…. If the system was designed properly, I shouldn't be able to do what I can do."

Pretty cool--I mean--probably illegal. But there it is, in case you were curious the next time you were in a hotel room...

and bored...

staring at the IR port on your PDA wondering...

just what can I do with that thing, anyway?

NEW FREE BROWSER OUT THERE!

Hey, fancy this--there's a new free browser out there and even Mackies, like me, can use it!

It's actually a browser that's been around for a while, but they just went freebie to help compete against Mozilla and M$. Go download it and try it out--you can find it at:

opera.com

FUNNY CYBER SEX

Ensellitis.com has [http://www.ensellitis.com/?p=223|a hilarious post] today featuring the sex-chat-room exploits of a guy called Bloodninja. These transcripts are damn funny--but be warned, this is adult, non-PG-13 material, so if you're easily offended, don't click through.

However, if you enjoy people being intelligently messed with, I encourage you to check out Ense's post. Here's a reasonably PG-13 sample:
Bloodninja: Wanna cyber?

MommyMelissa: Sure, you into vegetables?

Bloodninja: What like gardening an s**t?

MommyMelissa: Yeah, something like that.

Bloodninja: Nuthin turns me on more, check this out

Bloodninja: You bend over to harvest your radishes.

(pause)

MommyMelissa: is that it?

Bloodninja: You water your tomato patch.

Bloodninja: Are you ready for my fresh produce?

MommyMelissa: I was thinking of like, sexual acts INVOLVING vegetables… Can you make it a little more sexy for me?

(pause)

Bloodninja: I touch you on your lettuce, you massage my spinach… Sexily.

Bloodninja: I ride your buttocks, like they were amber waves of grains.

MommyMelissa: Grain doesn't really turn me on… I was thinking more along the lines of carrots and zucchinis.

Bloodninja: my zucchinis carresses your carrots.

Bloodninja: Damn baby your right, this s**t is HOT.

MommyMelissa: …

And it goes on from there. Think of it as a sort of virtual candid camera/Punk'd (only no Ashton Cutcher--or hell, maybe he's Bloodninja).

Ah, I needed a good laugh today. I woke up this morning with a case of what I call lackadasia. A feeling where you just don't want to do anything despite the fact that you have a to do list a mile long. Man, I need a vacation...

Monday, September 19, 2005

OIL ABOVE $67

On the heels of Katrina, I remember the media reporting that after a brief spike, oil/gas prices would go down. Well, that sort of happened if you consider a drop of five cents "going down." Regardless, my spider-sense was telling me then that the drop wouldn't last and lo' and behold, according to [http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8CNG8F81.htm?campaign_id=apn_home_up&chan=db|an article] at BusinessWeek.com, oil prices are back up above $67.

Peak oil, anyone?


On a sidenote to this, I stumbled across a website the other day claiming that the peak oil thing was just created by the oil companies so they could manufacture a shortage and charge more for oil. If this were true, wouldn't the oil companies (and the press, for that matter) be embracing the peak oil theory? Wouldn't the oil companies at least pretend to admit that it was "real?"

OH, and just to be on the record about this, it is my somewhat educated guess that oil prices will continue to rise to even higher prices and thusly so will gas prices.

I beg to be proven wrong--PLEASE, REALITY, PROVE ME WRONG!!! I'M BEGGIN' YA!!

CLINTON STATES THE OBVIOUS ABOUT BUSH, STRANGELY

I'm starting to lose track of how Bizarro the world is at this point. After a couple years of Bill Clinton essentially towing the Bush White House line, he's suddenly speaking out against Bush, saying all sorts of bad things about him--that we already know about and have known about for quite some time.

Here's a clip from [http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050918/wl_afp/usweatheriraqeconomy_050918200308| an article] from www.AFP.com and YaNews that will illustrate my confusion:
Former US president
Bill Clinton sharply criticised George W. Bush for the
Iraq War and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit.

Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors, Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Bush said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.

Well, yeah, Bill we kinda know all that.

I hope you're not trying to get points for stating all of this now--I mean, come on--that stuff is so pre-Downing-Street-Memo.

He did bag on more recent Bush bungles, refering to everyone's favorite she-bitch, Katrina:
"When James Lee Witt ran FEMA, because he had been both a local official and a federal official, he was always there early, and we always thought about that," Clinton said, referring to FEMA's head during his 1993-2001 presidency.

"But both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people."

OH, SNAP!

CLINTON PLAYS THE CLASS CARD!!

Nice.

Clinton goes on about the budget and, in fact, seems to lie about where our money comes from:
On the US budget, Clinton warned that the federal deficit may be coming untenable, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery programme and tax cuts that benefitted just the richest one percent of the US population, himself included.

"What Americans need to understand is that ... every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq,
Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," he said.

"We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else."

Clinton added: "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense."

I think he's forgetting that every dollar that is in circulation in the US economy is a dollar borrowed from the Federal Reserve which is not actually part of the USG. So, every penny we've ever used has been borrowed from an outside source. It's certainly possible that we borrow money from other countries, but it doesn't make sense that we do. Other countries already have billions invested in America in various ways, so why would they loan money to the USG? There would have to be a hell of an interest rate--after all, America has a pretty bad rep when it comes to spending too much money and hell, in order to pay anyone back, we'd put our entire country in the poorhouse without borrowing even more money from the Fed.

I'm so confused.

Regardless, Clinton can't make up his mind--does he like Bush or not?

If he isn't, why is he hanging around him so much? Certainly he'd look far more credible if he organized relief efforts on his own rather than chillin' with George Sr and his dumb kid.

No, sir, I don't get it.

USG SEZ: MEN TO THE MOON BY 2018???

First off, I'm a space guy. I love space and the idea of venturing out into it. So, maybe I shouldn't look a gift-horse in the mouth when considering this story.

Aw, screw it!

OK, this is LAME.

Back in 1963, JFK said that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The dude died and we still pulled it off!! SIX YEARS passed and Armstrong had his feet on lunar soil.

Flashforward four decades and we've got "ambitious" plans to land men on the moon by 2018!! WOW!! DON'T OVEREXERT YOURSELF, NASA!!

Why is it that in the 1960s, it takes us less than a decade to get a guy up there but in the 21st century it takes us 13 years?? Shouldn't it take LESS time to get up there?

What's even better is that the shuttle will be retired soon and replaced with a ROCKET SHIP!! Yep, apparently NASA has also built a time machine and stolen plans for a spaceship from the past. The only good news here is that they say it will be reusable. Why it won't have wings for landing on Mars (which they say it will ultimately be used for) is beyond me.

I understand that the shuttle is old and in need of replacement, but I'm thinking that we can do better than 2018.

...color me idealistic...

Read more about the mission to the moon in [http://sg.news.yahoo.com/050919/1/3v276.html|an article] from www.AFP.com and YaNews.

Or check out CSMonitor.com for [http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0920/p03s01-stss.html|their coverage] of the ship, itself (herself?).

Tuesday September 20, 12:46 AM

US to send four astronauts to moon in 2018

The United States will send four astronauts to the moon in 2018 in a return to its pioneering manned mission into space, NASA administrator Michael Griffin announced.

NASA is to design a new rocket based on the technology from its ageing shuttles that are to be retired in 2010, Griffin said Monday. The new rocket could be orbiting in space by 2014.

The last manned mission to the moon was the Apollo 17 rocket in 1972. But the new mission will enable preparations to set up a permanent base on the moon, Griffin said Monday.

The NASA chief estimated the cost of the moon programme at 104 billion dollars.

He said the new rocket would be "very Apollo-like, with updated technology. Think of it as Apollo on steroids."

Copyright © 2005AFP

From CSMonitor.com:
from the September 20, 2005 edition

A retro look to next US spacecraft

NASA's plan, unveiled Monday, is to replace the shuttle with a vehicle that borrows much from Apollo.
By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
It's back to the future for the US manned spaceflight program.

After 25 years of spectacular successes and tragic failures using the winged space shuttles, NASA is opting for the tried and true: Just put a capsule on top of a rocket, put people or cargo into it, and launch it.

NASA's plan for replacing the shuttle, unveiled Monday, calls for launching future space vehicles in the same way that was used during the successful Apollo program of the 1960 and '70s, but borrows the shuttle's concept of a reusable craft.

That new craft would be the cosmic equivalent of the suburban minivan - a "crew-exploration vehicle" capable of carrying six people to the International Space Station, or four people to the moon, or roughly 3-1/2 tons of cargo. It's designed to ride a parachute system back to land, but must also survive an Apollo-like splashdown. Over the long term, the CEV must also be capable of handling a trip to Mars.

If all goes well, its first flight to the space station would launch in 2011. In keeping with President Bush's vision for space exploration, the first mission to the moon is slated for 2018.

The CEV's configuration - a command module, service module, and lander - has an Apollo-era look, and it's not by accident, says Michael Griffin, NASA's administrator. After NASA looked at a range of configurations, he says, it's amazing to see "how much of it all the Apollo guys got right."

If the plan has a quaint, haven't-we-done-this-before quality to some, other space enthusiasts say the blueprint represents a welcome change for human space exploration. "For the first time in 3-1/2 decades, the federal government plans to leave low-Earth orbit. That's a major shift," says George Whitesides of the National Space Society.

The effort marks a technological turning point, adds Ray Williamson, research professor at The George Washington University's Space Policy Institute in Washington. "Basically, we've recognized that it's better to get the job done than to try doing it with flashy technology," he says. "You don't need a Ferrari to take your groceries home."

That's not to say the program faces smooth sailing technologically. Though the rockets have a familiar-looking shell, they'll use state-of-the-art technologies inside, and engineers won't lack for design challenges, analysts say. Low cost, safety, and reliability are vital - features the shuttle, despite being a marvel of aerospace engineering, has not delivered.

Still, NASA seems to be taking a minimalist approach, says Keith Cowing of NASAWatch, a website that tracks the agency's developments. "This is pretty conservative. There are no plans for a big moon base. It's almost like we're trying to prove we can still do it."

The biggest risk with the new plan is financial, analysts say. Hurricane Katrina and continued problems with the debris falling from the shuttle's external fuel tank during launch have saddled NASA with unanticipated costs. The debris problem has forced NASA to delay shuttle launches until next year. This could postpone the orbiters' retirement and the savings the agency had hoped to gain from mothballing the fleet.

The program's overall cost is $104 billion through the first lunar mission - roughly 55 percent of what Apollo cost, Mr. Griffin says. The program is designed on a go-as-you-pay basis, he adds.

Help may come from a new generation of entrepreneurs who are sinking personal fortunes and venture capital into rockets designed to be more reliable and cheaper to build and operate than the launchers used for unmanned missions in the US today. NASA appears ready to give those fledgling companies an opportunity to show what they can do, says Mr. Whitesides, and possibly contract with them for space station missions.

NASA's track record for giving lawmakers accurate costs estimates or for controlling overruns hasn't been stellar. "I am anxious to get more information on the program's expected costs," says Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, the House Science Committee's ranking Democrat.

Copyright © 2005 The Christian Science Monitor

ABC MAKEOVER SHOW HAS NO SOUL

So, this Extreme Makeover show on ABC promises to just about literally give a woman a new face and new boobies. She's apparently quite ugly, at least, that's according to her friends and family who said so on video for the show that never aired. Why did it never air? Well, because apparently she's so damn ugly that the recovery period after the surgery was going to be too long for the production of the series, so they told her on the eve of her operation to take a hike back to Texas.

Luckily, she's from Texas, so that wasn't the insulting part.

See, the deal is that she's not that ugly, but in today's world if you're not effing Jennifer Lopez, you should be taken out and shot. Naturally, the ABC show encouraged her friends and family to call her ugly on camera to make the show "better" this in turn made her friends and family feel like crap for going on the record and saying that she's fugly. Personally, I'd be disowning my friends and family so fast if they pulled that on me. I can handle honesty, but the woman is not ugly, in my opinion--granted the picture in [http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/347520p-296543c.html|the article] I found about this story at NYDailyNews.com is rather small, but she didn't break the camera lens, for crying out loud--so, why make all this crap up?

Oh yeah... the attention...

I GET TO BE ON TV!! But only if I agree to drag my friend/family member through the mud and then hurl her verbally at the ugly tree where she will then hit every branch on the way to the ground.

Ultimately, however, I blame the TV show for preying on these people's more base desires. Sure, the woman, and her friends and family should not have given in to the show's absurdness, but we can't blame the raped for being so, can we? This clearly falls into the category of prey being too stupid to know better than the mega-corporation-run TV show that exists because of people's fear of inadequacy.

Well, it looks like the show and ABC just might get theirs in the end. She's suing--for extreme emotional hardship--after all, this experience, according to her, has cost a human life. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that one of the family members that called her ugly on camera has since killed herself--the woman's sister, again, according to her, couldn't deal with the horrible guilt and embarrassment of saying her sis was nasty to look at so, she killed herself.

From the above linked article:
"Kellie could not live with the fact that she had said horrible things that hurt her sister. She fell to pieces. Four months later, she ended her life with an overdose of pills, alcohol and cocaine," said Wesley Cordova, a lawyer for Williams.

Williams is the woman.

Not sure what else there is to say about this aside from JESUS, people! GROW UP! There's actually a helluva lot more "ugly" people on this planet than there are good looking people! Deal with it or move to Los Angeles!!! (We're all HOT here!)

From NYDailyNews.com:

'Extreme' tragedy

'Ugly' mom sues ABC for nixing makeover

By MICHELLE CARUSO

LOS ANGELES - The producers of "Extreme Makeover" promised Deleese Williams "a Cinderella-like" fix for a deformed jaw, crooked teeth, droopy eyes and tiny boobs that would "transform her life and destiny."

But when the ABC reality show dumped the Texas mom the night before the life-changing plastic surgeries, it shattered her family's dream and triggered her sister Kellie McGee's suicide, says a bombshell lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court.

As part of the premakeover hype, producers coaxed McGee and other family members to trash Williams' looks on videotape, the suit alleges. When they suddenly pulled the plug on the project, and the promised "Hollywood smile like Cindy Crawford," a guilt-ridden McGee fell apart.

"Kellie could not live with the fact that she had said horrible things that hurt her sister. She fell to pieces. Four months later, she ended her life with an overdose of pills, alcohol and cocaine," said Wesley Cordova, a lawyer for Williams.

"This family is shredded. There is a human cost to this," Cordova said.

Williams, 30, and her husband, Mike, are raising McGee's two children, along with two kids of their own. The suit seeks unspecified money damages for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other offenses.

"Deleese is so hurt and humiliated, she won't leave the house now. She grocery shops at midnight," Cordova says.

ABC declined to comment on the allegations.

The show announcing Williams' selection for a mega makeover had already aired on Jan. 7, 2004, when the producers abruptly dropped her because the dental surgeon told them her recovery time would be longer than expected, Cordova said.

Williams was alone in a Los Angeles hotel room reading her pre-op instructions when a producer showed up and dashed her dream of a new life with a "pretty" face, the suit alleges.

"You will not be getting an extreme makeover after all. . . . Nothing. It doesn't fit in our time frame. You will have to go back to Texas tomorrow," the suit alleges she was coldly told.

Williams broke down sobbing: "How can I go back as ugly as I left? I was supposed to come home pretty," the suit says.

The 31-page complaint begins with the line "Deleese Williams is considered ugly."

It details a horrendous tale of pain and humiliation that began when she applied for the reality show in December 2003 and had to submit a "full body shot" video showing "all of the body parts that need help."

For years, Williams' friends and family "didn't notice or pretended not to notice" her homely looks, but once she got picked for the show, they were coached to focus on nothing but her physical flaws, the suit says.

In McGee's taped interview, she tried to play up her sister's good points. But the hard-nosed producers "peppered Kellie with questions about her childhood with the ugly Deleese . . . and repeatedly put words in her mouth," the suit says.

To please the producers, Williams' mother-in-law also laid it on thick. "She said things like 'I never believed my son would marry such an ugly woman.' " Cordova says.

The family's comments never aired on TV, but Williams, who was in an adjoining room, heard them all.

The experience ruined her family life.

"Now that she returned in the same condition in which she left, there were no secrets, no hidden feelings, no reward," the suit says.

McGee's "guilt was overwhelming." She OD'd on May 25, 2004, four months after the show's producers sent her sister packing.

"These programs are cheap to produce - there are no actors or screenwriters to pay. But there is a very high human cost," Cordova said.

The dark side of reality
By MICHELLE CARUSO

LOS ANGELES - Warning: Reality TV may be hazardous to your health.

The suicide of a jilted "Extreme Makeover" contestant's sister isn't the first tragedy to strike the popular TV genre.

In February, a contestant for NBC's boxing reality show "The Contender" took his own life less than a month before the show's broadcast debut.

Najai Turpin, 23, sat in a parked car outside the West Philadelphia gym where he trained and shot himself in the head.

It was later revealed that Turpin had lost his make-or-break bout in Week 5 of the series and was disqualified.

Fight trainer Percy (Buster) Custus, who had known Turpin since he was 12, said the boxer enjoyed taping the show but seemed "troubled" afterward.

In 1995, the Chicago-based "Jenny Jones Show" turned deadly when one guest murdered another who had made a homosexual pass at him on the air.

Jon Schmitz, 24, went berserk after the stunt in which Scott Amedure, 32, revealed he had a "secret crush" on Schmitz and fantasized about tying him up for a "whipped cream and champagne" adventure. A shocked and humiliated Schmitz insisted "I'm 100% heterosexual" as the studio audience howled.

Three days later, Schmitz drove to Amedure's Pontiac, Mich., home and shot him twice in the chest with a shotgun.

Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996, but the case was overturned.

At a 1999 retrial, Schmitz again was convicted and sentenced to serve at least 20 years in prison before parole eligibility.

Originally published on September 18, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005

BIZARRO SHARON DELIVERS SPEECH

Wow--this is crazy. Check out the first sentence from [http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050917/world.htm#1|an article] at TribuneIndia.com from Reuters.com:
Turning Israeli politics on its head, Mr Ariel Sharon drew attacks from the right and praise from the left today after taking to the world stage and voicing recognition of Palestinians’ right to statehood.

But Palestine wants Israel dead! All Palestinians hate Jews!

I mean, right?

Well, not right--obviously. Nor do all Israelis want to see Palestine wiped out or occupied. All Israelis don't hate Palestinians, either. But, until recently, it's been assumed that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sure did. Here's more from that article:
Just a few months ago, it would have been unthinkable for the burly, 77-year-old ex-General to stand before the world forum that many Israelis see as a bastion of anti-Israel sentiment.

But the implementation of his “disengagement” plan has softened his image as Israel’s uncompromising “Bulldozer” and drawn accolades from the international community, which hopes the Gaza withdrawal will serve as a catalyst for renewed peacemaking.

“The man who for the past four decades has intimidated, threatened, torpedoed, prevented, wagged his finger and thundered with a parched throat, restarted the clock yesterday and redefined himself,” wrote Ben Caspit, a political columnist for the daily Maariv.

Crazy.

But for now, true. The article goes on to talk about how some see this as a tactic to distract from the fact that Sharon is tightening his grip on Jerusalem--but even if this is the case, isn't it at least worth noting that he has compromised here?

From the beginning it has always been up to the Israeli PM to bring peace to Israelistine. The Palestinian terrorists stopping their attacks would only be admitting failure. In most cases, it's the side with the upper hand that has the ability to bring peace. After all, to every suicide bomber, Israel can take down several buildings or even an entire neighborhood. Israel doesn't lose the war by pulling out of occupied territories. They are still Israel.

If Palestine ceases fighting, they lose everything.

Now, there is at least the appearance of hope.

Let's hope it lasts.

From Reuters.com and TribuneIndia.com:

Sharon UN speech turns Israeli politics on its head

Jerusalem, September 16
Turning Israeli politics on its head, Mr Ariel Sharon drew attacks from the right and praise from the left today after taking to the world stage and voicing recognition of Palestinians’ right to statehood.

Mr Sharon’s speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday calling for compromise to “end this bloody conflict” was more conciliatory than many had expected from an Israel leader long vilified internationally as an intransigent hardliner.

Mr Sharon held firm on his insistence that it was now up to the Palestinians to prove they want peace by cracking down on militants following Israel’s pullout from Gaza earlier this week after 38 years of occupation.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Sharon’s rival in their Likud party, accused the Prime Minister of turning his back on his rightist roots, and Interior Minister Ophir Pines of centre-left Labour, said he had “unconditionally joined the peace camp”.

Palestinians saw it as a propaganda ploy to mask Mr Sharon’s intention to keep a permanent hold on Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, continue expanding settlement blocs there and forestall a return to final-status negotiations.

Just a few months ago, it would have been unthinkable for the burly, 77-year-old ex-General to stand before the world forum that many Israelis see as a bastion of anti-Israel sentiment.

But the implementation of his “disengagement” plan has softened his image as Israel’s uncompromising “Bulldozer” and drawn accolades from the international community, which hopes the Gaza withdrawal will serve as a catalyst for renewed peacemaking.

“The man who for the past four decades has intimidated, threatened, torpedoed, prevented, wagged his finger and thundered with a parched throat, restarted the clock yesterday and redefined himself,” wrote Ben Caspit, a political columnist for the daily Maariv.

Still, Mr Sharon said little to suggest he planned any conciliatory moves toward the Palestinians anytime soon. “We do not see anything positive (in Mr Sharon’s speech),” said Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan al-Khatib.

Mr Sharon’s UN address drew harsh criticism from rightist opponents who brand him a traitor to the settlement movement he once championed. They see the Gaza pullout as a betrayal of Jewish biblical claims and a reward for Palestinian violence.

“In his speech, Mr Sharon has finally clarified that he is turning to the left and will continue to make concessions,” Netanyahu, who is trying to unseat Mr Sharon as Likud chief for the next general election, said in a statement. — Reuters