Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Phobos-Ground Probe: Russian Paranoia a SNAFU or Nobbled by the US?

You may wish to bring yourself up to speed on Russia's failed Phobos-Ground Mars Probe. This from the LA Times.

Russia Mars probe failure underlined by successful U.S. launch

As the NASA rover Curiosity, launched from Cape Canaveral, streaks toward Mars, Russia's Phobos-Ground probe is marooned in near-Earth orbit and largely unresponsive to ground controllers' commands.

By Sergei L. Loiko, reporting from Moscow
Los Angeles Times
November 29, 2011,

Russia's space program has a bad case of the Red Planet blues.

As the NASA rover Curiosity, launched Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., streaks toward Mars, Russia's Phobos-Ground probe is marooned in near-Earth orbit and largely unresponsive to commands from ground controllers.

Russian officials acknowledge that the narrow ballistic window for the spacecraft to reach Mars has closed, making it another in a series of failures for the country's space research. Since the retirement of the last space shuttle in July, U.S. astronauts heading to the International Space Station need to hitch a ride with the Russians, but officials say Russia's space program is suffering from worn-out equipment, a graying workforce and inability to attract a new generation of young specialists.

The $167-million probe, launched Nov. 9, was intended as a major step back into exploration of the deeper cosmos by Russia's proud space program. It was to land on the Martian moon Phobos next year, pick up samples of dust and deliver them back to Earth.

After the probe separated from its main booster rocket, however, its engines failed to fire properly to set it on a path toward Mars, and it didn't respond to signals from ground control.

Russian specialists tried to establish contact with the probe and reprogram its engines. Finally on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, a European Space Agency communication center in Perth, Australia, made contact three times with the lost craft, establishing its whereabouts but gaining little more information.

"We got a signal and we know the object is out there, technically within reach, but we haven't gotten any helpful information from it," Alexander Zakharov, deputy chief of the Phobos-Ground project at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Space Research, said Monday.

"The apparatus is all but dead and it is a big, big tragedy and a huge blow to our entire distant space research program," he said. "But it is also a big setback that it is dying out there silently without telling us what is the matter with it."

After the window to redirect the spacecraft toward Mars closed early last week, the Russian Space Agency, or Roskosmos, publicly acknowledged that the project had failed.

"We need to be realistic … there are practically no chances to carry out this mission now," said Vitaly Danilov, the agency's deputy chief.

Both the U.S. and Russian missions were delayed from their planned original launches in 2009 until a new opportunity to reach Mars occurred this month. In contrast to Phobos-Ground, the U.S. launch went off flawlessly early Saturday after a one-day delay to replace a battery, sending the Curiosity rover on an eight-month flight to Mars. more

Then there is this from Pravda. And before you ask, your guess is as good as mine.

USA intentionally killed Russia's Phobos-Ground?

Svetlana Smetanina

The failure with the launch of Phobos-Ground (also spelled Phobos-Grunt) space probe, especially against the background of the successful launch of the US Martian mission, gave rise to a wave of rumors and versions. Even if the fact of foreign interference is determined, no one will ever hear the official confirmation to that. Such a conclusion will not meet the interests of either the United States or Russia.

Russia is forced to resort to competitors to be able to conduct its own space program. Exploring space would be impossible for Russia otherwise. Pravda.Ru interviewed Vyacheslav Serbin, who used to serve at the space troops of the Soviet Union, in an attempt to find out what exactly happened with the Russian space probe.

"Did you serve in the department that was in charge of launching and supervising space probes?"

"Yes, I served as a duty officer of the ground telemetry station in Simferopol. We would establish connection with spacecraft as soon as they appeared on their trajectory. We would then measure its orbit and hand over the information to other stations. There were ten ground telemetry stations operating in the Soviet Union. However, that was not enough to control spacecraft only from the territory of our country. As soon as the craft flies beyond the horizon, we lose communication with it. To expand the zone of control, there were mobile ground telemetry stations built on board many vessels that could travel all over the world. That was called the "expeditionary department of the Academy of Sciences," although it was actually a military installation.

"The group was established in the beginning of the 1960s, when the USSR approved the lunar exploration program. The USSR was going to launch manned spacecraft to the Moon. It turned out, though, that the country did not have enough area to maintain constant contact with cosmonauts. Staying in touch with them was mandatory. The above-mentioned group of vessels was built exactly for that purpose. It just so happened that the USSR could control its spacecraft all over the world, like the Americans do today.

"Three flagships - Cosmonaut Komarov, Sergei Korolev and Yury Gagarin - were operating as command posts. They were giving commands for acceleration. That was the most important part of the process, because the acceleration impulse was given at the side which remained invisible for the station where I was serving. The vessels would be stationed at the locations from where commands would be given and that was it - solved. Several other smaller vessels would collect telemetry from the spacecraft.

"All of those vessels were decommissioned after the collapse of the USSR. Russia does not have anything like that today. That's why we have this situation with Phobos-Ground. Plus, we have lost two large command posts in the Crimea (Ukraine). The command post in Simferopol today is bankrupt. The Ukrainians could have used it, as the Kazakhs do now with Baikonur space port. Instead, the Ukrainians simply destroyed it. The ground telemetry station in the Ukrainian town of Alushta now belongs to Americans. Therefore, Russia does not have the control system in the area of the Black Sea.

"One of the versions explaining the failed launch of Phobos-Ground said that it could happen because of the powerful US radar in Alaska. Can this be possible at all?"

"I doubt about the radar. Some sort of very strong interference could be the reason, though. It could be both incidental and intentional. Why could this be intentional? The US mission to Mars was launched very soon after Russia's Phobos-Ground. The US spacecraft virtually followed the Russian probe - it flew in the same direction. It just so happens that the Russians and the Americans had to control their spacecraft at one and the same time. It could be possible that such efforts could create interference, especially during the time when the probes were only flying into space, when the signal is very powerful. The signals from Phobos-Ground and from the US Martian probe would collide with each other."

"Why were the probes launched almost simultaneously then?"

"Because it is a matter of the so-called launch window. It means that one has to launch a space vehicle during a certain moment. This moment would be most favorable from the point of view of energy efficiency, when the efforts required to take a spacecraft to orbit of Mars are minimal. It is possible to conduct the launch later, of course, but that would require more efforts - more fuel, stronger booster rockets and so on. If the launch is conducted during the so-called launch time constraints, it is possible to use the accelerating impulse of the Earth, when the Earth gives extra acceleration to the spacecraft. The lunar gravity and the gravity of stars is also important. All those details are meticulously calculated before launch to save as much energy as possible."

"If there was external interference indeed, when could it happen?"

"It could happen at the moment when the Russian probe was staying at the side of the Earth, which Russia was unable to control. Technically, they could send the impulse, which would disrupt the work of the probe. It is possible to send the command not to activate the engine. It is also possible to send a strong electromagnetic impulse to shut down the engine. If Russia had the system of floating telemetry stations, we would be able to control the situation.

"Is this the reason why Russia had to ask the European Space Agency for help?"

"Of course. If we had the control system, we would know what was going on on board the probe. Instead, we had to ask Europe for help and expose our secret commands to them. How could Australia find the Russian probe? They had to know the frequencies and the commands to be able to do that. That is top secret information."

"Did such situations occur in the past, when the USSR and the USA would throw sand in each other's wheels?"

"Yes, there were such situations in the past. I'd say that in 1969, the Soviet Union lost quite a number of outer space probes. Investigation revealed some strange things happening there. A similar strange situation took place on board the Apollo 13 in 1970. An oxygen tank blew up and two or three fuel batteries came out of order. Everything went back to normal for the Soviet Union after that.

"No one would ever advertise such things because they contradict to the interests of both sides. It goes about both political and military interests. This is the point of intelligence services - to make competitors suffer certain losses." Pravda.Ru

Cyber Monday Special: Buy Guns Before Obama Enslaves And Kills You

Poor old Adolf, he never gets any peace, the right wingers are forever digging him up and rolling him out.

President Obama is "secretly conspiring to strip American Citizens of the right to bear arms"... just like Hitler. blah blah

5-Year-Old Handcuffed, Charged With Battery On Officer

Could have been worse, he could have been a squirrel.


Has Radiation Done For Director of Fukushima Plant?

At a guess, I would say yes.

I guess he can't have been happy enough or didn't laugh in the prescribed amounts, must have been brooding and fretting and weak spirited.

Director of Fukushima Plant Stepping Down Due to Illness
November 28, 2011

The director of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is stepping down due to illness, the facility’s operator said Monday but it was not clear if his condition is radiation-related.

Masao Yoshida, 56, who has been on site at the plant since Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, has been hospitalised for “treatment of illness”, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO) said.

“We cannot give you details of his illness because they are private matters,” Chie Hosoda said. “He is hospitalised where he is able to take time in his convalescence.”

However, there were mixed messages from TEPCO, with senior official Junichi Matsumoto saying according to Jiji Press, “We have heard from doctors that his condition is not related to radiation but it was not a definitive diagnosis.”

Another TEPCO spokeswoman Ai Tanaka told AFP: “We have not yet heard from doctors about any causal relationship to radiation.”

The March disaster knocked out the atomic plant’s cooling system and sent some of its reactors into meltdown, leaking radiation into the air, sea and food chain in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The plant continues to leak radiation, although TEPCO and the government insist the reactors will all be brought to cold shutdown by the end of the year.

Yoshida, who assumed the post in June last year, said in a message to officials and workers at the plant, “A condition was discovered during a regular medical check the other day.”

“I had no choice but to be hospitalised at very short notice for treatment under doctors’ advice,” said the message released by the operator.

“It breaks my heart to part with you, who have worked together since the earthquake disaster, in this way and I apologise from my heart for causing trouble to you,” he said. “I will focus on my treatment and stay strong so that I can come back to work with you as soon as possible.”

Yoshida is widely seen as a gutsy chief who continued injecting seawater into one of the troubled reactors at the early stages of the crisis, against the company’s orders.

He was reprimanded for the action which later proved to have been justified.

The top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, told reporters: “We will keep a close watch and see to it that this will have no adverse effect on the settlement of the nuclear accident.”

Yoshida is being replaced by Takeshi Takahashi, who was in charge of nuclear power plant operations at TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo, some 220 kilometres (140 miles) southwest of the Fukushima plant.

Yoshida told reporters on November 12 when the plant allowed a group of journalists to visit there for the first time that he endured a frightening ordeal in March.

“In the first week immediately after the accident I thought a few times ‘I’m going to die’,” he said.

And when a hydrogen explosion tore apart the buildings around reactors 1 and 3 in the days after the quake, he said: “I thought it was all over.”

Yoshida said there were still hot spots of dangerously high radiation in the compound but that people could be reassured that the reactors were now stabilised.

TEPCO told journalists on the day of the tour, a Saturday, that there were around 1,600 people at the plant, half of the usual weekday number, working to tame the reactors.

The atomic crisis has not in itself claimed any lives but has badly dented the reputation of nuclear power, a key source of energy in resource-poor Japan.

Thousands of people remain evacuated from a large area around the plant, with no indication when the many who left homes and farms in the shadow of the reactors will be able to return. Alternet

Pepper-Spray Creator Decries Use of Chemical A gent on Peaceful Protesters: Democracy Now

A very informative few minutes in this recent segment from Democracy Now.

The developer of weapons-grade pepper-spray, Kamran Loghman, speaks on its intended use and its present misuse, and the failures in 'leadership' that have resulted in things getting as far as they have, and where the use of weapons grade chemical agents are employed to basically shut people up.

Interspersed in the presentation is the now infamous footage of UC Davis cops using pepper spray on the peaceful protesters of the university.

We are also treated to what must be the most shameful spin and presentation on any event of this nature, the equally infamous ''fundamentally a food product'' by Fox News slags, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly.

Although it is part of the transcript, link below, I think it is more than worthy of being highlighted in its own right before we move on down the page.

Just how disgraceful can two people (my fellow Americans) be?

BILL O’REILLY: First of all pepper spray, that just burns your eyes, right?

MEGAN KELLY: Right, I mean its like a derivative of actual pepper. It’s a food product essentially; but a lot of experts are looking at that and saying is that the real deal, has it been diluted, because …

BILL O’REILLY: Yeah, they should have more of a reaction than that..

MEGAN KELLY: Yeah, that’s really beside the point. I mean, it was something that was obviously abrasive and intrusive and several went to the hospital.

BILL O’REILLY: Right, they just wanted them to get out of there, stop blocking what they were blocking and wanted to scatter them.

MEGAN KELLY: This was on the chancellor’s orders. The chancellor ordered the police to go in and force these students to disburse.

BILL O’REILLY: That’s Linda Catalli or Catay.

MEGAN KELLY: Yes, and it is a crime. They were charged. Ten of them were charged with unlawful assembly and failure to disperse because they were posing a sit-in, you know, a student protest and you can do that. That is very American, but it may also happen to break the law.

BILL O’REILLY: They wanted to get these people off the campus and they didn’t want to lay hands on them so there’s two ways to do this. You can do the pepper spray or, you know, you can physically drag them out of there.

MEGAN KELLY: They then did lay hands on them….

BILL O’REILLY: But you don’t lay hands on someone..

MEGAN KELLY: No, but what I’m saying is the police would respond by saying, you pepper spray first to allow the hands-on part to be less confrontational because you are going to less resistance when you got somebody who just got pepper sprayed. Listen, I know the tape looks bad, I agree it looks bad. All I’m saying is that from a legal standpoint, I don’t know that the cops did anything wrong.

In fact it is so far beyond disgraceful, that I have dug out the full clip of these two shameless shits, which you can now find at the bottom of the page.

Pepper-Spray Creator Decries Use of Chemical Agent on Peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protesters

AMY GOODMAN: We speak with Kamran Loghman, the expert who developed weapons-grade pepper-spray, who says he was shocked at how police have used the chemical agent on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide — including students at University of California, Davis, female protesters in New York City, and an 84-year old activist in Seattle. “I saw it and the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t police or students, it was my own children sitting down having an opinion and they’re being shot and forced by chemical agents,” says Loghman, who in the 1980s helped the FBI develop weapons-grade pepper -spray, and collaborated with police departments to develop guidelines for its use. “The use was just absolutely out of the ordinary and it was not in accordance with any training or policy of any department that I know of. I personally certified 4,000 police officers in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and I have never seen this before. That’s why I was shocked... I feel is my civic duty to explain to the public that this is not what pepper spray was developed for.”


AMY GOODMAN: It’s not unprecedented for an inventor to voice regrets when a creation turns out to have harmful uses. It is widely believed the Swedish industrialist, Alfred Nobel, created the Peace Prize bearing his name in response to feelings of guilt around his invention of dynamite and ballistite, both of which were used in violent acts during his lifetime. The famed physicist, Albert Einstein, was said to be greatly distressed for unintentionally advancing the development of the atomic bomb through his work. Today in the aftermath of the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide, there is a new name to add to the list, Kamran Loghman. In the 80’s Loghman was the expert responsible with the FBI in developing weapons grade pepper spray. He also collaborated with police departments to develop guidelines for pepper spray’s use. But now after seeing footage of police using pepper spray on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide, including students at UC Davis, protesters with the Occupy movement in New York and 84 year old protester Dora Lee Rainey in Seattle, Kamran Loghman is speaking out against what he calls the most inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents he has ever seen. Loghman will join us in a minute, but first I want to play an excerpt from when the campus police officers at UC Davis pepper sprayed students earlier this month. The students were sitting down during a peaceful protest when officers began pepper spraying them at close range.

AMY GOODMAN: UC Davis police pepper spraying students two weeks ago as they peacefully protested at UC Davis. We’re joined now by Kamran Loghman who helped the FBI develop weapons grade pepper spray in the 80’s and developed guidelines for police departments using the spray. He is joining us from Washington, DC. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Talk about your reaction to the use of the chemical agent that you helped the FBI develop.

KAMRAN LOGHMAN: Shocked and bewilderment. I mean, I saw it and the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t police or students but my own children sitting down, having an opinion, and their being shot and forced by chemical agents.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you develop this in the 80’s? How did you help develop pepper spray, Kamran Loghman?

KAMRAN LOGHMAN: Pepper spray was available in those days as a dog repellant, but it did not have the strength to be a weapon grade product for law enforcement and military application, so it went through a series of research and development and a lot of field testing and by the time it became available, it went under three years of study at the FBI Firearms Training Unit in Virginia and became a standard issue with almost every police department in the United States. I was involved in all the research and development and basically development of the product. more

Nice to know: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Pentagon Spending Bill: Democracy Now

I ran a couple of reports on this story a few days ago where I asked the question: An attempt at the real thing, or just a scoping exercise? Perhaps I should have included: Or a crazy old man trying to get his own back for being shunned at the polls?

But which ever one it is, it begs the question, as McCain attempts through this bill, to hand supreme power to the military, just what kind of America would we be looking at now, if McCain had secured the White House in 2008?

For those not overly familiar with the scurrilous ways of US politics, the underhand slipping in of contentions provisions into a greater bill, then Google 'pork barrel' or 'earmarks' and apply the same principal and method to this Pentagon spending bill.

And although Obama says he would veto this provision, like the talking head says, I wouldn't want to rely too much on what Obama says. Well you wouldn't would you?

The Senate is set to vote this week on a Pentagon spending bill that could usher in a radical expansion of indefinite detention under the U.S. government. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect — anywhere in the world — without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what is considered the military’s "battlefield" to anywhere in the world, even within the United States. Its authors, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have been campaigning for its passage in a bipartisan effort. But the White House has issued a veto threat, with backing from top officials including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. “This would be the first time since the McCarthy era that the United States Congress has tried to do this,” says our guest, Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First, which has gathered signatures from 26 retired military leaders urging the Senate to vote against the measure, as well as against a separate provision that would repeal the executive order banning torture. “In this case, we’ve seen the administration very eagerly hold people without trial for 10-plus years in military detention, so there’s no reason to believe they would not continue to do that here. So we’re talking about indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens, of lawful U.S. residents, as well as of people abroad.”


AMY GOODMAN: The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a Pentagon spending bill that could usher in a radical expansion of indefinite detention under the U.S. government. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what’s considered the U.S. military’s battlefield to anywhere in the world, even the United States. The measure’s authors, Democratic Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, have been campaigning for its passage in a bipartisan effort. But, the White House has issued a veto threat with backing from top officials including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James clapper, an FBI Director Robert Mueller. The measure was inserted into the full military spending bill after the Armed Services Committee quietly approved it without a single public hearing. Now Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set Wednesday as a procedural vote day to advance the legislation. For more we’re joined by Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate with the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First. On Monday, Human Rights First released a letter from 26 retired military leaders urging the Senate to vote against the measure as well as against a separate provision that would repeal the executive order banning torture. Daphne Eviatar joins us in the studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain exactly what this legislation is about.

DAPHNE EVIATAR: OK, first of all, the legislation is 680 pages long, and so one reason this has been able to get through so quietly is that the controversial provisions are just three or four provisions within this huge package. The ones that we’re particularly concerned about, are for—-specifically the one you mentioned about creating a system of indefinite military detention within the United States by statute. This would be the first time since the McCarthy era that the United States Congress has tried to do this. In the 1950’s, that was actually repealed before it was ever used. In this case have seen the administration very eagerly hold people without trial for 10 plus years in military detention, so there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t continue to do that here. So we’re talking about indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens, of lawful U.S. residents as well as of people abroad.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in this country. U.S. citizens abroad as well as others abroad and others abroad in this country as well as U.S. citizens.


AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re picked up off the street and you have no trial.

DAPHNE EVIATAR: And it could be for things you’ve done here in this country. If you communicate with Al Qaeda, you’re suspected of being even a supporter of Al Qaeda in some way or of Al Qaeda’s associated forces. And the U.S. gets to decide who they think is associated with Al Qaeda, and that list grows longer almost every day.

AMY GOODMAN: Now again, suspected. This is not that you’ve been convicted.

DAPHNE EVIATAR: Suspected. And this is military custody without trial. So, this is for example what we have in Guantanamo Bay and at Bagram only you’re now expanding the battlefield, as you said, to the United States. And, explicitly, some members of congress have said recently, yes, the battlefield now is the United States as well and the U.S. military ought to be able to operate here as well.

And one other point, another very controversial provision in the bill and what the administration has particularly objected to, is the mandatory military custody provision which would say anyone suspected of terrorism in any way connected to Al Qaeda would have to be put into military custody. So, the government wouldn’t even have the option. So, all these FBI investigations that are thwarting terrorist attacks and local police investigations, immediately that would have to be turned over to the U.S. military, and that would become a military action here in the United States, on U.S. soil.

AMY GOODMAN: How is this constitutional? more

Monday, November 28, 2011

Army Intelligence Officer Makes Damning Allegations Against Corrupt Top Cops

Army Intelligence Officer Makes Damning Allegations Against Corrupt Top Cops

Former British Army Intelligence Officer Ian Hurst can cause more damage to the rotten Establishment than the rest of the witnesses at the Leveson Inquiry combined. That is not to disregard their evidence, simply to put matters into proper perspective.

Ian Hurst [pseudonym Martin Ingram] said at Leveson today that he has damning evidence to prove senior police officers at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) conspired to conceal phone hacking from the public. Did the same thing happen with the tidal wave of media corruption in Operation Motorman buried by the Blair regime?

Judge Leveson appeared slightly startled at his statement and it was quickly decided to deal with the matter in Part Two of the inquiry. If Hurst intends to submit documents and other compelling evidence to prove top cops were corrupt and covered for newspaper phone hackers, will Part Two actually be allowed to take place?

If so, Part Two will most likely be held ‘in camera’ or behind closed doors. If that happens, the Leveson Inquiry will be left without a shred of credibility.

If anyone should know about police corruption at a senior level, it is Ian Hurst, former Force Research Unit operator. Given his profound experience and high-level contacts in the intelligence community, Ian Hurst could set the Leveson Inquiry on fire if he is allowed to dish the dirt in public.

Tonight, some very worried men and women are plotting and scheming to prevent that happening but Hurst is not the type of man to be bullied into silence. Unless of course, the Official Secrets Act is called on to keep him silent? The OSA covers a whole range of ‘sins’…

Providing Hurst sticks to police corruption and does not mention the fact that senior British Intelligence officers were also on the payroll of newspapers, particularly News International, there should be no need to enforce the OSA. More newsallianceuk

McCanns: ''Dancing on their daughter’s grave''

The Leveson Inquiry Is An Indictment Of The Stupidity Of Newspaper Readers First And Foremost
November 28, 2011

R.F.Wilson writes from London: It’s really hard to imagine how Lord Justice Leveson, who is presiding over the inquiry into the ethics of the British press, is going to salvage the proceedings that have descended into a total farce, compliments of dimwitted celebs who have testified at its hearings. The choice of most witnesses, who have given evidence to the inquiry, has basically wiped out any chance of anyone treating this exercise seriously. Lord Leveson may be a good judge, but he sure got taken for a ride by people, who represent celebs and semi-celebs and and everything possible to get them some free publicity.

What on earth were mediocre actor Hugh Grant and so-called comedian Steve Coogan doing on the witness stand at Leveson inquiry anyway? How is it that they represent the voice of reason when it comes to giving a balanced account of the way the press operates? They should be the last people to be telling anyone about press intrusion. Not to mention that Kate and Gerry McCann have probably singlehandedly turned the inquiry into a joke with their appearance. There’s a certain limit to which some people can go in treating everyone as idiots and the McCanns have went way beyond this limit. And if you want the brutal truth, even the Dowler family, who have lost their daughter Milly to a psychopathic murderer, should not have been at the inquiry as well, having accepted a huge pay-out from News International for tapping their poor murdered girl’s mobile phone. Once the money had settled on their account, they should have stayed away from the proceedings. more

Police State Not Good Enough Will US Cross The Rubicon and Move Directly to Marshal Law?

An attempt at the real thing, or just a scoping exercise?

Senate Moves To Allow Military To Intern Americans Without Trial

NDAA detention provision would turn America into a “battlefield”
Paul Joseph Watson
November 28, 2011

The Senate is set to vote on a bill today that would define the whole of the United States as a “battlefield” and allow the U.S. Military to arrest American citizens in their own back yard without charge or trial.

“The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself,” writes Chris Anders of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

Under the ‘worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial’ provision of S.1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which is set to be up for a vote on the Senate floor this week, the legislation will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who supports the bill.

The bill was drafted in secret by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), before being passed in a closed-door committee meeting without any kind of hearing. The language appears in sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA bill.

“I would also point out that these provisions raise serious questions as to who we are as a society and what our Constitution seeks to protect,” Colorado Senator Mark Udall said in a speech last week. One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved.” More Info Wars

- - -

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
Chris Anders
Nov 23rd, 2011

While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself. More ACLU

A Cartoon For Occupy

The opportunity to hear Beck's response comes at the end of the cartoon.

It's a Funny Old World Christmas Traditions Edition

Christmas traditions can be utterly hilarious

Ksenia Obraztsova

Shortly before Christmas, many Catalans (residents of Catalonia, Spain) put up little figurines to arrange the Nativity Scene in front of their houses. This is a common tradition both in the United States of America and in Europe. However, somewhere in a corner of this traditional Christmas installation, the Spaniards put a figurine of a little man who is busy defecating. The roots of this tradition are hard to explain, but the Catalans say that there is something reassuring about it.

It used to be a figurine of a common peasant. Nowadays, souvenir shops offer a variety of figurines of defecating starts of Hollywood, sports and politics. The figurines are available in porcelain, paper and even chocolate.

Such figurines are known as caganer (the sh*tter). They don't give it to friends as presents. If a guest wants to be lucky next year, he or she will have to find the pooping man, which the house owners had hidden.

Figurines of US President Barack Obama with his brave slogan "Yes, we can" has been a hit of sales during the recent years. Defecating European politicians are also available.

In Italy, children receive their Christmas presents on January 6th. This is the day when La Befana, the good witch, flies on her broom from one home to another delivering presents to children. For mischievous children, the witch brings cabbage leaves. Legend has it that Befana set off on her journey to the crib of Jesus Christ too late and lost the guiding star out of sight. She has been trying to find baby Jesus since that time so she leaves presents in every home in a hope to find him there.

The festive season starts with the visit of Saint Nicholas. He does not show up in person, as it happens in Germany and Austria. He shows his presents on the bedroom door. The Christmas tree is not a centerpiece of festivities - the crib is (presepio). The Italians hold something like a family lottery on Christmas Eve, when each family member randomly picks a piece of paper with the number of their present written on it. The Italians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, or Bambino Gesu, on December 25.

In Poland, the Christmas night is a night of miracles. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve, even animals can speak like humans. There are special Christmas traditions in Poland. The Poles put an extra plate on their festive tables for unexpected guests. They serve their table with not less than twelve dishes. They also put a wisp of hay underneath the table. The hay symbolizes the Bethlehem cave in which Jesus Christ was born. The Poles fast the day before Christmas dinner. The dinner starts with the reading of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The incredibly superstitious Icelanders begin their Christmas preparations on December 12. On this day, 13 troll-like creatures come out of their cage in which they live during the whole year with their troll mother and a giant cat.

Every night, one of the trolls roams about the towns and villages spying on people. The trolls leave presents to well-behaved children. They put the presents in their shoes. Each troll has its own name and temper. Some of them licks plates and saucepans clean, another one slams the doors, another one likes to steal smoked lamb from the chimney.

If children misbehaved much during the year, they can be visited by the mother of those trolls - Gryla, or what is even worse - her Christmas cat. Gryla has three eyes, she is all covered with warts and has ugly teeth.

There is a mixture of pagan and Christmas traditions in Mexico. Chaos reigns in the streets of Mexican cities during Christmas days. Children entertain themselves with piƱata - a toy stuffed with fruits and candy. On December 24, many Mexicans gather near churches, where they make fires and arrange fireworks. Pravda

Muslim Medical Students Boycotting Lectures on Evolution Because It Clashes With The Koran

But if you can't look, if you won't even try to understand it, what does that say about your religion?

Maybe you need to run, away from the mosque, away from the church, away from the priests and the imams.
(7:45 mark on video)

Muslim medical students boycotting lectures on evolution... because it 'clashes with the Koran'

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain's leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs.

He told the Sunday Times: 'I had one or two slightly frisky discussions years ago with kids who belonged to fundamentalist Christian churches, now it is Islamic overwhelmingly.

They don't come [to lectures] or they complain about it or they send notes or emails saying they shouldn't have to learn this stuff.

'What they object to - and I don't really understand it, I am not religious - they object to the idea that there is a random process out there which is not directed by God.'

Earlier this year Usama Hasan, iman of the Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton, received death threats for suggesting that Darwinism and Islam might be compatible.

Sources within the group Muslims4UK partly blame the growing popularity of creationist beliefs within Islam on Turkish author Harun Yahya who, influenced by the success of Christian creationists in America, has written several books denouncing Darwinist theory.

Yahya associates Dawinism with Nazism and his books are and videos are available at many Islamic bookshops in the UK and regularly feature on Islamic television channels.

Speakers regularly tour Britain lecturing on Yahya's beliefs.

One such lecture was given at UCL in 2008 and this year's talks have been given in London, Manchester, Leeds, Dundee and Glasgow.

Evolutionary Biologist and former Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed his concern at the number of students, consisting almost entirely of Muslims, who do not attend or walk out of lectures. The Wail

Previous post featuring this video here.

New forced marriage law comes into effect in Scotland

Fred Reed: Republicans The American People and Other Tales From The Asylum

Catch up on Fred Reed, four selected essays.

Presidential Timber
Kindling. Sawdust. Charcoal.
November 15, 2011

All indicators point downward, I tell you. On the lobotomy box the other night I stumbled on what seemed to be sock puppets standing behind rostrums and hypnotically intoning “The American People...the American People...the American People.”

Puzzled, I speculated that it might be a troupe of performing autistics, but soon understood that it it was a debate among Republican candidates for the presidency. Why use people, I wondered? We could do it as well in software. Computer graphics, small recorded vocabulary, narcotic rhythm. Easy.

Someone named Romney was speaking. I checked the Wicked Pedia to see what manner of wight he might be. No surprises. Pampered rich kid, apparently not too bright, mediocre student in fancy private schools. A Mormon. Only one wife, though. A former missionary in France. It might have been worse. We could have bombed St. Denis.

I thought of all the Mormon missionaries I had seen in various countries, black-suited in Taiwan in August, peddling around like bicycle-borne undertakers, earnest, solemn, living in some eerie head-bubble inaccessible to outsiders. Oh help.

I'm going to become an ant, I decided. It would be less embarrassing. I don't know how to go about it, but there must be a way. I'll live in one of those high-rise mud nests in the Australian desert, except I think those are termites. How can they be termites with no wood to eat? Maybe they have it shipped in.

Among the American-Peoplers was Rick Perry, a Son of Texas in the mold of Bush II, dumb as turnips, inarticulate, a wing-nut Christian. I guess he's waitin' for thet ol' Rapture-suction to whoosh him up to drink Lone Star with Chay-suss. Poor Chaysuss. Rick wants to invade Mexico militarily, but only with the permission of the Mexican government. Thoughtful of him to ask.

Does he speak Spanish? No. English? Almost. Any experience outside the US? No. Doesn't need it. He has a direct line to God, who presumably speaks to him slowly, in words without too many syllables.

“The American People. The American People. We have to get America back on track. The Ordinary American. We have to get back to American Values. The American Dream.”

What the hell is the American Dream, I wondered? Seven credit cards maxed-out, living paycheck to paycheck, upside down on the mortgage in a boring house you don't really like, a job you hate but the retirement plan gotcha, your little boy buzzing on force-fed Ritalin, wife and daughter gobbling Prozac and everyone wondering, “Is this all there is?”

Actually, yes. Well, maybe a week at Disneyland with that stupid mouse.

Then Michele Bachmann, clueless evangelical daffodil. Complete ditz-rabbit. May God save us from Christianity. Brighter than Perry, but so is anything not actually inanimate. Not visibly intelligent enough to disqualify her for election, but maybe she is dissimulating. No experience in the world that I can see.

“America was not created to be a nation of followers,,” Romney told his followers. The key to election seems to be to tell Americans how wonderful they are, stroke them like cats, avoid puzzling them, and keep saying “The American Dream.” Tell them that we're a country of rugged individualists, just like Davy Crockett and Dan'l Boone. Probably we should wear coon-skin hats.

Somebody asked Romney, will he attack Iran if it doesn't obey Washington? “Absolutely,” responded this apostle of the Church of Latter Day Pattons. Japan's oil comes through the Straits of Hormuz, which his hearers believe to be a brand of beef stew. No oil, no Japan. No matter. “The American People....”

I'm going to slit my throat. Do ants have throats? A country of 315 million, nuclear-armed, able to wreck other countries it has never heard of in minutes, and the candidates sound as if they were addressing a warehouse of stuffed animals. This is the best we can do?


The American People. The American Dream. We must turn this country around. Ok, then the East Coast would front on the Pacific. Why would that be better? It's probably some sort of real-estate scam.

Newt Gingrich. At least he's been to school, though he's smart enough not to emphasize it. The American People. The traditional values that made this country grate. Great. America is not a desperately sick over-policed welfare state collapsing into the Third World. No. Everything is as it always was. All we need is the Newt World Order and we will leap tall buildings at a single bound.

He too wants to attack Iran. The man has the military grasp of Tinker Belle. Grrr, bow-wow, woof.

Maybe instead of an ant, I'll become an aardvark. Though I'm not sure what one is. I need a change of phylum. What do cephalopods eat?

At least we no longer have that low-wattage high-school cheerleader turned moose-huntress. Stuffed animals fore and aft, I tell you. Contemplating Obama, I swore I'd never vote for another black president. After Bush II, I swore I'd nver vote for another white one. My options were narrowing. Now I'm thinking Obama or Herman Cain. Slick Empty in the great White Yurt on Pennsylvania Avenue is still corrupt and invertebrate, but now only starts small wars, as in Uganda. Cain makes pizzas and seems to be a human being. It's a novel concept but these are trying times. Besides they say he did sexually inappropriate stuff to some gals who want to be on talk-shows and get book contracts. Good for him. I'm going to start a group called Men Mad at Sanctimonious Priss Spigots. Cain can be a Founding Fondler.

Except for Cain (I think) and Ron Paul, the candidates all want to attack Iran. Rick Santorum too. I guess it's a manhood issue. Maybe we could buy them codpieces instead. Michele could get hers from Victoria's Secret, with sequins and flowers. Most of this crew were of military age during Viet Nam. How many served? Ah. Umm. Uh. Urg. A pack of martial dwarves without the tiniest freaking idea why the Pentagon can't beat Iran.

I couldn't take it. Before Ron Paul began to speak I went out for a gallon of Padre Kino red and an IV drip. I thought it might hold me over until I figured out how to become an aardvark.

After all, Ron Paul is tiresomely predictable. He would say hateful anti-American things. You know, we should get out of damn-fool wars, pick the military leech off the back of the republic, dismantle an empire that bankrupts the US, and end our perpetual state of martial priapism against Iran. Completely unelectable. A commie, I figure.

- - -

War and the Free Will of Pool Balls
October 29, 2011

I read frequently among the lesserly neuronal of the supposed honor of soldiers, of the military virtues of courage, loyalty, and uprightness--that in an age of moral decomposition only the military adhere to principles, and that our troops in places like Afghanistan nobly make sacrifices to preserve our freedoms and democracy. Is not all of this nonsnese?

Honor? A soldier is just a nationally-certified hit-man, perfectly amoral. When he joins the military he agrees to kill anyone he is told to kill, regardless of whether he has heard of the country in which he will kill them or whether the residents pose any threat to him or his. How is this honorable? It is cause for lifelong shame.

It is curious that so many soldiers think that they are Christians. Christianity is incompatible with military service, if any Christianity is meant that Christ would have regarded with other than repugnance.

The explanation of course lies in the soldier's moral compartmentation. Within his own tribe or pack, these usually being denominated “countries,” he is the soul of moral propriety—doesn't knock over convenience stores, kick his dog, or beat his children; speaks courteously, observes personal hygiene, and works tirelessly for the public good in the event of natural disasters. A steely gaze with little behind it and a firm handshake amplify the appearance of probity.

In conflict with foreigners, he will burn, bomb, rape and torture indiscriminately. His is the behavior of feral dogs, which humans closely resemble.

Sacrifice? GIs do not make sacrifices. They are sacrificed, sacrificed for big egos, big contracts, for the shareholders of military industries, for pasty patriots in salons who never wore boots. They fight not for love of country but to stay alive, and from fear of the pusnishments meted out to deserters. If you doubt this, tell the men in Afghanistan that they may come home on the next plane without penalty, and see how many stay. Troops are as manipulated as roosters in a cock fight, forced to choose between combat and the pot. more

- - -

A Conversation with Hant
A Theory of Economics from the Grass Roots
October 14, 2011

Saturday morning I walked down the holler, along the old rail line, with a fresh jug of Beam to see what Hant was up to. I wanted to ask him about dodge ball and jumping jacks and violence and all. Hant knows everything. Well, nearly about.

Summer was just starting to get up a good head of steam and the sun was pouring down the holler like it had something in mind and bugs was shrieking and buzzing the way they do, trying to get laid. If I was a bug, it's what I'd do. Considering what bugs looks like, I don't see how they ever do it. Anyways the mountains was green and peaceful like. The tracks was mostly weeds since the coal mines went bust. Pretty much most of West Virginia is that way.

Hant works a moonshine still that's hid off in the woods. He sells to yuppies out of Washington, the Yankee Capital, that wants a Authentic Mountain Experience. Most of them survive it. I won't drink that panther sweat he makes. It ain't much worse than battery acid and don't really kill more than a few yups every year, but I alway carry me some Beam.

Hant was standing over by his pile of authentic mountain stone jugs he gets bulk lot from Taiwan and pouring a bottle into the mash. He's getting on in years now and kinda stiff, and when he sits down it looks like a buck knife folding. He's got a jaw like someone in the family went into the bushes with a front-end loader, and this flat slouch hat that made you think he found it behind a cow.

“What you putting in that mash this time?” I said.

He's always putting some new devilment into that bust-head he makes. It's to give the yups a little extra kick. He tried stove polish and bug spray and I don't know what all. LSD d he trick but the yups ran into so many electric poles that we didn't have light for a week.

“This here's Joe's Cuervo. It's Tea-kwiller that them Meskins drink. I reckon Joe is who makes it. Tastes like floor-wax remover. It's most likely why Meskins don't have teeth. ”

Hant don't actually exist. He's a Literary Apparition. You find them inWest Virginia, mostly around damp spots in the woods. more

- - -

A Fatal Self-Absorption
The Tea Party and American Exceptionalism
October 3, 2011

If I were to speechify to a conclave of Tea Partyers, “America is the free-est...the most democratic...the best educated and most dynamic country the world has ever known, an example to all mankind,” the assembled would hoot and hooroar and applaud in dizzy exaltation. Here is the soul of the American approach to existence, bottomless self-admiration devoid of knowledge or curiosity, wrapped like a psychic burrito in the patriotism of overwrought middle-schoolers. And there are many, many of them.

We face rule by pajama party. Saints preserve us, someone with the foregoing understanding may become the president of the (for a few moments more) most powerful, erratic, and ignorant country on the planet. Among presidential possibilities we now have Rick Perry, Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin and, in the Great Double-Wide on Pennsylvania Avenue, Precedent Obama—political epiphytes all, fantasists, tent-revival Christians, provincial governors, inward-looking certitudinous naifs. The difference between Americans and Mohammed Ali is that when he said, “I am the greatest!” he was.

Suppose, though, that realism intruded its ugly head. Suppose that to the Tea People I spoke as follows. “Yes, you are right. We are most astounding democratic. I cannot doubt it. Just to satisfy my thirst for understanding, can you give me three ways in which America is more democratic than, say, Japan, Germany, or Australia? More free than France, Switzerland, or Uruguay, wherever that is?”

But I am cross, and a curmudgeon.

Are Americans the “best educated”? Or do they just think that they are? I submit, and could back it up with countless surveys of “college graduates,” that the US is not nearly as schooled as it thinks it is, and doesn't come close to Japan. more

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Science Saved My Soul and A Personal Journey

I would have expected to have heard of it, particularly given the size and cost of production, (see below) but the mini-series, Napoleon with its cast of thousands, was totally new to me.

Napoleon is a historical miniseries which explored the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 2002, it was the most expensive television miniseries in Europe, costing the equivalent of $US46,330,000 to produce. The miniseries covered Napoleon's military successes and failures, including the Battles of Eylau, Austerlitz, Waterloo and the retreat from Russia.

It also delved into Napoleon's personal life: his marriage to and divorce from Josephine de Beauharnais, his marriage to Marie Louise, the Duchess of Parma and daughter of Francis II, and his affairs with Eleanore Denuelle and Marie Walewska. The series draws from Bonaparte historian Max Gallo's bestseller.

The miniseries was produced by GMT Productions in France and co-produced by Transfilm in Canada and Spice Factory in the UK. In the United States, it aired on the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) channel. Wiki

So having spent a few evenings watching the thing this week past, I breezed through some of the other uploads courtesy of fellow atheist, (the Unicorn part always being a good indicator) Lady Amalthea Unicorn.

Not being the type of bloke that instinctively follows the herd, but when a fellow sees a clip on the subject of science that boasts over a million hits, a chap has no option other than to click play and see what all the fuss is about.

And what a good move it was. Not just for its content alone, or for the argument that the clip made, but rather, because I could relate to the thing in such a personal manner.

So personal in fact, that the narrator describes to a tee, one of the definitive experiences of my life. But even had the clip not been relative to my own experience, it is still the best presentation on the magnificence of the universe (and argument for no God) that I have ever had the pleasure of watching. So please watch this excellent clip and I shall then elaborate.

With that fresh in your mind, might I ask you now to read and understand this below in a context to the Milky Way and our place as individuals in the universe. This is not something that I have just cobbled together, it is in fact something previously written, such was the magnitude of the impact of the night in question.

Light pollution, sure their wasn't a hint of it, somewhere near midway 'twixt France and Ireland.
There was just the one colour, black. A perfect black canvas that played its part in the creation of the few lines at the end this piece of prose; originally being writ as a stand alone few lines.

Some two or three years after the creation of those few lines, I joined for a brief spell, a little circle of writers who would meet every two weeks and read out whatever we had written on a subject chosen at the prior meeting, in this case "A starry night"
So then I composed the long intro of events leading up to the birth of those few lines. And here I cannot stress enough just how magnificent a sight it was.
I hope you can get a feel for the moment.
I employ a hybrid of Northern English vernacular with a biteen of Irish thrown in to add a little flavour, I hope you enjoy.


I got the job where most all jobs is got; in the pub.
Would I ship aboard a trawler going to France, and tow a boat back.
Giving it a bitteen of thought, and not wanting the sole company of two other men, I says “If Herself can come, you’re on”
“It’s a bit rough on board” says the skipper.
“Sure she’ll be grand, not a problem”
So off we sets; it were fair lumpy day; thought to me self,
I’m glad Herself’s with me, at least we can keep the bunk warm.
There’s nothing much to do on those kind of jobs, it’s all steaming.
Skipper weren’t up to much, he were a Kiwi, I think he’d
been to one of them antipodean charm schools, but that’s another story.
Next day, it were glorious, so we thought we’d soak up some rays.
We dragged the mattresses up onto the foredeck, just in front of the wheelhouse, it were the only place you could sunbathe.
True to form, Herself, not bein’ one for false modesty or bikini tops,
gets ragged off, and its tits out for the lads.
Now you can call me biased, but she’s a fair bonny lass, and I’m
sure lads in wheelhouse agreed wi’ me.
It must have made watch keeping a bit more interesting.
In fact if it weren’t for autopilot, I don’t think boat would have ever got where it were s’posed to.
But got there we did, and made ready the tow for next day.
Well Herself had brought her glad rags, so we hit the town
and got her lit. Herself with her long tanned legs n all glittery, she looked a million dollars, and I felt like one.
What’s all this got to wi’ stars? Well as the Manx say, “Traa-dy-Liooar” it’s a bit like manyana, only no where near as urgent, “Time enough”
So off we sets back with this yoke in tow. Now for them of you that
don’t know what a yoke is, well it’s a grand Irish word, and if you does
a bit of writing , then it’s a right handy one to have.
A yoke is anything, a big yoke, a small yoke, a grand yoke altogether, you gets the idea.
One crystal clear night, there’s Herself and Himself, that’s me, sat on a couple of fish boxes on the blunt end off this old yoke we were sailing on.
And there it were, in all it’s glory, the Milky Way. It just blew us away, I just haven’t got the words in me to describe it.
It were like we were little atoms, no them little things inside ‘em, them neutrons or protons or whatever they're called.
We were speechless, it were a wonder we’ll never forget.
It were some time later, I couldn’t get this sight out of me head, and then didn’t a few little lines appear, just like magic, and them lines were these.

Delight the night
For hidden by day
Delight the night
We sailed the Milky Way
Our chariot of rust and rattles
Our space ship on the sea.

Nuff said?

As a perfect foil to the above, the video below, original title, How Big Is God? tries to use a similar argument for the existence of a god and creator. Due to the original being unembeddable and certain copyright issues, I captured the thing and re-uploaded it giving it the title, Not a Good Argument.

Which of course, for anyone with two neurons bolted together, is just that. Begging the question, why would the god of a 12,000 mile diameter planet, create a 136 billion light year universe? Originally posted under title: Thought For Today: God and His Creations

A couple more clips from the site of our Lady Unicorn, the first highlighting some of the less attractive traits of this benign creator that loves us all so.

And what post on religion could possibly be complete without a rant from the ubiquitous Pat Condell?

I would at this moment of writing, like to give proper attribution to the producer of the clip, and at this moment I am waiting for conformation that he and the uploader are one and the same. So of that, hopefully more later.

Another program that I had occasion to watch this week, one featured featured as it happens, on the Youtube channel of 'philhellenes' although my path to, Is There Anybody There? was via Richard Dawkins .net. Here again I have a personal interest in the program, Ballinspittle (home of the moving virgin) not being unknown to me, and not least me telling my best friend in Ireland not to talk out of his arse when describing the goings on regarding the all moving all dancing concrete statue of the Virgin Mary at said location. About eighty minutes, so it wouldn't be everybody's cup of Darjeeling.

"Is There Anybody There?"

Nicholas Humphrey's devastating study of religious miracles and other paranormal phenomena. Featuring the apparition at Knock, the Enfield poltergeist, the Woodbridge UFO, the moving virgin of Ballinspittle, and much more. A one and a half hour "special" for Channel Four, 1987.

I have just had it confirmed that 'philhellenes' is in fact both producer and uploader of the clip. To him, admiration and sincerest thanks. And the moment I have put this post to bed, I shall take a good stroll around his page. You might wish to do so yourself at:

No Fag Son of Mine - Salt Lake City

The cynical among you might wonder the motives behind Fox News running a sympathetic LGBT article.

I was about to say, not very Christian of them, the parents that is, not Fox News. But being Christian, whatever that might be, is something that we could never accuse this batshit crazy cult of being.

Number of homeless youth on the rise in Salt Lake City
Ben Winslow

New numbers reveal more and more children are homeless and living on the streets of Salt Lake City.

Volunteers of America said 837 homeless youth sought services at their Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City last year. From January to May of this year, 903 were provided services. Some children are as young as 12.

"It's actually pretty cold and hard," said Matthew Campbell, who found himself homeless at 18 after fighting with his parents. "There's not that much help."

Campbell, now 21 and with a job and an apartment, said he is watching more and more kids falling into homelessness in Salt Lake City.

"There's a lot of different factors that play into that and a lot of them are legitimate," he said. "Like sexual orientation, drugs and violence."

Zach Bale with Volunteers of America said the economy has also been a big factor with kids getting kicked out of their homes because they don't chip in and pay the rent.

Utah also has one of the highest numbers of homeless gay youth. Volunteers of America said that about 42 percent of the teens they help identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. That's higher than other places in the United States where the number ranges from 20 to 40 percent.

Those who work with homeless youth say it's partly because of a conservative, deeply religious culture in Utah.

"For some reason, parents think that once you come out of the closet, you're different," said Ginger Phillips with Operation Shine America, which helps LGBT homeless youth. "You get kicked out on the streets. I've heard that story over and over and over again."

Utah has no homeless shelter specifically for youth. Laws have recently changed allowing for accomodations for homeless teens. The Homeless Youth Resource Center closes each night.

Now, the VOA may finally secure funding to build a shelter.

"It's been long in coming," said Bale. "We know it's so incredibly needed."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently gave VOA an $833,000 grant to build a shelter. They have a month to raise $300,000 to qualify for matching funds. Bale said they have been in talks with a number of community groups (including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for donations.

"It is highly, highly needed," said Campbell. "I wish there was a lot of that stuff to begin with." Source and video

Not something I would normally bother with, but the two links below were on the same page, and I did quite recently run an article on which state tops the league in porn consumption. Utah Tops The Wanking League

Police: Utah man viewed child porn on Mass. flight

New porn accusation in missing Utah mom case

US NATO Alienate Pakistan Further 28 Pak Soldiers Killed

Little wonder the US is considered the greatest threat to world peace.

NATO Kills 28 Pakistani Troops, Outrage in Islamabad

November 6, 2011

At least 28 Pakistani soldiers were killed today when NATO helicopters and combat jets fired on two border posts in the country's northwest, prompting army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to direct his troops to prepare for ''an effective response'' even as authorities cut off all supplies for US forces in Afghanistan.

The attack, the worst single incident of its kind in one decade, looked set to plunge US-Pak relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis.

A major and a captain of the Pakistan Army were among those killed when NATO aircraft fired at the borders posts in Baizai area of Mohmand tribal region at 2 am.

Fifteen more personnel were wounded and the death toll could rise as some of the injured were in a serious condition, several officials said.

A military statement said the NATO aircraft "carried out unprovoked firing" on the border posts.

Pakistani troops "effectively responded immediately in self-defence to NATO/ISAF's aggression with all available weapons".

Gen Kayani strongly condemned "NATO/ISAF's blatant and unacceptable act".

While lauding the effective response by Pakistani soldiers, he issued orders for taking all necessary steps for "an effective response to this irresponsible act".

Within hours of the attack, Pakistani authorities sealed off the country's border stopping all container trucks and tankers carrying supplies for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir called in US Ambassador Cameron Munter to lodge a "strong protest on the unprovoked NATO/ISAF attack", the Foreign Office said in a statement. PTI

Related: Pakistan stops NATO supplies after deadly raid

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Torpedoes Sarkozy

STRAUSS-KAHN: Slog’s September prediction comes good as DSK camp drops a stick of bombs into Sarkozy’s re-election campaign.
November 26, 2011

Is the French President’s plotting about to come back and bite him?

When Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to France in early September, The Slog was alone in the media in posting that, once the dust had settled, DSK’s supporters would be ‘building a case they hope will refocus attention on why he was snared in New York’. This would, my main French source said, produce “Revelations that will rock the world”. But then, lots of people say that to hacks: and the Left in France has an election to fight. Soon afterwards, the awful reality of Crash 2 intervened, and I neglected some of the key moles in the drama. More fool me.

I was a bit pissed off to read about these latest developments second-hand; but then, life moves on these days in umpteen different directions. I’ve been trying to tie down the Bankfurt Maulwurf in recent days, while badgering a disinterested British Establishment with stillborn ideas about saving the EU in order to reform it. But the latest disclosures raise a spectrum of issues global enough to terrify anyone who might, or might not, have been involved in a plot to neutralise Strauss-Kahn.

On the surface, what we have here is some charges made by an investigative journalist in New York, closely coordinated with a decision by the DSK camp to sue Establishment newspaper Le Figaro, the ruling UMP Party of Sarkozy, and a close Sarko aide for ‘malicious falsehood’….all in relation to allegations about the ‘rutting chimpanzee’ having it away in somewhat grubby circumstances in a northern French prostitute ring. So the overall imputation is that the French ruling class set up the former IMF leader in New York - and then tried to bury him with misleading accusations once he arrived back.

What are we to make of this?

Well, motive is very easy to establish: DSK would’ve been a shoe-in for the French Presidency against a discredited and ridiculed incumbent. Equally, there are unexplained facts about Sofitel phone calls made to the Elysee Palace in Paris, which make one wonder why an innocent hotel management would even be put through to the President’s office…let alone have a conversation with its occupants. Set against this, however, we have Slog informants in Washington insisting there was “no way” the French General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) would dare carry out such a sting alone on American soil.

But then again, we also have the Fed Reserve boss Tim Geithner playing a proactive role in ensuring the waters closed over Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the head of the IMF.

The allegations being made today by DSK supporters go well beyond French politics. They implicate the CIA, Cyrus T. Vance, Nicolas Sarkozy and even the German Secret Service.

Stay tuned for further revelations in the coming days. The Slog and more DSK

The Shocking Truth About The Crackdown on Occupy

Another step nearer America becoming an official police state.

The revolution will not be televised on the stations of the rich, the revolution will not happen till their legitimacy is undermined - Noam Chomski

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality
Naomi Wolf
25 November 2011

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us. Guardian

Kuala Lumpur: Bush Blair Found Guilty of War Crimes

How much more than symbolic this verdict is, remains to be seen, still it's a start I guess.

Bush, Blair Found Guilty of War Crimes

By Press TV
November 25, 2011

A War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia has found former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of war crimes for their roles in the Iraq war.

The five-panel Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal decided that Bush and Blair committed genocide and crimes against humanity by leading the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Press TV correspondent reported on Tuesday.

In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law and under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction allegedly stockpiled by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Malaysian tribunal judges ruled that the decision to wage war against Iraq by the two former heads of government was a flagrant abuse of law and an act of aggression that led to large-scale massacres of the Iraqi people.

Bombings and other forms of violence became commonplace in Iraq shortly after the US-led invasion of the country.

In their ruling, the tribunal judges also stated that the US, under the leadership of Bush, fabricated documents to make it appear that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

However, the world later learned that the former Iraqi regime did not possess WMDs and that the US and British leaders knew this all along.

Over one million Iraqis were killed during the invasion, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

The judges also said the court findings should be provided to signatories to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, and added that the names of Bush and Blair should be listed on a war crimes register. ICH

Watch The Trial of Tony Blair