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Pretoria, South Africa (AP) – Thamsanqa Jantjie stood near the various world leaders addressing the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s funeral to translate their words into sign language, but it turned out his movements were random gesticulations. Mr. Jantjie attempted to explain his behavior today, noting that pergola detritus malefactor obliging.
“Isthmus defoliate stultifyingly acerbic Corfu,” he told reporters after the alleged fraud was exposed. “Alfredo mystical estuary.” Jantjie had occupied a prominent position for the cameras as each leader spoke, but sign language experts quickly noticed that his gestures did to correspond to any known system – neither for his native Xhosa language, nor for the English speeches he was contracted to render in sign language. “Else butylene sigh gizzard, operate, struts, woolly clogged,” the 34-year-old added. “Monocle scat knee?”
The episode has proved yet another embarrassing distraction in what should have been one of South Africa’s solemn, if not triumphant, moments on the international stage. The agency that supplied Jantjie’s services seemingly disappeared overnight, and a government official acknowledged that they had paid only a fraction of the going rate for such services. The beleaguered interpreter has tried to deflect the negative attention that resulted from his performance, asserting that pine dangers of springbok earring saliva north guitar.
“He they underwear fixes catch-up kneel harmony burped poet hair sheets drown above transatlantic Gregorian,” said the interpreter, presumably referring to gelding actuarial Mendoza bits. “Soon vestal cobs allows slept reunion gong password licked meany beverage sailing premium ambulance stricken guacamole fortitude, group stadium chassis fig planning smallish obliquely redolence.”
South African officials have promised a thorough review of the process that led to the interpretation fiasco, and have vowed to bring to justice both the perpetrators of the fraud and the individuals who neglected their responsibility to vet the suppliers of the interpretation service. “We must revamp our oversight procedures, that is certain,” said President Jacob Zuma. “After all, ascot masonry pulchritudinous jasper Ecclesiastes junkyard.”
New York (AP) – Against the backdrop of civil wars and the constant threat of famine, the producers of the hit children’s TV show Sesame Street have decided to provide dozens of deprived African children with the protein-rich meat of that largest regular Sesame Street character, Big Bird.
The plan calls for Big Bird to be sent next month by boat to either Nigeria or Burkina-Faso, where he will be slaughtered and butchered. Refrigerated trucks would spread across the region to at least ten remote villages most adversely affected by privation, with the goal of reaching a minimum of one hundred children by the end of January.
Persistent unrest and unchecked disease have disrupted life for millions of Africans. Revolutions, ongoing ethnic conflicts, diamond wars, separatist rebellions, climatic upheaval, and rampant AIDS have made the continent one of the world’s most unpleasant regions, especially south of the Sahara. International aid efforts to distribute food and basic necessities are often stymied by political barriers and local warlords who seek to control access to resources as a means of exercising and consolidating power. Sesame Street Workshop intends to ship Big Bird meat to one of two West African ports, and from there to be distributed to hungry children in the Sub-Saharan region.
Sesame Workshop CEO H. Melvin Ming announced the donation this morning at the company’s headquarters at Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan, telling reporters that the effort will exploit the company’s connections in various African countries, connections forged over decades through international distribution, syndication, and licensing of the TV show for production and broadcast in more than 140 countries.
“The vision of Sesame Street from the very beginning has been one that brings together people from all over the world to help improve the quality of children’s lives,” said Ming. “But we fail at an essential level if we aim only at children’s hearts and minds, when those hearts and minds can only function if attention has first been given to their stomachs.” He added that the company had considered donating Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird’s sometime companion, who would have provided even more meat, but that idea was dismissed because that would drive the species, whatever it is, to extinction.
In parallel with the shipment, slaughter, and distribution of Big Bird meat, Sesame Workshop will embark on a promotional effort to both raise awareness of the specific project and of the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Big Bird will be memorialized on the show with a “plaque” that will appear in the opening and closing credits. A farewell episode will be broadcast at the end of December, in which the other characters will have a chance to say their goodbyes to Big Bird, and select letters from viewers will be read aloud on the air. The show will broadcast scenes from Big Bird’s grand final journey in subsequent episodes, leveraging the event to show children how slaughterhouses work.
Ming expects some of the show’s international partners to buy into the publicity, and several such “co-producers” have already signaled their readiness to carry the message of devotion to a greater good. The Iraq and Gaza Strip Sesame Street affiliates have announced that they will use the Big Bird self-sacrifice narrative to serve in recruitment of suicide bombers.
Damascus, Syria (AP) – Nearly three years into an uprising against his rule, Syrian President Basher Assad remains disdainful of the number of people killed in neighboring Iraq, having achieved a body count in less than three years that rivals what the Iraqi insurgents have needed ten year to accomplish.
UN estimates put the number of dead in Syria at about 110,000, while the number of casualties in the ongoing Iraq insurgency only reached that level sometime in 2012, according to conservative estimates. That means it took about nine years for the sectarian violence in Iraq to attain what Assad’s forces, Hezbollah, and the amalgam of rebel groups have done only since mid-2011.
“While the achievement here is not on the level of a Pol Pot, or with the sustained intensity of Hutu-Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the Assad regime has shown it is no bloodshed slouch. Its commitment to indiscriminate killing can be seen as a statement to Syria’s neighbor to the southeast,” said John Rambo of the Brookings Institute. “Syria has only 20 million people and Iraq has more than 32 million, but in a fraction of the time, Syria has caused mayhem at similar levels in a third of the time.”
Proponents of Iraq’s various warring factions point to an asymmetry in the comparison, emphasizing that whereas in Syria, the violence is in many ways a classic civil war, albeit with guerrilla tactics and sporadic acts of bona fide terrorism, in Iraq almost all of the killings involve terrorism as opposed to sustained battles between organized forces. That disparity, they note, accounts for the slower rate of killings in Iraq.
“We are genuinely doing the best anyone can, given the circumstances,” said Moqta Al-Sadr, leader of a prominent Shiite faction. “When American and Western forces were still here, we could focus on engagements with actual troops, but even then, it was not a real confrontation between armies.” The post-Saddam-Hussein insurgency has been characterized from the beginning by car bombings, shootings and other trademarks of terrorism, rather than by battles of attrition that claim hundreds of lives over days and weeks.
Still others are unimpressed by Assad’s achievements. “In terms of percentage of the population, Assad has certainly made a mark,” noted Richard Cheney, a former US Secretary of Defense who has also studied the Iraq theater. “Aside from the casualty mark, which represents a full two-hundredth of Syria’s population, the conflict has also uprooted about a twentieth of Syria’s people. But in terms of sheer numbers, it’s kind of pathetic in comparison to, say, American campaigns in East Asia and Germany.”
Others, in turn, laugh at such American assertions of bloodshedding prowess. “The US has always enjoyed technological superiority,” noted military historian Adolf Hitler. “But it takes a serious commitment to decimate an entire continent while committing genocide,” he said, referring to German achievements between 1939 and 1945.
The German claims were in turn laughed at by historians Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, who noted Chinese and Soviet achievements, respectively, in causing the deaths of tens of millions of their own citizens through disastrous domestic and agricultural policies. “The USSR and the People’s Republic accomplished through manifestly non-military means what Assad could never hope to do,” wrote Stalin in an e-mail. “Soviet policies in the 1920′s and 30′s, and Chinese practices in the decades following WWII, caused more deaths than the entire current populations of Syria and Iraq combined.”
Pretoria, South Africa (AP) – Preparations for Nelson Mandela’s funeral next week have reached a fever pitch, with myriad world leaders and public figures scheduled to attend. But several prominent heads of state will be noticeably absent, and their expected lack of attendance has raised eyebrows.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom accepted her physician’s recommendation not to travel. The 87-year-old monarch has taken an increasingly private role in British public affairs as she ages. It was unclear Sunday whether her son Charles, the Prince of Wales and first in line for the throne, would attend in her stead.
The exiled leader of Tibet , the Dalai Lama, also announced that he would not travel to South Africa for the occasion, refraining from participating in the funeral as a show of protest at having been denied a visa to visit the country on two occasions. The Dalai Read the rest of this entry »
Jerusalem (AP) – The Almighty convened a press conference this afternoon to admit that He created celery in a fit of silliness, but found that the way humans treated it as food was so entertaining that only when the joke got old could He bring Himself to reveal it.
Initially the family of celery plants were relegated to the countryside with myriad other rejects from the Lord’s experimental phase; many such species died out eons before humans developed. But as early as the second millennium BCE, humans were already treating celery – at least celery seeds – as either medicine or as food, and God was so tickled He decided to see how long people would keep falling for it. Read the rest of this entry »
'Hanukkah is over,' they say.
North Miami Beach, FL (AP) - With the eight-day festival of Hanukkah concluded this past Sunday evening, Jews are puzzled by other people's continued anticipation of a holiday, apparently some time next week.
"I like a never-ending celebration as much as the next guy, but it's over, you know?" says Coral Gables resident Michelle Borofsky, 45.
Los Angeles (AP) – Scientists who study avian physiology and behavior have criticized Prince’s 1984 single When Doves Cry, accusing the singer/songwriter of sowing ignorance – or, more likely, betraying it.
Noting that pigeons do not even have tear ducts, ornithologist Dror Adler of the University of California at Los Angeles and several other UCLA researchers castigated Prince, whose number-one single, the lead track from the album Purple Rain, for spreading inaccurate information about birds in general and doves in particular. “Even if doves could cry, which any fool knows they can’t, they certainly wouldn’t sound like the garbage-pail-worthy lyrics Prince seems to think they would express,” wrote Adler in an article for the journal Ornithology Today. Nor would it resemble the instrumental portions of the song, which Adler likened to the results of a Read the rest of this entry »
Topeka, Kansas (AP) – In keeping with its tradition of seeing the influence of homosexuality everywhere, the Westboro Baptist Church began picketing its own establishment today, holding a protest to call attention to what it calls the “pernicious fags who run this institution.”
WBC founder and pastor Fred Phelps led a group of approximately 30 church members in the protest, most of whom held aloft placards in the familiar Westboro style: “GOD HATES WBC” “GOD LOVES YOUR ENEMIES” and “WBC FAGS OUT”. It was a rare appearance of the 84-year-old Phelps, whose age has increasingly sidelined him in church activities and administration, and a sign of the seriousness with which the WBC Read the rest of this entry »
Paris, France (Reuters) – A government-commissioned analysis of the late Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat’s remains has concluded that he did not die of poisoning, as some Palestinians had charged, but by natural causes. Arafat died in 2004 and no autopsy was conducted at the time. The report also noted that Francisco Franco, who took power in Spain in the 1930′s and held office for four decades, is still deceased, and that the Earth continues to make its way around the sun each year.
A resurgence of the poisoning allegations led to Arafat’s exhumation and testing of his remains and personal effects. A Swiss team found evidence consistent with poisoning by polonium-210, a radioactive substance, while a Russian report, soon retracted, found no such evidence. Arafat died in a French military hospital after suffering bouts of intestinal distress. Franco has not come back to life in the meantime, and, perhaps more surprisingly, the sun continues to function as the star around which the Earth moves. Read the rest of this entry »
New York (AP) – Retailers are warning that a serious backlog of orders for lords-a-leaping and other high-demand Christmas goods is threatening the robustness of a crucial shopping season and caused a series of near-stampedes as dozens of would-be consumers rushed to retail outlets to obtain the coveted gift items. Several online merchants also reported server volume trouble that caused at least three major sites to crash.
Major brick-and-mortar retailers and online merchants began noticing early Friday that they were having trouble fulfilling orders for the perennial gift item, with some stores, such as Macy’s and Wal-Mart, placing placards at their entrances to inform customers of Read the rest of this entry »
A two-decade study of dietary components and human physiology have led the CDC to conclude that, “the all-too-common assumption that the human body is somehow incapable of properly processing gluten – principally wheat gluten – has no scientific basis and rests solely on the documented increasing wussiness of Read the rest of this entry »
Montvale, New Jersey (AP) – Seeking to tap into parental frustration over their children’s apparent addiction to spreading the contents of their noses on every available surface, the paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore & Company has begun marketing a line of paints to match the colors and textures of dried human nasal mucus.
The Pick-A-Paint series includes twenty-five different shades and five textures. With the selection, Benjamin Moore hopes to capitalize on the Sisyphean enterprise of keeping the walls of a house clean while children under the age of 14 inhabit it. Instead of actually trying to wipe – or, more likely, scrape – boogers off the wall, parents will now be able to paint entire walls or rooms the color of mucus and subsequently ignore the camouflaged boogers.
“Everyone can breathe more easily with Pick-A-Paint,” reads the company’s press release announcing the product launch. “Parents will love the convenience of never having to see these unpleasant sights on the walls. Children will never have to worry about waiting the excruciating twelve seconds it might take to get to the nearest available tissue to free up their nasal passages. And we at Benjamin Moore will be thrilled to know we’ve contributed to humanity by eliminating a major source of tension between parents and children.”
Company executive Dryden Crustee disclosed in an interview that Benjamin Moore expects certain selections from the new series to fare better than others. “There’s obvious demand for brownish-ocher-green with dark flecks,” he said, explaining that numerous focus groups of parents had ranked as “most disturbing” the discovery of blackish booger remnants festooning the walls above their children’s beds. “But we also found that some parents would appreciate the occasional shiny streak, to help mask the smears that inevitably result from some methods of booger disposal.”
Also available will be chunky streaks of red to mimic the occasional bloody boogers that parents often find, and paints that flake ever so slightly to replicate the texture and experience that wet mucus provides after it dries.
Benjamin Moore intends to roll out distribution of the new paints in January, initially along the eastern seaboard and gradually moving westward through 2014 and 2015. The parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, expects the stock price of Benjamin Moore to increase following the release of the products, betting that the appeal of Pick-A-Paint will stick.
Memphis, Egypt (AP) – Semillontep, the veteran butler of Pharaoh’s palace, nurses a grudge against viceroy Tzafenat Pa’aneakh, who, he claims, has failed to show sufficient appreciation for the butler’s efforts to free him from the royal prison.
When Pharaoh had a disturbing set of dreams, Semillontep recalled that two years earlier, a Hebrew slave was able to correctly interpret the mysterious dreams that the butler and chief baker had while they were in prison. He humbly suggested to the king that the Hebrew, known then as Joseph, might be able to perform a similar feat for His Highness where the court soothsayers had failed. Accordingly, Pharaoh summoned Joseph from jail, and indeed, the Hebrew gave a convincing, accurate explanation of the royal dreams, along with an astute set of administrative instructions to prepare for the epic events that the dreams portended. Semillontep anticipated a proper recognition for this act of generosity, which was not forthcoming.
As a result of his thankless efforts, says Semillontep, Pharaoh appointed the thirty-year-old Joseph as viceroy to administer the very system he had envisioned, and renamed him Tzafenat Pa’aneakh, “the decoder of the mysterious.” The butler understood that Pharaoh himself would not give more than a token expression of gratitude for his referral to Joseph, as he was obligated to serve his master loyally in any case. Moreover, Semillontep owed his own debt of gratitude to the king for the amnesty that spared him while his colleague the baker was executed – the very fate that Joseph had foretold in interpreting the pair’s dreams. But Semillontep still feels left behind in the face of the rapid advance of this lowly Hebrew nobody to whom everyone is suddenly genuflecting.
“I made him who he is,” hissed Semillontep to his wife, Sirrah. “And here I am, still stuck in a dead-end job with the threat of a death sentence hanging over me if I screw up one more time,” he lamented, recalling the episode that got him in trouble several years earlier, when Pharaoh found a fly in the royal wine goblet.
Tzafenat Pa’aneakh was unavailable for comment. His representative said the viceroy was busy traveling to all the major cities and towns of Egypt to oversee the grain-amassing project that he had proposed in order to prepare the land and region for an anticipated famine. Pa’aneakh’s spokesman claimed no knowledge of the butler’s contention, but he did note that Semillontep had for some reason forgotten about the languishing Hebrew in the prison for two years before mentioning anything to Pharaoh.
“One rather suspects motives other than the mere feeling of being slighted,” suggested the spokesman, noting that it was not unusual for native Egyptians to discriminate against people of other ethnicities, and to enslave them. “One has to wonder whether the same resentment would exist if His Excellency Tzafenat Pa’aneakh were born and raised in Egypt instead of Canaan.”
Newport News, Virginia (AP) – The relatively early occurrence of Hanukkah this year has sown perplexity among assimilated American Jews, who have become accustomed to combining or confusing the holiday’s practices with those of Christmas and not Thanksgiving. The first day of Hanukkah comes out this Thursday, which is also Thanksgiving.
The lunar Jewish calendar has a typical year lasting approximately 354 days, making it 11 days shorter than the solar year. A complicated cycle of leap years Read the rest of this entry »
Jamaica, NY (AP) – Jorge Martinez introduced his girlfriend Maria Castro to his friend Marco Ruiz in late October, and since then the 30-year-old Ruiz has devoted a significant portion of his time grappling with his worry over whether Castro likes him.
Ruiz, who has not had a romantic partner since 2004, met Martinez and Castro at a sports bar to watch the World Series. Castro and Martinez had been dating for nearly a month, and the latter had mentioned his partner on at least three occasions in Ruiz’s presence, prompting Ruiz to express Read the rest of this entry »
Jerusalem (AP) – Polling stations across Israel are open today for the Labor Party primaries, in which the party membership will select its next leader for a period of continued marginal significance to national politics. Read the rest of this entry »
New York (AP) – New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has announced that his first move as Mayor on the first of January will be to empower New York City Police and concerned citizens to shoot the owners of dogs that leave excrement on the ground and neglect to clean it up within minutes.
De Blasio called a press conference this morning to publicize his intention and to give New Yorkers notice of the impending policy change. Until now, dog owners and walkers have been subject to fines of up to $500 for the violation, but de Blasio asserted that he has received unending complaints from residents of all five boroughs that canine fecal matter can still regularly be found adorning various parts of the city. He hopes to gain City Read the rest of this entry »
Memphis, Egypt (AP) – Despite getting a good deal on the purchase of a Hebrew youth, a group of Midianite traders is having second thoughts after spending the last several hundred miles listening to the boy prattle on about sheaves, stars, and dreams.
The caravan, on its way to Egypt, was transporting spices and fragrances to sell there when they encountered a group of herders near the Central Canaanite town of Dothan offering a healthy-looking, seventeen-year-old named Joseph for sale at the too-good-to-believe price of twenty silver pieces. Despite the low price, the traders found no physical defects in the youth, and decided to pool their cash to sell this Joseph at a handsome profit once they reached their destination. Read the rest of this entry »
Cambridge, MA (AP) – Researchers at Harvard University have announced that despite a ten-year study involving physicists, chemists, biologists, and philosophers, they remain mystified by the phenomenon of non-chocolate donuts that people like.
The study examined sales patterns, manufacturing processes, anatomy, neurology, psychology, marketing, culinary history, genetics, molecular chemistry, and numerous aspects of the non-chocolate donut phenomenon and found themselves thwarted by the same enigma that stumped scientists nearly two decades earlier. Read the rest of this entry »
Washington, DC (AP) – President Obama has instructed the State Department to end its four-year-old attempt to convince Israelis to resolve the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and other Arab nations by voluntarily drowning themselves in the Mediterranean Sea. The decision was greeted with disappointment by representatives of Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.
Four years ago, Obama directed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to embark on a subtle publicity campaign aimed at engendering among Israeli Jews the resolve to drive themselves into the sea, as a way of ending the deadlock over Read the rest of this entry »
New York (AP) – In keeping with the template of their religious observance, the leading institution of Conservative Jews has endorsed a pattern of environmentally conscious behavior that calls for maintaining an eco-friendly home, but adhering to society’s wider mores when outside. They will therefore adopt such practices as composting, recycling, and cutting waste while in the privacy of their residences, but in the street and at work they will continue to litter, drive fossil-fuel-guzzling behemoths, and place glass bottles in the regular trash. Read the rest of this entry »
New York (AP) – Organizers of the New York City Marathon have announced that they are canceling the event this year and do not intend to schedule one for the foreseeable future, citing the realization that it is monumentally stupid to run 26.2 miles.
The New York Road Runners, the body that administers the race, issued a press release and online notices to the effect that the annual competition held every November would no longer Read the rest of this entry »
Liverpool, United Kingdom (AP) – After nearly fifty years of research, scientists have finally been able to supply a satisfactory answer to a query first posed in a 1966 paper by noted social researcher Sir Paul McCartney regarding the origins of people with few or no intimate relationships. They point to New York, where millions of people live and work, and work very hard to avoid making eye contact.
The original paper, Eleanor Rigby: Lonely People in Aeolian and Dorian Modes, looked at the lives of two Lancashire residents who had no apparent friends or nearby relatives, one of whom died during the period of observation. The authors – McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Pete Shotton – took pains to set the particulars of the subjects’ lives against the meta-questions affecting socially limited individuals, repeatedly returning to the question of where such individuals originate. Read the rest of this entry »