Archive for December 2012
Kerem Shalom Crossing, Israel (AP) – Several weeks after a cease-fire was declared between Israel and the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip, negotiations are continuing over the terms of that cease-fire. Through Egyptian mediators, Israel has conveyed its agreement to allow certain military goods into the Gaza Strip, with certain conditions.
Among those conditions, say the Egyptians, is a provision that the armaments be delivered by Israeli aircraft, artillery, tanks and infantry, and that the drop-off points be restricted to missile-launching, armament storage and military training facilities used by Hamas. An Israel Defense Force spokesman said the army was ready to make delivery of these payloads repeatedly if necessary, and follow up with further deliveries if the materials did not adequately reach their destinations.
Last week the Israeli military began enforcing a more generous limit on Palestinian fishing boats, and offered to supply the hulls of boats venturing beyond the six-mile limit with hundreds of explosive shells, provided in the space of a few seconds at twice the speed of sound. But in what analysts say is a sign of the complex economic picture that is the Gaza Strip, few fisherman have voluntarily taken up the Israeli Navy on its offer.
Similarly, Israel has allowed Palestinian farmers access to lands abutting the border fence, and has made available many hundreds of bullets for the farm workers to carry embedded in their flesh. Several Palestinians accepted such a deal in the immediate aftermath of the fighting, but since then, none have stepped forward.
Before the 2007 takeover of the coastal strip by Hamas, Israel was a major market for the area’s exports, especially agricultural goods and manual labor. But after Hamas routed forces loyal to the more moderate Fatah faction that still governs the West Bank, Israel imposed a blockade. During that time, the flow of war materiel all but dried up, except for Palestinian attempts by individuals and small groups to deliver explosives through the air to Israeli communities, and by IDF deliveries of missiles to militants. Sporadic Israeli deliveries of bullets to the hearts and heads of militant leaders also took place.
The Gaza Strip economy took a beating; the internal trade of explosives and bullets persisted, with almost weekly deliveries of bullets to the bodies of individuals suspected of collaborating with Israel, but the number of available customers remains inadequate to meet the producers’ minimum requirements for sustainability. Last month Hamas made repeated attempts to export rockets to the surrounding Israeli communities, with some deliveries reaching as far north as Tel Aviv and as far east as the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. But Israel’s Iron Dome system imposed strict conditions on the import of such goods, and few deliveries made it through the screening process.
Hamas and its supporters in Iran and Lebanon have decried such Israeli barriers, accusing the Jewish state of imposing unfair restrictions on Palestinian rockets. But the American-funded system, say Israeli trade representatives, is intended to protect Israel’s economic interests from over-the-border threats. Israel questions the necessity of delivering these goods specifically to its population, noting that countries such as Syria, Iraq, Mali, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan have managed to develop a thriving internal system of armaments exchanges, with various groups competing in each for ascendancy in the high-speed delivery of bullets and shrapnel.
Ismail Haniyeh, a veteran Hamas member, recalls the early days of his movement’s once-thriving provision of explosives to Israeli bus passengers. That avenue of export was cut off more than ten years ago after the IDF effectively cut off Hamas’s delivery routes. Before then, the movement relied on delivery personnel to individually accompany each package of explosives to its final destination. That system is no longer practicable, says Haniyeh. He remains cautiously optimistic that a resumption of Israeli deliveries will allow his movement to distribute the effects of those materials as broadly as possible across the Gaza Strip population, as Hamas did in Pillar of Defense and in the 2009 Operation Cast Lead.
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Terre Haute, Indiana (AP) – Lice at the Kiddie Carousel Day Care are complaining that the facility, on South Seventh Street, is infested with human children. Children are a risk factor in the forcible uprooting and premature death of millions of lice every year.
The two-legged, immature humans provide an initially welcoming environment for lice. But often, once the insect population has been lulled into complacency, the surroundings suddenly become hostile. Baths of harsh chemicals often occur just when the lice population has begun to thrive, and sweeps of the child’s scalp area indiscriminately carry off young and old alike when the dreaded Comb passes through.
The International Taskforce on Cootie Hosting, or ITCH, has documented at least seven hundred thousand cases of child infestation in North America this year alone, representing an increase of eight percent over last year, which in turn grew from eight percent the year before. According to government statistics, although the number of human children has remained steady in North America during that time, an increase has been noted in the number of the hazardous human spawn inhabiting sites that lice once found more friendly.
ITCH has documented a general increase in dangerous conditions for lice. Famine and wars in Africa have reduced the number of available hosts in certain areas, although the most recent data point to stagnant growth in the African cephalic environment to begin with, as the hair of the African human tends to be less suitable to habitation by lice. But violent conflict in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have wrought havoc with the consistency of available residences.
The situation is not nearly as dire as it was seven hundred years ago, when the Black Plague swept through Europe and severely reduced the human population. Rival arthropod species seemed poised to assert dominance over the parasitic world, but a steady rebound in the number of humans on the continent, coupled with the displacement of bubonic plague hosts, assured the ascendance of head lice for centuries after.
In fact the lice future has never looked rosier, according to a new report by SUCK, the Society of Users of Chitin Knees. The SUCK report notes an overall global increase in human population, which will provide many more heads for lice to inhabit, and global warming means more of the planet will be hospitable to the insects, which survive longer in warmer environments if they become detached from the scalps of their hosts.
But the lice at Kiddie Carousel are still worried, as the presence of the deadly combs and topical treatments have been detected, according to rampant rumors among the lice.
A vocal contingent denies the rumors, calling into question the evidence for the comb and shampoo phenomena, as well as any indication of silicone spray. The skeptics note that all the fear-mongering stifles the productivity and growth of the population, and deem the rumors “pediculous.” Moreover, they argue, any such threat, even if imminent, lies beyond the capability of the lice community to address.
At press time, a louse with dyed, otherworldly-shaped orange hair was seen departing the preschool in a tiny helicopter marked “Trump.”
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New Delhi, India (Reuters) – Following the death of a woman who was gang-raped on a bus earlier this month in the Indian capital, rapists across the Indian societal spectrum are voicing concern that the incident will harm their reputations.
“Most of us are normal, hardworking guys, and something like this gets us really worried,” said Whatshewants Dusinmatta, 40, of Bangalore. “The vast majority of times we do what we do, it doesn’t result in riots, so we’re naturally a bit nervous that people might not treat us the same way anymore.”
The Indian umbrella organization of sexual assailants, All Sheilas Know It’s Natural and Good For Overpowering Romeos to Impale Them (ASKINGFORIT), advised its members this week not to couple their violation of women’s bodies with violations of murder statues, at least until the current episode of negative publicity subsides. Spokesman Theyall Wantitt said the group was preparing a public relations campaign to attenuate the effects of the December 16 gang-rape on the reputations of rapists in India.
“Most Indians realize that these thugs do not represent us as a whole,” he said, “and our campaign will emphasize that we rapists are not these supervillains who drive around on buses picking women up. We are your fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, neighbours, classmates, and coworkers. That alone should tell everyone that public safety in India has not appreciably changed as a result of this unusual incident.” He said the organization would work with police so that the public’s confidence in its law enforcement institutions would not be affected. An estimated 1% of sexual assault and harassment are currently reported to the authorities.
A similar concern plagued rapists in Pakistan and Afghanistan earlier this year, when a twelve-year-old who was gang-raped managed to escape and reach Westerners who provided her with treatment and protection. Her male relatives and the leaders of her tribal village spent weeks trying to reassure their clansmen and the wider public that the escape did not represent a shift in policy away from killing the victim to maintain the family’s honor. Purveyors of sulfuric acid had also been worried about a drop in sales if jealous husbands would stop throwing their product in the faces of wives and daughters suspected of entertaining such radical feminist ideas as leaving the family hovel for a few minutes.
Eventually the media attention and related disturbances petered out. ASKINGFORIT clearly hopes that a similar phenomenon will characterize the New Delhi case, although currently the city is seeing vehement protests that continue to worry rapists. “Our way of life is threatened,” said Shova Nistpig, mayor of the southern town of Sekslaiveree who has been raping women for upwards of four decades. “The invasion of foreign values has given people all the wrong ideas about people’s proper places in society.”
“It’s one thing to attack the caste system, which has its problems,” he conceded, “and I say that as a Brahmin,” a member of the elite caste. “But the focus on one extraordinarily violent rape in New Delhi is making it harder and harder for the traditional rapists to go about their activities unmolested.”
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It’s one thing to couch your Jew-hatred in terms of Zionism; we all do that. But if you want to keep those hymies from moving into this neighborhood in greater numbers, you’re going to need some arguments more sophisticated than Jewish control of the media. That’s not gonna play in Peoria. Besides, Peoria already has an established Jewish presence, so you have to rethink your whole approach.
What you need to do is find some issue that really bothers the people around here, and then develop some approach that somehow links Jews with the dark side of that issue – but you have to make sure it’s not aJewish issue, or the antisemitism is too obvious. It’s been decades since a guy could count on knee-jerk Jew-hatred in America, or at least open Jew-hatred. What you want to do is attract the closet antisemites and give them enough plausible deniability so everyone can claim it’s not about the Jews’ Jewishness at all.
So what you might do is oppose construction of a synagogue, but only talk about how it would disrupt traffic, or the skyline, or be too noisy. And those concerns can be completely fabricated; you only need them to give you and your associates cover. Since we’re talking Orthodox Jews here, give an example of how crowded the streets will be on Saturdays with people going to and from services. If you’re loud enough about it, your vehemence can make up for any perceived ignorance. And if anyone pokes holes in your claim, like by noting that Orthodox Jews don’t drive on their Sabbath, well, you just move on to the next claim, no harm done. After all, it was just an issue of traffic as far as you’re concerned.
Then there’s the issue of an eruv, that string around the town that makes renders the whole place a single residential area in Jewish law. The Jews won’t be allowed to carry things around outside on the Sabbath without it. But since the community will need municipal approval to attach the string to telephone poles, you can take aim at their attempt to make the place more hospitable to Jews by claiming the project illegally involves the government in religious affairs. That way you can make it about the constitution instead of about how much you hate kikes.
I know you’ve also tried to muster opposition to Jewish migration by arguing about property values. But I don’t think you’ll have much success there, since it’s just ain’t so. In fact a growing Jewish community pushes property values up. You’re best off just dropping that subject, unless you want to look like a bigot and an idiot. Idiot is OK these days, but bigot is not.
Of course if you want to go really hardcore, and are willing to invest some serious time and energy, you could go the San Francisco route and try to get ritual circumcision banned. If you go down that path, just make sure not to get too caught up in the medical evidence for or against; there just isn’t anything conclusive either way. You need to keep the discourse squarely in the emotional realm: make it about babies’ rights; throw around loaded terms such as “mutilation” and “genital cutting”; call the practice barbaric. Those are good ways of staying on the offensive and avoiding the issue of your opposition to Jewish existence, not merely Jewishpractice. Your lead here is the highly successful model of antisemites who claim only to be anti-Zionist, a roster that includes such reputable souls as Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinijad.
You know I would never steer you wrong, Jack. Some of my best friends are antisemites.
Ann Arbor, MI (AP) – Fast-food giant Domino’s Pizza, confronted with anemic sales of its new pizza suppositories, has put further marketing efforts for the product on hold, according to a statement from the company’s corporate headquarters.
Following a lengthy promotional campaign, the Italian food chain finally released its line of “Up Yours” pizza suppositories, hoping to tap into the growing need for ever-more-efficient food delivery in a busy era. With Up Yours, Domino’s hoped to appeal to rushed parents and hurried workers who lack the time to properly ingest and digest even typical fast food. Its “Taste is waste” slogan leveraged the company’s reputation for providing a less-than-stellar culinary experience; a 2009 survey of consumer taste preferences among national chains by Brand Keys, Domino’s tied with Chuck E. Cheese’s for last place.
The advertising push followed an intensive program to get buy-in from the chain’s more than 5,000 franchise holders, but that stage of the program took several months longer than expected because headquarters found it difficult to convince the franchisees to get behind the initiative, according to Seymour Butz, an analyst at Sphincter Industries who studies the fast food industry.
“The franchisees were worried about bottlenecks in supply and production,” said Butz, who also noted that trial runs of that production exposed lax adherence to quality standards. Although the company addressed those concerns, problems continued to emerge even as the release date approached.
Domino’s was forced to push back the start of the promotional campaign to fix those emerging issues, and the executives were apparently satisfied that they had managed to wipe away the sticky problems by softening its position on franchisee contribution. Advertising began in January, and the first Up Yours suppositories were offered in Kansas, Texas and Arkansas. Hopeful initial data from the “In Testin'” phase prompted the further roll-out of the products up and down the eastern seaboard and Illinois.
But sales logs, initially positive, proved disappointing, and continued to contract through the spring and summer, skidding almost entirely to a halt by August. The board pinned its hopes on the September “Backside to School” advertising blitz, aiming to appeal to more regular customers, but decided that if October sales showed no major improvement they would be forced to cancel production. Despite an $18 million investment in equipment, materials and marketing, the company’s bottom line has suffered, limiting Domino’s to a second-quarter profit only slightly higher than the same period last year.
Hopes had been high until then, as a program in the same spirit by a different fast food player had shown its potential. In 2009 White Castle announced that it was “eliminating the middle man” by liquefying its burgers and spraying them directly on the insides of toilet bowls. White Castle sales figures had not appreciably suffered as a result, and Domino’s executives apparently felt that their marketing acumen could make such an approach profitable.
This is not the first abortive Domino’s marketing program. In 1992 and 1993, high-profile lawsuits charged the company with recklessness in guaranteeing home delivery within 30 minutes of an order’s placement; two fatalities had resulted from Domino’s delivery men’s driving. Of particular interest to the plaintiff was a provision calling for the public beheading of drivers who failed to reach their destinations within the allotted time. The company settled both cases, but agreed to eliminate the punitive measures for late deliveries, which had garnered initial popularity and a contract to televise the beheadings.
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Astana, Republic of Kazakhstan (Reuters) – Following the crash of a military plane that killed all 27 aboard, Kazakh authorities were stunned to discover that Kazakhstan actually possesses the technology of heavier-than-air flight.
The An-72 transport plane was carrying a crew of seven and twenty passengers, including the acting head of Kazakhstan’s border protection service. That means that at least twenty-seven people in the country knew of the capability, although it remains unclear whether anyone now remains in Kazakhstan who might be able to identify, let alone pilot, an aircraft.
The Central Asian country is the largest landlocked country in the world; most of its military equipment was inherited from the now-defunct Soviet Union. The aging systems have put a strain on Kazakhstan’s technical resources, which are much more accustomed to agriculture, animal husbandry and polluting the atmosphere with hydrocarbons. Western military experts expressed surprise that the republic had managed to train a crew to fly a plane, and noted that apparently the training program had yet to cover more advanced skills such as landing.
“[President Nursultan] Nazarbayev might have kept this game-changer off the world’s radar for much longer if not for this accident,” said Orville Wright, a flight technology consultant in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, who studies the development of military aviation in Asia. “Apparently it has become a tradition in Asia to mask progress on strategic military initiatives,” he added, referring to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons technology. For reasons still unclear to experts with an IQ under 40, Iran insists that its program is for civilian purposes only.
Wright noted that it is entirely possible that Kazakhstan possesses more aircraft. “No one seemed to know about the An-72 until it crashed, so it’s quite likely Nazarbayev’s military has a few more surprises up its sleeve.” He declined to speculate whether the other still-unknown Kazakh technology includes indoor plumbing, but he and other experts agree it is extremely unlikely the nation has developed or acquired non-corrupt politicians.
“Most of Kazakhstan’s political apparatus is a holdover from totalitarian Soviet days,” explained Tom Clancy, who studies the former republics of the Soviet Union. “Every few years there are elections for the legislative bodies, but the real power rests with the President, who was elected in 1991 and dominates the political scene.” But Clancy was nevertheless impressed by the Nazarbayev administration’s ability to conceal its possession of twentieth-century technology, an effort that, if not for the accident, might have allowed the country to avoid detection of the program until it could already deploy the equipment.
Clancy nevertheless wonders whether the secrecy would have lasted long, as use of the planes requires infrastructure such as hangars, runways and other installations are impossible to conceal for very long in this age of satellite imagery. However, he doubts whether any other nation would bother using its fleet of spy satellites to inspect the godforsaken country, so detection may not have occurred until much later.
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Norfolk, Virginia (AP) – Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has denounced the legendary teller of nursery rhymes Mother Goose for encouraging violence and mistreatment of animals in her doggerel.
“Treating blackbirds as food is bad enough – but Mother Goose would have us sadistically putting the captive birds in a hot oven and baking them into a pie,” said Newkirk. “How out-of-touch with ethical behavior can you be?”
PETA released a litany of cruel acts against animals in Mother Goose’s rhyming verse and called for a boycott of her nursery rhymes until Mother Goose could demonstrate she had reformed.
The PETA report grades all of Mother Goose’s rhymes, assigning them a score on a scale of 1-4, with 1 representing an “acceptable” attitude toward animals, 2 meaning “borderline” and 3 meaning “poor” and 4 meaning “reprehensible.”
“Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” was rated borderline, as the report indicates, because it takes for granted that the little sheep’s wool is meant to serve human needs, when, as PETA contends, any human appropriation of animal products violates the animals’ inherent rights. However, the rhyme does not cross the problematic line into “poor” because the lyrics can be construed as trying to elicit the black sheep’s consent to part with its wool, which bespeaks an attitude much more in keeping with proper ethics, the report says.
“Humpty Dumpty” presents a more disturbing situation, in which “all the king’s horses” are clearly being exploited by “all the king’s men” to reach Humpty Dumpty in time to put him back together. But the rhyme was rated 3 and not 4 because, as the report explains, the verse can be construed as meaning that the horses voluntarily participate in attempting to reassemble Dumpty, but with society’s current set of assumptions that is not an obvious reading.
“Pop Goes the Weasel” has a misleading title that might lead to the assumption that a rodent is being mistreated, but in fact the poem received a score of 1, since, as many scholars suggest, the “weasel” in question is cockney rhyming slang for a non-animal object being pawned by a pauper. In the report PETA expressed dislike for the reference to an animal, but the offense was not egregious enough to warrant a demotion to 2.
In an unusual twist, “Hey Diddle Diddle,” despite its myriad references to animals, scored 1 in the report, as the animals in the poem clearly behave the way they do in the absence of human interference, and the rhyme implies that when unfettered by exploitative, abusive captivity, cats can train themselves to play violin, cows can develop aerospace technology, dogs develop a philosophical sense of wonder and inanimate objects mature to the point of recognizing that fundamental physical differences are no barrier to emotional intimacy.
However, the flagrant and brutal treatment that occurs in a number of other rhymes prompted PETA to question Mother Goose’s moral compass. “To Market, To Market” encourages the purchase, slaughter and consumption of swine; “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” endorses the enslavement of animals and, worse yet, implies that the creatures prefer it that way; “Itsy Bitsy Spider” finds nothing cruel about watching an arachnid get repeatedly washed away.
Even some selections without overt mistreatment were rated as unacceptable by the PETA report. The three men in a tub include a butcher, a cruel profession so beyond the pale that its mere mention earned the poem a rating of 4. And in “Hickory Dickory Dock,” the implied use of a human-constructed implement, a clock, to scare away mice was deemed a poor choice.
Newkirk also demanded that Mother Goose clarify at once why the apocryphal, eighteenth-century folk figure uses the name of a blameless bird. She concluded, “Anyone who doubts the speciesism rampant in Mother Goose’s works just has to take a gander at them.”
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