Archive for February 2013
Luxor, Egypt (AP) – Following a dramatic and fatal ballooning accident on Tuesday, Egyptian tourism authorities are hoping the fiery debacle will generate the excitement necessary to bring more tourists to the country.
In Tuesday’s crash, a hot-air balloon carrying dozens of Asian and European tourists caught fire and rocketed out of control before exploding. Almost all the passengers, of whom only two escaped by jumping to safety, were incinerated. Their bodes will be identified only through DNA testing, if at all.
“We’re really hoping this reignites interest in our tourist attractions,” said Ahmad Ghasbamb, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. “The Valley of the Kings is the perfect place to watch Western infidels and Eastern pagans suffer the flaming deaths they deserve,” he said at a press conference, referring to the area of the country where most of the famed ancient pyramids are located.
Egypt’s tourism industry has suffered in the wake of the civil uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Continued instability has discouraged tourists from visiting, a phenomenon that according to many Egyptian tourism officials echoes the lull that followed a series of Islamic terrorist attacks on tourists in the 1990’s. Tourism accounts for more than one-tenth of Egypt’s economy.
“We can leverage these competing interests to please all parties,” said Ghasbamb. “The Islamists” – swept into power after Mubarak’s ouster but facing a rising tide of dissatisfaction – “and foreign tourists can both find something beneficial in more such incidents. The foreigners will come because they want to see the pyramids and want to experience the adventure of dying in an inferno a thousand meters in the air. The Islamists will be happy because they can participate in, or at least witness, the hellfire visited upon the infidels.”
Ghasbamb sounded a note of caution, saying that it was not clear how long the industry will take to recover. It took years for the foreign visitors to return in numbers following the attacks of the 1990’s. But he expressed optimism that the numbers would begin to trend upward soon, citing statistics that Israeli tourists, despite serving as primary targets for Egyptian Islamist terrorists, continue to visit the country in significant numbers.
“The stupidity of the Westerner is an important resource for us,” explained Askeen Fawrett, a tour guide who arranges trips for several travel agencies. “We expected people to stay away for far longer than they did after various attacks, but the people who we thought would be most wary have shown no hesitation at all about spending their Passover vacations here year after year.” He also noted the irony of Jews returning to the land where their ancestors were enslaved for centuries, and contributing money to the economy of the land that exploited them during that time.
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Rome, Italy (AP) – The impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in the coming weeks has presented the Roman Catholic Church with an opportunity to reconsider some of its fundamental positions, and the cardinals are already discussing doctrinal shifts that include a gradual elimination of Jesus Christ from the church’s teachings. The figure of Jesus as one who shakes up the current order and decries the stagnation and hypocrisy of spiritual leaders has proved more and more problematic to an institution that prides itself on safeguarding a particular spiritual tradition.
“The scandals of recent years have not merely given the Holy See a black eye,” said Timothy Dolan, a noted Catholic scholar. “They have highlighted just how out of touch and attached to power the leadership of the Church has become. Jesus never stopped railing against the Pharisees, and the cardinals, archbishops and other higher-ups recognize that they occupy the same niche as the old-time Rabbis. So getting rid of Jesus is a natural outgrowth of that.”
Since the identity of Benedict’s successor has yet to be determined, any actual changes to church doctrine will have to wait, but several dioceses are already preparing for the eventual emendations to orthodoxy. In Poitiers, France, church officials have solicited proposals from artists for replacements to medieval stained-glass windows in the city’s cathedral depicting various scenes from the Gospels featuring Jesus. In Cologne, Germany, the parish plans a community-wide effort to redesign its famed stained-glass crucifixion scene in that city’s cathedral, though some of the members, citing financial constraints, support keeping the scene and simply reinterpreting it as something else, such as a highly symbolic depiction of the Binding of Isaac.
“When Jesus disrupted the activities of the money-changers in the Temple, he was protesting, among other things, the way in which the people in authority use that monopoly on spiritual authority to enrich themselves,” explained Henri DuBois, who runs worship services in Poitiers. “And that’s essentially what the Church has become. Do you have any idea how many hungry people could be fed if the Vatican sold just a few of its priceless works of art? Or how much more relevance and compassion the Church could demonstrate if it endorsed the distribution of condoms in AIDS-plagued African countries?”
“The cardinals know what Jesus would do, and they’ve been doing the opposite,” he continued. “It’s pretty clear Jesus has become more of a liability to the Church leadership than an asset.”
Speculation is rife among theologians as to who, if anyone, might replace Jesus as the center of Roman Catholic teachings. Some, such as Dolan, foresee a greater focus on Noah, Isaac and other figures who submitted to divine authority unquestioningly.
Others, such as University of Pittsburgh professor Rick Santorum, wonder whether Catholicism might reinterpret the figure of Jesus negatively. A growing number of wealthy conservatives in the United States, for example, find Jesus’s personal care for the poor and downtrodden distasteful, and his clear mistrust of the moneyed classes have made the Church’s position awkward among those who see poverty as an indication of a person’s manifest lack of moral worth.
“The Church isn’t about to abandon its entire legacy – just a particular element of doctrine,” he explained. “The Church stood up to totalitarian communism for decades, and can leverage that moral standing to further the notion that private property and free enterprise are sacrosanct, unlike the ideas of a certain Democratic President.”
“But it’ll be an uphill battle at first,” concedes Santorum. “It will take years, if not decades, to overcome the existing literature and sensibilities. You can’t expect that the day after the changes are announced, an internet search on Church doctrine will suddenly bring up only acceptable results.”
“But I’m confident that particular Google problem can be managed,” he said.
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Austin, Texas (AP) – Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided a gun store in the downtown area of the Texas capital today, where they found a sizable stash of weapons, said an agency spokesman.
“The team entered the shop and found literally hundreds of guns lying there in plain sight,” said Walther Remington, the spokesman. “The proprietor clearly had no compunctions about displaying his extensive inventory of deadly weapons.” The shop owner was taken into custody but has not yet been formally charged.
Neighbors expressed little surprise at the turn of events. “The guy has been running the shop for almost twenty years,” said Mark Smann, who runs a nearby dry cleaning business. “People go in and out of there all the time, and everyone knows why. It’s not like you can hide a high-powered hunting rifle in your purse.”
“What gets me is not that the guy has been selling guns basically out in the open for years and years,” said Sharpe Schuter, a retail manager at a clothing store down the street. “It took the Bureau this long to notice? That’s the surprising thing.”
It is not clear when the BATF became aware of the gun shop’s stash of weapons, or what prompted them to raid the establishment when they did. Remington claimed only basic knowledge of the case, but called the procedure routine.
“The Bureau’s mission is to prevent dangerous firearms from reaching the wrong hands. Anyone walking by the store could see the racks of deadly weaponry, and it would only be a matter of time before someone acquired one or more of those guns. The Bureau felt compelled to act, and discovered that the inventory of guns was even more extensive than we’d suspected.”
The episode comes on the heels of a similar incident last week in Florida, when the Drug Enforcement Administration seized thousands of pills, syringes and dangerous powders from a Miami Beach pharmacy. In that case, the pharmacy’s owner publicly admitted trafficking in the substances, and that doing so provided a comfortable livelihood. The DEA subsequently discovered hundreds of other such establishments in Florida, and the director voiced his suspicion that thousands more are active across the country.
Also last week, New York State authorities opened an investigation into the presence of large quantities of dihydrogen monoxide in its plumbing and sewage systems.
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Seoul, South Korea (AP) – The tense mood on the Korean peninsula persisted Wednesday after the publication of a South Korean intelligence estimate that presented evidence that North Korea was attempting to develop population-feeding technology. The North denied the accusations.
If true, the news would represent a shift for the insular, repressive regime, which has focused more in recent years on pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and on maintaining strict isolation for its citizens from the outside world. Those pursuits have placed dictator Kim Jong-Un and his policies at odds with most of the rest of the world and antagonized even the few allies it still has, such as China.
China, which has food supply issues of its own, and a population of 1.2 billion to feed, is unlikely to look kindly on its southern neighbor attempting to shift its own position in that regard, and actually pursuing the welfare of its population would remove North Korea from the classic mold of Communist dictatorships. One of the salient features of such regimes, from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot, is an utter disregard for human lives that stand in the way of implementing Communist Party ideology. A shift by North Korea into actually providing for its population would be viewed as a destabilizing, possibly dangerous move.
It is also a scenario that the US and South Korea, the two countries most threatened by North Korea’s intransigence, have not adequately prepared for, according to an official at the American embassy in Seoul who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The whole carrot-and-stick approach that we’ve been following with the north has assumed that they need food assistance, and that they can leverage their technological progress to gain more of that assistance,” said the official. “But for Kim to start focusing on finding ways to feed his people directly, that’s a game-changer, right there. The international community is not sufficiently prepared to face a North Korea that is willing to focus on caring for its citizens at the expense of a nuclear weapons program.”
A similar situation is slowly developing in Iran, which denies it is pursuing such weapons technology in the first place, but nevertheless faces sanctions by an international community wary of the Islamic Republic’s intentions. Recent developments have seen a possible shift in Tehran’s orientation, with nuclear fuel being directed to civilian power generation instead of further refinement toward weapons-grade uranium. Western nations, principally the US and Israel, remain suspicious of Iran’s motives, aware that an Islamic state that can adequately provide for its people would be an anomaly in the Middle East and a threat to regional instability.
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Washington, DC (AP) – FOX News reported this morning that several years prior to his election as President, Barack Obama fathered two children with a black woman.
“You won’t hear about this scandal from the fawning liberals over at CNN,” intoned the FOX anchor. “It takes reporters who are willing to go after the truth, not ignore everything bad there is about Obama.”
According to the report, Obama fathered the first child in 1998 with a black woman named Michelle, whom he had met while both were employed at the same Chicago law firm. The two continued their affair, producing another black child in 2001. Both children were born while Obama was serving in the Illinois State Senate. The FOX report noted that not a single major media outlet picked up on the scandal at the time, and that, said the anchorwoman, has only emboldened Obama as he continues to associate openly with the mother of those children, even bringing her with him to official state functions.
“The flagrancy with which Obama thrusts this black lover of his upon the eyes of America is just plain shocking,” said FOX personality Bill O’Reilly. “Strom Thurmond may have fathered a black child once upon a time, but at least he had the decency not to acknowledge it publicly.” Thurmond, who died in 2003, was for decades a staunch South Carolina segregationist, and never addressed the black daughter he fathered as related to him; he did, however, support her financially.
“But Obama is just blatant about it,” continued O’Reilly, “and that’s just the problem with liberals. They have no respect for boundaries. Certainly not the US-Mexico boundary,” he added, referring to immigration policies that Republicans have maintained are not restrictive enough.
“It’s more than immoral – it’s also cynical,” said former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a frequent Obama critic. “Those children will probably grow up to vote Democrat, to boot. And the country is paying for their posh accommodations, in the White House no less! Imagine! Black children in the White House! If this scandal isn’t worth an impeachment proceeding or two, I don’t know what is!”
Obama is not the first president to maintain an intimate relationship with a black woman and to father children through her. Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third chief executive, has dozens of black descendants through his slave Sally Hemming. But according to Palin, since Hemming and her immediate descendants knew their proper place and never got “uppity,” in her words, American society was willing to tolerate the indiscretion.
“But Obama’s shoving it in our faces – and making us pay for it!” said Palin. The black woman and her daughters enjoy Secret Service protection, while their housing and transportation are covered with taxpayer funds. “Even their dog is black!” she remarked, referring to Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog Bo. “We have to take back America!” concluded Palin.
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