Archive for June 2013
Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – The United Nations announced a new initiative today, under which the accumulated cracker, bread and snack crumbs found in computer keyboards across the United States would be shipped to Africa and distributed to victims of famine and deprivation.
The Collection-Recycle of Used Munchie Bits (CRUMB) program aims to solicit donations of the fragmented foodstuffs that can be found between and beneath the keys of most desktop and laptop computers in the Western world. Estimates of the total quantity of such uneaten food range from 10,000 to 60,000 tons annually, of which the United States accounts for perhaps half.
In announcing the program, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Navi Pillay hopes to secure additional supplies for relief efforts already strained under the demands of multiple wars throughout Africa and the Middle East. The agency hopes to offset some of the depleted resources by obtaining access to the crushed Doritos, hamburger buns, pizza crusts, Snickers pieces and Bacos brand imitation bacon bits, just to name a few examples, that fall between the keys and go uneaten until the user attempts to shake the crumbs out or until ants carry off the remains.
The refugee relief agency will partner with several non-profit volunteer organizations such as Médécins Sans Frontièrs to set up a collection system across the US and deposit the accrued crumbs in designated facilities, where other volunteers with sort the collected crumbs and organize them according to type. The sorted pieces will then be packaged appropriately and delivered by volunteers and agency personnel on the ground in famine and conflict zones up and down Africa.
“This is an exciting opportunity for everyone involved,” said Pillay. “The American computer user does not need to give up anything but a few moments to allow for the collection of the crumbs he would not get to eat anyway, and the African recipient of the aid will finally get a taste of the richness of American cuisine.” Pillay declined to clarify whether the latter clause of his sentence was intended facetiously.
Already, aid organizations have mobilized volunteers to begin soliciting keyboard crumbs, but their first step, naturally, involves collecting their own accrued stockpiles. “I just went through a couple of old keyboards we have in the stockroom and scored some fragments of White Cheddar Cheez-Its,” said Stephanie Pecker, a project coordinator for The American Red Cross in Houston, Texas. “I figure if we can go through every terminal in this office we could come up with at least one old piece of salami, some chocolate chip cookie detritus and maybe even a bit of Twinkie.” she said.
If the program enjoys success, Pillay intends to roll out an expansion to collect the greasy smears of American fingers from their touchscreen devices, grease that can be used as fuel in resource-starved countries across the Third World.
However, some foodstuffs will prove difficult to persuade owners to give up. “Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger,” said Pecker.
Washington, DC (AP) – Responding to growing concerns over access to methods of birth control, the National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines to you today, assuring you that just being yourself would provide all the protection against pregnancy that you will ever need.
A report entitled Useful Guidelines for Libidinal You (UGLY) gives an analysis of the effectiveness of this method. According to UGLY statistics, just being yourself prevents pregnancy and most sexually transmitted diseases, topping even the latex condom in effectiveness. The condom is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STDs such as herpes and HIV, while being yourself achieves 100% prevention.
The NIH cautions that just being yourself works to prevent pregnancy only for about 84% of the population. The other 16% are both actually physically attractive and have a personality that does not make others cringe. For that segment of the population, existing methods of birth control and infection prevention remain the recommended procedures.
The NIH report’s conclusions are already enjoying a surprising level of bipartisan support, given the historic acrimony over birth control and other reproductive issues between Republicans and Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already welcomed the report, praising it for its candor in touting methods that do not rely on access to abortion or manipulation of the menstrual cycle, methods that make religious conservatives uneasy.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) also praised the NIH, saying that the UGLY method shows unique promise in his home state, where rudeness and antisocial behavior have long since come to define the local ethos. “New York can be the front line for implementing this strategy,” suggested Schumer. “We’re talking about a state – and especially a city – where making eye contact is generally considered grounds for homicide.” It should be no problem, said the Senator, to let the hostility and awkwardness play its natural role of keeping the population in check.
New Jersey Governer Chris Christie, a Republican, lauded the potential for tremendous savings. “Condom distribution programs cost money, and they’re always a political hot-button issue,” acknowledged the 2016 presidential hopeful. “But who can argue with social programs that actually save money and don’t pit conservatives and liberals against each other?” added the overweight, abrasive man.
Years ago New Jersey actually began a publicity campaign to foster such down-home birth control methods. The earliest successful measure, though limited, provided the environment for Aaron Burr to kill Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Already in the early nineteenth century the Garden State had secured a reputation as a backwater, lawless place, and the two combatants agreed that Weehawken made a suitably unpleasant location to fight to the death. It has not changed much in the intervening two centuries.
More recently, New Jersey played host to The Sopranos, a hit HBO drama involving realistic mobsters, emphasizing the petty, ugly concerns that characterize not only the life of a mafia boss but of every inhabitant of the state outside Princeton. A few years later, the reality TV series Jersey Shore introduced the typical New Jersey characters to viewers nationwide, allowing the state’s residents to bask in the disgust and contempt that has always made New Jersey notable.
The state’s efforts received an unexpected endorsement this past fall when the Nets, formerly of New Jersey, relocated to Brooklyn, demonstrating that some places are even less welcoming than New York.
Rome, Italy (AP) – The actor who garnered multiple awards for his role as a complex New Jersey mafia boss in the hit HBO series The Sopranos has wowed critics again with his convincing portrayal of a dead actor.
James Gandolfini, 51, was vacationing in Italy and was scheduled to attend the Taormina Film Fest, when he gave an impromptu, tour de force performance as a heart attack victim and ceased all bodily metabolic activity. Long regarded as a gifted thespian, Gandolfini’s stock had remained high since his breakout role as Tony Soprano, and his achievements had left audiences and critics wondering whether he could sustain the dramatic artistry that came to define him.
With the heart attack, Gandolfini effectively put to rest any doubts as to his continued ability to throw himself completely into a character and channel his own emotional and physiological state into the acting.
“I’ve always said he’s comparable to Mozart,” said David Chase, who directed the HBO series. “But he wasn’t so convinced. I guess he needed to keep proving how talented he is. Truth is we didn’t need this convincing, but if this helps James feel better about his acting, more power to him.”
Chase said he had wondered whether Gandolfini would attempt to break out of the molds that had come to define the roles he was given, but admitted he did not see this move coming, especially right now. “You don’t usually see such forceful, top-flight acting when a guy isn’t in front of a camera or on a stage – yet another way in which James surprises us.” Gandolfini was relegated to character acting and minor roles in various films from when he began his acting career in 1987 until he became a bona fide star in 1999 with the start of The Sopranos. The series ran six seasons and won multiple Emmy awards, including three for Gandolfini as Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama. He was nominated for that award all six seasons.
Gandolfini was unavailable for comment.
Washington, DC (AP) – Confidence in the American economy remains an uncertain proposition in the short term, according to a Federal Reserve report released today, which singled out as an indicator the fact that a bird in the hand, for years holding steady at two, is now worth three in the bush.
While increasing inflation is not in itself a negative indicator, as it is associated with an active, growing economy, the specific economic sectors featuring inflation indicate different things. In this case, according to economist Alvin Cliche, any significant changes in the aphorism sector is cause for concern.
“You don’t want people having to adjust their use of hackneyed phrases because of inflation – that could disrupt all sorts of communication and economic activity just gets too chaotic,” he explained.
Cliche cited the precedent of the First World War, which broke out after double alliances became triple and a single entente developed two more facets. Twenty million people dies as a result.
To make matters worse, when the First World War itself experienced numeric inflation, it could no longer sufficiently resolve the issues tearing apart Europe, until it became the Second World War, leading to the deaths of perhaps 40 million more.
More recently, the first Bush presidency, from 1989-1993, came to an end, but the negative impact of its policies on the voters’ psyche was diluted by inflation and made the American public unable to retain the lesson, necessitating a second Bush presidency from 2001-2009. While the first Bush got the US involved in only one major conflict that ended in a matter of weeks, the second Bush oversaw the invasion of two countries and left them in no better shape after years of occupation.
In other arenas, Cliche pointed to the declining significance of athletic achievement since Major League Baseball expanded into three divisions in each league from two, exacerbating an earlier split into two.
Other economic indicators are holding steady or showing gradual improvement, so the impact of the shifting bird in the hand value may be limited, especially of the other indicators can make up for the slack, according to Spent Mohr of the Goldman Sachs investment firm. He noted the instance of Jack Sprat still eating no fat despite the overall expectations of American indicators to feature a steady increase in fat consumption, as well as the economy’s overall capacity to make waste without consuming any of its precious haste.
“I wouldn’t get too worked up about the birds in the bush at this point – it could just be the exception in an otherwise healthy economic picture,” he cautioned. Other mitigating factors in the global economic scene include the road to St. Ives featuring a man with only five wives, and nice guys finishing sixth instead of seventh.
“I’d only start to worry if we saw a second Clinton presidency in the making,” he said.
Washington, DC (AP) – A rash of mass shootings in recent months has shaken even the Republican political establishment, leading its leaders to propose a sweeping measure to outlaw schools in order to prevent more school shootings.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Monday that the GOP would soon introduce legislation that both addressed the school safety concerns of millions of parents and protected Second Amendment rights. The law would mandate home schooling, depriving would-be gunmen of venues such as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where dozens of children and faculty were murdered or wounded in December.
At the same time, said Boehner, the measure would safeguard the cherished access to firearms that Americans enjoy, since the closure of the schools would effectively eliminate them as targets for such assailants, thereby removing the need to further regulate what firearms industry spokespeople have called an excessively burdened industry.
A further benefit of eliminating schools would be a sizable savings in government education spending. “And that’s not all,” added Boehner. “We’re going to take the government out of the schools and let parents use their autonomy to decide how best to educate their children.” Thus, for example, children in run-down, foreclosure-plagued Chicago suburbs, whose schools have ceased to function effectively, would no longer be forced to attend those failing institutions, and could spend more time at home.
“What the Republicans are proposing is a win-win situation,” explained conservative columnist Hope Liss. “One of the holy grails of conservative politics is smaller government and less spending. This initiative would essentially eliminate all primary education costs at the federal level, letting states and local government handle them as they see fit. And it would also be tough on crime, cutting down on the opportunities that attackers might have to terrorize schoolchildren.”
What’s more, added Liss, the Republican Party’s voter base has shrunk over the last decade, and it must rely more and more on election campaign strategies devoid of substance in order to scare or seduce the less-educated, more easily manipulated citizen into casting its ballot for the GOP candidate. Making public education that much less available primes the next several generations of voters to more easily react in the ways the Republican strategists wish.
The GOP faces a tough sell with parents of college-age children, however. “Virginia Tech could happen again,” warned Sorrel Luser, who heads an Atlanta-area group of anti-crime activists, referring to a 2007 mass shooting that took 32 lives. “This proposal doesn’t go far enough. If the Republicans were really serious about this, they’d go all the way, and outlaw all education.”
“Except maybe the study of Chinese,” he conceded. “We’re all gonna need to know that pretty soon.”
Rome, 12 June (Reuters) – Following Pope Francis’s description of the Vatican complex’s main visitor lobby as “gay,” the Holy See has been scrambling to explain that the pontiff’s remarks have been taken out of context to imply a cabal of homosexuals exerting pressure on governments and societies for greater acceptance.
Francis expressed displeasure with what he called the gay lobby, gesturing with his hands to indicate he meant the lame décor in the vestibule, as is evident in video of the address. Moreover, says Vatican spokesman Father Guisseppe Guini, use of the term “gay” to refer negatively in general about anything has long since lost its specifically homosexual connotation. “Even homosexuals use it without irony to express distaste,” he explained.
The Pope was taken by surprise at the vehemence of objection to his address, in which he had focused primarily on ridding the institution of corruption. Only after encountering specific citations of the objectionable phrase did he realize how his remarks had been misapprehended, according to Father Guini.
This is not the first time a leading Church official has used a word or phrase with meaning vastly different from the one the public understood, says papal historian Beyonda Pale.
A misunderstanding of the name caused the Nike corporation to file an infringement suit against the Society of Jesus, asserting that the term “Jesuit” sounds suspiciously similar to the company’s motto of Just Do It. Nike withdrew the lawsuit when it became clear that the Jesuits came first.
In discussing Jesus’s youth as an apprentice to his adoptive father Joseph the carpenter, Pope John XXIII invoked the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, sowing confusion among his listeners, who thought the pope was referring again to carpentry. The same pontiff also mispronounced one of the declarations while he was administering communion, and called the wafer “Coprus Christi,” causing the receivers of communion to take offense at the perceived scatological curse.
The previous pope, Benedict XVI, ran into trouble when he mistakenly slurred the word “condos” in discussing residential quarters, resulting in a host of rumors that the Church was altering its position on the use of birth control. The incident prompted one of the papal aides to refer to His Holiness as “Bone-dicked the sex-teen.”
Austin, TX (AP) – Conservative activists turned out in large numbers today to oppose a proposed repeal of the death penalty in Texas, repeating the claim that properly administered capital punishment deters crime. The mostly Evangelical Christian demonstrators repeatedly invoked the name of Jesus, whose execution nearly two thousand years ago deterred countless potential Christians from ever accepting him and effectively short-circuiting the entire religion.
“What Would Jesus Do?” cried Samantha Osborne, 44, of Corpus Christi, exhorting her compatriots. “He’d keep the death penalty!” Jesus was continually cited as the prime example of capital punishment working, as his crucifixion in the year 33 CE by the Roman authorities put an end to trouble from early Christians and forever relegated Jesus’s followers to the footnotes of history.
At issue is a legislative proposal set to be voted on in committee this week, a measure that would ban the death penalty in the state for any sentences handed down after December 31 of the year it becomes law. If it survives several rounds of voting and is signed by the governor, the bill could attain passage this year. Inmates already on death row would not have their sentences commuted automatically, but they could request that their punishment be changed from the currently mandated method, lethal injection, to the more traditional crucifixion.
The rally, sponsored jointly by the student group Campus Crusade for Christ and the Christian Coalition, a political organization, attracted nearly 10,000 Christians from across the Lone Star State, with many driving up to six hours and several dozen others flying in from as far away as San Antonio. Speakers called on the crowd to defend both the conservative values represented by capital punishment and the very sanctity of life, which, they contended, could only be upheld if those who took life were similarly deprived of it.
“We have no issue with proper oversight of courts so that we do not risk putting innocent people to death,” acknowledged Rick Perry, the former Republican governor in his address to the crowd. “But truly innocent people know how not to end up on death row in the first place. Jesus Christ!” he continued, invoking the name of someone he believes to have been wrongfully executed. At least four documented cases exist in which Texas executed the wrong party for a capital crime, and little incentive exists for post-execution investigations that would lead to revelations in dozens of other possible wrongful executions.
Jesus Christ was unavailable for comment.