Archive for August 2013
Moscow, Russia August 28 (AP) – Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a press conference this evening that if the Western powers decide to abandon their intention to launch strikes against its ally Syria, Russia would not impede the move.
A longtime supporter of embattled Syrian leader Basher Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his foreign policy team not to oppose the supporters of the Syrian rebels in the event that those allies decide to continue not aiding the rebels militarily against Assad’s forces. The death toll in the two-year-old conflict has surpassed 100,000.
The announcement marks a clear shift in Russian strategy, which until now has focused on countering Western efforts to bolster Assad’s opponents. The new approach, says Near East Institute analyst Mark Mywords, takes a more circumspect approach that recognizes other countries’ ability not to intervene. For some countries, their ability even exceeds that of Russia, though the US and Iran, historically, have been loath to use it.
“What we’re seeing is a new appreciation by the Kremlin that sometimes the most effective form of inaction is to let others perform the non-action,” he explained. “In the rush to abandon much of the Communist government legacy, Russia was quick to let go of generations-old incentives not to do anything. But a resurgence of nostalgia for the simpler old times, as rough as they were, has prompted the leadership to revisit many of the Soviet practices such as providing no reason to do things at all, since the end result will be the same anyway,” he continued.
The change presents Washington and other Western governments with a new opportunity not to act, coming as hundreds of thousands of Americans have made a point not to demand US action. The Obama administration continues to weigh its options on how best not to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, despite a vow by Obama that any such development would not be tolerated by the international community.
Discreetly getting out of the way of someone else’s not doing anything has a venerable history, according to military historian Anne Nabler, author of See No Evil, See No Evil. “Perhaps the most famous example of not standing in the way of non-action is the world’s reaction to Hitler’s annexation of the the Czechoslovakian Sudetendland in 1938,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But history is rife with nations standing idly by while other nations stand idly by.”
Brooklyn, August 27 (AP) – The laws of physics were thought to make it impossible, but this afternoon, vehicles on a stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway were clocked at a full 33 miles per hour.
At approximately 1 p.m., the westbound side of the roadway just beyond the Kosciuszco Bridge had cars and trucks moving at the highest speed ever recorded on a major Brooklyn thoroughfare, let alone the BQE, which was specifically designed by Robert Moses not to allow any vehicle to reach speeds in excess of 30 mph. Eyewitnesses alerted police cruisers, which used radar, to confirm the bystanders’ suspicions: at least one hundred vehicles attained speeds between 30 and 33 miles per hour for nearly eighty feet before again succumbing to congestion, potholes, confusing signage, worn out markings, glare from office tower windows, and a team of semi-trailers specifically tasked with taking up space in order to slow traffic.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” gushed Fishel Horowitz of nearby Boro Park, who travels along that route every weekday on the way to his jewelry store in Midtown Manhattan. “I got one look at the speedometer thingie and said to my carpool mate Moishe, ‘Moishe, you got to see this! Look at this!’ He barely had time to see the needle point past the thirty before we hit traffic again, but there it was, plain as day.”
Police spokesman Crowne Victoria told reporters that several officers had recorded radar speed readings in excess of the 30-mph plateau, indicating that the witnesses’ reports were correct. “This represents an exciting, and, at the same time, troubling development, a sign that the measures in place to keep the BQE crowded, miserable, and murderously frustrating may not be sufficient,” he said at a news conference.
Enoch Cain, a professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, echoed police concerns, and added that according to his preliminary calculations, the odds of such an occurrence are longer than those of [New York Yankees third baseman] Alex Rodriguez becoming likable. “Really, we should see the Mets win the World Series six times in a row, starting this year, before we ever see traffic moving like that on the BQE.”
Previously, the highest speed reached by a vehicle on any of the outer borough roadways was a child’s Flexible Flyer sled coasting down an exit ramp of the Grand Central Parkway near Astoria, Queens, just after the blizzard of January 7, 1996. The sled, operated by then-ten-year-old Sumaya Khan, achieved a velocity of 27 miles per hour before encountering the powerful magnets under the road surface that keep cars from accelerating too much, lest their occupants get to their destination in a timely fashion.
Victoria noted that the NYPD has had a fleet of cruisers deployed around the clock just to prevent the expressway from becoming anything other than an unpleasant place to drive. “First of all, it was constructed in Brooklyn and Queens, which should already turn off anyone with a sense of aesthetics, or just plain sense. Add to that the fleets of vehicles specifically devoted to blocking, slowing, and endangering everyone. then you have the fact that it was built inland, not along the water, where there would have been plenty of room. And you have all the constant construction.”
Victoria did note that the continued success of the BQE interdiction policy rests on the population of Brooklyn and Queens remaining as clueless, masochistic, or some combination thereof, as it has always been. “Fortunately, we see no sign of that changing,” he said, pointing to Williamsburg residents who pay obscene amounts for coffee with pretentious names.
Atlanta, August 23 (AP) – The Centers for Disease Control has announced new findings in orthopedic research, noting that nearly half of the vertebral fractures among mothers occur subsequent to their child treading upon a crack in the pavement or the space where one piece of flooring meets another.
In a paper to be published in next week’s New England Journal of Medicine, the CDC team outlines its analysis of hospital orthopedics department statistics, which the study says indicate a close correlation between offspring crack-stepping and maternal spine fractures. The study authors did caution that the time interval between the stepping and the breaking has not yet been defined, but that the team currently believes it ranges from fractions of a second to several years.
“The implications of this study are obvious,” noted the lead author, Dr. Mo Thergus. “Beyond mere aesthetics and road safety, proper maintenance of road, sidewalk, and flooring surfaces can now be understood as a bona fide public health concern.”
Houston-area physician Allie Oxenfree, who was not involved in the study, agrees. “My orthopedic clinic sees a good number of back injuries among mothers, and one of my first questions is always, ‘Has your child been stepping on cracks recently?’ It’s been anecdotal for some time, and it’s good to see the CDC doing real clinical research to pin down this important injury factor.”
Others would like to see more research before they are prepared to accept the link between crack-stepping and back fractures. “We saw the same rush to judgment when alligator purses were linked to the likelihood of a doctor-nurse team paying housecalls,” said Lucy Steamboat, currently the head of pediatric orthopedics at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York. “But it turns out the sample size for that study was small, and it involved only fourth-grade girls with a sense of rhythm.”
Washington, DC (AP) – The Department of Too Much Information has published its findings on the contents of wastebaskets in its bathroom facilities, and preliminary analysis of the data indicates an increase during the last year in the number of women menstruating at any given time.
Last year the Department counted 45 used tampons and other menstruation-related products in the wastebaskets of the women’s rooms at its headquarters during the month of July. This year, that figure increased by 12. The preliminary report does not provide a detailed treatment of the number of such products that were flushed down the toilet in violation of Department restroom policy. Flushing tampons or pads down the toilet can clog the plumbing system, which you discovered several months ago when your prim old aunt was visiting and fell victim to a sewage deluge that resulted from your disposal of those products in the toilet.
The increase in on-the-job menstruation appears unrelated to the number of women currently employed at the Department’s headquarters, says TMI spokeswoman Ima Noversharer. “Our staff has remained more or less the same since last year’s numbers were collated, and I’ve got this awful case of hemorrhoids.”
Last month’s report focused on the number of used tissues and the color of the mucus they contained, but it was the first such instance of such data collection, so there are no previous figures against which to compare them. They will, however, serve as a benchmark for future collations. The next used-tissue collection and analysis is scheduled for November, followed again by regular such analyses every five months. The report also includes a map of every booger wiped on every underside of every desk and chair in the headquarters, with charts and graphs to track color, size, moistness, adhesion, and, where possible, the identity of the provider.
Advances in DNA testing have allowed that last item to be accomplished more affordably than when such a proposal was first made eight years ago. At the time, researchers had to painstakingly gather each booger sample for time-consuming lab tests, whereas now, a simple swab of the substance in question can provide all the necessary data and does not disturb the booger’s final resting place.
The May report featured a detailed description of the benign, yet unsightly, cyst on the side of the nose of the head security guard in the East Wing of the headquarters complex. Updates on the cyst, plus additional sightings of other deviations from the normative aesthetic, will be a regular feature of reports starting in December, when Secretary of Too Much Information Don Sayett is scheduled to have an embarrassingly public bout of dysentery,
In recent weeks the Elton John tissues in the vicinity of the appendix had become inflamed, and antibiotics became necessary to keep the John from causing further, possibly irreversible or fatal, damage to the appendix. Surgeons performed the operation after the regimen of medications had forestalled the immediate danger.
The appendix characterized the growth of the multiple Grammy Award winner as a “ticking time bomb” that posed a mortal threat. While the danger was very real, however, surgery to remove such parasitic entities from appendixes are exceedingly routine, and no complications were reported in this case.
As a result of the successful operation, the appendix has been spared having to go with an attached Elton John to the ceremony granting the singer the Brits Icon Award, where it would risk exposure to perilous levels of glurge, hyperbole, flattery, shallowness, gossiping, and vanity.
For years, Mrs. Kass has been studying various works by the Elizabethan poet and playwright with her middle-school English literature class, often choosing Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth. In her explication of the material, the teacher often points out literary devices, imagery, and occurrences of irony or foreshadowing that Shakespeare himself did not intend. As a result, says the Bard, the effect of the play in question becomes obscured or distorted in the minds of the preadolescent and adolescent students, he asserts.
“By my troth, this wench doth confound and conflate,” observed the greatest writer the English language has ever seen. “Teach she must not, grades seven nor eight.” He cited numerous instances of Kass’s imputation of meaning where none existed, and of completely missing the point.
“Wherefore doth she ignore the intended offense of Rosaline becoming a nun?” he wondered. “Wherefore would she deprive her disciples of the apprehension that the fair Capulet niece conveys to the protagonist that she would sooner remove herself from all men than concede to a coupling with him? Is the intent not clear as a summer’s day?”
“What man or woman of thirteen years would would relish not such a barb?” he continued.
As for Kass’s insistence on reading into Shakespeare’s use of light and dark in contrast to symbolize the love and hate that bring the lovers together and ultimately keep them apart, respectively, the Bard admits nothing of the sort. “What ho! That the brawling be in daytime and he trysts at night, would she read as poesy? Brigandess! Villainess! Impute not what thou imputest, foul teacher-woman! For it be nary more than simple convenience of the plot!”
A similar instance occurred several years ago when Dr. William Lee, a professor of English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, saw Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea as a political allegory of the Jewish struggle for a homeland in the territory of Palestine, foreseeing decades of ultimately Pyrrhic struggle to control the land and the hostile Arabs within and around it. The author, who committed suicide in 1962, made his displeasure known.
The same happened when Herman Melville denounced most of the literary analysis of his Moby Dick, insisting that is was simply a good story of an eccentric sea captain, if somewhat long-winded.
What used to be Phoenix, Arizona, August 4 (AP) – Human civilization ceased to exist this morning (Sunday) after Jon Swarz, 4, of Scottsdale, was not given what he demanded.
While Jon’s mother was preparing a wholesome lunch consisting of homemade broccoli pizza and a side of carrot sticks, the pre-K student requested a chocolate ice cream cone. His mother, Beth, gently refused, reassuring Jon that there would be plenty of time later in the day for a treat, but now was time for lunch.
Unwillling to accept this rebuff, the junior Swarz continued to agitate for the creamy frozen delicacy, proclaiming the he was uninterested in lunch and wanted a chocolate ice cream cone forthwith. His mother set down the carrots she was slicing and threatened to send the young man to his room without lunch if he continued to behave in such an unbecoming manner.
Details are still sketchy on the events that then occurred, but the available evidence indicates that as soon as Jon discovered that his wishes would go unfulfilled, massive earthquakes struck major population centers and volcanic eruptions flooded low-lying regions with deadly hot lava. In this initial apocalyptic wave, approximately 800 million people perished in fear and pain.
Almost immediately afterwards, when Jon was on his way to his room, several asteroids the size of Iowa, with one more of them at least as big as Montana, entered Earth’s atmosphere and impacted at points in the Americas, Africa, Northern Europe, Japan, and eight locations across China. While living things directly in the paths of these interstellar rocks were incinerated even before direct impact, the kinetic energy and atmospheric disturbances wrought by the asteroids resulted in conflagrations that consumed thousands of square miles of woodlands, farms, and residential areas throughout the world. This second episode of destruction claimed an additional three billion lives. Among the victims were Jon’s parents, who failed to foresee the calamity that would be the inevitable result of refusing to honor their son’s wishes.
As the earthquakes and fires continued, the entire world’s nuclear stockpile detonated simultaneously, leveling all remaining cities, melting the polar ice caps, and inundating coastal regions up to fifty miles inland. Radiation poisoning quickly set in among the few surviving humans, condemning them to a brief, miserable time until death claimed them, as well.
Although this is the first time that the human population has been completely wiped out as a result of a preschooler not getting what he wanted, there have been several close calls. In 1980, Melanie Carter, 3, of Montreal, sneaked into the living room and turned on the television set in defiance of her parents’ explicit instructions to go to bed at once. Ms. Carter’s initiative narrowly averted the sun transforming into a red giant and making life on Earth impossible.
Similarly, in approximately 2500 BCE, a deluge of Biblical proportions erased all human life except for one family. That catastrophe occurred when one of that family’s sons was ignored by a parent who was too busy building a wooden boat to properly address little Ham’s request for an extra bit of pigeon steak with olives. Only when that need was finally met did the waters begin to recede in earnest.
Only ten generations later, four cities in what is today the Dead Sea region were annihilated by fire and brimstone when a young woman was refused some salt with her flatbread.
Prospects remain unclear for a reestablishment of human life on Earth, but public opinion seems not to be in favor of such a development, as it would most likely entail another plague of people with an overgrown sense of entitlement.