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Archive for December 2013

Revelers Celebrate End of End-Of-Year Charity Solicitations

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year-endTel Aviv, Israel (AP) – As 2014 approaches, people across the world are beginning to express their joy at having gotten through another grueling holiday season of organizations asking them for money.

Throughout November and December, inboxes filled daily with pleas from alma maters, food banks, houses of worship, cultural institutions, political organizations, shelters for women, orphanages, community activists, environmental movements, and myriad other groups touting their tax-exempt status. Recipients were urged to take advantage of the possible deduction from their Adjusted Gross Income on their 2013 income tax return if they “act[ed] now” while there was “still time.”

Pedestrians found themselves with even more people than usual requesting cash donations, as Salvation Army and other volunteers jostled with the regular beggars vying for a piece of the street-level philanthropic pie. Even those passers by who did manage to feign empty pockets or to find a walking route that avoided the solicitors grew more and more irked as the season progressed. The cumulative guilt of either giving nothing – or knowing that what they had given would never be enough – fomented a level of frustration and irritation that came to a blessedly abrupt end tonight.

In this Israeli city, where celebrations of the new year itself are muted, owing to a longstanding perception of the day as uncomfortably non-Jewish, partygoers will nevertheless raise a glass to the newfound freedom from the incessant requests for assistance. “We’re not really into a no-holds-barred shindig,” explained hotel manager Kobi Weiss, whose establishment will host a low-key champagne event in honor of the new year, “especially since most people have to work as usual on Wednesday.” But, he explained, the relief of finally getting through all that pestering is something that everyone present will share.

“It’s been unusually awkward this year,” said Revital Ben-Aharon, a loan officer at a local bank. “My sister started working for a non-profit in March, and every other Facebook status of hers involves a not-so-subtle attempt to attract donations.” It became so uncomfortable, said Ms. Ben-Aharon, that she took to avoiding her sister’s phone calls and ignoring her text messages entirely for the last two weeks.

At press time, celebrants were already filling with anxiety over hearing about nothing but new year’s resolutions for the next few weeks.

Written by Thag

December 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm

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Israeli Gov’t Regrets Hanging Eichmann; ‘Could Have Freed Him Today’

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220px-Eichmann,_AdolfJerusalem (AP) – A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today lamented Israel’s execution of Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann in 1962, noting that the architect of the Final Solution could have been released with other killers of Jews this evening.

26 Palestinians imprisoned for the murders of Israelis in terrorism attacks over the last several decades are scheduled to be freed as part of an agreement with the Palestinians earlier this year. Eichmann managed the sprawling Nazi bureaucracy that resulted in the extermination of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews during the Second World War. He was kidnapped by Mossad agents in 1961 and spirited to Israel, where he was tried, convicted of war crimes, and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out the following year.

Mark Regev, the spokesman, told reporters that the decision to release the convicted murderers was a difficult one, primarily because even taken together, the number of murder victims that Israel has now betrayed will number only in the dozens, and the Netanyahu government currently lacks a prisoner of the caliber of Eichmann, responsible for the deaths of millions.  He said the government had considered the feasibility of a military or Mossad operation to kidnap and then release someone with a more impressive number of Jewish victims, but the logistics and cost of such an operation were deemed prohibitive. Candidates for such an operation were said to include Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran.

In the end, explained Regev, the Likud-run government could only go so far in cheapening the memory of the dead and depositing a massive political bowel movement on their graves while thumbing its nose at the families of those murdered.

MK Zahava Gal-On of the Meretz party, currently sitting in the opposition, expressed reluctant support for the move, saying it represented only a small step in the right direction. Ideally, she said, Israel should have absolved the convicts of their crimes concurrent with freeing them, to demonstrate more effectively that killing Jews is nothing to be ashamed of. “But that can always be accomplished later, and can be made part of the Knesset’s legislative goals for the upcoming Parliamentary session,” she noted.

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December 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

After Rocket Fire, Israel Retaliates Harshly Against Trees, Rocks

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Lebanon rocket

One of the Lebanese rockets that fell short and landed short of Israel, relieving the IDF of the burden of having to target that bunch of shrubs with artillery in response.

Kiryat Shmonah, Israel, December 29 (AP) – One of five rockets fired from Lebanon hit near this northern Israeli town today, and the IDF responded fiercely with dozens of artillery shells aimed at empty fields, rocky hillsides, and unpopulated cedar groves.

The impressive display of deterrence came amid heightened tensions along the border, where an Israeli soldier was killed by a Lebanese sniper earlier this month. Determined to demonstrate that any such aggression would be met by a firm, uncompromising answer, Israel boldly informed the UN force patrolling the border that it would not tolerate any such violations of sovereignty. The latest violence, which represents a significant escalation, have forced the IDF to showcase the lethality that further provocation would beget, and they did so by taking pains to minimize the lethality of the encounter.

“Israel has no interest in escalation of the situation,” said IDF spokesman Neville Chamberlain. “Our aim here is to demonstrate to Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army that violence against Israel or Israelis will be met with uncompromising avoidance of consequences that actually convey our seriousness.” He added that the units patrolling the border have been equipped with extra white flags in case any fighting breaks out.

The border has been more or less quiet since 2006, when Israel and Hezbollah fought to a standstill. Since then the Israel Defense Forces have studiously sought to prevent a recurrence, lest they be drawn into a conflict for which they have been trained and armed. During that conflict, Israel repeatedly tried to draw attention to the contrast between its own strategy and that of its adversary, pointing out that whereas Hezbollah had no compunction about aiming for civilian targets with its missiles, the Israeli military shied away from hitting targets that might contain actual human beings.

That conservative approach, says military analyst Dunkirk Beech, aims to avoid the sticky question of civilian casualties. Israel attracts opprobrium for any collateral damage, however unintentional, while its opponents openly target noncombatants while suffering no international consequences, diplomatic or otherwise. Accordingly, says Beech, the IDF has evolved a policy of harsh verbal retaliation for any threat to Israelis, coupled with the threat of even louder warnings. If that two-step deterrent system fails to forestall escalation, the Israeli military has no compunctions about terminating inanimate objects beyond the border with extreme prejudice.

A similar approach has characterized Israeli police activity in recent months, during which a war among organized crime syndicates has claimed the lives of criminals, bystanders, and law enforcement officials up and down Israel’s coastal towns and cities. In response to car bombs, drive-by shootings, and intimidation of policemen and prosecutors, police officials have made grand pronouncements about bringing the perpetrators to justice, while not actually having anything to show for their investigative work. As a result, suspects either avoid arrest entirely or are released for lack of evidence.

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December 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Study Confirms You’re Wasting Time Right Now

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December 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

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Nigerian Prince With Fortune To Give Away Laments Impostors

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Nigerian cookies

Lagos, Nigeria (AP) – Mgumbe Uwa, a member of the deposed Nigerian royal family, has found himself increasingly frustrated in attempts to give away millions of dollars to total strangers, as part of an effort to recover the royal fortune.

To Mr. Uwa’s amazement, there have been no takers on his offer of largess.

“I would gladly give anyone TEN MILLION DOLLARS,” said a visibly confused Uwa. “How about you?” he asked a reporter. “Can I give you TEN MILLION DOLLARS?”

The prince, whose family was deposed in a bloody coup, remains in hiding and cannot openly access the tens of millions of dollars in his bank accounts. He planned to convince someone overseas to accept a transfer into their account, figuring he could then spirit the money out of the country. But the plan hit an unexpected snag – complete and utter disinterest from all potential recipients of the money.

“I just can’t understand it,” said the baffled Uwa. “Any one of the people whom I SPECIALLY SELECTED for their TRUSTWORTHINESS could GET RICH QUICK, if they would only ACT IMMEDIATELY IN COMPLETE CONFIDENCE. But nothing.”

“And here I am, knowing that the entire FORTUNE of my late father, his EXCELLENCY KING UWA IV, is just sitting there in that SECRET TAX-FREE account. I feel like such an idiot.”

Mr. Uwa began sending out discreet mailings to everyday Americans and Europeans, hoping to locate someone willing to accept the cash into their account, and to keep a sizable cut of the money. Assuming that the country’s secret police would be unlikely to examine bank records of ordinary people, as opposed to prominent individuals with ties to the old regime, he set out to give away a veritable windfall – so far, without success.

Despite the setbacks, Mr. Uwa remained hopeful, even expanding his efforts to include other assets.

“I recently had the GOOD FORTUNE to have my numbers come up in the UK LOTTO. Foreign nationals are not eligible, so in exchange for a small advance payment, I am happy to bequeath a SUBSTANTIAL SHARE of this GREAT WEALTH to somebody. Anybody.”

Written by Thag

December 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Texas To Offer Gluten-Free Lethal Injections

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Texas sealAustin, TX (AP) – The Lone Star State was the first US state to perform an execution by lethal injection, and aims to retain its leadership in the administration of the death penalty by offering health-conscious alternatives for Death Row convicts. The certified gluten-free alternative will be made available for all executions taking place after July 2014.

Governor Rick Perry signed the new legislation into law on Wednesday, touting it as an important demonstration of his administration’s dedication to balancing an uncompromising attitude toward crime with a compassion for the rights and needs of those accused, a continuation of his predecessor George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” policy.

Currently, 32 states practice capital punishment, and each of them uses lethal injection, though some also offer alternative methods such as hanging or firing squad. Texas has the largest number of convicts on Death Row among all states, and the state accounts for 40% of all executions in the United States. It was only natural, says Perry, that Texas should leverage its status as the capital punishment leader to institute a more enlightened, healthful method of lethal injection, one that would not put such a strain on the digestive system.

“More and more people are showing sensitivity or allergies to gluten, unfortunately,” acknowledged Perry, “and our current methods do not adequately account for those awaiting execution who nevertheless still benefit from the right to have the state take their dietary needs into account.” The new bill, he promised, will make a gluten-free chemical or combination of chemicals available to executioners upon the request of the inmate. He pointed out that Texas is the first, and for now the only, state that shows concern for convicts’ dietary sensibilities as it kills them, and he hopes other states follow Texas’s lead in providing healtheir options for those executed.

Lethal injection methods vary among the states, but the most common method involves a three-drug combination that anesthetizes, paralyzes, and stops the heartbeat of the convict. Various degrees of controversy surround some of the drugs, as do difficulties in securing an adequate supply of the necessary chemicals. The new law does not specify what drugs will be procured or synthesized for the gluten-free executions, nor how the state will ensure that the chemicals will be certified as gluten-free. Given some recent shortages of some of the drugs commonly used for lethal injections, it remains unclear how Texas will fare in having a steady supply on hand, especially if the state is to maintain its position as the most prolific performer of capital punishment.

Governor Perry, however, remains confident that the law will be carried out with little trouble. “We had some of the same difficulties when we expanded the available menu for a prisoner’s last meal back in 1985,” he recalled. “People doubted we’d be able to secure both beef AND turkey. Well, we had no problem then.”

Currently, a prisoner’s last meal in Texas automatically comes with wheat rolls, and cake for dessert.

Written by Thag

December 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Austrians Running Out Of Ways To Fake Contrition Over Nazi Past

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250px-MauthausenCrematorium

Crematorium ovens at Mauthausen

Vienna (AP) – When the Vienna Philharmonic posthumously stripped several Nazis of honors it had conferred upon them in the 1940s, members of the organization’s board wondered both why they hadn’t thought of the idea earlier, and what else they could still do to pretend they regret their complicity in the Holocaust.

The popular perception of the Third Reich coercing a weak Austria into the 1938 Anschluss has long held sway, but remains at odds with the historical record of cheering crowds and enthusiastic Austrian participation in all things Nazi, including the persecution, deportation, and murder of Jews. Unlike Germany, which the world saw as bearing direct responsibility for the Second World War and the Holocaust, Austria was viewed, especially during the Cold War, as forced to do Hitler’s bidding, though Hitler himself was Austrian; he was raised in Linz.

Austrians now worry that as the last remaining Nazi war criminals die off after living in the country unmolested for nearly seven decades, they will lose one of the few remaining vehicles though which to feign horror and remorse: each time the quiet life of a former Nazi official or death camp guard would come to light, Austria would erupt in a predictable chorus of mea culpas; they were shocked, just shocked, that such a monster could be allowed to dwell in their midst.

While Germany – first only West Germany, and then, after reunification in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the eastern part – has never ceased demonstrating recognition of the moral and historical burden it bears, Austria has largely lacked the impetus to engage in any such internal reckoning, and shows no sign of considering any. Austrian claims that Nazism and the Holocaust were essentially German enterprises fell on willing ears as the West sought ways to stem the tide of Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe. The postwar generation of Austrians eagerly promoted the Sound of Music version of history, in which Austria struggled mightily to assert its cultural independence from the yawning maw of Nazi Germany.

The Austrian Ministry of Education is considering a program that would train students in the proper methods of paying lip service to Holocaust commemoration and expiation. Currently, only licensed tour guides – such as those taking foreigners on trips to such locales as the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex – are formally trained to feign remorse that such atrocities could take place on Austrian soil.

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December 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

Insurance Claim: One Magic Staff

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IsisFrom: Beerontep, Chief Sorcerer

To: Royal Insurance Corp.

Subject: Reimbursement for destruction of magical staff by Hebrews (policy no. 3045-223)

To whom it may concern:

On Sunday, 22 June, my magic staff was swallowed by a rival magic staff, wielded by one Aaron, son of Amram, a Hebrew. The incident occurred in the course of fulfilling my regular professional duties, in my capacity as His Divine Majesty Pharaoh’s chief sorcerer.

Two Hebrew provocateurs, Moses and Aaron, the sons of the aforementioned Amram, entered the royal court and made several demands of His Divine Majesty. In doing so they made a demonstration of some supernatural phenomena at their disposal, namely the transformation of a staff into a serpent. As chief sorcerer, my duty compelled me to demonstrate equal mastery of witchcraft, and my associates and I transformed our magical staffs into serpents.

However, the demonstration on the part of these Hebrews did not end with the transformation of the staff, as Aaron swiftly transformed his serpent back into a staff, but in doing so had his serpent-staff swallow the staffs of mine and of my associates’.

It is my understanding that the circumstances of the incident adequately meet the criteria for an ‘Act of God’ as defined in the policy, and as such, request reimbursement for the full value of the staff: 1200 gold coins, as assessed by a representative of your company. The model of the staff in question, an Isis-900, retails at 1000 gold coins, but the staff that was swallowed, in addition to its manifest spiritual power, held tremendous sentimental value to me, as it was a wedding gift from Pharaoh Himself.

I would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, as the Hebrews Moses and Aaron have already demonstrated their intent to continue performing their own magic, and I will need all the necessary equipment to counter their spells. Already they have transformed the Nile waters into blood, which I and my associates have been able to duplicate without recourse to a magic staff, but I fear they will again perform some supernatural feat that will necessitate my use of a potent staff such as the Isis-900. Please process this request forthwith so I may perform my royal duties fully.

Yours,

Beerontep the Sorcerer

Written by Thag

December 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Education Dept.: Not Enough Time Wasted At Parent-Teacher Meetings

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140px-US-DeptOfEducation-Seal.svgWashington, DC (AP) – Responding to an alarming increase in the risk of parents actually having time to accomplish things, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan directed all schools receiving federal funding to allot more time for meetings with teachers.

Technology has allowed American parents to increase their efficiency, maintaining productive communication with associates, supervisors, and employees even while engaged in the mundane tasks of parenting a school-age child. Smart phones and other mobile devices help them stay in contact via text messages and other media even while they sit in a classroom as a teacher or principal drones on in cliché-ridden pronouncements about educational goals and parental involvement.

To combat this development, Duncan had his staff prepare a plan to restore the status quo ante from decades past, when parents had no choice but to sit idle, silently cursing themselves and their fates while being assaulted with hackneyed verbiage. The Taking the Initiative to Make Educational Sessions Unbearable in Conferences or with Kids (TIMESUCK) program makes it mandatory for all teachers to bar the use of mobile devices while parents are assembled for meetings with teachers.

Through TIMESUCK, the Department of Education seeks to keep parents in their rightful place: scrambling, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and as powerless as possible. “The mission of each cabinet department is to maximize the ways in which US citizens and residents are made to feel helpless and manipulated,” Duncan told reporters. “The Department of Education is charged with achieving that end through the school system.”

Traditionally, explained Duncan, the chief vehicle for cultivating and nurturing the persecution of parents has been post-secondary tuition fees and a program jointly sponsored with the CIA to maintain  certain level of drug addiction in middle and high schools. Further support for these initiatives comes form the Department of Health, which has consistently managed to ensure that a disturbing percentage of female high school students become pregnant at least once by their junior years.

However, uneven distribution of income and parental involvement in children’s schooling has meant that while the goals of the Department were being met, even exceeded, in inner cities and areas hit with socioeconomic distress, middle- and upper-class school districts still had unacceptably high levels of parental satisfaction and engagement. TIMESUCK, says educational consultant Hugh Sunavobicz, will make great strides in equalizing the frustrations of parents across the socioeconomic spectrum.

“In recent years, parents of means could insulate themselves from the soul-sucking experience of parent-teacher conferences, but this measure levels the playing field. In many ways, it’s a back-door achievement to further the goals of the Democratic Party, which prides itself on equalizing the opportunities that the economically disadvantaged normally do not enjoy.” In this case, noted Sunavobicz, few resources are necessary to implement the initiative, a point that short-circuits some of the anticipated criticism from conservative quarters.

Republican Senator Mark Rubio confirms that analysis. “The Republican Party does not oppose granting people opportunity, but it must be done judiciously and non-profligately. TIMESUCK seems to answer to both requirements, but only time will tell.” He added that the GOP has consistently supported other measures to keep parental optimism in check, such as a series of wasteful foreign wars, a government that blatantly violated human rights and constitutional protections, and election campaigns that leave no room for hope in the future.

Written by Thag

December 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hamas Unveils Winter Line Of Suicide Bomber Fashions

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suicide BarbieKhan Yunis refugee camp, Gaza Strip (AP) – Times may be tough, but Hamas designers are busy releasing their winter 2014 looks for the suicide-vest-wearing crowd, and the new offerings are to die for. Or in.

Chief Hamas fashion designer Mahmoud A-Zahar has completely revamped the classic martyr look, replacing the traditional bulky vest and its busy, busy pockets of pipe bombs, with explosive plates and improvised shrapnel that put the slim in Muslim. The male models showing off the new offerings prance about the runway, and when they are finished, they head back outside where they get a stylish bullet to the head for homosexual behavior.

“It’s all about the trim and the sleek in this time of austerity,” gushes A-Zahar, referring to the deprivation that Gaza Strip residents undergo because the sassy Hamas refuses to waver from its goal of eliminating as many Israelis as possible by violent means. “Just because we’re death-loving, barbaric fundamentalists, we shouldn’t look fashionable?”

The new vest’s slimness is engineered to help its fashion-forward wearer blend in with infidels, even those far beyond Gaza’s borders. “We can export these to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, you name it,” he said.

A-Zahar had to have the materials for his new vests shipped into the Gaza Strip at great expense, now that Egypt has closed off most of the underground smuggling routes and Israel maintains a naval blockade. Unable to obtain the standard steel ball-bearings that typically serve as the shrapnel in what is essentially a sartorial Claymore mine, he appropriated materials such as screws and nails from critical public works projects.

“The people of Khan Yunis have lived with pitiful sewage systems for the longest time,” he laughed. “Another two years won’t make such a difference. Besides, the European Union will always sponsor a few more containers of raw materials for the poor, poor Gazans.” With an artist’s wave of a hand, he revels in the willingness of foreign governments to underwrite Gaza’s infrastructure, freeing him and his fellow designers to dedicate funds to the stylistically more significant effort of eliminating the Zionist Entity next door.

The fashion endeavors do not end with the suicide bomber vest; A-Zahar’s fellow Hamas designer Ismail Haniyeh oversees a grassroots effort to bring design sensibilities to the people by having them contribute metal pipes and tubing from plumbing, construction, electrical, and other infrastructure projects so they can serve as components of rockets to be aimed at Israeli civilians. “We put the art in artillery,” beamed Haniyeh.

Written by Thag

December 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Storm Leaves East Jerusalem Residents With No Jews To Stone

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Temple Mount snow

East Jerusalem residents attempt to build a Qassam rocket out of snow, to direct at Jews praying nearby.

Sheikh Jarrah Quarter, Jerusalem (AP) – Fuad Abu Hamed, 46, got through the biggest snowstorm in the Levant in a generation by huddling together with his family through power outages in the bitter cold by telling himself the Jewish authorities would surely send along some crews to clear major arteries and fix hazards created by the record snow accumulation, at which point he and his fellow East Jerusalemites could throw stones and bricks at them. But the Jerusalem municipality concentrated its limited resources on plowing and removing downed trees from the much more heavily trafficked roads of the western part of the city, depriving Hamed and his neighbors of the pleasure.

Various news outlets have characterized the Wednesday-Saturday weather system that came south from Siberia variously as the biggest snowstorm since the 1960’s, the 1950’s, or the early years of the twentieth century. It brought snow to the Gaza Strip for the first time in more than twenty years, and to Egypt – notably the Giza pyramid region – for the first time in more than a hundred. But the novelty of the experience dissolved quickly, as the weight of the snow has created hazards and deprived residents of basic services for the last week. While Arab political figures raced to blame Israel directly for causing the bad weather, locals preferred to direct actual physical violence at individual Israelis, but were stymied.

Hamed and his neighbors looked forward to a new opportunity to demonstrate their objections to Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967. But the sheer fierceness of the storm not only forced the ill-prepared Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Electric Company to send its beleaguered crews and equipment elsewhere at first, it also made access to the stones, bricks, and other ready projectiles exceedingly difficult. The few electricians that did venture into East Jerusalem found themselves relatively unimpeded in their work, aside from sporadic snowballs. He vowed to try again with boulders once the snow clears.

The dearth of Jews at whom to direct dangerous thrown objects has frustrated Hamed and his friends, who revel in protesting to the world that Israel discriminates against them in the provision of basic services, all the while harassing and attacking the people that Israel does send to provide those services. “We’ve had to make do with trying to roll snowballs down the hill at soldiers manning the [Qalandia] check point,” he lamented, “but the snowballs never made it halfway down.”

Written by Thag

December 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm

US Academics Vote To Boycott Israel, Jupiter

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ASA ASAASAWashington, DC (AP) The American Studies Association released the results of its membership vote Monday, in which the 5,000 educators adopted a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and of the planet Jupiter.

By a two-thirds margin, the Association approved the largely symbolic measure as a rebuke to Israel over its policies in the Palestinian territories, and to the planet Jupiter for just being there all the time. The event marks a milestone, albeit a modest one, in the campaign to isolate Israel; the Association’s statement on the matter acknowledged the limited impact the measure wold have on its own, as no American institutions have approved any such boycott, and the ASA represents a tiny fraction of US educators. Additionally, unlike Israel, Jupiter has shown remarkably little concern over objections to its behavior, and even a more widespread academic protest movement is unlikely to sway it from its current path.

Boycott supporters expressed pleasure with the decision to boycott Israeli institutions, and puzzlement over the inclusion of Jupiter in the vote. “While we welcome this statement of support for Palestinian rights, especially academic rights, we fear that voting to exclude Jupiter from the academic arena adds a jarring note of mockery,” said BDS Movement founder Mustafa Barghouti. If any planet were worthy of such treatment, he said, it would be Earth, which has shown a disturbing tolerance for Israeli policies by not having a major earthquake in Israel since the mid-nineteenth century.

Israeli academics lamented the vote, saying it would do little to further academic freedom, and smacked of hypocrisy in a world full of more objectionable behaviors by sovereign governments, behaviors that have not prompted any such calls for boycotts of other countries. They also pointed out that Jupiter was being similarly singled out as a target of convenience, as it is merely the closest of four huge planets with similar properties.

Similar votes have taken place in Europe, where earlier this year, Irish academics voted to exclude Israeli professors from their annual volleyball tournament, and where, in 2012, British educators voted on, but ultimately did not adopt, a resolution calling on British academics to stop using computers, most of which are made with Israeli-produced parts. Similarly, the Dutch water company has announced that it will refuse, on principle, to cooperate with analogous institutions on Mars, if exploration of that planet reveals the liquid there.

Written by Thag

December 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Men’s Figure Skating Association To Consider Non-Gay Members

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men skatingColorado Springs, Colorado (AP) – Amid preparations for the upcoming Winter Olympics, the United States Figure Skating Association is weighing an amendment to its membership eligibility guidelines that would remove the requirement for male figure skaters to be homosexual.

The move comes against the backdrop of tensions surrounding the treatment of gays in Russia, where the Olympiad is to be held. USFSA President Patricia St. Peter said in an interview that the change to the eligibility requirements would provide US skaters with the plausible deniability of belonging to such a persecuted group, an association likely to exacerbate tensions with the local populace and government. Homosexuality is considered illegal in Russia.

She acknowledged, however, that the move is largely symbolic, as she is aware of few, if any, non-homosexual men capable of competing in figure skating at an Olympic level.

The USFSA measure, if approved, would put the Association in the company of several other trade groups that, in the interest of diversity, have made efforts to attract heterosexual men into their ranks. Most recently, the Hairstylists’ Organization – Men’s Order (HOMO), an umbrella group of salon owners and employees, issued a statement in July welcoming its first non-closeted heterosexual member. Last May, the Fashion Artists’ Group (FAG) put out a call for applications from non-gay men. Both HOMO and FAG spokespersons declined to provide the specific numbers of successful applicants.

No such requirement exists for the male half of pair ice skating; in fact the annals of figure skating are full of torrid love affairs between the halves of such performing couples. Nor are ice dancing couples required to maintain one orientation or another, or even to avoid complicated associations with primal cultural taboos – in fact a prominent ice dancing team in the early 1990’s included a French brother and sister, and the nature of the ice dancing routines necessitates gazing longingly into each other’s eyes; the sight of a brother and sister doing so enabled audiences to experience an awkwardness far beyond anything related to sexual orientation.

The US Men’s Weightlifting Team gave a supportive grunt.

Written by Thag

December 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Mandela Funeral Interpreter Defends Self: ‘Glumly Bedraggled Pancake’

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Jantjie

“Marlboro asthma solar plexus itch.”

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.”

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December 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Sesame Street Donates Big Bird To Feed African Children

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Big BirdNew 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.

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December 11, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Assad Unimpressed By Iraq Body Count

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Syria flagDamascus, 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.”

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December 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Study: Apparently, Cookie Dough Can Be Baked Before Eating

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NantucketCambridge, MA (AP) – Food scientists at Harvard University shocked the culinary world this week when they released research results suggesting that cookie dough could be eaten even after baking it. They said, however, that this should is no way be construed as a recommended method of preparation.

A team of physicists and chemists subjected tablespoonfuls of cookie dough to temperatures of 375° F (190°C) for up to 15 minutes at a time and reported on the outcome. The scientists discovered that although the baking time altered the consistency, shape, and color of the dough, it remained edible, even tasty. The team intends to continue extensively researching this phenomenon, and scientists at many other institutions have expressed their own intention to attempt to replicate the research as soon and as frequently as possible.

Dr. Nestle Toll-House of Harvard and his fellow researchers used a standard formula to prepare cookie dough, a popular snack food, dessert item, or main course, depending on one’s mood. They combined butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, salt, baking soda, flour, and chocolate chips in a specialized piece of laboratory equipment. Whereas at this point traditional procedure would call the dish complete, Dr. Toll-House’s team had decided to perform a “baking” procedure, which until now has been used on cookie dough only in certain obscure circles.

They obtained flat sheets of aluminum and evenly spaced lumps of the dough several inches apart, and placed the sheets in a preheated oven. After several minutes the lumps of dough could be seen to melt somewhat, and after about 10, their final shapes had stabilized. According to the report, when the sheets were removed from the oven, the cookie dough lumps were crisp, with slight browning, and the chocolate chips were soft enough to leave streaks on the lips, cheeks, and chin.

The study’s publication prompted a harsh response from proponents of traditional methods. “It’s a shame Harvard wasted precious ingredients and power just to destroy perfectly good cookie dough,” said Piya Mess, Professor of Gynecology at Yale. Dr. Theo Bromine of Texas A & M concurred: “…Why…why would you do that?”

Others, however, have not been as swift in their judgment. “We have seen the study and do not question its scientific integrity. We do, however, reserve judgment on the conclusions until we have tasted, er, seen enough cumulative evidence from similar studies that support them,” read a statement from the Food Science Institute of America, based in Atlanta.

“This method represents a potential radical shift in kitchen behavior,” noted Dr. Ginger Snaap of Johns Hopkins University, a chemist who was not involved in the study. “Currently there are few practical applications for this theoretical knowledge, since cookie dough has a half-life of six seconds, meaning it disappears completely within a few minutes in the presence of humans. But this study means that a cook who wishes to prepare a tremendous quantity, perhaps in anticipation of close friends stopping by later, might be able to ‘bake’ lumps of the dough to make it easier to store.” She cautioned that the quantity that would need to be prepared to ensure its survival would far surpass the capacity of most domestic kitchens.

Dr. Toll-House has ambitions to explore what happens when the baked cookie dough is given a chance to cool to room temperature before it is eaten, but acknowledges that such data would be merely theoretical.

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December 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Not Attending Mandela’s Funeral: Queen Elizabeth, Dalai Lama, Hitler

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Another public figure conspicuously absent from Mandela's funeral, despite their closeness.

Another public figure conspicuously absent from Mandela’s funeral, despite their closeness.

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 »

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December 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

God Admits Creation Of Celery A Joke

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celery cross-sectionJerusalem (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 »

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December 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm

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Jews Unsure Why Everyone Else Still Looking Forward to ‘Holidays’

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A rerun from last year, but still appropriate.

Mightier Than The Pen

‘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. “It’s like the two-month buildup isn’t enough, and half the world refuses to accept that Hanukkah has come and gone. Can we just get on with normal life now?”

Borofsky’s husband Eli, 47, echoes her confusion. “There’s a lot about people I don’t understand, but this one has me completely perplexed,” he says with a shake of the head. “I can handle stores marking Hanukkah with all those pagan trees and poinsettias – I mean, they can’t be expected to know all the details about a minor Jewish holiday…

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December 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

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Ornithologists: Doves Don’t Cry; Prince An Idiot

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When Doves CryLos 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 »

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December 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Westboro Baptist Church Starts Picketing Self; ‘Bunch of Hateful Fags’

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Fred_Phelps_on_his_pulpitTopeka, 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 »

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December 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm

France: Arafat Not Poisoned, Franco Still Dead, Earth Still Orbits Sun

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225px-ArafatEconomicForumParis, 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 »

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December 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Lords-A-Leaping Shortage Sparks Holiday Shopping Scare

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Sith lords a leapingNew 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 »

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December 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm