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Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the News: February 27, 2011

The Academy Awards are on tonight, but more importantly...

M Night Shyamalan's Last Airbender wins Razzie Awards

"M Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender has blown away all competition at the Razzies - Hollywood's Oscar spoof mocking the year's worst performances.

The film won five Golden Raspberry Awards - including worst director for Shyamalan - in a light-hearted ceremony on the eve of Sunday's Oscars.

Ashton Kutcher snatched worst actor for Valentine's Day; his co-star Jessica Alba won worst supporting actress.

More than $9 million in opium seized at JFK airport
First a submarine, now porcelain cats... these drug distributors are genius!

"Authorities in New York seized more than $9 million worth of opium hidden inside a shipment of porcelain figurines last month at John F. Kennedy International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday.

The seizure happened on January 21, the agency said in a press release.

More than 30 porcelain cats were discovered in a shipment from Thailand, labeled "plastic samples" and despite an X-ray scan that yielded nothing suspicious, authorities chose to open the cargo and crack one of the figurines open, according to John Saleh, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

During the inspection, authorities discovered a total of 205 pounds of a brown, tar-like substance that turned out to be raw opium, mostly used to make heroin, Saleh said. The agency estimated the value of the opium at more than $9 million.

Saleh couldn't comment on the exact source of the package but did say it was intended for an address in the greater New York area.

Newspapers, GOP call for congressman to resign
Come on, man! There are only a few Asians in public office and you're hurting our chances for more!

"A photo of Rep. David Wu wearing a tiger costume and other unusual revelations about his mental health are increasing pressure on the seven-term Oregon Democrat to step down.

But the lawmaker says he's not quitting even as an editorial in one of the state's largest newspapers and the state Republican chairman called for his resignation.

Wu said this week that it was "unprofessional and inappropriate" to send pictures of himself wearing a tiger costume to staff members while he was in the middle of a heated campaign last year. He also acknowledged taking two tablets of a pain killer that were given to him by an unnamed campaign donor.

"This was the only time that this has ever happened," the congressman said in a statement of the pain killer episode. "I recognize that my action showed poor judgment at the time, and I sincerely regret having put my staff in a difficult position."

Seven staff members resigned after the campaign following bizarre behavior that concerned his team at the end of the 2010 campaign. The Oregonian also reported that Wu's campaign was fined by state officials for failing to carry workers compensation
(via Barstool)


Allen Stanford files $7.2bn countersuit
This picture makes him look nuts...

(Once again, pretty sure it's the mustache)

"Texan billionaire Allen Stanford has filed a countersuit against US prosecutors, accusing them of depriving him of his constitutional rights.

The lawsuit claims prosecutors "undertook illegal tactics" in their investigation of Mr Stanford's alleged pyramid scheme that they claim defrauded investors of $7bn (£4.3bn).

Mr Stanford is seeking $7.2bn in damages from the SEC and FBI.

He has pleaded not guilty to fraud, conspiracy and obstruction.

Last month, a US federal judge ruled that Mr Stanford was unfit to stand trial.

District Judge David Hittner ruled that he did not have the mental capacity to assist his lawyers.

Mr Stanford, 60, is accused of running a scheme that persuaded investors to buy certificates of deposit from Stanford International Bank, located in Antigua. He has been in custody since June 2009.

I really don't understand, how can he file a countersuit if he doesn't have the mental capacity to stand trial for his own lawsuit?

John Dominic Crossan's 'blasphemous' portrait of Jesus

"One of his first fan letters came from someone who declared:

"If Hell were not already created, it should be invented just for you."

Other critics have called him "demonic," "blasphemous" and a "schmuck."

When John Dominic Crossan was a teenager in Ireland, he dreamed of becoming a missionary priest. But the message he's spreading about Jesus today isn't the kind that would endear him to many church leaders.

Crossan says Jesus was an exploited "peasant with an attitude" who didn't perform many miracles, physically rise from the dead or die as punishment for humanity's sins.

Jesus was extraordinary because of how he lived, not died, says Crossan, one of the world's top scholars on the "historical Jesus," a field in which academics use historical evidence to reconstruct Jesus in his first-century setting.

"In another time, Crossan's views would have been confined to scholarly journals. But he and his best-selling books, including the recent "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography," have changed how biblical scholars operate.

Crossan believes the public should be exposed to even the most divisive debates that scholars have had about Jesus and the Bible. He co-founded the Jesus Seminar, a controversial group of scholars who hold public forums that cast doubt on the authenticity of many sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus.

Breast milk ice cream goes on sale in Covent Garden
Anyone else surprised this didn't happen in the US first?

"A restaurant in London's Covent Garden is serving a new range of ice cream, made with breast milk.

The dessert, called Baby Gaga, is churned with donations from London mother Victoria Hiley, and served with a rusk and an optional shot of Calpol or Bonjela.

Mrs Hiley, 35, said if adults realised how tasty breast milk was more new mothers would be encouraged to breastfeed.

Each serving of Baby Gaga at Icecreamists costs £14.

Mrs Hiley's donation was expressed on site and pasteurised before being churned with Madagascan vanilla pods and lemon zest.

National Broadband Map Goes Live, Shows Vast Swathes of Unconnected Country
Very glad I live in the Northeast

"As promised, the Commerce Department's National Broadband Map went live yesterday, showing the various types and speeds of internet connections all across the country. It's meant to function both as a tool for consumers and businesses, and as a wakeup call to the country--it's pretty shocking to see just how much of the country lacks high-speed broadband.

The map cost about $200 million (provided by the National Recovery Act of 2009), and offers a database of over 25 million documents showing the type, speed, provider, and location of broadband service. The most obvious way to use the map is simply to search for an address or zip code, and then narrow down results by type of broadband. Then you can see the maximum advertised speed of broadband, if it's available, which theoretically could be of use to businesses (they might not want to move to a location without reliable internet access) and consumers (ditto).

It also throws into sharp relief the fact that much of the country lacks broadband. Major population centers, like the Northeast Corridor, Chicagoland, Bay Area, Pacific Northwest, and Los Angeles-San Diego are blanketed, but much of the west, and even much of the southeast, are spotty at best. According to a survey released alongside the map (which was conducted last June), 68% of American households now have broadband access, up from 63.5% last year, but that leaves a pretty significant number out. This map may help the national broadband effort to spread the gospel of high-speed to more of the country.

Democrats, don't hide from democracy
I completely agree with this op-ed, but it's a little depressing that this has to be said at all.

Milk for crybabies? (Pic: YOUworkforUS)

"Democratic state legislators have begun fleeing their respective capitals as if the plague has broken out. Perhaps they see it that way. Republicanism has gone viral, and it seems that no state is safe, no matter how unionized.

But this plague is called democracy, and the cure is worse than the disease.

In Wisconsin and now Indiana, Republican-dominated legislatures have proposed laws to reduce the power of the unions. Unable to block the bills, Democratic legislators have skedaddled in a desperate gambit to deny Republicans the minimum quorums required to vote.

The catch-me-if-you-can tactic was pioneered by Texas Democrats in 2003; they fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico in a vain attempt to block Republican efforts to redistrict the state. Republicans asked the FBI to arrest the fugitive Democrats. Hilarity ensued. Eventually, the wayward Democrats returned, and the Republicans concluded their redistricting.

"In short, obstructionism may provide short-term gains to one party or another, but it tends to breed even more obstructionism. Then we all lose.

Personally, I oppose the anti-union bills. I urge every legislator in Wisconsin and Indiana to vote against them, and I support the many protestors and union members who have organized to fight them.

But the Republicans won the elections in Wisconsin and Indiana. If they have the votes to pass the bills, that is their prerogative.

If the Democrats hope to defeat these bills or repeal them in the future, they need to take their case to the voters and win elections in 2012. That's how democracy works.

Book bound in human skin goes on display in Devon
Hannibal would be intrigued.

"When Devon murderer George Cudmore was sentenced to hang at the Lent Assizes in 1830, he knew that part of his sentence was that his dead body would be taken to an Exeter hospital to be dissected.

What he probably was not aware of was that a chunk of his skin would eventually be flayed, tanned and used to cover an 1852 copy of The Poetical Works of John Milton.

The book is now housed at the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter.

It will go on show to the public for the first time on 26 February as part of Devon's annual Local History Day.

An inscription in the front of the book states whose skin it is and his crime.

Cudmore, a ratcatcher from Roborough, was convicted of killing his wife Grace by poisoning.

He was hanged at the Devon County Gaol - on the site of the current Exeter Prison - on 25 March 1830.

Drunk Guy on the News

(via Barstool)

More seriously, some Middle East news:

Analysis: Why Arab Spring could be al Qaeda's fall
One can hope...

"When historians in future years grapple with the significance of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt 10 days ago, coming as it did in the wake of the "Jasmine" January 14 Revolution in Tunisia, they may judge it not only as a seismic event, shattering and renewing the Arab political order, but also the key watershed moment in confronting the global al Qaeda threat.

The political, economic, and cultural stagnation that al Qaeda fed off for more than two decades has been replaced by the fastest moving change the region has ever witnessed, the most promising of Arab Springs.

The burgeoning democracy movement across the Middle East appears to have caught al Qaeda off guard and threatens to reduce the terrorist group to irrelevance.

"If you have freedom, al Qaeda will go away," said Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist.

The revolution spreads to Oman:
Oman clashes: Two killed during protests in Gulf state

"Two people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in the Gulf state of Oman, witnesses and officials said.

Hundreds had gathered for a second day in the industrial city of Sohar to call for political reforms.

At least five people were said to have been wounded when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.

Until now, Oman had mostly been spared the unrest which has affected other Arab states in recent months.

Demonstrations are also taking place in the southern town of Salalah, according to Reuters news agency.

And the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final launch last Thursday. (Atlantis and Endeavor are scheduled to make their final missions later this year, marking the end of the Space Shuttle program).

Here are some pictures to mark the occasion:

(Business Insider, be sure to follow the link and check out more!)

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