Archive for the ‘International’ Category

mrpooThe United Nation’s appears to be addressing a few matters other than Crimea. The Children’s Fund of UNICEF has launched its campaign Poo-to-Loo featuring Mr. Poo, a singing pile of human feces for reviewing in India. The video is below if you have finished your breakfast.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Factory_in_China220px-Dszpics1Various countries, including the United States, have been choking under China’s air pollution which is circling the globe. While China has steadily diminished the health of its own people with a disastrous priority on production at any cost, it is now affecting not just the pollution levels of other countries but, according to a new report, weather in the United States. New data released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese pollution is altering weather patterns in North America and causing the recently intense weather patterns from cyclones, heavy rains, and other erratic weather events.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

1369987959_USAIDOur government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people. Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Islam for Journalistspintakl Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has written a controversial guide for journalists on how to cover stories without insulting Muslims. “Islam for Journalists” is an effort to educate reporters on the sensitivities of Muslims to avoid triggering protests or violence. Pintak writes that “Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen . . . can be just as lethal.” That line captures the controversy because it seems to suggest that reporters are a cause of violence when they fail to adhere to the demand of religious values or orthodoxy in their publications.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

On Sunday morning, October 12, 2012, Felix Baumgartner climbed into the gondola of a gigantic helium balloon. The balloon carried him to 128,100 feet (39,045 meters, or 24.26 miles) altitude. Then he opened the door and stepped out.

This jump made him the highest skydiver ever, breaking the record set by his mentor, Joe Kittinger, in 1960. During his free fall through the thin outer layers of the atmosphere, Felix reached a speed of Mach 1.25, making him the first person ever to exceed the speed of sound without equipment.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

 

Well, will miracles never cease? In a church known for compelling confession from its followers, a remarkable one from its chief advocate came across the wires on Friday. That’s right, after decades of lying, obfuscating, blocking, destroying evidence and covering up in the most un-Christian way, Pope Francis has done what many Catholics hoped his predecessors would have done years ago — apologize AND beg forgiveness. Oh, lots of Popes apologize but it’s always with a condition … a term … a little euphemism about one bad apple not spoiling the great work of the barrel, or that the church’s pedophile problem isn’t really any worse than anybody else’s. (Really, every church has a decades old issue of unmarried priests molesting little boys and girls on an institutional level?) Or that it’s just American culture fueling the problem. (Damn justice seekers reading those beatitudes so literally!)

(more…)

Read Full Post »

article-2601346-1CFD0D8E00000578-461_634x457As many have been discussing, the rampant crime in Brazil has led many to avoid the country as tourists and many others to criticize the selection of Rio de Janeiro for the next summer Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and other huge venues. The local media was covering the growing crime wave in interviewing this woman . . . who was promptly mugged on television as if to bring home the point.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-NolimetangerecorregioIf you recall, there was a bit of a dust up 18 months ago when Harvard Professor Karen L. King released the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” that detailed the contents of the text of an ancient Egyptian papyrus referring to Jesus being married. A Vatican newspaper and other experts denounced it as a forgery but a new article in the respected Harvard Theological Review says that there is no evidence of a forgery after the application of various tests. King believes it was part of a debate over the role of women among early Christians.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

poison_sign_lWe have long discussed the plight of young girls in Muslim nations who have been handed over as child brides in arranged marriages. Wasila Umaru, 14, however, decided not to go quietly into a marriage with a 35-year-old man. She made a meal for the groom and three friends and poisoned them all to death.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Burger_King_(1955-1968)225px-Vladimir_Putin_official_portraitMcDonald’s recently pulled out of the Crimea after the takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula by Vladimir Putin. While Putin’s authoritarian move did not appear to appeal to McDonald’s, it is only fitting that Burger King would be attracted to the imperial tendencies of Putin. The chain has announced that it will fill the void and expand into the Crimea.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Airplane_seat_belt_1getbild.phpThere was an extraordinary moment on a Swedish flight this week taking off from Frösön airport in northern Sweden. The government was deporting Ghader Ghalamere back to his native Iran. A man on the flight stood up to tell the passengers about the deportation and told them not to fasten their seat belts to stop the flight. The passengers did precisely that and the flight could not take off in an extraordinary act of peaceful protest.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-Michael_Hayden,_CIA_official_portrait225px-dianne_feinstein_official_senate_photoFormer CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has long been the face and voice of the growing security state within the United States. While many of his representations have been challenged, he continues (like Dick Cheney) to create his own reality to justify powers viewed as authoritarian and unlawful. Now, with the approaching release of a comprehensive report on the torture program, Hayden is out in the press denying the findings of the report that torture did not result in any meaningful new intelligence and that the CIA tortured people who were already cooperating with conventional (and legal) interrogations. Hayden took to the airways to champion torture by attacking the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Cal.) and said that she was just being “emotional” and should not be involved in such a serious debate.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-thumbnailThe politics over illegal immigration has radically changed as both parties see the issue as key to attracting the hispanic vote in the next election. A measure of that change was evident on Sunday when Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said Sunday that many who illegally come to the United States do so out of an “act of love” for their families while Democrats are pushing to stopping deportations all together.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

150px-Bare_Faced_Messiah_UK_paperback_coverThere is an interesting story about this month that shows the success of the Church of Scientology in pursuing its signature litigation abuse by hitting critics with lawsuits and injunction motions. One of the chief targets of Scientology lawyers has been “Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard,” a British book that has been hounded by the Church in an alleged attempt to keep it out of the United States. If that was the motivation, it worked for 27 years. However, that book has now been published in print this month in the United States and joins “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright as a “new” account of the life and controversies surrounding Hubbard’s life and creation of his own religion.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-GoogleStreetViewCar_Subaru_Impreza_at_Google_CampusWe have been following stories of how European courts have been hammering Internet companies in stripping posters of anonymity and limiting speech (here and here). Now, Google has been hit again with a major fine of $1.4 million for failing to have cars that are readily identifiable in its Street View program in Italy. Italians complained that they were not given sufficient notice to get out of the way to avoid being filmed.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

1297543871302_ORIGINALIsrael’s Second Authority for Television and Radio has banned the Hoodies commercial below as containing “too many sexual insinuations.” The commercial shows a supermodel with Red Orbach, a famous puppet character, in bed with not so veiled references to puppet-human relations. It raises again the ongoing controversy over censorship in commercials to protect younger or more sensitive viewers.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-Tony_Abbott_-_2010220px-Daintree_RainforestWe have been discussing the horrific rollback of environmental protections in Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Now, Abbott’s government and industry allies are pushing for a change in competition laws to ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

thumb_at_computer_silloetteEngland flagI must be missing something. English prosecutors are heralding the sentencing of Mohammed Khalid Jamil as a “landmark case” in their campaign against computer fraud. Jamil ran an international conspiracy to defraud people of millions in a Microsoft scam. However, he received just a four-month sentence and that sentence was promptly suspended. As for the fine, he was told to pay £5,665. How exactly is that a landmark?

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-Jonathan_Pollard660px-flag_of_israelsvgThe Obama Administration is reportedly close to an extraordinary deal to get Israel back to the negotiations table: it is going to release Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard. One could question why Israel needs any inducement to negotiate with the Palestinians for its own peace and more importantly why the U.S. is willing to free spies to get two other governments to negotiate. Notably, for years, Israel denied that Pollard was their spy — considered by many as compounding the dishonesty of spying on your closest ally. It was not until 1999 – over ten years later — that Israel admitted to the U.S. that he was their spy and that, while the U.S. was giving (and continued to give) billions in aid to Israel, it was maintaining spies in our government. Pollard’s release is rumored to be part of a release of prisoners from Israeli prisons to jump start a new round of negotiations.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-MRE_20071124As the United States continues to grapple with openly corrupt officials and businesses in Afghanistan and Iraq who have stolen billions in aid, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian system appears eager to outdo their counterparts. The poster boy of Ukrainian corruption is Vladimir Belonog who has been openly selling meals ready to eat (MREs) that were shipping only days before to the country to support its besieged military. Belonog is selling the MREs with the U.S. markings still on them and the warning “U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful.” What is most remarkable is that he has not been arrested after selling the aid in plain view of the government. Diplomats and experts have described Ukraine under Presidents Kuchma and Yushchenko as a virtual kleptocracy, or government of thieves.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

CIAsenate_large_sealWe previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svgWhile the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-A-ZubovIt is not unknown for medical researchers in history to make themselves a test subject to avoid endangering others in their experimental treatments or medicines. Russian history professor Andrei Zubov took the same approach recently with his own field. As with many intellectuals in Russia, Zubov was convinced that Vladimir Putin has long worked to reestablish a dictatorship in Russia. He decided to put this theory to the test by writing an article comparing Putin to Hitler. The experiment was successful in a curious way. Zubov was immediately fired for the “immoral act” to criticizing the supreme leader.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Screenshot Youtube

Screenshot Youtube

The viewers of The Voice (Italy) were wowed last week with the appearance of Sister Cristina Scuccia who sang “No One” by Alicia Keys. Her amazing performance was met by chants of “So-rella! So-rella!” (Sister, Sister) by the audience which gave her a standing ovation. The video is below.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

On the YouTube page that includes the following video, political cartoonist Mark Fiore said that it has been “amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover.” He said that when no one was watching what they were doing, “the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views.” He added that since many people have become aware of and are “appalled” by Uganda’s new anti-gay law—which could mean life imprisonment for homosexuals—“the ‘evangelical’ right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries, is a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts. Lively is a controversial evangelical pastor known for having a homophobic agenda. He “specializes in stirring up anti-gay feeling around the globe.” When he was a young man, Lively said he had a “live and let live” attitude toward gays. Once a liberal, he admits that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict until he “got saved” in 1986. He says that since then his “focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality.”

Jack Rodolico (Latitude News) says that after coming to Christ, Lively began to view social issues “from God’s perspective”—and his “faith began to fuel the fire of his activism.” According to a report in the National Journal, “Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause.” In 1992, Lively got involved in Oregon’s Ballot Measure 9. That measure “would have amended the Oregon Constitution to summarily recognize ‘homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.’” Rodico reported that Oregon voters denied Lively and his anti-gay colleagues a victory—but only after “an ugly political battle ensued.” Rodico said that the defeat left a lasting impression on Lively.

BALLOT MEASURE 9

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of TurkeyTwitter LogoWe recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.

According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.

In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of JapanRadioactive SymbolThe promise to reduce Fissile Material and Weapons Grade Plutonium made a good step from Japan in a recent agreement between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barrack Obama duing a meeting in The Hague.

CNN reports Japan and the United States have co-signed an agreement to remove and dispose of hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium from the Asian nation.

The fissile material will be transported from the Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) in Japan to a “secure facility” in the United States, according to a statement released by the White House, and “fully converted into less sensitive forms.”

“This pledge complements the significant role that both Japan and the United States are playing in finding new ways to continue improving global nuclear security … Japan has demonstrated its leadership by resolving to remove all special nuclear material from the FCA.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

national-health-service-logoThere is a disturbing and somewhat macabre report out of Great Britain where the bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried fetuses were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten National Health Service (NHS) trusts have admitted burning fetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat. Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 fetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, according to British news agencies.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

President_Barack_Obama150px-OHCHR_logoThe United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report slamming the United States on torture and surveillance — the last international condemnation of the United States that is now viewed by many as a threat to civil liberties and international law. This follows international reports condemning the Obama Administration for its attacks on the free press and Internet freedoms. The demand for action on torture revives one of the greatest failures of the Obama Administration when the President, shown after taking office, assured CIA employees that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture despite the existence of international treaties obligating us to carry out such prosecutions. The President has admitted (as is clear from domestic and international rulings) that water boarding is torture. What is fascinating is that those who continue to defend this Administration dismiss the criticisms of respected international public interest groups, award-winning journalists, and even United Nations organizations in such condemnations. It is part of what has become a blind loyalty for an iconic president over long-standing principles. As noted by a widening array of organizations and experts, Obama has proven a perfect nightmare for civil liberties — once a core and defining area for Democrats and liberals alike.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

I have previously discussed my views about Nancy Grace and her genre of legal commentary. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This week Grace is being mocked for another controversial appearance on Good Morning America where she shouts “porn” repeatedly in an interview on the the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. She was appearing with ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams and appears upset that neither the anchor nor Abrams want to talk about porn as opposed to the developments in the case.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

01senator-leland-yee.thumbnailCalifornia State Senator Leland Yee has been charged in a bizarre series of crimes including a conspiracy to traffic weapons after a series of videotaped meetings with an FBI informant. It was a curious position for any elected official to be in but particularly curious for a senator who authored gun control legislation.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Factory_in_China250px-Surveillance_quevaalA new report from the World Health Organization details how 7 million people are dying from air pollution every year and 40 percent of those are dying from China’s pollution. Too often, politicians treat pollution as just some trade off for jobs, but it has a more lethal cost that most people do not appreciate. China is the nightmare scenario of that environmental meltdown as we have previously discussed. At the same time, China is exported its surveillance technology to help nations like Ethiopia suppressed dissent and free speech.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-Male_Lion_on_Rock200px-Zoo-kbh-2005We previously discussed the disturbing video of employees at the Copenhagen Zoo euthanizing and then dissecting a healthy young giraffe in front of children. Now the zoo is again under fire after killing two older lions and two young lions to make way for a new breeding male. As before, it is part of the zoo’s diversity in breeding program. Notably, the dead giraffe was fed to the lions previously. They were then themselves put on the block.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-Mariacorinamachado2500px-Seal_of_the_Organization_of_American_States.svgVenezuela has continued to assault on civil liberties started by the late Hugo Chavez under his “mini-me” President Nicolas Maduro. That legacy took a particularly menacing turn when opposition congresswomen Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her office after speaking to the Organisation of American States (OAS) about the violence in her country. The Venezuelan government insists that she “acted as a Panamanian official” by accepting the invitation and that her speech constituted a crime of “inciting violence”.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

President_Barack_Obama1-foam-fingerWe previously discussed the rapid drop of the United States in the protection of the free press. Now, the respected Reporters Without Borders has produced a separate report on Internet freedoms. In yet another dubious distinction for President Obama, the United States is now listed with such “Enemies of the Internet” as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. This is our first time on the infamous list — a true accomplishment for an Administration that has been denounced for its wholesale attacks on privacy and other core civil liberties.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

609px-Coat_of_arms_of_Kenya.svgKenya’s parliament has passed a law intended to codify the existing customary law allowing for multiple spouses. However, the legislators went further and removed a provision that would give the existing spouse or spouses the right to veto a marriage. After female legislators stormed out of the session in protest, MP Junet Mohammed explained “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-The_Wizard_of_Oz_Lahr_Garland_Bolger_Haley_1939While the wife versus mother-in-law struggle is something of a stereotype, it appears all too real in Truro, Cornwell where Andrew Salmon was mourning the loss of his mother. The death of his mother was bad enough, Salmon insisted, without his wife’s mocking her death by constantly singing “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”. He notably did not respond as did Glinda, the Good Witch of the North: “You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!” Instead, he responded by locking her in a shed — resulting in his arrest for assault.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Turkish Prime Minister

Recep Erdoğan

The continuing cat and mouse game between the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish users of the social networking site Twitter shows the desire for control of information and the historical drive to circumvent it.

 After pledging to “wipe out Twitter,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Turkish ISPs to block the social networking site, redirecting requests to a government webpage. But that move, which used a change in the Domain Name Service hosted by network providers in Turkey, was quickly circumvented by Twitter users through the use of alternative DNS servers. DNS servers basically match domain names such as example.com with their core Internet Protocol Addresses for which websites are addressed under the surface to most users. By controlling the DNS servers in Turkey by forced banning of the twitter.com name, Turkish DNS servers redirect traffic to an IP address of a government website rather than the official twitter.com website.The social media campaign against Erdoğan has continued to grow despite the government’s best effort, and even more Turks are flocking to Twitter as a result of the federal censorship. Immediately following the ban, Twitter usage in Turkey rose 138 percent.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Walling Off Warsaw GhettoThere is an interesting article in Deutsche Welle describing the plight of forced laborers interned in Nazi ghettos such as that in Warsaw and other cities. Many of those persons are making pension claims before the German government due to their assertion they were de facto employees of the German government at the time. Eventually the German government, made provisions to facilitate receipts of pension, the bureaucratic process unfortunately led to years delays and denials, with as a consequence either intentionally or unintentionally led to the government having less of a pension liability due to the aging population passing away.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, weekend contributor

TED2014 Edward SnowdenFor those not familiar with the TED Talks, they were the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer. TED was intended as a single presentation in Silicon Valley back in 1984. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The talks have grown from a handful of views and participants into millions of views. Presenters have come from every walk of life and culture, including entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and educators.

TED has recently redesigned their website, hosting their own original content videos. What does that mean? They are immune from copyright takedown demands. Many people livestream and record the videos. That means it is virtually impossible for anyone to censor or take down a TED Talk. Copies are out there in the wild. At least, they are out there until the Internet is destroyed, but even then, they will be circulated on film and digital media much like the pamphleteers of long ago. I am sure everyone recalls those troublemakers Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. I posted a story on February 1, entitled Edward Snowden Speaks. In that story, we discussed the mysterious takedowns of the German TV interview with Mr. Snowden on YouTube almost as fast as they appeared.

A few days ago, Edward Snowden was a guest speaker at the TED2014 annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2014 conference celebrated the 30th anniversary of TED.

 

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Betty Bootlegger

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

With many states grappling with the need for tax revenue and the otherwise laudable effort to curtail cigarette smoking among their citizens, laws of supply and demand are beginning to having unexpected consequences to some. Rises in taxation of cigarettes with prices in one location as high as $15.00 per pack, the majority of cigarettes consumed by smokers there are now bootleg. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2010 was lost because of smuggling. But this figure is very likely to rise dramatically since many states since enacted even higher levels of taxation.

The situation has formed a fertile ground for illegal cigarette trafficking and there have been inroads into organized crime. Sources of illegal cigarettes have been neighboring states where tax rates are lower, Native American reservations, and even foreign sources of the same brand names, often from Vietnam, Thailand, and Eastern Europe. Wholesale illegal supply chains are becoming increasingly significant. While cigarettes are otherwise available, albeit at a higher price, these states are beginning to see a softer form of prohibition. But there is also a very dark side to smoking bootleg cigarettes. Illegal cigarette trafficking has been used as a vehicle to channel money to foreign terrorist organizations. Are the benefits worth the costs inherited from high taxations?
(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-JamesBrokenshireHomeOfficeI have repeatedly written on the alarming erosion of free speech in the United Kingdom, particularly as a result of hate speech and anti-discriminatory regulations (here and here and here). Now, Security and Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has stated that the government is not content with censoring language viewed as terroristic but wants to remove “”unsavoury” content.” He acknowledges that such content is not illegal but express a desire to sanitize the web of such speech. Brokenshire is an example of the insatiable appetite for censorship that develops once you allow the government to control speech. You can almost hear the “harrumph” and “hear, hear” to get the diminishing measure of free speech in England.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

600px-Doha_Qatar_skyline_at_night_Sept_2012It appears that the 2022 World Cup will come with its own stadium . . . and attached cemetery. Qatar was delighted to be selected for the games and has been pulling out all of the stops on construction. Part of that effort appears to be tossing aside workplace safety concerns. Over 900 workers have died in the various construction projects. To give a point of reference, only six workers died during the construction for the 2014 World Cup preparation in Brazil (and 25 died before the Sochi Olympic games this summer). Advocates fear that, unless something is done, thousands more will die before the first ball is kicked in the first game.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Barberini_Faun_front_Glyptothek_Munich_218_n2We previously discussed cases of tourists demanding art in efforts to get memorable photographs, including a recent incident involving an American tourist. We now have an even more egregious incident where a tourist actually climbed on the leg of an early 19th Century statue entitled “The Drunken Satyr” to take a selfie and caused the entire leg to snap off.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

170px-Mia20061200px-Super_Bowl_29_Vince_Lombardi_trophy_at_49ers_Family_Day_2009You may recall that we discussed the scene in the 2012 Super Bowl when pop star Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A.) flipped the bird and sang “I don’t give a shit” while performing the song “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with Madonna. Personally, I did not like it, though I am often in the minority in objecting to inappropriate conduct at such events by players or performers. I thought it was immature and vulgar and inappropriate for the millions of kids watching the show. It was a lapse that occurred in a flash and was probably not noticed by many viewers. My kids however say it as did I. It was a stupid and thoughtless addition by M.I.A. to the show. It now appears that the National Football League (NFL) felt the same way and has not forgotten the violation. They are demanding compensation from M.I.A. and estimate the cost at $15.1 million in restitution.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

468px-Egri_no_220px-Taron_vl_18_1_gdWe have been following police in this country and abroad arresting people for taking public photographs, including police in England. Now Hungary has passed a law that make photographing people in public a violation of the civil code. When taking a picture for example at a landmark, you must get the consent of anyone who happens to be in the shot even if you have no intention to publish the picture. It is a good thing that this picture of the Siege of Eger was painted in 1552 — a photograph would have resulted in a slew of lawsuits.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-Rimpac_battlegroup_2006220px-DiegogarciaLocated in the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcia is one of the most pristine areas of the world. When the British allowed the United States to use the base in the early 1980s, the authorization came with clear environmental controls to prevent the deterioration of the natural surroundings. Four years ago, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) were declared the world’s largest marine reserve. However, its greatest danger appears to be the United States Navy. For decades, in direct violation of governing standards, the U.S. Navy has dumped hundreds of tons of human waste into the lagoon. In the meantime, while 5000 U.S. service personnel are dumping waste into the waters and coral reefs, Chagossians are being kept from returning to their home because of the delicate environmental conditions of the area.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-DancingFlamesWe have yet another atrocity by religious protesters responding to a rumor that a Hindu had desecrated the Koran. These Muslim protesters than had no qualms over burning down a sacred Hindu temple in protesting a possible act of blasphemy. Last December, we saw a similar riot following a rumor involving a Koran.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

AP090422054982.jpgWell, Captain Phillips hit the small screen at the end of January and the DVD supposedly captures everything good in America. Courageous sea-captain battles ruthless Somali pirates to save crew and cargo bound for parts unknown. Navy sharpshooters end hostage stand-off with might and right. Danish shipping line, Maersk, vindicated for its caution in protecting its freight. All hunky dory!  Hunky, that is , until you start asking why are all those Maersk container ships floating oh so near the coast of East Africa and into harm’s way. Well, a significant number of them are carrying food aid from the U.S. to the nutrition-deprived people on the African continent and getting a hefty above-market price in return.  Still, you must ask, what’s wrong with that — corporate citizen conducting a business that helps people and makes a profit for its shareholders. All’s right with the world, everyone must agree. Not every one.

A new article in Foreign Policy Magazine details the intense fight Maersk Lines is waging in the halls of Congress to scuttle a key feature of this year’s farm bill. That provision would likely feed a conservatively estimated 2-4 million more souls and perhaps up to 10 million. Yet, Maersk and its flotilla of lobbyists is fighting it tooth and nail. To understand why, you have to understand the basis and process of America’s food aid program and acquaint yourself with the history.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,555 other followers