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Fri, 09 Jun 2023
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Bhutan Starts to Revolt Against Tobacco Control

Ah yes, Bhutan, that landlocked little "paradise" located at the Eastern end of the Himalayas, where the concept of "Gross National Happiness" was conceived by its former king - Jigme Singye Wangchuck - in an attempt to define an indicator that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than gross domestic product (GDP).

What a perfect little Shangri-la and what an inspiration for Shri Davidad Prat-head Cameroon - our glorious prime minister - who has introduced to us materialist British the same concept so that we too may enjoy spiritual blissfulness (pardon me while I throw up transcendentally).

See here.

Che Guevara

The Battle against Neoliberalism: Massive Popular Uprising in Greece

© AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis
Demonstrators gather during a peaceful rally outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, on Sunday, June 5, 2011. Thousands of protesters have gathered for a 12th consecutive day to protest at fiscal austerity measures and demand that Greece stop paying its debtors. They have also denounced politicians of all stripes as incompetent and corrupt.
Greek Committee Against the Debt and CADTM

Hundreds of thousands of Greek 'Indignés' ('Outraged') walk out to wage war against their neoliberal persecutors

Two weeks after it started the Greek movement of 'outraged' people has the main squares in all cities overflowing with crowds that shout their anger, and makes the Papandreou government and its local and international supporters tremble. It is now more than just a protest movement or even a massive mobilization against austerity measures. It has turned into a genuine popular uprising that is sweeping over the country. An uprising that makes it know at large its refusal to pay for 'their crisis' or 'their debt' while vomiting the two big neoliberal parties, if not the whole political world in complete disarray.

How many were there on Syntagma square (Constitution square) in the centre of Athens, just in front of the Parliament building on Sunday 5 June 2011? Difficult to say since one of the characteristic features of such popular gatherings is that there is no key event (speech or concert) and that people come and go. But according to people in charge of the Athens underground, who know how to assess the numbers of passengers, there were at least 250,000 people converging on Syntagma on that memorable night! Actually several hundreds of thousands of people if we add the 'historic' gatherings that took place on the main squares of other Greek cities (see map).

Heart - Black

The Wedding-Day Massacre: An Ominous Afghan Tragedy

© Parwiz / Reuters
Afghan men offer special prayers in front of the bodies of several people who were killed when insurgents attacked a wedding party in Nangarhar province's Dur Baba district, on the Afghan-Pakistani border, on June 9, 2011. Nine wedding guests were killed, and five others were wounded.
It was past midnight when the insurgents crossed into Afghanistan's Dur Baba district, on the border with Pakistan, and began their descent. In the valley below, relatives of the district governor, Hamisha Gul, a tall, handsome man in his late 40s, had gathered at his compound to celebrate the impending marriage of his cousin Nawshir. The wedding would take place the next day, and the plans were festive. Men would dance the traditional Pashtun attan to the beating of the tabla and the plucking of the rabab. At Gul's prewedding party, dozens of men were taking advantage of the seasonal warmth to sleep out under the trees. That's when the masked gunmen opened fire.

The Taliban-linked militants killed a total of nine, all men, including Nawshir and his father Rozi Khan. Five others were wounded, and the attackers torched a nearby house and car for good measure and briefly abducted one of the guests. Thursday, June 2, saw villagers burying the man whose wedding they had come to celebrate. Hundreds gathered to pay their respects before shouldering the litters on which the bodies lay draped in white shrouds, carrying them to fresh graves.

The raid by militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Islam, one of several groups that make up the Pakistani Taliban, was a brutal example of how sharply security is deteriorating in Nangarhar, a key Afghan province that was once an exemplar of relative peace. It was a troubling reminder of how Afghanistan was faring even as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Thursday that there would "be no rush to the exits" before a decision by President Obama on how quickly to start ordering home the 100,000 American troops.

According to Raees Khan, a member of the groom's family, the attack took place "not because [the militants] had problems with the groom but because they accused the district chief of being with the government and cooperating with NATO forces." Tribal elders concurred, and Gul said the assailants accused the man they briefly kidnapped of being an "American spy" before they let him go.

Heart - Black

US: Kansas City Girl, 5, May Face Murder Charges in Drowning

A 5-year-old girl could face murder charges in the recent drowning of a toddler in a bathtub, police said on Thursday.

Kansas City police are waiting for a medical examiner's report on how Jermane Johnson Jr., died, but have investigated the death as a homicide, spokesman Darin Snapp said Thursday.

"I've been in law enforcement for 20 years and it's the youngest suspect I can remember," Snapp said. "It's extremely rare."

Johnson, 18 months old, was in a Kansas City house on June 3rd with other children, but the 16-year-old girl who was supposed to be looking after them fell asleep, Snapp said.


US: Tennessee Law Bans Posting Images That "Cause Emotional Distress"

A new Tennessee law makes it a crime to "transmit or display an image" online that is likely to "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines.

The Tennessee legislature has been busy updating its laws for the Internet age, and not always for the better. Last week we reported on a bill that updated Tennessee's theft-of-service laws to include "subscription entertainment services" like Netflix.

The ban on distressing images, which was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week, is also an update to existing law. Tennessee law already made it a crime to make phone calls, send emails, or otherwise communicate directly with someone in a manner the sender "reasonably should know" would "cause emotional distress" to the recipient. If the communciation lacked a "legitimate purpose," the sender faced jail time.

The new legislation adds images to the list of communications that can trigger criminal liability. But for image postings, the "emotionally distressed" individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you "should have known" that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Cell Phone

Text Messaging is Dying, Report Shows

The gig is up: American cellphone users are quickly abandoning text messaging plans that make wireless companies bundles in profit, reports the Wall Street Journal. Americans sent and received over 1 trillion text messages in the second half of 2010, shows a study from wireless industry watcher CTIA. While that may sound high, it's actually only an 8.7 percent increase from the six months prior - the lowest jump to date.

Until recently, texting was a must-have feature for many cell phone users. Because of this, wireless companies have been able to charge obscene amounts of money for the service, about $0.20 per message or around $20 per month for unlimited texting plans. According to UBS analysts, this brought wireless companies about $0.80 of profit for ever $1 charged to a consumer. For voice and data services, the profit margin is much lower - about $0.35 per $1. In other words, text messages are a giant rip-off.


US: Paradise parents get prison in slaying

A Paradise couple convicted of whipping an adopted daughter to death and injuring two other children were sentenced Friday to upper terms in state prison.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Kristen Lucena sentenced Kevin Paul Schatz, 48, to serve at least 22 years of two life terms for second-degree murder and torture. Elizabeth Hazel Schatz, 44, was sentenced to serve 13 years, four months for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment.

Both Schatzes were also sentenced to six months county jail for misdemeanor cruelty to a child. They were credited for time served.

Comment: The article makes no mention of Michael and Debi Pearl, conservative Christian ministers who position themselves as experts in the "biblical" parenting and recommend flogging young children to train obedience. The Schatz family followed Pearl's disciplinary system.

Cell Phone

Evidence Mounts that Electronic Interference May Affect Airplane Safety

© Getty Images
In 75 instances between 2003 and 2009, electronic interference was cited as a possible cause of airplane dysfunction, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Seasoned travelers, and even travelers who fly more than once or twice a year, sometimes find themselves jaded by the rules of the air: required safety demonstrations, buckle your seatbelt whenever you're seated, and turn off electronic devices such as cell phones and smartphones. But the IATA report, obtained by ABC News, provides some evidence that heeding that last rule, about electronic devices, would be to everyone's benefit.

According to the confidential study, in a survey spanning six years with respondents from 125 airlines, there were 75 documented incidents in which airline pilots and crew believed that possible electronic interference affected flight controls and navigation systems. In 26 of those instances, autopilot, autothrust and landing gear were disturbed, while 13 of the incidents produced electronic warnings, including "engine indications." In four out of ten of the events documented, the suspected cause was a cell phone.


Thousands Stage Anti-Nuclear Protests in Tokyo as Reports Reveal Radiation Leaks from Stricken Plant are Worse than Thought

Buddhist monks
© AP
Concerns: Buddhist monks take part in an anti-nuclear march in Tokyo three months after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world's worst atomic disasters
Protesters in Tokyo have staged mass demonstrations against the use of atomic power just three months after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.

Crowds of people banging drums and shouting anti-nuclear slogans poured through the streets of the capital and descended on the head offices of Tokyo Electric Power Co, which operates the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The magnitude-9 earthquake which struck off Japan's north-east coast on March 11 caused a huge tsunami that knocked out power and cooling systems at Fukushima.

The huge wave set off explosions, fires and large radiation leaks at the facility, around 140 miles north-east of Tokyo.


Italy: Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope's Adviser

Pope Benedict XVI
© Alessandra Tarantino / AP
Pope Benedict XVI
This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in the leading Italian daily La Stampa.

The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. "I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues," he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse.