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Fri, 07 Oct 2022
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Canada, British Columbia: The Office Prank as Evidence of RCMP Dysfunction

Image
© unknown
Dirty Bertie doll
Hijinx in a bomb squad led to injuries, lawsuit

Dirty Bertie - yours for about $25, batteries not included - is about as rude as a plastic mechanical doll can get. "He's disgusting, revolting and perverted!!!" promises the box. "See and hear him moan and groan until he reaches his final pant-shaking climax!" Bertie is so over the top, it gained something of a cult following after an appearance as a desktop novelty on the determinedly politically incorrect U.K. version of the TV show The Office. Now Bertie is gaining more infamy with news that two members of the RCMP explosives disposal unit in British Columbia are being sued for injuring a bomb-squad colleague with a booby-trapped Bertie.

On its surface this is a case of a prank gone awry, but the larger implications for an embattled national police force are no laughing matter, nor are the injuries suffered by bomb expert Cpl. Tyrone Hempston when, on Jan. 4, 2010, he turned on the doll only to have it blow up in his hands. The lingering damage, both mental and physical, to 44-year-old Hempston has impaired his ability to do his job, curtailed his chances for promotion and limited future career prospects outside the Mounties, according to his lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj. "You know, it's harder to get a job when you're damaged goods." Kosteckyj, a former Mountie who represented the mother of Robert Dziekanski, who died at Vancouver International Airport after being tasered by Mounties in 2007, said Hempston is paying a heavy price for suing the force. "He feels some pressure both from the organization and the people involved over how this is going forward, but I think he felt that he had no other avenue to go down."

Bad Guys

Greek Lawmakers Approve Austerity Bill as Athens Burns

cyclist rides past a burning building
© Reuters/Yannis Behrakis
A cyclist rides past a burning building during violent protests in central Athens, February 12, 2012.
The Greek parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill to secure a second EU/IMF bailout and avoid national bankruptcy, as buildings burned across central Athens and violence spread around the country.

Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens as black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament.

State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Shops were looted in the capital where police said 34 buildings were ablaze.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos denounced the worst breakdown of order since 2008 when violence gripped Greece for weeks after police shot a 15-year-old schoolboy.

"Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won't be tolerated," he told parliament as it prepared to vote on the new 130 billion euro bailout to save Greece from a chaotic bankruptcy.

Star of David

Israel: Unknown Chemicals Sprayed in Palestinian Cars at Checkpoints

Jenin checkpoint contraption 1
© Abir Kopty
Lately I've been going to Jenin every two or three weeks with family members. We usually do our vegetable shopping in the city market.

Last Saturday, on our way back from Jenin to Nazareth, we were surprised to find a new technology to check "suspicious" cars at the Israeli checkpoint.

The checkpoint examination usually goes like this: There are about six lines of cars going out through the checkpoint. At each line, there are one or two "security" officers that ask for IDs, and decide whether the car and its riders do or do not constitute a major threat to Israel's "security" and "existence." If they do not, the officer gives the car a white ticket, which means they are done with the "security" check. If they do, then the car gets a green ticket. Once you get the green one, you have to go to the far right line for a special check. You are asked to open all doors, take out all your belongings and go through a physical check while the car is separately searched.

You can't ever understand the logic and the considerations of any of the checkpoint's officers. Sometimes our car gets the green ticket, sometimes the white.

Nuke

12,000 Protest Nuclear Power in Tokyo

People with “No Nukes” signs march, Tokyo
© AFP
People with “No Nukes” signs march on a Tokyo street, demanding Japan abandon atomic power on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.
Thousands demonstrated in Tokyo on Saturday against nuclear power generation, 11 months after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel prize winner for literature, told a central rally at Yoyogi Park, "Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants will be borne by generations to come."

"This must not be condoned by human beings. It is against ethics," the 77-year-old novelist said.

The rally was attended by 12,000 people, according to its organizers. Police estimated the turnout at around 7,000.

The March 11 quake-tsunami disaster left more than 19,000 dead or missing and sparked the Fukushima crisis, the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, on Japan's northeast coast.

Info

Chinese Village Experiments with Democracy

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© Agence France-Presse
A local resident casts his vote in first-ever open democratic elections for the village committee in Wukan, in Shanwei city, south China's Guangdong province.
A Chinese village which staged an extraordinary rebellion against authorities last year has taken a key step in a process to freely elect its own governing committee, according to residents.

Thousands of residents of Wukan in the southern province of Guangdong voted Saturday for more than 100 representatives who will put forward candidates for a seven-member village committee to be elected in March, they said.

The move followed protests by the village last December when they faced off with authorities for more than a week in an uproar over land grabs.

The demonstrations prompted a drawn-out stand-off with police and officials, but the Guangdong provincial government eventually capitulated and sought to pacify the villagers as their case made headlines.

The rare concessions included pledges to support free village polls.

People

Liberal Constipation: Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today's progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others - particularly "different" others - requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

Stormtrooper

US: Cop allegedly pulled gun on pregnant woman over too many grocery items in Illinois

Oswego, Illinois residents Jason and Nicole Thurmond.
© Screenshot via NBC Chicago
Oswego, Illinois residents Jason and Nicole Thurmond.

Police in Kendall County, Illinois said Friday that they were investigating whether an off-duty officer drew his firearm and pointed it at a pregnant woman because she had more items than Walmart recommends for self-checkout lanes.

Nicole Thurmond and husband Jason were reportedly checking out recently at a Walmart store in Oswego, Illinois when a man confronted them wearing civilian clothing, not identifying himself as an officer. The couple said it was only after his gun was drawn that the man told onlookers he was a police officer.

Nicole Thurmond told NBC Chicago that officer Craig French just walked up to her and said, "Don't you know how to count? You are holding up the whole store."

When her husband returned from getting an item they forgot, he described the situation he encountered as "a guy in her face, yelling at her."

People

Hundreds of Thousands Rally in Portugal Against Austerity

Portugal rally
© AFP
Hundreds of thousands protested in Portugal Saturday against austerity measures ahead of next week's talks with international creditors, with unions vowing to keep up the pressure.

Officials from the so-called Troika -- the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- will next week evaluate progress on the country's bailout programme.

Demonstrators arrived in Lisbon from across the country in the rally described as one of the country's biggest in three decades.

Many were brandishing banners such as "The struggle continues" and "No to exploitation, no to inequality, no to impoverishment."

The CGTP union which called the march estimated 300,000 people took part, while police would not give any figures, in line with their usual practice.

"We are convinced that it is one of the biggest demonstrations in the last 30 years," said Armenio Carlos, general secretary of the CGTP, in a speech at the end of the protest in the landmark Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square).

Butterfly

US: Whitney Houston Dies at 48

Whitney Huston
© The Associated Press
Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

Publicist Kristen Foster said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

Handcuffs

Chinese 'Birth Agent' Charged in Hong Kong

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© unknown
A woman has admitted arranging for mainland Chinese women to give birth in Hong Kong, reports said Saturday, the first prosecution of its kind as the southern city cracks down on the practice.

The Chinese city has been struggling with an influx of tens of thousands of mainland women who come to Hong Kong each year to give birth, to gain residency rights for their children and to circumvent China's one-child policy

Local women have taken to the streets to protest at the influx, which critics say has led to a shortage of maternity beds in hospitals. The outcry has prompted the government to step up enforcement.

Mainland woman Xu Li, 29, was charged in a Hong Kong magistrates' court on Friday for her role as a "birth agent", according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Apple Daily newspapers.