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Tue, 03 Aug 2021
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AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM? Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga

Comment: Joe Bageant died March 26th 2011 after a relatively brief struggle with cancer. Joe was a prolific social commentator and author who used his keen insight and raw sense of humor to dissect and expose the ugly truth about the failed experiment that is human 'civilization'. Hailing from the backwoods of Virginia, Joe saved his most incisive commentary for life in the USA and his last article, written in December 2010, shows why his voice of sanity will be sorely missed.

© Joe Bageant
If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-f*cked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? Those wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don't even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.


UK: 200 arrested as hardcore 'anarchists' fight police after 500,000 march against savage austerity cuts

  • Extremists hijack anti-government cuts demonstration
  • 84 people injured - and at least 31 police officers hurt on day of violence
  • Ritz hotel attacked with paint and smokebombs and 1,000 occupy Fortnum & Mason
  • Protesters surge along Piccadilly, Regent Street and Oxford Street forcing shops to close
  • Lightbulbs filled with ammonia hurled at police officers
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband defends speech to marchers
Over 200 people were arrested as extremists brought violent chaos to central London yesterday after hijacking the much-heralded trade union protest against public spending cuts.

A massive clear-up operation was underway today after trouble continued to flare late into the night as hundreds of people clashed with officers in Trafalgar Square.

Police confirmed 201 people were in custody and there had been 84 reported injuries during the protests. At least 31 police were hurt with 11 of them requiring hospital treatment.

© Reuters
Riot: Police officers stand in front of a fire lit be demonstrators in central London last night


US: Abercrombie criticized for selling push-up tops to little girls

No stranger to controversy, U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has come under fire for offering a push-up bikini top to young girls.

Its "Ashley" bikini -- described as "padded" and a "push-up" -- was posted on the Abercrombie Kids website earlier this week.

The company declined to comment Saturday but noted it has since updated the description of its bikini online.

The product is now being offered as a padded, "striped triangle." Bottoms are sold separately.

"How is this okay for a second-grader?" asked Rebecca Odes in a recent post on the Babble parenting blog.

"Playing at sexy is an inevitable and important part of growing up. But there's a difference between exploring these ideas on your own and having them sold to you in a children's catalog," she wrote.

Gail Dines, a sociology professor at Wheelock College in Boston, similarly slammed the top, saying it would encourage girls to think about themselves in a sexual way before they are ready.


US: 2 dead, 8 injured as sailboat sinks off San Diego

© AP / Jim Grant
Police work the scene as two bodies lie covered on a dock in San Diego, Calif. Sunday, March 27, 2011, after a sailboat with nine people aboard capsized and sank in the San Diego Bay, leaving two men drowned and seven people injured, authorities said.
Ten people were thrown into the waters of San Diego Bay Sunday when their sailboat capsized, leaving two men drowned and eight people injured, authorities said.

The boat flipped over for reasons that remained unclear and then sank near Shelter Island shortly after 5 p.m., San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque said.

Harbor police pulled all 10 from the water and took them to a boat dock where some 60 firefighters and paramedics were waiting. Two men in their 50s or 60s were declared dead at the scene and the other eight were taken to local hospitals. Two children were released from the hospital after being treated briefly.

Luque said none of the injuries was life-threatening or critical.

Though just 10 people were reported to be aboard, divers searched the sunken wreckage for any additional victims.

"We are confident that everyone is accounted for," Luque said.

One woman was being treated in intensive care at UCSD Medical Center for hypothermia, said Marguerite Elicone, a spokeswoman for the Port of San Diego, which includes the Harbor Police.


Merkel Christian Democratic Union Routed in German State Poll

© unknown
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have suffered an election defeat in southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg amid public outcry over her nuclear policy.

According to exit polls, the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD) have staked out a solid lead in the state elections in Baden-Württemberg with 47.3 percent of the vote, as compared to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrat (FDP), who gained 44.3 percent combined, AFP reported on Sunday.

The Greens polled 24 percent, an increase of 12.3 percent since the last state elections in 2006, setting the stage for a Green party premier to hold the reins of power in Baden-Württemberg for the first time in German history.

The CDU, who had an unassailable control in the state of 11 million people for nearly 58 years, obtained 39.3, while the FDP took five percent in the election, which was depicted as a litmus test of Merkel's nuclear policies in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

The election campaigns in Baden-Württemberg have been consumed by talks over the nuclear crisis in Japan.


Radiation in seawater may be spreading in Japan

© AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Masanobu Nakatsukasa
Evacuees from Fukushima, where the troubled Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is located, receive meals for dinner at an evacuation center in Saitama, Japan, Sunday, March 27, 2011.
Highly radioactive iodine seeping from Japan's damaged nuclear complex may be making its way into seawater farther north of the plant than previously thought, officials said Monday, adding to radiation concerns as the crisis stretches into a third week.

Mounting problems, including badly miscalculated radiation figures and no place to store dangerously contaminated water, have stymied emergency workers struggling to cool down the overheating plant and avert a disaster with global implications.

The coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, located 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, has been leaking radiation since a magnitude-9.0 quake on March 11 triggered a tsunami that engulfed the complex. The wave knocked out power to the system that cools the dangerously hot nuclear fuel rods.

On Monday, workers resumed the laborious yet urgent task of pumping out the hundreds of tons of radioactive water inside several buildings at the six-unit plant. The water must be removed and safely stored before work can continue to power up the plant's cooling system, nuclear safety officials said.

The contaminated water, discovered last Thursday, has been emitting radiation that measured more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour in a recent reading at Unit 2 - some 100,000 times normal amounts, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

As officials scrambled to determine the source of the radioactive water, chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano repeated Monday that the contaminated water in Unit 2 appeared to be due to a temporary partial meltdown of the reactor core.


Canada: Air Farce actor Roger Abbott dies

© The Canadian Press
Royal Canadian Air Farce cast member Roger Abbott. Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009.
Canadian actor and comedian Roger Abbott has died, his friend and fellow player in CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce confirmed Sunday.

Don Ferguson said Abbott, 64, died Saturday night at Toronto General Hospital, 14 years after being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

He kept the progressive disease secret from all but a few close friends and family until a week ago, Ferguson said.

"Roger was the guiding light of Royal Canadian Air Farce since it began in 1973, and all of us who have had the honour of working with him and the pleasure of knowing him will dearly miss his kindness, generosity, integrity, leadership and wonderful sense of humour," he said.


Canada: Seven residents missing after fiery blast tears through Woodstock apt building

© The Canadian Press / Dave Chidley
A firefighters holds a hose on the scene of a three story apartment building fire in Woodstock, Ontario, Sunday, March 27, 2011. Seven people were taken to hospital and up to 11 more are unaccounted for, police said.
Seven people remain unaccounted for after a fiery explosion reduced an apartment building to a pile of bricks and charred wood in Woodstock, Ont., on Sunday.

With a large part of the three-storey building now turned to a pile of smoldering rubble, police said the outlook for those missing was grim.

"If we don't have any fatalities, I'll be very surprised," Sgt. Marvin Massecar of Woodstock police said late in the afternoon.

Raging flames tore through the building after nearby residents reported hearing a thunderous explosion and feeling the ground shudder early Sunday morning. Plumes of black smoke could be seen from the distance as fire crews worked to douse the blaze.

At one point, it looked like much of the building's facade was consumed by roaring orange flames, which caused the structure to crumble into a heap of bricks and twisted metal.

Seven people, including a firefighter, were injured in the blaze, police said. Six of those hurt were treated at Woodstock General Hospital and released. One person remained in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

By Sunday evening, police had taped off a large area surrounding the building and evacuated all the homes on Victoria Street.

Eye 1

We're All Spies Now

© iStockphoto
Surveillance is now a multibillion-dollar global industry, and an increasingly pervasive part of our daily lives.
In the late 1940s, George Orwell wrote his nightmarish novel 1984, depicting a future world where an all-seeing but unseen tyrant, Big Brother, ruled over his citizens by watching their every move. In this paranoid dystopia, surveillance was purely a ''top-down'' affair, a government tool for controlling the hapless masses: privacy was a crime, the Thought Police punished dissent and history was rewritten daily for political ends.

More than half a century later, it is worth considering how Orwell's fictional prediction weighs up against reality. If Big Brother's gaze dominated that imagined future, who's watching over us now?

In some respects, old George was spot on: surveillance is booming. It's now a multibillion-dollar global industry, and an increasingly pervasive part of our daily lives. But today's version has evolved beyond the Big Brother model - a monstrous oppressor peering down a giant microscope - into a more sophisticated, multi-directional and complex beast. Surveillance has spawned so many offshoots, and spread in such unforeseen directions, that we are struggling to keep up with its ethical and legal ramifications. What's more, in the digital age, we as individuals are not always its helpless victims. Unsettling? Perhaps. But rather than blindly condemning or embracing these shifts, it's better to keep a watchful eye on them.


US: Radiation In Massachusetts Rainwater Likely From Japan

radiation rain

Boston -- Health officials said Sunday that one sample of Massachusetts rainwater has registered very low concentrations of radiation, most likely from the Japanese nuclear power plant damaged earlier this month by an earthquake and tsunami.

John Auerbach, the Massachusetts commissioner of public health, said that radioiodine-131 found in the sample - one of more than 100 that have been taken around the country - has a short life of only eight days. He said the drinking water supply in the state was unaffected and officials do not expect any health concerns.

Nevada and other Western states also have reported minuscule amounts of radiation, but scientists say those presented no health risks.