Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse Appears As A Dot On The Horizon....

Beware of Ug99 - it's a fungus that has the potential of creating a massive famine:

This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”

Hat-tip : Graeme Wood on the Andrew Sullivan blog

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Lingerie Jihad

From Saudi Jeans:

While the Religious Police today launched their annual nationwide crackdown on stores selling items that are red or in any other way allude to the banned celebrations of Valentine’s Day, Reem Asaad and her fellow woman continue their lingerie jihad. Starting on the 13th of February and for two weeks, women are called to boycott all lingerie shops that employ men.

This is the second phase of the campaign that Asaad started a year ago, aiming to address one of the many bizarre contradictions in Saudi Arabia, where in this supposedly most conservative country on earth women have to divulge their underwear sizes and colors to strange men on regular basis. Check out this Facebook group to learn more about the campaign.

Ghazi al-Gosaibi, minister of labor, who is currently ill and being treated in the US, has issued a law in 2006 stating that “only females may be employed in women apparel and accessories stores.” However, the law has never been implemented due to the objection and resistance of different parties.


Red-colored or heart-shaped items are legal at other times of the year, but as Feb. 14 nears they become contraband in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom bans celebration of Western holidays such as Valentine's Day, named after a Christian saint said to have been martyred by the Romans in the 3rd Century.

Most shops in Riyadh's upscale neighborhoods have removed all red items from their shelves. A statement by the religious police, informally known as the muttawa, was published in Saudi newspapers, warning shop owners against any violations.

"Those who don't comply will be punished," the statement said, without spelling out what measures would befall the offenders.....

....The Egyptian capital, Cairo, is a sharp contrast to the Saudi restrictions, with shops and restaurants going overboard in red ribbon and heart decorations.

Dubai, a conservative Muslim city-state with a Western outlook, is every year taken over by a Valentine craze. Luxury hotels are draped in red, offering romantic dinner specials. Malls and cafes are decorated with giant hearts and flower shops offer promotional deals on roses and fancy bouquets.

Apparently prompted by the Saudi ban, a group in the Philippines advocating the welfare of Filipino overseas workers — a million of whom work in Saudi Arabia and another million elsewhere in the Middle East — cautioned its countrymen to celebrate Valentine's Day only in private and refrain from publicly greeting anyone with "Happy Valentine's" across the region.

The Medieval 21st Century

The blogger Andrew Sullivan has a very soberly written , but extremely angry post today about torture - particularly as seen from a Catholic viewpoint.

It's well worth reading in full. But here's a paragraph:

As Christians and as Catholics, we are required to follow Our Lord's impossible example and not just love our friends, but to love our enemies. This does not mean pacifism; and I have a long, long record of supporting what I believe were just wars. I mean understanding that war is always evil even when it is necessary, but that some things, like torture, abuse and dehumanizing of others under our total control, are never justified.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

What Sort Of People Ask A Question Like "Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?

I found a , um , provoking little article on the internet from May 2009.

The title was Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?.

The author, the pastor for an independent Baptist Church in a small US town, reckons it's likely:

...In effect, there is no greater sin against God than to reject how he made you, and no greater sin against women than to reject how God made them.

Having seen what the Bible says of sodomy, we have no further to look than the book of Daniel, chapter 11 to find our answer. It says, “Neither shall he [Antichrist] regard... the desire of women....” As I said at the onset, I am not the first to draw attention to this, but the verbiage is clear....

Now, you are asking yourselves, what kind of town has a Church like this? What sort of people live there? What sort of politicians do they elect?

Oddly enough, the place is Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin was mayor and where she still lives.

Friday, February 05, 2010

"That Huge Bust In The Marketplace Is Of Me"

It's never been easy ruling from Chelmsford, as this video demonstrates:

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Embrace Life

I'm really impressed by this....

Busted Springs

Fancy buying a helicopter? Or even two?

As the website of the Colorado Springs Police Department explains, the US city of Colorado Springs is selling off both of its police helicopters. This is due to 'financial constraints'

The city is short of money, doesn't want to increase taxes, and hence is heading into a crisis. The helicopter sale is just one of many cuts being made to the city budget, and probably one of the less significant ones. To quote the Denver Post:

This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero....

Perhaps this is a useful reminder of what happens when you demonise local government and cut the budgets too much....

Hat-tip : Obsidian Wings

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Help! I'm A Metaphor Falangist

Well. That'll teach me to leave comments on other people's blogs. I criticise someone for describing a Lib Dem as a "Measurement Fascist" and in return get described as being "frankly pathetic".

Ah well, it's a free country. And on reflection maybe I was being harsh. But I wish people wouldn't diminish just how evil Nazism, Stalinism and Fascism were by using such phrases as "Health Nazi".

Having watched the video of "Ukraine's Got Talent" where the inspired sand drawings depicting Ukraine's experience of WW2 have some of the audience in tears, I'm pretty sure they weren't wondering whether Third Reich social workers banned Ukrainian smokers from adopting war orphans. They were thinking about real Nazis.

And it's not as if there aren't alternatives. There's the word Draconian - as in ' Mr X is being too Draconian over this...' You could even describe someone as a "Health Draco", but this might be confused with the J K Rowling character. You could use General Franco's organisation as a metaphor and describe someone as a "Health Falangist". Likewise, you could think of the Franco's neighbouring dictator Salazar of Portugal and describe someone as a "Health Salazar" (although that might be confused with "Health Czar" or even "Salazar Slytherin" which takes us back to J K Rowling).

In all seriousness, if you want to describe someone as being dictatorial and possibly pompous without implying they are totally debased and devoted to evil, go back a further century and describe them as "Bonapartist". Or calling someone . for example, a "Health And Safety Napoleon" might be very effective without being offensive....
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