The Ulysses of Blogging
Update: Bryan in comments reminded me that when traveling to the land of fafblog, you may want to turn the brightness on your monitor down. And maybe wear sunglasses.
The Blog of an Open Source Librarian, in which there is no shushing.
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2004 — Justice Department officials say a huge database that serves as the public's lone window on lobbying activities by foreign governments has been allowed to decay to a point they cannot even make a copy of its contents.
Responding to a recent Freedom of Information request from the Center for Public Integrity, the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit said it was unable to copy its records electronically because their computer system was "so fragile." In a letter, the head of the unit's Freedom of Information office said that simply attempting to make an electronic copy of the database "could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating."
The database details millions of dollars spent on lobbying activities by foreign governments, companies, and foundations.
Those activities include everything from wining and dining lawmakers to broadcasting issue ads on American television and radio stations.
The ancient computers the public and staff use often break down, however, and the printers malfunction. The system's document handling software, itself an antique, operates on Microsoft Windows 95.
With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.
Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.
'We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week,' said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. 'It's the week everyone wants to work.'
Charging from $300 to upwards of $1,000 for an hour of companionship and a whole lot more, escorts said they can always count on conventioneers for big business.
Along with this now familiar general warning, the FBI has introduced the specter of a new terrorism threat: booby-trapped beer coolers. A lightly classified bulletin sent to 18,000 state and local agencies last week advised local authorities to look out for plastic-foam containers, inner tubes and other waterborne flotsam commonly seen around marinas that could be rigged to blow up on contact. Also, the bulletin warned, terrorists might attach bombs to buoys.
Facing global opposition fuelled by the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, Washington has dropped a contentious UN resolution that sought to renew an exemption shielding US troops from international prosecution for war crimes.
The decision followed an intervention by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urged Security Council members to oppose the resolution.
Washington argues that the court - which started operating last year- could be used for frivolous or politically-motivated prosecutions of US troops.
...The man hates everyone. He's anti-Semitic on a level that would make Hutton Gibson blush. He hates Christians, as is mentioned in the article he hates gays and lesbians, he hates America, he hates every political party, so far as I can tell...he hates ponies, or so I've heard.
What kind of monster hates ponies?
The librarian stereotype will prevail, with its thousand variations. New librarians will shock older ones with their mode of dress, accessories and language.
Young boys will fall in love with librarians who help them locate books on reptiles. Some of those boys will become librarians; others will become reptiles.
Library literature with footnotes will be impossible to understand. Library literature without footnotes will be a mass of generalizations. The popular topics in library literature will be: The status of the profession; low pay; effectiveness of library organizations, funding issues and problem patrons. The rest of it will be indistinguishable from any other professional literature.
Did the revelations that we didn't find any proof about Iraq's weapons affect the troops?
Yes. I killed innocent people for our government. For what? What did I do? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it.
I understand that all the incidents -- killing civilians at checkpoints, itchy fingers at the rally -- weigh on you. What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them?
There was an incident. It was right after the fall of Baghdad, when we went back down south. On the outskirts of Karbala, we had a morning meeting on the battle plan. I was not in a good mindset. All these things were going through my head -- about what we were doing over there. About some of the things my troops were asking. I was holding it all inside. My lieutenant and I got into a conversation. The conversation was striking me wrong. And I lashed out. I looked at him and told him: 'You know, I honestly feel that what we're doing is wrong over here. We're committing genocide.'
He asked me something and I said that with the killing of civilians and the depleted uranium we're leaving over here, we're not going to have to worry about terrorists. He didn't like that. He got up and stormed off. And I knew right then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding officer.
What happened then?
After I talked to the top commander, I was kind of scurried away. I was basically put on house arrest. I didn't talk to other troops. I didn't want to hurt them. I didn't want to jeopardize them.
I want to help people. I felt strongly about it. I had to say something. When I was sent back to stateside, I went in front of the sergeant major. He's in charge of 3,500-plus Marines. 'Sir,' I told him, 'I don't want your money. I don't want your benefits. What you did was wrong.'
It was just a personal conviction with me. I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the U.S. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.
Public librarians aren't prone to looking gift horses in the mouth, but many have nevertheless been taken aback by the odd and in some cases overly generous allotments of free music CDs that have begun arriving in the last week as the result of the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit against major record companies.
The CD cornucopia - consisting of approximately 5.6 million compact discs - was billed as a windfall for libraries and schools when it was announced in September 2002 as part of a $144 million settlement of the lawsuit, which alleged that music distribution companies illegally inflated the price of CDs by requiring retailers to sell them at or above a set level in order to qualify for substantial advertising funding.
But when the first shipments began arriving last week, some librarians suspected that the companies - the Bertelsmann Music Group, EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment - were dumping CDs that had been gathering dust in warehouses when they received hundreds of copies of some titles for which there is little or no demand.
Among them are the librarians at the Tacoma (Wash.) Public Library, who last week received a shipment of 1,325 CDs that included 57 copies of "Three Mo' Tenors," a 2001 recording featuring classically trained African American tenors Roderick Dixon, Thomas Young and Victor Trent Cook; 48 copies of country artist Mark Wills' 2001 album "Loving Every Minute," 47 copies of "Corridos de Primera Plana," a greatest hits compilation by Los Tuscanes de Tijuana (2000); 39 copies of "Yolanda Adams Christmas" (2000); 37 copies of Michael Crawford's "A Christmas Album" (1999) and 34 copies of the Bee Gees' "This Is Where I Came In" (2001).
Eva Silverstone, communications director for the Spokane Public Library, said the library in eastern Washington received many copies of "Three Mo' Tenors" among its 1,325 CDs, along with "tons of copies of Christina Aguilera's Christmas album." All told, she said, 15 titles represented 36 percent of the shipment.
The public library in Worcester, Mass., with a main library and two branches, received 150 copies of "Nastradamus," a 1999 album by the rapper Nas, and 148 copies of "Entertainment Weekly's Greatest Hits of 1971."
The Des Moines (Iowa) Public Library was on track to take the lead in redundancies, though the identification of the programming bug may come in time to avert what might have been a record overkill. Its crate of 2,647 CDs, due to arrive in the next couple weeks, was listed as containing 430 single-song discs – 16 percent of the total -- of Whitney Houston singing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Super Bowl, according to Steve Cox, of the Iowa State Library.
"We've been wondering if we're going to get 12,000 Yanni CDs," said Wallace Hoffsis, director of collections development for the Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The management company that represents Britney Spears and 'N Sync is searching for a divine voice.
'Gifted,'' a Christian version of the popular American Idol TV show, is scheduled to debut in October on Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based conglomerate that features such well-known evangelists as Benny Hinn.
It is no accident that the Left Behind novels are remarkably free of metaphor, of multi-leveled themes, or even of the kinds of visual details that might be taken to stand for something at a non-literal level. Artless art -- explicit, monovalent, prosaic prose -- is the only permissible form of storytelling.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centers worldwide and about half of these operate in total secrecy, said a human rights report released on Thursday.
Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in a report that secrecy surrounding these facilities made 'inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable.'
'The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation,' said Deborah Pearlstein, director of the group's U.S. Law and Security program, referring to the U.S. Naval base prison in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) where abuses are being investigated.
'This is all about secrecy, accountability and the law,' Pearlstein told a news conference.
The report coincided with news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered military officials to hold a suspect in a prison near Baghdad without telling the Red Cross. Pearlstein said this would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions and Defense Department directives.
She said thousands of security detainees were being held by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) as well as locations elsewhere which the military refused to disclose.
The inventor of an "invisibility" cloak has said that his next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls.
Susumu Tachi, who showed off the cloak at an exhibition in San Francisco earlier this month, said he was hopeful of providing a way to provide a view of the outside in windowless rooms.
"This technology can be used in all kinds of ways, but I wanted to create a vision of invisibility," he told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.
Saddam Hussein must either be released from custody by June 30 or charged if the US and the new Iraqi government are to conform to international law, the International Committee of the Red Cross said last night.
According to the New York Times, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security – so if that's legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with? –Jay Leno
...Let me now explain the politics going on around here. 30 June is a huge day. that is when we give Iraq to the new prime minister and president.  But our job is not over. We have agreed to leave Iraq once they can "stand on their own two feet" And our next target is Iran. In retaliation Iran has decided to bomb Iraq preventing them to "stand on their own two feet." Good strategy. So we can't take over their country like we are taking over Iraq. The main trouble maker has announced that he asked for thousands of suicide crusaders from all around to hit three targets. [emphasis added]
MANCHESTER music legend Morrissey sparked controversy when he announced Ronald Reagan's death live on stage during a concert - and then declared he wished it was George Bush who had died instead.
Thousands of fans at Dublin Castle, in Ireland, cheered when the ex-Smiths frontman made the announcement that the former American president, who had battled with Alzheimer's Disease, had passed away.
And an even bigger cheer followed when Morrissey - who is no stranger to controversy - then said he wished it had been the current President, George W Bush, who had died.
As Savannah's River Street restaurants sat nearly empty, encircled by ominous cement and metal barricades, on the first day of the G-8 Sea Island Summit, a homeland security advisor for President Bush apologized for the inconvenience.
But those who make their living off the usual flow of tourists on River Street are looking around this week and wondering if the 5-foot security gates, dozens of armed police officers, and U.S. Coast Guard gunboats on the Savannah River is overkill.
In the past two years, more than 300 cities and four states have passed resolutions calling on Congress to repeal or change parts of the USA Patriot Act that, activists say, violate constitutional rights such as free speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
Barring that, the resolutions declare that their communities will uphold the constitutional rights of their residents should federal law enforcement agents come knocking on the door of local authorities for assistance in tracking residents. This means local authorities will insist on complying with federal orders only in ways that do not violate constitutional rights. The resolutions are not binding, however, and do not affect the federal government's actions.
The national movement was launched in 2001 by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an organization led by activist Nancy Talanian. Talanian first lobbied her community -- Northhampton, Massachusetts, a town of 30,000 people -- to stand against the act in November 2001, when few people had heard about the legislation.
Although the resolutions don't carry official weight, the communities say they hope to send a message to Congress to change or repeal parts of the act.
"Resolutions are powerful in that a city council can tell employees in their jurisdiction how they will behave," said Talanian. "They can say we don't want law enforcement to engage in certain activities even if authorized by certain legislation."
"The Prisoner of Azkaban" is the first true Harry Potter movie -- the first to capture not only the books' sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane, instead of just prancing fancifully at a far remove from it. In the spirit of a true romantic, Cuarón knows that the secret to great fantasy is naturalism.
Baghdad - June 2, 2004
Yesterday proved exciting enough. On my way to lunch with one of my coworkers, we heard a boom off in the distance followed by what sounded like a rocket whizzing by overhead - the most frightening kind of firework. Booms are not as frightening anymore. If you hear one, the attack already happened and you are safe. However, the sound of a rocket flying by means that the worst is yet to come. At such a moment, there is only one thing you can do - hit the deck. We did so immediatly. Then we got up and ran over to one of the many concrete shelters erected throughout the Green Zone for just this kind of occasion. Afterward, we hit the chow hall and in the middle of our meal, another boom sounded and shook the entire dining facility. There was one beat of silence and everyone went back to enjoying their meals. Hardly a conversation was interrupted. It seems as if anything can become routine.
I had my first day off this past Monday for Memorial Day. I spent most of the day recovering from the previous evening's festivities and lounging by the pool. The night before, the Coalition Provisional Authority (the current government of Iraq) threw a BBQ complete with an amateur rock band of army people who covered everything from country to Jimi Hendrix. The shish kabobs were excellent but the burgers could have been better. Quite a high calibre political event. General Sanchez (the US military commander in charge of Iraq) was there. I ate my dinner but a few feet from him as he was posing for photographs and signing autographs just like a Hollywood celebrity. The British Ambassador recited a speech by Tony Blair. This was followed by an address by L. Paul Bremer (I stood but a couple yards away) thanking the staff of the CPA for their hard work. I was very impressed with his delivery. He sounded very sincere and exuded a sense of charisma one would expect of such a man with his position. After his talk, there was a prerecorded address by President Bush who hoped we enjoyed our BBQ. (Not very impressive after Bremer's talk.) One thing I have noted about Bremer - there is very little bad press on him. The consensus seems to be that he has performed extraordinarily well considering all the adversity.
BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - A giant three-tiered mushroom which measures a meter (yard) across and was found in the tropical forests of the Republic of Congo has left experts in the capital Brazzaville scratching their heads.
'It's the first time we've ever seen a mushroom like this so it's difficult for us to classify. But we are going to determine what it is scientifically,' Pierre Botaba, head of Congo's veterinary and zoology center, told reporters on Thursday.
Clove cigarettes have long been a prop of self-styled bohemians, favored by neo-hippies, artists, drama students, and goths. By transforming the sweet, fragrant Indonesian smokes into contraband, the recently introduced Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would make them even cooler.
The bill, sponsored by two bipartisan pairs, Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate and Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House would give the Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate tobacco products. But the authors clearly thought the matter of cigarette flavorings was too important to be left to the FDA's discretion.