30 April 2010

Now available

Not your father's CBS News

Rico says he was gonna write about them anyway, but there's already a "sexy newswomen" website. And while no one (male or female) will ever replace Uncle Walter (not even the inestimal Anderson Cooper), there are now a whole series of good-looking reporters on CBS News, starting with Katie Couric. [It was Nancy Cordes, however, who started Rico on this whole 'witch hunt', if you'll permit the expression. She is extremely hot (though currently with shorter hair)...]
Kelly Cobiella
Nancy Cordes
Katie Couric
Michelle Gielan
Nancy Giles
Erica Hill
Rebecca Jarvis
Susan Köppen
Lara Logan
Maureen Maher
Michelle Miller
Erin Moriarty
Maggie Rodriguez
Tracy Smith
Bianca Solorzano

Lessee, 120 women in five years is...

...pretty damn hard; that's a new one every two weeks.
Corky Siemaszko has the story in the New York Daily News:
Tiger Woods confessed to sleeping with 120 women behind his wife's back during more than five years of marriage, a tabloid reported. But it was the one Woods left off his lengthy list that made Elin Nordegren pack her bags.
The Swedish stunner flipped out and gave Woods an earful after learning he had reportedly bedded nubile neighbor Raychel Coudriet, the National Enquirer reported. "This is the worst betrayal ever!" Nordegren screamed over the phone as Woods was dining with pals after making his golf comeback at the Masters tournament earlier this month. "I can't believe you had sex with that girl in our own neighborhood. That's it... I'm divorcing you."
The Enquirer's tipster told the tabloid that "she was screaming so loudly that everyone at the table could hear what she was saying. Tiger tried to deny it," the source said. "But Elin yelled at him, 'You're lying! You're always a liar! You're a piece of (expletive)."
At that point, Tiger told Nordegren, "We'll talk about it later", and hung up on his wife. When she called back, he hung up on her again, and stewed about it all through the rest of his meal.
Citing a source close to the couple, The Daily News reported earlier this month that Woods and Nordegren appeared headed for Splitzville. "They're saying divorce is her next move," the source said.
The latest revelation by the Enquirer, which was the first to reveal Woods' extra-marital affairs last November, may help explain why Nordegren finally flew the coop. Nordegren was also reportedly disgusted that one of Woods' alleged mistress was porn actress Joslyn James, the star of skin flicks like Big Breasted Nurses.
Coudriet, who is now 22 and lives in the same gated Orlando-area community as the disgraced golfer, met Woods when she was just fourteen. She told the tab that Woods "used and violated" her.
Nordegren has yet to say anything publicly about her husband's fall from grace, or explain how Woods managed to seduce so many women without her knowing a thing. Woods handed a four-page list of conquests to his wife while undergoing sex-addiction therapy at a Mississippi clinic, the Enquirer reported. At the time, Woods was trying to prevent Nordegren from walking out on him and taking their two kids and a big chunk of his fortune with her.
"The one mistress Tiger Woods never wanted exposed was Raychel," the source told the tabloid. "He knew that she would be the one-night stand that could utterly destroy his marriage."

Hey, he's got top secret clearance, after all

Sarah Jacobsson has an article in PCWorld about the iPhone scandal:
The iPhone-Gate saga just gets more intriguing: according to reports from Wired and CNet, two of the major players involved in the sale of the iPhone prototype to tech blog Gizmodo have now been identified. In an article published on Thursday, Wired reportedly identified the finder of the prototype using "clues on social network sites," and confirmed his identity with an unnamed source. The finder, Brian J. Hogan, a 21-year-old resident of Redwood City, California, received $5,000 for handing the prototype over to Gizmodo. According to a statement by Hogan's lawyer, Hogan believed the payment was for allowing Gizmodo exclusive access to the phone, and Gizmodo told him "there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press".
Wired also reports that people identifying themselves as Apple representatives visited Hogan's home and asked to search the premises. A roommate refused to let them in. Hogan has been interviewed by investigators, but has not been charged with a crime, and he is willing to cooperate with authorities, says his attorney. San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe told Wired that the person who found the phone is "very definitely one of the people who is being looked at as a suspect in the theft”, but Wagstaffe declined to confirm whether or not Hogan was the finder.
In an article published on Thursday, CNet reported that Hogan "had help" in finding a buyer for the phone. According to CNet, Sage Robert Wallower, a 27-year-old University of (Berkeley) California student, was the go-between for Hogan and the tech sites. Wallower, a former Navy cryptologic technician, previously worked as a computer security officer at Securitas and possesses "top-secret clearance", according to his LinkedIn profile. Wallower told CNet in an in-person interview that he was not the person who found the phone, and that he did not see or touch it in any manner. He said he did know who found it, but he didn't identify anyone else. Wallower reportedly shopped the device around to technology sites on behalf of Hogan. Records indicate that Wallower and Hogan may have been students at Santa Barbara City College at the same time.
CNet also reports that at least three people were connected to the sale: Hogan, Wallower, and an as-of-yet unidentified person. According to Hogan's lawyer, Hogan regrets not doing more to return the phone. I'd regret it too, especially since he's now a prime suspect in a potential grand larceny case...
Rico asks "there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press"? If he'd found something more serious, a loose atomic device, say, would there be any problem sharing that with the tech press?

A good start

Edward Cody has an article in The Washington Post about the latest ban on wearing veils, this time in Belgium:
Belgian lawmakers on Thursday passed a nationwide ban prohibiting women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public places, the first move of its kind in Western Europe.
The unanimous vote in the lower house of Parliament came in response to growing irritation in Belgium and other West European countries over the increasing numbers and visibility of Muslims, whose customs and attitudes often present a challenge to the continent's largely Christian heritage.
The French government, after months of rancorous debate, has pledged to pass a similar nationwide ban by September, a promise denounced by Muslims as "stigmatization" of their religion. President Nicolas Sarkozy decided last week to introduce the bill despite a warning from the country's constitutional court that a blanket prohibition would probably be unconstitutional. "The burqa has no place in France," he said.
Similar bills have been introduced in the parliaments of Italy and the Netherlands, where local jurisdictions have already imposed more-limited anti-veil measures. Two dozen communities in Belgium also have decreed local bans, including Brussels, the capital.
According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-based advocacy group, political figures in Switzerland and Austria have suggested that legislation such as Belgium's would be a good idea in their countries as well. Farther north, Denmark's government issued a statement saying the full-face veil was out of sync with Danish values, but decided against legislation because few women wear such garments.
Swiss voters, in a referendum in December, barred Muslims from building minarets, or towers, to call the faithful to prayer. Their vote, widely decried as anti-Islamic by Muslim and human rights groups, generated favorable comment from conservative French politicians along with suggestions that France should impose a similar minaret ban.
But nothing has aroused more resentment than the sight of women on the streets of European cities covered from head to toe in dark robes, with only a slit or a screen at eye level. Despite the consternation, women wearing the veils are seen infrequently, even in suburbs with large Muslim populations.
The French Interior Ministry reported that fewer than 2,000 women wear full-face veils in France, out of a Muslim population estimated by the ministry at more than five million. In neighboring Belgium, which has a Muslim population of 400,000, no estimates have been published on the number of women who wear veils, but police in Brussels last year stopped 29 women who were seen on the street with their faces covered in violation of the municipal ban.
The full veil has been condemned by European politicians of the right and left as an affront to the dignity of women and, because it hides a woman's face, as a security risk in schools, banks, and government offices. André Gerin, a member of Parliament who led a nine-month inquiry into the full-face veil in France, also qualified it as the tip of an iceberg behind which lurk radical Islamic preachers seeking to impose a fundamentalist and politicized vision of their religion on French Muslims.
The vote in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives marked a rare moment of accord among the country's political parties. They have been so bitterly split in a feud between Flemish speakers and French speakers that Prime Minister Yves Leterme's government collapsed last week.
In principle, Leterme's cabinet is only handling current affairs pending probable new elections. But the anti-veil measure was put on the agenda because it was voted out of the Home Affairs Committee unanimously last month and was considered high-priority. The bill forbids anyone to appear in public with his or her face hidden in a way that makes identification impossible. Violators would face fines of $18 to $28 and prison terms of one to seven days.
The measure must now be voted on by the Senate. With elections on the horizon and only a caretaker government in place, it could be some time before it is promulgated and goes into effect. The center-right Reform Movement party, which introduced the legislation, invoked security needs and women's dignity, echoing arguments made in France. But it also called the measure a message to Islamic activists that Belgium will not tolerate challenges to its national values.
Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, criticized the legislation as a "lose-lose situation. Treating pious Muslim women like criminals won't help integrate them," she said in a statement.
The veil debate in France has more recently been caught up in a political dispute over a veil-wearing woman who was given a traffic ticket in the western city of Nantes for driving with impaired vision. She has denounced her ticket as discrimination, saying she could see just as well with her veil as motorcyclists wearing helmets. In reaction, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, a Sarkozy ally, accused the woman's Algerian-born husband of polygamy and suggested he should be stripped of his French nationality. Hortefeux's gesture was criticized as crude politicking; the newspaper Le Monde published an editorial asking whether it would be more appropriate to strip Hortefeux of his ministerial post.
Rico says there are a large number of "women on the streets covered from head to toe in dark robes, with only a slit or a screen at eye level", but in Philly they're black...

More on Korea

This AFP article has more details in the on-going issues between North and South:
North Korean soldiers believe a South Korean warship that sank last month was hit in a premeditated military operation approved by leader Kim Jong-Il, a South Korean activist said on Wednesday. Pyongyang has denied it was responsible for the mystery blast near their disputed sea border, which left 46 sailors dead and further stoked tensions between the neighbours. The suggestion that the North may have been responsible came as South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called the communist North the world's "most belligerent" state.
Choi Sung-Yong, a campaigner for the return of South Koreans abducted by Pyongyang, told AFP: "Despite Pyongyang's denial, many North Korean soldiers believe a torpedo sank the ship."
Choi said his claim was based on a telephone conversation with an unnamed North Korean army officer. South Korean officials refused to comment.
Seoul has so far refrained from pointing the finger at the North over the sinking of the 1,200-tonne Cheonan on 26 March and said only that an "external explosion" was the most likely cause. Pyongyang has accused Seoul of seeking to shift the blame in order to justify its hardline policy toward its neighbour.
"I heard the ship was sunk in a premeditated operation approved by Kim Jong-Il," Choi said.
The officer had said Kim gave an order to exact revenge for a sea skirmish last November, Choi added. Choi said thirteen commandos using a small submarine appeared to have launched a torpedo attack.
The South's defence minister has already raised the possibility that a mine or torpedo may have sunk the ship, following deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 and the November firefight.
The November incident left a North Korean patrol boat in flames and local media reports said one North Korean sailor was killed and three wounded. The North has vowed "merciless" military action to protect its own version of the Yellow Sea border.
South Korea warned Tuesday that stalled nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang would not resume if it finds the isolated state was involved in the sinking, and President Lee Wednesday said the incident was a wake-up call. Lee said South Korea should turn the sinking into "a chance to realise that North Korea, the world's most belligerent force, is very near. Our people are oblivious to the fact that there are North Korean troops armed with long-range artillery just forty miles away." Lee has vowed a "resolute" response to the Cheonan disaster, the worst peacetime loss of life for South Korea's navy. Lee also used unusually strong language to denounce the North's extravagant display of fireworks celebrating the 15 April birthday of the state's late founder Kim Il-Sung. "I believe North Korea should gather its senses," Lee said. "Think how much corn they could have bought with that money." The North still suffers persistent food shortages, worsened by a bungled currency revaluation last November that sparked rare unrest in the tightly controlled state.
In another sign of the troubles Seoul has with its nuclear-armed nuisance neighbour, South Korean police said Wednesday they had tightened security for a high-ranking North Korean defector after uncovering a plot to kill him. The authorities arrested two elite North Korean military officers for plotting to assassinate Hwang Jang-Yop after entering South Korea in the guise of defectors. Hwang, 87, the architect of the North Korean regime's ideology of juche, or self-reliance, was once secretary of the ruling Workers' Party and a tutor to leader Kim Jong-Il. He defected in 1997 during a visit to Beijing, becoming the highest-ranking official ever to flee the hardline communist state.
But there's more, apparently:
Preparations to raise the remaining half of a sunken South Korean naval ship made progress Wednesday as weather conditions improved, an official said, expressing hopes that the wreckage may be hoisted up this weekend.
The 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan broke in half and sank on 26 March near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea. The ship's stern was raised last week, along with the bodies of dozens of sailors trapped inside, but its bow is still underwater.
Divers have installed two wires around the wreckage that will be replaced with the same number of massive salvage chains so a crane can lift the broken craft, said Park Sung-woo, a naval officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Currents were good and waves were not high," he said. "If these weather conditions hold, we will try to link chains tomorrow." Park said he hopes to complete salvage operations this weekend.
Thirty-eight of the 104 Cheonan crew members have been confirmed dead, and eight more are also believed dead, though they are still listed as missing. The 58 others were rescued.
Relatives have agreed to hold a five-day official funeral in the name of the Navy for the fallen soldiers at a naval base in Pyeongtaek, about seventy kilometers south of Seoul. The date has not been decided, as the bodies of the eight missing sailors have not been recovered and the wreckage has yet to be lifted.
A team of investigators, including experts from the United States and Australia, are trying to determine what caused the sinking amid suspicions that North Korea could have attacked the vessel. After an initial examination of the salvaged stern, a chief investigator blamed an unidentified "external explosion" as the most likely cause. That assessment bolstered suspicions of Pyongyang's involvement. North Korea has denied allegations of its involvement as fabrications. The two sides are still technically at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. The western sea border is a flashpoint, where their naval ships fought bloody gun battles in 1999, 2002, and, most recently, in November of 2009.

Jobs trashing Flash

VentureBeat.com has an article about Steve Jobs taking on Flash in 1,671 words:
“Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.” That’s the conclusion of a long post by Steve Jobs himself on Apple’s website. Jobs takes on critics who don’t like it that, on iPhone and iPad products, Apple has refused to support Adobe’s widely-used Flash technology for video, games, and user interfaces.
In an essay entitled Thoughts on Flash, Jobs tries to reverse the claim that the iPhone and iPad are 'closed' to third-party software, rather than open, because only Apple-approved apps can win placement in Apple’s App Store. You’ve got it backwards, he says: Apple is open, Adobe is closed. The post comes one day after bloggers noticed that Apple’s annual software design awards will be restricted this year to purely iPhone and iPad apps. Software for the more open and freewheeling Mac OS X platform, which ships on Apple’s Mac-branded desktop, notebook, and server gear, will be excluded from the awards. “This is because of Apple’s secret plans for OS X rolling over to the 'closed shop’ model of software distribution,” one VentureBeat reader speculated.
His Steveness doesn’t comment on what’s up with Macs and OS X, but he does list six reasons why he feels he’s got the right approach to Flash: pretend it doesn’t exist.

Here’s the executive summary:
Apple creates open standards for the Web, such as the WebKit software on which its Safari browser is based. “Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, all open standards.”
Videos currently encoded in Flash can just as easily be served in an open-standard format, specifically H.264. On top of that, Apple has video content deals with “Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others.”
On security and reliability, “Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.” Oh, and Jobs slips in performance, too. He says Apple has never seen Flash “perform well on a mobile device, any mobile device. We have never seen it.”
On battery life, “H.264 videos play for up to ten hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than five hours.”
On touchscreen interaction, "Apple does it, Adobe Flash doesn’t."
Adobe’s extra layer of technology, Flash, interferes with app development rather than making it better. As Jobs long-windedly put it, “We know from painful experience that letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform.”
In conclusion, Jobs claims that “Flash was created during the PC era, for PCs and mice.”

Another dead Microsoft project

Rico says (given his iPad fetish) this MobileBeat article by Devindra Hardawar is good news, if not for Microsoft:
Microsoft’s dual-screened Courier tablet was one of the more intriguing ideas to come from the company in the past decade, but now it seems the device will never see the light of day. Sources close to the project told Gizmodo that Microsoft executives nixed the project.
Courier wasn’t a single-screened slate tablet like the Apple iPad, or Fusion Garage’s Joojoo— and that’s what made it so compelling. Microsoft was positioning the device as a digital journal that featured a pen-based and multitouch interface, and it would have also made a compelling e-reader product as well— a market the company has yet to dive into.
Gizmodo broke the news on Courier last fall, when it got hold of concept pictures and video of the device and its impressive-looking interface. Prior to this, Microsoft never officially admitted to the project’s existence, but VP of Communications Frank Shaw finally gave it legitimacy when he told Gizmodo that Courier wasn’t going into production:
At any given time, we’re looking at new ideas, investigating, testing, incubating them. It’s in our DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity. The Courier project is an example of this type of effort. It will be evaluated for use in future offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.
Shaw reiterated the statement on Microsoft’s company blog, where he went on to say how excited he was about the products the company is actually releasing this year. As his brief statement says, technology from the Courier project could be used in future products, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance we’ll see the innovative dual-screen setup in any of those. Most likely, Courier technology will be integrated into Windows 7-equipped tablets, but that seems far less innovative without the availability of two screens.
What makes me most sad about this announcement is just how different Courier was from all other tablet concepts we’ve seen so far, and now we won’t be seeing it at all. Instead, the tablet market will be dominated by slate tablets that will all look very similar. Maybe it was just too difficult for Microsoft to turn the concept into a reality, or maybe the company thought that Courier seemed weak compared to the iPad and other tablets that featured bigger screens.
Whatever the reason, the fact that Courier is now dead gives me little hope that Microsoft will try anything too unique with future tablet and e-book readers. Most likely a future Microsoft tablet will look similar to the iPad, come out several years too late, and nobody will take it seriously.
Rico says we can call it the iDead tablet... (But he's got the Microsoft release pattern down right.)

Cape Cod wind farm

Clay Dillow has an article at Popular Science about America's first wind farm (and pissing off the Kennedys no end):
America may have taken her first steps in what is sure to be a long, incremental, and sometimes painful shift toward a large-scale clean energy future. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar finally approved the Cape Wind project, allowing for the construction of 130 turbines at Horseshoe Shoal, south of Cape Cod. The project will be the first major offshore wind project backed by the federal government and, if successful, might not be the last. Salazar said today that Cape Wind is only the first of many wind projects that will dot the Atlantic coast, piping carbon-free electricity back to shore for use in public power grids.
Cape Wind has been mired in red tape for nine years, mostly facing opposition from local Native American tribes, environmental groups, and property owners along the sound fearful that the turbines would mar their (quite expensive) oceanside views. But geographic factors (water depth, natural shelter from the open sea, and distance from dry land) make it an ideal spot to flip wind into electricity. Cape Wind's turbines should churn out power equivalent to a medium-sized coal plant. That's enough to power three-quarters of the homes and businesses on the Cape and nearby Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Salazar said the environmental impact would be that of pulling 175,000 cars off the road.
But the greater impact is yet to be seen. If Cape Wind can manage to dodge the lawsuits that are surely coming, demonstrate a reasonable level of courtesy toward native ecosystems, and start producing renewable energy in the next few years, America will have her first proving ground for large-scale offshore wind energy. A success at Cape Wind could lead to a smattering of offshore wind projects all along the East Coast by decade's end.
If you're a real optimist, today's approval of Cape Wind could signal the beginning of the government's tangible commitment to finding and exploiting renewable energy resources within, and along, our own shores. We're not popping the champagne just yet but, if Cape Wind succeeds, the political fallout could be a boon for green tech proponents. If opponents don't tie the project up too badly with litigation, construction on Cape Wind could begin within the year.
Rico says these turbines would be a lot better in the shoal water off the Louisiana coast than those burning oil rigs...

Like watching a car crash, only funnier

Rico says he watched, at the instigation of the ladyfriend, the new show The Marriage Ref this week. The panel was Martin Short (wacky as ever), Sarah Silverman (bodacious as ever), and Matthew Broderick (surprisingly torpid and, like Alfie, all 'blown out and ponceified'; living with Sarah Jessica Parker and three kids must be hard on him).
It was quite funny, and (if your relationship is having the usual problems) instructive. It was painful to watch some of the family videos, but Tom Papa made sure the panel jumped in with some cogent, if humorous, commentary.
Rico says it's television worth watching.

Damn straight

Steven Hassan has an article in The Huffington Post about the 'Church' of Scientology:
For more than 25 years, the IRS denied tax-exemption to the Church of Scientology. The long-running policy flowed from an IRS determination in 1967 that Scientology was in fact a commercial entity operated solely for the benefit of founder L. Ron Hubbard.
In 1993, seven years after Hubbard's death, the IRS made a puzzling and highly suspicious reversal. It settled its tax bill with Scientology for just $12.5 million and conferred on it the title of tax-exempt "religion". Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times later broke important ground with respective reports on the secret meetings that led to the agreement, and details of Scientology's harassment of IRS officials.
Hubbard has been gone for nearly a quarter century, but the questionable practices of extracting huge fees from members, paying lip service to informed consent but employing violence, threats, and unfair labor tactics to protect its interests, continue today under Scientology leader David Miscavige. And of course its roster of celebrity ambassadors— Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and others— continues a mission of mainstreaming the fringe thinking behind the Scientology phenomenon.
All charitable organizations are subject to regular examination and review by the IRS to ensure they are still entitled to tax exempt status. Both the IRS and the US Department of Justice have more than ample grounds to conduct respective probes of the organization's non-charitable profiteering and other abuses. Emerging stories of violence, abuse and control occurring at Scientology facilities should be enough to get the attention of Attorney General Eric Holder.
They are getting the attention of the public. On a recent CNN program, former high-ranking Scientologists Marty Rathbun and Amy Scobee detailed how Miscavige used beatings and other acts of violence to intimidate subordinates. In her recent memoir, My Billion Year Contract, Nancy Many recounts how she became near-psychotic during her 27 years as a high-level Scientologist.
Marc Headley, once an elite member, earned a paltry 39 cents an hour when he was assigned to Scientology's multimedia operation. He earned more in his first year outside of Scientology than during the fifteen years he was a member.
These brave folks are not the first to tell the truth about Scientology. Ex-Scientologist and Hubbard biography researcher Gerry Armstrong was harassed and persecuted for more than 25 years for speaking out about the organization. Among the various positions Armstrong held during his dozen years as a Scientologist was that of intelligence and public relations officer for the Sea Organization, Scientology's "elite" pseudo-military management group. In 1982, Scientology sued him. Ironically, it was this lawsuit that exposed the "church" for what it really is.
"Scientology is nothing in reality but a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo-scientific theories... and to exercise a kind of blackmail against persons who do not wish to continue with their sect," wrote California Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge, Jr. "In addition to violating and abusing its own members' civil rights, the organization over the years... has harassed and abused those persons not in Scientology whom it perceives as enemies. The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder."
On civil rights alone, Scientology's track record is abysmal, having long ago met the threshold for violation of Federal "Title 18" statutes.
A legitimate religious organization does not use physical, mental, emotional, and financial abuse to maintain membership. Nor does it function as a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate others. A valid religion informs people of church doctrine and beliefs before they make a commitment to join. A religious group with even the most basic ethics does not use its constituents as slave labor to reproduce and perpetuate its teachings.
It's pretty simple: American tax codes are wrongly benefiting and empowering the unethical, potentially illegal, and most assuredly uncharitable activities of an organization using "religion" as a cloak.

Heinous, indeed

The Huffington Post has a column by Dan Froomkin about American soldiers killing the wrong people in Afghanistan:
The video is haunting: three Afghan men are dancing in joy, whirling, clapping, throwing their arms in the air. One has just had a baby boy. There is music in the air. The whole extended family has gathered to celebrate. Hours later, two of the men lie dead, shot and killed by U.S. troops, the victims of a deeply disturbing massacre and cover-up that the White House, Congress and the United Nations continue to ignore.
In the family video, obtained by Brave New Films's Rethink Afghanistan project, one of the dead. the new father, is first seen dancing in an ornate jacket. He is Mohammed Daoud, 43, a long-serving, popular policeman who had recently been promoted to head of intelligence in one of the region's most volatile districts. One of the other dancers is Saranwal Zahir, his brother, who was a local prosecutor.
The video also shows their bloody bodies, as well as a blanket covering the three other people killed in the massacre: a teenage girl and two women, both seven months pregnant.
U.S. Special Forces troops opened fire on the family in the early-morning hours of 12 February, apparently mistaking them for insurgents, although how they could have done so remains a mystery The cover-up began quickly, and gruesomely, with soldiers going so far as actually digging their bullets out of the bodies of the three women they had shot. NATO headquarters, led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then joined the cover-up and repeatedly tried to discredit British reporter Jerome Starkey, who broke the story for the Times of London.
As I've written before, I'd like someone in Congress to hold a hearing into this atrocity.
Rethink Afghanistan, meanwhile, is gathering signatures for a petition demanding an independent, United-Nations-led investigation of the cover-up.
In the video, the narration is provided by a surviving family member, Sayid Mohammad Mal, the assistant dean of the local university. I wrote about Mohammad's story, and his appeal to President Obama to judge for himself whether he is bringing "peace or murder" to the Afghan people, last week. The new video also includes a picture of children gathered at the graves of those killed, and a photo of members of the family and other partygoers after the shooting. The man holding the photo of the two dead men is their father.
Rico says we don't get to make too many mistakes like this...

Weinie, indeed

Rico says calling the governor of Texas a weinie takes some balls (the guy, after all, does carry a gun, by his own admission), but that's what James Moore does in a column in The Huffington Post:
The governor of Texas is a weinie. I can't reach any other conclusion after reading the report about him shooting a coyote that threatened his daughter's puppy. Rick Perry said that he was jogging on a hill country trail near where he lives in a rented home and the animal came out and threatened his little dawgie. Governor Gun pulled out a Ruger and sent the coyote to the big lonesome and empty prairie coyotes go to when governors gun them down.
But I've got some questions, your governorship.
First, I can say I've run thousands of miles on trails in Texas and I have never once thought of carrying a gun. Well, yeah, a squirt gun. I used to have a Doberman that came after me on a dirt road and I solved that by mixing some ammonia into water and putting it into a little squirt gun. Got the big dog in the eyeballs next time he came barking after me and when he saw me pass by a few days later he ran away more like a chicken than a dog. No shot fired in anger.
Perry said he carried the gun because he was afraid of snakes, and that a number of people living in that area have lost pets to wild animals. Well, Governor Gun, that's the way nature is ordered. Big fish eat little fish. Wild animal eat domestic animal. You don't want your cat turned into a coyote hairball, keep it in the house. But afraid of snakes and you carry a gun? I don't know any trail runner under the Lone Star sky that hasn't come across a rattler or seven. And not one of them ever said, "Hey, I think I'll carry a gun and kill rattlers the next time." Unless you surprise a rattler, it's going to slither away real danged fast. And governor, I've seen you run; you aren't going to surprise a snake or a turtle.
Too much of yer yarn just doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. Whenever I see you plodding around Lady Bird Lake, you generally have two DPS guys, but always at least one trailing you. Sometimes they run. Often they are on bikes. And they have guns. What the hell do you need a gun on a running trail for when you've got, according to the AP story, two DPS security guys running with you? Three guns and one coyote? That's just not an honorable way to handle these things governor, and not the way we do it in Texas.
And, although I've never done it, seems to me like running and carrying a gun has to be kind of uncomfortable. I read you were packing your pistol in a holster. I just find it odd that you put on the running shorts, the Nike shoes, a tee shirt, and a ball cap, and then strapped on your coyote widow maker. Who the hell does such a thing? And not just a regular ol' 380 Ruger. This baby has a laser sight. You're really scared, aren't you? Those nasty slithering, phallic things on the ground don't have a chance, do they? Seriously, you are so afraid of snakes that you armed yourself to go for a run? Aren't there some other unsettled issues that you aren't talking about here? Let me also add, be thankful for your Anglo-Saxon heritage. Being ethnic and running with a gun in Texas, on a trail or a road, might end up with a living creature other than an animal being shot.
There's something else. If this happened in February, why are you just now sharing this? It seems to me that you would have been a little excited the day you turned coyote killer and you might have mentioned it to a reporter or a political pal that could have let it slip to someone, somewhere. But nothing until two months later? Sorry, sounds a little too neat. And if you were trying for the tough guy image, whacking a coyote isn't really gonna do that for you. Nor is packin' heat cuz you are afraid of things that go slither in the sun. I guess I have to say I don't believe your story. I need testimony or signed witness statements from your two backup gunmen in the DPS. That might convince me.
Or let's just do this by the books. The law books. If you were accused of being a coyote killer, the law would have to respond to habeas corpus and bring up the body to prove someone had been killed. Or you'd have to be cut loose to deal with more snakes. But let me turn that around on you. Prove you killed a coyote. Habeas coyote corpus. Ah, but you can't produce a body because the critter has been gone for two months. You said he's "mulch".
So's your story, Governor Gun.
Rico says if you're scared of rattlesnakes (and who's not?), you carry a revolver loaded with birdshot rounds, not a .380 with hardball (though it did a hell of a job on the coyote).

Now the Brits are arguing about immigration

Now they're going crazy in China

Louisiana should be so lucky

Civil War for the day

The 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, practicing.

29 April 2010

Civil War for the day

Confederate reenactors on the Sunday of the 140th of Antietam.

28 April 2010

Don't play this for Mr. James

Rico says that would be Jesse's Girl, as Sandra Bullock isn't any more:

Not Zone of Fire, but well done

Rico says his video, Zone of Fire, will portray the same events, but look very different; this is the Gunfight at the OK Corral, from Tombstone:

Rico says you gotta admire a politician who not only carries a gun, and admits to carrying a gun, but it willing to use it when necessary. Jim Vertuno has the story on The Huffington Post: about Rick Perry, pistol-packing governor of (of course) Texas:
Texas Governor Rick Perry has a message for wily coyotes out there: Don't mess with my dog. Perry told The Associated Press that he needed just one shot from the laser-sighted pistol he sometimes carries while jogging to take down a coyote that menaced his puppy during a February run near Austin. Perry said he will carry his .380 Ruger, loaded with hollow-point bullets, when jogging on trails because he is afraid of snakes. He'd also seen coyotes in the undeveloped area. When one came out of the brush toward his daughter's Labrador retriever, Perry charged. "Don't attack my dog or you might get shot... if you're a coyote," he said.
Perry, a Republican running for a third full term against Democrat Bill White, is living in a private house in a hilly area southwest of downtown Austin while the Governor's Mansion is being repaired after a 2008 fire. A concealed handgun permit holder, Perry carries the pistol in a belt. "I knew there were a lot of predators out there. You'll hear a pack of coyotes. People are losing small cats and dogs all the time out there in that community," Perry said. "They're very wily creatures."
On this particular morning, Perry said, he was jogging without his security detail shortly after sunrise. "I'm enjoying the run when something catches my eye and it's this coyote. I know he knows I'm there. He never looks at me, he is laser-locked on that dog," Perry said. "I holler and the coyote stopped. I holler again. By this time I had taken my weapon out and charged it. It is now staring dead at me. Either me or the dog are in imminent danger. I did the appropriate thing and sent it to where coyotes go," he said.
Perry said the laser-pointer helped make a quick, clean kill. "It was not in a lot of pain," he said. "It pretty much went down at that particular juncture." Texas state law allows people to shoot coyotes that are threatening livestock or domestic animals. The dog was unharmed, Perry said.
Perry's security detail was not required to file a report about the governor discharging a weapon, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange. "People shoot coyotes all the time, snakes all the time," Mange said. "We don't write reports."
The governor left the coyote where it fell. "He became mulch," Perry said.

What, are they nuts?

CNN.com has an article by Gabriel Falcon about a place you won't visit if you like the thong, apparently:
If you plan on going to Kure Beach, North Carolina, bring your sunscreen and shades, but please leave your thong behind. The seaside community has adopted a zero tolerance policy on anyone wearing the barely-there bikini by the shore on their part of North Carolina's Pleasure Island, just south of Wilmington.
"You can do what you want to in your own space," said Mayor Dean Lambeth, "but for public decency, keep it off the public beach." Lambeth told CNN he and the town supervisors last week unanimously approved the ordinance banning the skimpy bathing wear. "Everything we do is family oriented. We like the small town atmosphere," he said. The decision to forbid thongs was triggered by a couple's recent inquiry about spending their honeymoon in Kure Beach, Lambeth said.
According to the mayor, the couple wanted to know if they could wear thongs. The man thought the town's policy on the matter was ambiguous, Lambeth said. After consulting with the police chief, he determined the ordinance should be amended to better address the issue.
Section 12-32 of the Code of the Town of Kure Beach, which was adopted on April 22, makes it illegal "for any person being naked or insufficiently clothed... to bathe or swim in the Atlantic Ocean" or any other area within the town's jurisdiction. Sun-bathing "naked or insufficiently clothed" is also banned. "Thong bathing suits or similar attire are specifically prohibited," the code says. Anyone wearing a thong on the beach will be fined $25.
Lambeth said reaction to the no-thong policy has been overwhelmingly positive. "I have gotten probably 100 e-mails from all over the U.S. supporting our stance," he told CNN. "I'm getting calls from New York, California that they are glad somebody is finally taking a stand for public decency." Lambeth, who said Kure Beach's population swells from 2,500 to 11,000 in the summer, described the town as "nice, slow-mo and conservative." "We're just a small southern community, and that's how we're going to keep it," he said. He also suspected the decision on the thongs could end up in court and blamed liberals for that. "You can file a suit; the way this country is leaning so far left, it wouldn't surprise me," he said. "They want to challenge it? They want to spend the money? Go for it." Lambeth said people can wear thongs in their homes and backyards. And with his policy in place, he told CNN he's content. "I'm sitting out here looking at the ocean and don't see a damn thong in sight."

Bret Michaels has one, and other things, too

Rico says the BBC has more on Bret Michaels:
Singer Bret Michaels is in "positive spirits", despite being diagnosed with a sideeffect relating to the recent haemorrhage he suffered. A statement on his website said test results had shown his body currently has a lack of sodium, which could lead to seizures. "Even though today was a minor setback, doctors remain hopeful for a full recovery," the statement added.
The 47-year-old remains under observation in hospital in Los Angeles. He was admitted last Friday with a severe headache. Michaels, currently being seen on US television on Celebrity Apprentice, was found to have suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, or bleeding onto the surface of the brain. He remains in a critical but stable condition, his website said.
The statement added: "They [doctors] are hopeful that Bret will gradually improve as the blood surrounding the brain dissolves and is reabsorbed into his system, which can be a very painful recovery and take several weeks to months." The star very recently had his appendix removed in an emergency operation and also has diabetes.
Poison had hits including Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Unskinny Bop and Michaels recently recorded a song with teenage star Miley Cyrus.
Speaking on Larry King Live, Donald Trump Jr., who worked with Michaels on Celebrity Apprentice, called him a "likable guy, down to earth and a solid person".

More spiritual than religious? Sounds about right

Cathy Lynn Grossman has an article in USAToday about religion, or the lack thereof, in GenY kids:
Most young adults today don't pray, don't worship, and don't read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows. If the trends continue, "the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships," says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group's survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they're "really more spiritual than religious". Among the 65% who call themselves Christian, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only," Rainer says. "Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith." Key findings in the phone survey, conducted in August and released today:
65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either
65% rarely or never attend worship services
67% don't read the Bible or sacred texts
Many are unsure Jesus is the only path to heaven: Half say yes, half no. "We have dumbed down what it means to be part of the church so much that it means almost nothing, even to people who already say they are part of the church," Rainer says.
The findings, which document a steady drift away from church life, dovetail with a LifeWay survey of teenagers in 2007 who dropped out of church and a study in February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which compared the beliefs of Millennials with those of earlier generations of young people. (The new survey has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.) Even among those in the survey who "believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior":
68% did not mention faith, religion, or spirituality when asked what was "really important in life"
50% do not attend church at least weekly
36% rarely or never read the Bible
Neither are these young Christians evangelical in the original meaning of the term — eager to share the Gospel. Just 40% say this is their responsibility. Even so, Rainer is encouraged by the roughly fifteen percent who, he says, appear to be "deeply committed" Christians in study, prayer, worship, and action.
Collin Hansen, 29, author of Young, Restless, Reformed, about a thriving minority of traditionalist Christians, agrees. "I'm not going to say these numbers aren't true and aren't grim, but they also drive people like me to build new, passionately Christian dynamic churches," says Hansen, who is studying for the ministry. He sees many in his generation veering to "moralistic therapeutic deism— 'God wants you to be happy and do good things.' I would not call that Christianity, however."
The 2007 LifeWay study found seven in ten Protestants ages eighteen to thirty, both evangelical and mainline, who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. And 34% of those had not returned, even sporadically, by age thirty.
The Pew survey found young people today were significantly more likely than those in earlier generations to say they didn't identify with any religious group. Neither are Millennials any more likely than earlier generations to turn toward a faith affiliation as they grow older.

Big time

Rico says you hear about prisoners getting fucked all the time, but Charles Hood really did, and The New York Times agrees:
The Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to address fundamental questions of ethics and fairness when it declined to review the case of Charles Dean Hood, an inmate on death row in Texas.
The one-line order, issued without comment from any of the justices, left in place an egregiously tainted 1990 double-murder conviction. Eighteen years after Mr. Hood was sentenced to death, the state trial judge, Verla Sue Holland, and Tom O’Connell, then the Collin County district attorney, admitted that they had had a secret affair that appears to have ended not long before the trial.
After considering these seamy circumstances, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last year denied Mr. Hood’s request for a new trial, ruling— incredibly— that he took too long to raise the conflict of interest and should be executed. Yet it took a court-issued subpoena to get the two officials to confirm their long-rumored affair. Their success in hiding their relationship should not count against Mr. Hood.
In a separate appeal, Mr. Hood was granted a new punishment trial on grounds that jurors were not allowed to properly consider mitigating evidence that might have persuaded them that he didn’t deserve a death sentence. The ruling made no mention of their entanglement. That trial is pending.
Judge Holland’s failure to recuse herself violates the most basic, and obvious, principles of judicial ethics and due process. The Supreme Court should have grabbed the case to say so and order a new trial for Mr. Hood. That was the course urged by 21 former judges and prosecutors and 30 experts on legal ethics who supported Mr. Hood’s petition to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court correctly ruled last year that millions of dollars in campaign spending on behalf of a judge’s election bid created an intolerable “probability of actual bias”. The court decided that Chief Justice Brent Benjamin, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, was required to recuse himself from a case involving Massey Energy, one of the country’s biggest coal companies, after Massey’s chief executive spent $3 million to help get Justice Benjamin elected.
The right to a fair hearing, before an impartial judge, is at the heart of the nation’s judicial system. If money raises a serious question about that impartiality, love seems to be at least as worrisome. The Supreme Court, sadly, failed in its duty to clearly draw that line.
San Sifton has an article in The New York Times about the resurgence of New Orleans:
It is the siren call of a magnificent, broken city: “This, here, is the real New Orleans.” Spend any time sweating through a shirt and walking slow and purposeful along Magazine Street toward a Sazerac before dinner, and you’ll hear the cry, in this bar or that one. You’ll hear it on the radio, driving the high-rise bridge over the Industrial Canal, someone spinning funk on WWOZ and talking about New Orleans soul. You’ll see it in the defiant eyes of a man lurching out of a second line in Pigeon Town.
You can see it on stages all over town this week, as the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival packs the city with visitors for ten days of music and celebration. And you can see it on television, in David Simon’s new HBO series, Treme. Finding the true, authentic New Orleans is that show’s essential mission, its quest:

It may be the city’s, too. Particularly since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina scattered the city’s population, the question of what defines New Orleans in the minds of its remaining citizens and the world beyond has been a central question here.
I spent a week here earlier this month, seeing how restaurants are answering that question, eating high and low, new and old along the bends in the Mississippi River. I walked through crowds in the French Quarter to a meal of oysters Rockefeller and crab Yvonne at Galatoire’s, and along the barren streets south of Lake Pontchartrain to another of po’ boys amid crowds at the Parkway Bakery.
There were breakfast pho across the Mississippi in Gretna, Louisiana, where a large Vietnamese community has settled, and dinner of speckled trout with lump crab, mushrooms, and hollandaise sauce at August, John Besh’s magnificent Southern internationalist restaurant downtown. There was caviar and vodka at Stella!, Scott Boswell’s elegant, deeply European restaurant in the French Quarter, where duck five ways follows the foie gras, and leads to trios of crème brûlée. And at midnight, there were red beans and rice out at Vaughan’s in Bywater, as Kermit Ruffins played his horn before red-eyed supplicants, tourists, and New Orleans natives alike.
There was plenty to sample; there are roughly 1,000 restaurants in New Orleans now, up a couple of hundred from before the storm, according to The New Orleans Menu, a website dedicated to the subject that is run by Tom Fitzmorris.
And, for a critic on the prowl for an authentic taste of the city in full springtime bloom, surprises abounded. One of the most purely joyful and purely New Orleans restaurants of the moment is Emeril’s, a place run by a television chef who was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and lives mostly in New York City. Another, Cochon, is devoted not to the Creole cosmopolitanism of the city center, but to the Cajun traditions of the bayous and backwaters outside of town, in the tidal soup of southern Louisiana.
And a third group of genuine, true-to-type New Orleans restaurants that sit near this city’s culinary heart is not Southern at all, but Vietnamese.
At nearly every restaurant, still, there was evidence of the toll the storm exacted. Before lunch at Mandina’s, an elegant old Creole Italian restaurant in mid-city where the rich, buttery trout amandine would show a Martian what constitutes a classic New Orleans lunch, the crowd was drinking old-fashioneds at the bar. (Drink up, Martian!)
Pableaux Johnson, a child of Louisiana with prodigious knowledge of this city’s food scene, was among the crowd. His Eating New Orleans, a guide to the city’s restaurants that was released just after Katrina, is still indispensable for anyone interested in the culture of New Orleans food.
“There’s a marker around here somewhere that shows how high the water was during the flood,” Mr. Johnson said. It took a few minutes to find it, high up on a column in the rebuilt dining room. A man of average height and abilities could not touch it if he jumped.
Against this background, most meals in New Orleans seem celebratory.
At Mr. Lagasse’s flagship, the festivity is commemorative: Emeril’s turned twenty this year, a standard-bearing, warehouse-district pioneer that has remained a constant in its owner’s increasingly peripatetic life. In the early days, before television came calling, when he was just a breakout chef who’d cut his teeth at Commander’s Palace and gone on to open his own shop, Mr. Lagasse worked in the kitchen at this loft-like space on Tchoupitoulas Street. Now he has restaurants in Orlando and Miami in Florida, and Las Vegas, among others, as well as two more here in New Orleans: NOLA, a less formal version of Emeril’s; and Delmonico (photo above), a steakhouse in the Garden District where a Ramos gin fizz in the bar leads pleasantly enough toward rabbit crepes and a thick steak. Some four hundred people work for Mr. Lagasse in this city, and nearly a thousand more at his other properties. His name and visage are on salad dressings in your supermarket. He sells knives, pots, pans, clogs, and toothpaste. The Emeril Lagasse Show had its debut on the Ion network on 18 April. And in late March, when he came to the restaurant to celebrate the anniversary, it was to broadcast a satellite radio program from the dining room.
By the laws of restaurant physics, Emeril’s should be terrible, a food mill for tourists. It isn’t. It is excellent, neither raucous nor stuffy, cheery and high-ceilinged, with warm lighting. It is also one of the few high-end dining establishments in the city to exhibit more than simply a hint of the city’s racial and ethnic diversity in both its staff and its patronage. The food is remarkably good. Exemplary barbecue shrimp— sautéed in a dark and fiery cream that carries with it hints of lemon and Worcestershire sauce— introduce the restaurant’s abilities. Then a sweet and salty grilled Niman Ranch pork chop with caramelized sweet potatoes on the side doubles the bet. A shockingly good banana cream pie with a graham-cracker crust takes the evening’s winnings. David Slater, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, is a more-than-able manager of Mr. Lagasse’s culinary estate.
Some in New Orleans have held Mr. Lagasse in bad odor since Katrina, when he evacuated his family to Las Vegas. Some said he appeared insufficiently concerned for the welfare of his local staff and restaurants. In a telephone interview, Mr. Lagasse vigorously denied the charges: “They were taking potshots at me because I wasn’t wearing waders and crying in front of the restaurant,” he said. “But I was being a businessman, working on saving the business.” New refrigeration units for all the kitchens had to be fabricated, he said, and extensive renovation done to the restaurants themselves, particularly Delmonico. “You can’t buy this stuff at Home Depot,” Mr. Lagasse said. “I couldn’t reopen with a bunch of coolers and propane stoves.”
Mr. Johnson had been one of those who had grumbled, at least privately. After all, other restaurateurs had done exactly that. “I stopped following him after the storm,” he wrote in an email message. “I guess I’m eating my words right now,” he said in the restaurant, stabbing at the last of the banana cream pie. “This place is all damn right.”
For those interested in the big flavors that lie at the intersection of urban New Orleans and rustic Cajun country, Cochon, a few blocks upriver from Emeril’s, is a can’t-miss stop. The chefs and owners— Donald Link, who also owns the well-regarded Herbsaint in the Central Business District, and Stephen Stryjewski, a sous chef at that restaurant— opened Cochon in 2006, a few months after Katrina. The dining room looks out through walls of windows, and its brick walls and bare wooden furniture glow in soft light. It is a highbrow roadhouse, a juke joint near Neil Young University.
The food is head-shakingly good: delicate fried rabbit livers on toast points with a fiery pepper jelly; oysters roasted in the heat of a wood fire; fried cauliflower with a chili vinegar sauce; a gumbo of shrimp and deviled eggs.
This is not bad for starter plates, with a glass of bourbon from Black Maple Hill and a chaser of Miller High Life. Afterward matters get serious.
Main dishes include a marvelous soft Louisiana cochon, a kind of Cajun version of suckling pig, slow-cooked and then crisped, served with turnips, cabbage, and crackling skin, as well as a perfect sandwich of deep-fried oysters and house-made bacon on white Pullman bread, with a chili-spiked mayonnaise. A fellow could eat that for days.
And there is a simple salad: cucumber and herbs in vinegar, lightly pickled. It will be familiar to anyone who has ever eaten a banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich.
They may be Cajun in impulse, but Cochon’s cucumbers explain in one bite how these Vietnamese po’ boys have taken their place alongside roast beef and Italian ones, and how pho can walk with gumbo in the night.
The Vietnamese came to New Orleans after the fall of Saigon, in 1975, having escaped the ravages of one city to establish themselves in a new one. Like the Cajuns before them, the Vietnamese took to the Gulf to net shrimp, and in doing so angered those who had preceded them on the water. In time, however, their poverty and French-inflected history, not to mention their interest in food, allowed them to make inroads, first into Cajun Louisiana and then New Orleans itself.
By the early 1990s, Mr. Lagasse said, he had incorporated a Vietnamese stuffed chicken wing onto his menu at NOLA, where it originated as a staff meal cooked by a Vietnamese employee. Miss Hay’s chicken wings are still on the menu. There are a few Vietnamese accents at Mr. Besh’s restaurants, too.
If you’ve had a banh mi in New Orleans, chances are the bread came from Dong Phuong, on an undistinguished stretch of Chef Menteur Highway east of the city, near the Church of Mary, Queen of Vietnam. The bakery is on the right, a related restaurant on the left.
A banh mi from the bakery— meatballs with pâté and vegetables, and plenty of hot peppers— makes a parking-lot lunch at Dong Phuong one of the signal pleasures of the American South.
In the dining room, which draws a crowd from 11 a.m. on, there isn’t much of note aesthetically. But the food is worth driving for: dark, peppery, shaking beef with onions and rice, say, or pork over vermicelli and a cold duck salad to eat with sweet tea.
Closer to the city’s center, just across the bridge from downtown in a grim, low-slung concrete building in Gretna, is Pho Tau Bay. Here gather hung-over artists and college kids under ceiling fans in the heat, with Vietnamese laborers and truck-driving Cajuns sharing tables and hot sauce, everyone slurping bowls of rich broth with beef tendon, with pork, with piles of vegetables.
Others go to Nine Roses, also in Gretna, for egg rolls and stewed mustard greens with ground pork and shrimp; or to Tan Dinh, for roast quail with a lemony salt and pepper dipping sauce and a superior banh mi.
Only one banh mi I tasted came close to Tan Dinh’s for flavor and texture. It was served at Butcher, a new Cajun-style grocery that the Cochon team opened behind their restaurant. What constitutes the real New Orleans is always in flux.
But if all that leaves you hungry, here are some of the better restaurants in New Orleans and nearby.
August 301 Tchoupitoulas Street (Gravier Street), 504.299.9777
Cochon 930 Tchoupitoulas Street (Andrew Higgins Drive), 504.588.2123
Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery 14207 Chef Menteur Highway, 504.254.0214
Emeril's 800 Tchoupitoulas Street (Julia Street), 504.528.9393
Emeril's Delmonico 1300 St. Charles Avenue (Erato Street), 504.525.4937
Galatoire's 209 Bourbon Street (Iberville Street), 504.525.2021
Mandina's 3800 Canal Street (South Cortez Street), 504.482.9179
Parkway Bakery 538 Hagan Avenue (Toulouse Street), 504.482.3047
Pho Tau Bay 113 Westbank Expressway, Gretna, La., 504.368.9846
Stella! 1032 Chartres Street (Ursulines Street), 504.587-0091
Tan Dinh 1705 Lafayette Street, Gretna, 504.361.8008
Rico says this article made him hungry...

In a related article in The New York Times by John Edge, he talks more about the Vietnamese invasion, this time in Atlanta, Georgia:
Hieu Pham serves about a ton of Louisiana crayfish each week here at the Crawfish Shack Seafood, boiling them in a slurry of commercial seasoning mix, garlic cloves, orange wedges and lemon grass stalks. Cast nets hang from the acoustical-tile ceiling of the strip-mall restaurant, located behind his father’s auto-repair shop along a multiethnic corridor north of downtown. Cans of Café Du Monde coffee sit by the register, and Louis Armstrong plays in heavy rotation.
His father was raised in Vietnam, his mother in Cambodia. Mr. Pham, born 27 years ago in Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta, calls himself a “real Georgia peach.” But, like an increasing number of Vietnamese restaurateurs across the country, he sells his customers a vision of Louisiana culture, accessorized by heaping bowls of crayfish. (Or, as they are called regionally, crawfish.) At least two other counter-service crayfish cafes in Atlanta are owned by Vietnamese or Cambodian families. Vietnamese-owned crayfish restaurants, built around liberal interpretations of Louisiana, are now suburban fixtures in Texas, California, and elsewhere.
When thousands fled Indochina after the end of the Vietnam War, many ended up in Louisiana. Now, for the children of those refugees, the Gulf Coast, fringed by seafood-rich wetlands, can be a kind of second homeland. Crayfish are not commonly consumed in Vietnam, said Andrea Nguyen, a California author of books on Southeast Asian food, but eating boiled shellfish “is a social activity among Vietnamese people. Crawfish eating is visceral,” she said. “Vietnamese people like to pick at their food, to peel and eat with their fingers.”
In California, some crayfish restaurants advertise themselves as quan nhau, or casual restaurants. In southwestern Louisiana, restaurants that specialize in crayfish are often known as boiling points. Many rural boiling points, which have existed since the 1950s, are rudimentary, with concrete floors and bare wood or laminate tables. The crayfish, which are cooked in giant pots over propane flames along with potatoes and ears of corn, arrive on plastic or metal trays. Waiters and waitresses tally orders by weight. Beer is the drink of choice. Rolls of paper towels anchor each table.
A similar, but more expansive, ethic applies at the Vietnamese-owned crayfish restaurants that began opening in Houston around 2000, and a few years later in Southern California. Hank’s Cajun Crawfish, on Bellaire Boulevard on the west side of Houston, in a storefront with tinted windows and glaring neon, is one of a half-dozen or more Vietnamese-owned urban boiling points in that Gulf Coast city. The frills are few. Hot sauces from three continents crowd the tables. Mardi Gras beads drape the refrigerator. Its owner, Tony Bu, learned the trade from relatives with New Orleans roots. His boil is a traditional concoction, flavored with a commercial Cajun seasoning mix. But Mr. Bu drenches some of his crayfish in garlicky margarine and serves them in clear plastic bags. He dishes up crayfish fried rice, too. A margarine drench and bag service are not characteristic of boiling points in Louisiana; nor is a make-your-own swab of lime juice, black pepper and salt, which recalls the traditional Vietnamese dip called muoi tieu chanh. While flavored butter or margarine is sometimes an option in Houston, at Los Angeles-area crayfish restaurants owned by Vietnamese, it’s usually standard. Boiling Crab in Garden Grove, California, which Dada Ngo and her husband, Sinh Nguyen, opened in 2003, now has eight locations in the state and beyond. All tout their finishing sauces, including a buttery blend of garlic, lemon pepper, and Cajun spice mix, known as the Whole Sha-Bang. The ethnic background of the owners is downplayed. The Boiling Crab website portrays Mr. Nguyen as a beer-drinking good ol’ boy from Seadrift, Texas. Ms. Ngo, his Kansas-born bride, goes by the handle Yo’ Mama. Boiling Crab was a pioneer. In the years since it opened, its success has inspired a dozen or more competing businesses, including Claws, also in Garden Grove. A pirate-themed restaurant owned by a Vietnamese family and decorated with life-size swashbuckler mannequins, Claws serves a sauce-smothered style of crayfish as well as nontraditional dishes like periwinkle snails simmered in coconut-basil sauce.Mr. Pham, of Atlanta, is not a fan of margarine- or butter-slicked crayfish. “I want my flavor to be in the crawfish meat,” he said, sounding like a third-generation Cajun purist. “Not on the shell. You’re not supposed to get the flavor when you lick your fingers.” He learned to love crayfish in Louisiana. Like many Christian youths there, Mr. Pham spent long summer stretches at church camps, including an annual Vietnamese Baptist gathering, often held in New Orleans. Following the lead of Vietnamese campers from Louisiana, he learned how to clean crayfish, and how to season the water in which they cook. Mr. Pham, who once studied to be an interior designer, sets the scene well. He stocks his shelves with Louisiana-produced étouffée and beignet mixes and emphasizes the Cajun Country origins of his crayfish. But his efforts don’t amount to gimmickry. The foods that emerge from this small kitchen staffed by his family, including his mother, Hoe Pham, taste like honest tributes to Louisiana, filtered through the life experiences and cooking repertories of Southeast Asian immigrants. Nuoc mia, sugar-cane juice pressed to order from Louisiana cane, is on the menu. So are spring rolls threaded with Louisiana shrimp. Mr. Pham gets his oysters, crabss and shrimp from Gulf Coast waters. “We don’t believe in imported stuff,” he said. Mr. Pham is not, however, beholden to Vietnamese or Louisianan measures of authenticity. He respects the New Orleans bread-baking traditions that make possible the po’ boy. But he prefers Amoroso brand bread from Philadelphia, loaves more often associated with cheese-steak sandwiches. “I’m not trying to do it just like them,” Mr. Pham said, speaking of his friends back in Louisiana. “I’ve got to find my own way, too.” Customers recognize the link between Vietnam and Louisiana even as they make sport of it. For Jeff Cook, a music promoter, Mr. Pham’s fried crayfish po’ boys brought to mind the raucous processions behind New Orleans’s brass band parades. Using the local name for those celebrations, tongue planted firmly in cheek, Mr. Cook gave a nod and a wink to tradition. “Not many people know it,” he said, “but the Vietnamese are very famous for their ‘second lines’.”
Rico says he never would have expected Vietnamese sandwiches on Amoroso bread, but (as a Philly resident now) what's good is good...

Fifty four thousand in the daytime, for once

Rico says he used to fake the round number, then stopped, but today he got lucky...

Not just American sports stars, apparently

Jyoti Thottam has an article at Time.com about a problematic wedding in India:
Nikhil Mehra got the good news two weeks ago. The Indian tennis star Sania Mirza was engaged to the Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, and she wanted her wedding finery to be designed by Mehra and his brother, the team behind the label Shantanu & Nikhil. Already a favorite of Bollywood stars and billionaires' daughters, they were a natural choice for the headstrong, glamorous woman who has become a symbol of the new India. "So many millions of people look up to her," Mehra says. "She's young, and we're a young brand."
While dozens of craftsmen labored over the beading and embroidery, the wedding itself started to unravel. But it wasn't because a handful of Hindu right-wingers had criticized Mirza, a Muslim, for making a match with India's archenemy Pakistan. She shrugged them off and explained that they would live in Dubai and continue to play for their own countries. Nor was it because of her often difficult relationship with the conservative Muslim community in Hyderabad, which is proud of her success but uneasy with her brash persona; she was, after all, marrying another Muslim with the blessings of both families.
Mirza's cross-border fairy tale had, instead, turned into a sordid tabloid drama when another woman from Hyderabad said she was already married to Malik. The other woman, Ayesha Siddiqui, whose family lives in the posh Banjara Hills neighborhood on a street adjacent to Mirza's, filed a criminal case of "cheating" against Malik. Although the cricketer claimed he had been tricked into marrying someone he'd never met, his earlier marriage was widely known in society circles, particularly after the Siddiqui family hosted a dinner for the Pakistani cricket team in 2005. Mirza stood by her man as the police questioned him, insisting, "I and my family know what the truth is."
Whatever that may be, the couple, dubbed "Shoania" by the Indian press, are now legally married. Malik got a divorce from Siddiqui, the charges against him were dropped, and he married Mirza in a small nikah ceremony at her parents' home on Monday. Hyderabad's sixteen Telugu-language television channels, the national English-language media, and dozens of regional newspapers, are now in full stalking and gawking mode. Several channels devoted their entire morning news coverage to the nikah, the first of four days of festivities. Reporters have staked out the Taj Krishna hotel, site of Thursday's reception, where Mirza will unveil her designer confection — a flared silk tunic over slim, gauzy leggings — and greet about 1,000 guests. The city is dealing with other issues— most notably a recent spasm of Hindu-Muslim violence and a fight over the creation of a new state in the region— but in today's media-saturated India, celebrity trumps politics. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani managed only a handshake with his Indian counterpart in Washington this week, but his wedding gift to the happy couple is reportedly on the way, as are those of several other prominent politicians.
"It has become like a reality-television show," says Asaduddin Owaisi, a third-generation politician who represents Hyderabad in Parliament. Owaisi, a broad-chested, London-trained barrister, is just glad it's over. As leader of the All India Majlis-e Ittihad al-Muslimin, one of the oldest Muslim political parties in India, he was dismayed at how the wedding drama played into stereotypes about Muslims. The rest of India, he believes, can't resist a story about the repression of women by Islam. Malik's first marriage was performed over the phone, and Siddiqui's subsequent rejection seemed like yet another example of a woman being cast aside under India's controversial Muslim marriage and divorce laws. Only the intervention of a group of elders from the city's Muslim community ended what could have been a lengthy legal battle.
It is a difficult time for the Muslims of Hyderabad. They make up forty percent of the city's eight million people, by far the largest Muslim population in any major Indian city. Before independence, Hyderabad was a small kingdom ruled by a fabulously wealthy, shrewd nizam, and Muslims were a privileged minority who dominated the professions and held thirty percent of government jobs. After partition, however, most of the Muslim elite left for Pakistan. Today, Muslims hold only about two percent of the government jobs, and Owaisi is the only Muslim Parliament member in the entire state.
With low levels of education relative to Hindus, Muslims have largely been left out of the technology boom that has surged through the rest of the city. Instead, they have gravitated to the Persian gulf countries to look for work, but those opportunities have largely dried up in the global recession, leaving many men jobless, bitter, and, in some cases, radicalized. At the end of March, the city endured four days of Hindu-Muslim rioting, sparked by a dispute over flags for a Muslim holiday on a Hindu temple and a false rumor that the city's Hindu temples would be attacked. Three people died, more than one hundred were injured and eighteen mosques were damaged. The riots had just begun when Mirza announced her engagement, raising fears that the violence would escalate. But the media quickly shifted almost all of their attention to the wedding, giving little coverage to the 2.5 million Muslims who remained under curfew for several days.
Muslims aren't the only ones feeling dispossessed. The city is also home to the Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) political party, whose charismatic leader, K. Chandrashekar Rao, went on a "fast until death" in December, demanding that India carve a new state, Telengana, out of the existing state of Andhra Pradesh. Farmers in the poor, parched interior region of Telengana have long complained of exploitation by the communities in the richer, coastal Andhra region. The TRS believes that a new state would end the coastal castes' dominance over government jobs, scarce water and power, and Hyderabad's extremely valuable real estate. Rao and his party's leaders went to Delhi to present their case for statehood to the central government.
Inside the TRS headquarters, a flat-screen television displays two news channels side by side: a Telengana mouthpiece and a popular Andhra channel. Images of the cracked, drought-hit fields of Telengana appear alongside the plump, gyrating dancers of Telugu films and, of course, the latest on the Shoania wedding. One of the TRS leaders, B. Vinod Kumar, shrugs when asked about the fascination with Sania Mirza: "She's a celebrity," he says. But soon, he adds, the media will move on.

Tiger on Tiger

The last campfire

Rico says it is unfair of us to kill these poor terrorists at a great distance, often in the dark, while they're just sitting calmly around a campfire... But ain't video death fun, when it's not your cold dumb ass getting shot up?

Mystery plane

Rico says it looks like they reshaped the inlet on an F-16 (this photo courtesy of Rico's friend Kelley) but, if so, he can't find any other photos of it:

Fast in Austin

Rico says it's good that they're in Austin; nice town. Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone have the story in The New York Times:
Apple wants the fastest chip for its mobile devices and has bought another chip maker to gain an edge over its competitors. Apple acquired a small Austin, Texas company called Intrinsity, known for making zippy versions of a computer chip often found in mobile devices. The deal, which closed late last month and confirmed by Apple on Tuesday, shows the company continuing to try to gain an edge in the mobile device market by purchasing technology and chip experts. It is the second time in two years that Apple has purchased a small chip company to gain critical technology for making a faster processor that uses less energy.
“This adds another arrow to their quiver,” said Tom R. Halfhill, a well-known chip analyst for Microprocessor Report. Mr. Halfhill said his industry contacts put Apple’s acquisition price for Intrinsity at $121 million. Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment on that figure. “The purchase price is like pocket change to Apple, and they get a lot of benefit,” said Mr. Halfhill. Apple’s products should handle tough jobs like playing video better than competing gear while devouring less battery life, analysts said.
Ever since Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, unveiled the iPad in February, analysts in the technology industry have been obsessed with its innards. Chip analysts, in particular, zeroed in on the A4 chip that Apple credited with giving the iPad better battery life and more speed than similar devices. Widespread speculation has been that the A4 chip relied on technology from Intrinsity to get its added processing power. The speed of mobile device chips are typically measured in megahertz, and one of the more popular chips on the market usually runs at about 650 megahertz. Intrinsity’s engineers found a way to crank that speed up to 1000 megahertz, which happens to be the same speed as the A4 in the iPad. Intrinsity has been working with a division of Samsung that manufactures chips on this speedy product. The same division of Samsung built the A4 chip for Apple, according to Chipworks, a firm that reverse-engineers and analyzes technology products. By acquiring Intrinsity, Apple would be able to keep that 350 megahertz edge to itself.
Word of the acquisition began to leak out after technology trade publications noticed earlier this month that a number of Intrinsity employees had started to list Apple as their employer on the social networking Web site LinkedIn. Neither company, however, would discuss their relationship. People familiar with Apple’s situation say that efforts to create a new chip for mobile devices from the ground up are stalling.
In 2008, Apple purchased another chip maker, called PA Semi, for $278 million. That start-up also specialized in making fast, low-power chips. But a number of the PA Semi employees have left Apple, many of them disgruntled about their compensation, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly. Google, in fact, bought a start-up called Agnilux earlier this month, filled with PA Semi engineers. The Intrinsity purchase was seen as a way to help Apple maintain a lead over other device makers while it deals with these issues.
Mr. Halfhill said Apple appeared to be building its own version of the ARM chip favored by makers of mobile devices. Other chip companies like Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Marvell have made their own versions of ARM, in some cases spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Apple’s strategy of creating a custom chip for mobile devices runs counter to its approach in computers, in which it purchases chips from Intel.

Separated at birth and death?

C.J. Chivers has an article in The New York Times about a kidnapping gone bad:
Chechnya’s president, Ramzan A. Kadyrov (left, above), ordered the kidnapping of a Chechen whistle-blower in Vienna last year, in which the man was fatally shot, Austria’s counterterrorism department concluded after a yearlong investigation. The nation’s public prosecutor’s office released the news on Tuesday.
Mr. Kadyrov, who is supported by both the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, has denied any role in the killing of the whistle-blower, Umar S. Israilov (right, above), who was living in exile when he was fatally shot last year.
But the Austrian government’s investigators concluded that Mr. Kadyrov ordered Mr. Israilov be kidnapped, and that the group of Chechens who tried to snatch Mr. Israilov from a Viennese street botched the job. One of them shot Mr. Israilov after he broke free and tried to escape, the investigators found. Their conclusions, pointed and direct but based largely on circumstantial evidence, shift the focus now to Austria’s federal prosecutors’ office, which has been preparing indictments.
Three Chechen exiles are in custody in the case: Otto Kaltenbrunner, who is accused of being the local organizer of the crime; Muslim Dadayev, who is accused of monitoring Mr. Israilov’s movements before the crime and driving the getaway car; and Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, who is accused, with a fourth man, of confronting Mr. Israilov as he stepped from a grocery store and then chasing him as he fled. The fourth suspect, Lecha Bogatirov, left Austria and returned to Russia after the killing, investigators found; he is suspected of shooting Mr. Israilov three times with a pistol.
Mr. Israilov, who was 27, was a former bodyguard and midlevel official in the paramilitary forces under Mr. Kadyrov’s command. In 2006, after leaving Russia for asylum in Europe, he filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights in which he accused Mr. Kadyrov of participating in abductions, torture, and murder as part of a Kremlin-backed counterinsurgency effort against separatists in Chechnya, a Russian republic.
Before he was killed, Mr. Israilov said he had been threatened by an emissary from Mr. Kadyrov, and he asked for police protection, which was denied. In interviews with The New York Times while in hiding, he said that Mr. Kadyrov had “promised a bounty for me”.
Among the evidence the Austrian investigators found, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor’s office, was a digital picture in Mr. Kaltenbrunner’s cellphone that showed him sitting on a couch with Mr. Kadyrov. The investigators also determined that Mr. Kaltenbrunner had been in Chechnya shortly before the killing, which is when, Mr. Israilov’s supporters say, Mr. Kaltenbrunner received the final instructions from Mr. Kadyrov to kidnap or kill the whistle-blower.
The authorities also determined that a close aide to Mr. Kadyrov met with two of the suspects in the killing, Mr. Kaltenbrunner and Mr. Bogatirov, before Mr. Israilov was shot, and that Mr. Kaltenbrunner placed a call to the aide’s cellphone number immediately after the shooting, while the group fled. The aide, Shaa Turlayev, is a former rebel who has been accused in Russia of organizing political killings for the Chechen president. A copy of Mr. Turlayev’s Russian passport and an electronic airline ticket used by Mr. Turlayev were found in the getaway car.
Rico says that circumstantial evidence can be compelling, as when you find a fish (or, in this case, a rat) in the soup... (And don't they look like brothers?)

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