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The Week in Fodder

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s Friday… and what’s this… a Week in Fodder posted on the correct day?!!! WEIRD. Well, we did it, got it out in time. A lot of good stuff in this week’s edition… Hezbollah and Lebanon, Catalonian independence, the ESB, Warren Jeffs, mandatory minimums, alcohol and arthritis, crazy Philly fans and SO much more. Enjoy!

World Views:

Hezbollah: Creating tension in Lebanon.

Pakistan Air Blue Crash: Early Wednesday morning an Air Blue flight from Karachi to Islamabad crashed in the hills of Northern Pakistan just minutes before landing. Sadly, all 146 passengers along with 6 crew members perished in the accident. In a remote area, the crash site is near unreachable due to a lack of any form or roads and rough jungle terrain. Rescue workers immediately found a flight recorder; officials are hoping that the recorder will provide insight into the cause of the crash; beyond the weather that was the most likely cause.

Favela Makeover: On Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes announced that slums (favelas) surrounding the city will be receiving a facelift before the 2016 Summer Olympics. Affecting over 200,000 households, the renovations and clearing of the favelas will cost over $4.5 billion. With over 600 communities receiving the “facelift,” the action-plan is audacious. The 13,000 families from the 123 communities that will be displaced by the actual destruction of the most decrepit areas will be relocated. This is the latest move in the ongoing struggle between the Brazilian government and the favela residents. After deadly landslides killed over 200 in April, the Rio government signed a decree into law that would allow the forcible eviction of favela residents. In May, a report by a non-governmental group found the official justification to be standing on shaky legal ground. The bottom line is that the Rio government sees the favelas as a hinderance to modernization for a handful of different reasons. The Olympics provide the municipal powers with the perfect rationalization to make a significant change. It all smacks, disturbingly, of Beijing’s attitude and tactics in the days and months leading up to the 2008 Games.

KGB Redux?: Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law a bill that will expand the powers of the ESB; the descendant of the Soviet KGB. The bill passed both houses of Parliament but sparked major debate. In a country where dissent in relation to the Kremlin’s preferred policies is – let’s say – frowned upon, the fact this bill has been so strongly opposed raises red flags about the danger of the new law. The controversy revolves around specific language in the new law. ESB agents will now have the power to “warn officially an individual about the inadmissibility of actions that create the conditions for the commission of crimes.” That is terribly vague and dangerously usable language. In country where freedoms are shrinking, opposition journalists are murdered and Vladimir Putin casts a ever-present shadow, the ESB’s new powers are a disturbing development.

Bullfighting Ban: The Parliament of Catalonia, the semi-autonomous southern region of Spain, voted to ban bullfighting this week. With the vote, Catalonia becomes the first region of Spain to outlaw the historic national pastime. The measure made it to Parliament on the back of a petition signed by over 180,000 persons. While the decision can be seen within the scope of an animal rights campaign, many Spanish political experts believe that this was a power move by Catalonian nationalists to separate themselves from the rest of Spain; proof of a different historical identity. If it was, it was tactfully done. Keep an eye on this story.

Lebanese Tension: After a round of groundbreaking talk between Lebanese, Saudi and Syrian officials in Beirut, there has been a united call for maintained stability and piece in the volatile Mediterranean country. There are signs of a renewed conflict within its borders. After years of turmoil following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005, a unity government was finally formed in 2008. This, of course, included the politically powerful Hezbollah. As the UN investigation into Mr. Hariri’s death wraps up and it becomes more and more likely that it will condemn Hezbollah members, tension is rising. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, stated in a television interview this week that he would not stand for the defamation of his organization; a warning shot across the bow of the UN. After the 2006 War with Israel, Lebanon cannot handle another step backwards. Keep an eye on this story when the UN report comes out.

American Matters:

As his followers stay true, Warren Jeffs gets a new trial in Utah.

SB 1070 Blocked: On Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton struck down some of the most controversial aspects – the ability of police officers to detain persons the believe to be “removable,” the pressing of all officers to determine immigration status in any kind of routine encounter with citizens and the requirement for all legal and illegal residents to carry proof of residency/legal immigration – of Arizona’s hot-button immigration law. Issuing an injunction against those facets, Judge Bolton cited the laws usurpation of the Federal Government’s sole right to make immigration law in the United States. Arizona immediately launched an appeal. Reaction has been varied. (Here is a little sampling.) SB 1070 is undoubtedly on a fast-track to the Supreme Court.

Jeffs’ Verdict Overturned: The 2007 conviction of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophetical leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints*** (FLDS), was overturned this week by the Utah Supreme Court. Found guilty of facilitating the rape of a 14 year old FLDS member, Mr. Jeffs was sentenced to two concurrent 5 to life terms in prison. Citing a misrepresentation of legal facts by the judge in the 2007 case, a unanimous decision by the Utah Supreme Court means that further legal action against Mr. Jeffs in Utah is highly unlikely. Luckily, there are charges pending in Texas and on the Federal level against the FLDS leader. Mr. Jeffs ideology and church are immoral, dangerous and unacceptable in our modern United States; I only hope that he stays in prison where he belongs.

***This link is to the FLDS website run by the FLDS. Take it for what you will. OR, as they say, with a grain of salt.

Mandatory Minimum Victory: On Wednesday, after almost 25 years of injustice, Congress finally passed legislation to change the disparity in crack cocaine-powder cocaine mandatory sentencing on a national level. Since 1986, in the midst of the crack scare, Congress passed a law that put the mandatory minimum sentence of a first time crack cocaine offense at a level of 100 to 1 to the same first time offense of powder cocaine. Because of the cheapness of crack compared to powder, the issue quickly became socioeconomic; this inevitably led to a racial disparity. I won’t get into a lecture here. All I will say is this: it’s about damn time Congress.

Blago Trial: Illinois is officially on verdict watch in the Rod Blagojevich trial. After a controversy over Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyer’s closing argument, the jury started deliberation on Thursday. Facing over 20 criminal charges, Mr. Blagojevich is in the midst of one of the most prolific political corruption trial in recent memory. As in all high profile cases, the jury will most likely pontificate for a longer period of time before returning a verdict. Look for one early next week. Until then, however, you can place your bets on when they will come back, here, on Chicagoist.com.

Arlington Controversy: Earlier this year, John Melzer – the former superintendent of the Arlington National Cemetery – was forced to retire over a scandal involving the mislabeling and lack of labeling of at least 600 graves in the national resting place. Yesterday, Mr. Melzer and his right-hand man, Thurman Higginbotham, testified to a hostile Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), citing her own investigation, stated that the errors in labeling, in reality, affected somewhere between 4,000-7,000 graves. Senators on both sides of the aisle attacked Mr. Melzer and Mr. Higginbotham’s handling of the situation. The latter ended up pleading the 5th in response to a myriad of questions; the former blamed most of the errors on his staff. Let’s hope this unfortunate disrespect of our nation’s heros can be fixed sooner rather than later.

Off the Beaten Path:

Feeling arthritic? Drink it down, baby.

Alcohol and Arthritis: A study by the University of Sheffield released this week has found a direct link between drinking alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis relief. The study concludes, using two different test groups, that people who frequently drink alcohol, on whole, have less joint pain and swelling. It’s a victory for all college students, winos and arthritis suffers all over the world. I can already see it. A cop walks up to a car in a suspected DUI stop… “Have you been drinking tonight?” “Sory ociffer, my artritis was flaring up today…(insert hiccup).”

Paul the Octopus… the Great Satan Incarnate?: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave Islamist groups everywhere another reason to hate the West this week: Paul the Octopus. Claiming the octopus represents “decadence” and “decay” among his Western enemies, Ahmadinejad stated that people who believed in soothsaying octopi could not possibly aspire to the “human perfection” that the Islamic Republic does. Let’s call a spade a spade here… Ahmadinejad is a hater. Pure Haterade. He’s just jealous Paulie Boy didn’t pick Iran to win the World Cup. I’ll raise a drink to Paul the Octopus tonight. Will anyone else join me?

Apache on Main Street: This week, an Apache helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing on a street in Kershaw, S.C. due to mechanical problems. The Apache landed on the nearest, safest road when the crew decided it was too dangerous to continue on. The Army left it parked on the street overnight until it could send a truck to pick it up. I can only imagine that AAA call. “What kind of car is it?”…. “It’s actually a $56.25 million Apache…” “You know we only cover the first 20 miles of towing… right?”

The Northwest Passage: Over 150 years ago, the HMS Investigator traveled toward the Arctic searching for the legendary Northwest Passage and a quick link to the Indian silk routes. After getting marooned on the Arctic ice, the crew abandoned the ship. This week, an archaeological team found the ship’s remains. There may be some controversy over this discovery, however. Since the Investigator was found in Canada’s Western Arctic, there will probably be a turf war between Canadian and British authorities as to where the ship’s final resting place will be. I, personally, think it should stay where it is. It’s a testament to the explorers that opened this world for the rest of us; let it sit!

Vomit and the Phillies: Anyone who knows sports knows that Philadelphia fans are a special breed; intense, passionate and mostly crazy. Well this story – and what a story it is – would only happen at a Phillies game. Last Friday, Matthew Clemmens – a native of the Dirty Jerz, that’s a whole different story – intentionally vomited on a spectator and his daughter as the Phillies played the Washington Nationals. That spectator was actually an off-duty police officer; talk about karma. Anyway, Clemmens was sentenced to three months in jail and two years of probation. I mean, are we serious here? When was the last time you went to a sporting even, heckled the person in front of you for an hour and then pulled the trigger and puked on them? Oh right, never. Get better Matthew Clemmens.

Oh, and here’s some Phillies fan action for you…

Quotes of the Week:

LOVING the yacht controversy...

“If you guys think that John Kerry doesn’t have enough sense of either propriety or common sense, that I’m going to be sailing my boat around Massachusetts where I’m highly recognizable but it’s going to somehow stay in Rhode Island and I’m going to avoid a tax . . . I’d be crazy to think that I’m going to be doing that, and that was never our long-term intention here.’’ – Sen. John Kerry in a Boston Globe interview concerning the controversy surrounding his new yacht. New $7 million yacht and referring to himself in the third person? NBD.

“I’m working every day to clear this black mark from me and my family. Give me the opportunity to show you who I am and not who I was that one afternoon.” – Matthew Clemmens at his sentencing. Good luck with that, kid.

Idiom of the Week: To be a bundle of nerves.

This week’s Idiom of the Week describes someone who is nervous and uptight.

Example #1: John was quite a bundle of nerves when his name was called on to read a passage of Hamlet aloud in front of the class.

Example #2: John Kerry was a bundle of nerves when he realized he didn’t pay taxes on his new yacht.

Song of the Week:

This week’s Song of the Week comes from the New Jersey band Real Estate. It’s a great chill, summer tune to put on in the background. Enjoy!

That concludes our Week in Fodder. Hope you got something for your weekend shenanigans. Thanks for tuning in. Until next week, keep living the good life!

Ghosts of the Troubles

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The ever-present reminder of sectarianism.

Last night, the streets of Belfast echoed from the ghosts of troubles past. On the eve of the commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne, where Prince William of Orange defeated the then Catholic King James II, riots broke out when Republican sympathizers attacked police with petrol bombs, stones and other debris in a show of defiance against the traditional 11th of July bonfires. The crowd, numbering 200 strong, were countered with rubber bullets and water canons. After the dust settled, three police officers had been shot and 27 others had been injured. This is a disturbing development at a time where Northern Ireland is looking to heal the wounds of the past and move on from the Troubles.

Taken with other recent attacks by Republican elements, renewed violence is unfortunately becoming a pattern. Last March, two soldiers were killed at Massereene Barracks in Northern Belfast. It was the first fatal attack in Belfast in over ten years. As recently as July 3rd and 4th, disturbances in the city wounded five police officers. This all comes, rather strangely, during a time of giant steps forward in terms of Northern Irish independence and Unionist and Republican reconciliation. In February, Britain’s Parliament agreed to devolve justice and policing powers to the Northern Irish power-sharing government. With this, the full devolution, or handing over of power, of Northern Ireland was completed on April 13th. A major step forward. Furthermore, on June 15th, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the Bloody Sunday Massacre in 1972; a monumental concession and step forward by the British. Considering this violence and these developments, we have a rather dichotomous situation on our hands.

It is hard to say if this is a new, disheartening trend or a rogue group of dissidents hell-bent on derailing the almost completed peace process; the latter being the assertion of both unionist and nationalist leaders. I’ll hope that they’re right. Keep an eye on all of this and hope that the ghosts of the Troubles don’t return for good.

The Week In Fodder

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The end of another week.

The week in review. How many media outlets have such a section? A hundred? A thousand? I’m not sure I can even google that statistic. For that reason, you have to be asking, “why should we turn to the Fodder for our Week in Review?” I’m going to give you a couple reasons, hopefully compelling, as to why you should tune into Cocktail Fodder on Fridays. First, we’re going to bring you the most succinct but far reaching synopsis of international, national and under-the-radar news stories from the past week and those that will be on everyone’s mind come Monday. I bet you’ll engage in conversation about one of the topics we write about within 72 hours of reading our “Week in Fodder”. Second, this won’t be all news. You’ll get the song of the week, quote of the week, idiom of the week, well, anything we think might be of interest. It’s all fluid. Spontaneity will rule. So please enjoy this week’s review and we hope you come back for more Fodder on Monday.

World Views:

Coke Caught: Christopher “Dudus” Coke was, at long last, arrested in Jamaica. Coke, the alleged Caribbean drug lord, has been in international headlines since Jamaican special forces and police stormed the slum in which he was hiding. The operation led to the death of over 70 people. A tactical and human disaster, the Jamaican push for Dudus underestimated the alleged drug lord’s clout and support among the people. After his arrest, he was extradited to the U.S. where he will stand trial for his connections to the American drug trade.

Greek Turmoil: Late last night a bomb in Athens killed an aide to the Greek Counter-Terrorism Minister. This harrowing attack comes after months of protests over austerity measures passed by the Greek government. Unfortunately during that time radical elements have used the unrest to step up attacks and provocation of the administration. Keep an eye out for further developments.

Saddam’s Spies: The Iraqi police state under Saddam Hussien had the most extensive internal spy network this side of the East German Stasi. When the United States entered Iraq in 2003, they destroyed, shipped to America or locked up the files that showed what neighbor turned in who, how intelligence was gathered and shed light on the fates of those lost. This week, NPR ran an intensely interesting piece on the push to bring the files back to Iraq and open them to the public. Read it, see what you think and how it could effect the fragile stability Iraq has achieved.

Pakistani Terror Convictions: A Pakistani court convicted five Americans on terrorism charges. Claiming that they were only there to “help fellow Muslims,” the five traveled to Pakistan in December and were detained by Pakistani security forces. They were all sentenced to ten years. This is only the latest, and possibly most high profile, example of Americans seeking out their own jihadi future; a disturbing societal development.

Burundian Anxiety: After years of civil war, insurgency and general strife, the leader of Burundi’s biggest rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), disarmed in 2009. Since then Agathon Rwasa has become the countries leading opposition voice. Ominously, Rwasa has not been seen since Wednesday stoking fears that he may once again be taking up arms. We’ll follow this story with a keen eye.

American Matters:

General Stanley A. McChrystal

McChrystal Fired: This is all over the news, I know, but this a MONUMENTAL story; one that we will probably write about next week. This week, General Stanley A. McChrystal was dismissed by President Obama over critical remarks he and his staff made in a Rolling Stone interview about his civilian commanders. He will be replaced by General David Petraeus. We’ll leave it at that for the moment. Read these articles if you can and come back for a Fodder op-ed on Tuesday!

Palin’s Illegality: After a formal ethics investigation, former VP nominee Sarah Palin’s legal defense fund was deemed illegal for misleading its donors and ordered to pay back close $400,000. While it seems that the improprieties were in good faith, there are outstanding ethics inquires into the former Governor. This will not be the last we hear of this story.

Ending the Moratorium: On Wednesday, Judge Martin Feldman struck down the Interior Department’s moratorium on deep water oil drilling implemented after the BP disaster. Citing lack of clear evidentiary support, the Judge ruled that drilling could continue and that the Obama Administration would have to make a more compelling case in any future action. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved to stay the decision but Judge Feldman denied the petition. A battle, between executive and judicial, as well as Democratic and Republican will inevitably enuse.

The American and the Russian: In his first official state visit to the United States, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama shared a hamburger and hailed a new era of amiable relations between the historic antagonists. Presumably the Presidents will not catch any flak for their choices of mustard or cheese and this will simply signify an important bond between the two influential lawmakers.

Mexico vs. Arizona: Yesterday, the Mexican foreign Ministry filed a court brief against the newly passed Arizona immigration law. The lawsuit is seeking to overturn the borderline-police state law. Follow this story as it picks up momentum. We may be looking at a future Supreme Court case.

Harboring toxic secrets.

Off the Beaten Path:

Unfortunate Whales: A report released yesterday, discussing the findings of marine researchers, has found that, almost universally, Sperm whales have dangerously elevated levels of lead, chromium, mercury, aluminum, cadmium and basically every other dangerous chemical you can think of. Using samples taken with a dart gun from over 1,000 whales, the study is extensive and compelling. You can rest assure that Paul Watson will have something to say about this.

Hacker-Croll: The Frenchman who hacked into President Obama’s Twitter account was given a suspended two year prison term yesterday. There are so many strange aspects to this story. One, is French President Nicolas Sarkozy so uninteresting at this point that one of his own citizens wouldn’t want to hack into HIS Twitter? Two, what does it say about today that our President has a precious Twitter account? Three, it’s TWITTER. Anyway, check it out.

British Obesity: You read that correctly, British obesity, NOT American obesity. Novel thought, I know. Researchers have found that British children are currently becoming obese at twice the rate of American children. Even with a government push to cut obesity levels, the rise in statistics has not been stymied. Not an encouraging sign.

$800? No Thank You: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and….. wait there was a third Apple, Inc. cofounder?  Yes, there was. Ron Wayne. Given a 10% stake in Apple at it’s inception, he had early misgivings about the company and was bought out by Jobs and Wozniak for $800 (!!!!!!!!!!). That is not a typo. I won’t even ruin the surprise of how much that 10% stake would be worth today. You need to read the article for yourself. Make sure you’re sitting. So I say to Steve Jobs, no thank you, I’ll take that 10%. (I really am not trying to rag on the guy, hindsight is 20-20.)

Youtube and Marriage: Popular trend: marriage proposals on youtube. Actual proposals, proposal mishaps and everything in between. I guess this is the natural progression, like everything else in the tech age, of asking someone to marry you. I’m undecided on how I feel about this. Either way, here are some to initiate you.

Quotes of the Week:

Blago's future residence?

“It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

– An advisor and aide to Gen. McChrystal. That folks, will get someone fired.

“Patti Blagojevich: ‘… The best option is that you, oh, you know, appoint the African American woman that Obama wants and then you’re happy, the blacks are happy and he’s happy and then you get some nice appointment for that.’

Rod Blagojevich: ‘Right that’s what, that’s the, that’s exactly right. That’s, that would be the best, that would be one of the best scenarios.'”

– Quotes from audio tapes released yesterday by the Justice Department in the former Govenor’s ongoing corruption trial. That folks, will land someone in prison. (Find the whole, ludicrous transcript here.)

And Finally…. the Song of the Week:

Franco and Sam Mangwana- \”Cooperation\”

This week’s Song of the Week comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Franco is a legendary guitarist that few people have actually heard of. Franco and his T.P.O.K Jazz Band were fabled and revered African dance and musical artists for close to 30 years from the 1950s to the 1980s. Sam Mangwana is one of the big hitters of the Zairian Rumba (zoukous) vocalists. He performs to this day and continues to produce quality music. From the first chord of this song you will find it hard to stop listening to. I like to put this on in the morning when I have time to make my eggs and yogurt with granola. It’s a perfect way to start the day. I hope you think so too.

Enjoy!

…Well that’s it. That completes our first week at Cocktail Fodder. I hope you loved it and come back for more on Monday. Until then, keep talking, learning, loving life and remember to enjoy the fodder. Oh yeah, the cocktails too.