Archive for January 18th, 2004

Uri Geller Declares Michael Jackson Innocent


– Psychic Uri Geller defended his friend Michael Jackson (together, above) on Sunday,
saying the pop singer denied under hypnosis three years ago that he had
sexually abused children.

Geller, best known for his claimed telekinetic ability to bend spoons, told Israel’s
Army Radio that he hypnotized Jackson when the two were alone in a recording
studio at an undisclosed location.

"I told him that that if he would let me, I would hypnotize him," Geller
told the radio. "He said, ‘Okay, let’s give it a try.’"

He said he asked Jackson about persistent rumors that he had abused children. "He
answered me under deep hypnosis that he had never touched a child in
a sexual
way," Geller said. "He said – and here I’m using his exact words -‘My
relations with children are very beautiful.’

from the AP

The Human Mind is the Ultimate Aggregator


The Dowbrigade
his aggregator
. It is his constant companion, his window on not
only the Blogosphere, but on much of what goes on in the world outside
of his immediate presence.

But we lust for more. Separate bins for our varied moods and tastes
in news, adjustable content filters to control how much of each post
comes through, flagged imperishability, one-click subscription to feeds
linked through the feeds you are already subscribed to, elegant implementation
of  enclosures, etc.

So we asked a list we are on for advice, and were immediately trumped
by Jessica B., who is writing the definitive article on RSS and as a
sidebar is compling a list of aggregators with user blurbs. We should
have thought of  her first – when in need of information, ask a

If you use a stand-alone or web-based aggregator and have a minute,
please hop over to j’s
and post a recommendation.  No
commercial shills, please.

Pristine Wilderness? Try Toxic Wasteland!


closer to the North Pole than to any city, factory, or farm, the Inuit
appear unscathed by any industrial-age ills. They live much as their
ancestors did, relying on foods harvested from the sea and skills honed
by generations of Inuit.

But as northbound winds carry toxic remnants of faraway lands to their
hunting grounds in extraordinary amounts, their close connection to the
environment and their ancestral diet of marine mammals have left the Arctic’s
indigenous people vulnerable to the pollutants of modern society. About
200 hazardous compounds, which migrate from industrialized regions and
accumulate in ocean-dwelling animals, have been detected in the inhabitants
of the far north.

The bodies of Arctic people, particularly Greenland’s Inuit, contain the
highest human concentrations of industrial chemicals and pesticides found
anywhere on Earth — levels so extreme that the breast milk and tissues
of some Greenlanders could be classified as hazardous waste.

Nearly all Inuit tested in Greenland and more than half in Canada have
levels of PCBs and mercury exceeding international health guidelines. In
newborns’ umbilical cord blood and mothers’ breast milk, average PCB and
mercury levels are 20 to 50 times higher in remote villages of Greenland
than in urban areas of the United States and Europe, according to a 2003
report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, or AMAP, a scientific
consortium created by the eight Arctic nations, including the United States.

from the
Los Angeles Times

Israeli Envoy Goes Beserk Over “Pool of Blood” Exhibit


(AFP) – A spat between Israel and Sweden over a controversial Stockholm
art exhibit showing a Palestinian suicide bomber turned into a full-scale
diplomatic row when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
stepped into the fray.

The dispute erupted Friday after Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, was
thrown out of Stockholm’s Museum of National Antiquities for vandalising an art
work showing the photo of the suicide bomber who killed 21 Israelis at a restaurant
in northern Israel in October.

Israel has demanded that Sweden dismantle the installation, but its request has
been refused. Dubbed "Snow White and the Madness of Truth", the
exhibit showed a tiny sailboat floating on a pool of red water. Attached
to the boat was a smiling photo of the female bomber, Hanadi Jaradat.

The ambassador was caught on videotape tearing down one of the spotlights
and throwing it into the water, causing the installation to short-circuit.
He was later asked by museum director Kristian Berg to leave.

from the

Head Scarf Ban Roils France and Middle Ease


predicted in this
space yesterday
, the firestorm of protest over the
banning of head scarves from French public schools is spreading around
the world, especially in the Middle East. Also as predicted here,
red, white and blue French flag headscarves have started showing up,
and mass drop-outs are predicted.

From Baghdad and Beirut to London and Stockholm, protesters condemned
the law as an attack on religious freedom. Even in the West Bank city
of Nablus, women came out to support French Muslims.

“I think it will make things worse,” Kods Mejry, 18, said. “There
will be no more integration.”

Her blue, white, and red scarf matching the French flag was meant “to
show that we are French and Muslim and proud of it.”

“Lots of girls will leave school. Others will take their scarves
off,” said
Myriam Diaou, of the Union of Muslims of Trappes, southwest of Paris. “It
will reinforce the sense of exclusion.”

from the
Boston Globe

What Constitutes Child Abuse?


dear readers, this is a serious post.  It concerns a serious subject,
and one which has been in the news lately in a number of contexts – child

Child abuse is a difficult topic to discuss, both because it makes
many people uncomfortable and also because it is not easy to define.
The Dowbrigade learned a valuable but painful lesson about classroom
topic treatment when he started what he though was an enlightened discussion
of child abuse with an advanced ESL class and a young woman burst into
tears and rushed from the room, never to return.

But in addition to obvious physical and sexual child abuse, there are
many more subtle and insidious behaviors which can be equally damaging,
and constitute psychological abuse.  Continual shouting, berating
and insulting, denial of affection and emotional abandonment fall into
this category.  Then there is the category of exposing your child
to unnecessary and foreseeable danger.

This is the area where there is almost universal agreement on Michael
Jackson’s lack of parenting skills.  Now the Dowbrigade knows not
whether Jackson is an innocent crackpot who sincerely enjoys the company
of children or a dastardly sex fiend facilitated by pop stardom. At this
stage, that’s for a court to decide.  But anyone who saw the video
of him dangling his baby over the balcony has to ask, "What was he thinking?"

Was it child abuse? We would have to see a pattern of this kind of behavior
and have not so far in this case.

How about Steve Irwin, the famous Crocodile Hunter.  This guy
kills us. His schtick is so good he’ll probably be selling us stuff ("Crikey,
mates, you gotta have it") til he’s ninety. So he goes into his act baiting
a hungry crok with a plucked chicken in one hand, and his baby in the
other.  Lucky he’s not dyslexic, like the Dowbrigade (still can’t
remember which one’s the hot water).

What was he thinking?  Obviously the guy has become addicted to
the camera, it seems he’s on TV somewhere 24-7.  Anything to keep
those lenses fixed on him, apparently. Plus, he’s obviously been
out in the sun too long.

brings us, somewhat reluctantly, to one of our personal heroes. Nicholas
Kristof is an eminent author of books and a regular columnist
in the New York Times.  He’s a terrific writer, and enjoyable to
read whether you agree with him or not.  Plus, he knows more about
his area of expertise, primarily China, than just about anyone else we
have read.

However, on a recent trip to China, he pulled a move that made me shout,
"What was he thinking!" Determined to test the bounds of the Chinese
government’s much ballyhooed loosening of the reins on public protest,
went for a very public visit to some dissidents he knew the authorities
didn’t;t want him to talk to.  All well and good.  But, knowing
there was a good chance he would be arrested, or at least detained, he
brought along, From "China’s
Velvet Glove
", the New York Times, Dec.
17, 2003 (fee required).

I had come to this gritty industrial city, 375 miles northeast of Beijing,
to investigate labor unrest, potentially one of China’s biggest challenges.
Last year, thousands of workers from 20 factories took to the streets
in Liaoyang, protesting official corruption and demanding unemployment
payments, pensions and back pay.

Last May, the authorities sentenced Mr. Yao to seven years, and another
protest leader, Xiao Yunliang, to four years. Presumably because of beatings,
Mr. Xiao appeared to be blind at the sentencing and was unable to recognize
family members.

So I dropped in to visit the families of Mr. Yao and Mr. Xiao. But the
wives are apparently kept under some kind of house arrest. When I arrived,
I tried phoning Mr. Xiao’s wife; she spoke one word before a man took
the phone and hung up. A few minutes later, the three officials nabbed
me outside Mr. Yao’s home.

To their credit, they were very polite. I was traveling with a colleague
from The New York Times on the Web, Naka Nathaniel, and my intrepid 9-year-old
son, and we were all taken to a nearby hotel. They let us use the bathroom
— under careful escort in case we tried to break out.

"China is a country of laws," the leader explained, after offering
us cigarettes. "So your interviews must go through State Council
rules and local officials. You must go through the procedures for this
to be legal. So interviews now are impossible. But you are welcome
to come back to Liaoyang any time as a tourist."

"Well, then," I suggested, "I’ll go and talk to Yao Fuxin’s
family about the local tourist spots."
They didn’t even crack a smile. Instead, they put one goon in my taxi
and sent another carload to escort us to the Shenyang airport and wait
there until we boarded a plane to Shanghai. My son was tailed in the
airport as he went to get an ice cream. (For a Web accompaniment to my
China trip, go to www.nytimes .com/kristof.)

Scary stuff.  Can’t say as we approve of taking your kid to work
with you when you have an inherently dangerous job to do.  For what?
Cover? Can being detained and interrogated by Communist authorities be
construed as educational? We wonder if Mr. Kristof has had second thoughts
about his behavior after returning to this country.

Finally, we have the case of the Dowbrigade himself.  As revealed
last month
, 14 years ago the Dowbrigade was kidnapped by South American
guerillas, together with his then 9-year-year old son. Did this, in a
twisted way, constitute child abuse, taking said son to Peru and putting
him into danger? Well,
considering Joey was born in Peru and lives there today, that we were
on the Pan-American highway, which passes in those parts for the beaten
path, on the way back from an academic conference, and had no warning
that it was a dangerous trip, we don’t feel too guilty.  But we’re
glad to finally get it off our chest.

Dowbrigade Kidnapped – Conclusion


As promised here last month, this is the continuation and conclusion of the story of how the Dowbrigade and his son were kidnapped in the northern Peruvian desert 14 years ago this week. Here is a sample:

“Those Senderistas were know for deadly little bits of political theater like rolling into an isolated mountain village at midnight, assembling the entire population in the main square, and in a sort of bizarre torch-lit revolutionary pep rally and training session, systematically assassinating the mayor, the policemen, all of the teachers, and anyone else who worked for the government. They would usually take a few of the village’s crazier teenagers with them when they left and call it recruitment.”

Kidnapped – part i

Kidnapped – part II