Archive for April, 2004

Chemical Castration of Mars Astronauts


the Dowbrigade was a wee lad, he didn’t want to be a fireman, or a cowboy,
or even President. Our only aspiration was to become, someday,
an astronaut. Of course, we were forced to give up the dream years ago
due to our weak vision and lack of any astronaut-grade skills.

However, now that word has leaked out that for their Mars mission NASA
is considering restricting eligibility to would-be astronauts on the far
side of 50, we are dreaming once again. As far as the skill department,
we are hoping that they may decide they need a top-flight English teacher,
to teach English to the Martians, of course…..

In the First World War, frontline troops who were away from their loved
ones for long periods famously had bromide put into their tea to reduce
the distraction of their sexual drive. But yesterday it was suggested that
such measures might be taken a lot further – to Mars, in fact.

"Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on
longer journeys," Dr Armstrong said, in a talk discussing the problems
humanity may face in trying to reach the planets and, eventually, the stars.

Other scientists have suggested that the best way to ensure there is no
interplanetary interplay is to crew the mission with astronauts over
the age of 50. "The idea is that they won’t be worried about having
families and concerned about getting exposed to radiation, because they’re
getting towards the end of their useful working lives," explained
Peter Bond, a British expert on space matters.

from Independent News

The Gringo Trail



The original Gringo Trail, we suppose, followed the route of Francisco Pizzaro, who arrived in Peru in 1532, and scorched a path of death and destruction up from the coast and into the Andean redoubts of the Incan Empire, in search of gold and jewels to enrich the coffers of the Spanish crown, and, of course, Pizzaro himself.

But the modern Gringo Trail has origins almost as prosaic and shrouded in mystery. It dates back 35 years, to 1969, when a group of refugee hippies known in Aquarian legend as The Nine, set figurative sail from the fast-encroaching corruption of the Flower Child dream in San Francisco to discover and explore the fertile virgin fields of South America.

The word “Gringo” itself is the object of polemic and punditry from linguists and pseudo-experts both North and South of the Rio Grande. Largely discounted is the colorful theory that the word derives from the green uniforms worn by US troops who appeared in Texas at the time of the Mexican revolution, prompting popular protest cries of “Green Go Home” (discountable if for no other reason from the unlikelihood of Mexican peasants shouting anything in English). More likely is the derivation from the archaic Spanish word of the same spelling, meaning “speaker of unintelligible gibberish” and itself derived from the Spanish word for Greek (greigo), a seemingly universal generic for an unintelligible language, as in “it’s all Greek to me.”

This modern Gringo Trail stretches from the pristine Caribbean beaches of Colombia, country at that time a hippie Disneyland of fantastic flowers, gigantic fruit, and a cornucopia of psychotropic substances unrivaled in the entire world, but today cursed by the negative counter-image of that very richness, lost costal jewels like colonial Cartegena, Baranquilla and Santa Marta, home of the legendary Santa Marta Gold, scent so heavy that opening a bag will fill a room with flowery powered perfume, south through Medellin, source of the equally legendary Punta Roja, the capital of Bogot

Frontier Justice


In isolated
pockets of human society around the globe and throughout history, at
times and places when law and order breaks down, when honest hardworking
people feel victimized and disgusted to see criminals and lowlifes in
positions high and low, walking away untouched and unperturbed from their
crimes and travesties, they take the law into their own hands.

While we are not in general in favor of vigilantism, there is a certain
visceral satisfaction in what was once known, in a wilder epoch of American
history, as "Frontier Justice". Last week we reported on a case from northern
Ecuador in which an infuriated mob pursued and caught a bus robber who
had just murdered a young lady schoolteacher in cold blood, and burned
him to death in the middle of the highway. Now comes this story from southern
Peru, a cold and lunar landscape near the lake Titicaca, the highest navigable
body of water in the world, and a land of neglected Indians struggling
to survive as their ancestors have for thousands of years. The accompanying photo is an actual shot of Mayor Robles moments before he was beaten to death by the maddened mob.

Is there a message here for our own corrupt official who feel themselves
above the law and beyond the reach of "official" justice? Let us hope so…

Mayor Cirilo Fernando Robles is injured by a mob in Ilave, Peru, on Monday,
April 26, 2004. Angry highland Indians beat their town’s mayor to death
after he refused to resign in the face of protests. Then the mob attacked
the police station, trapping dozens of officers. Interior Minister Fernando
Rospigliosi ordered the cornered police to hold off the attackers late
Monday in Ilave, a town 565 miles southeast of Lima near Lake Titicaca.
(AP Photo/La Republica)

from La
Republica of Lima, Peru, via Yahoo

A Maze of Mummies


have discovered an underground maze in Egypt crammed with more than
50 mummies.
The buried network was unearthed in Saqqara, 25 kilometres south of Cairo,
by a team of Egyptian and French researchers. They hope studying the contents
and layout of the site will reveal new information about the culture of
the first millennium BC.

The site may have been maintained by priests for a particular family or
a worker’s guild

"It’s a maze of
corridors with mummies everywhere, right and left, up and down. When people
came, there was no more space so they put the coffins in the wall, or they
cut another shaft, or they put a mummy above a mummy," said Zahi Hawass,
head of Egypt’s Supreme Antiquities Council, speaking to Reuters..

from New Scientist

Hairy Kerry


the Friday before his MEET THE PRESS appearance, Dem presidential hopeful
John Kerry flew his Washington, DC hairdresser to Pittsburgh for
a touch-up, the DRUDGE
has learned.
Cristophe stylist Isabelle Goetz, who handles Kerry’s hair issues, made the trek
to Pittsburgh, campaign sources reveal.

"Her entire schedule had to be rearranged," a top source explains.

A Kerry campaign spokesman refuses to clarify if Goetz flew by private jet on
April 16 or on the official Kerry For President campaign plane.

The total expense for the hair touch-up is estimated to be more than $1000, insiders
tell DRUDGE.
One source suggests the hairdresser was flown to Pittburgh on Teresa Heinz Kerry’s
‘Flying Squirrel’, a Gulfstream V private jet.

The ‘Flying Squirrel’ is worth about $35 million. A deluxe model; plasma TV,
two bathrooms, fancy mahogany and burlwood paneling, gold-plated fixtures.

"Senator Kerry thinks Isabelle does a superb job," a campaign source
Goetz grew up in a small town in eastern France. She also does Hillary Clinton’s

from the Drudge Report

Sorry, Not Covered by Warrenty


Zookeepers in Austria
set up an inflatable pool to keep a baby elephant cool during an unexpected
burst of warm weather.

Staff at Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, set
up the kiddies’ pool for their newest addition, 11-month-old Mongu.

Zoo director Helmut Pechlaner said Mongu had adapted well to the Alpine
But the sudden onset of spring following an unusually long winter meant
staff at the zoo had not prepared the elephants’ outside pool.

But Mongu did not seem to mind splashing around in the children’s wading
pool instead.

from Ananova

Now There’s a Good Idea


Norma Yvonne refers to meteorologists as "mentirologos" (liarists),
for their tendency to turn every possible snow, rain or wind storm into
civil defense apocolypse and sending the terrified citizenry rushing
to hardware stores and Targets for shovels, salt and drinking water.
Perhaps they would be a bit more circumspect in their prediction if we
adopted some hard-line accountability from our Russian brothers…..

Russian weathermen
who get their predictions wrong could face stiff fines if
one government
his way.
even be sent to jail if Emergency Minister Situations Minister Sergei
gets his way.

The minister was speaking in Irkutsk, which is on flood alert. He said
he wanted weathermen to pay the price if they got forecasts wrong, because
that led to emergency services being needlessly called out.

If there is a disaster we send rescuers and equipment and spend money.
But weathermen hold no responsibility – and do not think about having to
defend the population."

Weathermen in Irkutsk have said the risk of flooding should subside soon.
But according to Interfax, Shoigu "promised to squeeze compensation
out of the weather forecasters if their forecasts proved wrong".

from Ananova

Berkman Diaspora


The Berkman Blogging crowd has truly hit the road after the centralized success of BloggerCon II. Feldman and Greenspun are at different ends of Ecuador, and Winer and Grumet are in Amsterdam having a hot dinner with Curry. Tally ho, and fill a bowl for me, boys.

Ecuador #1 in Illegal Immigration


The number of Ecuadorians illegally entering the US by
sea has surpassed the number of Cuban boat people or illegal Hatian immigrants,
according to a recent study by the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador.  The
source of the problem is that the Ecuadorian government is not funding
any resources to stop this wave of emigration, as they do not
give it priority in their budget and military planning.

The Ecuadorian immigrants have thus become protagonists of the largest
wave of maritime ilegal immigration in modern history, according to the

Since the year 2000, between 234,000 and 350,000 Ecuadorians have set
sail for Guatamala in illegal embarcations, from where they are smuggled
across the Mexican border and into the US by "coyotesm" according to
the study by Terry S. Wichert, Naval Attache, and Leiutenant Coronel
Michael Trevett.

This surprising figure is twice the previous record for Cuban boat people
(in 1980 124.776 people left Cuba) and is ten times greater than the
numbers of Haitianos (25.177, between1993 y 1994) attempting to enter
by sea.

It has been largely a silent migration, according to the authors, as
the international media have given little or no attention to this migratory
crisis, while for the Ecuadorian press it has become a routine story.

The mass Ecuadorian emigration began in 1999, shortly after a banking
crisis caused millions to lose their life savings, and continues to grow.
"We know that between 4 and 7 ships leave every week, with between 100
and 150 people on each one," according to the embassy.

From the old fishing
boats that set out each week from dozens of Ecuadorian beaches, it
is common to find not only Ecuadorians, but Peruvians, Albanians,
Chinese, Iraquis, Koreans and even Irishmen. The route of illegal immigration
from Ecuador is "so succesful that, frankly, it has gained international
fame. Around the world it is said that if you want to sneak into the
United States, go to Ecuador and get on a ship," according to the report.

The Embassy report adds that some of the ships that carry illegals also
transport drugs, and that the profits from the sales of these drugs reach
the Colombian guerillas. Sometimes the ships return from Central America
carrying arms and munitions.

from El
(Guayaquil, Ecuador)

translated by The Dowbrigade

The 55-foot Club


YORK (AP) – Two gay lovers – a man in a black dress and a boy in only
a pair of shorts – protested their families’ lack of understanding for
their relationship by climbing a Central Park tree on Thursday, stripping,
performing lewd acts in front of onlookers and refusing to come down
for hours.

The lovers, ages 32 and 17, scaled the 55-foot larch tree next to the Chess and
Checkers House around 4 p.m., said Detective John Sweeney, a police department

The couple had told the boy’s parents about their relationship and been
rebuked, police said.

The man played on branches near the top of the tree and waved at onlookers while
the boy sat quietly a few feet below him. Police said the man later performed
oral sex on the boy and stripped down to a thong to taunt them.

Police were alerted
to the mischief when an onlooker flagged down a bicycle officer. When Emergency
Services Unit officers responded, "the two individuals began to shout obscenities
to the approaching officers, threatening to push the officers down and throw
branches at them in an effort to ward the officers off," police Inspector
William Callahan said.

from AP

Back Up – The Memory Hole


What happened
to the Memory Hole? At this point it is unclear whether the Defense Department
actually tried to prohibit access to Memory Hole, as has been reported
by numerous reputable media sources. Some facts, however, are clear.

The US Government has been desperately trying to enforce a ban on dissemination
of photos of bodies or caskets of US servicement killed in the war on
terrorism.  The ban has been in place for over ten years, since
the first Gulf war.

Russ Kick, operator of The Memory
, a site dedicated to exposing
stuff the government wants to keep hidden, last year filed a Freedom
of Information Act request for the photos in question.  It was refused.
  He appealed, and last week, to his considerable surprise, he recieved
361 photos from the government, which he posted.

The US Government, specifically the White House and the Defense Department,
freaked out. They issued a statement that the release of the photos was
"a mistake".

Exactly what steps they took to limit the damage and the distribution
of the phots remains one of the incognitos of the story. However, The
Memory Hole was inascessible Friday, and attempts today could reach only
a tiny fraction of the pictures.

However, in a dramatic illustration of the futility of damming information
on the Internet, it was already too late.  The story, and the pictures,
had been picked up by dozens of papers and major news sites.

Today, the government is involved in some frenetic damage control. We
can expect to hear much more about this story in thenext few days – it
seems to have some serious legs. Here is an excerpt from one of the stories
recently posted.

The first of the photos-depicting a long
row of coffins, three abreast, on
a military
transport plane-came from a civilian contract worker
assigned to the Kuwait airport. After its appearance
in the Seattle Times, she was summarily fired from her job.

Then hundreds of photographs were posted on the Web site The
Memory Hole, which had obtained
them through a Freedom
of Information
Act request. The Pentagon claimed that the release of the
photos by an Air Force command was a "mistake" and refused to
provide them
to any
other media outlets. Nonetheless, many newspapers took
the photos off the Internet
and published them Friday.

As for The Memory Hole, its Internet site was inaccessible
Friday. It was not possible to ascertain whether it was because
of a
vast increase in
traffic, deliberate sabotage or censorship.

from Axis
of Logic

related article from the New York Times

Einstein’s Girlfriend’s Diary


In February librarians found a 62-page manuscript in
which Johanna Fantova, a former curator of maps in the Firestone Library
at Princeton University, who was 22 years younger than Albert Einstein,
recorded his musings, opinions and complaints over the last year and
a half of his life.

Around Princeton she was known as Einstein’s last girlfriend. She cut
his hair – shocking as it might be to imagine anyone tampering with
that wispy cosmic aureole. They sailed together until the doctors took
his boat away. They went to concerts together. He wrote her poems and
letters bedecked with jokes and kisses. And he called her several times
a week to chat about the day.

from the New
York Times