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Commonplacing Outrageous Things
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The four people are in and out of both apartments so readily, we sense they’re a virtual family. One night they head out together in Gabrielle’s taxi for a concert. The taxi breaks down, it rains, they shelter in a Jamaican cafe, there’s good music on the juke box, they dance with one another. During the dancing and kidding around, it becomes clear to them, and to us, what must happen for the parts to fall into place.
Claire Denis, who has two films on this list, has long been interested in the former French colonies of West Africa, and in those who immigrated to France. She has no agenda except interest. You can live in a movie like this. She’s not intruding, she’s discovering. There’s not a conventional plot, and that frees us from our interior movie . We flow with them. Two are blessed, two are problematic. Will all four be blessed at the end?
“Biutiful.” Javier Bardem at his most soulful, a man with a good heart doing illegal things. He traffics in the work of illegal immigrants to Spain, Chinese who sleep in a cramped basement and labor in sweat shop. His character isn’t doing this to them; they are both cogs in the same machine. He sees them, he cares for them, he has big problems of his own. One of them is that he is dying.
The man, named Uxbal, has two children he loves tenderly, and a wife who loves them not enough. He moves in unsavoury circles but is not unsavoury. The under-text of the film is that in this economic world all life is hard and sad, and inhumanity is in the air they breathe. The director, Alejandro González Iñárritu (“21 Grams,” “Babel,”"Amores Perros”) has left behind his usual interlinking cross-plots and focuses on the life and approaching death of this man.
Bardem had a face that can easily c sadness. Some actors risk looking strange when they want to communicate sadness. He has scenes here, one in particular, when his grief is almost frightening.
“Cell 211″. Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann), is a serious young man His wife is pregnant, and his new job will be a big help. Knocked unconscious in an accident, he is carried to a bunk in an empty cell–Cell 211–and then a violent prison riot breaks. He boldly passes himself off as a new prisoner admitted only shortly before. The rioting prisoners are desperate. They’re led by a brutal strongman, a lifer with nothing to lose, named Malamadre (Luis Tosar). Juan reads the situation immediately and instinctively he takes the role of a man siding with his fellow prisoners. When he makes canny strategic suggestions, he seems to prove his worth.
This is a thriller all the more ingenious because Juan’s actions are based on desperate calculation and fast thinking, not on heroics. The game he plays is crafty as chess, as he must somehow seem completely plausible on the inside and yet signal his thoughts to police watching every move on closed circuit TV. Director Daniel Monzon generates a lot of suspense but avoids many prison movie cliches. His parallel story lines inside and out outside the prison are are well timed and build together.
The term “mounting tension” is an overused cliché. To use it here would be appropriate. Little by little, one development at a time, the situation becomes more critical and the options for Juan and Malamadre grow more limited. And Juan’s life always hangs in the balance. There is a moment, indeed, when he says something on a walkie talkie that would have betrayed him if anyone had been listening. “Cell 211″ won eight Goya awards, the Spanish Oscars, this year. It has been optioned for a Hollywood remake.
“The Chaser. An expert serial killer film from South Korea and a poster child for what a well-made thriller looked like in the classic days. Its principal chase scene involves a foot race through the deserted narrow nighttime streets of Seoul. No exploding cars. The climax is the result of everything that has gone before, and not an extended fight scene. This is drama, and it is interesting. Action for its own sake is boring.
The film is a police procedural with a difference: The hero is an ex-cop named Jung-ho, now a pimp, and not a nice man. He is angered because a client of his call-girl service has been, he believes, kidnapping his girls and selling them. When another girl disappears, a phone number raises an alarm, and he sets out to track down the client–who didn’t give an address but arranged a street rendezvous.
What we know is that the client is a sadistic murderer. The girl is driven in his car to an obscure address which she is not intended to ever leave alive. It is a characteristic of South Korean films that they display the grisly details of violence without flinching; the rights to this film have been picked up by Warner Brothers, and it’s dead certain the violence and the shocking outcome itself will be greatly toned down. Let me simply note that Young-min’s tools of choice are a hammer and a chisel, for reasons a police psychiatrist has much to say about.
“Father of My Children”. We meet Gregoire (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), a plausible human being. A French film producer, an honest hustler, a loving father and husband, confident of his powers, enjoying his work, making films he believes in. “The Father of My Children” will watch this man come to pieces. It will not be dark melodrama or turgid psychology. It will simply be the story of a good man, well-loved, who runs into a dead end.
He is plunging into debt while producing an obscure project of a temperamental auteur not a million miles distant from Lars von Trier. He loves his wife and three daughters. Their country house evokes quiet family togetherness, which is the idea, but his mind is often elsewhere, trying to find a way out of his troubles. Gregoire’s office is also a family, in a way, and his employees share his vision. When calamity strikes, even his wife pitches in to help salvage his dream. The second half of the film is the most touching, because it shows that our lives are not merely our own, but also belong to the events we set in motion.
Chiara Caselli, as the producer’s wife, is, like many wives of workaholic men, better-informed on his business that he can imagine. She believes in him and therefore in his hopes, and touchingly relates with the members of his office family as they all try to move things along. And the film gives due attention to the children, particularly Clemence (played by de Lencquesaing’s own daughter), who negotiate unfamiliar emotional territory with their mother. The title (in French, “Le père de mes enfants”) is appropriate.
The story is said to be inspired by the life of the real-life producer Humbert Balsan, who made Lars von Trier’s “Manderlay” (2005). Balsan had considerable success; making nearly 70 films, including three by James Ivory, and even acting for Bresson. He committed suicide when his business imploded.
“Home”. There are two questions never answered in “Home.” How did this family come to live here? And why does the mother fiercely refuse to leave, even after a four-lane freeway opens in her front yard? As the film opens, they live in a small home in the middle of vast fields and next to the highway, which hasn’t been used for ten years. So much is the road their turf that the story begins with them playing a family game of street hockey on its pavement.
Then the work crews arrive to prepare for the road to be re-opened. The opening of the highway isn’t a surprise for them. Maybe they got the house cheap because it was coming. The heavy, unceasing traffic is a big problem. The two younger kids always ran across the bare pavement to cut through a field for school. Dad parked on the other side. Now even getting to the house is a problem.
The movie stars Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet, two dependably absorbing French stars, as the parents. Madness overcomes them. Something will have to give, and it does, as the movie grows more and more dark. It’s the skill of Ursula Meier, the director and co-writer, to bring us got those fraught passages by rational stages. What happens would not make sense in many households, but in this one it represents a certain continuity, and confirms deep currents we sensed almost from the first.
“Life, Above All” Oliver Schmitz’s film, which hasn’t and may mot open here, was the best heart-warmer and tear-jerker at Cannes 2010I use the term “tear-jerker” as a compliment, because this is a hardened crowd and when you hear snuffling in the dark you know it has been honestly earned. The film is about deep human emotions, evoked with sympathy and love.
“Life, Above All” takes place entirely within a South African township, one with moderate prosperity and well-tended homes. It centres on the 12-year-old Chanda, who takes on the responsibility of holding her family together after her baby sister dies. Her mother is immobilised by grief, her father by drink, and a neighbour woman helps her care for two younger siblings.
Suspicion spreads in the neighbourhood that the real cause of the family’s problems is AIDS, although the word itself isn’t said aloud until well into the film. Let me particularly praise the performances of young Khomotso Manyaka, in her first role as Chanda; Keaobaka Makanyane as her mother, and Tinah Mnumzana as the neighbour. The film’s ending frightens the audience with a dire threat, and then finds an uplift that’s unlikely enough in its details to qualify as magic realism.
“Life, Above All” must have been particularly effective in South Africa, where former president Thabo Mbeki long persisted in puzzling denial about the causes and treatment of AIDS. This contributed to a climate of ignorance and mystery surrounding the disease, which in fact increased its spread. By directly dealing with the poisonous climate of rumour and gossip, the film takes a stand. But in nations where AIDS has been demystified, “Love, Above All” will play strongly as pure human drama, and of two women, one promptly and one belatedly, rising courageously to a challenge.
“Mother” . The strange, fascinating film “Mother” begins with what seems like a straightforward premise. A young man of marginal intelligence is accused of murder. A clue with his name on it and eyewitness testimony tie him to the crime. His mother, a dynamo, plunges into action to prove her son innocent. So there we have it, right? He’s either guilty or not, and his mom will get to the bottom of things. Or not.
The mother of the title, played by a respected South Korean actress named Kim Hye-ja, is a force of nature. In a village, she runs a little shop selling herbs, roots and spices. Her sideline is prescribing herbal cures. Her son Do-jun (Weon Bin), in his late 20s, lives at home and they sleep in the same bed. He’s a few slices short of a pie. Early in the film, he’s saved from death in traffic when his mother races to the rescue.
Did he do it? We can’t be sure. Mother marches tirelessly around the village, doing her own detective work. She questions people, badgers them, harasses the police, comforts her son, hires a worthless lawyer. We learn everything she learns. It seems she’s getting nowhere. And it’s at this point that the move might become upsetting for a mass audience, because “Mother” creates, not new suspects from off the map, but new levels in the previously established story.
“Mother” will have you discussing the plot, not entirely to your satisfaction. I would argue: The stories in movies are complete fictions, and can be resolved in any way the director chooses. If he actually cheats or lies, we have a case against him. If not, no matter what strange conclusions he arrives at, we can be grateful that we remained involved and even fascinated.
“Vincere” . The image of Benito Mussolini has been shifted over the years to one of a plump buffoon, the inept second fiddle to Hitler. We’ve seen the famous photo of his ignominious end, his body strung upside down. We may remember his enormous scowling visage trundled out on display in a scene from Fellini’s “Amarcord.” What we don’t envision is Mussolini as a fiery young man, able to inflame Italians with his charismatic leadership.
That’s the man who fascinates Marco Bellocchio, and his “Vincere” explains how such a man could seize a young woman with uncontrollable erotomania that would destroy her life. She was Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), at first his lover, later his worst nightmare. When she first saw him before World War One, he was a firebrand, dark and handsome, and she was thunderstruck. For Ida, there was one man, and that was Benito (Filippo Timi), and it would always be so.
Was she mad? The term is “erotomania,” defined by the conviction that someone is in love with you.It is not delusional if that person was in love with you, held you in his arms night after night, and gave you a son. The fascists instinctively protect Mussolini when she tries to accuse him of abandoning wife and child. When Ida appears in public places, she is surrounded and taken away without Benito even needing to request it. Finally, shamefully, she is consigned to an insane asylum, and the boy locked up in an orphanage. She becomes a familiar type: The poor madwoman who is convinced the great man loves her, and fathered her child. She writes letters to the press and the Pope; such letters are received every day.
“White Material”. The second film on this list (after “35 Shots of Rum”) by Claire Denis, and the second starring Isabelle Huppert (after “Home”). Huppert plays Maria Vial, a French woman running a coffee plantation in an unnamed African country. The land has fallen into war, both against the colonialists and among the insurgents. In an opening scene, a helicopter hovers above Maria and French soldiers advise her to evacuate quickly. This she has no intention of doing. As it becomes clear that her life is in danger, she only grows more opaque. Huppert’s approach is valuable here, because any attempt at a rational explanation would seem illogical. I believe her attachment to the land has essentially driven her mad.
They try to be reasonable with her. Yes, it will be a good crop of coffee beans, but there will probably be no way to get it to market. Anarchy has taken the land. Child soldiers with rifles march around, makeshift army stripes on their shirts, seeking “The Boxer” (Isaach De Bankole), a onetime prizefighter and now the legendary, if hardly seen, leader of the rebellion. When Maria is held at gunpoint, she boldly tells the young gunmen she knows them and their families. Her danger doesn’t seem real to her. There is no overt black-white racial tension; the characters all behave as the situation would suggest.
This is a beautiful, puzzling film. The enigmatic quality of Huppert’s performance draws us in. She will never leave, and we think she will probably die, but she seems oblivious to her risk. There is an early scene where she runs in her flimsy dress to catch a bus, and finds there are no seats. So she grabs onto the ladder leading to the roof. The bus is like Africa. It’s filled with Africans, we’re not sure where it’s going, and she’s hanging on.
Roger Ebert Blog Suntimes.com 30.12.201
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Research Links Rise In Falluja Birth Defects And Cancers To Us Assault
Scott Nelson/ Getty Images
White phosphorous smoke screens are fired by the US army as part of an early morning patrol in November 2004 on the outskirts of Falluja, Iraq, in preparation for an offensive against insurgents. Photograph: Scott Nelson/Getty Images
A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.
The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.
The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.
“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”
The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.
The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.
Their effects have long been called into question, with some scientists claiming they leave behind a toxic residue, caused when the round – either from an assault rifle or artillery piece – bursts through its target. However, no evidence has yet been established that proves this, and some researchers instead claim that depleted uranium has been demonstrably proven not to be a contaminant.
The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known.”
The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.
The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.
One case documented in the report is of a mother and her daughter who after the 2004 battles both gave birth to babies with severe malformations. The second wife of one of the fathers also had a severely deformed baby in 2009.
“It is important to understand that under normal conditions, the chances of such occurrences is virtually zero,” said Savabieasfahani.
Iraq’s government has built a new hospital in Fallujah, but the city’s obstetricians have complained that they are still overwhelmed by the sheer number of serious defects. The US military has long denied that it is responsible for any contaminant left behind in the city, or elsewhere in Iraq, as it continues its steady departure from the country it has occupied for almost eight years.
It has said that Iraqis who want to file a complaint are welcome to do so. Several families interviewed by the Guardian in November 2009 said they had filed complaints but had not received replies.
The World Health Organisation is due to begin its research sometime next year. However, there are fears that an extensive survey may not be possible in the still volatile city that still experiences assassinations and bombings most weeks.
“An epidemic of birth defects is unfolding in Fallujah, Iraq,” said Savabieasfahani. “This is a serious public health crisis that needs global attention. We need independent and unbiased research into the possible causes of this epidemic.
We invite scientists and organisations to get in touch with us so that we may gain the strength to address this large global public health issue.”
Birth-defect rates in Falluja have become increasingly alarming over the past two years. In the first half of 2010, the number of monthly cases of serious abnormalities rose to unprecedented levels. In Falluja general hospital, 15% of the 547 babies born in May had a chronic deformity, such as a neural tune defect – which affects the brain and lower limbs – cardiac, or skeletal abnormalities, or cancers.
No other city in Iraq has anywhere near the same levels of reported abnormalities. Falluja sees at least 11 times as many major defects in newborns than world averages, the research has shown.
The latest report, which will be published next week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, says Falluja has been infected by a chronic environmental contaminant. It focuses on depleted uranium, used in weaponry during two US assaults in 2004 as a possible cause of the contaminant. Scientific studies have so far established no link between the rounds, which contain ionising radiation to burst through armour and are commonly used on the battlefield.
The study focuses on metals as a potential conduit for the contaminant. It suggests a bodily accumulation of toxins is causing serious and potentially irreversible damage to the city’s population base, and calls for an urgent examination of metals in Falluja as well as a comprehensive examination of the city’s recent reproductive history.
Martin Chulov guardian.co.uk 3o.12.2010
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A Victoria Police booze bus unit. Photo: Paul Rovere
A drink-driver more than five times the legal limit tooted his horn at a highway patrol then told stunned officers he didn’t know he was driving a car, police say.
Victoria Police spokesman Sergeant Wayne Wilson said the Nunawading highway patrol car was parked in Whitehorse Road Box Hill about 8.25pm yesterday when a car went past.
“This was nothing unusual except police attention was drawn to the vehicle as the driver was tooting his horn and waving at police as he drove past,” Sergeant Wilson said.
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Police pulled over and breath tested the driver, who recorded a blood-alcohol reading of .278.
The man had his licence withdrawn immediately and will face court at a later date in relation to the matter.
“When asked why he was driving like that, the man told police he was unaware he was driving a car,” Sergeant Wilson said.
The Age 27.12 2010
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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know
When convicted criminals are sentenced to prison terms, the general understanding is that the loss of time and the loss of freedom are the punishments. Yet, for hundreds of thousands each year, the punishment has proven much more harsh in the form of severe isolation: being denied human company in all forms, except those of the guards, and remaining in one’s cell for 23 or more hours each day. This is solitary confinement, and the AU federal prison system has no guidelines for when it can be used against a prisoner — it’s solely up to the discretion of prison authorities.
As National Geographic Explorer launches its penetrating series on the subject, we present five things you didn’t know about solitary confinement.
1- Solitary confinement can ruin a man in a matter of weeks
The first thing you didn’t know about solitary confinement is how quickly it can make you indifferent about soiling yourself. For decades, studies had been published in the U.S. about the severe psychological effects of solitary confinement, but in the 1950s, two American researchers got their hands on the publications from the KGB and other communist state police and published them as The Methods of Interrogation and Indoctrination Used by the Communist State Police.
This data presented information tables with stern, Soviet-sounding titles, like “The detention regimen,” which outlined a daily schedule in solitary confinement that was effective at inducing serious psychological disturbances and bizarre public behaviour within just three to four weeks.
2- There are 80,000 Americans currently held in solitary confinement
According to facts published at the National Geographic Explorer website on the subject, America continues to lead the way i compared to the rest of the world in utilising the concept in its penitentiaries, resulting in over 80,000 Americans currently being held in solitary confinement. Australia has 30,000.
3- Solitary confinement was developed as a humane alternative
Another thing you didn’t know about solitary confinement is just who came up with the idea: Renowned as social activists and pacifists, the Quakers stayed busy into the 19th century fighting the spread of the slave trade. It was around the time of the turn of the 19th century when Quakers would turn their conscientious eye on the imprisoned. Before then, prisons were rotten, overcrowded joints, poorly administered and indifferent to the fate of the prisoners. In 1790, the Quakers built Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia with a revolutionary — and to many, humane — purpose: punish and reform. Walnut Street, cited as the “birthplace of the modern prison system,” isolated the prisoner in an effort to reform him. It was regarded as a type of atonement or penitence; in fact, Walnut featured a “penitentiary wing” in which prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for years on end, literally never leaving their cells.
Quakers would fully realise their concept in 1829 with the founding of Eastern State Penitentiary, the history’s first prison to be made up of nothing but cells for solitary confinement.
4- Solitary confinement inhibits attention spans
Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Stuart Grassien has argued that solitary confinement creates two devastating mental issues: The inability to focus attention (sufferers can’t concentrate, experience memory loss) and the inability to shift attention (mental fixations leading to obsessive thoughts and paranoia). What’s worse, solitary confinement only worsens a prisoner’s pre-existing mental health problems while causing new mental illnesses in otherwise healthy people.
5- The first prison with solitary confinement was in Rome
As noted before, Walnut Street Jail’s “humane,” penitent approach gave birth to the modern prison, but the first known jail to isolate prisoners from one another appears to have preceded this example by almost a century.
In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the case of Colorado resident James Medley, who had been convicted of killing his wife and sentenced to be held in solitary confinement until his execution. However, when Medley killed his wife, state law only proscribed the death penalty, not solitary confinement. Medley took this case to the high court, which agreed that the state had violated his constitutional rights in keeping him in solitary confinement and consequently voided his sentence. Medley was a free man. The court, meanwhile, took the opportunity to slam solitary confinement for being harmful to prisoners, noting that the first historical instance of deliberate solitary confinement was, “the solitary prison connected to the Hospital San Michele at Rome in 1703.”
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Not Such Wicked Leaks
For the celebrated novelist and intellectual Umberto Eco, the Wikileaks affair or “Cablegate” not only shows up the hypocrisy that governs relations between states, citizens and the press, but also presages a return to more archaic forms of communication.
The WikiLeaks affair has twofold value. On the one hand, it turns out to be a bogus scandal, a scandal that only appears to be a scandal against the backdrop of the hypocrisy governing relations between the state, the citizenry and the press. On the other hand, it heralds a sea change in international communication – and prefigures a regressive future of “crabwise” progress.
But let’s take it one step at a time. First off, the WikiLeaks confirm the fact that every file put together by a secret service (of any nation you like) is exclusively made up of press clippings. The “extraordinary” American revelations about Berlusconi’s sex habits merely relay what could already be read for months in any newspaper (except those owned by Berlusconi himself, needless to say), and the sinister caricature of Gaddafi has long been the stuff of cabaret farce.
Embassies have morphed into espionage centres
The rule that says secret files must only contain news that is already common knowledge is essential to the dynamic of secret services, and not only in the present century. Go to an esoteric book shop and you’ll find that every book on the shelf (on the Holy Grail, the “mystery” of Rennes-le-Château [a hoax theory concocted to draw tourists to a French town], on the Templars or the Rosicrucians) is a point-by-point rehash of what is already written in older books. And it’s not just because occult authors are averse to doing original research (or don’t know where to look for news about the non-existent), but because those given to the occult only believe what they already know and what corroborates what they’ve already heard. That happens to be Dan Brown’s success formula.
The same goes for secret files. The informant is lazy. So is the head of the secret service (or at least he’s limited – otherwise he could be, what do I know, an editor at Libération): he only regards as true what he recognises. The top-secret dope on Berlusconi that the US embassy in Rome beamed to the Department of State was the same story that had come out in Newsweek the week before.
So why so much ado about these leaks? For one thing, they say what any savvy observer already knows: that the embassies, at least since the end of World War II, and since heads of state can call each other up or fly over to meet for dinner, have lost their diplomatic function and, but for the occasional ceremonial function, have morphed into espionage centres. Anyone who watches investigative documentaries knows that full well, and it is only out of hypocrisy that we feign ignorance. Still, repeating that in public constitutes a breach of the duty of hypocrisy, and puts American diplomacy in a lousy light.
A real secret is an empty secret
Secondly, the very notion that any old hacker can delve into the most secret secrets of the most powerful country in the world has dealt a hefty blow to the State Department’s prestige. So the scandal actually hurts the “perpetrators” more than the “victims”.
But let’s turn to the more profound significance of what has occurred. Formerly, back in the days of Orwell, every power could be conceived of as a Big Brother watching over its subjects’ every move. The Orwellian prophecy came completely true once the powers that be could monitor every phone call made by the citizen, every hotel he stayed in, every toll road he took and so on and so forth. The citizen became the total victim of the watchful eye of the state. But when it transpires, as it has now, that even the crypts of state secrets are not beyond the hacker’s grasp, the surveillance ceases to work only one-way and becomes circular. The state has its eye on every citizen, but every citizen, or at least every hacker – the citizens’ self-appointed avenger – can pry into the state’s every secret.
How can a power hold up if it can’t even keep its own secrets anymore? It is true, as Georg Simmel once remarked, that a real secret is an empty secret (which can never be unearthed); it is also true that anything known about Berlusconi or Merkel’s character is essentially an empty secret, a secret without a secret, because it’s public domain. But to actually reveal, as WikiLeaks has done, that Hillary Clinton’s secrets were empty secrets amounts to taking away all her power. WikiLeaks didn’t do any harm to Sarkozy or Merkel, but did irreparable damage to Clinton and Obama.
Technology now advances crabwise
What will be the consequences of this wound inflicted on a very mighty power? It’s obvious that in future, states won’t be able to put any restricted information on line anymore: that would be tantamount to posting it on a street corner. But it is equally clear that, given today’s technologies, it is pointless to hope to have confidential dealings over the phone. Nothing is easier than finding out whether a head of state flew in or out or contacted one of his counterparts. So how can privy matters be conducted in future? Now I know that for the time being, my forecast is still science fiction and therefore fantastic, but I can’t help imagining state agents riding discreetly in stagecoaches along untrackable routes, bearing only memorised messages or, at most, the occasional document concealed in the heel of a shoe. Only a single copy thereof will be kept – in locked drawers. Ultimately, the attempted Watergate break-in was less successful than WikiLeaks.
I once had occasion to observe that technology now advances crabwise, i.e. backwards. A century after the wireless telegraph revolutionised communications, the Internet has re-established a telegraph that runs on (telephone) wires. (Analog) video cassettes enabled film buffs to peruse a movie frame by frame, by fast-forwarding and rewinding to lay bare all the secrets of the editing process, but (digital) CDs now only allow us quantum leaps from one chapter to another. High-speed trains take us from Rome to Milan in three hours, but flying there, if you include transfers to and from the airports, takes three and a half hours. So it wouldn’t be extraordinary if politics and communications technologies were to revert to the horse-drawn carriage.
One last observation: In days of yore, the press would try to figure out what was hatching sub rosa inside the embassies. Nowadays, it’s the embassies that are asking the press for the inside story.
Liberation Presseurop 02.12.2010
Translated by Eric Rosencrantz
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Christmas Bikkie Recipe:
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Baileys
1. Sample the Baileys to check quality. 2. Take a large bowl, check the Baileys again, to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. 3. Turn on the electric mixer…Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. 4. Add one teaspoon of sugar…Beat again. 5. At this point it’s best to make sure the Baileys is still OK, try another cup.. just in case. 6. Turn off the mixer thingy. 7. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. 8. Pick the frigging fruit off floor… 9. Mix on the turner. 10. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a dewscriver. 11. Sample the Baileys to check for tonsisticity. 12. Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet. 13. Check the Baileys. 14. Now shift the lemon juic e and strain your nuts. 15. Add one table. 16. Add a spoon of ar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, Finish the bottle of Baileys Make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.
Post from Jack the Insider The Australian 23.12,2010
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All the reports listed here are from The National Weather Service, NOAA, and news reports.
The Swat Valley I never saw a number on just how bad the rainfall was there until this story from the Guardian “It was raining so hard, you couldn’t see a man standing in front of you.”
In more than 60 hours of non-stop torrential rainfall, the floods washed all that away. The north-west normally receives 500mm (20in) of rain in the month of July; over one five-day period 5,000mm fell. “It was incredible,” said Sameenullah Afridi, a local United Nations official.
That’s 196.8 inches of rain, 16 feet.
Jan. 2.8 inches (7 cm) were widespread across Israel, including the city of Jerusalem, which typically receives 4.3 inches (11 cm) annually.
San Juan PR - Wettest January on record 11.07 inches (1978 7.60 inches)
Atlantic City NJ - The wettest winter on record 19.25 inches (1957-58 18.88 inches)
Blue Hill MA. - The wettest month ever recorded 18.81 inches (1955 18.78 inches )
Providence RI. - The wettest month ever recorded 16.34 inches ( 2005 15.38 inches )
Wettest March on record
Boston MA. – 14.87 inches (1953 11.0 inches)
Bridge Port CT. – 9.74 inches (1953 9.40 inches)
Portland ME. – 11.06 inches (1953 9.97 inches)
Central Park – 10.68 inches (1983 10.54 inches)
Wettest calender day in April
Del Rio, TX. – 3.19 inches (1971 1.31 inches)
May 1st–2nd More than 200 daily, monthly, and all-time precipitation records were broken across the three states.
On May 16th–17th
up to eight inches (200 mm) of rain fell over southern Poland and the Czech Republic in a 24-hour period
May greatest calendar day rainfall Del Rio, TX. – 7.12 inches (2003 6.53 inches)
Bowling Green KY. – 2 day record 9.67 inches (since 1870)
Nashville TN. – 2 day record 13.53 inches (1979 6.68 inches)
Wettest January-May on record Del Rio, TX. – 21.70 inches (1957 19.47 inches)
South Central Texas on June 8th–9th 7 to 12 inches (180 to 300 mm) of rain fell over the region in an 18-hour period. This storm killed 20 people in Arkansas with 6-8 inch rainfalls.
June all-time rainfall record Portland OR. – 4.21 inches (1984 4.06 inches)
June calendar-day rainfall record McAllen TX. – 6.66 inches (1942 4.75 inches)
Wettest June on record Lincoln ILL. – 10.79 inches (1947 9.83 inches)
McAllen Tx. – 10.65 inches (1993 9.59 inches)
All-time 24-hour rainfall record
Amarillo Tx. – 7.25 inches (1960 6.75 inches)
Oklahoma City OK. – 7.62 inches (1970 7.53 inches)
July one-hour rainfall record
Fairbanks AK. - 1.15 inches (1939 .99 inches)
July rainfall record
Amarillo TX. – 8.02 inches (1960 7.59 inches)
Green Bay WI. – 9.51 inches (1912 7.46 inches)
Milwaukee, WI – 10.93 inches (1964 7.66 inches)
Thirty day precipitation record
Northway AK. – 9.29 inches (2005 6.95 inches)
Wettest summer on record
Sioux Falls SD. – 17.93 inches (1993 17.39 inches)
Sioux City IA. – 20.03 inches (1983 17.37 inches)
Wabasha MN. – 24.21 inches (1993 22.21 inches)
Green Bay WI. – 20.39 inches ( 1914 18.89 inches) 6 other locations in WI. set this record.
The states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Tabasco were hardest hit. The president of Mexico said that rains during July and August in the region were three and a half times higher than average. Government officials say that from July 28 to Aug. 3, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan, recorded almost 12 feet of rainfall in one week.
Sept. - All-time one hour rainfall record
Portland OR. – 1.03 inches (2008 0.93 inches)
Camp Mabry—located within Austin city limits—received 7.04 inches (179 mm) of rain on the 7th. Local reports stated that the highest rainfall totals of about 14 inches (356 mm) were recorded in an area stretching from Mansfield Dam to Georgetown. September highest daily rainfall record Baltimore, MD. – 6.02 inches 1912 5.97 inches ) Hurricane Karl made landfall at Veracruz this month, it rained 8 inches in 90 mins. 300 millimetres (11.81 inches ) of rain on parts of Seoul, an all-time high for late September since records began in 1907. September 23rd southern Mexico, The remnants of the storm produced very heavy rainfall, with 10 to 20 inches estimated locally, and 30 inches (760 mm) in isolated areas. September 29th Wilmington’s three-day rainfall total to 19.66 inches (499 mm). 30th, nearby Jacksonville, North Carolina received 12 inches (305 mm) of rain—about 25 percent of its annual average—in a six-hour period. 12.64 inches at Corpus Christi, Texas 10.26 inches Blitz Brownsville, September 19th 8.26 inches in Bella Coola Valley, Canada Central Queensland – In the 120 years that rainfall records have been kept in Orion near Springsure, this year sees the highest for the month of September at 378.6mm. Previously it was only at 197.6mm in 1917 and the average for the month of September is 29.8mm. In Rosetown, Sask., for example, 555 millimetres of rain were recorded at the Environment Canada station from April 1 to Sept. 23, which shattered the previous record set in 1954 when 464 mm fell between April 1 and Oct. 1. Extreme rainfall across New Zealand one of the wettest Septembers on record. Oct - Central Vietnam 51 inches (1,300 mm) of rain reportedly fell in parts of the region. Heavy rains over Hainan, China led to the worst flooding in that region in nearly half a century as at least seven inches (178 mm) fell in 16 cities over the course of the week. Some areas received as much as 12.8 inches (325 mm) of rainfall.
Mid Oct. - Central Vietnam on October 14th–18th. According to Reliefweb, up to 38.1 inches (968 mm) of rain fell in Nghe An, up to 36.9 inches (938 mm) in Ha Tinh, and up to 31.0 inches (787 mm) in Quang Binh. October 14th and 16th, eight inches (200 mm) of rain fell over Hainan, China.
Nova Scotia – 11.8 inches of rain in 4 days. November 7th through 11th Satellite estimates report over 600 mm (24 inches) of rainfall across southern India. 445 mm (17.5 inches) of rain on the capital city of Colombo Shri Lanka , in 24 hrs. 31 inches fall in Central Vietnam near Hue.
Much of the rain in China, Thailand, Columbia, all of Africa is not listed here. The rains in Columbia have been falling for 5 months. In China for 6 months. I will add to this as the year closes .
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The Rumala oil field, south of Basra
Photograph: Atef Hassan/Reuters
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