December 22nd, 2009


POTUS: Public option 'symbolic'

President Obama told American Urban Radio Networks's April Ryan Monday that he stayed up to watch the Senate's early-morning vote on a health care bill and said he's confident Congress can work out the "five percent" difference between the House and Senate bills. "I was up because I wanted to make sure that I was watching what could end up being an historic moment," Obama said. The president sought to downplay the lack of a public health insurance option in the Senate bill, saying: "There is so much good in this bill, and I'm now confident that it’s going to pass." "I think people need to understand just how significant this is," Obama told Ryan. The public option, he said, "is an area that has just become symbolic of a lot of ideological fights." But, Obama added: "As a practical matter, this is not the most important aspect of this bill — the House bill or the Senate bill." Only "a few million people" who buy into the insurance exchange set up in the bill would have benefited from the public option, he said. "So it wasn’t like suddenly everybody would just go out there and buy a government-run plan," Obama said. "Most people will still get health insurance from their employers." source

Michael Steele: (Adjective) Very annoying, offensive, odious or contemptible. (Noun) Moron.

Harkin: Michael Steele Is Redefining The Word Obnoxious

One of the Senate's most soft-spoken members, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), unleashed a little pent-up frustration on Monday, telling reporters that RNC Chairman Michael Steele was redefining the term obnoxious with his latest histrionics.

On Monday morning, Steele held a conference call with reporters in which he called Democratic Senators crafting health care reform "cowards" who are "flipping the bird" to the American public. Harkin, along with a host of other Democrats, were asked about the remarks during a press conference touting the American Medical Association's endorsement of their bill.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) deemed Steele's comments crass and inappropriate for "someone who has the title Mr. Steele has." But Harkin, standing off to the side, was seen rolling his eyes as he whispered into the ear of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)

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Steele: Dems Are Cowards, 'Flipping The Bird' To The Public

With health care reform poised to pass the Senate on a party-line vote, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele ratcheted up the rhetoric on Monday, accusing Democrats of acting like cowards and "flipping the bird" to the American public.

Speaking hours after Senate Democrats cleared the first of three major procedural hurdles in passing their version of reform, Steele insisted that what was being witnessed in that chamber was nothing short of "a wholesale hijacking of the health care system in our country."

And he insisted that the GOP's obstructionist efforts were not the reason for the odd scheduling of the first vote at 1:00 a.m. on early Monday morning.
"Bad policy is bad policy," he said. "If it stinks, you know it." Rather, the timing of the vote spoke to the "cowardice reflected of this leadership in the Senate and quite frankly Democrats across the country who dare not look the American people in the eye on this issue."

Steele emphasized that he will continue to work with Republican leadership in both the House and Senate to help defeat the legislation, with better prospects (admittedly) in the Senate, where a single Democratic defection could derail the process.

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Pink Floyd

Australian Domain Authority Takes Down Anti-Filtering Website

The swift takedown of
by Stilgherrian

The Fake Stephen Conroy website at that Crikey mentioned on Friday lasted just two days. At 5pm AEDT Friday it was taken offline by .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), the industry self-regulatory body for Australian internet domains, who deleted the domain with less than three hours notice.

The site’s content, including the header “Stephen Conroy: Minister for Fascism”, is now online at instead, where auDA has no jurisdiction — although it’s hosted in the same location.

This take down was unusually fast. “Generally, such a deregistration/removal process takes a few weeks,” reports iTWire.

“We didn’t even get a written copy of the take-down notice, it all happened so fast,” says Tim March, owner of the IT consultancy Sapia Pty Ltd, which registered the domain and one of the site’s driving forces.

March told Crikey that the registrar, Domain Central, phoned him about the take-down notice after experiencing email problems. March then phoned and emailed auDA, requesting an extension of their 5pm deadline.

auDA had demanded evidence that Sapia was eligible to use under Schedule B of its Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules for Open 2LDs (2008-05). A domain must be “an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrant’s name or trademark” or “otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant”.

However, people routinely register domains that are simply the name of a project they’re running or a product they’re selling — the connection being that the name describes the business activity.

To pick a random example, has been registered by Internet Products Sales Services Pty Ltd to link to sites selling guitar strings and string bikinis.

It could perhaps be argued that is a perfectly sensible name for a site about Stephen Conroy.

The timing seems at odds with auDA’s .au Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP) (2008-01), which requires written complaints and gives respondents 20 days to file their response.

But March says he called auDA about 30 minutes after receiving the notification.

“I must have spoken to auDA at around 1510 AEDT, which puts a rough estimate of the issue time around 1440 AEDT, which is obviously only 2h20m from issue to take down.”

Did Senator Conroy, or someone in his office, pressure auDA for a quick result?

“The Minister’s office made no request and took no other action in relation to the domain,” a spokesperson told Crikey — as is right and proper given auDA’s independence.

“Satire is an important part of any healthy democracy,” Conroy’s spokesperson said in response to the Fake Stephen Conroy Twitter account run by then-Telstra employee Leslie Nassar.

However, in October 2008, Conroy’s policy adviser Belinda Dennett did try to silence one of Conroy’s critics, network engineer Mark Newton, by asking the chair of the Internet Industry Association to pressure Newton through his employer.

March says Domain Central told him the normal process would be for auDA to contact them requesting the policy-based deletion.

“In this instance they apparently bypassed them and went straight to AusRegistry [who run the central domain name database] to pull the domain,” March said.

“They really wanted us gone.”

Crikey sought comment from auDA and Domain Central, but neither replied before our deadline.

Watchdog group Electronic Frontiers Australia says auDA have the right to enforce its rules, “though a three-hour turnaround on this dispute seems quite unusual”.

“This is perhaps another case study of why private regulation of the domain name system is flawed, in that it is wide open to private censorship,” EFA vice-chair Colin Jacobs told Crikey.

In this respect, the case resembles the 2006 take-down of Richard Neville’s spoof site, although that site was taken down not by auDA but by registrar Melbourne IT, who later admitted it was “badly handled”.

Source. says here that the rapidity of the takedown was against AuDA guidelines, as if that wasn't already obvious:

...if a complaint is received, the respondent has 20 days to respond. Not 3 hours! Also, the notice should come through the dispute resolution provider, not the auDA itself. I would presume this is to allow the auDA to remain at arm’s length from all resolution processes. Perhaps they should have done this here.

You can read the website's media release here, and another reaction here:
In recent polls upwards of 95% of Australians are against internet filtering, so why are we sitting around like lambs to the slaughter while our citizens voices are being SILENCED by our government(s)? This takedown action is precedented, totalitarian, and completely repugnant.

The site itself is a simple satirical thing, purporting to be the minister himself. It provides information on the censorship plan, as well as asking Australians to let their representatives know that they will punish Labor at the next election.

This shit has got to stop. It's beyond ridiculous. I for one do not want a government, Labor, Liberal or otherwise, to filter my internet. The fact that they are already censoring sites opposed to the plan is blatant and ridiculous.

Testing has been released on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection - and that won't be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.
You can sign a petition against the internet censorship plan here, at GetUp!

Vatican awards self 'unique copyright' on Pope

No one gets Pontifical but us

The Vatican has awarded itself a "unique copyright" on the Pope's name, image, coat of arms, and any other symbol or logo related to the Holy Father.

"The use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff...and/or the use of the title 'Pontifical,' must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See," reads a statement released by the Vatican on Saturday morning, the Catholic News Agency reports.

The statement declares that the Vatican "alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter." With its self-awarded "copyright," the Holy See intends to "protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church."

In recent years, the statement says, educational and cultural institutions, civic groups, and foundations have exhibited an increased desire to use the Pope's name without the express approval of the Vatican. The Vatican attributes this to a "great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father." And now it wants to suppress such feelings.

The statement suggests that the Vatican's new "copyright" is a way of dealing with organizations who use the Pope's name, image, and symbols to "attribute credibility and authority to initiatives."

Apparently, the Vatican has mistaken copyright for a trademark. And it has no legal means of enforcing its declaration across the globe. But this is the Vatican. Presumably, it's assuming that you'll obey its "copyright" in an effort to avoid spending the rest of your life wallowing in guilt. ®

Source: The Register

New rules say passengers can't be kept waiting on plane for more than 3 hours

It's a common air travel nightmare: A flight is delayed for weather or some other reason, marooning a planeload of passengers on an airport taxiway.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulators ordered airlines to stop the practice of holding passengers for hours on grounded airplanes. Under the new rules, airlines will have to get travelers in the air within three hours or let them off the plane. Airlines could face fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger for violations.

The new rules also say that airlines must provide adequate food and potable water for passengers within two hours of an aircraft being delayed on the tarmac. Additionally, airlines must maintain "operable lavatories" and provide passengers on delayed aircraft with necessary medical attention. The rules go into effect in about three months, officials said.



About time. Three hours seems reasonable, as long as there is a damned good reason. After that, consider the flight cancelled and refund passengers. But it should go into effect IMMEDIATELY - not in three months. More to the point: why should it require the DOT to regulate airlines from holding customers as prisoners? There is no friggin' way I would allow any business to keep me locked up overnight. I would not permit it, period. People who have tolerated this in the past must be spineless jellyfish.
Green flower

[German] Crash of the Year. New Penalties Facing Church Roof Flier?

And now for something completely wacky.

Click the image for a photo gallery.

In January, David E. managed to drive his station wagon into the roof of a church 23 meters [feet] off the ground. Now, he may be in trouble again. For a television re-enactment, he got behind the wheel of a car -- possibly in violation of his driver's license suspension.

His year didn't start well. In late January, David E. made headlines in Germany and beyond when he managed to crash his Skoda Octavia station wagon into the roof of a church some seven meters (23 feet) off the ground. In addition to causing €63,000 in damage to the church, which his insurance covered, the 23-year-old fractured his pelvis, had to pay a €3,000 fine and lost his driver's license for a year.

Now, the end of his year isn't looking so hot for David, either. Following a television appearance last week, during which E. talked about the crash publicly for the first time, he could be facing further penalties. The show included a re-enactment of the crash -- and depicted E. sitting in the driver's seat of a car. Police are now trying to determine whether E. drove for the TV cameras despite having a suspended license.

"We have ordered a video from the television station," a police spokesman told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We will then take a look at it to see if he violated his suspension."

The police may also investigate the television station, RTL -- and its host, famous German television personality Günther Jauch -- to determine whether it is guilty of inciting E. to violate the terms of his license suspension. The police declined to say what additional penalties could be facing E. were it determined that he drove on the show.

The January accident was singularly spectacular. E. was speeding through the middle of the small, eastern-German town of Limbach-Oberfrohna at three times the legal limit (139 kilometers per hour/86 miles per hour) when he lost control of his vehicle. His car hit an embankment on the side of the road and proceeded to fly 35 meters (115 feet) through the air before crashing into the village church.

Tests revealed that E. had been drinking prior to the accident . On television, he said "my girlfriend was in the hospital, I just wanted to get something real quick."

Instead, he ended up trapped in his car with multiple broken bones high off the ground. E., who has since recovered from his injuries, rapidly became something of a local folk hero for his unintended exploits. T-shirts, mugs and postcards of the incident quickly appeared as did a song.

E. told TV viewers that his mother drove him to the studio for the show. RTL insists that he didn't drive for the re-enactment.

Link to previous story (also linked from within the article.

It would be just like that TV station to get the guy into even more trouble than he is in right now.
' jules
  • schmiss

And nothing of value was lost.

Rep. Parker Griffith switches to GOP

POLITICO has learned that Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Alabama, will announce today that he’s switching parties to become a Republican.

According to two senior GOP aides familiar with the decision, the announcement will take place this afternoon in Griffith's district in northern Alabama.

Griffith’s party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010.

The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer.

Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties—and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.

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What do Republicans have to say about this? Oh:

@ewerickson: Surely we can primary Parker Griffith. Changing the letter next to your name to an R does not magically make you one of us.

franklin sherman

Lobbyists on pace for record year: Obama breaks pledge to reel in lobbyists

Main Street has had a tough year, losing jobs and seeing little evidence of the economic revival that experts say has already begun.

But K Street is raking it in.

Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government — and that’s with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Many lobbying firms have escaped the worst of the corporate belt-tightening, thanks, in large part, to the ambitious agenda set out by President Barack Obama — who, ironically, came to Washington with a pledge to break what he considered the undue influence of special-interest lobbyists.

lenty of sectors have scaled back their K Street spending, including traditional big spenders like real estate and telecommunications. But Obama’s push for legislation on health reform, financial reform and climate change has compensated for the grim economic times.

And that’s after Obama kicked off the year with a massive economic stimulus package — and every major business sector tried to get a piece of the action.

“Lobbyists love it ... when you’ve got an activist agenda like this, and you’ve got serious problems like this, and people want to do something about it,” said James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

“It is the most active time that I have ever seen in the advocacy business — from 1973 on,” Thurber added.

Article goes on forever here:

To win bill’s passage,(sleazy) deals had to be made...

Here is how some sleazy types sold their vote-

■ Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee who is facing a difficult reelection next year, added an item making $100 million available for construction of a hospital at a public university that he hopes will be the University of Connecticut.

Let's not forget Big Pharma

■ Makers of brand-name biotech drugs won 12 years of protection against would-be generic competitors.

■ Drugmakers fended off proposals to allow importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries, and to let the government negotiate drug prices for Medicare recipients.

More vote selling breakdowns at the source.

What would Plunkitt at Tammany hall have to say ?

Michele Bachmann Is No Welfare Queen. If The GOP Does It Is Not Wrong.

Anti-socialist Bachmann got $250K in federal farm subsidies

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — so fond of accusing the Obama administration of foisting socialism on an unwilling America — has apparently been the recipient of about a quarter of million bucks in government handouts.

Liberal site Truthdig links to an Environmental Working Group analysis of federal agricultural subsidies and found that the Bachmann family farm, managed by her father-in-law until his recent death, received $251,000 in farm payments between 1995 and 2006.

Bachmann’s financial disclosure forms indicate her stake in the Wisconsin farm is worth up to $250,000. Her income from the farm has grown from $2,000 a year a few years back to as much as $50,000 for 2008.

Truthdig calls her a "Welfare Queen":

Bachmann's family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann's recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized — or "socialized" — businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls.

Bachmann isn't alone in her selective socialism: EWG found that the top four districts receiving the largest ag payments are represented by conservative Republicans.

1. 3rd district of Nebraska (Rep. Adrian Smith - Republican) - $1,736,923,011 in subsidies go to 51,702 recipients.

2. 1st district of Kansas (Rep. Jerry Moran - Republican) - $1,315,979,151 in subsidies go to 75,802 recipients.

3. 4th district of Iowa (Rep. Tom Latham - Republican) - $1,288,622,912 in subsidies go to 35,696 recipients.

4. 9th district of Texas (Rep. Randy Neugebauer - Republican) - $1,227,192,312 in subsidies go to 21,290 recipients.
:(, boyd, teen wolf

Mother vs. OBGYN

Mom fights, gets the delivery she wants

Seven months into her pregnancy with her fourth child, Joy Szabo's obstetrician gave her some news she didn't want to hear: Because she'd had a previous Caesarean section, the hospital where she planned to deliver was insisting she have another one.

Szabo wanted a vaginal delivery, and argued with hospital executives, but they stood firm: They refused to do vaginal births after Caesareans (VBACs) because they have a slightly higher risk for complications.

After they lost that fight, Szabo and her husband, Jeff, made an unusual decision. About three weeks before her due date, Szabo moved nearly six hours away from their home in Page, Arizona, to Phoenix to give birth at a hospital that does permit women to have VBACs.

In the end, the Szabos got the birth they wanted. On December 5, their son Marcus Anthony was born in Phoenix via an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, weighing seven pounds and 13 ounces.

"It was such an easy birth," Szabo says. "I was in the pains of labor for about four or five hours, then I pushed once, and he popped out."

The Szabos' story has a happy ending, but it shows that with the rising C-section rate -- now one in three babies is born via Caesarean -- women who want vaginal births sometimes have to fight to get them.

That fight is especially difficult when the decision to perform a Caesarean is made in the delivery room when there's often not much time to talk and consider all the options.

"It's a tough situation," says Dr. Bruce Flamm, a spokesman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Mom is tired. Dad is tired and nervous, and most people haven't spent their lives reading obstetrical textbooks and don't know all the details involved."

Dina Ste. Marie, from Whitby, Ontario, remembers a tense moment in the delivery room three years ago when she was in labor with her first child. She'd been eight centimeters dilated for six hours, and the baby wasn't budging.

"We were near the end, but it just wasn't ending," she remembers.

When her obstetrician suggested she might be headed for a C-section, her doula, Stefanie Antunes, remembered a maneuver she'd seen midwives use to get a reluctant baby to come through the birth canal.

"Stefanie said if I laid down flat on my back it might help the baby get in a new position," Ste. Marie says. "I distinctly remember the labor nurse looking at her like she had 10 heads, but she said, 'You can try it if you want.' "

Ste. Marie got on her back, and the baby started moving around. Twenty-five minutes later, her daughter, Isabella, was born.

"It was such a major relief," says Ste. Marie. "I really wanted to avoid a C-section if I could."

Tips on avoiding C-Sections at the Source.

So, what do you think, ONTD_P? Was this the right decision? Do you think that health risks should be weighed against the parent's decision or just keep to the 'YOU HAD ONE. THAT'S ALL WE DO NOW' procedure?
*betty draper reading

RNC chairman Michael Steele is charging $20k per speech

STEELE'S SWEET RACKET.... Michael Steele was able to parlay a series of failures and fiascoes into becoming the clownish chairman of the Republican National Committee. After securing the gig, Steele was able to parlay his chairmanship into becoming a surprisingly well paid personality on the speaking circuit.
Michael S. Steele, Republican National Committee chairman, is using his title to market himself for paid appearances nationwide, personally profiting from speeches with fees of up to $20,000 at colleges, trade associations and other groups - an unusual practice criticized by a string of past party chairmen.

Mr. Steele, elected in January to the $223,500-a-year RNC post, is working with at least four outside agencies in Washington, New York, Boston and Nashville that book the speaking engagements. He charges between $8,000 and $20,000 for an address, plus first-class travel and lodging expenses.
The Republican National Committee has been awfully tolerant of Steele's incompetence, mismanagement, and humiliating gaffes this year. But this is a revelation that may put Steele's job in jeopardy.

Several former RNC chairmen said on the record that Steele's lucrative little scheme is hard to defend. Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., RNC chairman under Reagan, said, "Holy mackerel, I never heard of a chairman of either party ever taking money for speeches.... The job of a national chairman is to give speeches. That's what the national party pays him for."

Jim Nicholson, RNC chairman under W. Bush, said the job "demands so much of your time that you can work 24/7 and not get everything done, so taking time out to speak for the benefit of one's own bank account is not appropriate."

Rich Bond, RNC chairman under Clinton, said, "It just doesn't look right using RNC resources and trading on the title of chairman to make outside money." Bond added that if he received honoraria after a public appearance, he donated it to charity.

For what it's worth, the Democratic National Committee said it knows of no DNC chairs who've ever made speeches for personal gain the way Steele is doing now.

And what kind of personal gain are we talking about here? According to the Washington Times reported, "it potentially adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Stepping back, I suspect RNC members may be reluctant to switch chairmen less than a year from the midterm elections. It would be disruptive and embarrassing. On the other hand, is the party really prepared to keep an incompetent chairman who's using his title to line his own pockets?


Eye for an eye, nose for a nose

Pakistani court orders 2 men's noses, ears cut off

LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistani court has ordered the noses and ears of two men cut off after they did the same thing to a young woman whose family spurned one of the men's marriage proposal, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The anti-terrorism court in the eastern city of Lahore said it was applying Islamic law by ordering the punishment.

Lahore prosecutor Chaudhry Ali Ahmed said one of the accused, Sher Mohammad, was a cousin of the 19-year-old woman and wanted to marry her. Her parents refused his proposal.

Sher Mohammad and a friend, Amanat Mohammad, were accused of kidnapping the woman and cutting off her ears and nose in late September in the Raiwind area of Lahore.

The court on Monday also sentenced each man to 50 years in prison and told them to pay fines and compensation to the woman amounting to several thousand dollars, the prosecutor said.

Pakistan's legal system has Islamic elements that sometimes lead to orders for harsh punishments, but the sentences are often overturned and rarely carried out. Serious crimes are often referred to anti-terrorism courts in Pakistan because they move faster.

Violence against women, especially attacks by spurned lovers, also occurs frequently in this impoverished South Asian nation.

The men have seven days to appeal the ruling, Ahmed said.


Neither Side Happy With The Nelson Compromise On Abortion, Senate Presses Onward

"You have both sides criticizing it, which means that we did what we had to do, we compromised in a fair way," says Senator Boxer - but can this fragile compromise on the Nelson abortion restrictions hold?

The details on how the amendment compromise will impact the bill are still hazy, but the Washington Post provides an outline of possible scenarios and complications:

The long-standing ban on federal funding for abortion has complicated congressional Democrats' health-care legislation. Medicaid bars federal funding for abortion, but 17 states and the District allow the procedure for female Medicaid enrollees paid out of their own funds. It is harder to reach middle ground in the bill before Congress, which would provide federal subsidies to millions of people to buy private health insurance plans on a new marketplace, or "exchange." The deal reached by Nelson and other Democrats over the weekend would allow those people to purchase insurance plans with abortion coverage. But they would have to write two separate premium checks — one to cover the bulk of their plan and the other to cover the sliver for abortion coverage, probably a dollar or so per month.

States could also decree that no plans including abortion coverage be provided on the exchange in their state. As it stands, five states already have some sort of ban on abortion coverage.

By contrast, an amendment that passed the House would prohibit insurers from selling plans with abortion coverage to anyone buying coverage with the help of subsidies — excluding 85 percent of customers on the exchange. The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), would permit the sale of "riders" for abortion coverage, but abortion rights groups say it is offensive to expect women to buy separate coverage for a procedure that most do not plan on needing.

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Good Night, Sweet Princess

ATLANTA – Ann Nixon Cooper, the Atlanta centenarian lauded by President Barack Obama in his election night speech last year, has died. She was 107.

Obama in his 2008 speech called Cooper an example of "the heartbreak and the hope" of the past century. He noted she'd been born at a time when women and blacks couldn't vote and lived to cast her ballot for the country's first black president.

Carl M. Williams Funeral Directors of Atlanta, which is handling funeral arrangements, confirmed that Cooper died on Monday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that she died in the home she'd lived in since 1938. She was hospitalized recently for circulatory trouble.

Cooper would have turned 108 on Jan. 9.

Akuma River

Obama will be waiting with us for Health Care Reform

Barack Obama Wants to Be at Work Today Just as Much as You Do, America

So he's prank-calling local news-talk radio shows as "Barry From D.C." Is it five yet? Anyone up for lunch?

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was a guest today on a WTOP radio show in Washington, D.C., so Obama called in to wish him a Merry Christmas. He's got plenty of time to kill—according to the latest White House pool report, Obama just announced in the Roosevelt Room that he's not leaving for his Hawaiian holiday until the Senate passes a healthcare bill on Christmas Eve. "My attitude is if they are making these sacrifices to provide health care to all Americans, the least I can do is be around." Which means plenty of time to kill til then. Also, contrary to our report yesterday, the White House press corps won't have it any better than their counterparts on the Hill after all.

Here is “Barry from DC” calling into some DC radio show to wish Tim Kaine a happy something and to congratulate him on being married to his wife, Tim Kaine’s Wife. Barry from DC turns out to be the President, Barack Obama. Tim Kaine is so smiley about it. Adorable. [YouTube]
Akuma River

Better coverage for all, even our friends on the right.

Roland Burris Rewrites "Twas the Night Before Christmas"

Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) delivers a health-care inspired version of “Twas the night before Christmas” on the Senate floor this morning.

"Although our work keeps us away from our family and friends for much of this holiday season, I see no reason why we can't share good cheers with one another right here in Washington," he said in introducing the poem. "So in the spirit of the season, Mr. president, I would like to share my own version of a classic holiday story with my good friends on both sides of the aisle."

Watch Burris deliver the poem at left, and read his effort below. It includes this line, in reference to the GOP: "We'll clog up the Senate, they cried with a grin/and in the midterm elections, we'll get voted in."
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UPDATE: Burris's spokeswoman, Audrey Till, told POLITICO that the senator's speechwriter, Riley Roberts, was the author of the holiday-inspired verse.

Can we keep him?
I can't wait til I grow up and feel ways

Your happy news of the day.

Woman abandoned in Fairfax as a baby finds her rescuers

Christopher Astle and Emily Yanich were teenage pals strolling back from a 7-Eleven that afternoon in late summer -- two ordinary kids on an ordinary Wednesday after school -- when they found the abandoned baby.

It was Sept. 6, 1989. They discovered the newborn wrapped in towels at the front door of a townhouse in their Fairfax County complex and took the infant to Emily's, where her stepfather called police.

The whole thing was over pretty quickly. The authorities took the baby girl, who was later adopted. Chris and Emily, both 15, went on with their lives, although Emily often cried when she told people the story, and the two called each other every Sept. 6.

Twenty years passed.

Then, on Dec. 2, a college student named Mia Fleming sent them both a message via Facebook: Might they be the same Chris and Emily who had once found a baby left at a stranger's door?

If so, she just wanted to say thanks.

After all these years, the little girl they had found had found them.

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Iranian crowd stops execution and frees convicts

A crowd of people have helped two convicts escape a public execution in Iran, officials there say.

The crowd overpowered security services and helped two men convicted of robbery to escape hanging in the province of Kerman, the Fars news agency reported.

The men were recaptured hours later, and justice department officials say they will be put to death on Wednesday.

Iran executes more people than anywhere else in the world except China, human rights groups say.

The members of the crowd who aided their escape will also be punished, officials said.

This year the Iranian government has increased the already high number of executions, possibly as a way of asserting its authority in the wake of the disputed presidential election result, BBC correspondents say.

Human rights groups accuse Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Tehran insists it is an effective deterrent that is used only after a lengthy judicial process.

movies | Impish Fräulein2

ontd_political Photo of the Day: Dec 22, 2009.

A Star Wars storm trooper walks the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 in New York. To celebrate the lasting appeal of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm Ltd. executives and the Star Wars characters visited the exchange and rang the opening bell.
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Photographer | Henny Ray Abrams (AP Photo)


Suspected Rebels Kidnap Colombian Governor

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian state governor was kidnapped on Monday after gunmen dressed in military uniforms attacked his home in an assault authorities said was carried out by left-wing FARC guerrillas.

A FARC kidnapping of a provincial governor from his home would show Latin America's oldest guerrilla insurgency is still capable of high-profile operations despite the group being battered by Colombia's U.S.-backed military offensive.

Colombian army and police officials said the Teofilo Forero unit of the FARC rebel group was responsible for the kidnapping, during which one police officer was killed.

"The governor was taken from his home by force, and one of the people who was guarding his house was killed," secretary for the Caqueta state governor's office, Edilberto Ramon Endo, told reporters.

FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was once a strong rebel army controlling large parts of Colombia. But bombings and kidnappings it once carried out in a four-decade war have eased as President Alvaro Uribe sent troops to take back areas under control of illegal armed groups.

The FARC is still holding 24 police and soldiers hostage, some kidnapped more than a decade ago and held in jungle camps where they are chained up and forced to march to evade army patrols and aerial bombardments.

Once a powerful peasant army, the FARC has been hit hard by the killing of several top commanders and a steady flow of desertions as guerrillas come under pressure from military and police assault.

AP version (slightly more complete)

Uribe is offering 1 billion pesos ($487,000) for info. When is this madness gonna stop =(?

: He was found dead =((((((((.

Salto Ángel

Chavez Wants To Rename Angel Falls, World's Tallest Waterfall

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that the world's tallest waterfall has been called Angel Falls too long and should revert to its original indigenous name instead of commemorating the U.S. pilot who spotted it in 1933.

He called for renaming the Venezuelan falls Kerepakupai-Meru, saying during his weekly television program that Indians had a name for the majestic waterfall long before adventurer Jimmie Angel flew over it.

How can Venezuelans could accept the idea that "the highest waterfall in the world was discovered by a man who came from the United States in a plane?" Chavez asked.

"We should change that name, right? With all respect to that man who came, who saw it."

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Whatever they decide (I get where he's coming from), I just wanna visit it someday.
Trouble Train

UK Fails To Halt Genital Mutilation

Hundreds of British schoolgirls are facing the terrifying prospect of female genital mutilation (FGM) over the Christmas holidays as experts warn the practice continues to flourish across the country. Parents typically take their daughters back to their country of origin for FGM during school holidays, but The Independent on Sunday has been told that "cutters" are being flown to the UK to carry out the mutilation at "parties" involving up to 20 girls to save money.

The police face growing criticism for failing to prosecute a single person for carrying out FGM in 25 years; new legislation from 2003 which prohibits taking a girl overseas for FGM has also failed to secure a conviction.

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I find this trend incredibly disturbing.

US teen pleads no contest to 2 charges in Facebook scam to blackmail dozens of boys into sex

US teen pleads no contest to 2 charges in Facebook scam to blackmail dozens of boys into sex

By Dinesh Ramde, The Associated Press

WAUKESHA, Wis. - A Wisconsin teenager accused of using a Facebook scam to blackmail dozens of male students into sex acts has reached a plea agreement.

Nineteen-year-old Anthony Stancl of New Berlin pleaded no contest Tuesday to two felonies. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed 10 other charges.

Stancl was accused of posing as a girl on Facebook and tricking more than 30 classmates into sending him naked photos of themselves, then using the photos to blackmail them for sex.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel says he will recommend a "substantial" prison term. Stancl faces a maximum of 50 years in prison when he is sentenced at a date to be determined.

Defence attorney Craig Kuhary declined to comment.


GOP's Evil Plan for Self Destruction is Working!

McCain Senate Re-Election Race Already Getting Ugly

Talk-radio host, Tea Partier, and former House member J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) hasn't even filed to run against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the Republican senate primary, but both sides have already gone on the offensive. Even while still in the hypothetical stage, this race has already escalated into push polls, name-calling, and legal complaint filings.

McCain's former chief of staff and former Arizona Attorney General, Grant Woods, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alleging that Hayworth is illegally using his radio-talk show to promote his potential candidacy for McCain's senate seat. Woods, who says Hayworth has utilized the equivalent of more than half a million dollars of Clear Channel time to promote and "test the waters" of his candidacy, filed the complaint after McCain staffers complained to him several times about Hayworth's broadcasts. He declared, "You can't use the public explore your candidacy for public office ad nauseam, and I stress the nausea."

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Charlie Crist Endorsements Withdrawn By Two Republican Congressmen

Lately, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has been having a tough time in his bid for U.S. Senate, and he's experienced another setback.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart confirmed Tuesday he and his brother, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, have rescinded their endorsement of Crist for the Republican primary.

Mario Diaz-Balart declined to say why they were rescinding their endorsement. He would say only that they notified Crist weeks ago and that he "left them no choice."

Mario Diaz-Balart said it's the first endorsement they've rescinded. The congressman said he had no plans to endorse another candidate.

(Ok guys enough with the “bb paragraphs are your friend” notes. If you haven’t noticed LJ has a bug and for some reason "disable auto formatting" is auto-checking itself. I promise you as soon as the article is posted I will fix it, but please stop bugging me about it, I am not blind, if you have a problem take it to LJ to fix the issue.)

A Deadly Sulfur Ashfall White Christmas: Rightwing Edition (Now With a 100% More Jesus)

World Net Daily poll on what to get Obama for Christmas: an ‘arrest warrant’ and a ‘ticket back to Kenya.’

The right-wing website World Net Daily (WND) has been the source of a variety of smears, particularly a campaign to question the legitimacy of President Obama’s citizenship. While WND exists at the fringes of the conservative movement, top Republican legislators frequent the WND radio program and the Republican National Committee, among other GOP organizations, fund WND through e-mail list rentals. The website, which files regular articles about the role of Christianity during the holiday season, has a new Christmas-themed poll which asks, “What would you like to give Obama for Christmas?” Readers have responded by voting for: “a court ruling booting his ineligible self from office, “a one-way ticket back to Kenya,” and “an arrest warrant”:

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Fox reporter jokes about deadly volcano ash in the Philippines: ‘In a way, they’re having a white Christmas.’

This morning, Fox News reported on the Mayon Volcano in the Philippines, which is continuing to emit clouds of soot and ash over the surrounding area. The tiny particles of sulfuric ash “could cause respiratory problems or skin diseases, and could affect the thousands of people crammed into evacuation centers beyond the eight-kilometer danger zone.” Officials expect a major eruption in the next few days. In reporting the events, Fox News correspondent Mike Cohen described the deadly ash as a “white Christmas”:

COHEN: It can be very dangerous, Patti Ann. You know it already has brought ashfall to several towns in the area. So in a way they’re having a white Christmas — except this is sulfur ash, so it is something that can be deadly to the people if inhaled.

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Republicans Deciding Whether To Stop Filibustering Health Care Bill, Head Home For Christmas

This morning, the Senate cleared a series of procedural votes on the health care bill, paving the way to passing reform on Christmas Eve. All 60 members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the three motions, suggesting that Republicans are waging a losing battle to delay the passage of reform.

In fact, given the inevitability of passage, a divide appears to be forming between Republicans who want to head home for the holidays, and those who wish to drag out the debate. Following today’s vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that he is ready to leave. McConnell announced that he is “working on an agreement that would give certainty to the way to end this session.” “Hopefully the two of us together can be recommending something that makes sense for both sides in the not too distant future,” he said. Watch it:

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Lucy  - Durnk n Pitsy

Microsoft patent details technology to make 360's avatars have same physical appearance as their rea


Microsoft has shown a keen interest in boosting the Xbox 360's status as a community hub. Leading this initiative has been Xbox Live Avatars, which offer a 3D representation of their owners on the online service. Now, Microsoft is contemplating tying real-world health and psychological data to said avatars in an effort to discourage many-a-gamer's sedentary lifestyle.

Here's the gist of what Microsoft has in mind.

Last week, Microsoft's patent application titled "Avatar Individualized by Physical Characteristic" popped up in the US Patent and Trademark Offices' online database. The filing details a way in which Microsoft can introduce a heightened degree of reality into the appearance of gamers' avatars by utilizing a third-party health-care data repository (Microsoft gives Health Vault as an example) or a Wii Vitality Sensor-like device.

To incentivize people to improve their physical well-being, Microsoft's filing notes that gamers will be locked out of certain components of a game or a chat room until the proper health parameters are met.

"Physical data that reflects a degree of health of the real person can be linked to rewards of capabilities of a gaming avatar, an amount of time budgeted to play, or a visible indication," the filing reads. "Thereby, people are encouraged to exercise."

"For example, a locally executed video game on a game console or other device capable of interactive play rewards players that have achieved a degree of health or athletic skill in real life, even if played in a solitary fashion," the filing reads. "Alternatively or in addition, the degree of health can unlock additional playing time or can unlock certain aspects of a game, such as additional levels."

Microsoft's patent application might tie in with Project Natal, the Xbox 360's forthcoming camera-based motion-sensing add-on. As part of its 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference, Microsoft showed off how the device will scan a person's body and represent it onscreen via physically proportionate silhouette. It also showed off several activity-oriented titles in development for Project Natal, including the physically demanding Ricochet, a 3D, full-body version of Breakout.

Microsoft's filing goes on to note that it wouldn't just be physical characteristics that could be refined. "The physical characteristics can be further extended to psychological traits associated with the physical person, including intelligence, religious beliefs, political affiliations, and hobbies that affect the rendering of an avatar," the application reads.

The filing also indicates ways in which Microsoft can facilitate determining an individual's mental health or mood. "For example, as a person utilizes Voice over IP to chat with a viewing person in the virtual environment, stress could be detected to gauge honesty," the application notes. "As another example, skin resistance, pulse, and breathing could be detected to gauge mood."

According to the filing, the data will be beneficial to individuals looking to "meet and become acquainted with particular types of people." Microsoft's application notes that while self-defined avatars allow people to "overcome shortcomings that would otherwise inhibit them, such as pertaining to self-consciousness," there are those who would prefer to have "the cues that are available in meeting someone in person."


WAT?? WTF, Microsoft?!
Christian Bale

California cops test headcams

SJ police to carry small cameras on uniform

SAN JOSE, CA (KGO) -- The San Jose Police Department is among the first in the nation to take cop cameras to the next level. Instead of the cameras mounted in their cars, 18 officers began wearing a camera and recording devise on their bodies.

The device called Axon is made by Taser International. It's the size of a Bluetooth earpiece and officers say it's surprisingly light.

"I would hit this one the P goes off and a red light shows up here that I can see. Now I am in live recording mode, so I am recording audio and video right now," said William Doane from San Jose Police.

The camera is always on record and when the officer hits start, the last 30 seconds of stored video and everything after will be recorded on this device, worn on an officer's waist.

"And that is Y-video of what is coming through my camera right now. So you're recording us. I am recording us right now," said Doane.

The video collected cannot be erased by the officer and is downloaded at the police station.

This makes San Jose the first major city in the United States to use this technology. The police department says it will be a big help when collecting evidence.

But the department has been investigated for excessive force in some cases.

San Jose resident Andrew Martinez hopes the cameras will bring transparency

"I hope there will be more justice and more checks and balances to keep the police department to be able to do their job correctly," he said.

"And if an officer did something wrong, we want to know that too," said Chief Robert Davis from San Jose Police.

Others say police will feel intimidated.

"I would feel less secure because the police would be holding back because they are being caught on tape," said San Jose resident Akshay Alaghatta.

Police will use it for three months and will then evaluate the results. Because it's a pilot program, San Jose PD pays nothing.

Christian Bale

Terror trials will pose tough questions about Islam

Washington – The coming trials of 11 Muslim men in the United States for several separate acts of mass murder will sharply refocus attention on Islamic theology. It will also present the Muslim world with a “moment of truth.”

How the Ummah, the global Muslim community, reacts will be a crucial test of how the American public judges the mantra “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Political correctness aside, the jury is still out in the court of American public opinion.

Some time in the coming year, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantánamo detainees are to be tried in a civilian criminal court in New York for plotting the 9/11 terror attacks and for the mass murder of nearly 3,000 people. Five others will be tried before a military tribunal on separate charges including the attack on the warship USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.

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princess rihanna

We do: Mexico City blazes trail with legalisation of same-sex marriage

Gay rights activists across the world consider same-sex marriage one of their toughest goals. Only seven countries permit it: Belgium, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Sweden. A handful of US states also allow it.

But on Monday night, and despite opposition from conservatives and the Roman Catholic church, Mexico City was in the vanguard of a Latin America-wide tilt towards greater tolerance for homosexuality. The Mexican capital became the first in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage with a groundbreaking law which could set a precedent for gay rights across the region.

The city's assembly passed the legislation, which will also give gay couples the right to adopt children, in a dramatic vote that triggered celebrations and chants of "yes we can" from activists gathered in the chamber.

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Obama Kids Dreaming of a White (House) Christmas

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There may be 26 Christmas trees in the White House, but Sasha and Malia Obama know it's mostly for decoration.

"Unfortunately we don't get presents under every tree," Malia, 11, joked Tuesday during an appearance at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C.

First Lady Michelle Obama and first dog Bo were also in attendance as her daughters took questions from the young patients.

One child asked Sasha, 8, “How will the holidays be different this year?” Quick-witted Sasha responded: "It will be easier to get on an airplane,” making everyone laugh with her reference to Air Force One.

When the First Lady was asked what she got President Obama for Christmas, she answered, "I can't tell," pointing to the press pool in the back of the room.

Obama rain
  • impik

The $2 Trillion Man - How Obama saved Brand America

As 2009 winds down, the pundits are already beginning to tally what Barack Obama has achieved during his first year in office. Even his more well-intentioned detractors contend that, though he may have made a high-profile speech or two, the new U.S. president can boast of few concrete achievements in foreign policy. Obama himself accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as a "call to action," rather than a reward for his work, and gave himself only a "B+" grade during his recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Yet in one sense, Obama achieved more in the first 11 months of his presidency than his predecessor managed to in eight years. My research clearly shows that he has begun to restore America's good name, an intangible asset with highly tangible (read: lucrative) consequences. As head of state, Obama has boosted the value of "Brand America" by just over $2 trillion, up from $9.7 trillion in 2008 to $11.8 trillion this year. That means U.S. goods, services, people, and even the country's landscape are about 20 percent more enticing to the global market than they were in 2008.

I know this because I track the value of countries' brand images closely from year to year. Since 2005, my Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) has regularly measured the international perceptions of 50 countries by polling between 20,000 and 40,000 people in 20 to 40 countries. We have asked them to detail their perceptions of other countries' human rights records, education systems, cultural lives, products, sporting prowess, and even kindness to strangers. I originally launched the NBI because public perceptions of countries are critically important to their prosperity in a globalized world. What people believe about other places may be biased, utterly misconceived, weirdly distorted, unfairly negative, undeservedly positive, outdated, and ludicrously simplified. But it matters. Countries with a powerful, positive image find it easier to attract tourists, investors, donors, talent, respect, and the attention of international media and foreign governments. They are more successful in exporting their products, services, ideas, culture, and people to the world. Countries with weak or negative images, by contrast, find these transactions more difficult and expensive. None of this was captured by GDP, economic productivity, or any host of other economic measures -- a hole that the index was meant to fill. snip// So to those who say Obama has achieved little, my research suggests otherwise. His mere presence has begun to restore the United States to a position of respect and credibility -- and consequently, of influence -- that no amount of political, economic, or military might could muster. And it is an absolutely necessary achievement if Washington is to wield any moral authority in the world. In at least one of his responsibilities as head of state, the sacred responsibility of upholding the good name of his country, Obama has had a pretty good first year...

Full article:,0

The Tea Party: The Biggest Epic Fail at Life.

Teabagger Nearly Has Stroke Scrawling This Four-Page Threat, Which He Faxed Upside Down

A super-angry teabagger sent four hand-scrawled pages, including this one, to a House office today — all fed into the fax machine upside down, but thanks to extremely crazy pressure on the Sharpie, we can read the whole message backwards!

Thanks to Wonkette Operative “B.M.” for sending over the evidence. Get your wingnut-decoder ring ready, because the rest of the pages are here. (Hint: They just say the same thing over and over again. WE WILL VOTE YOU OUT!!!)
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Father 'forced son into sex with hooker'

A distressing, if not entirely surprising, story from Australia:

A ROCKHAMPTON dad is accused of forcing his son to have sex with a prostitute because he feared the 14-year-old was gay.

During a family barbecue around Christmas time in 2007, the dad allegedly phoned a prostitute and arranged to meet her at a motel on Yaamba Road, North Rockhampton.

The father drove his son to the motel and paid the prostitute in $50 notes.

The prostitute took the boy into a motel room while the father waited on a balcony.

The dad walked in and out of the room to check on his son and told him he wanted to see a used condom as proof that they’d had sex. After the boy and the prostitute had finished the dad took his son home.

A magistrate yesterday found there was enough evidence against the father for him to stand trial for the rape of his son.

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ETA: And he just ... happened to have her number on hand?
  • Current Music
    Lady Gaga - Poker Face (in my head)

Chinese villager jailed for eating tiger

Stiff sentence for shooting last wild Indochinese cat

A Chinese villager has been jailed for 12 years for shooting and eating the country's last known wild Indochinese tiger, China Daily reports.

Kang Wannian and Gao Zuqiao, from Mengla, Yunnan Province, encountered the animal in February while gathering freshwater mussels in a nature reserve near China's border with Laos.

Kang claimed he shot the cat in self-defence, but the local court ruled he "did not need a gun" to gather mussels, and slapped him with ten years for the killing and two years for "illegal possession of firearms". He was also fined 100,000 yuan (£9,100) and "ordered to compensate the state for an economic loss of 480,000 yuan" (£43,800).

Gao, who helped Kang cut up the carcass, and four villagers who shared the feline meal were sentenced to between three and four years for "covering up and concealing criminal gains".

The endangered Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is now represented by an estimated 1,000 individuals in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. The slaughtered Chinese specimen was photographed back in 2007 in the same reserve where it met its fate. China Daily has the picture here. (and we have it up there - p)®

Source: The Register