August 2005

CNN reports:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Deaths mounted steadily in northeast Baghdad after a massive midday Shiite religious procession erupted into a chaotic stampede Wednesday, causing the drowning and trampling deaths of 965 pilgrims.

Authorities believe a rumor raced through the crowd that a suicide bomber was in their midst, and that created panic among the waves of pedestrians trying to cross the Al-A’imma bridge over the Tigris River. The throngs of Shiite faithful had been stopped by security checks and bogged down by concrete barriers.

CNN reports:

MOBILE, Alabama (CNN) — More than 656,000 homes and businesses across Alabama were without electricity Tuesday, and water and debris still closed off many roads.

In a demonstration of Katrina’s wide reach, more than 182,000 customers in the Birmingham area and another 132,000 in and around Tuscaloosa — both cities more than 150 miles inland — were without power.

Alabama Power spokesman Bernie Fogarty warned customers they would be in for a “prolonged outage.”

Photo: New Orleans

Julie Kay, Daily Business Review, reports:

When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be.

Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption?

The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it’s obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults.

Acosta’s stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities.

Photo: ID Badge
Bullet holes are seen on the media identity cards of Waleed Khaled after he was shot in Baghdad’s Al Ghazalea district August 28, 2005.

Alastair Macdonald, Reuters, reports:

BAGHDAD, Aug 28 (Reuters) - A Reuters Television soundman was shot dead in Baghdad on Sunday and a cameraman with him was wounded and then detained by U.S. soldiers.

Iraqi police said they had been shot by U.S. forces. A U.S. military spokesman said the incident was being investigated.

Waleed Khaled, 35, was hit by a shot to the face and at least four to the chest as he drove to check a report from police sources of an incident involving police and gunmen in the Hay al-Adil district, in the west of the city.

“A team from Reuters news agency was on assignment to cover the killing of two policemen in Hay al-Adil; U.S. forces opened fire on the team from Reuters and killed Waleed Khaled, who was shot in the head, and wounded Haider Kadhem,” an Interior Ministry official quoted the police incident report as saying.

“I heard shooting, looked up and saw an American sniper on the roof of the shopping centre,” cameraman Kadhem, who was wounded in the back, told colleagues who arrived at the scene.

The only known eyewitness, he was later detained by U.S. troops and was still in custody six hours later despite Reuters’ requests that he be freed to receive medical attention. His precise whereabouts were not clear.

David Segal, The Washington Post, writes:

You know about the great Live Concert Moment, right? I’m not talking about the kind of show where you leave thinking, “Those guys rule!” and then buy a T-shirt. I’m talking about total-body bliss, a rush so strong it turns brain cells into Jell-O and, for a moment or two, you sort of leave your skin. Art lovers would probably argue that they get the same feeling by looking at a great painting, but they’re fools, and you should ignore them. A good part of what I’m talking about here is sheer volume. A painting can be many things, but it will never make your ears ring.


Image: Daily News Cover
BoingBoing reports: “The alleged subway wanker whose victim captured him on cameraphone and posted it to Flickr is on the cover of today’s New York Daily News.”


When a pervert exposed himself on a Manhattan subway last week, Thao Nguyen reached for her secret weapon - her camera phone.
The quick-thinking 22-year-old snapped a shot of the smirking sicko, took it to cops and then posted it on the Internet.

Word of her campaign to nail the flasher raced through cyberspace, and more than 45,000 people had viewed the photographic evidence by last night.

Photo: Sex in a Can Lady

Rob, from Hollywood, via BoingBoing, writes:

This reminds me of a story I know I’m going to regret telling, but here goes: Quite a few years ago I was passing through New York for some reason or another, and one night I went out bar-hopping with a couple friends. We stumbled out of the last bar around 3am, drunk and giddy, laughing and tripping as we walked back towards our hotel. On the way we passed a porno store, which aside from the occasional pizza place was the only thing open at 3am. I’m not sure why - I think one of my friends wanted to buy a magazine - but we went in, and annoyed the shop’s patrons by picking up every ridiculous sex toy and laughing about it loudly. The most absurd thing we found was a large plastic beer can - meant to look like “Coors Light,” or something, but much larger - and when you unscrewed the cap at the top, there was a latex vagina inside, that you were meant to stick your dick in and fuck the can. Well, not really “fuck” the can, exactly, but masturbate with it. Same concept as the Japanese ones, but more elaborate. In fact, this is pretty much exactly what it was.

So of course we have to buy the beer can vagina, because we’re drunk and it’s funny, and we figure we’ll find some entertaining unintended use for it. So we paid for it and continued on our merry way back to the hotel. Once there we said our goodbyes and retired to our rooms, and I realized that somehow I’d gotten stuck carrying the bag from the sex store. I set it down on the desk and didn’t think much about it. That is, for a few minutes, until I found myself sitting on the bed in my hotel room, drunk and lonely and sexually frustrated, and I kept staring over at that stupid beer can vagina. “Maybe I should just try it. Just see what it feels like…” I mean, why not, right? You know. Just for kicks, right? So you know what? I fucked it. Yeah. I fucked a plastic beer can. I fucked the shit out of that can. And you know what? It felt alright. It did the trick. That is, until it was all over. Until the moment after, when I was hit by a sobering freight train of humility, looking down at my dick stuck inside a latex vagina housed in a plastic beer can. Moments like that you start to question everything - “How the hell did it come to this? Who am I? What am I doing with my life?” I probably sat there for an hour, silently with my plastic lover, pondering my existence.

The next morning, when the subject of the previous night came up and someone said, “oh, where’s that funny beer can thing we got? Rob, you had it, right?” And everyone looks at me, and I just stare at them for a moment, and then say, “…I fucked it. I fucked it and I hated myself, and now it’s gone.” There was a slight pause, followed by uproarious laughter. The ridicule took months to subside.

Photo: Helicopter
U.S. Border Patrol Yuma sector public affairs officer Michael Gramley pulls the cover off one of the rotors of a Border Patrol helicopter that was struck by a rock Tuesday night. Sun photo/Alfred J. Hernandez

Dan Whitcomb, Reuters, via Google News, reports:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing after illegal immigrants pelted it with baseball-sized rocks, damaging a rotor, a spokesman for the agency said on Thursday.

Photo: Dead Wal-Mart Employee
Police officers gather evidence next to the body of one of two Wal-Mart employees who were shot to death, while collecting shopping carts, in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Roy Dabner)

The Associated Press reports:

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Two Wal-Mart employees were shot to death Tuesday as they gathered shopping carts in the parking lot of one of the retail stores in suburban Phoenix, and police later arrested the suspected gunman.

The shootings occurred in the middle of the parking lot, about 75 yards from the store entrance. At one point, a body could be seen in one of the corrals used for collecting shopping carts.

Hours later, police spokesman Mike Pena said a suspect had been arrested without incident in a retirement community in nearby Peoria.

Photo: Stacy Driver
Stacy Driver, shown with his father, Huey, in this family photo, died Sunday in the custody of Wal-Mart employees after they struggled to detain him in handcuffs for suspected shoplifting.

ROBERT CROWE, Houston Chronicle, reports:

Driver, of Cleveland, was chased by employees after he left the store in the 6600 block of FM 1960 East with items they said he stole. Four employees in the Atascocita Wal-Mart wrestled Driver — who was shirtless at the time — to the ground and struggled with him on the hot pavement for 10 to 30 minutes, witnesses said. He stopped breathing and later died at a Humble hospital.


Photo: SWAT Team at Utah Rave

At about 11:30 or so, I was standing behind the stage talking with someone when I noticed a helicopter pulling over one of the mountain tops. I jokingly said “Oh look, here comes big brother” to the person I was with. I wasn’t far off.

The helicopter dipped lower and lower and started shining its lights on the crowd. I was kind of in awe and just sat and watched this thing circle us for a minute. As I looked back towards the crowd I saw a guy dressed in camoflauge walking by, toting an assault rifle. At this point, everyone was fully aware of what was going on . A few “troops” rushed the stage and cut the sound off and started yelling that everyone “get the fuck out of here or go to jail”. This is where it got really sticky.


Alison Motluk, news service, :

It seems that placebos have a real physical, not imagined, effect – activating the production of chemicals in the brain that relieve pain.

Placebos are treatments that use substances which have no active ingredient. But if people are told that what they are being given contains an active painkiller, for example, they often feel less pain – an effect that has normally been considered psychological.

Recent studies, though, suggest otherwise. For example, when a placebo was secretly mixed with a drug that blocks endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers – there was no placebo effect, showing that endorphins are involved in the placebo painkiller process (New Scientist print edition, 26 May 2001, p 34).

Now Jon-Kar Zubieta’s team at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, US, has confirmed that placebos relieve pain by boosting the release of endorphins.

Jamie Wilson, The Guardian, reports:

It should have been such a happy day. The wedding presents had been bought, a luxury yacht hired for the ceremony, and the guests - some from as far away as China - had all arrived. But then the bride and groom went and ruined it all by having everybody arrested.
In fact the “wedding” on the yacht moored just off Atlantic City in New Jersey was an elaborate FBI sting to lure members of an international smuggling and counterfeiting ring. The bride and groom, who had been working with the accused smugglers for several years, were undercover agents.

Jackie Frank, Reuters, reports:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but top U.S. officials denied on Tuesday that any such illegal act was being contemplated.

Venezuelan officials said Robertson’s remarks were “a call to terrorism,” and demanded President George W. Bush condemn his political ally and fellow Christian conservative. But Chavez, who was winding up a three-day visit to communist ally Cuba, told reporters he didn’t care about Robertson. “I don’t even know who this person is.”

Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a presidential candidate in 1988, said Chavez, one of Bush’s most vocal critics, was a “terrific danger” to the United States and intended to become “the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,” Robertson said during Monday broadcast of his religious “The 700 Club” program.

BNATALIE OBIKO PEARSON, Associated Press Writer, :

TOKYO Aug 22, 2005 — Authorities have detected another outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm near Tokyo, the Agriculture Ministry said Monday.

Officials have extracted and identified a virus in the H5 family from chickens at a poultry farm in Ibaraki state, the ministry said in a statement.

All birds at the farm will be culled except for those kept in enclosed poultry houses that were unaffected, the ministry said. Kyodo News agency said about 260,000 chickens would be culled.

The strain involved is less virulent that the H5N1 variety that has ravaged poultry and killed more than 60 people in Southeast Asia since 2003.

RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Science Writer, reports:

(08-22) 14:07 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) –

Asians and North Americans really do see the world differently.

Shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.


Women from near Plachimada begin their milelong trek in search of water in a region suffering from three years of scant rainfall. (Mathruboomi Daily photo by Madhuraj)

On, D. Rajeev reports:

PLACHIMADA, India - In the end it was the ‘generosity’ of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as ‘free fertilizer’ to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant’s bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.

On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the ‘water mining’ activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge.

‘’One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,'’ Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.

Pia Sarkar, Chronicle Staff Writer, reports:

For all the criticism that Wal-Mart receives for its low wages and minimal health benefits, the retail giant says more than 11,000 people in the Bay Area are clamoring to get a job at its new Oakland store.

The country’s largest employer plans to welcome customers into its 148, 000-square-foot store on Edgewater Drive next Wednesday, and it says it already has filled 350 of its 400 openings.

Wal-Mart has accepted more than 11,000 applications from Bay Area job seekers, marking the largest volume of interest it has received at any of its Northern California stores, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin.

“I needed a job ASAP, and they had their doors open,” said Virginia Ford, 19, of Oakland, who had applied for 25 jobs in three months before she landed one as a cashier at Wal-Mart in Oakland on Tuesday.

Stephen Levy, an economist for the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said the pent-up demand for work reflects the Bay Area’s slow recovery from the dot-com crash.

The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK - A former America Online software engineer was sentenced yesterday to a year and three months in prison for stealing 92 million screen names and e-mail addresses and selling them to spammers who sent out up to 7 billion unsolicited e-mail messages.

The Associated Press reports:

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano declared an emergency Monday in four border counties because of problems related to lax border enforcement and moved to provide local governments in those counties with up to $1.5 million in state funding.

Napolitano’s order directly released $200,000 from the state’s emergency fund for disasters while her emergency council released an additional $1.3 million, spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said.

The money is intended for use by counties and municipalities for a variety of purposes, including overtime pay for law enforcement officers, repairs of border fences, costs related to illegal immigrants’ deaths, L’Ecuyer said.

Napolitano’s action followed by three days a similar declaration by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Arizona is the nation’s busiest entry point for illegal border-crossings, and illegal immigration has emerged as a significant political issue.

Crimes and other problems associated with the border include illegal immigration, vehicle thefts, drug smuggling and property damage.

Photo: Gas Theft
Photograph by China Newsphoto/Reuters/Corbis

National Geographic via BoingBoing:

August 16, 2005—Speeding from the scene of the crime, a Chinese boy tows a floating plastic bag of stolen natural gas last week. Flouting a government ban, farmers around the central Chinese town of Pucheng frequently filch gas from the local oil field.

On Slashdot, wandazulu writes “Peter Salus over at is reporting that AT&T Department 1127, responsible for creating and maintaining Unix, has been officially disbanded. (more…)

Photo: iStampede

The Unoifficial Apple Weblog reports:

No, you aren’t reading The Onion. Yes, there really was a stampede. No one was seriously injured, but this morning’s $50 iBook sale was an insane mob scene by all accounts. Lines of parked cars started to form around 1:30am and by 7:00am, when the sale was to begin, the line was said to be more than a 1/2 mile long, while thousands of people rushed the gate for an opportunity to spend $50 on a 4-year old iBook that stood a good chance of barely being worth even that little. There are reports of baby strollers being tipped over and mangled and one old man in a walker was reportedly trampled to the ground! More after the jump…

The BBC reports:

Bird flu has led to a cull of poultry in parts of Siberia

Bird flu has spread west to a sixth region in Russia, triggering the slaughter of hundreds more birds.

The disease has reached the Chelyabinsk region of the Ural mountains which separate Asia from Europe.

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