Thursday, October 25, 2007

Weird News: Volume 1

Indian Politician Killed by Monkeys
The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.
SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys.

The city has long struggled to counter its plague of monkeys, which invade government complexes and temples, snatch food and scare passers-by.

The High Court ordered the city to find an answer to the problem last year.

Solution elusive

One approach has been to train bands of larger, more ferocious langur monkeys to go after the smaller groups of Rhesus macaques.

The city has also employed monkey catchers to round them up so they can be moved to forests.

But the problem has persisted.

Culling is seen as unacceptable to devout Hindus, who revere the monkeys as a manifestation of the monkey god Hanuman, and often feed them bananas and peanuts.

Urban development around the city has also been blamed for destroying the monkeys' natural habitat.

Mr Bajwa, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is survived by his wife and a son, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Story, pic from BBC News

French Ministry Blocks Return of Mummified Maori Head

photo: Associated Press

For 132 years, the mummified, tattooed head of a Maori warrior has been part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Natural History in the city of Rouen in Normandy.
But when Rouen's mayor arranged to return it to New Zealand as an act of "atonement" for colonial-era trafficking in human remains, the French Ministry of Culture stepped in to block him.

The ministry argues that the human head is a work of art that belongs to France and its return could be an unfortunate precedent for a huge range of the national museum collections - including Egyptian mummies in the Louvre; Asian treasures in the Musée Guimet; and African and Oceanic artifacts in the Musée du Quai Branly.

"The mayor of Rouen made his decision without any consultation, and his decision is against the law," said Olivier Henrard, the legal adviser for the Ministry of Culture. "There are other Maori heads, there are mummies, there are religious relics in France. If we don't respect the law today, tomorrow other museums or elected officials might decide to send them back, too."

Rouen officials insist that the Maori head is a body part, not a work of art, and that according to France's bioethics law it must be returned to its place of origin. "This object reflects the barbaric trafficking in body parts, the belief that another race was inferior to ours," said Catherine Morin-Desailly, the deputy mayor for culture and a senator, who proposed the return of the head. "It belongs to the heritage of humanity, not in storage somewhere in a museum."

Article from International Herald Tribune, read the rest

Thursday, October 18, 2007

opinions always get me

The University newspaper put out a really good issue this week. I was especially fond of the opinion section. The opinion columnists sometimes have a tendency to say really inflammatory things (you'll see what I mean), but I felt like this week they did an awesome job of defending their positions. Here's David Lueth's column (reproduced without permission... don't kill me)

Abolish the Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since irony already died when Henry Kissinger won the award in 1973, I'm not quite sure how to respond to this bit of news. Sure, it's a bit of a joke in the first place, considering that previous nominees included Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin - twice.

But to award it to some rich guy who was once elected president, only to decline to hold on to his position when an interloper snatched it away, and later made a movie telling us all-surprise!- that pollution is bad? How absurd, particularly when the monks in Myanmar are far more deserving and whose receipt of the award would do much more good. But that won't do. We need celebrities. Will Leonardo DeCaprio win it this year? Stay tuned to find out!

Perhaps the most troubling part of Gore winning the Nobel is not so much that he won, but what effect the very existance of the prize has on society in general. What do we learn from seeing this wealthy guy who made a movie get an award with 10 million Swedish Kronors (about $1.5 million)attached?

I imagine the "Draft Gore" movement will swell. When I first heard about "Draft Gore," I thought it was a wonderful idea to finally try to get politicians to serve on the front lines alongside the soldiers these politicians so readily send to their fates. How disappointing to find out that those behind the "Draft Gore" movement are only trying to get Gore to run for president. Yet there are far too many people lining up behind Al Gore like the Pied Piper of Hamline to their doom for me to dismiss.

and what does Gore's receipt of the Nobel tell them? It validates them; it tells them to go on worshipping Al Gore like a plywood cutout of a savior-figure.

There are legions of Gore-worshippers out there pleading with him to run for president so he can save the planet. If saving the planet is so important, it seems to me like the best thing these idolatrous legions could do is actually go out and work to make meaningful change, instead of begging Al Gore to do it for them.

Of course, this is nothing unique to Al Gore. Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani and all the rest have their followers who pin their hopes for change on some wealthy person sitting in an office in Washington, D.C. surrounded by other wealthy people and lobbyists who tell hem we need more contracts for nuclear weapons so the missile factory in their legislative district back home can keep the loyal voters employed.

So we go out every four years (two if we're feeling outraged or ambitious) and consent to having person A rule over us instead of person B. If that doesn't turn out so well, in another four years we go and consent to person C ruling over us and then we all go back to our homes and watch more TV.

We should abolish the Nobel Peace Prize for its legacy of telling us that change happens when a few famous people make a movie or sign an accord. In its place we should recognize that the only way that change happens is when ordinary people work together to accomplish it. Noam Chomsky recognized this when he said, "There has not in history ever been any answer other than, get to work on it already." Let's follow that advice instead of spending our time and energy convincing Al Gore to rule over us for four years.

chew on that for a while.

Friday, October 12, 2007

And the Nobel Prize Goes To...

Al Gore and the UN Panel on Climate Change just received the Nobel Peace Prize. They really deserve this, because of their work to inform the public on the issue of climate change, so many people have changed their consumption habits. I applaud them for spreading the truth on this crucial issue so effectively.

Full Story Here

Oh, and yes, I do believe that Gore would make a good president, but I don't think it's going to happen. His closeness to the global warming issue would make him a huge target. Also, I don't think that all of America is ready to accept the fact that we need to change to control the climate crisis, so he probably wouldn't be elected anyway.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

upsetting politics from the homefront

this doesn't have to do with the media, but we were just discussing Michelle Bachmann in Journalism class, and I feel like this is a story worth being recognized. Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann voted against the Children's Health Insurance Program, deciding instead to support Bush in Iraq.
Press Release:

Michele Bachmann tells Children's Health Care Advocates to "Bring it On," Minnesota's Working Families Outraged Over Vote Against SCHIP, Call on Bachmann to Reverse Course and Vote to Override Veto

Constituents Ramp up Pressure and Question Congresswoman's Priorities and Values, Blast Bachmann for Putting Billions for Iraq Ahead of Children's Health

St. Cloud, MN — Nearly 10 million kids and thousands in Minnesota were just one step away from receiving the basic health coverage they need following last week's passage in both the U.S. House and Senate of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act — critical legislation that would reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for 6.6 million kids and provide coverage to nearly 4 million more low income children. Unfortunately, President Bush, after spending half a trillion dollars on the Iraq war, vetoed the reauthorization of this critical program for the nation's children, putting at risk healthcare for 10 million children including thousands right here in Minnesota.

Without apology or question, Rep. Bachmann put loyalty to President Bush ahead of Minnesota's families by voting against the Children's Health Insurance Program. Minnesotans held an Oct. 3 candlelight vigil at Rep. Bachmann's Waite Park office imploring her to stand with Minnesotans against the President's backwards priorities that sacrifice the health of children for a failed policy in Iraq. Bachmann called in to Jason Lewis's KTLK radio show to answer their concerns that very day, responding "If they want to take this fight on, I say 'Bring it On!'" Bachmann again showed how out of touch she is, falsely claiming that "We're talking about rich people in Minnesota." In reality, the bill provides for working class Minnesota families who simply can't afford insurance for their kids.

"After spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, President Bush chose to deny healthcare funding for millions of children in need, thousands right here at home, with one stroke of his veto pen," said Amy Bodnar, of SEIU MN State Council. "The fact is, for what we spend in just one week in Iraq, 800,000 children could get health insurance for an entire year. This is a question of priorities, and President Bush and Rep. Bachmann have theirs all mixed up: billions for Iraq and a veto for children's healthcare. Rep. Bachmann needs to stand up for Minnesota's families by voting to override the President's shameful veto of this critical legislation to provide health care for thousands of kids in Minnesota and expanding that care to thousands more in desperate need." State representative Larry Hosch, (DFL-St. Joseph) blasted Bachmann for her unflinching loyalty to the President on this important piece of legislation: "Half the Republican delegation in Minnesota voted for this bill, so this is not a partisan issue. It's an issue of where our priorities are. Health care for children cannot be a partisan issue."

"And the argument that this is a fiscally irresponsible bill is hogwash," continued Rep. Hosch. "This is the first time that Congress in many years has provided a bill with an actual funding mechanism involved — it's not putting us into further deficit, it's paying for our commitments both today and tomorrow, and it's paying for one of our most important commitments, and that's insuring our children. We know that access to healthcare for our children is an investment. We save money in the long run."

Rev. Donald Schultz harshly criticized Bachmann's stance against SCHIP at the vigil, as well: "I'm here because my faith tells me that God stands decisively with the hurting and the vulnerable, the weakest among our midst. Michele Bachmann claims she cares about Minnesota families and family values. But her vote against the SCHIP bill sends a pretty sorry message to Minnesota families — a message that it's more important to protect President Bush's irresponsible policies than it is to protect our children. Why would Michele Bachmann vote against this bill? Do you suppose she's afraid that some undeserving infant or toddler will sneak through into the public trough? Or do you suppose it could be more ammunition for their war on the middle class — the one war of this Republican administration that is going very, very well."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Free Burma

I was a little late to find out about this, but I still want to show my support for this amazing idea, even if it comes a few days too late:

Free Burma!

click here for more info

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Japan thinks it is God

By now, I'm pretty sure that everyone has seen this story, but for those who haven't, here it is:

Scientists in Japan bred a frog with transparent skin. The purpose of this expariment was to create frogs that needn't be dissected; its internal organs and eggs are visible from outside of its body.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome that now we have an alternative to dissection. But something about the whole thing seems kind of wrong to me. Frogs aren't naturally supposed to be transparent- if they are somehow released into the wild this way, there could be dire consequences. Perhaps the frogs with pale skin are easier to pick out in the forest, and thus to hunt.

And also, the frogs look terrifying. If they get out into the wild and start to breed rapidly, we could have a large population of zombie frogs hopping around. (seriously, they're spooky, go watch the video)

I just generally don't agree with genetic manipulation. We are not God. We have no right to decide these kinds of things. But apparently the Japanese scientists feel like they know better.