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October 22, 2009

How the Berlin Wall came down

I was too young to pay much attention at the time, but this is funny.

Thank God all of George W. Bush's press conferences were scripted.

German politician accidentally opened Berlin Wall:


When his fellow Communist leaders decided on new travel regulations, Mr. Schabowski was out of the room. Later that evening he skim-read the executive order, stuffed it in his briefcase, and headed off to meet the world's media.

Pressed on the meaning of the new travel policy -- When did it come into force? Did it apply to West Berlin? Did people need a passport? -- the flustered apparatchik rustled his papers and gave confusing answers that led the news media to believe the border was open, with immediate effect.

The result, once East Berliners had seen that night's news on West German television, was chaos at border crossings across the city.

At Bornholmer Strasse, one of the main checkpoints in central Berlin, confused border guards couldn't get clear orders on how to deal with the crush, and debated whether to open fire. Instead, they opened the barrier, and the Berlin Wall was history. The events have been chronicled by Hans-Hermann Hertle, a historian who specializes in the fall of East Germany.

Posted by Mike at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2009

Karzai announces run-off election November 7th

From the New York Times:


KABUL, Afghanistan — Under heavy international pressure, President Hamid Karzai conceded Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation’s disputed presidential election, and agreed to hold a runoff election with his top challenger on Nov. 7.

Flanked at a news conference in Kabul by Senator John Kerry, the head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai said he would accept the findings of an international audit that stripped him of nearly one-third of his votes in the first round, leaving him below the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and declare victory over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

“I call upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move this country forward and participate in this new round of elections,” Mr. Karzai said, according to the English translation of his remarks, adding that he was grateful to the international community for its help.

Mr. Karzai called for continued international assistance in securing the country for the next round of voting. He did not express regret about the widespread fraud that a joint Afghan-international audit committee ruled Monday had occurred among the ballots marked in his name, but said the fraud would be investigated.

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October 15, 2009

This sort of speaks for itself

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.


By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer – 54 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

Barack Obama visits New Orleans to assess storm recovery


Thursday 15 October 2009

Barack Obama yesterday made his first visit to New Orleans since becoming president, to hear directly about the city's efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina. At least 1,600 people were killed in Louisiana and Mississippi in the 2005 disaster, and damage in the blighted area has been estimated at about $40bn. By the time Obama took office the US government had earmarked $126bn to rebuilding Gulf Coast communities affected by Hurricane Rita, as well as Katrina. A press aide said yesterday that Obama's administration had now freed up billions of dollars in aid for the region and helped cut red tape.

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October 10, 2009

17th Century Ideology meets 21st Century Technology

This is kind of shocking to me:


H.B 1595 is a new provision on Oklahoma abortion laws that now requires, among other restrictions and requirements, an official record and reporting system of all abortions occuring within the state. This report will be available for anyone in the world to view, as it will be made public on a website as of March 1st. The Dept of Health, who among others has supported these new provisions, has declared that since the name and “personal information” will not be reported, there is no cause for concern or protest in regards to privacy issues. However, in reviewing the actual text of the law, the first 8 questions that will be asked and reported could easily be used to identify any member of a smaller community.

1. Date of abortion
2. County in which abortion performed
3. Age of mother
4. Marital status of mother
(married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married)
5. Race of mother
6. Years of education of mother
(specify highest year completed)
7. State or foreign country of residence of mother
8. Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother
Live Births
Miscarriages
Induced Abortions

I guess it could be worse.

Plot summary of the Scarlet Letter:


The novel takes place during the summer in 17th-century Boston, Massachusetts in a Puritan village. A young woman, named Hester Prynne, has been led from the town prison with her infant daughter in her arms and on the breast of her gown "a rag of scarlet cloth" that "assumed the shape of a letter." It was the uppercase letter "A". The Scarlet Letter "A" represents the act of adultery that she has committed and it is to be a symbol of her sin—a badge of shame—for all to see. A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester's husband, Roger Chillingworth, who is much older than she, and whose real name is unknown, has sent her ahead to America whilst settling affairs in Europe. However, her husband does not arrive in Boston, and the consensus is that he has been lost at sea. It is apparent that, while waiting for her husband, Hester has had an affair, leading to the birth of her daughter. She will not reveal her lover’s identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her subsequent public shaming, is the punishment for her sin and secrecy. On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child’s father.

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October 01, 2009

New discovery rewrites history of common ancestors

From the AP:


WASHINGTON – The story of humankind is reaching back another million years as scientists learn more about "Ardi," a hominid who lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. The 110-pound, 4-foot female roamed forests a million years before the famous Lucy, long studied as the earliest skeleton of a human ancestor.

This older skeleton reverses the common wisdom of human evolution, said anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University.

Rather than humans evolving from an ancient chimp-like creature, the new find provides evidence that chimps and humans evolved from some long-ago common ancestor — but each evolved and changed separately along the way.

"This is not that common ancestor, but it's the closest we have ever been able to come," said Tim White, director of the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

The lines that evolved into modern humans and living apes probably shared an ancestor 6 million to 7 million years ago, White said in a telephone interview.

But Ardi has many traits that do not appear in modern-day African apes, leading to the conclusion that the apes evolved extensively since we shared that last common ancestor.

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