Friday, June 19, 2009

Condom Ad of the Week

Banksy in secret exhibition stunt

Graffiti artist Banksy has pulled off an audacious stunt amid tight secrecy to stage his biggest ever exhibition.

A burned-out ice-cream van is among 100 works Banksy has installed at Bristol's museum, replacing many of the museum's regular artefacts.

The reason the museum was closed was kept secret from top council officials.

Banksy said: "This is the first show I've ever done where taxpayers' money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off."

Staged in the council-owned City Museum and Art Gallery, Banksy v Bristol Museum features animatronics, installations and a sensory display.

"This show is my vision of the future, to which many people will say: 'You should have gone to Specsavers'", Banksy added.

The exhibition and its location have been a closely-guarded secret since October, with just a couple of museum officials in the loop.

"I think we may have dragged them down to our level rather than being elevated to theirs," said Banksy of the subterfuge involved in staging the show in his home city.


A doctor's notes on torture

By Andrea Meyerhoff, MD

What is too much pain?

This is the question that Bush administration lawyers answered when they legalized now-infamous interrogation techniques.

As a former federal counterterrorism official who served through 9-11, the anthrax mailings, and the on-set of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I followed the recent release of Justice Department interrogation memos with interest.

Despite numerous readings I still can't understand them. How could these memos guide interrogators? As a physician, I found statements that defied reason. Experiences with patients contradict statements in the memos.

As such, the memos are a violation of the public trust and warrant investigation. The public deserves a full account of their production on which to render judgment. Either a courtroom or Congress will do.

Now in the public domain are two memos from Justice's Office of Legal Counsel dated Aug. 1, 2002, on the subject of interrogation practices, authored by John Yoo and signed by Jay Bybee. One was written for White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, the other for the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the first, Yoo legalized harsh interrogation practices by stating that they fell short of a definition of severe pain and therefore were not torture:

"Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

This is a perplexing statement.

Specific symptoms are associated with the failure of individual organs such as heart, kidney, or lung. But pain is not prominent among any of them.

For example, someone with end-stage lung disease has the terrifying sensation that he cannot get enough air. In the final hours, the doctor sees the patient sweat. His face turns from deep red to blue. He leans forward and grasps the rails of the hospital bed so hard his knuckles turn white. He is intensely anxious and knows he is about to die. At what point in the approximation of this experience should the interrogator decide it's time to stop?

Maybe Mr. Yoo meant to equate the physical pain of torture with the pain of an injury serious enough to result in organ failure.

What do such injuries look like?

Someone who jumps out of a four-story window sustains multiple broken bones. The fractured pelvis severs an artery that results in hemorrhage so massive that vital organs can't get enough blood and begin to fail. As liver and kidneys shut down, the doctors race to stabilize the patient to take her to the operating room to fix the fracture. But the rate of the bleeding outstrips their best efforts. The patient dies in the emergency room.

Would it be permissible for an interrogator to deliver a blow hard enough to cause a fracture that doesn't result in organ failure, impaired function, or death? Is it OK to break a finger? A jaw?

I've read Yoo's definition many times and still don't know what it means. I'm certain of one thing. With death, there is no pain at all.

PROMISES, PROMISES: Indian health care's victims

We need to do a better job at lying

Standards for lying have declined deplorably. We need to professionalize it, and there's no better place to start than at our major universities.

Last week the Obama administration considered curbing compensation of banking executives. The New York Times reported that Scott E. Talbott, the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, responded to the suggestion this way: "If they [the controls on pay] are draconian, they could put the financial services industry at a distinct disadvantage in attracting and retaining top personnel. If they are just principles, they will be redundant because the industry has already moved to connect employee compensation with the long-term health of the company."

Mr. Talbott is lying. The New York Times knows Mr. Talbott is lying. All readers know Mr. Talbott is lying. Mr. Talbott knows that he is lying.

No one objects because we expect the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable to lie. He is paid to lie. The New York Times understands that he is paid to lie. Mr. Talbott understands that that he is paid to lie.

Trouble arises when we are unaware that someone is paid to lie. We knew that mortgage brokers and investment bankers were paid to lie, but were unaware that rating agencies were also paid to lie. No one noticed that they received exorbitant fees for giving AAA ratings to worthless mortgage-backed securities.

Unfortunately, the banks that were paying the rating agencies to lie did not remember that the agencies were, in fact, lying. Thus, the banks held in their own portfolios these toxic securities with AAA ratings. This lapse caused the near implosion of our financial system.

As a result, everyone recognizes that the financial system must now be reformed. We should start by professionalizing lying. Lying must become a profession like law and medicine. Lying should be limited to trained, accredited, and licensed professionals. The American Professional Liars Association (APLA), like the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), would become the self-regulating governing body for all Certified Professional Liars (CPL).

The Difference between Somalian Piracy and American Piracy

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

House under demolition, USA: US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic "shrink to survive" proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Headquarters of General Motors: US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.

"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.

Old house in Detroit: US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive The exodus – particularly of young people – coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel – named after William Durant, GM's founder – is a symbol of the city's decline, said Mr Kildee. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint's decline began.

Regarded as a model city in the motor industry's boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

But Mr Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that "big is good" and that cities should sprawl – Flint covers 34 square miles.

He said: "The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there's an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they're shrinking, they're failing."

But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said.

If the city didn't downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added.

Free the torturers – and the rapists too!

If Dick Cheney can trumpet the 'success' of his torture policies without fear of retribution, why can't us ordinary criminals?

by A Killer, aka Terry Jones

I am over the moon about President Obama's recent publication of the Bush administration's torture memos. They come as a breath of fresh air for those of us banged up in Cook County Jail.

Obama's announcement that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past" is the most reassuring news most of us here have heard in a long time.

Speaking as a multiple rapist and serial killer, I welcome the president's clear view that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution". Absolutely. We have indeed been "through a dark and painful chapter in our history" (in my case 17 years in the super-secure lockdown facility).

Now people may say that it is not safe to let me out, especially as I have never expressed any remorse for my actions and indeed have every intention of reoffending as soon as I possibly can.

But then has ex-vice president Dick Cheney ever expressed any remorse for killing a million or more Iraqis? Has he ever said that he wouldn't torture more people all over again if he had half the chance?

Quite the reverse. He has gone on record trumpeting how successful his torture policies have been. "I find it a little bit disturbing," Cheney said on Fox News, that "they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort … There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity."

Speaking for myself and my fellow sadists here in Cook County, I cannot tell you how cheered we all were by Cheney's defence of his torture techniques.

And hasn't the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, announced on no less a programme than ABC's This Week that "It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back" out of "any sense of anger and retribution"?

Bang on the money, Emanuel. How heartily we concur with your sentiments, and look forward to the day when you will unlock our cell doors and let the light of day shine on all us poor, unrepentant sinners.

And didn't the president himself tell employees at the CIA not to be discouraged by what's happened in the last few weeks? "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes," he told them. "That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."

Yes! All of us here in Cook County Jail have made mistakes. That's why we're here. I made the mistake of brutally attacking somebody or other in broad daylight in a busy street. But I've learnt from that. That's what makes me proud to be American. Now I want to move forward – particularly forward out of Cook County Jail.

Not torture

How do 'anti-stab' knives work?

The Magazine answers...

Kitchen knives are the most common weapon used in fatal stabbings, say police. Now a new "anti-stab" knife has been developed, but how does it work?

Graphic of anti-stab knife tip
The knife has a new tip

Knife crime is hardly out of the headlines these days and it makes grim reading.

Stabbing deaths hit a record high of 322 in the UK last year, according to the government. Most knives used in such attacks are from the kitchen, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair suggested.

The first "anti-stab" knife will soon go on sale in Britain and has been designed to work as normal in the kitchen, but be ineffective as a weapon.

Knife has unique "combination tip"
Tip has rounded edge instead of a point
Blade for cutting is underneath
Ergonomic handle reduces aggressiveness of the knife

The knife has a unique "combination tip" that reduces the risk of injury. The tip has a rounded edge instead of a point and the blade for cutting is underneath. While it can chop vegetables, the tip makes penetration more difficult. It also snags on clothing and skin, making it very unlikely to inflict a fatal wound.

Doctors have lobbied in the past for kitchen knives to be redesigned. They argue that while a redesign is not a complete solution to the complex problem of knife crime, it could help to save lives.

The New Point knife has been developed by industrial designer John Cornock, who was inspired to create the product after watching a documentary on knife crime. It has taken four years to develop.

Your wonderful totally bogus freedom

You are so wild and lawless and rebellious! But not really

Damn all these rules and regulations! Damn these incessant edicts and bans and restrictions!

It's like you can't swing a dead economy these days without hitting some new decree set up by the ever-prying government, some new commandment ostensibly designed to stop harmful or stupid behavior and make it tougher for good, law-abiding citizens to, say, smoke, stab, scream, urinate in public, kill themselves, pollute, make a mess of things in general.

Don't you hate that? No? You really should.

Don't you feel the outrage? There is outrage. There is always outrage, even over what might seem the most trivial and relatively optimistic advancements and announcements and legislation. It's just how we roll.

Here's a good one: the FDA has just been given sweeping new powers to regulate the nasty tobacco industry, powers it should have had about, oh, 300 years ago, but because the tobacco lobby is so malevolent and because the tobacco industry helps so many politicians make their boat payments and because, well, we love our toxic addictions to death, it often takes awhile before we fully acknowledge how these companies mean us very, very ill indeed.

No matter. Some people are outraged that the FDA might now step in and restrict smoking even further. Some people don't want more crackdowns on the free 'n' happy use of tobacco. Why? Because smoking bans are abusive and invasive. People hate them. Check that: smokers hate them; everyone else thinks they're pretty great and long overdue and hey, check it out, my clothes don't reek anymore after five minutes in a bar. Nice.

Even now, smokers feel they are the last, great persecuted group on the planet. They feel they are unjustly shunned and mocked and made to go far, far away to enjoy their toxin of choice, unless they are shoved inside a sad little glass box at the airport like some sort of exotic animal zoo display from the depths of 1976. Look over there, kids! Sickly, yellowish people who smell awful and enjoy phlegm! Don't stare, Timmy.

I find this kind of outrage both fascinating and very strange, this schizophrenic, Janus-faced stance where we claim to absolutely abhor government restrictions on our God-given right to shoot and eat and waste and kill and smoke and drive whatever the hell we want, while at the same time we essentially welcome and expect and even beg for those impositions and controls, so as to make life easier and better and safer. Hypocrisy? We're soaking in it.

You have but to pause and ponder. Can you name a single aspect of modern urban life, of human existence, that is not, at some level, regulated and controlled by laws, rules, the government?

It ain't easy. From the food you eat to the language you speak, the schools you attend, shows you watch, books you read, the history you learn, the clothes you wear, the computer you're looking at right now -- hell, nearly every physical object in your immediate environment: It is all, at some level, controlled and regulated and overseen by the government, by codified, largely invisible agreements of what it means to live in a functioning society. Deny it at your peril.

This is the hilarious paradox of America, of modern life in general. We do not actually want complete freedom. We don't even understand what the hell such an unfettered beast would entail, really. As Thomas Hobbes so famously said, were mankind to live in a true state of nature, free of structure and laws and our million beloved social contracts, life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." And who the hell wants that?

NY Committee to Free the Cuban Five Protests Supreme Court Decision

By Thomas Good

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, June 16, the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five (Comite de Nueva York por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos) held a protest at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan. The protest was called in response to the recent Supreme Court decision not to review the controversial case of the "Cuban Five": activists imprisoned for organizing against anti-Cuban terrorism — terrorism that is alleged to be U.S. sponsored.

The Cuban Five have been imprisoned since 1998. The five were convicted and sentenced in the U.S. on charges their supporters describe as "fabricated". The charges range from espionage to conspiracy to commit murder. Conversely, the right-wing organizations the Cuban Five monitored continue their activities — unimpeded by the U.S. government.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The trial and subsequent convictions were condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission, activists, legal scholars, and Nobel laureates. Supporters have consistently argued that world opinion is against the "wrongful and continued imprisonment" of the Cuban Five.

"In spite of the solid arguments made by the defense attorneys from the obvious and multiple legal violations committed during the whole trial, by ignoring the universal backing to the petition — expressed by an unprecedented number of 'friend of the Court' briefs, among them 10 Nobel prize recipients, hundreds of parliamentarians, and numerous U.S. and international jurist organizations, of outstanding political and academic personalities — the Supreme Court rejected the case, thus ignoring the demand of Humanity and its obligation to do justice," according to the website

For more information:

New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five
55 West 17th Street, Suite # 5c
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 633-6646


June 18, 2009

Newspaper Ignites Hope, Announces "Civil Disobedience Database"

In a front-page ad in today's International Herald Tribune, the leaders of the European Union thank the European public for having engaged in months of civil disobedience leading up to the Copenhagen climate conference that will be held this December. "It was only thanks to your massive pressure over the past six months that we could so dramatically shift our climate-change policies.... To those who were arrested, we thank you."
There was only one catch: the paper was fake.
Looking exactly like the real thing, but dated December 19th, 2009, a million copies of the fake paper were distributed worldwide by thousands of volunteers in order to show what could be achieved at the Copenhagen climate conference that is scheduled for Dec. 7-18, 2009. (At the moment, the conference is aiming for much more modest cuts, dismissed by leading climate scientists as too little, too late to stave off runaway processes that will lead to millions or even billions of casualties.)
The paper describes in detail a powerful (and entirely possible) new treaty to bring carbon levels down below 350 parts per million - the level climate scientists say we need to achieve to avoid climate catastrophe. One article describes how a website,, mobilized thousands of people to put their bodies on the line to confront climate change policies - ever since way back in June, 2009.
Although the newspaper is a fake (its production and launch were coordinated by Greenpeace), the website is real. is part of a growing network of websites calling for direct action on climate change, building on statements made in recent months by noted political figures. (For example, in September Nobel laureate Al Gore asserted that "we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants.")
Leading American environmentalist Bill McKibben was enthusiastic about the newspaper's message and the methods calls for. "We need a political solution grounded in reality - grounded in physics and chemistry. That will only come if we can muster a wide variety of political tactics, including civil disobedience."
"Non-violent civil disobedience has been at the forefront of almost every successful campaign for change," said Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men, who helped write and edit the newspaper and are furnishing the technology for "Especially in America, and especially today, we need to push our leaders hard to stand up to industry lobbyists and make the sorts of changes we need."
"Roosevelt would never have been able to push through the New Deal if people hadn't taken to the streets, occupied factories, and demanded it," noted newspaper writer/editor and University of California professor Lawrence Bogad. Segregation, British rule in India, and apartheid wouldn't have ended without a lot of people being creatively uncooperative - even if that meant getting arrested. Nonviolent civil disobedience is the bread and butter of progress."
The fake newspaper also has an ad for "Action Offsets," whereby those who aren't willing to risk arrest can help those who are.
Today's fake International Herald Tribune is part of a rash of recent publications which mimic prominent newspapers. Last November, a fake edition of the New York Times announced that the Iraq War was over. A few days earlier, a hoax USA Today featured the US presidential election result: "Capitalism Wins at the Polls: Anarchy Brewing in the Streets." And this April 1st, a spoof edition of Germany's Zeit newspaper triumphantly announced the end of "casino capitalism" and the abolition of poor-country debt.
The rash of fakes is likely to continue. "People are going to keep finding ways to get the word out about common-sense solutions those in power say are impossible," said Kelli Anderson, one of the designers of the fake International Herald Tribune and co-designer (with Daniel Dunnam) of 
"We already know what we need to do about climate change," said Agnes de Rooij of Greenpeace International. "It's a no-brainer. Reduce carbon emissions, or put the survival of billions of people at risk. If the political will isn't there now, it's our duty to inspire it."

    * Civil-disobedience database:
    * PDF of printed newspaper:
       - Online version:
    * Video: (coming soon)
    * CONTACT:
       - The Yes Men,
       - Mark Breddy (Greenpeace),,
            (+32) (0)2 2741 903, (+32) (0)496 15 62 29 (mob.)
       - Lawrence Bogad,,
            +1-212 300 7943

Iraqi Oil Minister accused of mother of all sell-outs

To public fury, the country is handing over control of its fields to foreign companies

By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad

An employee works at Tawke oil fields in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq on SundayFurious protests threaten to undermine the Iraqi government's controversial plan to give international oil companies a stake in its giant oilfields in a desperate effort to raise declining oil production and revenues.

In less than two weeks, on 29 and 30 June, the Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain Shahristani, will award service contracts to the world's largest oil companies to develop six of Iraq's largest oil-producing fields over 20 to 25 years.

Senior figures within the Iraqi oil industry have denounced the deal. Fayad al-Nema, the director of the South Oil Company, which comes under the Oil Ministry and produces most of Iraq's crude, said on the weekend: "The service contracts will put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years. They squander Iraq's revenues." Mr Nema is reported to have since been fired because of his opposition to the contracts, which he says is shared by many other officials in Iraq's state-owned oil industry. 

The government maintains that it is not compromising the ownership of Iraq's oil reserves – the third largest in the world at 115 billion barrels – on which the country is wholly dependent to fund its recovery from 30 years of war, sanctions and occupation.

But the fall in the oil price over the past year has left the government facing a financial crisis; 80 per cent of its revenues go to pay for salaries, food rations and recurrent costs. Little is left for reconstruction and the government is finding it hard to pay even for much-needed items such as an electrical plant from GE and Siemens.

The development of Iraq's oil reserves is of great importance to the world's energy supply in the 21st century. They may be even larger than Saudi Arabia's, as there was little exploration while Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. International oil companies are desperate to get their foot in the door.

"Everyone wants to be in Iraq," says Ruba Husari, an expert on Iraqi oil. "Together with Iran, this is the only oil province in the world that has great potential. It is a great opportunity for oil companies because nobody knows the size of Iraq's reserves. Iraq itself needs to know what is under its soil."

But Iraqis are wary of the involvement of foreign oil companies in raising production in super giant fields like Kirkuk and Bai Hassan in the north and Rumaila, Zubair and West Qurna in the south. They suspect the 2003 US invasion was ultimately aimed at securing Western control of their oil wealth. The nationalisation of the Iraqi oil industry by Saddam Hussein in 1972 remains popular and the rebellion against the service contracts has been gathering pace all this week.

How Neocolonialism Works