Late Night: Bear Stories

Tonight we have stories about three bears and about panda bears which aren’t really bears. First the panda bears which are China’s “goodwill ambassadors.” More like China’s payoff for uranium and other trade deals. Poor pandas. After Obama met with Dalai Lama, China recalled Panda cubs, because the giant cousins of the raccoon are property of the state. For a while they were renting the cute black and white critters to zoos, but stopped after an outcry. Pimping an endangered species is gross.

Sad news for candy lovers: The grandad of Gummi-Bears has died. Hans Riegel, 90, founded the candy company Haribo in Bonn (Hans Riegel Bonn) in 1946,when Hans and his younger brother rebuilt his father’s candy factory after World War II though Gummibärchen have been “the original since 1922.” Gummi-Bears  have spawned a whole range of gummy candies, including  Halloween faves gummy worm, gummy spiders, and gummy skulls.

Dodgers security evicted a would-be rally mascot, Dodger Dancing Bear, from Dodger Stadium last night after furniture store owner (and the former mascot for several minor league teams), Mark Monninger, jumped up on the Cardinals dugout and danced for about 12 seconds. Security was booed when they escorted him off the grounds, and he had to sign an agreement to not return to Dodger Stadium for six months. The Dodgers are one of four major league teams that don’t have a mascot.

And our fourth bear? He’s up top, playing tether ball! Meet LG who was found as a starving, frostbitten cub and brought to Animal Ark.  The original intention was for Animal Ark to rehabilitate and release the cub as part of its black bear rehabilitation program, but LG’s boldness, along with the loss of his ear tips to frostbite, did not make him a good release candidate, so LG was given a permanent home at Animal Ark.

Elton John to Play Moscow: “I’m Doing It for Gay Russians”

Oh Elton, Elton.  I am so confused, but I just can’t quit you. Remember when his remark about being very happy with civil unions became a rallying cry for Prop 8 and anti-equality forces? Once there was a hue and cry about his naivety ignorance of basic facts, he came around and ended up playing an amazing concert as a fundraiser for AFER and becoming a spokesperson for marriage equality. Then he played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for  huge fee. (I’d like to hope that he donated that fee to pro-equality groups as a puckish fuck you to the forces at the EIB, but I guess I’ll never know).

Elton John played Sun City  in South Africa during apartheid, and yes that was 30 years ago. He played Tel Aviv just three years ago saying:

Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.

Oh?

Then Sir Elton thumbed his nose at China’s cultural politics by publicly dedicating his 2012 concert in Beijing to  to “the spirit and talent” of dissident artist Ai Weiwei,  prompting the Chinese culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China. Sir Elton told the Guardian:

“Ten thousand people went ‘Eugh!’, but how could you not?. He’s become a friend, and what he’s suffered as an artist is unbelievable. During and after the show, my tour manager was interrogated for three hours, and what he said to them was true: I bought a beautiful Ai Weiwei piece, I was grateful and we’ve become friends. I didn’t feel in any danger.

Sir Elton adds a new item to his wish list: He’d like to go back to China and talk to the government about AIDS. According to the performer:

the country’s leading AIDS activist has claimed that the government’s estimate of 650,000 HIV cases is barely a 10th of the real figure.

Elton John wanted to play in front of the Pyramids of Giza, but claims be was banned because he is gay. And his very public gayness has ruffled feathers in other locales, the Guardian reports:

a church in Tobago organised a protest against his appearance there, while he received threats from an Islamic group when he played in Morocco.

So what about his proposed December concert date in Moscow?

Listen, I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time: I had an interpreter that they’d clearly set up. Actually, I ended up having sex with him on the roof of my hotel.  I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

Elton John certainly flies in the face of Putin’s  ban on homosexual propaganda. He and longtime partner David Furnish united in a civil union ceremony in 2005, one of the first in Britain, and are planning weddings in Britain and in California now that it is legal to do so– and the couple has two children Zachary  and Elijah. In 2009 the Ukrainian government block Sir Elton’s adoption of an HIV+ baby, citing his age and single status; the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex unions.  Adoption officials had another point of view:

Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.

How will Putin and Russian government deal with Elton John, a venerable and flamboyant, visibly gay figure in pop music who refers to himself as the Queen Mother? Madonna and Lady Gaga  played St Petersburg and spoke out from the stage, violating, according to the Russian government, the terms of their visas.  Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban fans under 18 years old from Gaga’s concerts. Madonna and Gaga are post-modern hetero-normative, basically straight ladies who like teh gheys, have a platform to speak out, and do. Elton John is waaay more risky–he’s clearly queer and the very act of playing in Russia is pretty subversive/transgressive, especially given his outspokeness on  stage and off.

In July, 2103 Elton John was scheduled to play a concert in Krasnodar, Russia which caused great consternation.

Local party leader Mikhail Abramyan recommended that Elton don a knee-length kaftan, knee-high leather boots, and a fur hat for the July 14th gig.

He said: ‘It would be more respectable.  We have suggested it to the promoters and we hope he’ll wear it.’, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Despite calls from Krasnodar clergy to ban Sir Elton’s July 14th concert because the singer represents homosexual propaganda, no ban was issued. Rather the concert was postponed, then cancelled due to the singer’s illness.

Somehow I think, and maybe I am just an optimist, that Elton John playing Moscow is his attempt at activism, and is motivated by the desire to make a positive change, rather than to line his pockets. It will be interesting to see what bombshells, like that in China, he drops from the stage–maybe playing “All the Young Girls Love Alice”? And I wonder if Edward Snowden will be backstage! Now that would be a Facebook photo op!

HT: Back2Stonewall

Ad Agencies, PR Firms Try to Co-Opt Bloggers

In light of the Gawker story on blogger payola, I thought I would share my own story and response. Earlier this month I received this email:

I’ve been reading lafiga.firedoglake.com and have a story idea that might interest your followers:

“One of the fundamental arguments for a European Union was the ability for companies to easily move across borders. An increasing number of European-based companies are moving a portion of their staff to other countries within Europe and more commonly to Asia – it simply makes sense in a global economy. Expanding facilities in different countries allows companies to take advantage of lower operating costs and taxes or simply to serve a new territory – and they often need proven managers to run these operations. Moving is a hassle for everyone, but utilizing relocation resources such as specialized agencies, realtors that have a national or global presence and proven courier services companies can make the transition smoother. In this article, I will discuss some potential resources for businesses and their employees.”

Would you be interested in having me write a guest post for your blog? Alternatively I could just supply you with some great trend information that you can use to write a post yourself.

Let me know if you’re interested – I think this topic will be of great interest to your readers.

Thanks for your time and best regards,
Margot M
Blog Content Guild
(Please let me know if you don’t want to receive any more emails from me! Thanks!)

So I wrote back:

Dear Margot,

I am very familiar with that process you describe which is known as neo-liberalism and has nothing to do with “liberal” politics; and which has caused horrific financial consequences to economies across the globe, both in the counties which have lost business and in the countries which have been the recipients of new businesses (think about the Special Economic Zones on the coast of China).

If you have been reading my site as you claim, you will notice that I cover pop culture, LGBT rights, religion, film, tv and other matters and have a progressive political slant. I wonder why you think a progressive political site would be interested in encouraging economic ruin and subhuman working conditions. Have you looked into the working conditions in the countries where some of these companies relocate? “Lower taxes” in another country only serves to benefit the company/shareholders, not the workers; and when companies relocate en masse, the finances of the mother country are eroded. With the loss of tax dollars comes the loss of funds for roads, schools, care for the elderly and ill. Those tax savings do not trickle down, and such practices are one of the root of the current Occupy protests. Seriously, you promote and thus would like to see more businesses leave your homeland, creating unemployment and social turmoil at home while exploiting workers and the environment elsewhere? Um, gross.

While I appreciate your entrepreneurship in trying to pitch me such an inappropriate and venal story idea, I can read between the lines of your email: You wish to promote certain companies with which you have a relationship. Remember this well: Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from her.

Brave Moo World: Cows Produce Human Breast Milk!

Udderly creepy! Scientists in China have created a herd of 300 cows that produce human breast milk, according to Sky News, and the hu-moo juice should be available on Chinese supermarket shelves in three years.  Using transgenic and cloning technology similar to that which produced Dolly the sheep, cloned cow embryos were injected with human genes and then implanted into surrogate cows.

Workers at University of Beijing’s dairy farm say the result–identical to human breast milk with the same antibacterial and immune-boosting qualities:

is sweeter and stronger than the usual bovine variety

Genetically modified food is popular in China where GM papayas, tomatoes, potatoes, and cooking oil are already widely available for sale. The team at University of Beijing have already produced animals that are resistant to mad cow disease, as well as beef cattle that are genetically modified to produce more nutritious meat.  The Chinese government recently approved insect-resistant rice and corn modified to help pigs absorb more nutrients.

Is there a breeding program to cross boy hu-moos to girl hu-moos? Do their heifer offspring also produce hu-milk? Or are boy hu-moos killed? What happens to their meat? And I have to wonder if human genes injected into the cloned milk cow embryos were screened for predispositions to genetic illnesses.

Lead cow developer and director of the research project, Professor Li Ning, says:

There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don’t get enough to eat. It’s our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back. We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions.

Hu-moo dairy worker  Jiang Yao said of the cow-man milk:

It’s good. It’s better for you because it’s genetically modified.

 

Now That’s Just UnAmerican! High School Internet Filter Messes with Religion, Baseball

This caught my eye:

The Gainesville (Georgia) School Board has promised it would look into why two Chinese oriented meditation websites come up as ‘occult’ and are blocked by the Gainesville High School Internet filter…Expressing her concern at Monday’s board meeting held in the high school cafeteria, Mary Silver, who supports Clear Wisdom and Falun Dafa, told board members the sites do not encourage involvement in the occult. Far from it, she said.

Falun Dafa is also known as Falun Gong, a form of exercise and meditation banned by the Chinese government in 1999. Practitioners have been jailed, sent to work camps and tortured. And if you believe some websites, killed and their organs sold for transplants. Occult means “secret” or “hidden.” At time the word is equated with “esoteric,” and has by used by some to describe practices like meditation, yoga, astrology, witchcraft as well as various mono- and polytheistic faiths which may practice these exercises and arts. Lumped into “occult” by pop culture are werewolves, vampires, zombies and anything else scary.  Eye roll.

A quick search for “Falun Dafa” and “occult” gets you to discussion forums like Vampire.nu and Occultforum.org, as well as one site that claims Falun Dafa practitioners

collect energy for [their] own benefit, but a portion is re-directed (by occult processes) to the Falun Gong cause in China.

So basically, Falun Dafa practitioners believe they are using some not readily known method to help gain freedom to practice their religion and to draw attention to human rights abuses. Kinda like prayer circles where the faithful pray to make money or to get rid of demons in their neighborhood.

But wait a minute.  Why is the term “occult” blocked by the high school’s internet filter? What other words are blocked? And why? Is “atheist” blocked? “Evolution”?   Are certain religions? Philosophies? And how would parents feel if terms like “resurrection” or “son of God” were blocked?

In April Prince William School District in Virginia received a letter from the ACLU pointing out that the school district’s internet ban on the term LGBT was unconstitutional. TDB reported:

According to the ACLU, barred websites under the system’s “LGBT” filter include those for educational organization The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, school diversity campaign the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, anti-bullying initiative Day of Silence, and anti-suicide initiative the It Gets Better Project.

Meanwhile, because Prince William County Public Schools does not elect to bar “political/activist groups,” “health,” or “reference,” it currently allows students to access anti-LGBT websites like People Can Change, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and Exodus International.

At they time they sent out the letter, the ACLU issued the following statement:

The ACLU also sent similar letters to schools in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas as part of the organization’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative, which seeks to combat illegal censorship of LGBT information on public school computer systems by enlisting students to check their school’s web browsers and report what they find.

Under the First Amendment right to free speech and the Equal Access Act, gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups should have access to national organizational websites that help them to function, just as other groups, such as Key Clubs and the chess clubs, are able to access their national websites.

Ken Blackstone, a spokesman for the Prince William school system said that:

the school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school. He said the division’s Blue Coat filtering software blocks out 32 specific categories, including, for instance, sites containing pornography or promoting violence or drugs.

Butt the process is automated and sometimes the software doesn’t correctly differentiate between, for example, gay support groups and gay pornography.

In order to correct that problem, Blackstone said the school division has a process by which students or staff can request to have a site unblocked. He said that to the best of his knowledge, no one made such a request in this case.

So, if websites about certain  “occult” faiths, philosophies and belief systems are not allowed into the school, and other religions and philosophies are allowed to pass through the Internet filter, why? Who sets up these filters? Are they set by prevailing community standards, the Federal government, or by the school itself using certain guidelines and their own interpretations?

Seems though that blocking equal access to all religions is a blow against freedom of religion, one of the very cornerstones of our nation and one of the reasons we even have Founding Fathers.

And side note: banning the word “occult” prevents seekers from finding information about colon cancer, arthritis and even baseball!

What Wikileaks Shows Us–Or May–About the Internets

Many, many years ago, 76 million years ago to be exact, in a galaxy beyond the Marcabian vortexes, the internets (both of them) were in a before-spore state–the not the thought of spores, not even a logos of spores; rather the frisson of an idea which would begin to fruit with the Domain Name Scams of the 90s and the DdoS battles, the ongoing Sockpuppet Wars and of course the Freewebs Cruise which launched a gajillion hits from 2008 on.

The tools tried true by  CULT (Crazy Ultra Loony Tunes) and ANON (nice oxy- and hydro-morons in it for teh lulz; how can a nothing be a something?) laid a template for the current Wikileaks Web War, wherein a website is shut down by malicious, rapid fire hits, the nowadays equivalent of hitting AOL’s IM key repeatedly to knock someone off line.

Digby had this to say:

Wikileaks exposed the graft and corruption of a particular group of Icelandic bankers and they are being called to account for it by their people. It exposed the secretive Church of Scientology [LaFiga: The first wave of stuff from CoS was originally a doxdump on alt.rel.scientology and Xenu.net and mirrored elsewhere circa 1994 before there was Wikileaks; the volcanic space opera OT3 appeared online, and props need to go to 2005's "Trapped in the Closet" episode of South Park before the Wikileaks super sexy secondary big dump which thumbed its nose at the cult and stoked the fires of Chanology, itself a bunch of Anonymous] It exposed the ongoing war between China and Google (which, by the way, Joe Lieberman sees as an excellent template for the US to emulate.) And, if they don’t succeed in threatening the entire internet, we are likely to soon see a trove of communications exposing corruption in the US banking system.

What baffles me is that when a bunch of self-mythologized, basement dwelling, distance-learning, snap-crackle-pop culture munchers–though stereotypes begin somewhere–allegedly acting as individuals or with a queen-less hivemind–are seemingly at cause for allegedly Being Bad by publishing Top Sekret relidjush doktrines, and then deciding ot shut down sites, it’s

Oh noes cyber-tewwowism

and there’s prosecution. But when like, it’s Other Somebodies publishing Top Sekret dokumints and the governments don’t like them, it’s okay that there’s an organized DdoS against those Other Somebodies? Now something even uglier has happened:

Today Wikileaks encountered a new form of censorship that should make all of us shudder. Rather than being shutdown at the web hosting level, EveryDNS shutdown the wikleaks.org domain name.

Maybe it’s not “organized”, but just a tribillion of self-mythologizing individuals all butthurt at Wikileaks for as many reasons as they have Cheeto stains, all sleepy hollowed and riding the refresh button. And some I bet wish they’d thought of it, cuz the click thrus must >9000. Think of the stats!

And where exactly do some of these people work who do all this neato stuff?  For whom? And what do they do in their spare time?

And wow, how many mega-cloud servers are there? Can a site get effectively disappeared because Lots of Corps & Govts don’t like it? Can it be renamed and mirrored and hidden? It’s happened before–giant games of whackamole, but that was before white hats got hired as experts, some who might have costumes and coats of many colors.

In any case, It’s from the Internets, expect It. They are never gonna give you up.


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