Sunday, February 26, 2012

Two French Movies Vie for Best Film

Whether they are really French is irrelevant, one was filmed in Paris and the other was a French production, tous les deux are Gallic.
Hugo deserves as many awards as it can get. The Artist should be Best Picture because it is so novel. Michel Hazanavicius, as its director, should take the Oscar.
Both leads in The Artist also should win, Jean Dujardin for best actor and Berenice Beijo for best supporting actress.
Virtually every performance of Glenn Close is Oscar-worthy. Meryl Streep has plenty of Oscars, and the role of the Iron Lady should have gone to Helen Mirren.
Viola Davis gave The Help what it needed to lift itself up from previous civil rights movies and deserves best actress.
Kenneth Branagh deserves best supporting actor. A true renaissance performer on stage, on screen or producing and directing.
For musical song, head south for the samba. Rio in Rio.
This year seems to have a surplus of excellent and original movies, including “The Tree of Life” and “The War Horse.”
The Artist has an old-fashioned kicker, a surprise ending not to be revealed here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Credit 22

As the economy starts showing signs of life don’t expect that any one of those hundreds of jobs you have applied for will fall into your hands.
Sadly, many employers will not hire you if you have bad credit.
Personal finance expert Liz Weston says there is no evidence connecting bad credit to job skills or likely performance.
She has included the subject in her latest book because there is "mounting evidence  that employers are abusing credit checks."
It’s kind of like insurance companies refusing to pay victims of PTSD a third of the money they are entitled to if part of their problem is depression.
Geeze. You are suffering from PTSD or some other major problem and you get depressed.
You lose your job, or jobs, can’t pay your bills and your credit goes down the toilet.
Of course bankers, if they escape jail, can get right back where they were. No one blames them.
These days you are lucky if you can even talk, face to face, with an employer. It’s almost always some kind of résumé orgy. It just isn’t going to happen.
Some states are cracking down on the use of bad credit to deny jobs. But spam for finding out credit scores must be driven by something.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winds of War

With American/NATO, Iranian and Russian warships playing chicken, it appears a missing plug in, in today’s language, is the only thing missing.
Syria could be it. Israel could be the decider
There is increasing evidence that the Putin Regime wants to match arms with the U.S., a battle it lost long ago and is not likely to win again.
Clearly it is a way to guarantee his election to a second presidential term. Only time will tell whether the tactic can be dropped once the victory is won.
Critics of expanding relations with Moscow would say we have already given away most our leverage. Last December Moscow was allowed in the World Trade Organization.
Retired CIA station chief Robert Grenier, writing for Al Jazeera, said, “Any conventional war involving Israel, the US, Iran and perhaps other regional powers would be a limited one. Military efforts to degrade Iranian nuclear capabilities and defence infrastructure will surely not include an attempt at occupying the country, nor at forcibly removing its government. Even the US would not be capable of doing so, even if it were so inclined. Nor is war likely to induce either the Iranian regime or its people to capitulate on their nuclear program, regardless of its ultimate intent. Instead, armed intervention is far more likely to swing the Iranians more solidly behind their government and its nationalist agenda, even if that agenda were temporarily set back.”
I recall France once rather ominously pointed out  that it has a very dirty bomb that could be used and keep property damage limited.
Should strong force be needed to drive Syria’s Assad from power could that cause Iran to step back. Would Russia attempt to forcefully block the West, not if its recents signals are accurate.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Entertainment Industry Picked Wrong Time to be Money-Grubbers

One evening in Manhattan in the mid ‘70s I was leaving Rockefeller Center for home and the thunder began.
I could have taken a subway, but chose to dance my way “Singing in the Rain,” literally.
The way things seem headed, if I tried it today the copyright police would be after me.
Yes the industry has slipped some new obstacles past us, but they seem to be losing the war.
Entertainment is about the only bright thing on the horizon in these dismal days. Don’t expect any sympathy from the 99 when all that money is going to the 1ers.
A quietly negotiated Web strangling agreement is being repudiated. A European judge blocked an order requiring social media to insert filters to prevent copyright abuse.
Back in the day many, if not most, would have had no argument with making sure entertainers got their fair share. With the earnings in the billions it is hard to shed more than a crocodile tear.
The concept of making music cheaper and infinitely easier to acquire, might have held the high ground.
Not so when an online bookseller got $15 from me for a Kindle edition by a little-known writer.
Few subjects are less prone to be targets of the Occupy people.

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UN Assembly Condemns Syria


Hardship and Risk Remain in Libya

Libya: hardship and danger remain

16-02-2012 Operational Update No 12/01

Thousands of people remain in detention, individual lives and communities continue to be threatened by unexploded devices, and many families are still trying to find out what happened to their missing loved ones. The ICRC is pressing ahead with its humanitarian work.

Effective monitoring of the situation of detainees

ICRC delegates currently visit approximately 8,500 detainees in more than 60 places of detention. About 10 per cent of the people held are foreign nationals.
"We pay particular attention to the treatment of detainees and stress that their dignity must be respected at all times," said Mr Comninos. "The current situation is complex and challenging, with many places of detention and many different authorities in charge." The ICRC has called upon the authorities at various levels to ensure that detainees are handed over to the Ministry of Justice and are placed in suitable detention facilities as soon as possible.
"While we remain committed to addressing any issues in a bilateral manner with those in charge, the current situation in Libya has confirmed that our work is needed in places of detention," said Mr Comninos. "Our expertise and the quality of the dialogue we have established with the authorities at all levels enable us to obtain certain improvements at this critical moment."
ICRC visits take place regularly. The organization's delegates talk in private with detainees of their choice in order to monitor the conditions in which these people are being held and the treatment they receive. All detention facilities and all detainees must be visited. The ICRC also looks into the detainees' need for medical attention, and detainees are given the opportunity to contact their families.
Between the beginning of March 2011 and the end of last year, the ICRC carried out some 225 visits in 100 places of detention in Libya.
In order to help ensure that conditions of detention are acceptable, the ICRC has also provided detainees with aid. More than 2,500 hygiene kits have been distributed to detainees in over 30 facilities throughout the country. In prisons in the Nefusa mountains, Tajoura, Tripoli and Misrata, the supplies provided included over 3,000 blankets, 700 mattresses, and almost 2,900 sweaters and other winter items.

Reducing the risks posed by explosive remnants of war

To date, many areas affected by fighting remain contaminated by unexploded ordnance. This continues to pose a serious threat to civilians as they try to get back to the life they had before the conflict. The city of Sirte is the worst affected area in the country.
Over the past few weeks, reports about explosive remnants of war still littering Sirte have been collected at a community clinic and at the local branch of the Libyan Red Crescent Society. The ICRC also works in close coordination with local authorities to identify areas that need to be cleared. "We have removed hundreds of unexploded devices from Sirte since November 2011," said Jennifer Reeves, the coordinator of this ICRC programme. "Now we also need to coordinate our activities with those of other organizations that have arrived on the scene to help with the clearing."
In the Nefusa mountains, ICRC staff are working with the local authorities to destroy abandoned ammunition. Alerted by reports from the community, they are also clearing contaminated farmland in remote areas.
At the beginning of February, volunteers from 15 Libyan Red Crescent branches received three days of training on how to educate communities about the risks posed by unexploded ordnance, how to collect data about casualties and how to identify dangerous areas.

Access to clean water and health care

In early February the ICRC donated seven new pumps needed to supply clean drinking water to an estimated 32,000 people in the town of Al Qubah and 12 villages near Benghazi. "The population had spent three months without an adequate or regular supply of potable water," said Sari Nasreddin, the ICRC delegate in charge of the operation. "The water network stopped functioning because no maintenance was performed on the original pumps during the conflict. People were relying on water-trucking services, which were not able to supply enough water for all those in need."
As clashes continue to occur sporadically in the country, causing casualties, the ICRC is re-supplying health-care facilities where needed in order to ensure that weapon-wounded patients can be properly treated. Enough surgical supplies to treat 100 wounded patients were delivered to Assaba'a along with other medical items, and surgical instruments were provided in Gharyan. In December 2011, the ICRC organized a seminar on the surgical treatment of patients with weapon-related injuries, an event that was attended by over 100 surgeons from all over the country.

Family reunited in Sabha

The life of Aisha, a 52-year-old widow and mother of seven children from Sirte, came to a standstill in October 2011. That day she went out with her 10-year-old son and was stuck outside the city because of the fighting. By the time she and her son finally managed to return home, her house had been completely burned down and her six other children were dead.
Aisha and her son were forced to leave. They ended up in the Sidi Faraj camp for displaced people in Benghazi. The camp manager noticed that Aisha and her son were terribly traumatized, and brought them to the attention of the ICRC. Aisha said she wanted to be reunited with her 15-year-old granddaughter, living with a host family in a village close to Sabha in southern Libya. On 25 January, Aisha and her son were taken there by the ICRC. "It was a very moving experience," said Fatma Eljack, an ICRC delegate who accompanied them on their two-day journey from Benghazi to Sabha. "Aisha had lost everything: her house, her personal effects and, above all, her children."
In late June and early July 2011, in cooperation with the Libyan Red Crescent, the ICRC carried out a large-scale maritime transfer to reunite several hundred families dispersed by the conflict.
Approached by grief-stricken families, the ICRC is providing the authorities with technical support and advice to help them in their efforts to clarify the fate of hundreds of missing people.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +218 913 066 198
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50

Friday, February 10, 2012

So-Called Blasphemous Tweets Could Cost Saudi Blogger His Life

And if that wasn’t disturbing enough, it is being reported that Interpol was involved.
That makes Julian Assange’s complaints about Sweden wanting to arrest him for a condom that broke look almost insignificant.
Of course, in theory, Assange could be sent from Sweden to the U.S. and end up at Gitmo.
Now I see how inconsequential my concerns about porn and plagiarism are.
Instead of being a method to free the hoi polloi, it will be more like the magician on the Tosh show who couldn’t break the chain tying him to a car in time and nearly died when it took off. Those Tweets will lead the authorities right back to you.
Here is what 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari had Tweeted last weekend, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor:
 “On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you've always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”
 The bogger is considered an apostate and infidel. He could be executed.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging Malaysia not to send Kashgari back to the Saudi kingdom.
Users should also be careful of what they say on Facebook unless they want to risk being pulled off a plane in another country. The Saudis have a lot of power.



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Monday, February 6, 2012

Should We Be Worried About Lego Movies

While the world was watching the Social Media animate the Arab World in real life, there was a dark side. Lego, on the other hand, seems pretty bright.
Not nearly as violent as the video games my kids play.
As I was updating my Web page on the Columbine Massacre (I was the leading AP reporter) I couldn’t resist adding the Lego Columbine piece. It is Danish, a reflection of how Lego movies or clips or whatever they are know no boundaries.
Tim Burton developed the stop motion animation, among others.
There are numerous Lego versions of 127 hours. No one makes the joke making the rounds about how if you play it backwards it is about a disabled man who finds an arm in the desert, attaches it, and parties on. Some certainly are in bad taste, much like life.
Here is what author David Waterhouse had to say about it one of his many pieces on the Web.
“Things would be so much better if the world was made out of Lego. Even the worst things about life, like traffic wardens, taxes and Lorraine Kelly, would be significantly improved if they were made out of little yellow bricks.
“… And what about terrible films? Could you actually make something truly awful such as Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes remake watchable by making it purely out of Lego bricks?”
My guess would be yes, though I don’t want to take too much of the fun out of it by telling you much.
Check them out on the Web, especially on YouTube.
So far I haven’t been able to reach Waterhouse. I am guessing Lorraine Kelly is a Scottish TV presenter.
But you need to be careful about what you meme. For example, some are using the word “prestitute” for female news anchors and reporters.
There must be dozens on 127 Hours alone. One of my favorites is 127 Seconds, when a student gets his arm caught under books. Check it out.
Some of the Lego videos have great music, including from the films they are spoofing. There already are their own versions of Oscars.
Perhaps the Legos could hook up with the Occupy people and seize power from our socalled leaders. 
Several different versions of what we should do on particular issues could be made Lego videos and then we could go online and vote on them.
In the meantime, the CDC should send haz-mat teams into the mainstream media. Viruses are brewing there faster than in designer-beer breweries.
For those of a more traditionally artistic bent, trying this Web site:

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Assange Extradition

Experts quoted by British media are convinced Julian Assange will be extradited to Sweden in a dubious sexual assault case. Normally this paragraph would have said to face charges, but none have been filed.
After several appeals of a lower court decision to grant extradition failed the case went before the U.K. Supreme Court on Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled to be completed after two days.
A decision would be released later, though no time has been set.
Assange could take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if he loses.
The British experts quoted by the Guardian and others say to not extradite Assange would bring down the entire European justice system. 

And well it might, but not necessarily for the reason they give. Most countries around the world have set up restrictions on extradition to prevent a political refugee from being dragged back to a dictatorship that will harm him, and deny a fair trial.
 An extradition of Assange could result in a disastrous precedent  for the European Union by making it possible for extradition requests without the approval of anyone outside the prosecutor’s office.
The process of extradition varies from country to country but a judge usually must approve, or even a high-ranking executive such as a state governor in the U.S.  For instance, A prosecutor may not order an extradition in Britain. Instead, he/she would only begin the process.
In the U.S.,  an extradition would require that a charge had been filed.
To refer to such restrictions as technicalities is to demean the law. Both Britain and Sweden likely will be embarrassed.
So far, more questions have been raised than answered. It is widely believed the extradition is meant to keep relations between the CIA and Swedish intelligence agency cordial.