Tony Curtis, the 1950s Hollywood heartthrob who won acclaim as a sleazy press agent in Sweet Smell of Success and earned stardom as a skirt-wearing saxophone player in Some Like It Hot, has died aged 85, Sky News reported.
Curtis appeared in 90 movies and was nominated once for an Academy Award, for Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958). Curtis impressed critics in the film about a prison escape, playing a convict shackled to a black inmate (Sidney Poitier) he despises until they forge a bond fleeing through the US South.
A year later, Curtis co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot, the Billy Wilder comedy about two musicians who hide from the Chicago mob by donning dresses and joining an all-female band. In 2000, the American Film Institute called it the funniest US movie ever made...
Opium production in Afghanistan has almost halved in the past year, a United Nations report says.
The sharp drop is largely due to a plant infection which has drastically reduced yields, says the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
But it warns that production is unlikely to stay low, with rising prices tempting farmers to cultivate more opium poppies.
Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's opium, the main ingredient in heroin.
The UNODC's 2010 Afghan Opium Survey showed production in 2010 was at its lowest level since 2003, estimated at 3,600 tonnes - a 48% decrease from 6,900 tonnes in 2009.
"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC.
But with opium prices rising again after years of steady decline, the UNODC has warned that production is unlikely to stay low.
The total area of the country used for poppy cultivation remains unchanged despite government eradication programmes, and Mr Fedotov has called for a comprehensive strategy to counter the opium threat.
Most of the poppies are grown in the restive southern and western provinces, the report says, underscoring the link between the insurgency and the opium trade.
Last year Helmand accounted for nearly 60% of the country's total production of the drug, the UNODC said.
A new study by the Curtin University Sustainable Tourism Centre identifies plans for a massive polluting LNG industrial site near Broome as a serious threat to the Kimberley’s unique and globally-recognised tourism ‘brand’.The report entitled “Kimberley Whale Coast Tourism: A review of opportunities and threats” by Dr Michael Hughes and colleagues from Curtin University was commissioned by The Wilderness Society and launched on 31 August, 2010 in Kings Park, Perth. Download a copy of the report here The report finds significant opportunities for increased regional economic benefits, including employment, through the burgeoning whale watching industry and enhanced marine protection. Broome is uniquely placed to benefit from whale tourism because of the proximity of the Humpbacks and the fact they are in the area to give birth to calves. The study presents a series of important findings that are at odds with recent ‘wishy-washy’ government studies and statements on the impact of LNG industrialisation on Broome and Kimberley tourism.
Some key findings:
The Kimberley tourism ‘brand’ is based on the unique natural and cultural values of the region, including its wildlife and vast, unspoiled coast and landscapes;
Tourism is more valuable to the regional economy than resource projects which return less to the local economy, employ fewer local people and have relatively short lifespans;
When iconic brands are damaged – as occurred in the 1970’s with the location of an oil refinery on the Shetland Islands – it takes a lot of time, money and effort to rebuild
Currently around 10 tour operators, including Aboriginal run businesses, offer whale-watching experiences out of Broome & the Dampier Peninisula – the site of the proposed LNG hub and port.
There appears to be a substantial imbalance between government support for tourism, including Indigenous tourism enterprises, and the far greater level of funding for resource extraction projects.
The government needs to recognise the findings of the study which highlight the fact that Broome and surrounding communities do not need large scale industrial projects to secure their economic future.
In particular, WA and Commonwealth Tourism Ministers - Dr Liz Constable and Martin Ferguson - need to stand up for the Kimberley tourism industry and ensure that ill-considered resource projects do not ‘kill the goose that lays the golden egg.’
Environment groups believe Kimberley tourism needs better management and requires much more Indigenous involvement. This can be achieved through expanded Indigenous Rangers programs, creation of new Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) and the introduction of a comprehensive licensing and permit system for tourism operators and tourists accessing remote land and sea country.
Show the little upstarts how it's done guys!!! At the beginning of this last clip there is an old boss of mine Simon Raymonde behind Sandie Shaw (to the left) probably better known to most of you as one third of the Cocteau Twins!!! (Thanx JC!)
After a recent study found traces of eight illicit drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines, in the waterways of a Spanish national park, fear started to circulate along with the headlines.
Is the environment, people have started to wonder, becoming a wasteland for discarded and partially digested medications?
As studies continue to find a growing number of pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs in a growing number of places, experts say, there are some real concerns about threats to wildlife and human health. But most substances are at levels far too low to cause problems. Many others are big question marks.
Scientists still don't know how a lot of chemicals, especially the illegal ones, might affect animals or at what level they become dangerous. Those studies just haven't been done.
"The vast majority of compounds do not pose a threat," said Paul Sibley, an aquatic toxicologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
"For illicit drugs, we're not quite as sure," he added. "My gut sense is that we probably don't need to be worried about this. But because studies have never been done looking at their toxicology or the responses of animals, we can't say there won't be a problem."
Whether over-the-counter or under-the-table, the most common way for drugs to escape into the environment is through the sewage system. When you pop a pill, your body breaks down some, but not all of the active chemicals in a drug. Whatever is leftover comes out in your excrement and goes down the toilet.
Most sewage treatment plants are designed to break down biological matter in substances like human waste and food scraps. But pharmaceutical chemicals often slip right through, either in wastewater that flows into streams and lakes, or in sludge that is often spread on agricultural fields.
Farm animals often consume antibiotics and other drugs, too, and their manure also helps taint agricultural run-off. From there, the chemicals end up in streams, lakes and other waterways.
Hundreds of studies have found traces of pharmaceuticals in water, Sibley said, especially downstream of treatment plants. Other studies have found these compounds in the tissues of fish and other animals. In most cases, at least in the developed world, levels are too low to have major consequences. But there are some major exceptions.
Scientists are particularly concerned about a class of pharmaceuticals known as endocrine-disruptors. Traces of estrogen from birth control pills, for example, are now known to affect animals at really tiny concentrations.
Antibiotics are another concern, because once they are unleashed in the environment, they can prompt the development of dangerously drug-resistant bacteria.
Even drugs that don't fit into those categories have been shown to cause problems in some cases, especially when levels get high enough, said Bryan Brooks, director of the Environmental Health Science program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
A 2004 paper in the Journal Nature, for example, documented a catastrophic vulture die-off in India. It turned out that the birds were eating the carcasses of cows that had been given a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, similar to ibuprofen or naproxen. The drug was making the birds sick.
In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, scientists reported that minnows exposed to certain antidepressants were slower to flee from predators. Another paper in the same journal issue found that tadpoles exposed to antidepressants -- at levels similar to what might show up in the environment in some places -- ate less and grew more slowly.
"We don't really have a good handle at all about how drug side effects may present risks to aquatic organisms," Brooks said. "Where the science is going now is trying to scrutinize the available data for pharmaceuticals and how they act in animals, and to prioritize which drugs may require further study."
A similar toxicological focus on illegal drugs will probably soon follow, Sibley said. The new study out of Spain looked at water in a park that is surrounded by nightclubs and malls. Many places face the same type of exposures.
"I'd be willing to say you could go to any major urban center globally, including in the U.S. and Canada, and find trace levels of these compounds, especially if you've got an active area of social life," Sibley said. "They are likely very, very ubiquitous."
Emily Sohn @'Discovery'
It's taken three trips to Kentucky, but I'm finally getting my Tea Party epiphany exactly where you'd expect: at a Sarah Palin rally. The red-hot mama of American exceptionalism has flown in to speak at something called the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, a gospel-music hoedown in a giant convention center filled with thousands of elderly white Southerners. Palin — who earlier this morning held a closed-door fundraiser for Rand Paul, the Tea Party champion running for the U.S. Senate — is railing against a GOP establishment that has just seen Tea Partiers oust entrenched Republican hacks in Delaware and New York. The dingbat revolution, it seems, is nigh. "We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."
Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?
Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.
"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it...
Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate the US has killed al Qaeda's newly appointed leader of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sheikh Fateh al Masri, the leader of Qaedat al Jihad fi Khorasan, or the base of the jihad in the Khorasan, was killed in a recent Predator strike, Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports and were investigating. One US official confirmed that Fateh was targeted in the spate of recent strikes but cautioned that given the total control that the Taliban and al Qaeda have in North Waziristan, it is difficult to be certain Fateh was killed.
Al Qaeda has not released a martyrdom statement announcing Fateh's death. Such statements are often released on jihadist Internet forums days or weeks after a leader is killed...
It's medical marijuana for people with a sweet tooth. A new shop in Santa Cruz sells ice cream infused with marijuana extract. Makers of "Crème De Canna" say one bite is equivalent to four to five puffs of a really good marijuana cigarette. It’s super premium ice cream, so there are more calofires and fat than regular ice cream and it may have some side effects, that could add to the calorie-count as well. “You're definitely going to back for seconds, the munchies are certainly probably going to be part of the experience. it really just depends on the individual and how they receive the plant," says founder Jonathan Kolodinski A half-pint goes for $15 dollars buy customers have to have a medical marijuana card to buy it. Flavors include Bananabis Foster, and Straw-Mari Cheesecake. Vegan and low-calorie flavors are in the works. There's one catch: customers aren't able to eat the treat on the premises. (valleycentral)
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Daniel Schmitt -- the 32-year-old German spokesman for WikiLeaks who is also the organization's best-known personality after Julian Assange -- discusses his falling out with the website's founder, his subsequent departure and the considerable growing pains plaguing the whistleblower organization.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Schmitt, you and WikiLeaks have been unreachable by e-mail for several weeks. What's wrong?
Schmitt: There are technical problems and no one to take care of them. WikiLeaks is stuck in a phase in which the project has to change itself. We grew insanely fast in recent months and we urgently need to become more professional and transparent in all areas. This development is being blocked internally. It is no longer clear even to me who is actually making decisions and who is answerable to them. Because of the high pressure we have all been under following the publication of the American military documents, we have not been able to restructure our organization accordingly. This has created a situation in which not all of the work is being done correctly, and that is overwhelming the project.
SPIEGEL: Is that your opinion or do all the people involved share it?
Schmitt: That is one of the points of dispute internally, but there are others. WikiLeaks, for example, was always free of discrimination. In the past we processed and published smaller submissions that were only of local importance the same way that we did more comprehensive documents that are of national or even international importance.
SPIEGEL: Why don't you do both?
Schmitt: We would like to, but unfortunately we've reached a dead-end. I have tried again and again to push for that, but Julian Assange reacted to any criticism with the allegation that I was disobedient to him and disloyal to the project. Four weeks ago, he suspended me-- acting as the prosecutor, judge and hangman in one person. Since then, for example, I have had no access to my WikiLeaks mail. So a lot of work is just sitting and other helpers are being blocked. I know that no one in our core team agreed with the move. But that doesn't seem to matter. WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that's why I am leaving the project.
SPIEGEL: Why has your fight with Assange escalated to this degree?
Schmitt: We have all experienced intense stress in recent months. Mistakes happened, which is okay, as long as people learn from them. For that to happen, though, one has to admit them. Above all, though, we seem to have lost the faith that we are all pulling together.
SPIEGEL: Assange himself says that you questioned his power and wanted to take over leadership of WikiLeaks.
Schmitt: From my perspective there was no power struggle. It wasn't about personal interests, it was about our organization and its development. Only he can say why he sees things differently.
SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, you did advise him to temporarily retreat from the public eye as a result of the rape allegations lodged against him in Sweden.
Schmitt: The investigation into Julian in Sweden is, in my opinion, a personal attack against him, but they do not have anything to with WikiLeaks directly. Still, it does cost time and energy and it weighs on him. In my opinion it would have been best if he had pulled back a bit so that he could quietly deal with these problems. It would have been fine if he had continued his normal work out of the spotlight. But he clearly saw my internal proposal as an attack on his role.
SPIEGEL: What will happen now?
Schmitt: I worked on WikiLeaks because I considered the idea to be right and important. We tried numerous times to discuss all of the issues mentioned with Julian, without success. I have given more than 100 interviews to media all around the world, coordinated finances in Germany and also worked on the publication (of documents). Now I am pulling out of the project and will turn my tasks over to -- who knows?
SPIEGEL: Who are you referring to when you say "we"?
Schmitt: A handful of people in the core team, who have views about these things that are similar to mine but do not want to go public. A large amount of the work is done by people who want to remain unnamed. There is a lot of resentment there and others, like me, will leave.
SPIEGEL: You are leaving the project at a critical juncture. Do you not worry that a number of Internet activists may accuse you of betraying the cause?
Schmitt: I am aware of that, but you should assume that I have thought long and hard about the step. Nevertheless, in recent years, I have invested a considerable amount of time, money and energy into WikiLeaks. But I also have to be able to support the things for which I am publicly responsible. That is why the only option left for me at the moment is an orderly departure.
SPIEGEL: What is it that you no longer stand behind?
Schmitt: That we promise all of our sources that we will publish their material, for example. Recently, however, we have only focused on the major topics and applied practically all of our resources to them. Take the US Army Afghanistan documents at the end of July, for example. The video of the air strike in Baghdad in 2007, "Collateral Damage," was an extreme feat of strength for us. During the same period of time we also could have published dozens of other documents. And through our rising recognition in the last six months, we have again received a lot of material that urgently needs to be processed and published.
SPIEGEL: With the publication of classified Afghanistan reports, also through SPIEGEL, you have taken on the United States, a superpower. Washington is threatening to prosecute you for espionage and WikiLeaks supporters have been interrogated by the FBI. Bradley Manning, who is believed to be one of your informants, is sitting in jail. Are you afraid of the massive public pressure?
Schmitt: No, pressure from the outside is part of this. But this one-dimensional confrontation with the USA is not what we set out to do. For us it is always about uncovering corruption and abuse of power, wherever it happens -- on the smaller and larger scale -- around the world.
SPIEGEL: What does it mean for the organization now that its second most recognizable face after that of Julian Assange is leaving? Is WikiLeaks' future in jeopardy?
Schmitt: I hope not. The idea behind WikiLeaks is too important for that. There are a number of new people in Sweden and Great Britain and I hope that they will all work on something sensible. I believe in this concept that we set out to do, and I am confident that it will survive.
SPIEGEL: With a part of the WikiLeaks team now leaving, do your informants need to be concerned about what will happen with the material they submitted?
Schmitt: It is my view that material and money from donors should remain at WikiLeaks, because both were intended explicitly for this project. There are other opinions internally -- with our technical people, for example. No matter what, though, we will ensure that a clean transition happens.
SPIEGEL: You quit your job because of WikiLeaks. What will you do now?
Schmitt: I will continue to do my part to ensure that the idea of a decentralized whistleblower platform stays afloat. I will work on that now. And that, incidentally, is in line with one of our original shared convictions -- in the end, there needs to be a thousand WikiLeaks.
SPIEGEL: In your role as WikiLeaks spokesman, you have always gone by the name "Daniel Schmitt." What's your real name?
Schmmitt: It is high time that I also stop doing that and to go public with my name and my opinions. My name is Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
The report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla released last week shows conclusively, for the first time, that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos.
The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground.
The report says Dogan had apparently been "lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious, state for some time" before being shot in his face.
The forensic evidence that establishes that fact is "tattooing around the wound in his face," indicating that the shot was "delivered at point blank range." The report describes the forensic evidence as showing that "the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back."
Based on both "forensic and firearm evidence," the fact-finding panel concluded that Dogan's killing and that of five Turkish citizens by the Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmari May 31 "can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions." (See Report [.pdf] Page 38, Section 170)
The report confirmed what the Obama administration already knew from the autopsy report on Dogan, but the administration has remained silent about the killing of Dogan, which could be an extremely difficult political problem for the administration in its relations with Israel.
The Turkish government gave the autopsy report on Dogan to the US Embassy in July and it was then passed on to the Department of Justice, according to a US government source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the administration's policy of silence on the matter. The source said the purpose of obtaining the report was to determine whether an investigation of the killing by the Justice Department (DOJ) was appropriate...
Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the Palestinians to continue peace talks despite an end to Israel's ban on West Bank settlement-building.
In a statement moments after the end of the 10-month partial freeze, he asked Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to continue seeking a "historic" deal.
Hours later, bulldozers were reported to have begun work in two settlements.
Mr Abbas had warned that peace talks would be a "waste of time" unless the freeze was extended.
Israeli media said bulldozers had started levelling ground for 50 homes in the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank.
However, construction work was expected to be slow because of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Similar activity was also reported in the settlement of Adam.
Meanwhile, the US renewed calls for Israel to maintain the construction freeze, saying its position on the issue remained unchanged and the US state department was staying "in close touch" with all parties.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Mr Netanyahu and also to Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East Quartet (the EU, Russia, the UN and US), as the end of the construction freeze neared, a spokesman said.
Israel says the settlements are no bar to continuing direct talks on key issues, and US negotiators have been working intensively to secure a deal.
On Saturday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told the BBC he would attempt to convince government colleagues of a compromise deal, said the chances of a deal on the issue was "50/50".
The freeze on building in the West Bank expired at midnight local time on Sunday (2200 GMT).
Earlier in the evening, a pregnant Israeli woman and her husband were lightly wounded in a gun attack in the West Bank.
Israeli police said Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their car south of the city of Hebron. The woman later gave birth in hospital.
Meanwhile, some Jewish settlers started celebrating the end of the construction ban.
At the Jewish settlement of Revava, near the Palestinian town of Deir Itsia, reports said they released balloons and broke ground for a new nursery school before the moratorium expired.
The Israel prime minister called on the Palestinians to continue peace talks, which recently resumed after a 20-month pause and have the strong backing of US President Barack Obama.
"Israel is ready to pursue continuous contacts in the coming days to find a way to continue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Mr Netanyahu said in his statement.
It was possible "to achieve a historic framework accord within a year", Mr Netanyahu said.
However, his statement did not directly mention the issue of the settlement freeze.
He had earlier urged settlers "to display restraint and responsibility".
'Waste of time'
On Sunday, Mr Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, warned that the peace talks renewed earlier this month would be futile unless the ban continued.
"If Israel does not continue the settlement freeze, the peace process will be a waste of time," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying during a visit to Paris.
However, Mr Abbas suggested that he would consult with other Arab leaders before any decision was taken. A meeting is expected in Cairo within the next 10 days.
The BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says the Palestinian leader is in a difficult position, with Israel offering few concessions, at least publicly.
If he continues negotiations, he will face accusations from his own side that the Palestinians will have backed down in the face of Israeli intransigence, our correspondent says.
It is estimated that about 2,000 housing units in the West Bank already have approval and settler leaders say they plan to resume construction as soon as possible.
The partial moratorium on new construction was agreed to by Israel in November 2009 under pressure from Washington.
It banned construction in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Middle East war of 1967, but never applied to settlements in East Jerusalem.
US President Barack Obama has urged Israel to extend the moratorium, saying it "made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks".
Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
No, this isn’t some fancy Photoshop trick, these are real human footprints ingrained in a hardwood floor.
70 year-old Buddhist monk Hua Chi has been praying in the same spot at his temple in Tongren, China for over 20 years. His footprints, which are up to 1.2 inches deep in some areas, are the result of performing his prayers up to 3000 times a day. Now that he is 70, he says that he has greatly reduced his quantity of prayers to 1,000 times each day...
Does the Anglo-Saxon poetry theory make Ja Rule Grendel? … 50 Cent. Photograph: Diane Bondareff/AP
When the exciting new thing called social media first came along, it promised to do what years of reality television, forests' worth of glossy magazines and countless fish-suppers' worth of paparazzi shots failed quite to manage: it would allow celebrities to show us The Real Them.
If you ever wondered what really went on in the heads of the people you are used to goggling at on telly, you needed wonder no longer: now, thanks to the wonder of Twitter, we would be able to SEE DIRECTLY INTO THEIR BRAINS.
In the last week or so alone he has told us about having "shaved the poodle", encouraged female followers to tweet him pictures of themselves in their bras and pants, speculated ungallantly on the private parts of other artistes (Erykah Badu's, he says cryptically, "make a nigga colour blind"), and announced the formation of a three million-strong cult led by, er, him, with sketchy proposals for a eugenic breeding programme.
A very useful supplementary feed – @English50Cent – interprets his sayings for those less with it. For instance, when Fiddy found himself having an online scrap with some pre-teen Justin Bieber fans, he tweeted: "I'm a take my belt off and beat one of you little motherfuckers were your mama and daddy at anyway bad ass kids." @English50Cent translated: "I am going to remove my trousers and attack some children."
This is all glorious in a horrifying sort of way. But is this 50 Cent making his own myth or undermining it? From time to time you can tell – or imagine you can – that a member of Fiddy's entourage has risked life and limb to physically wrest the iPhone from the boss's grip and started tweeting on his behalf.
He spells better and becomes more philosophical. "To hate me is to hate success," he says. He adds that university degrees are a better test of short-term memory than underlying intelligence. And he warns: "I do believe that a wise man who plays the part of a fool will learn faster."
Some years ago, Giles Foden was banished to Pseud's Corner when he used these pages to compare Eminem to Robert Browning. But he was on to something, really. He argued, quite reasonably, that the songs should be understood as dramatic monologues: Slim Shady's antisocial tendencies are no more reflective of Marshall Mathers's true feelings than the wife-murdering narrator of My Last Duchess reflected those of Browning, in real life uxorious to a fault.
Pop music has always been about projecting a persona as much as about putting over a song, and this goes double for rap. My theory is that you need to look further back than the Victorians, though: gangsta rap is basically Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, only with phat beatz instead of fat Geats.
In gangster rap, as in Anglo-Saxon verse, you've got a poem or song – semi-improvisational, sound-patterned with rhyme or alliteration – designed to inflate an already preposterous reputation. The archetypal hero is a boastful fellow, distinguished by three things: being able to drink more mead (or smoke more weed) than everyone else, amass more gold (bling) than everyone else, and kill more enemies in fights than everyone else.
The Anglo-Saxon poet, arguably, was a little more respectful of women and less likely to insert the disclaimer "no homo" into an account of male companionship than his modern-day heirs, but the point basically holds.
What effect does social media have on the process? Deflationary, I think. The Beowulf poet wrote in the third person, but 50 Cent does so in the first. Beowulf had a scop (poet) to mediate his great deeds to posterity; Twitter goes out direct.
Does a Twitter feed ironise the image created by artist and record company, then? Is Fiddy the philosopher-king, Fiddy the Bieber-basher or Fiddy the poodle-shaver the real one? Far from allowing us to see directly into his brain, we may be no closer to knowing the real 50 Cent after all. But we feel we are, and that's somehow diminishing.
"Hwaet!" is what Beowulf would have tweeted to his adversary. "@grendelsmom I'm a beat you lol." Lol perhaps, but on balance the original has more oomph.
By far, this is the most spectacular and insane photography of an aurora borealis I've ever seen. When I showed this in our virtual bullpen, the unanimous reaction was complete awe.
Auroras emit light because of the emission of photons by oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere. Those atoms get excited—or ionized—by the collision with solar wind particles, which are accelerated by the Earth's magnetic field. As the atoms get excited or return to their normal state, they emit visible energy. When it is an oxygen atom, the light emitted is either green or brownish-red, depending on the energy level absorbed by the molecule. Blue happens when nitrogen gets ionized, and red when it returns to ground state.
It was photographed by Ole Christian Salomonsen over Tromsø, Norway, using long exposure. That's why you can see streaks from satellites and an airplane crossing the firmament.
Four years ago, a sometime hacker, based in Melbourne and now gone semi-legit, started a blog to share a few ideas and think out loud about some things. Nothing remarkable about that except the name - IQ.org - a pretty prime piece of real estate, grabbed early in the internet/web/blog explosion.
Like many blogs by people working in IT, it sought to understand political and social realities through mathematical reasoning. Power, it announced, was a conspiracy - even those organisations understood to be open and legit players relied on the essence of conspiracy, which is an imbalance between information inside and outside the group. The more you reduce that imbalance towards zero, the less powerful the conspiracy becomes, even if it has weapons and wealth at its disposal. When information is evenly shared, the conspiracy, by its very nature, ceases to exist.
If this rather clumsily written paper, ''Conspiracy as Governance'', is being read with more interest than most blog posts, it's because the author is one Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and its now visible, if not legendary, public face.
The Assange myth (ex-hacker, lives in airports, appears computer-generated himself) has now been the subject of innumerable articles, but with WikiLeaks about to launch a massive new cache concerning the Iraq war - a cache rumoured to be as large as 200,000 documents - and major US news networks drawn in to release the most newsworthy items, it was never likely that interest would diminish, especially among the US security apparatus.
Then, stunningly, a month ago, Assange was accused of rape and harassment in Sweden, with the investigation of the rape charges dropped and then revived in the space of a week. The extraordinary coincidence of the charges, coming at a time when Assange was seeking a Swedish residency permit in order to take full protection from the country's journalist shield laws, led many to wonder if the conspiracy was biting back.
This was amplified by the nature of the charges, which can be uniquely damaging to character and reputation, while also quelling full discussion of their veracity or otherwise. With the Iraq war document drop, and a final decision by the Swedish prosecutor's office imminent, it's pretty certain that Assange, the cast of characters around him and his compelling vision of political action will be hitting the news again, very soon.
The public facts of the matter are by now reasonably known: on August 20, two women went to the Klara police station in Stockholm to make complaints against Assange for rape and the particularly Swedish crime of ''ofredande'', best translated as ''infringement'' or ''misconduct''. Ofredande covers a wide range of things, from berating someone in the street, to stalking, to various misconduct between friends or more-than-friends. The subsequently leaked police report detailed that both women made allegations about unsafe sex and an alleged refusal by Assange to take an STI test.
The police opened parallel files on the same incidents, one for rape, the other for misconduct, and a junior fill-in prosecutor issued warrants on both charges. These were then leaked to the Expressen newspaper, making world news headlines on the Friday evening. The news caught the eye of holidaying chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who had the case notes couriered to her and dismissed the rape charge immediately, leaving the misconduct charges standing.
To add to the confusion, one of the complainants told Aftonbladet newspaper that she never wanted Assange charged with rape in the first place, and that ''this was about a guy who has a few problem attitudes to women''.
It is now that things get very strange, because the complainant reveals herself to be Anna Ardin, the political officer/press secretary for the ''the Brotherhood'', a Christian group within the Social Democrats, the party that has dominated Swedish politics and government for a century.
Once rather conservative, the Brotherhood has become a focus for leftish, third-worldish type Christians, and it was Ardin who had organised a series of speaking engagements for Assange. Assange had stayed at Ardin's flat for a week, in the middle of which he had had a dalliance with the second complainant, who had been taking photographs at one of his speaking appearances.
News that Ardin was a complainant rocked the student/youth political milieu, because one of her prior roles had been as gender equality officer in the student union at Uppsala University, Sweden's Oxford. Several months ago, Ardin had also published on her blog a 10-step guide to taking revenge on ex-lovers, one of which was to ''get them in trouble with the law''.
The misconduct Assange was charged with is a misdemeanour, and it appeared that the rape charge had been dissolved. But that week, Ardin and SW (the other complainant) hired leading lawyer Claes Borgstrom to represent them, and Borgstrom petitioned a yet higher prosecutor. Borgstrom is not merely a high-profile brief; he has recently been the Social Democratic party's spokesman on gender equality. The prosecutor he approached was Marianne Ny, head of a special unit on ''crime development'' based in Gothenburg, a unit explicitly tasked with exploring and extending sex crime laws in areas of social behaviour.
On September 1, Ny announced she was re-opening the investigation into the charge of rape. Aftonbladet journalists who asked Borgstrom what the allegation was based on were told there was more evidence than had been revealed in the widely leaked police reports, but he would not disclose what it was.
Assange noted that he was yet to be confronted with any explicit charges of rape and that ''the whole process has gone on without my input''. He hired Sweden's most celebrated lawyer, Leif Silbersky, and then changed representation when it became clear that Silbersky's other case (defending a brace of men charged with a helicopter-based robbery of a bullion warehouse) was taking all his time. Some people think Sweden's boring. God knows why.
With the rape case re-opened, amid great confusion, it was inevitable that Ardin's politics and background would come under scrutiny.
The milieu of hackerdom is not without its conspiracy enthusiasts, who pointed to her stint in the Washington DC branch of the Swedish foreign service, that she had been deported from Cuba for working with the US-backed dissident group The Women in White, and that her close cousin Mattias Ardin is a lieutenant-colonel in Afghanistan.
Others focused on the role of Expressen newspaper, which had been leaked the report of the initial rape charges, in contravention of Swedish law, and then leaked the contents of a later police interview with Assange.
Expressen is right-wing, and has long been opposed to Sweden's policy of armed neutrality, advocating closer ties with the US. According to journalist Israel Shamir, the US threatened to cease sharing intelligence with SEPO, the Swedish secret service, should Assange get residency and be protected under its media shield laws - laws that would specifically frustrate any attempt to extradite Assange to the US.
Others who have tangled with secret services were in no doubt that something was afoot. Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who had been sacked for criticising the US-UK alliance with the highly repressive country, said that ''Julian Assange has been getting the bog-standard 'kompromat''', the old KGB term for sexual compromise. Murray himself had been falsely accused of trading visas for sex. Others were more sceptical, with Mattias Svensson, editor of alternative magazine Neo, saying of arguments about US involvement: ''My instinct is that they're ridiculous''.
One of the country's leading legal commentators, Marten Schultz, argued that the chaotic progress of the case was because of an asymmetry in the Swedish legal system that allows police and prosecutors to leak information and thus damage reputations, while defence lawyers are legally prevented from doing so.
Everyone connected agrees that it's a mess and an embarrassment, and most will say that Assange's rights have been infringed, with leading international lawyer Geoffrey Robertson arguing that the Australian government should ''carpet'' the Swedish ambassador for Assange's treatment, and that Assange should make a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
Will the imminent document drop return attention from the Strindbergian drama of Assange and the two women to the two major wars that have been WikiLeaks' major focus? Even if the rape investigation peters out, it's unlikely.