Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has had enough of plagues, famines, droughts, hurricanes, and genocides. Chambers considers these incidents to be terrorists acts. To stop them, he's suing the person responsible for them—God.
Chambers, who before becoming a state legislator was a barber, filed a lawsuit last Friday in Nebraska's Douglas County District Court, naming himself as the plaintiff and God as the defendant, a permanent injunction "ordering defendant to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats." Check out the suit here (pdf).
Some choice bits excerpted below:
God could not be reached for comment.
After 1,300 years, China has decided it will no longer engage in "panda diplomacy" by giving away its giant pandas in order to improve its relations with foreign countries.
"We will only be conducting research with foreign countries," a state forestry administration spokesman said. It appears that the last panda "gift" was made to Hong Kong to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the island's handover to China.
The policy change is likely to add to China's fattening wallet. Now, the country will rent out its adorable black-and-white furballs for as much as $1 million a year on 10-year leases—with a bonus if the panda gives birth.
This could be a good thing. Given the explicit research and conservation aim of the new program, we may see more accountability for what happens to pandas after they go abroad. Plus, it won't affect the recent APEC deal between Australia and China to bring two giant pandas to Australia's Adelaide Zoo, which will be part of China's 10-year lease program. Adelaide Zoo chief executive Chris West believes the high cost of leasing pandas is "perfectly understandable." He adds, "Our interest as a zoo has been to support pandas in the wild, and any contribution that is made will do that." If zoos and nature reserves are willing to pay the price, it's likely they'll want to protect their cuddly investments as carefully as possible.
While soon-to-be former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is struggling with his health following his resignation announcement, there are some people in Japan that have been injected with fresh lease on life: those in the manga industry.
Following the news of Abe's resignation Wednesday, shares in manga retailers jumped dramatically on speculation that Taro Aso, an avid manga fan, will soon replace Abe as Japan's PM. For instance, Broccoli, a retail chain selling games and comics, saw its share price leap 71 percent, and second-hand bookstore Mandarake closed 13 percent higher. Meanwhile, Japan's main share index fell half a percent.
But why has the manga market reacted so enthusiastically? Simply knowing that Abe's likely successor is a manga fan hardly explains the dramatic market movement.
Maybe investors sense that there may be more tangible benefits in the near future. While serving as Japan's foreign minster earlier this year, Aso was instrumental in creating the "Nobel prize" for foreign manga artists. He's keen on promoting manga overseas, arguing that the comics are a critical vehicle for enhancing Japanese diplomacy, with "warm feelings" for Japanese manga and anime translating into warm feelings for Japanese foreign policy, especially in the Asian region, where manga is already popular. Perhaps the investors responsible for the jump hope that Aso's manga diplomacy will prompt international markets to go crazy for the Japanese comics. Perhaps they even hope that Aso may provide more than just publicity. Whatever happens with the industry, one thing's for sure if Aso take the reins: Prince Pickles will be sticking around.
Janus, the Geneva Museum of Natural History's two-headed Greek tortoise, eats salad as it is presented to the press and the public during the official celebration of its 10th birthday, September 5, 2007, at the Natural History Museum in Geneva. Janus, named after the two-headed Roman god, was born September 3, 1997. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Oops, Bush did it again. After telling Australia's deputy prime minister that "We're kicking ass" in Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush made two more of his characteristic verbal blunders at the APEC summit in Sydney.
In a speech this morning, Bush welcomed business leaders to the OPEC meeting, not the APEC meeting. Apparently, he got his PECs confused, referring to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries instead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He made a quick save, though, by smiling and saying that he planned to attend an OPEC meeting next year. (The meetings section of OPEC's Web site, however, doesn't yet have anything listed for 2008.)
As he continued his speech, Bush recalled how Australian Prime Minister John Howard had gone to Iraq last year to visit "Austrian troops." Actually, there are no Austrian troops in Iraq, but there are 1,500 Australian military personnel in and around Mesopotamia.
You gotta give the prez credit for adding some comic relief to what might otherwise be a no-nonsense meeting of government officials and business leaders.
It doesn't get much more audacious than this. Cast and crew of a popular TV comedy show in Australia were arrested today after driving through police checkpoints in Sydney posing as a Canadian motorcade. Two "Canadian" motorcycles and three cars made it through two police checkpoints before being halted at the Intercontinental Hotel, where U.S. President George W. Bush is staying for the APEC summit. But it gets better. When the "Canadians" got out of their vehicles, one of them was "dressed in a white tunic and cap and wearing a long fake Osama bin Laden-style beard."
The producers of the show, "Chaser's War on Everything," clearly didn't set out to harm anyone. As Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer put it, "They presumably were, as is the nature of their show, aiming to humiliate a lot of well-known people." Mission accomplished.
This is hardly the first time Chaser's has ridiculed Australia's approach to security and terrorism (but it may be the last). Check out this amusing YouTube clip from their show:
Earlier this week, Passport brought you the inaugural flight of the Vatican's new airline, which will ferry eager Catholics to holy sites across Europe.
But so far, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the heavenly voyagers. Pilgrims returning home from the shrine at Lourdes in the south of France were told by airport security officials that they couldn't take more than 100 ml of holy water on board with them.
Sorry folks, even the big guy upstairs can't get you out of anti-terror security regulations. You'll have to take off your shoes just like the rest of us.
Henry B., a recovering journalist who's now an associate creative director doing a stint with an ad agency in China, blogs about what it's like to make a left turn in Beijing. Hilarity ensues. Here's Step 6 ("A" denotes the car that first attempted to turn):
DENIED! [E], an old red taxi with its name sloppily stenciled in white on its doors, has boldly cut across two lanes of traffic, behind [D], and then swerved right, driving [D] into an extremely weak position behind [A]. Meanwhile, [B] and [C] are still fighting for position, with [C] muscling his way into the crosswalk. The only thing between [E] and a successful left turn is a few lawful pedestrians. [E] steps on the gas...
(Hat tip: China Digital Times)
Surely this qualifies as animal abuse:
Models shows off dogs in designer outfits during the 2007 Pet Fashion Week NY dog runway fashion show, August 19, 2007. Pet Fashion Week was launched a year ago for buyers and sellers of pet lifestyle items from all over the world to exhibit new ideas and innovation in the pet industry. (Photos: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Because of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's un-French habit of "le jogging," you wouldn't expect the leader of France to have much blubber accumulating around his waist. And, indeed, Sarkozy doesn't appear to have any rolls of fat in a photo of him canoeing shirtless during a recent trip to the United States that the French magazine Paris Match published.
But that photo happens to have been airbrushed by the magazine to tighten what the French call poignées d'amour—or what Americans call "love handles."
The French newsweekly L'Express broke the news of the retouched photo by printing "before" and "after" pictures in which Sarkozy's bulge disappears. It also reported that Paris Match said the president's posture made the love handle bulge out more. So maybe he only has rolls when he slouches?
Makes me wonder if any airbrushing went into the recent love handle-free topless photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zitiste may be a long way from South Philly, but this beleaguered Serbian village is hoping for a morale boost from the Italian Stallion himself. City officials unveiled a three-meter bronze statue of Rocky Balboa by sculptor Bojan Marceta over the weekend in the town square. Thirty-five miles north of Belgrade, Zitiste has fallen victim to flooding and landslides in recent years, gaining a reputation for misfortune and catastrophe. Officials hope that Rocky's underdog story will help the town's image:
For years, only negative reports on farm disease, monstrous murders, floods and landslides have been coming from our village," said Mayor Zoran Babic.
"This is the chance to give a better, more positive image to Zitiste."
No word yet on whether Vladimir Putin's government—always a factor in Serbian politics—will insist on equal representation for Ivan Drago.
Operation Silent Thunder begins tonight. That's when "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" will begin airing reports from Iraq (for reals!) about the Global War on Terror. Senior War Correspondent Rob Riggle usually reports from a studio in New York with a Baghdad backdrop. But last week he and a couple of Comedy Central producers actually got into a plane and flew to Iraq to report on-site.
They went as part of a USO comedy tour called Operation Feel the Heat, which performed on several military bases. In between sketches to entertain the troops, Riggle filmed short sequences that will be featured every night on "The Daily Show" this week. It's not the first time he's been in a combat zone. Riggle happens to be a real-life major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and served in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Ain't nothin' fake about that!
Remember our blog post about those 1,500 prisoners in the Philippines who were jamming out to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"? Well, ABC News went behind the scenes and visited the Cebu province prison to find out how it all got made.
They talk to warden Byron Garcia, who conceived of the routines for prison yard exercise and YouTube fame (and whose sister happens to be the local governor). Are the prisoners actually enjoying themselves? According to a journalist interviewed by ABC who has visited the prison, the enforced dancing may actually be a violation of their human rights. He says:
I think Byron sees his prisoners as his dancing monkeys.
Garcia, however, thinks everything is copacetic:
We have a good relationship. Whatever I tell them to do, they do.
Check out the ABC News video here:
Ever been on a vacation that simply didn't match the glossy brochure? Ever feel duped into flying to paradise, only to find that it's turned into package-tour hell? We're with you. And we're here to help. If you're still stuck without August travel plans while the rest of the office is away, we have a few overhyped spots you might want to avoid.
In this week's highly scientific, completely nonsubjective List, FP visits a few of the world's most overrated summer travel destinations so you don't have to. Check it out.
Not only do rubber duckies make bath time lots of fun, they tell us a lot about the environment, too.
Fifteen years ago, 29,000 bathtub toys—ducks, frogs, turtles, and beavers made of plastic, actually—fell off a container ship in the central Pacific Ocean.
Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking the toys' movement around the world and has found that about a hundred of them drifted on oceanic currents to Alaska, north to the Bering Sea, across the North Pole, alongside Greenland, and into the North Atlantic. As recently as 2003, one of the ducks washed up on the shore in Maine and one of the frogs landed in Scotland. The container of toys aren't the only ocean flotsam that Ebbesmeyer has tracked. He's also tracked 80,000 Nike shoes that were also lost in the Pacific, 34,000 hockey gloves, five million Legos lost off the coast of England, and survey stakes that have drifted in the ocean from Japan. As Ebbesmeyer writes in today's Wall Street Journal, there is way too much junk, especially plastic junk, in the world's seas:
Most of it does not biodegrade. It just breaks down into ever smaller pieces, to the size of confetti and, finally, dust. Fish, birds and other marine animals eat this pseudo-planton and pass it up the food chain. Our world-wide litter is poisoning the seas, the creatures within them, and ultimately, ourselves."
If you spot one of the ducks on your shore, now bleached to white and imprinted with the words "The First Years," submit a photo and note to Ebbesmeyer's Web site, www.beachcombersalert.org.
The past few weeks have been quite a publicity whirlwind for British actor Daniel Radcliffe, whose role as Harry Potter has made him no stranger to throngs of adoring fans. But on a recent trip to an all-girl's high school in Japan for the premiere of the latest Potter movie, the heartthrob found himself in a position that would make any teenage boy blush. Forget jitters about your first on-camera kiss, try a room full of shrieking Japanese school girls all vying for that magical smooch:
Radcliffes's wizardly diplomacy definitely saved him on this one.
Question: How do you discipline bad cops who litter, arrive late, park where they aren't supposed to, and commit other misdemeanors?
Answer: Make them wear Hello Kitty armbands as punishment.
In Thailand, police officers who behave badly will now have to wear a hot pink armband—picturing Hello Kitty sitting on two hearts—as a mark of shame. A police official explained the rationale by saying: "[Hello] Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It's not something macho police officers want covering their biceps."
The only concession is that officers receiving the armband punishment will have to stay in the division office all day. They won't have to wear Hello Kitty in public.
Just keep scrolling down. You'll get to the end eventually.
TEHRAN — A general view of carpet worth 5.8 million dollars and stretching 5,625 square meters taken during its unveiling ceremony in Imam Khomeini mosque at Tehran 31 July 2007. The carpet, the biggest in the world, was made using 38 tonnes of wool and cotton by 1,200 weavers in 18 months in three villages in northeastern Iran, the head of Iran's carpet company, Jalaleddin Bassam said. It is to be spread in the mosque of late United Arab Emirates president and founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Associated Press reporter Tim Sullivan recently took a trip to a region in northeastern India that boasts the world's hottest chili pepper, according to the folks at Guinness World Records.
Known as the bhut jolokia, the pepper registers at over 1,000,000 "Scoville units," the industry-standard measurement that was invented by pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912. Scoville relied on his tongue, but today a machine known as a High Pressure Liquid Chromatograph handles this hot job. For reference, a garden-variety bell pepper is a zero, while a typical Mexican habanero rings in at about 350,000 Scoville units. Tobasco sauce can be up to 5,000 units.
So 1,000,000 is pretty damned spicy, as Sullivan discovered when—on the stellar advice of his editor—he ate an entire bhut jolokia:
It was awful. My eyes watered uncontrollably and my nose ran. I felt like I was gargling with acid. My hands quivered. As the minutes passed, the pain grew worse.
I shoveled in yogurt: No relief. I chewed bread: Nothing. My head felt like it was expanding. My ears felt as if hot liquid was draining from them. Picture one of those old Tom and Jerry cartoons, with steam blasting from Tom's ears as a train whistle blows. That was me.
That quote comes from Sullivan's personal dispatch, but his main story on the hopes of the impoverished bhut jolokia growers is also worth reading. From the sound of it, the AP ought to have given him hazard pay.
China Daily relays the results of a recent poll of Chinese women by Self magazine. Asked which man they'd like most as a sperm donor, 1,000 women aged 25 to 35 chose Hong Kong film star Andy Lau, 45, over Microsoft's Bill Gates, 51. Brad Pitt, 43, rounds out the top 10. Chinese ladies, it seems, like their sperm donors to be middle-aged, famous, and rich.
It's easy to see globalization at work in the Philippines, as long as you just add a couple decades and throw in 1,000 orange jumpsuits. Nearly 24 years after the premier of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, prisoners in the central Philippine province of Cebu groove out during their morning exercises by re-enacting the zombie dance moves that became so famous on MTV.
The jailbirds also perform to Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" and don nuns' habits when dancing to "Hail Holy Queen" from the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg movie "Sister Act." Warden Byron Garcia introduced the choreography to the prisoners last year, but only uploaded the videos recently. They've been tearing up cyberspace ever since.
I want the prison system to learn from this," Garcia told Reuters. "The inmates are after all human beings and the inmates after all, once inside, know that they have committed mistakes, let them enjoy their stay."
The latest news from Hungary:
Citizens suffering in the record heat this month will however have to keep paying for their refreshments as the [National Election Committee] earlier struck down a referendum proposal about making beer free in restaurants, saying it would have distorted the market.
I haven't read The Road to Serfdom since college, but I'm quite sure Friedrich Hayek would approve of the committee's actions here.
News that President George W. Bush will briefly cede the powers of his office to Vice President Dick Cheney this weekend prompts a Passport Friday Afternoon Pop Quiz:
Which is a more painful procedure for George W. Bush to undergo?
A. Handing over the Oval Office to Dick Cheney.
B. Having a colonoscopy.
E-mail us with your opinion, and we'll post any particularly clever responses we get on Monday.
Editor's note: Christine chimes in to ask, "Hasn't Bush already handed over presidential powers to Cheney?"
Lindsay Lohan just got out of rehab ... and into Machiavelli. Rumor has it the young American starlet has picked the Italian renaissance author's most famous work for her summer reading. In an interview with British magazine Tatler, Lohan declares:
[The Prince] is always with me."
The usual skeptics will say that Lohan hasn't actually read it, or is too dumb to understand its lessons. And intellectual snobs will be tempted to ask questions like: "Is Lindsay plotting to conquer Europe on horseback?"
But Lindsay is smart to be reading her Machiavelli. Hollywood is ruthless, and in showbiz everyone is scheming to come out on top—just like in politics. Whether you're trying to seize power or just get your face on the latest cover of People magazine, a good dose of Machiavellian realism goes a long way. I would advise Lohan's enemies to watch their backs from now on.
Apparently, being Colin Powell just isn't what it used to be. Time was, the former secretary of state and chairman of the joint chiefs commanded audiences with the world's most powerful statesmen. Presidents and politicians sought his counsel. Now, he's being sold like a free toaster.
I woke up this morning to find Powell in an advertisement in the Washington Post, offered up as an also-ran at the Get Motivated seminar that rolls into town in September. "SAVE! SAVE! SAVE!" the ad declares. See Powell for "ALMOST FREE!"
How much is "almost free," you might ask? Forty-nine bucks. "Not $49 per person," explains the ad, "but per office! So, if you have 10 people from your office attend, the investment is only $4.90 each! That is almost free!"
Indeed it is. It's about the same price as a pack of smokes. Not a bad deal, considering the guy won a war.
If you're not big into death metal, you might have missed a unique piece of recent political commentary in the form of a new album by Megadeth with the clever title, "United Abominations." The album, whose cover depicts a 9/11-style assault on the United Nations building in New York, is basically a borderline-insane tirade against the U.N. that is based only loosely in fact.
Fortunately, you don't need to listen to the album, because Mark Leon Goldberg over at the U.N. Dispatch already did. He offers a verse-by-verse review of title track's factual accuracy, and his findings are well worth reading.
As if that weren't entertainment enough for one afternoon, lead singer Dave Mustaine published a response at Blabbermouth, a news blog that covers bands with names like "Wolfpack Unleashed," "Broken Hope," and "Bonebag." While Mustaine acknowledges that most of his facts are inaccurate, he still "feels right" about the album. And besides, as Megadeth's leader astutely points out, Goldberg himself is largely responsible for any inaccuracies, because it is Goldberg's crowd—the media—who put all those facts on the Internet in the first place.
What effect will this exchange have on Megadeth fans' opinions of the U.N.? That question was probably best answered by user "madeinquebec," who left this comment on Mustaine's post:
I don't care, Megadeth rulez.
Anyone who has traveled to the Middle Kingdom would agree that the country's public restroom facilities leave a lot to be desired. Well, in Chongqing, a city of 31 million people in south-central China, they've had enough. Not content with the rudimentary squat units found everywhere in China, the city has pursued some innovative ideas that are meant to make the experience not just easier, but a little more fun.
First came round, open air urinals on the city's infamous "Foreigners Street," featuring tiny waist screens that left little to the imaginations of passers-by.
Then came news of outdoor sinks, pictured at right, that made the hand-washing experience, um, different.
Now comes news that the city has opened the world's largest restroom. The four-story, 1,000-stall facility features TVs, a soothing soundtrack piped throughout, crocodile- and Virgin Mary-themed urinals, and stalls with no roofs for those who prefer to relieve themselves al fresco. Says a local government official:
We are spreading toilet culture.... After they use the bathroom [people] will be very, very happy."
You can't argue with that.
UPDATE: More images below (via China Photos/Getty Images).
Nicolas Sarkozy, perhaps the most pro-American president in French history, has been stirring up a furor in the French and British media this summer with his most right-wing activity of all: jogging. And to add insult to injury, he often runs in his favorite NYPD T-shirt.
Sarkozy seems to be confirming a French belief that jogging is an activity for self-absorbed individualists such as Americans, the Times of London reports. The editor of V02, a sports magazine, told the left-wing French newspaper Libération, "Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the right." The Times writes that sports sociologist Patrick Mignon thinks that "French intellectuals have always held sports in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness." Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, a member of British Parliament who jogs, says:
Of course [jogging] is right-wing. … The very act of forcing yourself to go for a run, every morning, is a highly conservative business. There is the mental effort needed to overcome your laziness.
A leading French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, says Sarkozy should stop his un-French and "undignified" athletic activity, which involves the indecency of exposing one's knees. Finkielkraut thinks strolling is more cerebral and says, "Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade."
(Well, if sports are indeed right-wing, their health benefits certainly aren't showing up in the most conservative areas of the United States.)
The original list of the seven wonders of the world was compiled in 140 B.C. by a small group of scholars at the Museum of Alexandria in Egypt. Now, a new list of the world's seven wonders is being put to a vote by the world's people. So far, 90 million people across the globe have voted. If you haven't yet cast your ballot, you have until 7 p.m. EST to vote for your top seven of the 21 candidates. (Warning: The New Seven Wonders site seems to be having trouble due to the last-minute rush of voting.)
In a world of American Idol-type TV shows, the contest raises the age-old question of whether artistic and historical value can be put to a popular vote. And sure enough, the campaign for an updated list of world wonders, initiated by a Swiss filmmaker, has generated plenty of controversy.
Egypt said that the Pyramids of Giza shouldn't have to compete to be on the list since they were on the original list of world wonders. As a result, the pyramids were given an honorary place on the list, so there will actually be eight wonders when the competition ends. Meanwhile, the Vatican alleges an anti-Christian bias because structures such as the Sistine Chapel weren't selected as candidates. And UNESCO, which is not connected to the contest, said the selection method is unscientific, and voting will be based on nationalism.
The results will be announced Saturday, so we'll find out if UNESCO is right.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.