Businesses just can't win this holiday season. In the US, if part of your sales pitch doesn't include mention of the birth of Jesus, onto Bill O'Reilly's blacklist you will go. This never made a lot of sense to me, as I struggle to see the logical link between a purported virgin birth and throwing down 35 big ones for a Screature. However with or without logic, the "War on Christmas" is going international.
One group in Israel is getting in on the action, where simply making mention of the Christian holiday could get you boycotted. The group behind the Israeli movement "Lobby for Jewish Values" sent out several fliers that say:
The people of Israel have given their soul over the years in order to maintain the values of the Torah of Israel and the Jewish identity.
You should also continue to follow this path of the Jewish people's tradition and not give in to the clownish atmosphere of the end of the civil year. And certainly not help those businesses that sell or put up the foolish symbols of Christianity.
Looks like someone's getting coal, or worse a visit from Krampus.
Either way, this could potentially be confusing to multinational corporations trying to rake in whatever money is still left in the global economy, so for those retailers taking notes: when in the country of Jesus' birth, make no mention of said birth. When on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, gush about frankincense and myrrh.
(Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias)
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The New York Times reports over the past two years a piece of land in Bossaso increased in price 66 percent, a pair of men's shoes is up 150 percent. The reason? Pirates.
It appears the massive amount of booty being swashbuckled by Somali pirates is having very real effects on the consumer market. In a sign that not much has changed in piracy over the past few centuries, the Somali pirates are spending their plunder on prostitutes, booze and drugs.
Last month alone, Somali pirates raked in over $3 million; and the E.U. reports that 11 ships are being held by pirates off the Somali coast, paydays waiting to happen. This is translating to a giant disparity on the shore, as pirates drive around in luxury SUVs and don't even bother to collect their change after buying something. People who can't afford consumer goods often use the excuse, "we are not pirates."
They're not exactly romantics, though. ''Pirates do not waste time to woo women, but instead pay them a lot,'' said Sahro Mohamed, owner of a beauty salon.
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Thieves in Brazil made off with nearly $6 million in a heist that demonstrated the unbelievable distracting power of soccer in the country.
The looters rented a house near a cash delivery firm, put up Christmas decorations to make the operation look legitimate, and then started digging a 110-yard-long tunnel under the building. Then they waited. Last Sunday, during the 39th Brazilian soccer championship, they blew the floor out of the building and plundered the riches.
The security guard on duty didn't suspect a thing. He thought the thuds and bangs he heard were people celebrating Flamengo's victory with fireworks. As of now, the thieves have gotten away with a perfect heist.
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The Holy See apparently has no barriers to the types of jams it rocks. The Vatican's MySpace playlist includes artists such as the rock band Muse, the folksy Fleet Foxes and the thuggish ruggish beats of the late, great Tupac Shakur. The Vatican joined figures such as Lady Gaga and R. Kelly in publishing their "celebrity" playlist, part of the new MySpace Music initiative.
Not to dwell on the outlier issue, but the Vatican is advertising the fact that it listens to songs glorifying the life of Black Power advocate Huey P. Newton, and this is extraordinary. Most media outlets are making much ado about the graphic nature of many Tupac lyrics, but his underlying message of relief for the poor and suffering seems to fit. The 12-song playlist is rounded out by songs you would expect men of the cloth to listen to; Mozart and some other classical music.
As far as the infallible-one's affinity for Fleet Foxes, one need not look farther than the striking resemblance of front man Robin Pecknold to, well... you get the point.
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Sicilian Mafioso turned snitch Gaspare Spatuzza needs to re-watch a pivotal scene from Goodfellas. While testifying against Marcello Dell'Utri, an Italian politican, Spatuzza dropped a dime on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for having ties to the Mafia. Spatuzza is serving life in prison for two murders.
Dell'Utri was earlier convicted of Mafia associations and sentenced to nine years in jail, something he is now appealing. He was a co-founder of Berlusconi's political party, Forza Italia and a senior advisor to the prime minister. As is common for political heavyweights in Italy, Dell'Utri hasn't served any jail time, despite convictions.
Spatuzza told his story from behind a screen in the courtroom, testifying that his former employer, mob boss Guiseppe Graviano used to brag about how close he was with Berlusconi in the 1990s.
"Two names were mentioned, one of them was Berlusconi's," he said. "Graviano told me that thanks to the seriousness of these people, we had the country in our hands."
A Berlusconi spokesman denied the allegations, saying the Mafia was trying to harm the prime minister's credibility because of his recent crackdown on organized crime. Dell'Utri thinks Berlusconi has bigger things to worry about.
"Of course Berlusconi is completely calm about it too - he's more afraid of his wife than Spatuzza," he said, referring to Berlusconi's pending divorce after he allegedly pulled a Tiger Woods.
The mounting pressure against Berlusconi was evident in Saturday's rally in which tens of thousands came together in Rome calling on the prime minister to resign.
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Manny "Pac Man" Pacquiao has suffered four losses in his career. Three were to rival boxers and the fourth was to Philippine congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio for the congressional seat in the First District of South Cotabato, home to General Santos City, the Tuna Capital of the Philippines.
The pound for pound boxing champion of the world will return to politics, this time running in the neighboring district of Sarangani. The seat will be left vacant for the 2010 elections due to term limits. Pacquiao will be supported by his own party, the People's Champ Movement (Here's hoping Freddie Roach will stay on as campaign manager).
As far as a platform goes, Pac Man told the AP in March, "I want to help [the poor] because I know what they feel right now. It is not easy to help other people. That is a big responsibility. I will focus on that for the meantime."
He told reporters yesterday, "I want only good things for Sarangani... I will work for children, for the health of our countrymen and for their livelihood."
Pacquiao does indeed know what poverty feels like, growing up poor in a country where 30 million people live on less than a dollar a day. He worked as both a baker and a construction worker before he became known as the Mexicutioner.
If he wins the seat, it is not clear if he will fight Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. as was expected. This would surely be a disappointment to millions of fans who would like nothing more than to see "Money" knocked out. This will also play a vital role in his bid for a congressional seat; his 2007 loss is often credited to many of his fans who voted against him to make sure he would stay in the ring.
Covering this campaign (the new greatest job in journalism) will also be a Christmas-come-early for hundreds of political writers who will undoubtedly use the politics as boxing analogy ad nauseam. (E.g. Gets back in the ring, ready for a fight, trades jabs, throws in the towel)
As if Brett Favre isn't already a source of shame for denizens of Wisconsin, now Iraqi detainees are trying to use the sore spot to their advantage.
Iraqi prisoners at a detainment camp run by the Wisconsin National Guard have learned some English, unfortunately for the soldiers, it is mainly about the former pride of Green Bay.
"They know Favre by name," said First Lieutenant Tim Boehnen, who is from New Richmond, Wis.
"One of the big words they know now is shenanigan. They'll constantly talk about 'Favre shenanigans,' 'He's so good for the Vikings,' and 'The Packers have got to really feel bad about that one.' "
Boehen may be responsible for some of the onslaught or anti-Favre remarks. He said the detainees started their Brett-bashing after the guards put up Green Bay Packers paraphernalia all over the compound. That was the beginning of the end.
"They obviously then started up the conversations, and started talking about Brett Favre. They soon learned about Favre going to the Vikings, and things just started going downhill from there."
Hat tip: Deadspin
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This afternoon, the New America Foundation hosted "The New Forgotten War," a talk about the future of Iraq. It featured Ad Melkert, the special representative for the U.N. secretary-general in Iraq.
Melkert, a former Dutch member of parliament, remains cautiously optimistic about Iraq's future, with an emphasis on the cautious part. The good news is that security in Iraq is better than it was two years ago. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been able to confront violence in the southern part of the country, Melkert said. As a result of the safer state, investment is starting to rise, but it still has a long way to go. Corruption, the terrible infrastructure, and legal concerns hamper Iraq's ability to draw serious investment.
One serious problem for the nascent state is budgetary, Melkert said. When oil prices are high, the government spends all of its revenue, but when they fall, they have to slash the budget.
Further, Iraq is still under dozens of UN chapter seven sanctions, stemming from Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. The current leadership says these sanctions need to be lifted because they were implemented against Hussein and not the current government.
These problems could potentially be amplified in the coming months and years as foreign security forces draw down in the country. Melkert said that one of two things will happen. Either the Iraqi forces will somehow maintain order, or the insurgents will attack as soon as the United States leaves. Right now, police officers, public servants, and UN workers and buildings remain prime targets.
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