Daily Archives: December 5, 2007

Sex banned on Thai king’s birthday

“Alcoholic beverages and sex will be prohibited. The regulation will be strictly imposed.”

Monsters and Critics | Dec 4, 2007

Thai people have been banned from having sex or drinking alcohol on King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 80th birthday tomorrow.

The king, who holds the title of the world’s longest reigning monarch, is hugely well-respected by the people of Thailand and it is tradition to honour his birthday by abstaining from certain pleasures and pastimes.

Rattana, a brothel receptionist, told Bangkok’s Jakarta Post newspaper: “Wednesday will be a national holiday. Our brothel will be closed. All bars, entertainment centres and massage parlours will also close.

“Alcoholic beverages and sex will be prohibited. The regulation will be strictly imposed.”

To mark the king’s birthday, the monarch has already had a $65,000 stadium in Nakhon Ratchasima named after him, it known as the His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium.

Celebrations for the monarch’s birthday begin today (04.12.07) with a four-day fireworks display starting at Phisanulok Road.

The colourful extravaganza will continue down the Chao Phraya River and finish at Benchakiti Park on Friday (07.12.07).

More than a million Thai people are expected to line the streets of Bangkok to see King Bhumibol make a public address from the balcony of the Grand Palace’s Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall at 10.30am tomorrow.

. . .

Related


Thai govt toughens laws against criticism of feudal monarchy

Thai government blocks YouTube over insult to monarch

Swiss man gets 10 years for defacing images of Thai king

Thai junta wins royal blessing, begins purge

Thai king endorses coup

Advertisements

Priest gets 3 years for stealing $1.3M from church

MSNBC | Dec. 5, 2007

Rev. Michael Jude Fay stole money to support a life of luxury

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A former priest who stole about $1.3 million from his parish to support a life of luxury was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months in prison. The Rev. Michael Jude Fay also was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution.

Fay, who pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge in September, set up secret bank accounts to pay for travel around the world and to buy a condominium, authorities have said.

In a courtroom apology, the 56-year-old Fay said his mistakes have brought shame to his parishioners, his family and his friends.

“I beg you for your mercy,” Fay said, who has prostate cancer. “Do not send me to prison. I am already in prison.”

Limo rides, Cartier jewelry

Federal prosecutors asked that Fay be sentenced to at least four years but were pleased with the outcome.

“This crime quite frankly transcends dollars,” prosecutor Richard Schecter said. “It took place unabated and in a growing fashion. Mr. Fay served himself.”

Fay resigned last year as pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien after investigators working for the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport said Fay used church money for limousines, stays at top hotels around the world, jewelry and clothing from Italy.

The priest shopped at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, drove a Jaguar, attended a sports club, bought jewelry from Cartier, spent $130,000 for limo rides for himself and his mother, and stayed at hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, Hotel De Paris and the Four Seasons Hotel, the church report found. Fay has repaid nearly $280,000.

‘Day of great sorrow’

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said Fay’s action were carried out over several years and ultimately devastated church members.

The sentence, she said, “is a message that not even the collar can protect you from prison,” she said.

In a news release, the diocese called Tuesday’s proceedings “a day of great sorrow for all concerned.”

Fay is to report to prison April 2.

In Russia, a Landslide for Tyranny

Family Security Matters | Dec 5, 2007

by Alex Alexiev

It was perhaps inevitable that Russia’s tortuous post-Communist experiment in democracy would grind to a halt, but it is more than a bit ironic that it would do so not in a spasm of violence but through a rigged ballot box. Regardless, Putin’s elections have put paid to democracy, and authoritarian rule – or worse – is what the country is facing. And judging by the extremes to which Putin went in suppressing the opposition and manipulating public opinion and the electoral process prior to the polls, it is almost certainly going to be worse. It is worth reminding ourselves of the Kremlin’s extreme rhetoric and pre-election shenanigans here, because they are a stark reminder of both Russia’s unhappy past and uncertain future. Also, because they didn’t seem to make much sense in an election whose outcome was never in doubt.

It began with the unusually strident anti-Western and anti-American propaganda campaign unleashed by the Kremlin, complete with lurid tales of CIA plots to overthrow the government that eerily echoed Stalinist times, as did Putin’s angry denunciations of his political opponents as paid agents of Russia’s foreign enemies. In what may be a reflection of the man’s paranoid views, he accused the former Communists and their liberal victims both of having willfully destroyed the great Soviet Union. Last, but perhaps most telling, the election campaign turned into a gigantic exercise of building Putin up as a nearly mythical savior-of-the-nation icon of the type known as “cult of personality” in the Stalinist era.

The Kremlin’s real or imagined enemies were not subjected to propaganda abuse alone. The strident vilification campaign was accompanied by wide-spread intimidation, arbitrary arrests and brutal beatings (as well as electoral mischief), that openly flouted Russian constitutional rights as well as international political and human rights norms to which Russia is a signatory. Unmistakable in all of this was the central role played by the Federal Security Service (FSB) as a full-fledged political police worthy of its KGB progenitor of the totalitarian past.

What then was this all about if the victory of Putin’s puppet party, Unified Russia, was a foregone conclusion long before this curious campaign began?

It had long been speculated that Putin had no intention of relinquishing power and the elections were designed to provide the requisite modicum of constitutional legitimacy to accomplish that. This could be done, for instance, by allowing a caretaker president for a while, or in building and running a Communist party-like hegemonic political machine, or by taking the prime minister’s office and transferring all real political power to it. Any one of these options is still possible and easily feasible after the elections. But the nature of the election campaign and Putin’s personal involvement in it point to a more ambitious, long term agenda.

A clue of what that agenda might be is provided by Putin’s offhand remark back in October that Russia would need a “strong hand” for the next 10 to 15 years. That, and the fact that his clear objective in the campaign was not just to electorally defeat his political opponents, but to delegitimize the opposition as a treasonous conspiracy. This explains why Putin and his FSB goons focused most of their vitriolic propaganda and physical repression on the liberal, democratic opposition – despite the fact that it seemed to pose a negligible electoral challenge. For Putin knew that, unlike the Communists, the Democrats are the only political element in Russia today capable of presenting a coherent political and economic alternative to his rule. So they had to be marginalized and eliminated as a political force by all means necessary.

So what is Putin going to do now that this bogus electoral exercise has given him carte blanche to fulfill his agenda? The first thing to note is that the manner in which he will exercise power formally is of no importance. What is important is that he now controls all executive, judicial and legislative power like no other Russian leader since Stalin. But unlike post-Stalin Soviet leaders, who, though powerful, served and were accountable to the Communist Party, Unified Russia serves Putin and his coterie of security services siloviki (strong men), and not the other way around.

What we’re likely to see, therefore, is the transformation of Russia’s political system into a highly authoritarian one-man dictatorship, albeit with sundry democratic trappings retained for decorative purposes. It will inevitably involve an extensive political machine for control, but also patronage and spoils distribution at all levels, an emasculated civil society and a pervasive political police not only enforcing Putin’s will, but also participating directly in political and economic life.

Examples of what may be in the offing are not difficult to come by already. In 2002, the Kremlin installed, via rigged elections, the active duty FSB general Murat Zyazikov as president of Ingushetiya. Zyazikov promptly proceeded to install a regime of unprecedented (even by Soviet standards) corruption, nepotism and repression. Today the republic’s economy has ground to a halt, unemployment approaches 70% and killings and abductions are an almost daily occurrence with at least 400 individuals having been abducted by the FSB – never to be heard of again. This most hated man in the republic, however, remains a member in good standing of Putin’s siloviki “praetorian guard” and has just delivered all of Ingushetiya’s votes for Unified Russia.

Economically, Putin’s brave new Russia is likely to evolve even further in the direction of state capitalism controlled directly by the Kremlin and assorted sycophants and approved oligarchs.

Chances are that such a system can continue to function well, at least as long as the oil boom lasts. It is indeed Putin’s great luck that he came to power just as oil and gas prices began their spectacular rise after 2000, resulting in huge windfall profits for a country that is still essentially a banana republic with oil and gas. With Russian exports doubling since 2000 and oil prices rising 58% in 2007 alone, Russian export revenues and gold and currency reserves are at an all-time high. And it is these windfall profits that have allowed the gradual improvement of living standards that account for whatever genuine popularity Putin enjoys with the public.

Yet there are dark clouds on the horizon, and Putin’s dictatorial ambitions and anti-market propensities will not help lift them. Russia is still a poor country and despite all the progress, its GDP per capita of $7000 (six times lower than America’s) is only now back up to the level of 1990. Moreover, the oil and gas boom obscures the fact that Russia has little it can sell apart from what it can dig out of the ground. It is still unable to produce high quality steel for modern automobiles, for example, and needs Western engines and avionics to make a marketable airliner.

Dark clouds are now swirling over the oil and gas price jewels as well. Apart from the inherent systemic instability of an economy relying on one commodity, there are signs that Putin’s neo-socialist policies of nationalization and anti-foreign investment bias could soon start negatively affecting the oil and gas industry. The rate of growth of oil production this year has crawled nearly to a stop, and experts predict an imminent and massive decline in gas production and exports due to insufficient investment in the industry.

Thus it may turn out that Putin’s election triumph, while clearing the road to tyranny in the near future, hides in itself the seeds of the inevitable downfall of yet another Russian autocrat.

There are some clear lessons for the West in the drama taking place in Russia. Ever since President Bush looked deep into the soul of Vladimir Putin and liked what he saw, Washington has given him a pass, despite egregiously belligerent and undemocratic behavior. Perhaps it is time for us to take another look, and see the soul of a tyrant for what it is and act accordingly. We owe it to the Russian people and our own ideals.

Hillary denies any Bush-Clinton Dynasty

Dynasty? What dynasty? I don’t see no dynasty. Do you see a dynasty Georgie?

Nope, I don’t see no dynasty. Must be one of them outrageous conspiracy theories. Heh-heh-heh.

NY Post | Dec 5, 2007

HILLARY: WHAT DYNASTY?

By GEOFF EARLE

DES MOINES, Iowa – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday rejected the idea of a Clinton “dynasty” – confronting head-on the criticism that only people named Bush or Clinton have sat in the White House since 1989.

“There is no dynasty. There is no determination from on high. People get to vote for whoever they want. People get to vote against whoever they want,” Clinton told National Public Radio after a Democratic debate yesterday.

The former first lady also said she advised her husband on foreign policy when she took trips abroad and she invoked the Clinton name as a Bush-slayer.

“I was deeply involved in being part of the Clinton team during the first Clinton administration,” she said.

And, she added, “It takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush.”

Mo Rocca on The Bushes and Clintons

Clinton, who has been slashing Sen. Barack Obama for two days, yesterday slammed John Edwards for attacking her vote for a resolution deeming Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

“I understand politics, and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far,” she said.

Edwards had challenged her vote for the resolution, saying: “Declaring a military group sponsored by the state of Iran a terrorist organization, that’s supposed to be diplomacy?”

Clinton said the resolution may have helped convince Iran to change its behavior, but Sen. Joe Biden shot back that there was “no evidence, none, zero” that it had.

Clinton has been bombarding Obama since Sunday, when a Des Moines Register poll showed him ahead.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen just an indiscriminate sort of spray we’ve seen since Sunday,” said Obama’s chief adviser, David Axelrod.

Bill Clinton, speaking in New Hampshire, complained that reporters were ignoring substantive issues – such as his wife’s record of public service.

“One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life. No wonder people think experience is irrelevant,” he said.

“Sixty-seven percent of the coverage is pure politics. That stuff has a half-life of about 15 seconds. It won’t matter tomorrow. It is very vulnerable to being slanted and rude. And it won’t affect your life.”

. . .

Related

The Bush-Clinton Dynasty in charge of America for 28 consecutive years?

THE BUSH-CLINTON DYNASTY

Weapons Industry Dumps Republicans, Backs Hillary

Hillary Clinton: A Bilderberg Presidency

Clinton rakes in cash from the US weapons industry

Bush says Clinton will be Dem nominee

Bush quietly advising Hillary Clinton

Clintons dump politically sensitive stocks in Fox News, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Wal-Mart and Weapons

Russian election rigged, say Europeans

Sydney Morning Herald | Dec 5, 2007

MOSCOW: European officials have denounced Russia’s parliamentary elections as an undemocratic exercise engineered by the President, Vladimir Putin, and his party.

“Neither a free, fair nor democratic election,” said a German Government spokesman. “Steered democracy,” said the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt. “Not a level playing field,” added the European observer mission.

With Mr Putin’s second presidential term drawing to a close, Russians on Sunday voted for the lower house of parliament, delivering a landslide victory to his United Russia party.

The final tally gave the party 64.1 per cent of the vote, about 315 seats in the 450-seat State Duma, enough votes to amend the constitution, which could allow Mr Putin to remain in power beyond his official, enforced, retirement date next year.

If, instead, United Russia chooses a pliant alternative candidate, Mr Putin is likely to emerge as prime minister or leader of the party.

Sleeping drug transforms unconscious users into active zombies

 

Sleep walking, driving motor vehicles and other unusual and on some occasions dangerous behaviours whilst apparently asleep have been reported along with preparing and eating food, making phone calls and having sexual intercourse.

Pharmaceutical News | Nov 29, 2007

Strange behaviours linked to popular sleeping pill Zolpidem

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia has updated warnings on a popular sleeping drug.

The sleeping drug Stilnox, also called Stildem or Zolpidem, will in future be sold in packs of no greater than 14 tablets – down from 21.

The updated warning comes as a result of numerous reports of strange and potentially dangerous side-effects which include changes in behaviour and mental state, sleep walking, and undertaking strange and potentially dangerous behaviours while apparently asleep.

The TGA says Stilnox packs will include significantly changed Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) information about the side effects of Zolpidem which now include the less common adverse effects of rage reactions, worsened insomnia, confusion, agitation, hallucinations and other forms of unwanted behaviour.

Sleep walking, driving motor vehicles and other unusual and on some occasions dangerous behaviours whilst apparently asleep have been reported along with preparing and eating food, making phone calls and having sexual intercourse.

The TGA says people experiencing these effects have had no memory of the events and significantly such side effects can occur at therapeutic doses, without any intake of alcohol.

The TGA says alcohol intake heightens the risk of such side effects and warns the reactions could occur among both first-time and regular users, at prescribed doses and without the consumption of alcohol.

Australians wanting to report adverse reactions to the drug should phone 1300 134 237.

Zolpidem is sold in Australia under the brand-names Dormizol, Zolpibell, Zolpixdem, Somidem and Stildem.

It is also sold in the United States and in March this year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that all manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic drug products, such as Stilnox update their product labeling to include stronger language concerning potential risks.

These risks listed by the FDA include severe allergic reactions and complex sleep-related behaviours, including sleep-driving.

Also included were warnings about anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and angioedema (severe facial swelling), which can occur as early as the first time the product is taken and complex sleep-related behaviours which may include making phone calls, and preparing and eating food (while asleep).

Experts say patients being treated with sleep medications should read the information before taking the product and talk to their doctors if they have questions or concerns.

The FDA has recommended that the drug manufacturers conduct clinical studies to investigate the frequency with which sleep-driving and other complex behaviours occur in association with individual drug products.

Court Allows Unlimited Police Power to Plant GPS on Vehicles

A Stitch in Haste | Dec 2, 2007

Depressing Fourth Amendment decision from a lower court:

Plaintiff’s car was suspected of being at the scene of several burglaries in 2002, and the police decided, after consultation with supervisors, to plant a GPS with a cellphone transmitter on the car. Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim failed[.]

Interesting that the officers had time to consult with “supervisors,” but not with a judge (i.e., to obtain a warrant based on probable cause).

From the decision:

A person traveling in an automobile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.” United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 (1983). The use of the GPS Device did not permit the discovery of any information that could not have obtained by following an automobile traveling on public roads, either physically or through visual surveillance (e.g. through the use of cameras or from a helicopter), conduct that neither requires a warrant nor implicates Fourth Amendment rights. “Nothing in the Fourth Amendment prohibit[s] the police from augmenting the sensory faculties bestowed upon them at birth with such enhancement as science and technology afford[s] them.” Id. at 282.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.

First of all, the owner of the container in Knotts consented to the placement of the beeper in the container that he sold to the defendant in that case. So clearly Knotts is distinguishable. The additional pesky fact that the beeper in Knotts was placed in the container before it was loaded onto the vehicle, rather than on the vehicle itself, was brusquely dismissed by the trial court as irrelevant.

Note also the astonishingly absurd cognitive leap from Knotts (which I actually think is a reasonable decision) to this gobbledygook. The fact that the police may — from a distance — watch you drive along public roads, and the corollary that they may “augment” their “sensory faculties” — from a distance (e.g., via binoculars or a helicopter) — now somehow means that the police may also trespass upon your chattel property, without a warrant (and perhaps without any individualized suspicion at any level). “From a distance” suddenly becomes “from the innards of your own vehicle.” Splendid.

There are analogues elsewhere in the law: the notion that a sniff dog is not a “device” and therefore triggers little or no Fourth Amendment scrutiny; the notion that taser use triggers no heightened scrutiny and that this sometimes lethal weapon may be casually used whenever an officer deems it convenient.

The common thread across these fact patterns is the chilling doctrine that anything that makes police incursions upon people or property easier is presumptively valid. If you give law enforcement an inch, then the yard they later demand must be constitutional too? That simply cannot be right.

The case is Morton v. Nassau County Police Dep’t, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87559 (E.D.N.Y., November 27, 2007).