Archive for April, 2006

Sunday blogging: Jazz Mentors

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

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Effective July 11, 2006, Fausta’s blog moved to http://faustasblog.com. Please update your bookmark and your blogroll.
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Last night I went to a concert by the musicians who spent all day teaching the Jazz Mentors Program. After a day of teaching young musicians, the gentlemen performed wondefully for the students and their guests. Take a look at them (in alphabetical order):

Randy Brecker

Steve Cardenas

Dave Carpenter

Peter Erskine

Gil Goldstein

Clay Jenkins

Lou Marini

Bob Sheppard

It was a fantastic concert!

In related jazz news, the definitely unJazzy Jersey guy Bruce “Bellyache” Springsteen’s at the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival. Luckily Etta James, Herbie Hancock, Dave Bartholomew and Warren Haynes will be there, too.

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France: L’affaire Clearstream

Friday, April 28th, 2006

or, is de Villepin on the way out?

Siegfried Mortkowitz reports that a Murky scandal threatens to topple French prime minister

[French Prime Minister Dominique de] Villepin is now suspected of involvement in a shadowy scheme to discredit his bitter rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
. . .
French investigating magistrates are currently looking for the informer who in June 2004 sent one of their colleagues a list of 800 people and companies holding secret accounts at the Luxembourg-based financial clearing house Clearstream.

Included on the list were four former or current candidates for the French presidency, the neo-liberal Alain Madelin, former interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Sarkozy.

The four men were all accused of having foreign bank accounts into which illegal funds had been channelled via Clearstream.

The judicial inquiry into the smear campaign was initiated after an investigation revealed that Sarkozy and the others were not guilty of the allegations. However, that raised the question of who sent the list and why.

Several French newspapers and the author of a controversial book about Clearstream, Denis Roberts, have suggested that the man who compiled the list and sent it to the magistrate was a 40-year-old Franco-Lebanese computer whiz named Imad Lahoud.

Lahoud is related to the pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and, through his father-in-law, reportedly has close ties to French President Jacques Chirac.

Since Chirac made his feelings clear last year during the Hariri funeral, the Chirac-Emile Lahoud ties are strained – but that doesn’t mean they’ve always been.

More significantly, he [Imad Lahoud] once worked for the French intelligence service DSGC and also collaborated with one of France’s most successful spies, General Philippe Rondot.

Rumours carried by French media connected Villepin to the murky affair and the scheme to discredit Sarkozy, to damage his chances for the 2007 presidential elections.

After all, while Jacques views Villepin as his annointed heir, Sarkozy clearly challenged that. Jacques didn’t take all this lying down: According to the French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, President Jacques Chirac had been listening in on his archrival Nicolas Sarkozy’s phone calls. Following Chirac’s stroke last September, Villepin’s authority was challenged by Sarkozy at the weekly cabinet meetings during Chirac’s absence. Siegfried Mortkowitz continues,

According to the former spy’s statement, it was not Villepin who charged him with investigating the Taiwan frigate sale, but Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, in November 2003.

Rondot said that he was given a computer printout at that time, by Villepin confidante Jean-Louis Gergorin, a top manager in the European aerospace conglomerate EADS, that supposedly contained a list of Clearstream clients, including the names of French politicians, whom he was told by the Defence Ministry to ignore.

However, Rondot said he was summoned by Villepin to a meeting on January 9 at which Gergorin was also present.

Rondot said that at this meeting Villepin, then foreign minister, ‘informed me of instructions he had received on the subject of the Clearstream list from Jacques Chirac.’

Villepin then told him to go beyond the original instructions and investigate the politicians on the list.

‘Mr Sarkozy’s name was mentioned,’ Rondot was reported to have told the magistrates, clearly contradicting Villepin’s public statements.

More than that, notes Rondot made during the meeting suggested that Villepin was obsessed with Sarkozy.

Jacques, of course, categorically denied any involvement in an alleged smear campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy:

The Clearstream scandal has exposed the personal animosity at the top of the government, with Mr Sarkozy accusing the prime minister of sitting on a secret service report that cleared his name.

This animosity should come as no surprise to long-term readers of this blog; do bear in mind that Villepin, Sarko, and Chirac belong to the same political party, the UMP.

Clearstream, however, has become a civil plaintiff in the investigation by French magistrates of false allegations of money laundering by French executives and politicians, in an effort to protect the company’s image.

As Mortkowitz explains,

However, coming so soon after the youth jobs law embarrassment, the growing scandal could be enough to put Villepin’s position at the head of the French government at risk.

With one year to go in his presidency, Chirac may simply decide that he cannot afford to have his legacy tarnished by a prime minister that has no credibility.

Credibility, indeed.

The question is, if Villepin goes the way of Raffarin, who will Chirac appoint? The Interior Minister is the 2d-ranking post in the government, and Sarko holds that post.

L’affaire Clearstream is the top story in the France2 website, and in this this evening’s newscast (both links in French).

In other Chirac news, Jacques’s got a plan afoot to finance the PA through the World Bank, and denies funding a “Google killer”, even as he announced Tuesday (April 25) a 2 billion euro (about $2.5 billion) plan to back a series of projects including one on a Franco-German search engine intended to rival Google.

Update, April 30 Fausta’s blog’s had it posted two days ahead of the rest.

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Sing it in . . . English!

Friday, April 28th, 2006

The poorly “translated” (the appropriate term is loosely interpreted) “Spanish” (yet not quite in Spanish) version of The Star-Spangled Banner can be heard here.

Puerto Rican singers [who are American citizens from birth] Carlos Ponce and Olga Tañón, along with Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull, Mexican jailbird Gloria Trevi, and others, took part in this excercise in bad taste and even worse translation for propangandistic purposes.

And whose idea was it? A Brit’s!

British music producer Adam Kidron says that when he came up with the idea of a Spanish-language version of the U.S. national anthem, he saw it as an ode to the millions of immigrants seeking a better life.

And an ode to the prospect of millions of US$$ a British immigrant seeking a better life might make from this publicity stunt, too.

(The Husband says, “We took God Save the Queen, so maybe Kidron’s returning the favor”)

Update, Saturday, April 29
Beautiful Atrocities posts on Mexican jailbird Gloria Trevi.
Atlas Shrugs and Infidel Bloggers Alliance find that the official Aztlan website posts the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, stating,

“NO ES CUESTION DE CREER CIEGAMENTE, SINO VER Y CORROBORAR QUE LA INTENSION [sic] DEL SIONISMO POR DOMINAR AL MUNDO SE REPITE EN TODAS LAS EPOCAS Y EN TODOS LOS PAISES DEL MUNDO.”
My translation:
“It’s not a matter of believing blindly, but to see and corraborate [for yourself] that Zionism’s intention to dominate the world repeats itself in all ages and in all countries of the world.”

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The yellowcake connection, where to park while you’re flying standing up, and today’s other articles from Maria

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Douglas Hanson asks some questions on the yellowcake connection:

Speaking of dealing in commodities, this whole affair brings us back to square one and Mary McCarthy. One of her previous employers was Beri, SA. Possibly by coincidence Beri provides a Mineral Extraction Risk Assessment service for up to 145 countries that are expected to show rapid growth in oil, gas, and mineral extraction capacity. If one had advance access to economic intelligence and had fostered close business ties over the years with uranium producers, huge financial gains would be possible. Could the Wilson-McCarthy-Africa connection may indicate another instance of US intelligence and Foreign Service personnel taking advantage of regulatory loopholes and lax security in third world countries for personal gain?

A. J. Strata read Hanson’s article, and looks at Rockefeller, Joe Wilson and Niger Uranium, which also includes Paul Volker and Rockefeller’s grandaughter Miranda Duncan.
Update It was obvious from the first that the press, in taking Wilson and Plame at their own estimation, was fashioning a rod for its own back.

Where to park while you’re flying standing up?
Here:

I don’t see any Hummers in that picture.
In any case, Traveling the Road to Wellness apparently doesn’t include standing-room-only flights and stacked parking. Or a man who argued with workers at a Cleveland airport ticket counter on Thursday, before grabbing an officer’s gun and shooting a patrolman.

More articles from Maria
‘United 93′ Ending Altered

A mini-controversy erupted this week over the concluding title card on writer-director Paul Greengrass’ “United 93,” which had apparently read during preview screenings, “America’s war on terror had begun.”

This title card was recently changed to, “Dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Because Christians won’t issue a fatwa to kill you for doing stuff like this: ‘Jesus with erection’ ignites outrage. Student newspaper publishes drawings in response to Muhammad ‘toons. (NOT suitable for work) The Jesus Cartoons. Dean has the Spirit.

Australian research shows mobile phones affect brain function especially if you are driving while talking. HANG UP, SHUT UP, AND DRIVE.

‘No means yes’ – Kenyan MP. I want to know what the American women’s movement position is on this.

Test Set for Pacific Tsunami Warn System

Illegal Trade in Bodies Horrifies Loved Ones. Need, Cash and Loose Oversight Drive Grisly Practice

Maria also sent a link to My Heritage.org.

In a lighter mode,
more news about the cutest wild animals on earth: China Releases Panda Into the Wild

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China and Cuba: You heard it here first

Friday, April 28th, 2006

In today’s news: China Eyeing Cuba Offshore Oil

A shocking report aired on the Lou Dobbs show Thursday night revealed that Cuba has not only allowed China to drill but also to service an old Soviet refinery in Cuba while U.S. companies are locked out of the game. The Dobbs report also revealed that Venezuela’s Castroite president, Hugo Chavez, has offered Chinese oil firms operating rights in his country.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 at this blog:

from the Caribbean strategic point of view, China would be the one to gain the most.

Update: Chavista mismanagement (and thieving) has left Venezuela with a $2 billion oil shortfall on its contracts. According to the Financial Times,

Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year.

Venezuela has been forced to turn to an outside source to avoid defaulting on contracts with “clients” and “third parties” as it faces a shortfall in production, according to a person familiar with the deal. Venezuela could incur penalties if it fails to meet its supply contracts.

Documentation obtained by the Financial Times shows that the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) made a financing arrangement this month with investment bank ABN Amro to facilitate the purchases of oil from Russia via Rotterdam.

PDVSA is believed to have dropped the Dutch bank after the Russian government agreed to provide Venezuela with an “open account” facility to buy the oil.

Any questions on transparency?

The move suggests a growing gap between Venezuela’s declining domestic output and its expanding contractual obligations to international customers.

Luis Pacheco, a former planning director of PDVSA, said: “Why would Venezuela be buying crude oil from Russia? I would imagine it would be to meet obligations for light oil deliveries, but they are relatively small. Most of PDVSA’s obligations are for heavy oil.”

Under President Hugo Chávez, PDVSA’s oil output has declined by about 60 per cent, a trend analysts say has accelerated in the past year because of poor technical management.

Mr Chávez’s push to extend his influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with promises of cheap oil for friends and allies may be overstretching PDVSA’s finances, however.

Venezuela currently supplies about 300,000 barrels per day of oil and products to Cuba, Nicaragua and others under favourable long-term financing arrangements.

This week, Venezuela signed a deal to send oil to town mayors in Nicaragua aligned with the leftwing Sandinista party.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on the Caribbean maneuverings by all parties involved.

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Dan on Dana, and today’s articles from Maria

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Dan Riehl compares Pulitzer winner Dana Priest 2002 versus 2005.
Update: Was McCarthy in cahoots with Dana Priest and was she used by Dana Priest, in an effort to conceal Priest’s plagiarism and make it appear as if her ‘reporting’ was more credible than it actually was?

Also via Dan, Gary Sinese is leading the fundraising effort for the American Veterans Disabled For Life memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC. Their website is here.

Newton‘s posting on Cash-Strapped Gov’t Days From Shutdown in Puerto Rico

Nearly 1,600 schools shuttered. Some 205,000 public workers unpaid. Most government offices closed.

The U.S. Caribbean territory is staggering under a nearly $740 million budget shortfall and heading toward a grim scenario Monday, when it will run out of cash to pay salaries and provide public services if local lawmakers don’t approve a bailout plan.

Puerto Rico has a hugely bloated bureaucracy and its government’s spending makes NJ look modest by comparison. As Newton said,

Let’s be honest: the cause of this whole mess was overall, long-term fiscal irresponsibility, plain and simple.

Meanwhile, here in NJ, we have Bob Menendez To Keep Kushner’s Donations. Only Corzine has returned all Kushner aid. DynamoBuzz also posts about those low approval ratings.

Today’s articles from Maria
CIA ROGUE’S SAD FANS

The Moussaui Myth

How far can you drive on a bushel of corn? Crunching the numbers on alternative fuels Take a look at the (pdf file) chart, and make sure to read the article.

In a lighter mode,
via Dave Barry, not quite suitable for watching at work, the cleaning hunk.

More blogging later today.
update My apologies. I’m still tied up with work.

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Fly standing my a**

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

When I was a lot younger I used to enjoy long flights. Back in the olden days of my youth, airlines had a reasonable amount of space between coach seats, they actually served you a meal (and if the flight was six hours long, two meals and a snack), and if you went on Lufthansa, they even brought you a hot washcloth to freshen up.

Nowadays airlines feel they’ve done their job by letting you sit in a cramped space (trust me, my legs are too long and my joints are achier than they were thirty years ago) and getting you to your destination in one piece. You and your luggage, however, may or may not be permanently separated.

So imagine my dismay when I watched last evening’s France2 newscast (available until 2PM EST, click on Avions: la piste des économies). The report starts innocously enough with an engineer explaining how to make airline seats more like an instrument of torture than they already are lighter, in order to save fuel. Then they get down to the punch: flying in standing room only, with twenty-five inches of space between seats.

I thought I was having hallucinations from watching years’ worth of France2 newscasts.

But nooo! Take a look:

Ready for takeoff? Even if it’s standing room?

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet.

Of course, France2 only shows clips of Airbus’s super-deluxe spacious lounge bar with grand piano, complete with waterfall. And who came up with the idea? Airbus. What I would like to see is Airbus come up with a Mythbusters-like crash test to find out just how many fractures Buster the crash-test dummy can get when his limbs fly through the 25″ space you’d be standing on. If you go by the above picture, your collarbone, sternum, and ribs will be crushed by that piece of pipe holding you in place.

I also want to know who’s going to make airplane cabins taller. If you’re 5’9″ or taller, you know what I mean.

“CATTLE-CLASS” travel has been given new meaning:

“It would be something like a bus shelter seat that you rest on for a while. You would have to make the cabin taller, and the backsides of people are in different places, so they would have to be adjustable. There is the question of how long can you stand . . . and what happens when you hit turbulence.”

Excuse me!? “Bus shelter seat”? Here in America you can actually sit on “bus shelter seats”.

I politely suggest the Airbus geniuses that came up with this idea be forced to fly standing up every time they travel.

Otherwise, their next thing will be that they’ll hand you a parachute so you can sky-dive to your destination.

(my apologies to long-term readers of this blog, who have grown accustomed to a more genteel tone. I hope you understand why I resorted to this post’s title)

UPDATE Barcepundit says that Airbus disputes report it is in discussion with Asian airlines.
However,
Based on the France2 televised report, and the London times story (which includes Airbus’s denial) and graphic, I stand by my words. You decide if Airbus is denying the story due to the outrage it’s caused (for instance, in my post) or whether the NYT was the one coming up with the story, as Airbus is now claiming.
The last thing Airbus needs right now is a public relations disaster.

Update 2: The visuals say Welcome to the future of air travel!

Update 3 Is this what inspired them?

The misericord or “mercy” is a ledge and bracket affixed to the underside of a choir seat. It comes into position to form a secondary high-level support when the choir seat is tilted up. Whereas ritual required choir members to stand during the mass, indulgence allowed them to rest their corporeality on the misericord without offending church decorum.

Compared to the London Times diagram, the design from Middle Ages looks ergonomic.
Update, Friday April 28 Hesperus for the Rest of Us

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The CIA, and today’s articles from Maria

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Allahpundit has been following the CIA leak(s) story and has everything (and more!) you wanted to know about the story. Today’s WSJ has an editorial on Our Rotten IntelligenCIA:

There is little doubt that the Washington Post story on alleged prisons in Europe

– a story on which, as I have pointed out, two EU investigations have found no evidence —

has done enormous damage–at a minimum, to our ability to secure future cooperation in the war on terror from countries that don’t want their assistance to be exposed. Likewise, the New York Times wiretapping exposé may have ruined one of our most effective anti-al Qaeda surveillance programs. Ms. McCarthy denies being the source of these stories. But somebody inside the intelligence community was.

At the blogs:
Spanish of the apes: Zapatero’s Socialists will actually introduce a declaration in Parliament calling to grant “human rights” (sic) to apes.
Just wait until those apes find out that they have to fly standing up.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred link to Hirsi Ali’s article Women go ‘missing’ by the millions

As I was preparing for this article, I asked a friend who is Jewish if it was appropriate to use the term “holocaust” to portray the worldwide violence against women. He was startled. But when I read him the figures in a 2004 policy paper published by the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, he said yes, without hesitation.

One United Nations estimate says from 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically “missing.” Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect.
. . .
The Islamists are engaged in reviving and spreading a brutal and retrograde body of laws. Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery.

Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values – an “Asian,” “African” or “Islamic” approach to human rights.

This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men.

Dr. Sanity posts about Venezuela: Living in a gangsta’s paradise. Red Flags on Venezuela’s Electoral Roll analyzes the issue. A must-read.

Shrinkwrapped is Defining terms: the left

and don’t miss No Amnesty for Amnesty, where Ron looks at the actual numbers.

Jim looks at (Fill in the Blank) Day.

Today’s articles from Maria:
New hay fever jab to protect against the onslaught of an invisible enemy. In the meantime, go to your local allergist.

Magician David Copperfield robbed after show at Kravis Center in Palm Beach.

You probably know by now: Tony Snow to Be Named White House Press Secretary

Joseph Farrah dislikes Madeline “I can leg-press up to 400 pounds” Albright almost as much as I do. Bill Clinton sucked in his beer belly for his official portrait.

John Podhoretz writes about Osama’s latest.

A ‘CRACKDOWN’ THAT WASN’T

One for the “well, whaddaya expect?” file: Life behind the scenes at “The Maury Povich Show” is fit for an episode of the sensational program . Maybe Maury should have had Dov Charney’s lawyer prepare a disclaimer:

“American Apparel is in the business of designing and manufacturing sexually charged T-shirts and intimate apparel, and uses sexually charged visual and oral communications in its marketing and sales activities. Employees working in the design, sales, marketing and other creative areas of the company will come into contact with sexually charged language and visual images. This is a part of the job for employees working in these areas.”

Lie down with dogs . . .

NOT-SO-GREEN LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS

How homosexual school clubs offer sex to students

More on the Chinese organ transplant trade.

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Reminds me of the old Nietzsche joke*

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

WHAT HAROLD BLOOM CAN TEACH GOD
*The joke goes,

Nietzsche: God is Dead.
God: Nietzsche is dead.

This week at The New Republic, James Wood reviews Harold Bloom’s latest book. (No, not James Woods the actor, or James Woods of Family Guy, but James Wood the TNR senior editor.)

The full title of James Wood’s review of Harold Bloom’s latest book is What Harold Bloom Can Teach God: The Misreader

So “strength,” in Bloom’s vision, has always gone necessarily undefined, the more so as it has become his favorite approbation. Does it mean pragmatic success or aesthetic success? The Bible forces this question acutely on Bloom, and he ducks it. On the one hand, in pragmatic terms, the New Testament is the greatest “strong” misreading of a precursor text ever committed. On the other, it seems to Bloom a work palpably inferior to the Hebrew Bible. How, if this is the case, can it have been so successful? What can it mean to call it a “strong” misreading? Isn’t this the equivalent of Arnold displacing Keats in the canon?

The proper solution to this conundrum would be to admit that the Bible confounds the explanatory power of Bloom’s theory because aesthetics cede again and again to theology. Whatever reasons people over the centuries have had for worshipping Jesus rather than Yahweh, they have not been primarily aesthetic. Or more precisely, whatever the reasons the early Christians had for persevering with their Jewish heresy, they were not primarily aesthetic. “Strength” will have to mean a hundred things, few of them aesthetic. But this is what Bloom will not confess, because he sees the Bible, and especially Yahweh, only in aesthetic terms, as a great literary creation. So he blusters and throws insults instead.

After reading the review, I won’t be reading Bloom’s latest, Jesus and Yahweh (go ahead, I won’t be linking to it). Bloom loves the Book of Mormon and all things Gnostic. Wood addresses Gnosticism:

Gnosticism solves nothing–that the positing of a false God or Demiurge is quite obviously not a “solution” to the problem of evil, but merely a dualism that does no more than move the problem, so to speak, somewhere else on the board.

Wood sums up Bloom’s blinders in one sentence:

What a strange parochialism, that imagines everywhere only a literary mode of being!

For sure.

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Corleone, and today’s articles from Maria

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

They picked him up in Corleone: PATHETIC END TO CAPO DI TUTTI CAPI’S REIGN

Apes go apesh*it: Chimps Sought in Attack on U.S. Tourists in Sierra Leone

Dissent or sedition?

Greenhouse, global warming – and some facts

Humans can only claim responsibility, if that’s the word, for abut 3.4% of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere annually, the rest of it is all natural

At the blogs:
Via Jay, Andrea Clarke wants to live.

Fjordman’s posting on A New Oslo Peace Process?

Bruce Bawer, author of recently published book While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, devotes a good deal of space to European media in his writings, which is appropriate. Norwegian Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party, Jens Stoltenberg, has stated that “journalistic diversity is too important to be left up to the marketplace.” The government is still running two out of Norway’s four national TV channels, and three of its national radio channels. NRK, the Norwegian equivalent of the BBC or Burka Broadcasting Corporation in the UK, complete with the same anti-American, anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic bias, was the only national TV channel in Norway until 1992, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Leader of the right-wing Progress Party, Mr. Carl I. Hagen, has labelled NRK “ARK,” or “Labor Party’s Broadcasting Company,” since until the 90s, most of its leaders were former leading members of the Labor Party. In addition to this, something that would be unthinkable in the USA, Norwegian taxpayers actually subsidize commercial Norwegian newspapers. This is supposedly to ensure diversity of opinions. This system means that Norwegian taxpayers, whether they want to or not, subsidize the existence of Norwegian Communist newspaper Klassekampen (The Class Struggle), whose members in the 1970s strenuously denied any mass-murders done by Pol Pot and his comrades in Cambodia, denouncing these accusations as “capitalist lies” to slime a successful, Socialist nation. Norway’s only professor of journalism at the University level, Sigurd Allern, is a former leader of the Communist Party. He is today teaching critical thinking to aspiring journalists at the University of Oslo.

Venezuela’s Picture of the Day: The fruits of tyranny