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Dear Leader’s Bodyguards

Who cares about nukes. It is these guys I fear:

Iraqi Daily Show

The
year is 2017, according to the opening credits of the fake news broadcast, and the last man alive in Iraq, whose name is Saaed, is sitting at a desk, working as a television news anchor. He sports an Afro, star-shaped sunglasses, and a button-down shirt.

The Americans are still here, the government is still bumbling, and the anchor wants his viewers to drink their tea slowly so they don’t burn themselves. “You cannot go to the hospital during the curfew,” he warns.

For Iraqis, the remark is outrageously funny, if only because it’s so close to being true.

After a summer of the worst violence since U.S. troops toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, tens of thousands of Iraqis are finding solace and amusement in a new television show whose dark humor makes it an Iraqi version of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

The nightly send-up of a newscast includes weather, sports and business segments and features six characters, all played by the same actor.

With seemingly no sacred cows, it provides insight into how Iraqis see their country’s problems, lampooning the Americans, the Iraqi government, the militias, and the head of Iraq’s state-owned media company.

Even the show’s name is a joke. The title first appears on the screen as The Government, but then the word is split in half, producing an Iraqi slang phrase that means “Hurry up! He’s dead.”

The show is being produced to run only during Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and it airs just as Baghdadis are breaking their fast. It is so popular that many people report being glued to the screen, eating their first meal of the day in small bites
between laughs.

During one episode last week, Saaed announced that the minister of culture would print and distribute 200 copies of “Leila and the Wolf,” the Arabic version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” But in these copies, Leila is the Iraqi people and the American forces are the wolf. The books will help children learn about occupation, Saaed explained.

In the next day’s episode, Saaed joyfully announces that the Americans are finally leaving Iraq. Referring to the U.S. secretary of defense, Saaed, sitting behind his news desk, says: “Rums bin Feld said the American forces are leaving on 1/1,” referring to Jan. 1.

He’s giddy, raising his arms. Then he realizes he has made amistake. The soldiers are leaving one by one, not on 1/1. He computesin his head what leaving one by one means and announces that the soldiers will be gone in 694 years. He starts to cry; Iraqis watching the show howl.

Playing all the characters on the show is Saaed Khalifa, 43, an Iraqi actor who fled to Syria after the fall of Hussein’s regime. “I wanted to prove myself as an actor and an Iraqi man loyal to his
country,” he said.

The show is written by a man from Baghdad’s Sadr City district named Talib al-Sudani, 40. Sudani, a poet and writer, cannot talk about his show without dropping in commentary about the lack of services here.

Sudani pitched the idea to Baghdad’s local Sharkia station, whichhas made its reputation producing reality shows similar to those seen on U.S. television. Last year’s big hit helped young couples pay for their weddings.

These days, however, Sharkia’s offices are largely empty, and the technical equipment its executives boasted about last year stands largely idle. Hurry Up, He’s Dead is taped in Dubai; the producers and writers decided taping in Iraq would be too dangerous and impractical, with curfews and with loud helicopters flying overhead.

The station bought the show idea from Sudani for less than $4,000. He sends his scripts via the Internet to Dubai. Occasionally, he has asked the station to drop a scene after realizing that, for a man still living in Iraq, he has gone too far. He insists he does not support one faction of the government over others.

“I don’t support this government,” he said. “I don’t support any government.”

Midget Colony Iraq

from a Marine’s letter printed in Time:

Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

Piran, Slovenia

I have added some photos and descriptions of Piran, which is so mind bogglingly beautful I just had to share.

American Madrassas

I know I should be bloggin’ about my own travels but i found this hilarious

from here:

"GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you
aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please
ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and
your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first
priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would
be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer
in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy
our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This
is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention
to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance
where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of
survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your
seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not
illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air
turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can
cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the
air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea
of how nasty it can be. We don’t want to scare you. Still, keep that
seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not
remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the
event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have
occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied
aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This
aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life
rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled
shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets
and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention
the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with
the aircraft’s navigation systems. At least, that’s what you’ve always
been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere
with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn’t sound
quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by
mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on
board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about
this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas
fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high
calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about
mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a
video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a
voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of
deep-vein thrombosis. We are aware that this video is tedious, but it
is not meant to be fun. It is meant to limit our liability in the event
of lawsuits.

Once we have reached cruising altitude you will be offered a light
meal and a choice of beverages—a word that sounds so much better than
just saying ‘drinks’, don’t you think? The purpose of these
refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do
yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate
quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy. That said,
we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help
ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain
will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be
able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead. So please
sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. We appreciate that you have a
choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of
an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which
you have never heard of. Cabin crew, please make sure we have
remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean: ‘Doors to automatic and
cross-check’. Thank you for flying Veritas.”

Europe!

Some Paris pics are at the side there. I’ll supply some context to em soon.

Banksy targets Paris Hilton

from The Independant:

The secretive artist has smuggled 500 doctored copies of Paris
Hilton’s debut album into music stores throughout the UK, where they
have sold without the shops’ knowledge.

In place of Ms Hilton’s bubble-gum pop songs, the CDs feature
Banksy’s own rudimentary compositions. On the cover of the doctored CD,
Ms Hilton’s dress has been digitally repositioned to reveal her bare
breasts; on an inside photo, her head has been replaced with that of
her dog.

On the back cover, the original song titles have been replaced with
a list of questions: "Why am I famous?", "What have I done?" and "What
am I for?"

Inside the accompanying booklet, a picture of the heiress emerging
from a luxury car has been retouched to include a group of homeless
people.

In another shot, Ms Hilton’s head has been superimposed on a shop
window mannequin beneath a banner reading: "Thou Shalt Not Worship
False Icons."

Instead of Ms Hilton’s own compositions, the replacement CD features
40 minutes of a basic rhythm track over which Banksy has dubbed Ms
Hilton’s catchphrase "That’s hot!" and other extracts from her reality
TV programme The Simple Life.

The record credits have been re-edited to include thanks to the artist for his "wonderful work".

Aaah, Democracy!

from WashPo:

The powerful and pro-Kremlin United Russia party has a new opponent — one, however, that bears all the marks of a Kremlin creation.

The leaders of three small Russian parties — Motherland, the Party of Life and the Party of Pensioners — announced a merger Tuesday. The union followed a series of meetings between the leaders and President Vladimir Putin, who blessed a venture that appears designed to leave him with loyalists on both sides of the Russian political aisle.

The consolidation offers new evidence of the Kremlin’s intolerance of political pluralism or democratic competition in any kind of undirected manner. Since Putin came to power in 2000, his government has established extensive new controls over the news media, industry and grass-roots organizations.

Bruce Schneier on the War on Liquids

from his blog:

Details are emerging:

  • There was some serious cash flow from someone, presumably someone abroad.
  • There was no imminent threat.
  • However, the threat was real. And it seems pretty clear that it would have bypassed all existing airport security systems.
  • The conspirators were radicalized by the war in Iraq, although
    it is impossible to say whether they would have been otherwise
    radicalized without it.
  • They were caught through police work, not through any broad surveillance, and were under surveillance for more than a year.

What pisses me off most is the second item. By arresting the conspirators early, the police squandered the chance to learn more
about the network and arrest more of them — and to present a less flimsy case. There have been many news reports detailing how the U.S. pressured the UK government to make the arrests sooner, possibly out of political motivations. (And then Scotland Yard got annoyed at the U.S. leaking plot details to the press, hampering their case.)

My initial comments on the arrest are here. I still think that all of the new airline security measures are an overreaction (This essay makes the same point, as well as describing a 1995 terrorist plot that was remarkably similar in both materials and modus operandi — and didn’t result in a complete ban on liquids.)

As I said on a radio interview a couple of weeks ago: “We ban guns and knives, and the terrorists use box cutters. We ban box cutters and corkscrews, and they hide explosives in their shoes. We screen shoes, and the terrorists use liquids. We ban liquids, and the terrorist will use something else. It’s not a fair game, because the terrorists get to see our security
measures before they plan their attack.” And it’s not a game we can win. So let’s stop playing, and play a game we actually can win. The real lesson of the London arrests is that investigation and intelligence work.