Friday, July 3, 2009

Oh, hey, look! It's exactly what everyone was saying the whole time!

Everyone with half a brain was saying that Saddam's refusal to allow UN inspectors into Iraq was because he didn't want to appear weak to powerhouse Iran, not because he was secretly hoarding away tons of WMDs. Oh, hey! Looks like that was exactly the case. Go figure.

In 2004, even after being captured by U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein told an FBI interrogator he believed Iran was a greater threat to Iraq than the United States, according to newly released FBI documents.

The FBI interviews took place while Hussein, then identified by the FBI as "High Value Detainee 1" was held captive by U.S. military forces at Baghdad International Airport between February and June of 2004.

Hussein regarded the Iranian threat as so serious that it was the major factor in his decision not to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to return, he said. Citing their shared border and his belief Iran would intend to annex southern Iraq, Hussein said he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq's weaknesses than repercussions from the United States and the international community. He believed that the inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq.

Approximately 100 pages of declassified interview summaries, previously classified as secret, were obtained by the National Security Archive at the George Washington University through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI declined CNN's request to interview special agent George L. Piro, the agent who interviewed Hussein. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment on the declassified documents. "As a general rule, the FBI does not discuss FOIA'd documents. We let the information stand on its own," Bresson told CNN.

Piro, an FBI agent fluent in Arabic, conducted the interviews along with another agent whose name has been redacted from the documents. Although Hussein had been a prisoner for months, at one point during an interview he said, "I am not the ex-president of Iraq. I am still the president of Iraq."

Hussein also described al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a "zealot" and said he had never met or seen him. He also said the United States used the September 11 attacks as justification to attack Iraq, and that the United States had "lost sight of the cause." Despite Piro citing evidence of Iraq's contacts with al Qaeda, Hussein said, "The Iraqi government did not cooperate with bin Laden" and that the two "did not have the same belief or vision."

The former regime's alleged weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al Qaeda were the Bush administration's primary justifications for invading Iraq in March of 2003.

Piro and Hussein spoke extensively about Iraq's chemical weapons during the Iran war, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and in the years before the second U.S. invasion.

Hussein refused to answer a question about whether Iraq would have lost the war it fought with Iran from 1980 to 1988 if it had not used chemical weapons. He also said neither he nor any other Iraqi officials discussed using chemical weapons during the first Gulf War.

Hussein admitted that Iraq made a mistake by destroying some weapons without U.N. supervision. In his view, the inspectors wanted all of their expenses paid for by Iraq. Instead of waiting for the inspectors and paying the expenses, Iraq began destroying the weapons.

"We destroyed them. We told you, with documents. That's it," Hussein said.

When asked about restrictions he placed on weapons inspectors regarding which locations they could visit, Hussein responded, "By God, if I had such weapons, I would have used them in the fight against the United States."

Hussein commented about the mental state of U.S. soldiers occupying Iraq. "If you asked the American soldier -- who came to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction, but none could be found, and who came to remove the leaders of the Hussein dictatorship, who are all in jail now, but are replaced with other dictators -- whether he wanted to stay or go, he would say go."

Hussein said he alone gave the orders to fire SCUD missiles at Israel during the first Gulf War, adding, "Everything that happened to us was because of Israel." He said he figured that the United States would stop the war if Israel was "hurt," and he wanted to punish the country he viewed as the source of all his problems.

Hussein recalled a meeting in Switzerland between his foreign minister Tariq Aziz and then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in January of 1991 shortly before Operation Desert Storm. According to Hussein, Baker offered no solutions to resolve the Kuwait situation and gave specific steps to Aziz that the United States wanted Iraq to do first, and Baker added "otherwise, we'll take you back to the pre-industrial age."

He also told Piro he wanted to have a relationship with the United States but was not given the opportunity because in his view the United States was not listening to anything Iraq had to say.

Hussein also revealed details about his security measures and movements before and after the second U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. He says he had only used a telephone on two occasions since March of 1990. He denied ever using body doubles, claiming, "This is movie magic, not reality."

He also said he never saw his sons use body doubles. "Do not think I am getting upset when you mention my sons. I still think about them and the fact that they were martyred. They will be examples to everyone throughout the world," he said.

Hussein also states he was not in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad on March 19, 2003, when it was bombed by coalition forces in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him. He says he remained in Baghdad until April 10 or 11 of 2003, when it appeared the city was about to fall to coalition forces. Before leaving the city, he said he held one final meeting with the senior Iraqi leadership and told them, "We will struggle in secret."

Shortly after his departure from the capital, Hussein began to gradually disperse his bodyguards, telling them they had completed their duty, so as not to draw attention.

Hussein also admitted that after participating in the failed assassination attempt against then-Iraqi president Gen. Abdul Karim Qasim in 1959, he had stayed at the same farm where he was captured by U.S. forces in December of 2003.

- Source


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BioWare and Mythic are merged? This is a good thing.

My initial kneejerk reaction is to say, "gg EA," and roll my eyes. However, reading into the matter and thinking upon it, it's actually a great move.

If you've played Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), then you know that the game falls flat. It's not bad, but it's not exactly all that great either. It feels slow and clunky, especially compared to something as fast-paced as Guild Wars (which, I think, captures the perfect pace for a Player vs Player MMO). The art style and general presentation for the game is great. It looks and feels just like the Warhammer universe. As someone who has dabbled in Warhammer for over 2 years, I think I know the nuances of the style pretty well.

The problem with Warhammer Online comes in the gameplay category. It's just nothing to really keep you interested. The PvP scenarios seem generic and to lack any real strategic depth. I feel like I've done it before, and done it better, in other genres and in other MMOs. The pace, as I said before, seems sluggish, which is antithetical to what one would think of a vicious and brutal PvP-oriented MMO. People have trumpeted that WAR is so much better than World of Warcrafts' PvP. Really, though, that's like saying that eating shit is better than eating vomit covered shit. I'm sure it is, but it's still shit and not exactly something to rave about.

Now, getting into the nitty-gritty: What has happened? Why am I talking about how much I don't like WAR (and I really wanted to like the game)? Because Electronic Arts has decided to merge the much-beloved RPG developer, BioWare (Baldur's Gate 1&2, Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic), with Mythic Entertainment, developers of the aforementioned Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

There's several reasons why this is pretty big news. Firstly, BioWare recently opened a new studio in Austin, Texas (their only USA studio (they have 2 in Canada)) to work on the much anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. This is BioWare's first MMO, though they do have netcode experience with Neverwinter Nights. BioWare was also bought out by EA, with numerous conditions made to keep BioWare semi-independent. Mythic has well-renowned MMO experience with Dark Age of Camelot and WAR. Both are PvP-based MMOs focusing primarily on Realm vs Realm combat, but that's not really important. What is important is that they have a lot of people who are quite good at doing netcode. Another important tidbit is that Mythic was bought by EA.

The most interesting thing about this somewhat bizarre move is this:

Creating what is effectively a massively multiplayer RPG development juggernaut, EA has tapped Muzyka to become Group General Manager of their new RPG/MMO Group, with fellow BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk acting as Group Creative Officer. With the departure of Mythic's Mark Jacobs, Mythic co-founder Rob Denton will step up as the General Manager of Mythic, reporting directly to Muzukya. BioWare's operations will remain unchanged.
- Source

WAR was touted to be a massive success, and it looked like it. Touted on a fantastic and rich IP (Warhammer) and focused on visceral PvP combat, it seemed like a great game. Even after release, many people touted is an excellent game. However, the hype didn't last. It became mundane and routine. The veneer of hype wore off and you were left with a fairly mediocre and somewhat by-the-numbers MMO. Individuals might agree or disagree with that assessment, and I do not claim to hold some certain truth, but the numbers don't lie. The numbers for WAR are bad. Not terrible, mind you, but not good enough. Especially considering how much time and money was put into WAR. When I did the free trial, I saw zero high capacity servers in North America. There was one in Oceania. There was one server that was medium capacity, but all the others were low capacity. And by "all the others" I mean the eight other servers. It's not like there's 30 servers out there. Even at a relatively modest amount of servers, WAR cannot fill them up. That is not good.

Essentially, this taking Ray and Greg (the founders and big-wigs of BioWare) and putting them in charge of Mythic's flagship, WAR. I can only assume in some kind of attempt to salvage the massive investment that EA put into that game. This allows not only for BioWare to borrow from Mythic in resource management and netcode programmers (BioWare also plundered the laid-off Star Wars Galaxies employees to work in their The Old Republic studio in Austin), but this also gives Mythic access to BioWare's fantastic art, sound, and storytelling resources.

Why would Mythic want BioWare's resources? Why wouldn't they! BioWare is the undisputed king of RPGs. Yes, you can point to Square-Enix and tout Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and that is certainly valid. However, BioWare is typically regarded in higher standing. This is not a put-down of Square-Enix, as I hold FF7 as one of the best RPGs of all time, but I would be lying if I said that I thought FF7 was better than Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. BioWare's games are solid. Neverwinter Nights is still regarded as the pinnacle of a new trend in RPG gaming, allowing players to craft their own games using the provided toolset. Knights of The Old Republic is highly heralded as one of the best RPGs during the PS2/XBox generation, and helped push a lot of XBox sales. The Baldur's Gate series is regarded as fantastic and is routinely placed within the top 5 of any RPG fan's list. Mass Effect was received very well and highly regarded. To say that anticipation for Dragon Age is high is a massive understatement. BioWare is an RPG developer that has rarely done wrong and has the strong catalog of high-tier products to prove it.

While I think the merger of BioWare and Mythic is, at face value, quite odd, I also think it makes a lot of sense. Mythic's WAR is floundering, trying desperately to stay afloat. BioWare seems to be growing by leaps and bounds these days, and if anyone can help turn up the quality a notch on WAR, BioWare is an excellent choice. Not only does this allow the two developers to share their vibrantly rich resources, but it makes for a massive juggernaut in the RPG realm, both online and offline. It's never a good thing to see someone who was so integral as Mark Jacobs get canned, but I also cannot think of anyone who could give WAR the truly magnificent makeover that it needs and deserves than Ray Muzukya and Greg Zeschuk.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holy fuck! Asshole cop tasers 72-year old woman.

This is incredibly fucked up. This cop is totally gonna lose his job and get sued to hell and back. He'll probably also get the shit kicked out of him after he's fired, too.

^ Raw camera footage ^

^ Fox News coverage ^

nothing after the jump


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Store owner converts would-be robber and gives him food?

Weird, yeah, but pretty amazing. While many probably wouldn't have bothered to give the would-be robber a break, this guy gave him not only a major break, but a bit more.

A potential victim became a compassionate counselor during a recent robbery attempt, changing the would-be criminal's mind -- and apparently his religion.

Storekeeper Mohammad Sohail was closing up his Long Island convenience store just after midnight on May 21 when -- as shown on the store's surveillance video -- a man came in wielding a baseball bat and demanding money.

"He said, 'Hurry up and give me the money, give me the money!' and I said, 'Hold on'," Sohail recalled in a phone interview with CNN on Tuesday, after the store video and his story was carried on local TV.

Sohail said he reached under the counter, grabbed his shotgun and told the robber to drop the bat and get down on his knees.

"He's crying like a baby," Sohail said. "He says, 'Don't call police, don't shoot me, I have no money, I have no food in my house.' "

Amidst the man's apologies and pleas, Sohail said he felt a surge of compassion.

He made the man promise never to rob anyone again and when he agreed, Sohail gave him $40 and a loaf of bread.

"When he gets $40, he's very impressed, he says, 'I want to be a Muslim just like you,' " Sohail said, adding he had the would-be criminal recite an Islamic oath.

"I said 'Congratulations. You are now a Muslim and your name is Nawaz Sharif Zardari.'"

When asked why he chose the hybrid of two Pakistani presidents' names, the Pakistani immigrant laughed and said he had been watching a South Asian news channel moments before the confrontation.

Sohail said the man fled the store when he turned away to get the man some free milk.

He said police might still be looking for the suspect but he doesn't intend to press charges.

"The guy, you know, everybody has a hard time right now, it's too bad for everybody right now in this economy," said the storekeeper.

- Source


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And this is why I'm NOT a Republican.

Really, stop trying to make the GOP seem cool. It's doesn't work. It doesn't even work for the DNC. It just looks stupid and forced.

Two Dartmouth students decided to make a "conservative rap" video and posted it on Youtube. Apparently with such "dope" and "funky fresh" lines as, "Three things taught me conservative love: Jesus, Ronald Reagan plus Atlas Shrugged."

And that's why I don't share a single shred of that "conservative love." I don't give a shit about Jesus, Ronald Reagan was a dumbfuck who the GOP would hate if he were ever to be reincarnated (Reagan was hated by most cultural conservatives during his day because he didn't care about abortion and many other such issues), and Ayn Rand is a mean-spirited brain-dead cunt whose Objectivism philosophy is so patently narcissistic and ego maniacal that it makes Ted Bundy seem like a rather reasonable guy.

By the way, I love that the "related videos" on Youtube are: "Stephen Harper injects LSD into his eye socket" and "How To Shave Your Groin - Shaving Tips From Gillette."

An Internet rap video which claims to reflect true conservative values is quickly becoming a cult success.

"The Young Con Anthem," created by two Dartmouth students, has received more than 115,000 views and has been featured on The Huffington Post, USA Today and a variety of blogs across the political spectrum.

Students David Rufful and Josh Riddle made a rap video which they say was intended to spread the views of the Young Conservatives, a group started by Rufful and Riddle with "a devout mission to spread the love and logic surrounding true conservatism," according the organization's Web site.

Rufful and Riddle, both due to graduate in 2012, came to Dartmouth from the Northfield Mount Hermon School, a private school in Massachusetts.

"We didn't think it would blow up to be this big, but it was kind of a way for us to express a pretty unique view," Riddle said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "We kind of wanted to spread the love that's behind the conservative movement."

In the rap, Rufful and Riddle, who perform under the names Serious C and Stiltz, respectively, discuss the origins of their conservative values, saying: "Three things taught me conservative love / Jesus, Ronald Reagan plus Atlas Shrugged."

"I take the way I want to have relationships and my morals from the Bible and Jesus, the idea of supply side economics from Ronald Reagan and from Atlas Shrugged, "Riddle said in an interview, "obviously, I don't agree with all of [Ayn Rand's] religious philosophies, but it's all about the power of the individual."

Riddle said his views are "more valid" because of the diverse influences that contribute to his conservatism.

The video was meant to start a dialogue about politics, Riddle said, not to offend any group. At one point in song the lyrics say: "Don't matter if you're gay, straight, Christian, Muslim / There's one thing we all hate, it's called socialism."

"I just hope that people understand that in no way are we trying to hate on anybody," Riddle said.

The online response to the video, which currently has a 1.5 out of five rating on YouTube, has varied. One commenter on the conservative blog Hot Air expressed approval for "the message, the messengers and the media."

A commenter on YouTube, however, disagreed.

"And this folks ... is why we become Democrats," the commenter wrote.

Rufful said that there has been "hateful commentary" in response to the video, particularly from liberal bloggers.

"There's been death threats -- waking up to a video of a guy with a skull, that's not really what we were looking for," he said, referring to the YouTube video response from a user named NikolaiRaged.

Scott Johnson, a contributor to the conservative blog Power Line, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1973, praised the video in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"I thought it was heartening to see some very bright young people who have thought about the issues and are reacting to current events trying to communicate in a way that is contemporary and good humored," Johnson said.

Power Line posted the "Young Con Anthem" video on its web site Saturday.

"I certainly appreciated what they had to say, and I couldn't believe how funny it was and how biting it was," Johnson said. "I was just laughing about it all day."

Both Harrison Davies, president of the College Republicans, and Bret Vallacher, president of the College Democrats, said they had not heard about the video until they were asked to comment by The Dartmouth.

"I have to admit, at first I thought it was funny and actually a Colbert-esque satire," Vallacher said after watching the video. "Yet, as this tirade staggers on, it tragically exposes the completely irreconcilable views of modern day neo-conservatism."

Rufful said he came up with his alias, "Serious C" because he is "seriously Christian and conservative," according to the group's Web site. Riddle, who is 6' 9" tall, was called "Stiltz" by his friends because of his height.

"We don't claim to be rappers. We're not pursuing a rap career," Rufful said when asked if the duo had any plans to create other videos. "Spreading the conservative message is more of our goal."

- Source


Wikipedia banhammers Church of $cientology.

If you've ever read any of Wikipedia's discussion pages for any Church of $cientology, you would totally understand.

In an unprecedented move, Wikipedia has banned edits from an entire religion — the Church of Scientology.

After four months of internal discussion, Wikipedia's top administrators decided Thursday to block Scientology-affiliated computers from changing items on any part of the free online encyclopedia, reports the British tech blog The Register.

Wikipedia famously lets almost anyone make changes to almost any article. Troublesome individuals have been blocked from editing — among them virulently anti-Scientology activists who altered pages relating to the religion — but this is the first time a religious organization has been blocked.

The encyclopedia's administrators found that Scientology computers had been repeatedly changing more than 400 pages related to the Church, deleting negative references and adding positive ones. The volume of changes was overwhelming administrators' ability to reverse them, hence the block.

Representatives of the Church of Scientology did not reply to's requests for comment.

Wikipedia matches specific Internet Protocol (IP) addresses — every device on the Internet has one — with certain users, and tweaks its servers to prevent those machines gaining edit access. Every IP address linked to the Church of Scientology is now banned from editing.

"All IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted, are to be blocked," read a statement on Wikipedia, according to WikiNews. "Individual editors may request IP block exemption if they wish to contribute from the blocked IP addresses."

- Source


Now THAT's capital punishment.

I believe in the death penalty. I understand many don't. One of the reasons I often hear is that the death penalty actually does little to deter violent crime. Which I'm sure is fairly true. Perhaps if we did this, though, people might start to get the message a bit more clearly.

Saudi Arabian officials beheaded and then publicly displayed the body of a convicted killer in Riyadh on Friday, an act that prompted a stiff denunciation by a leading human rights monitor.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said Ahmed Al-Shamlani Al-Anzi was sentenced to death and then "crucifixion" -- having his body displayed in public -- for the kidnapping and killing of an 11-year-old boy and for the killing of the boy's father, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Amnesty International issued a statement deploring the punishment, with the group's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui saying in a statement it is "horrific" that beheadings and crucifixions "still happen."

Even though the word "crucifixion" is used to describe the public display, the act has no connection to Christianity and the crucifixion of Jesus. The bodies are not displayed on crosses, Lamri Chirouf, who researches Saudi Arabian issues for Amnesty, explained.

The Saudi Interior Ministry asserted that Al-Anzi's body was displayed as a warning that those involved in similar crimes would suffer the same fate, the press agency reported.

The ministry said Al-Anzi kidnapped the boy and held him for a "malicious purpose" at a grocery store where he worked. He tied rope around the boy's neck and strangled him to death, the ministry said.

When the boy's father came to the store looking for his son, Al-Anzi axed the father repeatedly until the man died. When police came to arrest Al-Anzi, Al-Anzi resisted arrest by threatening them with a knife.

Police later discovered that Al-Anzi had been previously convicted of other crimes, including possession of pornographic videos and sodomy, the Interior Ministry said.

Chirouf, the Saudi Arabian researcher for Amnesty International, said his understanding of how the Saudi government carries out crucifixion jibed with Saudi Press Agency's account.

Government officials do use crucifixions, or public displays of executed bodies, as a tool to deter people from committing such a crime, he said.

This latest case was classified as an offense of rebellion, one that basically rejected all of the rules of religion and society, he said.

Chirouf said those crucified are beheaded first and then their heads are sewn back on their bodies. Then, the corpse is mounted on a pole or a tree.

- Source


Just because they're a scientist doesn't mean that they're not bat-shit crazy.

One of the things I love most about people who deny that global climate is getting warmer or that there's no way the Twin Towers could have fallen due to jetliners smashing into them is the "trump card" of pulling out a scientist that agrees with them. All you need is one, right? And, suddenly, POOF! You're theory is valid. Except it's not. There's a thing called consensus. Besides, many scientists are nuts and believe all sorts of crazy shit.

Did a UFO deliberately crash into a meteor to save Earth 100 years ago? That's what one Russian scientist is claiming.

Dr. Yuri Labvin, president of the Tunguska Spatial Phenomenon Foundation, insists that an alien spacecraft sacrificed itself to prevent a gigantic meteor from slamming into the planet above Siberia on June 30, 1908.

The result was was the Tunguska event, a massive blast estimated at 15 megatons that downed 80 million trees over nearly 100 square miles. Eyewitnesses reported a bright light and a huge shock wave, but the area was so sparsely populated no one was killed.

Most scientists think the blast was caused by a meteorite exploding several miles above the surface. But Labvin thinks quartz slabs with strange markings found at the site are remnants of an alien control panel, which fell to the ground after the UFO slammed into the giant rock.

"We don't have any technologies that can print such kind of drawings on crystals," Labvin told the Macedonian International News Agency. "We also found ferrum silicate that can not be produced anywhere, except in space."

- Source


Monday, June 1, 2009

When inciting hate goes beyond just words.

Frank Schaeffer, former big-wig in the Religious Right movement during the 70's and 80's, was on Rachel Maddow's show discussing the type of language that people like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Mark Levin use to rile up their base. As Schaeffer puts it, all it takes is one person with a screw loose to take things a bit too far, and that these pundits know that. We saw it with the Unitarian Church shooting in Tennessee where the gunman specifically wanted to kill "liberals" because of the type of rhetoric spewed by Hannity and O'Reilly.

Even in this news piece we can see this kind of doublespeak being used, condemning the actual killing, but still promoting the outcome.

Abortion opponents were swift to condemn Tiller's shooting death Sunday during church services in Wichita. Kansans for Life and Operation Rescue, which is also based in Kansas, said 51-year-old Scott Roeder, who is being held without bail one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault, did not belong or donate to either group.

'Operation Rescue condemned the killing as vigilantism and "a cowardly act." But its founder, Randall Terry, stressed that the anti-abortion movement should not tone down its rhetoric. He said the gunman was wrong to kill Tiller, 67, but that abortion opponents bear no responsibility for the action.

Tiller was "a mass murderer and horrifically, he reaped what he sowed," Terry told the National Press Club in Washington.

- Source


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Red Bull gives you more than just wings.

Red Bull has cocaine in it? Apparently. However, it's not enough to actually get you high.

Six German states have told retailers to stop selling Red Bull Cola energy drinks after a test found a trace amount of cocaine.

The bans started Friday after a sample test conducted by authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state found 0.4 micrograms per liter in the drink.

Five other states also banned it from shops amid concerns over possible narcotics law violations.

Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said Monday that the cocaine level was too low to pose a health risk. It planned to produce a more detailed report Wednesday.

Red Bull said its cola is "harmless and marketable in both the U.S. and Europe." It said similar coca leaf extracts are used worldwide as flavoring, and a test it commissioned itself found no cocaine traces.

- Source


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Duke Nukem Foerever may be gone, but the hollowed out shell of 3D Realms will remain. To do nothing. Ever.

Seriously, what the shit is this? Okay, so 3D Realms has indeed canned Duke Nukem Forever due to lack of funding, but 3D Realms is still around? To do what? They couldn't even make Prey! It took 10 damn years and they still couldn't finish it so they handed it off to Human Head Studios. Valve spent 9 years doing Team Fortress 2, but in the end Valve actually did make the damn game! (and a mighty fine one at that!)

In light of recent press articles and statements by Take-Two (to the media and in a lawsuit), we want to set the record straight on some issues.

Despite rumors and statements to the contrary, 3D Realms (3DR) has not closed and is not closing. 3DR retains ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. Due to lack of funding, however, we are saddened to confirm that we let the Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) development team go on May 6th, while we regroup as a company. While 3DR is a much smaller studio now, we will continue to operate as a company and continue to license and co-create games based upon the Duke Nukem franchise.

As some of you may know, Take-Two filed a lawsuit last week containing various accusations and claims against 3DR and the uncompleted DNF game. Take-Two never paid 3DR advances or any signing bonus or any other funds related to DNF, up until July 2008, at which time they paid $2.5m in connection with another agreement for an unannounced game. This is the sum total Take-Two has paid 3DR in connection with DNF. Take-Two claims that they paid $12m to GT Interactive/Infogrames to acquire the publishing rights for the DNF game. To be clear, 3DR was not a party to that transaction and did not receive any money from it. When the DNF game was originally signed with GT Interactive in 1998, GT paid 3DR a $400,000 signing bonus. Up until July 2008, this was the only publisher money we received for the DNF game. Meanwhile, 3DR put over $20m into the production of DNF.

Take-Two retains publishing rights for the DNF game, although 3DR retains certain rights to sell the game directly to the public. Late last year, 3DR began negotiations with Take-Two to provide funding to complete the DNF game. In the meantime, 3DR was hitting mutually-agreed milestones, despite not having a new agreement finalized. Take-Two was well aware that 3DR needed the funding to continue the DNF game development. Suddenly, after months of negotiations, Take-Two materially changed the parameters of the proposed funding agreement. 3DR informed Take-Two that it could not financially afford the changes Take-Two was suggesting and would be forced to release the team if an agreement was not reached. Take-Two made a last minute proposal to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise and the 3DR development team. Take-Two's proposal was unacceptable to 3DR for many reasons, including no upfront money, no guarantee minimum payment, and no guarantee to complete the DNF game. From 3DR's perspective, we viewed Take-Two as trying to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise in a "fire sale." Those negotiations fell through on May 4th, a deal never materialized, and the DNF team was sadly released a few days later.

Less than a week after the DNF team was released, Take-Two filed its lawsuit in New York, seeking immediate temporary injunctive relief. The court denied Take-Two's request for a temporary restraining order. While we cannot comment on the details of the ongoing lawsuit, we believe Take-Two's lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic to obtain ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. We will vigorously defend ourselves against this publisher.

- Source

Okay, so, 3DR spent $20 million making DNF, but they have no abandoned it. They still plan to make other games based on the Duke Nukem franchise, though. What the fuck kind of stupid shit is this? You ABANDONED a game that you spent $20 million on and spent 12 years making, but now you're going to focus instead on making newer, different games? I'm sorry, but something does not compute with that. Mainly, what fucking games are you going to make? iPhone apps?

Dude, do the honorable thing and just close shop. This is embarrassing and complete bullshit. You guys haven't made a game since 1997. Stop pretending like you have even a semblance of integrity or respect, because you don't. No publisher is goin to want to fund you. It's sad, yes, but it's time to move on.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Why you don't let gamers have whatever they want.

This dillema has been around for ages. People on forums whine about a game and how awesome it would be to have bigger, better guns, more powers, etc, etc. The problem with these things is that they destroy all semblance of balance and fairness. A game needs to be somewhat challenging or else it will become boring.

It seems that MMO City of Heroes has just learned why you don't let users make their own quests.

Paranoia has gripped the streets amid a government crackdown that’s trampling due process and blurring the line between the innocent and the guilty.

It’s not Myanmar, but Paragon City, the hub of the massively multiplayer online game City of Heroes, where a bizarre McCarthy-like crisis has broken out among the virtual populace. Handed new tools to create their own missions, many of the metropolis’ caped crusaders have rushed to exploit loopholes that allow them to rack up massive experience points with minimal effort. In a desperate bid to restore balance, the game’s creators have threatened to revoke experience points and ban players for abuse without explanation, unleashing a furor of protest.

The future of a world may hang in the balance.

“Newsflash — your idea of fun isn’t everyone esles [sic],” one disgruntled subscriber remarked.

The face-off underscores an iron law of MMO play: Give participants the tools to mold a game into an ideal form, and they’ll quickly use them to generate so-called min-max exploits that produce the fastest possible experience or in-game wealth for the least effort possible.

Free to play the game as they like, players frequently make choices that ruin the fun. It’s an irony that can prove death to game publishers: Far from loving their liberty, players seem to quickly bore of the “ideal” games they’ve created for themselves and quit early.

“It may seem sad that giving the players what they want is detrimental to the player’s overall length of enjoyment of the game, but that’s the truth,” says Eric Heimburg, the lead engineer and producer on Asheron’s Call, and the systems designer for the upcoming Star Trek online MMO. “Once you reached that top of the hill, if there’s nothing left to do or see, players are likely to move on. Length of enjoyment (equals) amount of money earned, so developers have a strong incentive to keep players from gaining power and levels too quickly.”

As more and more game developers allow players to create their own levels, users are harnessing this power to game the system. In Sony’s LittleBigPlanet, for example, players unleashed “trophy farms” — hundreds of user-generated levels that exist only to rack up a player’s PlayStation 3 achievement list with minimal effort.

City of Heroes was originally released in 2004, but its current woes started with the Mission Architect feature released in April. Suddenly, players could design their own missions, and a new class of villain quickly vaulted to power: the Farmer.

With the Mission Architect, players are able to create quests that offer rewards in parity with the standard, developer-created content. Once they’ve played a user-generated mission, they can rate it.

Mission creators with popular levels receive Architect Tickets, which can be cashed in for rewards. This gives architects incentives to crank out the sorts of missions their peers are likely to enjoy. Some gamers want engaging stories, while others want fun challenges.

But the Farmer has something a bit different in mind: laying out hordes of powerful, reward-laden enemies with glaring weaknesses, packed like sheep for the slaughter. Weeks’ worth of tedious labor for experience points could now be completed in mere hours, and the unscrupulous Farmers grew fat off their misdeeds.

“I don’t think any developer should be surprised that people who enjoy these sorts of quests would be drawn to the fastest power-gathering mechanism available,” Heimburg says. “I don’t blame the players one bit for abusing the system.”

Not so the developers at Paragon Studios. Klaxons wailing, they sprang into action, striking down “exploitative” quests and threatening to do the same to players who abused the newly implemented system.

“In order to keep the game fair, balanced, and challenging, we have to maintain a risk/reward ratio,” City of Heroes lead designer Matt “Positron” Miller explained in a missive to the players.

But while the developer is removing missions it deems exploitative, there hasn’t been much information on what constitutes breaking the rules. In fact, according to Miller, such transparency is not likely to be effective and could even backfire.

“If we say that the definition (of abuse) is ‘you gained 4 levels in under 30 minutes’, then someone will make sure that they gain 4 levels in 31 minutes, so they can claim they were within the allowed limits and not abusing,” he wrote.

That’s left players sitting on pins and needles. Says City of Heroes player TaintedAngel: “If you could look at the servers and see 10 percent of people had been spanked somehow, a whole lot of people would be letting out a long-held breath.”

Of course, players could always vote with their wallets.

At the dawn of the MMO genre, EverQuest saw great success despite a penchant for game-balancing changes that flummoxed subscribers. Then the competition arrived, and many left for “fairer” options.

“City of Heroes’ decision to punish players for infractions the players cannot predict is rather unusual,” Heimburg remarks. “When competing superhero-based MMOs become available, that could be a problem.”

- Source


Everyone knows witches hate brooms.

This is why I hate religion and all other types of superstitious voodoo bullshit.

Christian Eshiett was a rambunctious pre-teen who spent a lot of time cavorting with his friends in southern Nigeria. He would skip school and run away from home for days, frustrating his grandfather, who oversaw the boy's care.

"I beat him severely with canes until they broke, yet he never shed a tear," said Eshiett Nelson Eshiett, 76. "One day, I took a broom to hit him and he started crying. Then I knew he was possessed by demons. ... Nigerian witches are terrified of brooms."

From that day two years ago, Christian, now 14, was branded a witch. The abuse intensified.

"They would take my clothes off, tie me up and beat me," he told CNN in a telephone interview.

The teen is one of the so-called witch children in Eket, a city in oil-rich Akwa Ibom state of Nigeria.

They are blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to "cleanse" them of their supposed magical powers.

"Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession," said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region.

Many of those targeted have traits that make them stand out, including learning disabilities, stubbornness and ailments such as epilepsy, he added.

The issue of "child witches" is soaring in Nigeria and other parts of the world, Foxcroft said.

The states of Akwa Ibom and Cross River have about 15,000 children branded as witches, and most of them end up abandoned and abused on the streets, he said.

Christian ran away from home and wandered around for two years with other children similarly accused. He said they stole, begged for food and performed menial jobs to survive.

The plight of "child witches" is raising concern among aid organizations, including the United Nations.

"It is a growing issue worldwide, among not just African communities, but in countries such as Nepal as well," said Jeff Crisp, head of policy development and evaluation for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "We are trying to see whether it is a neglected protected issue."

Belief in witchcraft thrives worldwide. About 1,000 people accused of being witches in Gambia were locked in detention centers in March and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion, human rights organization Amnesty International said.

In 2005, relatives of an 8-year-old Angolan girl living in England were convicted of torturing her for being a "witch," according to the Times Online.

Pastors have been accused of worsening the problem by claiming to have powers to recognize and exorcise "child witches," sometimes for a fee, aid workers said.

But some are true believers, such as one minister in Lagos, Nigeria. He pinpoints children affected by witchcraft for free, he said.

"Sometimes, we get a dream that shows us a certain person is suffering from witchcraft," said the Rev. Albert Aina, a senior pastor at Four Square Gospel Church. "Sometimes, you have a child who has inexplicable body marks because of struggling in the night. They are easy to identify, but why charge when you have been given a gift by God?" Aina said.

Once a child is branded a witch, the stigma can last forever.

Christian was reunited with his grandfather, a former theater instructor at a university in Nigeria. Eshiett said he let his son's child return home because he loves him and he advocates for youth education.

But, he added, he does not think Christian has been or can be freed from witchcraft.

"When you are possessed, you are possessed; no one can deliver you from Satan," Eshiett said, adding that his grandson is a witch because he still exhibits unruly behavior and does not take education seriously.

Aid organizations acknowledge that the belief is acceptable and popular in some communities.

"It is not the belief in witchcraft that we are concerned about," Foxcroft said. "We acknowledge people's right to hold this belief on the condition that this does not lead to child abuse."

Foxcroft, whose documentary, "Saving Africa's Witch Children," was broadcast last year, spoke to a U.N. panel on the issue in April.

The aid worker said he is planning a global conference in 2010 and public awareness campaigns, including addressing the issue in Nigerian movies. The nation's film industry, dubbed Nollywood, is a popular form of entertainment in African countries.

Government officials also have joined the fight.

Akwa Ibom recently added a clause into the Child Rights Act, saying that anyone found guilty of branding a child a witch would get up to 12 years in prison.

"This is groundbreaking, and Stepping Stones Nigeria applauds the Akwa Ibom state government for this," Foxcroft said.

But, he added, there is more work to be done, and other groups, especially churches, have to team up to resolve the problem.

"The role of the international Christian community in this cannot be underestimated," Foxcroft said. "Unfortunately, the fact remains that this belief system is being spread by so-called Christians."

CNN's attempts to reach Akwa Ibom state officials through phone calls and e-mails were unsuccessful. A Nigerian federal communications official declined to comment.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why can't a "mistake" also be a "blessing"?

Bristol Palin was, apparently on the TODAY show. During her interview she said her son was "not a mistake at all. He’s a blessing."

Okay, we get it. All mothers think their kids are fucking mana from heaven. But why can't it be both? As in, "oops, I just made a mistake and put cayenne pepper in these cheese wafers instead of paprika! Oooh, but it tastes good... what a blessing!"

Believe it or not, getting knocked up most likely was a mistake. Did you plan to get pregnant? Was getting pregnant your end-goal in having sex? Did you actively seek out and prepare to get pregnant? Did you want to get pregnant? If not, then getting pregnant was a mistake. However, just because it was a mistake doesn't mean that it can't be a good, exciting, and beloved experience, or even "a blessing." The two are not mutually exclusive.

Article Here

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Apple in the game industry? Yeah, that'll go over well.

So, I saw this piece about how Apple should get into the gaming industry, and the whole thing is juts one giant collage of dumbfuckery. Apple does some things well. The iPod was great. Not because it's better hardware, but because it capitalized on its simple interface. When people want to listen to music in their car or while jogging, they don't want to navigate a lot of menus and stuff. They want to find their music quickly, easily, and be done with it.

Anyways, here's a direct rebuttal and reasons why Apple should not get into the gaming industry. I really do love this shit, playing the devil's advocate against those that really don't know what the fuck they're talking about when it comes ot game development.

Reports are swirling that Apple is considering a move into the gaming market via an acquisition of Electronic Arts (EA). And while those are currently just rumors, what is confirmed is that Apple has recently poached Microsoft's former head of Xbox strategy, Richard Teversham.

Okay, let's look at what Taversham did.

The exiting Microsoft executive, Richard Teversham, most recently ran Microsoft's Xbox business unit in Europe. He worked at Microsoft for 15 years and was senior director of business, insights and strategy for the Xbox business group. Teversham told MCV he will work in some type of "education-related role" at the Apple European office.
- Source

Wow, that's fucking awesome. If I was going to start up a games division I would totally be looking for bean counters first and foremost. Forget that Taversham said he was going into some educational area for Apple's EU division. Even if he were working on a gaming-related division at Apple, he would most likely be pushed into Apple's iPhone department. Considering he's a business guy, aka number crunching, he'd be a good person to look at pricing and sales volume. Not for, you know, the actually important shit like hardware and development-related issues.

1. Apple Is Due: Some of the Cupertino crew's competitors are already well established in the gaming market with their own consoles. Microsoft has the Xbox and Sony has the PlayStation. While Apple has spent much of the last decade remaking the mobile music industry, the time could now be right for a foray into gaming. The brand has exploded in popularity since the release of the iPod in October 2001 (the Microsoft Xbox, as a point of reference, was released in November 2001), and it's not hard to imagine fanboys lining up to purchase an Apple-branded gaming device.

Good fucking grief this is stupid. Okay, let's look at Apple's market share in the PC market. It's between 10%-13%. That's it. Now, if you look at Apple's MP3 market share, it's somewhere in the 40% range, which is good. However, a game console isn't a fucking MP3 player and people aren't going to buy a several hundred dollar console just because. There has to be games and there has to be decent hardware. No one wants to invest in a fucking paperweight console. Ask Atari how well jumping into the game console industry with their Jaguar did. Oh wait, Atari is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

2. iTunes Store: Apple already has a well-established and viable way of distributing games to customers via the Internet. Downloading a song or movie through the iTunes Store is becoming a standard skill for many people. An Apple gaming console, then, could function similarly to the Apple TV or Xbox Live store. Droves of people already have accounts, so if Apple can distribute games directly to the console via iTunes, customers wouldn't even need to leave the house to get their game on.

Are you fucking retarded? Do you have any fucking clue as to how big games are? And I don't mean "big" as in popularity, but as in filesize. Try 3-6 GB. To understand that, in "music" size, you're talking 1,000 to 2,000 songs. For one game. Not to mention that people would need to have the proper bandwidth for that, which most do not. The average connection in the USA is about 512 Kb. Which is not KB (KiloyBytes). It's less than that. (one KiloByte = 8 Kilobits)

Also, how well has Apple TV done? Oh, that's right, it fucking tanked because it sucked shit. It was horribly inferior to other products out there and it lacked numerous crucial features. Face it, the only thing Apple has going for it is its iPod.

3. The iPhone And iPod Touch: Apple's mainstay portable devices are already beginning to establish themselves as gaming platforms. A quick look through the Apple App Store reveals a plethora of games that range in price from free to a few dollars. EA, for example, just released "Need For Speed Undercover" for the iPhone, retailing at $10. Apple customers are already playing games on the iPhone and iPod Touch, so why not tie those devices to a gaming console?

Because shitty iPhone games do not equal real games? How well has N4S:U done on the iPhone? Because it got horrible reviews and was widely panned by gaming critics. Most of the Apple iPhone games are pure shit. They are half-assed, bullshit clones of games from the 80's. If you really think playing games on an iPhone is at all comparable to playing on a console, then you're absolutely insane and don't have a clue what you're talking about.

4. Synching Between Console And iPhone: This seems like a no-brainer. iPhone users already sync their smartphones to a laptop for updates and purchases, so why not do the same with a gaming console? Games could be developed with special add-ons designed specifically for the iPhone or iPod touch. That way when a gamer has to leave the house, these side missions can be synched onto the iPhone, expanding Apple's gaming reach. Instead of riding the subway and listening to music or surfing the Web, users could continue to play the game they started back at home.

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE iPHONE NOT BEING A FUCKING GAMING CONSOLE!? Do you have any idea how shitty an iPhone game would look on a regular 480x720 resolution TV screen, let alone a 720p one? It would look horrible! The hardware and control limitations between a console and a portable device like the iPhone are so vast that making the assumption that the two could in any way be linked is more than just asinine, it is borderline brain dead. Even if you try to make the link between the iPhone's motion control sand the Wii, it still doesn't fit. The Wii has a much richer control set feature than the iPhone.

This is seriously one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard. It would be like saying that an Etch-A-Sketch could potentially be used to write programming languages. It is so far fetched and unrealistic that it's baffling that anyone would even come up with it, let alone publish an article saying this.

5. Better Talent: An Apple-branded console would attract top-notch talent to develop games for the platform. Just look at the success the company has had with independent developers creating applications for the App Store. Face it, not every game needs to be another installment of the "Call Of Duty" series. Assuming the iTunes Store is used to distribute the games, the process of getting a product listed there should be similar to the existing policy -- perhaps even a little less draconian. For bigger releases, companies such as EA would be facing a tough crowd of Apple fans who would expect nothing but the highest quality in the games on the platform. That would challenge publishers to bring on smarter talent and create better games, further enriching the gaming community.

Holy fucking... Okay, how much money does Apple have? Not much. Really, not much. It's true, whether you want to believe it or not. They don't have shit compared to Microsoft or Sony. Even Microsoft has decided to stop having in-house developers. Sony has an incredibly small handful. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Polyphony Digital, the makers of Gran Turismo. I don't think this writer understands how much money it takes to make a game, let alone start a whole new development softhouse. Here's a hint: AAA titles typically have budgets between $10-$30 million. That's just for the games. That doesn't include starting up the studios and everything else.

The process that developers go through with the iPhone app store is nothing like what goes on with major developers. The app store process works like this. Some guys makes something, submits it to Apple, Aple approves it or not, and then it's placed for sale or rejected. Major developers require licensing, SDKs, marketing, contractual obligations that actually mean something, and they don't want to sign on for some normalized bullshit that's the same with everyone. Do you think EA gets the same kind of contract that Atari gets? Hell no they don't!

The best part is the complete about-face this article does. So, not every game needs be Call Of Duty (I'm assuming they're referring to CoD4:MW, and not CoD:W@W, which sucked shit), but then says that Apple would require "top talent" that would "further enrich" the gaming industry. So, which one is it? Has he even bothered to look at most of the apps that sell on the iPhone? They're fart apps and stupid bullshit like that. Wow, talk about enrichment. Maybe I can get a "Pull My Finger" game on a console. That's be fucking sweet.

Really, all of this is just pure bullshit. This article has no idea what the fuck goes into gaming, and I didn't even start to bring out a lot of the other hurdles, namely development costs. The PS3 is still losing money on every console sold. MS is just now breaking into the black, and their console is already starting to age. If Apple were to try to get into the game console market, they'd have to be prepared to throw in a few billion dollars and be willing to lose it all.

Not only is the market already highly competitive, but where would Apple carve their niche? The kids market? Yeah fucking right. Nintendo has that on lockdown. The hardcore market? Sony and MS are already very aggressively waging a war in that market, good look trying to topple either one of them.

Finally, Apple would need to develop an SDK, get hardware manufacturers to work on specialty chipsets, amd be able to court third party developers to actually develop for their system. It's not as easy as "build it and they will come" which this article seems to think is the case. Developers already have a hard enough time trying to develop modern games for 4 systems (360, Wii, PS3, and PC), and adding a fifth isn't going to make things any easier. Not only that, but what kind of middleware will Apple sue? OpenGL like OSX? Because OPenGL vs DirectX is why you already see so few games for Mac.

This entire piece is nothing more than a pipe-dream, and not even a well though out one, at that. It has no basis in reality and doesn't even offer up a plan to the slightest bit of scrutiny. If Apple really thinks any of these reasons are why they should get into the gaming business, Apple better be prepared to go bankrupt, again, and pray that Microsoft will bail them out of such bankruptcy, again.


When will smugglers ever learn? Don't always just stuff shit down your pants.

Why is it that people seem to think, "shit, I gotta smuggle something. I'll stick it down my pants! No one will ever know..." Yeah, because the awkward bulges won't give you away at all. And saying you have elephantiasis of the balls is always a reasonable excuse.

A man was charged Tuesday with smuggling songbirds into the United States by hiding more than a dozen of them in an elaborate, custom-tailored pair of leggings during a flight from Vietnam to Los Angeles.

Sony Dong, 46, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March after an inspector spotted bird feathers and droppings on his socks and tail feathers peeking out from under his pants, prosecutors said.

"He had fashioned these special cloth devices to hold the birds," said U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek. "They were secured by cloth wrappings and attached to his calves with buttons."

- Source


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Good Christians = Torture Supportors?

According to a recent Pew survey, those who regularly attend church are more likely to support torture techniques. Guess they've been reading a lot of the Old Testament.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The survey asked: "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?"

Roughly half of all respondents -- 49 percent -- said it is often or sometimes justified. A quarter said it never is.

The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations -- such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians -- categorized as "mainline" Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals. Just over three in 10 of them said torture is never justified. A quarter of the religiously unaffiliated said the same, compared with two in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and one in eight evangelicals.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

The final stand at the Texas schoolboard meeting.

By way of Andrew Sullivan's magnificent blog I was brought aware of a Newsweek article from his good friend, and one of my favorite debaters, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens makes some great points. The evangelical community is a huge liability for the GOP. Do you really want a party linked to crackpot wackos that think, the basic equivalent of, the Earth being flat? I can't think of a better way to disengage the enlightened and thoughtful of your party than to interject the most drastically ignorant fringe that one could imagine.

Mention the name "Texas" and the word "schoolbook" to many people of a certain age (such as my own) and the resulting free association will come up with the word "depository" and the image of Lee Harvey Oswald crouching on its sixth floor. In Dallas for the Christian Book Expo recently, I had a view of Dealey Plaza and its most famous building from my hotel room, so the suggestion was never far from my mind.

But last week Texas and schoolbooks meant something else altogether when the state Board of Education, in a muddled decision, rejected a state science curriculum that required teachers to discuss the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. Instead, the board allowed "all sides" of scientific theories to be taught. The vote was watched as something more than a local or bookish curiosity. Just as the Christian Book Expo is one of the largest events on the nation's publishing calendar, so the Lone Star State commands such a big share of the American textbook market that many publishers adapt to the standards that it sets, and sell the resulting books to non-Texans as well.

In many ways, this battle can be seen as the last stand of the Protestant evangelicals with whom I was mingling and debating. It's been a rather dismal time for them lately. In the last election they barely had a candidate after Mike Huckabee dropped out and, some would say, not much of one before that. Many Republicans now see them as more of a liability than an asset. As a proportion of the population they are shrinking, and in ethical terms they find themselves more and more in the wilderness of what some of them morosely called, in conversation with me, a "post-Christian society." Perhaps more than any one thing, the resounding courtroom defeat that they suffered in December 2005 in the conservative district of Dover, Pa., where the "intelligent design" plaintiffs were all but accused of fraud by a Republican judge, has placed them on the defensive. Thus, even if the Texas board had defiantly voted to declare evolution to be questionable and debatable, its decision could still have spelled the end of a movement rather than the revival of one.

Yet I find myself somewhat drawn in by the quixotic idea that we should "teach the argument." I am not a scientist, and all that I knew as an undergraduate about the evolution debate came from the study of two critical confrontations. The first was between Thomas Huxley (Darwin's understudy, ancestor of Aldous and coiner of the term "agnostic") and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (third son of the great Christian emancipator William) at the Oxford University Museum in 1860. The second was the "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925, which pitted the giant of Protestant fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, against Clarence Darrow and H. L. Mencken. Every educated person should know the arguments that were made in these transatlantic venues.

So by all means let's "be honest with the kids," as Dr. Don McLeroy, the chairman of the Texas education board, wants us to be. The problem is that he is urging that the argument be taught, not in a history or in a civics class, but in a biology class. And one of his supporters on the board, Ken Mercer, has said that evolution is disproved by the absence of any transitional forms between dogs and cats. If any state in the American union gave equal time in science class to such claims, it would certainly make itself unique in the world (perhaps no shame in that). But it would also set a precedent for the sharing of the astronomy period with the teaching of astrology, or indeed of equal time as between chemistry and alchemy. Less boring perhaps, but also much less scientific and less educational.

The Texas anti-Darwin stalwarts also might want to beware of what they wish for. The last times that evangelical Protestantism won cultural/ political victories—by banning the sale of alcohol, prohibiting the teaching of evolution and restricting immigration from Catholic countries—the triumphs all turned out to be Pyrrhic. There are some successes that are simply not survivable. If by any combination of luck and coincidence any religious coalition ever did succeed in criminalizing abortion, say, or mandating school prayer, it would swiftly become the victim of a backlash that would make it rue the day. This will apply with redoubled force to any initiative that asks the United States to trade its hard-won scientific preeminence against its private and unofficial pieties. This country is so constituted that no one group, and certainly no one confessional group, is able to dictate its own standards to the others. There are days when I almost wish the fundamentalists could get their own way, just so that they would find out what would happen to them.

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Trucker hat = Serial killer hat?

Uh oh. I live near a truck stop...

The FBI suspects there's a link between long-haul truckers and serial killers, and runs a national program to track murders along popular trucking routes, according to a newspaper report.

The Los Angeles Times reports that federal authorities first made the connection five years ago while investigating a string of unsolved killings along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma and several other states.

After patterns started emerging, the FBI launched the Highway Serial Killings Initiative to track suspicious slayings and suspect truckers.

A computer database now includes more than 500 female murder victims whose bodies were discarded at truck stops, motels and other locations.

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You can lead an Islamic horse to water...

SO, this is what the men and women of the armed services have died for? Great. Awesome. IF this is what democracy in the Islamic world means, what the fuck is the point? Why not just let the Taliban rule? It would basically have the same result.

What am I talking about? A recent Afghanistan law that states that a woman is required to have sex with her husband every fourth night if he so desires.

As first lady, senator and then Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton was vocal in her fight for the rights of women in Afghanistan.

But, as President Obama's secretary of state, Clinton now finds herself in the uncomfortable position of watching as the U.S.-backed Afghan president signs a law that critics say gives Shiite men the right to rape their wives.

International criticism pressure forced President Hamid Karzai to say Saturday that the law is under review, and he has spoken to Clinton about it.

The developments come as Obama seeks NATO support in Europe for his plan to ramp up the war against terrorists in Afghanistan. Back at home in Washington, administration officials have struggled this week with how to respond to Karzai's signing of the so-called Shia Family Law without debate in the Afghan parliament. The law's most controversial provisions address sexual intercourse in marriage.

"As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night," Article 132 of the law says. "Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

- Source

Yea! for progress!