Thursday, May 3, 2012

Frivolity: The Ideal Man

A man walks out to the street and catches a taxi just going by. 

He gets into the taxi, and the cabbie says,

'Perfect timing. You're just like Frank.'
 Passenger: 'Who?' 

Cabbie: 'Frank Feldman.. He's a guy who did everything right all the time.
Like my coming along when you needed a cab,  things happened like that
to Frank Feldman every single time.' 

Passenger: 'There are always a few clouds over everybody.' 

Cabbie: 'Not Frank Feldman. He was a terrific athlete. He could have won 
the Grand-Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang like an opera 
baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the 
piano. He was an amazing guy."
Passenger: "Sounds like he was something really special." 

Cabbie: 'There's more. He had a memory like a computer. He 
remembered everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order 
and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a 
fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Frank Feldman, could do everything 

Passenger: 'Wow, some guy then." 

Cabbie: 'He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid
traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Frank,
he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman
and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she
was in the wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes 
highly polished too. He was the perfect man! He never made a mistake.
No one could ever measure up to Frank Feldman." 

Passenger: "An amazing fellow.  How did you meet him?" 

Cabbie: "Well... I never actually met Frank. He died, and I married his widow."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Taliban issues a deadly strike

After Afghan deal is struck, Taliban issues a deadly strike
Afghans move a torched car from the site of Wednesday's attack against a compound housing hundreds of foreigners.
By Ahmad Jamshid, AP
Afghans move a torched car from the site of Wednesday's attack against a compound housing hundreds of foreigners.
KABUL — Hours after President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement that will serve as the framework for future relations between their two nations, the Taliban issued its response.
Taliban attackers Wednesday targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by international workers with a car bomb about two hours after Obama delivered a speech at Bagram Airfield about the pact. Three bystanders were killed besides the four terrorists.
"With this attack, we want to send a message to Obama that the Afghans will welcome you with attacks. You don't need to sign agreements, you need to focus on how to get out of this country," said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.
PHOTOS: Taliban attacks in Kabul
Obama had made a surprise overnight trip to Afghanistan to sign the agreement and make an appearance with Karzai. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending levels. It does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan through 2024 for two purposes: continued training of Afghan forces and targeted operations against al-Qaeda.

The United States promised to seek money from 
Congress every year to support Afghanistan, according to the deal.
The agreement comes as a welcome development to Afghans, some members of the parliament said, as it secures much-needed international support for Afghanistan past the 2014 deadline for Afghans to take over security of their country.

Because a full copy of the agreement was not made public until after its signing, concerns remain about specifics that have yet to be agreed upon.

"The agreement gives independence and sovereignty to Afghanistan — not completely, but it gives some sovereignty," said Mahmoud Khan, a member of parliament from Kandahar.

The strategic agreement secures relations between the two nations until 2024, guaranteeing Afghanistan's status as a "major non-NATO ally." Previously, the United States and Afghanistan had reached two other agreements: one giving Afghan security forces authority over controversial night raids and the other outlining the hand-over of U.S.-run prisons to Afghan authorities.

The document guarantees America's commitment to Afghanistan after 2014, without detailing specifics. Issues such as how long U.S. forces and their bases can remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and the nature of their presence here would be determined in a separate bilateral security agreement.

Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, an independent political analyst in Kabul, says he worries that Afghanistan lost much of its bargaining strength because it can no longer threaten to hold out on signing the partnership agreement as leverage. "Before, the Afghans could bargain and ask for something, but now they can only request things. Now they cannot make condition."

The agreement calls for continued talks with the Taliban, provided the militant group accepts the Afghan Constitution.
Contributing: Zubair Babakarkhail

Revolution in Yemen: 'We are not finished yet'

Revolution in Yemen: 'We are not finished yet'
Yemeni women hold up their ink-stained thumbs to show their support before a presidential election in Sanaa on Feb. 17.
By Mohammed Huwais, AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni women hold up their ink-stained thumbs to show their support before a presidential election in Sanaa on Feb. 17.
SANAA, Yemen — Salman Abdul Salam has lived on University Square in Sanaa for more than a year in protest. He hasn't had a job since graduating from college two years ago. His clothes are worn, and he says he's too poor to marry his girlfriend.

But the departure of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh has him feeling determined.
"We are not finished yet," said Salam, 25. "This revolution will continue until Saleh is tried and Yemen is passed over to civilian hands."

Saleh stepped down in February after months of protests by millions of Yemenis who rose up against 33 years of dictatorial rule that saw the country's economy deteriorate and al-Qaeda's presence expand.

Saleh's family and cronies remain in key government ministries and military posts and continue to run the country for their own benefit, critics say. Towns in the south are a battlefield between al-Qaeda fighters and the army.

"It's a major crisis in Yemen," said Mohammed Abulahoum, the president of the opposition Justice and Building Party. "The country is facing numerous challenges, including terrorism and poverty. It will take time for this government to stand on its feet."

That may be difficult given that Saleh remains in Yemen and continues to influence its direction, analysts say. Saleh threatened to withdraw members of his party, the General People's Congress Party (GPC), which he still leads, from the governing coalition. This would have toppled the recently installed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in which Saleh loyalists head half of the ministries.

"Saleh has not absented himself from the political process, and that is a potential spoiler for the reform process," said Leonie Northedge, who specializes on Yemen at the London-based think tank, Chatham House.

Hadi was the only candidate on the presidential ballot in February after Saleh resigned under pressure from the United States and sheiks in neighboring nations. A former army commander and ally of Saleh, he has made attempts to rid the government of Saleh backers. He fired key figures in the regime and some military leaders.

The country continues to be divided between insurrections in the north and south and infiltration by al-Qaeda insurgents. Hundreds have died in clashes in the south in the past month.

Though it has relatively low oil reserves, Yemen sits alongside a choke point of oil shipping where the Red Sea enters the Gulf of Aden. The West is concerned that the route could be shut off if terrorists continue to make gains in Yemen.
"It's not like the president controls the country and he is allowing [al-Qaeda] to do this," said Paul Salem, director and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center in Beirut. "The state does not control parts of the country, and al-Qaeda has taken that part of the Arabian Peninsula as a foothold."
The problem that is most widespread in Yemen is its poor economy, which contracted by 17% in the past year, according to the Ministry of Labor. Unemployment is as high as 40% in some regions, 70% for young people. Almost half the population of 25 million are unable to find enough to eat daily, according to the World Food Program.

"My three sons lost their jobs last year and are forced to take loans from people," said Amira al-Subaihi, 68. "We now live in a small one-room apartment. We are lucky if we sleep without feeling hungry."

Many Yemenis seethe over the deal that gave Saleh immunity and allows him to influence their lives. Anti-Saleh protesters were kidnapped, beaten and tortured during the Arab Spring uprising that led to Saleh's ouster and left 2,000 people dead, according to the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights. Those who took part in the uprising say they feel betrayed and are ready to rise up again.

"We protested against oppression and the killing of innocent people," said Sabreen al-Malahi, 27, an activist in Baitha province. "Saleh was behind the killing of [thousands] of activists last year and will not be forgiven. "

Some analysts say Yemen may take advantage of the chance brokered by the international community to move forward. The Obama administration has urged Hadi to seek a cease-fire with warring factions and address the grievances of the Yemeni people while continuing the assault against al-Qaeda.

"In many senses, [the revolution] has been successful," Northedge said. "Even if the election wasn't perhaps ideal or the election people wanted to see, it has nevertheless given a political opening and space for reforms to be able to set in motion, and we have seen some of that taking place."

Salam and other protesters say they'll remain in their tent cities until Saleh, his family and his cronies are gone. "Yemenis will prevail because people are insistent," Salam said. "We are willing to continue protesting daily for years to come until a real democracy is built."
Contributing: Louise Osborne in Berlin

Yes, but, of course, the U.S. should ALWAYS be admonishing China about its inhumane practices - I call BULL SHIT!

Deal to return escaped activist tests U.S.-China ties

Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, left, is helped by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, right, as they leave the U.S. Embassy for a hospital in Beijing Wednesday.

Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, left, is helped by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, right, as they leave the U.S. Embassy for a hospital in Beijing Wednesday.
BEIJING — The decision by U.S. officials to release blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng back into Chinese society after his daring escape from local authorities creates a crucial test for U.S.-China relations as a two-day diplomatic dialogue opens here today.

Six days of shuttle negotiations resulted Wednesday in Chen's decision to leave U.S. Embassy protection for a hospital room, where he was reunited with his family and surrounded by Chinese government officials after assurances that he would not be harmed.

It took only hours, however, for the deal announced by senior State Department diplomats to come under question from Chen's friends and human rights activists, many of whom said they feared for his safety — and for Chen to tell the Associated Press he agreed to the bargain under 

The entire episode occurred shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived for the fourth annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their Chinese counterparts and threatened to overshadow the talks between the two nations, which already have a delicate relationship.

It added a layer of complexity to a diplomatic mission for Clinton that already includes discussions of arms sales, maritime security and a number of delicate trade, currency and intellectual property rights issues.
David Lampton, director of the China Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said U.S.-China relations are the most complicated they have been since the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989.

In the deal, Chen agreed to leave the embassy with the promise that he would get medical treatment, reunite with his wife and two children, be relocated from the village where he alleges mistreatment by local authorities and be allowed to attend a university, two U.S. officials involved in the negotiations said. At no time did he request political asylum in the United States, said the officials, who spoke on background because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Chen, however, later told the Associated Press that he was warned by U.S. diplomats that Chinese authorities threatened to beat his wife to death if he did not leave the embassy. He said he now wants to go elsewhere. U.S. officials said their Chinese counterparts threatened only to send his family back home if he remained there.

"I was there. Chen made the decision to leave the embassy after he knew his family was safe and at the hospital waiting for him," Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. government for interfering "in the domestic affairs of China" and demanded that it apologize for giving Chen sanctuary at the embassy. The U.S. has not apologized.

Art, infamous, famous art, SELLS, and can fetch a pretty penny

NEW YORK — One of the art world’s most recognizable images — Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” — sold Wednesday for a record $119,922,500 at auction in New York City.
The 1895 artwork — a modern symbol of human anxiety — was sold at Sotheby’s. The buyer’s name was not released. The price includes the buyer’s premium, an additional amount the buyer pays the auction house.
The image of a man holding his head and screaming under a streaked, blood-red sky is one of four versions by the Norwegian expressionist painter. The auctioned piece at Sotheby’s is the only one left in private hands. 
The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was $106.5 million for Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust,” sold by Christie’s in 2010. 
The image has become part of pop culture, “used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts,” said Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd.

Together with the Mona Lisa, it’s the most famous and recognized image in art history,” he added.

A buzz swept through the room when the artwork was presented for auction as two guards stood watch on either side. Bidding started at $40 million with seven buyers jumping into the competition early.
Very difficult to fail to notice that the subtext here, the most important aspect of the story, as it is written, is the MONEY. This story, then, devolves to being about THE MONEY (honey).  The work of art, its impact upon the writer, THAT it was inspired by a poem, all of these are secondary, even tertiary issues.  The big story here is THE $$$$$$$$$$$$$!.

The battle eventually boiled down to two phone bidders as the historic hammer price was finally achieved after more than 12 minutes.
Sotheby’s said the pastel-on-board version of “The Scream” is the most colorful and vibrant of the four and the only version whose frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem, detailing the work’s inspiration.
In the poem, Munch described himself “shivering with anxiety” and said he felt “the great scream in nature.”
Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of the artist, said he sold the piece through Sotheby’s because he felt “the moment has come to offer the rest of the world the chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work.”

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway, where Olsen’s father 
and Munch were neighbors.

THIS, is very interesting, and way kewl!
The director of the National Museum in Oslo, Audun Eckhoff, says Norwegian authorities approved the Munch sale since the other versions of the composition are in Norwegian museums. One version is owned by the National Museum and two others by the Munch Museum, also in Oslo.
Sotheby’s said a total of eight works have sold for $80 million or more at auction.
Only two other works besides Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust” have sold for more than $100 million at auction. Those are Picasso’s “Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)” for $104.1 million in 2004 and Alberto Giacometti’s “Walking Man I” for $104.3 million in 2010.