Friday, October 31, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 11:38 AM on 28th October 2008
'Deep Throat' director Gerard Damiano has died aged 80
The director of the film that launched the modern hardcore pornography industry has died.
Gerard Damiano, the director of the 1972 classic 'Deep Throat', died on Saturday at a Fort Myers hospital. He had suffered a stroke in September.
"He was a filmmaker and an artist and we thought of him as such," his son, Gerard Damiano Jr., said Monday. "Even though we weren't allowed to see his movies, we knew he was a moviemaker, and we were proud of that."
Mr Damiano's "Deep Throat" was a mainstream box-office success. Shot in six days for just $25,000, the 1972 flick became a cultural must-see for Americans who had just lived through the sexual liberation of the 1960s.
The film's subject matter was controversial enough, but behind the scenes the light-hearted banter took a dark twist into a world of abuse and exploitation.
Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat, maintained she had been forced into the film by her controlling husband, Chuck Traynor, who was paid for his efforts.
Traynor beat her so violently during the filming that in some scenes her bruises are visible, despite an extensive make-up job.
Linda would later claim that every time anyone watched the movie, they were essentially watching her being raped. She later left Traynor.
The film's title also became associated with one of the most famous anonymous sources in journalism.
While investigating the Watergate scandal, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used it as a nickname for their source, former FBI official W. Mark Felt. Information from Felt helped bring down Richard Nixon's presidency.
Linda Lovelace in an image from the film Deep Throat
Born in New York in 1928, Damiano worked as a hairdresser, spent time in the Navy and directed several adult films.
The younger Damiano said he would often accompany his father on film sets as a child, but would be ushered out during "nitty-gritty" scenes.
"We weren't allowed to see certain parts of it," the son said. "But my parents always felt that it was nothing to be ashamed of, what he did."
After "Deep Throat" opened in Times Square, attention from media critics and outraged conservatives - including repeated legal challenges - helped turn it into a hit.
"My father never dreamed that it would get that kind of attention," the younger Damiano said.
But despite the attention, the son said the film was not his father's favourite.
"He was fond of it for what it was, but in terms of filmmaking, he would never call it a great film," he said.Gerard Damiano is survived by his son and daughter. No formal services are planned.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization
- By Andrew Curry
- Photographs by Berthold Steinhilber
- Smithsonian magazine, November 2008
Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple.
"Guten Morgen," he says at 5:20 a.m. when his van picks me up at my hotel in Urfa. Thirty minutes later, the van reaches the foot of a grassy hill and parks next to strands of barbed wire. We follow a knot of workmen up the hill to rectangular pits shaded by a corrugated steel roof—the main excavation site. In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and, Schmidt says, weigh between seven and ten tons. As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides.
Schmidt points to the great stone rings, one of them 65 feet across. "This is the first human-built holy place," he says.
From this perch 1,000 feet above the valley, we can see to the horizon in nearly every direction. Schmidt, 53, asks me to imagine what the landscape would have looked like 11,000 years ago, before centuries of intensive farming and settlement turned it into the nearly featureless brown expanse it is today.
Prehistoric people would have gazed upon herds of gazelle and other wild animals; gently flowing rivers, which attracted migrating geese and ducks; fruit and nut trees; and rippling fields of wild barley and wild wheat varieties such as emmer and einkorn. "This area was like a paradise," says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. Indeed, Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity's first "cathedral on a hill."
With the sun higher in the sky, Schmidt ties a white scarf around his balding head, turban-style, and deftly picks his way down the hill among the relics. In rapid-fire German he explains that he has mapped the entire summit using ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys, charting where at least 16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres. The one-acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. He says archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface.
Gobekli Tepe was first examined—and dismissed—by University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s. As part of a sweeping survey of the region, they visited the hill, saw some broken slabs of limestone and assumed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery. In 1994, Schmidt was working on his own survey of prehistoric sites in the region. After reading a brief mention of the stone-littered hilltop in the University of Chicago researchers' report, he decided to go there himself. From the moment he first saw it, he knew the place was extraordinary.
Unlike the stark plateaus nearby, Gobekli Tepe (the name means "belly hill" in Turkish) has a gently rounded top that rises 50 feet above the surrounding landscape. To Schmidt's eye, the shape stood out. "Only man could have created something like this," he says. "It was clear right away this was a gigantic Stone Age site." The broken pieces of limestone that earlier surveyors had mistaken for gravestones suddenly took on a different meaning.
Schmidt returned a year later with five colleagues and they uncovered the first megaliths, a few buried so close to the surface they were scarred by plows. As the archaeologists dug deeper, they unearthed pillars arranged in circles. Schmidt's team, however, found none of the telltale signs of a settlement: no cooking hearths, houses or trash pits, and none of the clay fertility figurines that litter nearby sites of about the same age. The archaeologists did find evidence of tool use, including stone hammers and blades. And because those artifacts closely resemble others from nearby sites previously carbon-dated to about 9000 B.C., Schmidt and co-workers estimate that Gobekli Tepe's stone structures are the same age. Limited carbon dating undertaken by Schmidt at the site confirms this assessment.
The way Schmidt sees it, Gobekli Tepe's sloping, rocky ground is a stonecutter's dream. Even without metal chisels or hammers, prehistoric masons wielding flint tools could have chipped away at softer limestone outcrops, shaping them into pillars on the spot before carrying them a few hundred yards to the summit and lifting them upright. Then, Schmidt says, once the stone rings were finished, the ancient builders covered them over with dirt. Eventually, they placed another ring nearby or on top of the old one. Over centuries, these layers created the hilltop.
Today, Schmidt oversees a team of more than a dozen German archaeologists, 50 local laborers and a steady stream of enthusiastic students. He typically excavates at the site for two months in the spring and two in the fall. (Summer temperatures reach 115 degrees, too hot to dig; in the winter the area is deluged by rain.) In 1995, he bought a traditional Ottoman house with a courtyard in Urfa, a city of nearly a half-million people, to use as a base of operations.
On the day I visit, a bespectacled Belgian man sits at one end of a long table in front of a pile of bones. Joris Peters, an archaeozoologist from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, specializes in the analysis of animal remains. Since 1998, he has examined more than 100,000 bone fragments from Gobekli Tepe. Peters has often found cut marks and splintered edges on them—signs that the animals from which they came were butchered and cooked. The bones, stored in dozens of plastic crates stacked in a storeroom at the house, are the best clue to how people who created Gobekli Tepe lived. Peters has identified tens of thousands of gazelle bones, which make up more than 60 percent of the total, plus those of other wild game such as boar, sheep and red deer. He's also found bones of a dozen different bird species, including vultures, cranes, ducks and geese. "The first year, we went through 15,000 pieces of animal bone, all of them wild. It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site," Peters says. "It's been the same every year since." The abundant remnants of wild game indicate that the people who lived here had not yet domesticated animals or farmed.
But, Peters and Schmidt say, Gobekli Tepe's builders were on the verge of a major change in how they lived, thanks to an environment that held the raw materials for farming. "They had wild sheep, wild grains that could be domesticated—and the people with the potential to do it," Schmidt says. In fact, research at other sites in the region has shown that within 1,000 years of Gobekli Tepe's construction, settlers had corralled sheep, cattle and pigs. And, at a prehistoric village just 20 miles away, geneticists found evidence of the world's oldest domesticated strains of wheat; radiocarbon dating indicates agriculture developed there around 10,500 years ago, or just five centuries after Gobekli Tepe's construction.
To Schmidt and others, these new findings suggest a novel theory of civilization. Scholars have long believed that only after people learned to farm and live in settled communities did they have the time, organization and resources to construct temples and support complicated social structures. But Schmidt argues it was the other way around: the extensive, coordinated effort to build the monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies.
The immensity of the undertaking at Gobekli Tepe reinforces that view. Schmidt says the monuments could not have been built by ragged bands of hunter-gatherers. To carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of workers, all needing to be fed and housed. Hence the eventual emergence of settled communities in the area around 10,000 years ago. "This shows sociocultural changes come first, agriculture comes later," says Stanford University archaeologist Ian Hodder, who excavated Catalhoyuk, a prehistoric settlement 300 miles from Gobekli Tepe. "You can make a good case this area is the real origin of complex Neolithic societies."
What was so important to these early people that they gathered to build (and bury) the stone rings? The gulf that separates us from Gobekli Tepe's builders is almost unimaginable. Indeed, though I stood among the looming megaliths eager to take in their meaning, they didn't speak to me. They were utterly foreign, placed there by people who saw the world in a way I will never comprehend. There are no sources to explain what the symbols might mean. Schmidt agrees. "We're 6,000 years before the invention of writing here," he says.
"There's more time between Gobekli Tepe and the Sumerian clay tablets [etched in 3300 B.C.] than from Sumer to today," says Gary Rollefson, an archaeologist at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, who is familiar with Schmidt's work. "Trying to pick out symbolism from prehistoric context is an exercise in futility."
Still, archaeologists have their theories—evidence, perhaps, of the irresistible human urge to explain the unexplainable. The surprising lack of evidence that people lived right there, researchers say, argues against its use as a settlement or even a place where, for instance, clan leaders gathered. Hodder is fascinated that Gobekli Tepe's pillar carvings are dominated not by edible prey like deer and cattle but by menacing creatures such as lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions. "It's a scary, fantastic world of nasty-looking beasts," he muses. While later cultures were more concerned with farming and fertility, he suggests, perhaps these hunters were trying to master their fears by building this complex, which is a good distance from where they lived.
Danielle Stordeur, an archaeologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, emphasizes the significance of the vulture carvings. Some cultures have long believed the high-flying carrion birds transported the flesh of the dead up to the heavens. Stordeur has found similar symbols at sites from the same era as Gobekli Tepe just 50 miles away in Syria. "You can really see it's the same culture," she says. "All the most important symbols are the same."
For his part, Schmidt is certain the secret is right beneath his feet. Over the years, his team has found fragments of human bone in the layers of dirt that filled the complex. Deep test pits have shown that the floors of the rings are made of hardened limestone. Schmidt is betting that beneath the floors he'll find the structures' true purpose: a final resting place for a society of hunters.
Perhaps, Schmidt says, the site was a burial ground or the center of a death cult, the dead laid out on the hillside among the stylized gods and spirits of the afterlife. If so, Gobekli Tepe's location was no accident. "From here the dead are looking out at the ideal view," Schmidt says as the sun casts long shadows over the half-buried pillars. "They're looking out over a hunter's dream."
Andrew Curry, who is based in Berlin, wrote the July cover story about Vikings.
Berthold Steinhilber's hauntingly lighted award-winning photograhs of American ghost towns appeared in Smithsonian in May 2001.
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Australian researchers have identified a significant link between a gene involved in testosterone action and male-to-female transsexualism.
DNA analysis from 112 male-to-female transsexual volunteers showed they were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene.
The genetic difference may cause weaker testosterone signals, the team reported in Biological Psychiatry.
However, other genes are also likely to play a part, they stressed.
Increasingly, biological factors are being implicated in gender identity.
One study has shown that certain brain structures in male-to-female transsexual people are more "female like".
In the latest study, researchers looked for potential differences in three genes known to be involved in sex development - coding for the androgen receptor, the oestrogen receptor and an enzyme which converts testosterone to oestrogen.
Comparison of the DNA from the male to female transsexual participants with 258 controls showed a significant link with a long version of the androgen receptor gene and transsexualism.
It is known that longer versions of the androgen receptor gene are associated with less efficient testosterone signalling.
This reduced action of the male sex hormone may have an effect on gender development in the womb, the researchers speculated.
"We think that these genetic differences might reduce testosterone action and under masculinise the brain during foetal development," said researcher Lauren Hare from Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research.
Co-author Professor Vincent Harley added: "There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice, however our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops."
Although this is the largest genetic study of transsexualism to date, the researchers now plan to see if the results can be replicated in a larger population.
Terry Reed from the Gender Identity Research and Education Society said she was convinced of a biological basis to transsexualism.
"This study appears to reinforce earlier studies which have indicated that, in some trans people, there may be a genetic trigger to the development of an atypical gender identity.
"However, it may be just one of several routes and, although it seems extremely likely that a biological element will always be present in the aetiology of transsexualism, it's unlikely that developmental pathways will be the same in all individuals."
"Art for Barack Obama," a work by Korean printmaker Lee Ho-chul, went on display at Rogue Space, a gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea in New York last Friday. Lee created a portrait of Obama from the hair of 1,000 Korean Americans.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
BBC News, Sydney
Critics of the filtering plan fear it will slow net speeds
Is the Rudd government about to erect a Great Firewall of Australia - introducing a form of internet censorship that will infringe upon the freedom of computer users to browse the worldwide web?
That is the concern of online civil liberties groups, as the Rudd government prepares plans for a field trial of internet service provider (ISP) filtering products, with a view to introducing them nationally.
ISP filtering is the blocking of certain sites which the government deems illegal or inappropriate, and is the central plank of the Rudd government's "Plan for Cyber-Safety".
The official watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been conducting laboratory tests of six filtering products, and the government plans a live trial soon.
"Although the internet has opened up a world of possibilities and benefits for Australian children," noted communications minister Stephen Conroy when he announced his intention to police the internet earlier in the year, "it has also exposed them to continually emerging and evolving dangers that did not previously exist."
The aim, he said, was to create a safer online environment for Australian children.
But the government has been very tight-lipped about its plans. That information vacuum has been filled on the blogosphere by concerned internet users.
Much of the angry online chatter and speculation has centred on whether internet users will be able to opt-out of the filtered "clean feed".
China is known for operating tight control over net access
Senator Conroy has stated that Australians would be given the opportunity to opt-out, and that the scheme would therefore not be mandatory.
But a network engineer from one of Australia's leading net suppliers, Internode, has challenged that assertion, arguing that there would be two black-lists. One would contain unsuitable and harmful material for children; the other would include inappropriate material for adults.
Mark Newton of Internode wrote in an online forum: 'The much-touted 'opt-out' would merely involve switching from blacklist number 1 to blacklist number 2….Regardless of your personal preference, your traffic will pass through the censorship box.'
Senator Conroy has since indicated that there would be a two-tier system: a mandatory one that would block all "illegal material" and an optional tier that would block material deemed unsuitable for children, such as pornography.
The opponents of ISP filtering have practical as well as philosophical concerns.
Firstly, there are worries about online censorship.
The website, "No Internet Censorship for Australia" asks: "Do we really want the Government of the day deciding what Australian adults can and can't see? Do we want Australia to join a censorship club in which Burma, China and North Korea are the founding members?"
Then there is the problem of what online free speech advocates call "censorship creep".
It is easy to mix up a site criticising child sex tourism and one promoting child sex tourism.
Dale Clapperton, EFA
"Even if the filtering system only targets child pornography to begin with, we have no confidence it will stay that way," says Dale Clapperton of the online civil liberties organisation, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA). "It will be subject to creep. Everyone with any lobbying clout will be after the government to ban their pet peeve websites.'
These fears are exacerbated by the political balance of power in Canberra.
Though the governing Labor Party has a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, it has to rely in the upper house, the Senate, on the Greens, an independent from South Australia and the socially conservative Family First Party.
Family First's sole parliamentarian, Senator Steve Fielding, recently single-handedly blocked the government's initial proposals for a luxury car tax. Freedom of online speech advocates fear he could use his influence to push for even greater controls on the internet.
There is also question of what is inappropriate, and who gets to decide. The Greens Senator Scott Ludlam contends: "The black list ... can become very grey depending on how expansive the list becomes - euthanasia material, politically related material, material about anorexia. There is a lot of distasteful stuff on the internet."
There are technical issues, as well, such as the impact of filtering on the speed of the web, which in Australia is already slow.
The technical term is network degradation. After its recent trials, ACMA reported significant improvements on earlier studies. The network degradation on one product was less than 2%, although two products were in excess of 75%.
Censorship creep may afflict the net filtering system say critics
Filtering systems also have a tendency to "overblock", restricting access to legal material.
They look at words, the ratio of images to text and the preponderance of skin colour. They assess content but not necessarily the context in which it appears.
"It is easy to mix up a site criticising child sex tourism and one promoting child sex tourism," says Mr Clapperton of the EFA.
Finally, there is the question of whether the filters will be effective. In the ACMA trials, the filters ranged from an 88% to 97% hit rate.
Even the most successfully restrictive system was by no means water-tight.
Computer experts also say that the filters will not impact peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks, which account for an estimated two-thirds of internet traffic.
"Any determined user - including children - could bypass the filter quickly using an anonymizer service," says the No Internet Censorship for Australia site.Many in the online community fear that Australian government is about to degrade the internet with a filtering system that will not offer any effective protections - that if a way can be found to erect the Great Firewall of Australia, it will be easily and quickly breached.
Hippocrates: the father of modern medicine?
I nearly swallowed my tongue.
Their second answer was House, the fictional doctor from the American TV series.
Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.
Their third answer was Hippocrates, presumed author of the Hippocratic Oath - I breathed a sigh of relief.
Written nearly 2,500 years ago, the Oath is the most famous text in Western medicine, yet most people (including doctors) know precious little about it.
One GP recounted the story of an elderly patient who believed the Oath instructed doctors never to tell patients the truth. It contains no such advice.
Here is a brief guide to the Oath.
The Oath starts: "I swear by Apollo the physician and by Asclepius and Hygieia and Panacea... to bring the following oath to fulfilment."
Apollo, the god of healing, fell in love with a human, Coronis.
I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them
In his absence, Apollo sent a white crow to look after her.
When the crow informed Apollo that Coronis loved another man, Apollo's rage turned the crow black.
To avenge her brother, Apollo's sister shot Coronis with an arrow and, as she lay dying, Coronis told Apollo that she was bearing his child.
Although Apollo could not save Coronis, he rescued the unborn child, Asclepius.
Hygieia, the goddess of health, and Panacea, the goddess of cures, are the daughters of Asclepius.
According to legend, Hippocrates was a descendant of one of Asclepius' sons.
Doctors taking the Oath would doubtless have been inspired by this illustrious lineage of healers.
The next section instructs the doctor to treat his teachers as his parents, and to pass on the art of medicine to the next generation of healers.
In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science
The Oath continues: "And I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them."
In other words, doctors should act in the best interests of their patients, and when unjust circumstances arise - for instance, a certain life-prolonging drug may not be available on the NHS - they should strive to correct the injustice harming their patients.
The next part seemingly concerns euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, saying: "And I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked, nor will I suggest the way to such a counsel."
Two leading scholars of the Oath, Littre and Miles, have however suggested that this passage alludes to the then common practice of using doctors as skilled political assassins.
Steven Miles notes: "Fear of the physician-poisoner may be traced very close to the time of the Oath."
The word "euthanasia" (meaning "easeful death") was only coined a century after the writing of the Oath.
The text continues: "And likewise I will not give a woman a destructive pessary."
This passage is often interpreted as a rejection of abortion.
However, abortion was legal at the time and the text only mentions pessaries (a soaked piece of wool inserted in the vagina to induce abortion), not the oral methods of abortion also used in ancient Greece.
As pessaries could cause lethal infections, the author of the Oath may have had a clinical objection to the method, rather than a moral objection to abortion itself.
The next sentence - "In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science" - is a call for professional integrity.
Doctors should refrain from immoral behaviour and resist the temptations that accompany their privileged position (today, from drug companies offering generous gifts, for example).
The Oath continues: "I will not cut, and certainly not those suffering from stone, but I will cede this to men who are practitioners of this activity."
Another common misconception is that the Oath forbids surgery.
About whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable
In fact, it instructs doctors to acknowledge the limits of their competence and to refer cases to more specialised practitioners.
Next, the doctor enters the patient's house: "Into as many houses as I may enter, I will go for the benefit of the ill, while being far from all voluntary and destructive injustice, especially from sexual acts both upon women's bodies and upon men's."
The need for such a statement reflects the wide distrust in healers at the time.
In a competitive marketplace where quacks abounded, it was necessary to reassure the public that doctors would not exploit patients.
The penultimate section deals with confidentiality and reads: "And about whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable."
As today, patients in ancient times shared deeply personal information with doctors on the assumption that their details would not be revealed to others.
Without this trust, patients may withhold facts that would help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
The text ends with the rewards that await those who respect the Oath ("the benefits both of life and of art and science, being held in good repute among all human beings for time eternal") and the punishment of those who do not ("if, however, I transgress and swear falsely, the opposite of these").
This whistle-stop tour of the Oath gives some idea of the content and spirit of this ancient text.
In an age of technological developments, cosmetic surgery, complementary medicine, drug companies, and many other temptations for patients and doctors alike, the spirit of the Oath is as relevant as ever.
• Dr Daniel Sokol is a medical ethicist at St George's, University of London, and Director of the Applied Clinical Ethics (ACE) programme at Imperial College, London.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 12:49 AM on 25th October 2008
To Shakespeare, it was the moment a feckless youth turned into a great king, leading his army to victory against seemingly impossible odds.
But French academics have a very different view of the Battle of Agincourt - claiming that English soldiers acted like 'war criminals'.
They also accuse King Henry V of giving his permission for captives to be burnt to death and ordering his bodyguards to execute a noble who had surrendered.
Romantic view of history? Kenneth Branagh playing Henry V in a film of Shakespeare's play in which he leads his army to victory against impossible odds
The battle - part of the Hundred Years War - has become a byword for English heroism in the face of insurmountable odds.
But nearly 600 years later, historians will tell a conference at the Medieval History Museum in Agincourt that the stories that Henry's troops were hugely outnumbered are a lie.
The museum's director, distinguished French historian Christophe Gilliot, said: 'There's been a distortion of the facts and this conference will attempt to set the record straight.
Brave or brutal? An illustration of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 in which the English were always thought to have been hugely outnumbered - but French academics claim they in fact acted like war criminals
'We have historians arriving from all over France, and all will produce hard facts concerning the battle.
Inspired leader: A portrait of Henry V
'At the very least the English forces acted dishonourably. The Middle Ages were a very violent time, of course, but some might accuse the English of acting like what might now be called war criminals.'
The Battle of Agincourt was immortalised by Shakespeare and is the centrepiece of his play Henry V.
It took place on Friday, October 25 in 1415 after a force led by Henry engaged the French at Agincourt, a small village not far from Calais in northern France.
The traditional story is that the English army, made up mainly of archers using longbows, massacred a vast force of French noblemen.
But detailed bureaucratic records from the army of the French king, Charles VI, reveal it was made up of 9,000 travelling soldiers, perhaps with another 3,000 local troops.
This compares with a total force of 12,000 which travelled to France with Henry - although 3,000 were lost during the preceding siege of Harfleur.
English chroniclers writing in the years following the battle wrongly claimed that there were as many as 150,000 French, compared with 6,000 English soldiers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no English academics have been invited to today's conference in France.
But Professor Anne Curry, a military historian from Southampton University, admitted that many accounts of the battle have been exaggerated to give the impression of 'plucky little England against the evil French'.
|Written by Patrick Frater|
|Thursday, 23 October 2008|
TOKYO – "Bangkok Dangerous" and "The Eye" helmers Danny and Oxide Pang have signed a ten year exclusive management and production agreement with Hong Kong production and distribution group Universe Int'l Holdings.
Under the new deal, the twin brothers will next direct "Child's Eye," a horror pic that would be one of the first pics from Hong Kong to be made to modern 3D standards. Production is tentatively skedded to start in April or May next year.
That will overlap with final stages of effects and post production on "The Storm Warriors II," a "300"-style martial arts actioner that stars Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng, Nicholas Tse, Charlene Choi, Simon Yam and Tang Yan. Pic, which has been widely pre-sold, is now being lined up for pan-Asian release on Dec 17, 2009.
The brothers are also committed to shoot "Storm Warriors III," a pic that will again use characters from the underlying comic series that spawned "1998 movie "Stormriders" (sic) and "Storm Warriors II," though will take a significantly different, post-modern tone.
"Our deal covers both Danny and Oxide, whether working together or on their solo films. We have worked together on so many of their films that we all have an extremely good understanding and working relationship," Alvin Lam, Universe COO, said.
"It also includes their Hollywood careers, and while we would not expect to fully finance any of their American studio movies we will likely take a co-producer or associate producer role," Lam said.
The gas best known for being used in many stink bombs may also control blood pressure, say US researchers.
Small amounts of hydrogen sulphide - a toxic gas generated by bacteria living in the human gut - are responsible for the foul odour of flatulence.
But it seems the gas is also produced by an enzyme in blood vessels where it relaxes them and lowers blood pressure.
The findings in mice may lead to new treatments for high blood pressure, the Science journal reported.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, found that the gas is produced in the cells lining blood vessels by an enzyme called CSE.
In mice engineered to be deficient in this enzyme, levels of hydrogen sulphide were almost depleted compared with levels in normal mice.
The CSE-deficient mice also had blood pressure measurements about 20% higher than the normal mice, comparable to serious hypertension in humans.
When the engineered mice were given a drug which relaxes normal blood vessels - methacholine - there was no difference, indicating the gas is responsible for the relaxation.
Another gas, nitric oxide, is already known to be involved in control of blood pressure.
Researcher Dr Solomon Snyder said: "Now we know hydrogen sulphide's role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension."
Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, an expert in vascular pharmacology at Barts and The London Medical School, said: "This study shows that smelly hydrogen sulphide is also likely to have a role in regulating blood pressure and it will be a bit of an impetus for scientists to develop more specific tools to work out what's going on.
"We know hydrogen sulphide is not good for us at high levels but it seems that at the lower levels in the body it is essential."
Dr Allan MacDonald, a reader in pharmacology at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "Treatments based on hydrogen sulphide could become important in a variety of cardiovascular diseases," he said.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"No comedian's wife thinks he's funny," Tommy Smothers says as he surveys the panoramic vista from his hilltop home and vineyard in the middle of Sonoma's Valley of the Moon. "The first few years of the marriage, maybe. I was funny as hell the first couple of years."
Smothers first repaired to this peak 40 years ago to lick his wounds after CBS abruptly pulled the rug out from under the top-rated "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" on the eve of its fourth season, the culmination of constant harassment and surveillance by the network's censors during the show's three seasons.
At last month's Emmy Awards, Smothers accepted a belated trophy for his contributions to the team that won the 1968 writing award for the show's final season; Smothers left his name off at the time, fearing the inclusion would draw controversy. When he accepted his Emmy last month, he was typically plainspoken and eloquent at the same time, a Smothers hallmark. (The speech is on YouTube.)
"Freedom of expression and freedom of speech aren't really important," he told the audience, "unless they're heard. The freedom of hearing is as important as the freedom of speaking. It's hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war. There's nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action. So I dedicate this Emmy to all people who feel compelled to speak out, not afraid to speak to power, won't shut up and refuse to be silent."
September was a watershed moment for the Smothers Brothers in another respect: The long-awaited release of the comedy show's third and final season on DVD, this time including the portions of the show CBS censored, including Harry Belafonte singing "Don't Stop the Carnival" as footage of violence outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago rolled behind him.
NPR television critic David Bianculli will publish his oral history of the Smothers Brothers show next year. What started as a last-ditch effort by the network to salvage TV's dying variety-show format became a landmark series in television history.
Act of repression
The muzzling of the Smothers Brothers at the height of the Vietnam War and the era of student protest was an emblematic act of political repression three months after Richard Nixon was elected president. But the firing of the Smothers Brothers has echoed through the years, becoming a case study in mass media censorship. The brothers, who arrived on the small screen as clean-cut, wholesome folk song parodists, stumbled into the turbulent times.
"Instead of vacuous comedy, we thought, 'Let's do something with some bite,' " Smothers, says. "There was the Vietnam War, voters' rights - all sorts of issues that we thought we could reflect and develop a point of view. We didn't even know it was important until they said 'You can't say this.' Forty years later, people are still talking about it. Isn't that amazing?"
The Emmy sits on the top of a grand piano cluttered with family photos. Smothers, 71, and his wife of 18 years, Marcy, have two teenagers (Smothers also has a grown son from an earlier marriage). Medical school skeletons, some wearing costumes, are stationed around the spacious living room that looks out over the valley. Smothers sits in a chair next to a table with a pair of lamps shaped like giant kernels of candy corn.
"I had mixed feelings," he says about the award. "It's in the past - what's the difference? Then my wife and kids got excited about it, and I started to think maybe this is pretty cool. I started to think about what am I going to say. Because we were silenced for it 40 years ago doesn't mean we have been converted. So I made my little statement. Steve Martin introduced me. My brother thought it was cool, pretty neat."
From the standpoint of today's TV fare, the old Smothers Brothers shows look decidedly tame. One of the first bits that raised the network's ire involved nothing more flagrant than comedian David Steinberg saying Moses burned his feet on the bush, and "there are many Old Testament scholars who to this day believe it was the first mention of Christ in the Bible."
But it wasn't the lame anti-war jokes or comedian and presidential candidate Pat Paulsen's editorials on gun control that earned the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" its place in history. "The silencing made it more important, the issue of being censored," Smothers says. "If they had just not picked up the show, it wouldn't have been that big an issue."
Government censorship isn't necessary in a free-enterprise system, Smothers says, citing reasons that prove he hasn't mellowed a bit in four decades. "The country doesn't have to stop people from saying stuff. The corporations do it for them. Look at the Dixie Chicks. The corporations are fighting things for other people. That's fascism in action. Fascism is when private industry owns the government."
Developing the act
The two brothers (and a sister - Tom, Dick and Sherry) grew up in Southern California. Tommy and Dickie began to develop an act while students at San Jose State, an act they polished at North Beach nightclubs in the '50s. Their 1961 album, "Live at the Purple Onion," established them as leading clowns on the folk-music scene. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary in show business and perform as many as 60 concerts a year.
"We were famous before we were good," Smothers says. "Now we're good, not famous."
The act has changed little over the years. Tommy Smothers started playing yo-yo about 25 years ago - when he does yo-yo tricks, they are funny, and when they don't work, even funnier - and he usually carries one in his pocket.
Tom and Dick Smothers not only mined the fascination of the day with folk songs, but also the passive-aggressive relationship between brothers - "Mom always liked you best" - a role that often spilled over into their offstage life.
"We've been 2 feet apart for 50 years. He's always on my left. I'm always on his right. Same with our baby pictures. We've been looking at each other that far away. We'll get offstage and he'll look at me and say, 'When are you going to have that cyst fixed?' "
Smothers says all that stopped after an 18-hour couples-counseling session about 15 years ago.
The counselor "changed everything basically by saying, 'Stop the nonsense - you're professionals, cut out all this brother s-,' " Smothers says. "We could fight. We could clear a room."
Smothers replanted 45 acres on the hillsides surrounding his home after phylloxera took the old grapevines. When he and Dick, 68, first moved to Sonoma and bought property outside Kenwood, they started producing Smothers Brothers Wine, but long ago changed the name to Remick Ridge, after their grandfather.
"People would say Smothers Brothers is a good wine, but it has a funny finish - things like that," says Smothers.
Dick left Sonoma long ago for Florida, but his older brother has developed a keen appreciation of the role the straight man plays in comedy teams.
"The straight man in vaudeville was paid more than the comic," he says. "That was the skilled position. The straight man could introduce acts, and you could put him with a funny guy and have him control that. If you don't believe the straight man, you don't believe the comic. Look at Bud Abbott, Dean Martin, Dan Rowan. I learned this in 50 years in the business - the quality of the straight man defines how good the act is."
When he first moved to the property, he lived in a cabana next to the swimming pool and then slowly built a barn, garage and magnificent home over the years. He has grapevines trained to grow along his rooftop, a tomato plant sprawling onto his patio and rosebushes he prunes himself.
The firing clobbered the Smothers Brothers, who spent years recovering their careers and, in many ways, their lives as well.
"It took three years to get my sense of humor back," he says. "I started taking everything seriously. I became the temporary poster boy for the First Amendment, freedom of speech. Twenty years later, there's Howard Stern."
He and his brother went off separately, as Smothers struggled to find himself. "Everything was so serious," he says. "Then I saw Jane Fonda on the 'Tonight Show' one night talking about burning babies. I think Cesar Chavez was on the same show. It was like an epiphany for me - there was no joy, no sense of humor, no laughter. It just turned me around."
He leaves and returns with a calligraphic print he and his wife sent out some years before as a Christmas card. It is a quote from Alistair Cooke that reads:
"In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby."
With a playwright's timing, his wife arrives, fresh from working out, a trim woman who hosts a radio talk show in Santa Rosa.
"OK, so she's 25 years younger," says Smothers. "If she dies, she dies."
"I didn't think that was funny the first time," says his wife.
In Tommy Smothers' life, everybody else is a straight man.
Reviews: The "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" final season DVD and a documentary on the show's censoring. E3
E-mail Joel Selvin at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
A website called Christian Nymphos has been set up by a group of wives to encourage young women to embrace intimacy in their marriages.
The site dispenses advice on how couples can spice up their love life without breaking God's laws, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Suggestions for new sexual positions, scenarios and games are published alongside to links to Bible study websites.
"God wants us to be madly in love with our husbands," wrote the anonymous women behind the site. "He wants us to keep that fire burning in our marriage beds."
Of the website's provocative name, they add: "The word Nympho has a negative connotation for some. It doesn't have to stay this way."
Although the tone of discussion can be explicit - oral sex, orgasms and sex aides are frequently discussed - the moral message is still strong.
Sex outside of marriage is forbidden, masturbation is frowned upon, and erotica is only acceptable if the characters are married.
Christian Nymphos has had more than 800,000 visits since its launch last year.
"It's good to know that there are Godly women who are not ashamed of the blessing of marital sexual love," wrote one reader.
Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably no God" could soon be running on the streets of London.
The atheist posters are the idea of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and have been supported by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.
The BHA planned only to raise £5,500, which was to be matched by Professor Dawkins, but it has now raised more than £36,000 of its own accord.
It aims to have two sets of 30 buses carrying the signs for four weeks.
The complete slogan reads: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
As the campaign has raised more than anticipated, it will also have posters on the inside of buses as well.
The BHA is also considering extending the campaign to cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Professor Dawkins said: "Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride - automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.
"Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.
"This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."
Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, said: "We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air.
"If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better."
But Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice said: "Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.
"I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.
"People don't like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don't like it."
However the Methodist Church said it thanked Professor Dawkins for encouraging a "continued interest in God".
Spirituality and discipleship officer Rev Jenny Ellis said: "This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life."
She added: "Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning."
The buses with the slogans will run in Westminster from January.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Gorgonas - Macabra enterradora
Jayne County - Cry of Angels & too much to dream '79 LIVE!
CALMANDO QUAL - ANTI FLAG
Peter Tosh "Where You Gonna Run"
Tu madre tiene rabo - Cuatro jinetes
L' arc en Ciel Neo Universe
LIP CREAM Live 1988
Real DE Catorce-Azul
Janis Joplin ? Piece of my heart
Piorreah - La papela
MIRANDA SEX GARDEN - Peep Show
Eskorbuto - Cerebros destruidos
ALEC EMPIRE - ON FIRE
Marriage issue made headlines even 50 years ago
By DAVID NG Los Angeles Times
Oct. 18, 2008, 6:16PM
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — They read like dispatches from the controversy over Proposition 8, the current ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in California.
"Homosexual Marriage?" asks one magazine headline in large white type. Another takes a more aggressive approach: "Let's Push Homophile Marriage," accompanied by an illustration of muscled men in amorous poses.
But a closer look at these magazine covers reveals something rather unexpected. They were published in 1953 and 1963, respectively — decades before same-sex marriage became a national lightning rod, let alone a rallying point for gay rights activists.
Copies of these yellowing periodicals are on display at the ONE Archives Gallery and Museum, a new space in West Hollywood that appears to be the first museum in Southern California solely dedicated to gay history.
The museum — really a micro-museum at 600 square feet — has set a macro goal for itself: to bring little-known aspects of gay history into the public sphere. The museum is an offshoot of the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, which is affiliated with the University of Southern California.
The old magazine covers dedicated to gay marriage come from ONE magazine, the first gay publication in the country.
"They show that we've been having this fight for a very long time, longer than most people think," said Joseph Hawkins, president of ONE. "It was an act of defiance to publish stuff like that in the '50s and '60s. I'm surprised that alone didn't get the magazine shut down."
Hawkins, a professor of anthropology and gender studies at the University of Southern California, serves as curator of the museum. Because the archives are a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the museum by extension cannot directly support political causes, including the effort to defeat Proposition 8.
"Let's just say we have to be extremely careful," Hawkins said.
The city of West Hollywood donated the space — a former storage garage — to the museum and is helping with some of the costs.
The rest of the funding comes from the ONE Archives.
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:36 PM on 17th October 2008
Holocaust survivors say Pope Pius XII never openly denounced the Nazi slaughter of Jews
France's main Jewish organisation has warned that a Vatican plan to put wartime Pope Pius XII on the road to sainthood would deal a severe blow to Catholic-Jewish relations if completed.
Holocaust survivors felt "profound hurt" because Pius never openly denounced the Nazi slaughter of Jews and his failure to do so after the war was "profoundly shocking," the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organisations said.
Its statement came a week after Pope Benedict defended the diplomatic approach Pius took as the best way to save the greatest number of Jews and said he hoped his beatification - the first step to sainthood - could proceed without problem.
'The plan to beatify Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, would deal a severe blow to relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world if it is carried out,' said CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions.
'Concerned about burning his bridges with Germany, Pope Pius XII never delivered a clear speech denouncing the singular monstrosity of the extermination of millions of Jews,' it said.
'Furthermore, he did not do it after the war either, which is profoundly shocking.'
The long-simmering dispute between Catholics and Jews, whose relations have otherwise improved greatly in recent decades, flared up last week when an Israeli rabbi told bishops meeting in Rome that Jews could not forgive and forget Pius's silence.
Founded as an underground aid network for Jews during the German occupation, CRIF is the public spokesman for the 600,000-strong French Jewish community, the largest in Europe.
Its statement was much stronger than a recent appeal by the United States-based Anti-Defamation League, whose National Director Abraham Foxman urged the Vatican to open its wartime archives fully before making any decision on Pius.
CRIF said Pius did help to hide "a certain number of Jews" in Rome during the German occupation and that "the magnificent role played individually by some clergy, notably in France, to save Jews" should not be underestimated.
But it argued that Pius should have played the role of a prophet denouncing Nazi crimes rather than a prudent diplomat.
CRIF criticised the Vatican for not publishing all its Holocaust-era archives and said most independent historians did not agree with the official Catholic position that Pius worked ceaselessly to save Jews.
'As long as no new documents indisputably change the historical view of this era - and none have yet been provided - Jewish survivors of the Shoah will suffer a profound hurt if the silence of the magisterium in the face of the genocide of the Jews is presented as model behaviour,' it said.
Pius's defenders, including some Jews, say the oppression of Jews would have been worse if he had openly condemned it.
They cite the rise in deportations of Dutch Jews to death camps after Catholic bishops there denounced Nazi policy in 1942.
'He often acted in a secret and silent way precisely because, given the real situations of that complex moment in history, he realised that only in this manner could the worst be avoided and greatest number of Jews be saved,' Benedict said at a Mass last week to mark the 50th anniversary of Pius's death.
The Vatican also says it has published most of the significant documents about Pius and keeps some closed to researchers only for organisational reasons.
Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl. This summer, his parents decided to let him grow up as one. His case, and a rising number of others like it, illuminates a heated scientific debate about the nature of gender—and raises troubling questions about whether the limits of child indulgence have stretched too far.
by Hanna RosinBrandon Simms at age 5 in a Disney princess costume
(Courtesy of the family)
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