Indian police crack down – on the “usual” suspects?

Even by the standards of this fractious and sprawling country, a victim of terrorism for at least 20 years, the spate of recent strikes has been unusual and unsettling: seven separate attacks in four months, with a death toll of about 150.

It has also prompted the law enforcement authorities to begin an aggressive manhunt that has gripped the nation and raised anew questions about India’s police tactics, the place of its large Muslim minority and the effectiveness of its overburdened courts…

But the official account of events has divided the nation, in part along religious lines, failed to withstand the scrutiny of newspapers and civil rights groups, and in turn revealed a general distrust of law enforcement.

More worryingly, it has uncovered a deep well of anger among India’s Muslims, who complain bitterly of being wrongfully singled out every time bombs go off…

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Microsoft extends the life of XP – again

In April, Microsoft extended the life of Windows XP Home by two years for budget laptops. In June, the software giant did the same for ULCPCs as its partners continued to report strong demand. Now Microsoft is making another extension, this one affecting a much less specific market; the software giant has decided to halt XP Professional media shipments to major computer makers (system builders are not included) not on January 31, 2009, but instead on July 31. An e-mail from a Microsoft spokesperson explains the reasoning for the change:

As more customers make the move to Windows Vista, we want to make sure that they are making that transition with confidence and that it is as smooth as possible. Providing downgrade media for a few more months is part of that commitment.

Ever since the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft has offered customers “downgrade rights.”

Essentially this means that those who purchase Vista Business or Vista Ultimate have the option to use to Windows XP Professional on their PC and then move to Vista when they are ready, without having to pay for an upgrade. OEMs have supported this option forcefully ever since Windows XP expired on June 30, 2008 (XP was no longer licensed to OEMs and retail sales were terminated). Downgrade rights never expire, however, so those who insist on using XP will be able to as long as they can get their hands on Vista.

Tee hee. Leaves lots of room for blather about hardware this and that and – Microsoft hopes – little notice that XP is still more portable, system to system, than Vista.

Martha Stewart upgrades to WordPress

New WordPress user Martha Stewart dedicated the September 17 episode of The Martha Stewart Show to blogging!

On the show, Martha explains how she and her staff utilize The Martha Blog and chats with some of her favorite bloggers, including WordPress users Margaret Roach, Perez Hilton, and Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman.

I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now and I have to say that I love being able to communicate so easily on a daily basis. Being in the public eye, I have a devoted following that wants to know more about my personal life and activities. Prior to blogging, we sent out a newsletter dealing with such issues. Although the printed newsletter was charming and informative, it was also a rather slow process and didn’t reach nearly as many readers as this blog does.

I really love the spontaneity of blogging and being able to post whatever, whenever.

Here’s a clip from the show:

WordPress rocks. Martha rocks. What more could you ask for?

A cookbook with a lot of balls!

Lamb Eggs. Rocky Mountain Oysters. Spring Roe. Cowboy Caviar. Montana Tendergroins. While the rest of the world dreams up user-friendly names for dishes cooked with testicles, Serbian chef Ljubomir Erovic has no such qualms, as his widely-blogged Testicle Cookbook – Cooking with Balls vividly confirms. Ljubomir, who also runs the ever-popular World Testicle Cooking Championship is a man on a singularly testicular mission…

On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the charm of a recipe that begins “wash penis clean and pat dry” (stew with bull penis) or the romantic appeal of heart-shaped turkey testicles, and the instructional videos scattered throughout the pages show Erovic to be a man of great charm and unbridled enthusiasm…

And so I head up to the the halal butchers of London’s Green Lanes to track down my ballsy bounty, strike lucky in the first shop I enter, and return home to rustle up some pizza. The recipe is pretty straightforward – a basic dough, tomato paste, chopped onion, chopped red pepper, cheddar cheese and the testicles – but it’s not an altogether happy result. The slices of testicle are wet and soft, and their delicate flavour doesn’t match the rest of the dish. My suspicion is that Erovic has created the recipe to lure in the less adventurous diner, as if to pretend that these lamb berries are a perfectly normal ingredient.

I have more luck with my second dish, the battered testicle fritter. The nads are first marinated in lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and pepper before being fried in a simple batter, and the results are stunning, like miniature, elegant Wiener schnitzels. Emboldened, I’ve set next weekend aside to try Testicles A La Dime Vuk from Kratovo, a bold concoction that attempts to marry “5 pairs of testicles of castrated pigs” with Komovica grape brandy.

Mmmm-mmmmm.

Assembly line chicken ain’t necessarily cooked chicken

The federal government has announced that 32 people in 12 states were sickened with salmonella poisoning after eating precooked, frozen chicken dinners. The problem? Many of the people who got sick apparently did not follow the instructions for preparing the meal, which called for heating it in an oven. Those who got sick popped their meals in microwaves instead.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the dishes included breaded or pre-browned chicken breasts, some of them stuffed with vegetables or sold as “chicken Kiev” and “chicken cordon bleu.” The appearance of the food led people to assume that the chicken breasts were thoroughly cooked, even though they were still raw or undercooked inside. The agency said that some of the sicknesses occurred in Minnesota, but would not identify the 11 other states involved in the outbreak.

The issue is that people think it’s cooked and it just needs to be heated up,” Carlota Medus, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, told the New York Times last year. “Microwave cooking for something that has to be cooked isn’t always a good idea.”

Bon appétit.

Pakistan tells Afghan refugees to quit battle zone

Pakistani authorities have begun expelling Afghan refugees from a tribal region that has become the main battleground between troops and fighters linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

“They have to go. There will be no concession,” Safirullah Wazir, the government’s top administrator in Bajaur, told Reuters. “We have reports of their links with militants and their involvement in terrorist activities…”

A Pakistani general last month described Bajaur as a new “center of gravity” for militancy and said that if the security forces prevailed two-thirds of the militant problem in the region could be eradicated.

Afghan refugees were ordered last Thursday to leave the area within days or face a crackdown. Around 200 Afghans from 30 families had left so far, but Wazir said 30,000 remained in the region.

Some tribesmen were glad to see the back of the Afghans.

“They should have taken this step long before because whenever we tried to take action against militants these refugees supported them and sheltered them,” gray-bearded Mohammad Sher, a tribal elder, told Reuters in Khar, the main town in Bajaur.

Sheltering refugees is a two-sided coin – just like supporting illegal migrant labor. The latter are most often used to cut wages from local workers. The former may be part of an insurgent force affecting native politics as much as life back in their home country.

Which is what has been happening in Pakistan.

Yes, of course, the opportunism extends to all sides and their allies. Pakistan bureaucrats were glad of the U.S. dollars spread around the region when the Afghan-Society War dominated border life. Plenty of pockets were lined.

Leave cannabis out of your war against drugs?

Why are we asking this now?

Because a British think-tank has published a report for next year’s United Nations Strategic Drug Policy Review, suggesting that a decriminalised, regulated market in cannabis would cause less harm than the prohibition of the drug currently in force across most of the world…

What exactly is the think-tank report?

It is the Global Cannabis Commission report, launched at a conference in the House of Lords and prepared for the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust “set up to promote the investigation of consciousness and its altered states from the perspectives of science, health, politics and history.” The report, put together by a specially-commissioned international group of academics and experts in drug policy analysis, attempts to put the issue of cannabis in a global perspective with a comprehensive view of the evidence, so that governments can move beyond what is termed “the present stalemate in cannabis policy…”

So what are the chances that cannabis will cease to be internationally outlawed?

With the US running the show? Don’t hold your breath.

Useful, informative article. Bound to be ignored by our politicians.

Drugs bloodbath on Mexican border claims 50 lives

Two headless corpses wrapped in blankets, five beaten and bound men asphyxiated in a car, and the mayor of a sizeable town riddled with bullets. Mexico’s spiral of drugs-related violence swept on through the weekend, defying the government’s biggest ever effort to rein in the cartels.

Much of the latest bloodbath occurred in Tijuana, across the frontier from California, where nearly 50 people – including 12 found next to a primary school – were killed in the past week…

On Saturday the mayor of Ixtapan de la Sal, a spa town south-west of Mexico City, died after hooded hitmen shot at his car. Newspapers blamed Sergio Vergara’s death on Los Zetas, another of the main gangs in the bewildering assortment of Mexican trafficking organisations fighting each other across the country.

Newspapers claim the drug wars have led to the deaths of about 3,500 so far this year, already a tally 40% up on 2007’s record total. A military-led anti-cartel offensive began in December 2006. The crackdown of Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, was very popular to begin with, but a poll published in El Universal newspaper on Friday showed that 40% of Mexicans now feel less secure, with only 25% thinking themselves safer. About half in the poll believed things would calm down in the next three years if the fight-back continued. Calderón has repeatedly backed the strategy. “We need to rescue our liberty and our security so our young people can develop to their full potential,” he said on Friday. “We will continue our frontal battle against organised crime.”

South of the border, down Mexico way. Didn’t that used to be a cheerful song title?

Russian chess queen grabs 1st gold at World Mind Games

Russia’s ace chess player Alexandra Kosteniuk clinched the first gold medal of the World Mind Games as the newly crowned queen came from behind to beat former world champion Stefanova Antoaneta of Bulgaria 2-1 in the women’s blitz chess.

The 24-year-old Russian, who won the world championship in September, overcame the first-game slump in the final and regained the momentum in the following two games to seal a thrilling victory. Her win also witnessed the first gold medal being produced from the 15-day Games.

Winning the first gold is a huge success for me. Because it was the first Mind Games and it was a good move today as we always tried to join the Olympic family,” said Alexandra…

The 1st World Mind Games, which opened officially on Firday night, attracted more than 3,000 players from 143 countries and regions. Bridge, Chess, Go, Draughts and Xiangqi were on the program.

I’m not even close to qualified to comment on this story.

Thanks, K B