North Carolina town pays out $275,000 in ‘dirty dancing’ case

Nobody puts Rebecca Willis in a corner.

A small mountain town has agreed to pay $275,000 for banning her from a community hangout after residents complained about her dirty dancing.Willis, then 56, was told to stay away from the Marshall Depot community center eight years ago.

According to court documents, she was accused of gyrating and simulating sexual intercourse with her partner while wearing a skirt so short it exposed her underwear. Willis described her dance style as “exuberant and flamboyant” but not obscene…

They said they’d burn the place down before they let her come back, so we decided to see if they’d put a monetary price on the right,” he said…

Willis said in a statement that the settlement sends a message that the town should allow for diversity and free expression.

Sounds about right for the heart of the Bible Belt.

Kashmir prepares for an election


Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

With separatist leaders in jail, Indian Kashmir is set to vote Monday in a multiphase election that will test the legitimacy of New Delhi’s control of a region beset by independence protests earlier this year.

Thousands of troops will guard the vote in one of the world’s most militarized regions, which witnessed some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations this year since a separatist revolt against Indian control in the Himalayan region broke out in 1989.

The troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been the focus of two wars between the nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan since they won independence from Britain in 1947, is split among the disputed Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and Ladakh, which has a heavy Buddhist presence.

But all eyes will be on the Kashmir Valley, where the police killed at least 42 people this year when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris took to the streets to call for freedom after 60 years of Indian rule.

Muslim separatist leaders, many sent to jail without trial in the run-up to the vote, have called for a boycott.

On Friday, thousands of Indian troops patrolled the snow-covered streets of Kashmir to prevent a planned demonstration by separatists. A strike had shops and other businesses in Srinagar closed in protest against the elections.

Any province or state where the majority population is prepared to boycott an election cannot have peace and prosperity after that election. There is no mandate. There is nothing more than an imitation of democracy.

Same-sex marriage rallies stretch across the U.S.A.


Daylife/AP Photo by Josh Reynolds

More than a week after voters in California, Arizona and Florida passed ballot initiatives outlawing same-sex marriage, thousands of people across the country protested the bans in simultaneous rallies.

JoinTheImpact.com, which organized the rallies,was established three days after Election Day, when the three states passed the ballot initiatives.

“Rain or shine, our community will take to the streets to get the word out that equality is a human right and one that we will not stop working toward until it’s afforded to all citizens,” said Willow Witte, a JoinTheImpact.com founder and organizer.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see people from every walk of life, background, race, religion, creed, gathering here today to really send a powerful and purposeful and peaceful statement to the world,” Jonathan Weber, who helped organize the event, said in Los Angeles.

“We have a very powerful message that’s supported by a variety of people,” he said. “The truth is, we are making a big difference in this issue right now. We’re making tremendous progress in reaching out to hearts and minds of people across the country and gaining support from all walks of life.”

Too long, the Gay community has depended on the good will of a bigoted nation. Civil rights are rarely handed over graciously by an enlightened populace.

As it was in the United States in the earlier era of civil rights struggles for Black Americans, arms will need to be metaphorically twisted before common sense and decency hold sway over religious and reactionary bigots.

Finnish city experiences growth along with nuclear power

The café where Paivi Alanko-Rehelma serves coffee and smoked fish stands almost in the shadow of a sprawling building site on the island of Olkiluoto where Finland is erecting a nuclear power plant, the third on the island and the fifth in Finland in the past 30 years.

Like many of her neighbors who have grown accustomed to nuclear energy, Alanko-Rehelma makes no objections to the new reactor. “It’s now safe, it saves nature, it’s cheaper,” she said.

No one is certain when the plant, which has been plagued by construction delays, will be finished. But whenever it does begin operating, the reactor will be a new cog in the works of Finland’s national energy policy, which seeks to diversify the country’s sources of energy and reduce its historical reliance on Russia for cheap electricity.

The plant is also part of a global trend, as the prospects of nuclear power rise amid concerns about the warming effect of carbon dioxide emissions to generate electricity…

“A journalist called recently from Helsinki to ask how much longer we can delay completion of the reactor,” Jaakko Hirvonsalo, managing director of the local chamber of commerce, said with a laugh. “Locally, we’re doing well.”

The only large-scale resistance to nuclear energy in Finland comes from Greenpeace, which frankly isn’t worth quoting. They’ve spiraled down to the level of Luddites.

Most of Europe sees the model of modern nuclear power design as successful and productive. Opponents live in the past.

Think the U.S. leads governing on behalf of corporations?

British shoppers could lose their right to a refund on faulty goods if plans by the European Union get the go-ahead.

Consumers can now choose to reject faulty goods, or goods that are not the same as they agreed to buy, and get a refund. But the European Commission wants to water down these rights to harmonise the law – most EU countries only give the choice of a replacement or a repair.

While the Law Commissions and consumer watchdog Which? agree that the law should be harmonised, they have said that UK shoppers should not be left worse off. The Law Commission of England and Wales has launched a consultation on the issue and wants input from shoppers. ‘We believe that retaining the right to reject is crucial for consumer confidence, and our research shows that consumers want this,’ said David Hertzell, the commissioner leading the project.

The commission has suggested tweaking existing law to include making shoppers claim a refund within 30 days of purchase. At present there is no limit, but in practice this is at the retailer’s discretion.

True, in the United States we have diddly-squat for legal rights as consumers. The fine print warrantees offered by manufacturers and retailers typically is the only grounds for suit.

There is no automatic support for consumers from the government. Fortunately, most retailers aren’t dumb enough, greedy enough to screw unhappy customers badly enough to lose their attention.

I guess that isn’t the case in Europe and the U.K..

I debate [sort of] a seafood snob over the future of fish

I suppose you might call me a wild-fish snob. I don’t want to go into a fish market on Cape Cod and find farm-raised salmon from Chile and mussels from Prince Edward Island instead of cod, monkfish or haddock. I don’t want to go to a restaurant in Miami and see farm-raised catfish from Vietnam on the menu but no grouper.

Those have been my recent experiences, and according to many scientists, it may be the way of the future: most of the fish we’ll be eating will be farmed, and by midcentury, it might be easier to catch our favorite wild fish ourselves rather than buy it in the market.

Bittman’s preconceptions needn’t rule the groaning board. First, a significant number of calories are now safer to consume than in the wild and tastier than farming governed by beancounters rather than foodies.

Mussels being a great example – since these are the last to depart polluted waters and the first to return to tidal climes barely this side of industrial paper plants.

It’s all changed in just a few decades. I’m old enough to remember fishermen unloading boxes of flounder at the funky Fulton Fish Market in New York, charging wholesalers a nickel a pound. I remember when local mussels and oysters were practically free, when fresh tuna was an oxymoron, and when monkfish, squid and now-trendy skate were considered “trash.”

But we overfished these species to the point that it now takes more work, more energy, more equipment, more money to catch the same amount of fish — roughly 85 million tons a year, a yield that has remained mostly stagnant for the last decade after rapid growth and despite increasing demand.

Still, plenty of scientists say a turnaround is possible. Studies have found that even declining species can quickly recover if fisheries are managed well. It would help if the world’s wealthiest fish-eaters (they include us, folks) would broaden their appetites. Mackerel, anyone?

I grew up on the New England coast, years before Mr. Bittman might have snacked his way down the Cape. Subsistence fishing was part of our family life. If you couldn’t afford groceries, you always could cast a line and bring up a flatfish in season.

Day after day, week after week, for months in a row – the same fracking species. Whatever was in season. And the Italian half of the family showed the Scottish half a dozen ways to prepare skate, squid and mackerel, thank you.

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India lands a research probe on the moon


Photo of Moon’s terrain from Indian probe just before landing
Daylife/AP Photo

The first lunar probe from India has landed successfully on the moon as part of a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions, the Indian Space Research Organization said. ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said cameras on board have been transmitting images of the moon back to Indian space control.

Chief among the lunar mission’s goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. If successful, India will join what is shaping up to be a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon.

The unmanned moon mission was launched from the Sriharikota space center in southern India on Oct. 22. The box-shaped lunar probe carried a video imaging system, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer.

As India’s economy has boomed in recent years, it has sought to convert its newfound wealth — built on the nation’s high-tech sector — into political and military clout. The moon mission comes just months after India finalized a deal with the United States that recognizes India as a nuclear power, and leaders hope the mission will further enhance its prestige.

India plans to follow this mission with landing a rover on the moon in 2011 and, eventually, a manned space program, though this has not been authorized yet.

Excellent science and technology. I follow satellite and space probe tech with a bit more than casual interest. It still ain’t like driving to the grocery store.

India deserves the world of plaudits for what they’ve achieved with one of the tightest budgets of any spacefaring nation.

Martin Eisenstadt – senior fellow at the Institute of Nonentities


Eitan Gorlin – who posed as Martin Eisenstadt

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes…

There were videos showing him driving a car while spouting offensive, opinionated nonsense in praise of Rudolph Giuliani. Those videos attracted tens of thousands of Internet hits and a bit of news media attention.

When Giuliani dropped out of the presidential race, the character morphed into Eisenstadt, a parody of a blowhard cable news commentator.

Gorlin said they chose the name because “all the neocons in the Bush administration had Jewish last names and Christian first names.”

So, uh, where did Fox News get the story about Sarah Palin?

Fritzl wanted daughter’s dungeon to be tourist attraction


Theme Park?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter and fathered seven children with her, wanted to open his home to tourists for money, a family member says.

The Daily Telegraph reported Fritzl, 73, wanted to turn his Amstetten, Austria, home into a tourist attraction to raise money for his family.

His sister-in-law revealed Fritzl’s alleged plan in an interview with the Austrian tabloid Oesterreich.

“He actually wanted to make a tourist attraction out of his house with the dungeon where he kept Elisabeth, and charge 10 euros for entrance,” she said. “It is completely mad. The family was supposed to get the proceeds, but, naturally, all of them rejected his ‘business’ proposal.”

He should go into politics. Probably funded by Disney.

Through a conservative PAC.