Taliban destroy poppy fields in raids on Afghan opium growers

Taliban fighters have destroyed fields of opium poppies in eastern Afghanistan this spring, the first time since 2001 the hardline Islamist group is known to have clamped down on the cultivation of a drug that provides a big part of its funding.

While the insurgents appear to have dug up a relatively small area of poppies in a remote area near the border with Pakistan, the move was so unusual it won a chorus of praise from the Afghan government and international organisations, whom the Taliban consider their enemy, as well as senior clerics.

“They just did what the constitution ordered,” said Wasifullah Wasifi, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunar, where the eradication took place…

The country representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, confirmed that the Taliban had uprooted poppy fields in Kunar, and said he hoped the “rare event” might presage a stronger approach to controlling drug production…

Afghanistan has for years produced the vast majority of the world’s opium, with only a brief break in 2001 when the Taliban government, which had previously relied on the crop to bolster its coffers, unexpectedly dug up most of the country’s poppy fields.

But opium production has flourished since the group was toppled by US-backed forces in 2001, even though it has been widely condemned by clerics as un-Islamic…

Funds flow to insurgents and corrupt members of the government. The crop can also be a key source of income for poor farmers, who insurgents sometimes rely on for food, shelter, recruits or other support.

RTFA for lots of anecdotal description. It ain’t a big deal [yet] in terms of quantity. Politically, it’s startling our military “experts”.

That’s why one employs servants

NOT the Queen’s boots

The Queen has someone to wear her shoes in before she puts them on to ensure she is never in discomfort, her stylist has revealed.

Stewart Parvin, who has designed Queen Elizabeth II’s dresses for 11 years, said it was right she should go to such lengths because she could never decide to change her shoes half way through an official engagement.

He also disclosed that the Queen wears an extra shoulder pad on one side to disguise a slight imbalance and has a team of dressers who meticulously record the outfit she wears for every engagement to ensure she never repeats herself.

Mr Parvin discussed the extreme care and attention to detail behind the acclaimed success of the Queen’s wardrobe during her sixty years on the throne in an interview with the Sunday Times…

He said: “[The shoes] have to be immediately comfortable … she does get someone to wear them. The Queen can never say ‘I’m uncomfortable, I can’t walk any more.’ She has the right to have someone wear them in.”

Part of Queen Elizabeth’s secret which is down to nature rather than her entourage is that she does not perspire, ensuring that she never looks flustered or creased, he added…

To ensure that no outfit is ever used twice for the same occasion, the Queen’s dressers keep a computer spreadsheet which lists every item she wears alongside the date, time and details of the engagement.

Even the jewellery and accessories used to complete the ensemble are noted down meaning that the Queen can “mix and match”, allowing her to reuse her favourite clothes while always appearing to be wearing something new.

Isn’t that special?

Well, no. It’s what anyone with an excess of money might do.

Pakistan government unblocks Twitter

Micro-blogging website Twitter has been restored in Pakistan on Sunday night, after an almost day long ban.

Sources have confirmed that Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has spoken to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who ordered concerned authorities to unblock the site.

Micro-blogging website Twitter had been temporarily banned across Pakistan on Sunday by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Express News correspondent Suhail Chaudhry had reported that the access to Twitter was blocked due to an ongoing “competition” of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures…

Earlier, PTA Chairman Dr Mohammad Yaseen said the regulator was asked by the Ministry of Information and Technology to block the website in the country…

Pakistan’s government had asked Twitter to stop a discussion on Prophet Muhammad, which was considered derogatory, Yaseen said, adding that “Twitter refused our request…”

The PTA blocked the access to Twitter directly from the upstream links without notifying the ISPs, said Wahajuz Siraj, convener for Internet Services Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK).

Here’s where the tough questions come in – at least if you can get your head beyond the definitions of nationality. On one hand, of course, any nation has the right to manage communications as they see fit. That’s modified by international conventions and protocols – most of which are designed for throughput and don’t involve questions of content. The basic definitions of sovereignty supersede ideology.

You’d think.

But, then, we’ve decided the United States has the most advanced system of governance in the world – even though our own government tries their best to renege on the concepts all the time – for our own good, you understand. Because of our political ego, we presume we have the right to tell everyone else to do what we say they should do – and they should realize we’re right. Guess what? Everyone else also feels they have a right to come to their own conclusions.

I believe there isn’t a more productive and honest system than democracy as most of us understand it. That doesn’t include the crap filters in Congress, the CIA, NSA or the White House who think they can make our decisions for us. Well, the same right holds true for foreign governments.

The whole dialectic gets straightened out long-term in the marketplace of commerce as well as the marketplace of ideas. That’s why I’m confident in democracy, in free expression, in the freedoms that science offers through testing and re-evaluation and growth instead of tight little ideologies and religions.

Things change. Never enough for this week’s flavor of anarchy. But, they change.

Six school buses crash into each other in Georgia

Six school buses taking some 200 middle school students to Six Flags crashed…in Newton County, Ga., leaving more than 50 people injured…

There were a total of around 200 students from Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga., on the six buses…

One of the bus drivers, Angela Anthony, 44, from Midville, Ga., was airlifted from the scene of the crash on westbound I-20 to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with serious injuries, according to Georgia Department of Public Safety spokesman Gordy Wright…

The crash took place south of Social Circle and east of Covington at mile marker 98 on I-20, just west of the Georgia Highway 11 Exit, after traffic slowed for an upcoming lane closure, according to Wright. As the buses slowed down, one bus struck the rear of another, which spurred a chain reaction of crashes among the remaining buses. A passenger car that followed the buses was the final vehicle in the line, and it struck the rear of the sixth bus.

Emergency personnel from Newton and Morgan counties, the State Patrol and the cities of Covington and Social Circle responded to the accident…Morgan County sent several buses to the scene to help transport uninjured children…No report of any of them running into each other.

The Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is investigating the accident, according to Wright.

And that should take a chunk of their annual budget.

The humor helps. It doesn’t make life any easier for the kids who were hurt – or the bus driver airlifted to hospital. But, the active ingredient in this crash, like all chain collisions, is carelessness – following too close.

It’s called Human Error.

NAACP endorses same-sex marriage

Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP President
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The NAACP passed a resolution Saturday endorsing same-sex marriage as a civil right and opposing any efforts “to codify discrimination or hatred into the law.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board voted at a leadership retreat in Miami to back a resolution supporting marriage equality, calling the position consistent with the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution.

“The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people,” Board Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement. “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law…”

Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, a strong backer of gay rights…

Pew Research Center polls have found that African Americans have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years, but remain less supportive than other groups…

My thought? Overdue.

The NAACP is about as old-line a political organization there could be in the Black community. The organization’s history has varied with the times. That does not diminish its importance or the role played by individuals, chapters and the whole body.

This is an important step in furthering the civil rights of all Americans. Something the NAACP knows a lot more about than the average follower of the Kool Aid Party and today’s Republicans.

Diabetic and his service dog kicked out of Popeyes’ restaurant

Taylor Gipson’s service dog – Bear

For nearly two years, a four-legged friend has followed 20-year-old Taylor Gipson of north Fulton County everywhere he goes. Whether he’s in classes at Kennesaw State University or at a restaurant with his family, Gipson’s British lab, Bear, is also there…

Because of his Type 1 diabetes, Gipson’s blood sugar levels can rise or drop quickly, and as a teenager, he had seizures during the night. His service dog is trained to alert him when his blood sugar is dropping or rising, Gipson says. And Bear sometimes is an even better indicator than his owner’s blood sugar meter…

Because Bear is a trained service dog, he is allowed to accompany Gipson just about everywhere he goes, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gipson didn’t think twice about taking Bear into a Popeyes restaurant on Windy Hill Road last Saturday.

“I was having a low blood sugar, so I ordered my food and was drinking sweet tea,” Gipson said.

That’s when the restaurant manager told him he’d had to leave and called police. “You can’t have a dog in the store,” Gipson said the manager told him. He tried to explain that Bear is a service dog, but it didn’t help, he said.

A Cobb County police officer also arrived at the restaurant and told Gipson the restaurant was private property, so Bear would have to leave, Gipson said. Gipson said he tried to show the officer identification for Bear.

“He wouldn’t even look at it,” Gipson said. “He said he knew the law.”

You can RTFA if you enjoy reading crap shucking and jiving from restaurant managers or police departments populated with coppers who don’t know a damned thing about law and order.

I don’t encourage lawsuits as a rule; but, I hope Taylor Gipson riles up Popeyes’ corporate suits enough that they bend the ear of managers about service dogs.