Italy’s 5-Star movement faces 5-Star mutiny

Beppe Grillo, the fiery comic whose populist 5-Star Movement stunned Italy by winning a quarter of the votes in February’s election, is facing his biggest test since the vote with rebellion brewing among his novice lawmakers.

Publicly blamed by one of his own senators for the party’s poor showing in local elections earlier this week, in which it won only two towns out of more than 500, Grillo faces the threat of a mutiny that could blow the party apart.

As many as 30 parliamentarians are said to be ready to quit the party for various reasons…Some have balked at being asked to hand back daily parliamentary allowances as part of the movement’s rejection of political privilege.

Others chafe at Grillo’s deep intolerance of dissent in a grassroots movement where everyone is supposed to have a say…

What has emerged is his limits as a leader. Any politician knows that managing things in such an absolutist, authoritarian manner is impossible,” said Leonardo Morlino, a professor of political science at LUISS university in Rome.

Grillo’s success was built in equal measure on his own charisma and skill in articulating boiling frustration at a discredited elite, and on widespread public hopes for a new way of doing politics built on youthful energy and the power of the Internet…

His popular blog attracts thousands of comments from young people sick of being shut out of decisions and turned off by a television system divided between Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire and state broadcasting carved up between the main political parties.

Play-school imitations of dissent always appeal to the disaffected. And achieve little if anything. Now that his tantrums have taken the “movement” past a couple of expressions of independence – his anarchistic bullying is becoming best known as Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. If there’s nothing to be achieved – there’s no reason to follow.

Tech companies working with the NSA prove they can’t be trusted

Whatever the details might be, it seems clear that dozens of technology companies — and perhaps even more — have co-operated with the NSA on its surveillance program. And they could pay a high price for doing so.

As the fallout continues to rain down from recent reports about the NSA snooping on millions of phone calls and terabytes of web traffic, the spin campaign from both the government and the technology companies allegedly involved in the program has reached a fever pitch. First there were strenuous denials from the likes of Google, Yahoo and Facebook, followed by broad hints that they only co-operated because they were trying to make things easier on their users — and then leaked reports that some were essentially forced at gunpoint to do the NSA’s bidding.

Whatever the case may be, agreeing to turn over data to the government might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the potential downside risks of that particular slippery slope are fairly overwhelming.

The popular response to the NSA revelations may lie somewhere between mild disinterest and outright apathy, according to surveys like the one done by the Pew Center — in part because we seem to have gotten used to the idea that tech companies are monitoring our every move. But being seen as co-operating with the spy agency is still a fairly huge risk for cloud-based services. Not only that, but co-operating in even a small way makes those companies look like easy targets for further government pressure…

At this point, the actual truth of what is involved in the NSA’s so-called PRISM program remains a rapidly shifting target. The documents first published by the Guardian and the Washington Post a week ago seemed pretty cut and dried in their description of a system that allowed the spy agency “direct access” to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and about half a dozen other companies — something the Post originally said was provided voluntarily and gave the NSA broad access to information about user behavior.

Almost immediately, however, the details started to blur: not only did those companies deny providing “direct access” to their servers, but some sources said the data was only provided under duress, because of secret court orders related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

Denials and duress don’t address the essential question of how much cooperation ended up happening?

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The latest fetish for Japanese teenagers is making them sick

Warning: don’t read this if you’re eating, prone to sudden bouts of queasiness or unable to even think about Un Chien Andalou without simultaneously bursting into tears and dry-heaving. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience here.

Because this is an article about oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs.

Sometimes known as “worming” – which somehow makes this whole thing worse – oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia, which is actually a thing. It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.

The craze is thought to stem from a music video by Japanese emo band Born (there’s a chance that the eyeball-licking scene was only included to distract everyone from the fact that the song sounds like it belongs on a menu screen for an EA Sports game about snowboarding from a decade ago, but at this point that’s just speculation)…

However, the dangers of oculolinctus are very real. As well as spreading pink-eye like nobody’s business, there’s also a risk of corneal scratching, which can lead to ulcers and blindness. Plus, there’s a strong chance that you’ll have to go to school the next day in an eye patch. At least with lovebites you could just throw on a poloneck jumper and be done with it.

Hopefully oculolinctus won’t catch on here and will remain one of those peculiarly Japanese fads such as bagelheading (injecting saline into your forehead until it swells out of all proportion, yaeba (undergoing dental surgery to give you crooked teeth) and shippo (wearing a neurologically controlled tail that reveals your moods). Because frankly, if oculolinctus does ever make it to these shores, I’m never going to be able to look at a lychee again.


Teacher stalked by ex-husband – so Catholic school fires her!

A San Diego-area teacher was fired because her stalker ex-husband was due to get out of jail soon and could show up at her school, district officials said.

Carie Charlesworth…was let go by the San Diego Roman Catholic diocese because of concerns her former spouse could pose a threat to staff and students at the Holy Trinity School in El Cajon once he was released from San Diego County jail.

Martin Charlesworth was sentenced to jail for domestic abuse and stalking after he went to Holy Trinity in January in violation of a restraining order. The unannounced visit caused a lockdown and brought police to the campus.

The education department of the diocese said in its termination letter that Mr. Charlesworth had a 20-year record of abuse and violence toward women and they did not want to risk a confrontation on school grounds.

Carie Charlesworth told the Los Angeles Times she was stunned at losing her job after 14 years with the diocese and was considering both a lawsuit and a career change. Her ex-husband’s attorney told the newspaper Martin Charlesworth had meant no harm by his January visit and had only wanted to discuss details of their child-custody arrangements.

Surely no one is surprised at what passes for care and concern for women and children by the Roman Catholic Church. Or for that matter – local law enforcement.

Time after time, we learn of wives beaten or murdered by the criminal thug they’ve gotten a restraining order against. The lack of concern, the inability of law enforcement to provide protection, say, comparable to a bank vice-president is common. My disgust with a religion that turns its gold-encrusted back on women’s real needs time and again – just moved up another notch.