Lightning Round: And in not-so-happy news…

You may have heard, earlier this week, that the Russian government had recently taken over Russia’s until-then largest independent radio network.

Most of the reports that I saw focused on a new requirement that 50% of all news about Russia be positive. But there were few reports of some of the other conditons, which are even more alarming:

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

Read the Full Story in The New York Times:
“50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio”
April 22, 2007

Lightning Round: You Didn’t Ask, ‘Mother, may I?’

Our Saudi Masters move to rein us in — Prince Bandar may think that everything’s hunky-dory with Administration policies, but the actual King has…different views:

For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.

American officials also believed, again after speaking with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis might agree to direct engagement with Israel as part of a broad American plan to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah countermanded that plan.

Most bitingly, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh three weeks ago, the king condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.” The Bush administration, caught off guard, was infuriated, and administration officials have found Prince Bandar hard to reach since.

Read the Full Story in The New York Times:
“A Saudi Prince Tied to Bush Is Sounding Off-Key”
April 29, 2007

Lightning Round: Not Counting the Cost

Apparently, if we count the car bombs, then the terrorists win:

WASHINGTON – U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren’t counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn’t include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

President Bush explained why in a television interview on Tuesday. “If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory,” he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.

Read the Full Story in McClatchy Washington Bureau
“U.S. officials exclude car bombs in touting drop in Iraq violence”
April 25, 2007

Insane Housing Foreclosures Chart

Still skeptical about the intensity of the coming horrific collapse in housing?

For your viewing pleasure, this chart from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

A scary graph of foreclosures in California over the last 15 years, showing an intense recent spike.

And note:

This isn’t another phoney-baloney non-zero-based graph, where the Y axis goes from, say, 1000 to 1005. Nope, this graph’s Y axis starts at zero, and it’s a linear scale, so if it looks 20 times bigger, it is 20 times bigger.

Check out the big foreclosure hump in the center of the graph, about 10 years ago, when housing prices in California had tanked to the point where some houses had lost half their value.

Now look at what the graph has done in the last year, and even the last quarter. That thing’s not even thinking about slowing down, yet.

Think of all the crazy, predatory loans that the subprime lenders made in the last two years, when their whole business model started to collapse. Those things haven’t even started to adjust upwards, so look for the whole mess to continue snowballing for the next couple of years.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times:
“Foreclosure pace nears decade high”
April 17, 2007

XKCD

Industry Figure Steve Ring put me wise to this great strip. It’s usually just stick figures, but it’s by turns hilarious, nerdly, profane, wistful, and…human.

A few recent favorites, all drawn from the last month or so:

Cat Proximity:

Cat Proximity

Floor Tiles:

Floor Tiles

The Difference:

The Difference

Dream Girl:

Dream Girl

[edit] When this last comic was published, the date and time were still in the future.

In a recent article, the New York Times reports that…

…on that day in real life, hundreds of fans met in a park in Cambridge.

And then they all ordered sandwiches.

See it all at xkcd.com.