Sunday, June 23, 2013

This week

Lisa asked me to fill in for her today as she is on tour for her newest book, HOUR OF THE RAT.  We all hope that it is very successful.

It has been another strange week in the world, so I thought I would highlight various items that caught my eye.

Nelson Mandela

My hero, Nelson Mandela, is in hospital yet again having been admitted about two weeks ago.  According to South Africa’s President Zuma, Madiba, as Mandela is known, was responding to treatment and is in serious but stable condition.  America’s CBS News, however, reported that Madiba hadn’t opened his eyes for days and that his liver and kidneys were only functioning at 50 percent, and that he had undergone two surgeries.  It also claims that Madiba’s heart had stopped at one stage, and he had to be resuscitated.
A young Mandela - in 1937

A more recent photo

It also came to light this week that the emergency ambulance that was taking Madiba to hospital in the middle of the night two weeks ago broke down en route to the hospital in Pretoria leaving him and his wife stranded for 40 minutes in 45 F (8 C) temperature.

Rapport newspaper reported that Mandela’s close family was deliberating on ““just how much medical intervention was enough for an old and very sick man”.  My cynical side wondered about Michael’s blog of a couple of weeks ago (Don’t live too long . . .) in which he reported that Mandela’s daughters, Zenani and Makaziwe, were in court seeking to get control of their father’s trusts.

[For those of you interested in why Mandela is called Madiba, it is customary to honour someone in South Africa by giving them the name of the clan they belong to.  Mandela is a Xhosa of the Madiba clan.]


It seems that it is raining heavily almost everywhere in the Northern hemisphere.  My newspaper today reported that 4500 people may have died in flooding and landslides resulting from pre-monsoon rains in Northern India and Pakistan.

Rescue worker in India

Shopping is difficult in monsoon season

Calgary in Canada suffered its worst flooding ever, leaving 70,000 people homeless until the floods recede.

Devastating Calgary flooding

More from Calgary

Here in Minneapolis, we had three waves of thunderstorms come through over the past three days, leaving more wind damage than flooding.  Half a million people were left without power, largely due to thousands of trees that were blown over because the soaked soil was unable to hold them up in the face of the high winds.  Fortunately the temperatures were balmy.

Water-logged soil caused trees to fall

And road to collapse

More from Minneapolis


The civil war in Syria took a backseat to the protests in Turkey that started initially in reaction to the government wanting to develop part of one of Istanbul’s only green spaces, Gezi Park.  There was a lot of water there and in Taksim Square, where police doused protesters with water cannons.  Prime Minister Recep Tayyin Erdogan took a firm stance against the protesters, saying at one stage “Nobody but God will have the power to overthrow our government.”  Several protesters have died in the turmoil.

At least it's not bullets

I hope it wasn't cold outside

Brazil too saw massive protests initially against a hike in bus fares in Sao Paulo.  It rapidly spread across the nation of 195 million into protests against corruption and lack of basic services, as well as anger that so many billions were going to spent on the 2014 Football World Cup and 2018 Olympic Games instead on education and uplifting the poor.

We need more jobs

No caption needed

Millions protest

Tear gas

I fear South Africa could see similar protests when Madiba dies.  

Is it possible that it will pick up the World Cup if Brazil defaults?  After the 2010 World Cup, which it hosted so successfully, it is not out of the question.

World’s oldest embrace

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper reported this week on what must be the world’s oldest embrace:

“The rain was pouring down as the skies opened up in the Karoo Basin 250-million years ago. An injured amphibian Broomistega, possibly hurt by the storm, crawled into a sleeping animal's burrow to shelter from the violent weather. It is suspected that the mammal-forerunner Thrinaxodon – which, from simulations resembles a furry Komodo dragon – was hibernating, although when done for short periods of time this is called aestivation.
Both animals died, and their fossilised embrace, discovered by South African scientists, marks a world first. “

I, Broomistega, take you, Thrinaxodon, to be my ...


I read something this week that I found quite remarkable.

"Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.  The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process."
                                                                                                2012 Gallup poll

Greece closes public television station

In what was called an effort to deal with the budget crisis in Greece, conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras decided to close down the Hellenic Broadcast Corporation (ERT). The country’s national broadcast service.

Great poster
The leaders of the other two parties in the government coalition were outraged. 
Protests have taken place against the decision.  Hopefully Jeff can fill in the details.

Lost firearms
Gun dealers in the USA lost 10,915 firearms last year.  So much for responsible gun ownership.

Obama’s African safari

The Telegraph reported last week: “Barack and Michelle Obama have reportedly scrapped a safari during their trip to Africa because of the costs of snipers needed ’to neutralise cheetahs, lions and other animals if they became a threat’.”

I’m delighted.  Who knows what would have happened had a baboon jumped on the game vehicle to pilfer food.

Oh Barack, what am I going to wear?

How I beat Serena Williams at .. tennis

Last Tuesday, as I was checking in for my Delta flight from Heathrow to Minneapolis, I had an interesting experience.  (And, no, it’s not another airline story of woe like Michael’s unbelievable experience last weekend – A Personal Best).  A woman, obviously from Delta, walked up to me and asked if I would like to play table tennis with Serena Williams.  I agreed with great alacrity – after all, Serena is one of the greatest tennis players of all time.  Why would I not want to play against her?  Needless to say, it was a puzzling request.

Apparently Delta was having a big promotion for its new terminal at JFK in New York, from whence Serena had just arrived.  A table tennis table had been set up in the check-in area in Terminal 4 at Heathrow.  There were cameras everywhere, and reporters were buzzing around like mosquitoes on a Minnesota lake to witness the several passengers who had been recruited to compete. 

That's me hidden on the left!

After a brief warm-up, my partner – a talented young woman with a two-fisted backhand (in table tennis?) – and I squared off against Serena and her partner.  The game was somewhat abbreviated I have to admit (best of five points), but my partner and I prevailed 3-1.

Serena waves graciously after losing to my partner and me

As you can see, I am going to make the most of these bragging rights.

Stan for Lisa - Sunday


  1. "I BEAT SERENA!" Inscribe it on a belt and wear it everywhere! Wow, and you can deliver the news too! A very enjoyable post, Stan, but you couldn't resist dragging me into that ERT public TV mess, could you?:)

    I've been trying to avoid it--as has every politician in Greece. Talk about bad positioning for doing a good thing. ERT is public television, but not in the PBS sense we know and love in the US. It's heavily padded with political appointees receiving salaries way higher than their private sector colleagues and its unions have successfully resisted such things as "time clocks" to validate they actually showed up for work.

    Since most of the country knew that and didn't think much of two of the three channels under ERT's umbrella, the dominant party of the 3-party coalition decided this would be a good place to start meeting the Financial Troika's mandate that a certain number of public sector jobs be eliminated before the end of 2013.

    And how much complaining could there be over reducing a "bloated workforce"? After all the plan wasn't to terminate public television, just close it for the summer and re-open in September with a streamlined version.

    Besides this would be essentially the FIRST cuts to public sector jobs while the private sector had lost over SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND jobs.

    Uhh, uhh. Nothing is that simple in Greece. Especially these days.

    The two other members of the governing coalition owed their (remaining) political existence to the public sector, and when the mainstream TV stations began picking up on the tune that this was an attack upon "democracy" as opposed to bringing a public sector operation into line with its private sector competitors, that version played better to a tired, disheartened public already fed-up with its government and distrustful of its politicians.

    Then a court decided that the layoffs were legal, BUT turning off the signal for three months was not and before you knew it the ruling party had a PR FUBAR nightmare threatening to bring down its government.

    In fact, one of the three members of the coalition actually withdrew, reducing the now two-party coalition's margin to razor thin, and prompting international markets and many Greeks to wonder if the government couldn't cut less than two thousand of seven-hundred-thousand or so public sector jobs without facing collapse what the hell lay down the road...if not hell itself?

    I certainly hope not.

  2. Thanks so much, Jeff. It was difficult to believe some of the incomplete reports I've read about Greece recently.

  3. Stan, thank you for winning! It added a bright spot to the proceedings. I agree with Jeff. You've got it; you must flaunt it for the prestige of the MIE crew. As for the rest of the news, to harken back to Jeff's last post, "the whole world is festering with unhappy souls."