[VIDEO] McChoco Potato! McDonald’s Japan’s New Chocolate Fries 

We tried McDonald’s Japan’s new “McChoco Potato” chocolate french fries. Click here to find out what we thought and see more photos.


Sympathisants Jihadists: In Paris Neighborhood Heavily Hit by Terrorists, Bobo Hipster Residents View Attackers as Victims 

‘They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,’ says Parisian woman who works in 11th arrondissement, and in Place de la Republique, no one wanted to talk about Islamists or the Islamic State.

PARIS – Ansel Pfeffer reports: On the day after the terror campaign in Paris that left 129 people dead and more than 300 wounded, residents of the French capital are still trying to absorb what hit them.

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“They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”

By evening, after they had avoided gathering outdoors all day on the orders of police, hundreds of people started to assemble at the Place de la Republique, only a few hundred meters from the Bataclan concert hall where four terrorists had held hostage hundreds of people for more than two hours, killing 89 of them. From Boulevard Voltaire, where the hall is located and which was closed by police, ambulances carrying the bodies of the victims would emerge every few minutes, sirens wailing. As of last night only a handful of the victims had been named.

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“They don’t want us to think that maybe it’s connected to the policies of our government and of the United States in the Middle East. These are people the government gave up on, and you have to ask why.” 

A group of friends was standing near the candles that had been lit at the foot of the monument at the square, trying to find out if the waiter that had served them at La Belle Equipe, one of the restaurants attacked in the 11th arrondissement, had been killed.

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“One member of the group said they had come to the square to demonstrate ‘unity,’ but they didn’t seem to feel solidarity with the victims of the last wave of terror. There were signs calling for unity, but it wasn’t clear what they were meant to unite around.”

“It’s very personal, what’s happened,” said Stephan Byatt, an actor who lives on a nearby street. He has a hard time finding the words to describe what he’s feeling. His friend, Bruno Michlaud, a graphic artist, tries to help out. “It’s a symbol of Paris, a symbol of life. They hurt us in the center of our lives and each of us could have been one of those killed.”

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But they aren’t angry, at least not at the perpetrators. “They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,” their friend Sabrina, an administrative worker in one of the theaters in the 11th arrondissement, said. “They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”

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“Perhaps it’s correct to bomb them in the name of democracy and freedom, but it brought the war in Syria to us in France. I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Ten months after the previous wave of terror in Paris that hit the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, one might assume that residents would feel a sense of continuity, but that didn’t seem to be the case. “Then they harmed journalists and Jews, those were defined targets,” said one of the young people who had come to the square. “Now it was an attack with no objective, anyone could have been hurt.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] My Life as a Pro-Putin Propagandist in Russia’s Secret ‘Troll Factory’

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 writes: When Lyudmila Savchuk heard about the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov earlier this year she was shocked and saddened.

Yet within hours of Mr Nemtsov’s death, Ms Savchuk and her colleagues were going online to pour bile on the former deputy prime minister and claim he was killed by his own friends rather than by government hitmen, as many suspect.

“I was so upset that I almost gave myself away,” she said. “But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.”

The “007” role that Ms Savchuk refers to is her own extroardinary one-woman spying mission, which appears to shed intriguing light on the propaganda machine that props up the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.

Video by Dmitri Beliakov, edited by Juliet Turner

Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of “internet operators” in a secretive “troll factory” called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia’s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin’s hometown.

Ms Savchuk’s job was to spend 12 hours a day praising the Kremlin and lambasting its perceived enemies on social networks, blogs and the comment sections of online media.

The trolls’ task, reminiscent of the black arts of Soviet disinformation, was to attack any opponent of the Russian authorities, be it dissenting politicians, pro-European Ukrainians or even Barack Obama – who was branded a “monkey” because of his black skin.

“We had to say Putin was a fine fellow and a great figure, that Russia’s opponents were bad and Obama was an idiot,” she recalled.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

All along, however, Ms Savchuk was copying documents and making clandestine video footage about the “factory”, gathering evidence in the manner of a Cold War spy. Or, as she prefers to see it, a Victorian sleuth. “I was really inspired by detective novels and Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch,” she told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview last week.

Ms Savchuk says she was sacked in March after leaking her information about Internet Research to a local newspaper. Now she is out in the open and leading a campaign against the firm, which is allegedly run by a Kremlin-connected businessman.

“I want to get it closed down,” she explained. “These people are using propaganda to destroy objectivity and make people doubt the motives of any civil protest. Worst of all, they’re doing it by pretending to be us, the citizens of Russia.

The "Internet Research Co" building in St Petersburg (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

The “Internet Research Co” building in St Petersburg (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

In an attempt to expose the practices of Internet Research, Ms Savchuk is suing the company for breaches of labour law because she never received a contract and was paid in cash.

The story of her time as a troll is a rare and piercing insight into Russia’s attempts to skew the truth and flood the internet with political innuendo.

She worked from January 2 to March 11 at the building of Internet Research at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg, which insiders say is still operating as a “troll factory”.

Working two days-on, two-days off, its army of bloggers – who are thought to number several hundred – spew out thousands of posts a week.

[Read the full text here, at Telegraph]

At her interview, Mrs Savchuk says, she pretended to be “a housewife with no real views” when she was asked if she sympathised with Russia’s opposition. She “cleaned” her pages on Facebook and Vkontakte (a Russian equivalent) in advance – the interviewers asked to see them – and replaced posts about her campaigns as an eco-activist with recipes.

Ms Savchuk talking to The Telegraph (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

Ms Savchuk talking to The Telegraph (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph

“The first thing we would do each day would be to turn on the proxy server to hide our IP addresses,” said Ms Savchuk. Then the operators would start to receive “technical assignments” – written descriptions of themes they should raise in their blogs and comments, with key words to be included.

The bloggers are kept under tight control – their email is subject to checks and their workplace monitored by CCTV. Failure to reach quotas invokes a fine, as does a poorly scripted post. Ms Savchuk said she and others were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Hammer: Paris Attack May Be Start of ‘Third Stage of Jihadist War’ on West

“What is so important about this is the origin of the four killers, the brothers and the couple. They were born in France. I think we’re now in sort of the third stage of the jihadist war against us.”

He laid out the sequence: “The first [stage], of course, is 9/11 — all of the attackers were from the middle east. And then, for the last year or two, we have seen the ‘lone wolf’ attacks — usually homegrown, but fairly unstable and one-on-one, and it looks as if fairly disorganized or acting out of inspiration, but not on instruction or with training. Read the rest of this entry »


Kissinger: Foreign Nations Worried Not about U.S. Presence But U.S. Absence

“The fundamental public statements of the administration have emphasized more what we should not do than what we can achieve. They have implied that a withdrawal of America from certain regions is actually beneficial to these regions.”

Kissinger noted the obvious consequence:

“I think that the fear in the countries that I know — and that’s very many of them — is that the United States is withdrawing.”

via National Review Online


Good News: White House Exploring Ways to Let Iran Enrich Uranium

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with President Hassan Rouhani / AP

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with President Hassan Rouhani / AP

 writes: The White House is currently examining ways to enable Iran to have its own “domestic” uranium enrichment program, according to a senior Obama administration official.

As the details of a six month interim nuclear deal between Iran and Western nations are hashed out, the White House is exploring the practicality of permitting Iran to continue certain enrichment activities, an issue that Iranian officials have described as a “redline.”

“Over the next six months, we will explore, in practical terms, whether and how Iran might end up with a limited, tightly constrained, and intensively monitored civilian nuclear program, including domestic enrichment,” White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Any such program,” she said, “would be subject to strict and verifiable curbs on its capacity and stockpiles of enriched uranium for a significant number of years and tied to practical energy needs that will remain minimal for years to come.”

The White House clarified its openness to a limited Iranian enrichment program just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to “forge ahead” with the country’s controversial nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »


Diplomatic tension over Hong Kong exposes fragility of hopes for democracy

HKstoreHONG KONG (Reuters) – From China warning Western nations to stop meddling in Hong Kong to Communist Party-backed newspapers describing “plots” by foreign spies to seize the city, a growing row over electoral reform has exposed the fragility of hopes for full democracy.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with wide-ranging autonomy, an independent judiciary and relatively free press under the formula of “one country, two systems” – along with an undated promise of full democracy, a subject never raised by the British during 150 years of colonial rule. Read the rest of this entry »


Yes, the Christian West

Religion is a pillar of our civilization. We shouldn’t apologize for it.

By  Conrad Black

One of the many problems that arise from the cross-currents in the Middle East and the activities of radical Islamists is that the Western response is almost entirely confined to concerns about terrorism, and, to a degree, to the need to prop up the less odious regimes against the more barbarous and aggressive. These are certainly desirable lines of defense, but they leave some large fields of combat vacant. Militant Islamists endlessly denounce the West as degenerate, morally decrepit, godless, and a vast zone that is bankrupt in terms of the human spirit. Because so much of the secular leadership of the West, and so many of its institutions, are agnostic, and the state religion of the West is, in effect, atheism, we discard in advance one of the strongest cards the West possesses in this contest with deranged and aberrant Islam. Judeo-Christians were the pioneering monotheists, the Jews about 1,500 years ahead of the Christians, and the Christians 600 years ahead of the Muslims.

There are at least as many practicing Roman Catholics in the world as there are practitioners of Islam, and that is not counting Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches, in which there are hundreds of millions more practicing Christians. This is not just a question of market share: The development of Christian theology and religious philosophy and connected art, ramifying into painting, sculpture, and literature, vastly surpasses that of Islam or of any other religion, much less that of any secular creeds that would affect to shoulder the vast body of Judeo-Christian thought and creativity aside. Because our governments, with few exceptions, are so infested — stuffed, in fact — with agnostics, they are complicit in the Islamic campaign to represent the West as a completely corrupted materialist society with no connection to or belief in any spiritual concepts or any moral imperatives. All is relativism and there is nothing that is right or wrong, and even a terrorist attack that massacres the innocent is the expression of frustrations that inevitably are a response to some provocation or shortcoming of the West, and even as we deter or even punish terrorist acts we must contritely mend our ways and pull up our moral socks.

Broadly speaking, in the interests of liberating themselves from any review by ecclesiastical leaders and facilitating the materialization of all values by pitching almost all political questions as matters of pecuniary redistribution, our governments make it easier for the critics of the West to denounce us as a society of no beliefs, in which everything can be bought. While there is no known reason to believe that this bulked heavily in the minds of President Obama and his advisers when they unleashed the spurious and outrageous campaign to impose upon the Roman Catholic Church the obligation of ensuring payment for the contraceptives (as well as sterilizations and inducement of miscarriages) of students and employees of Church-related organizations and institutions, that was an across-the-board win for the enemies of the West. The government of the most powerful Western country went to war against the premier Christian Church and the leadership of the largest religious denomination in the United States. It was Obama’s own little Bismarckian Kulturkampf, which dismisses religious convictions as part of a partisan “war on women” and promotes and makes believable to the uninformed (who are a majority of the world’s Muslims) a version of Western society that is profoundly irreligious.

Read the rest of this entry »


Weekend Reading


Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech

Free speech is dying in the Western world

from Johathon Turley, in the October 12  Washington Post

While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.

“when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.”

In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.”

“…our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures — which is what you did.”

It appears that the one thing modern society can no longer tolerate is intolerance. As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard put it in her recent speech before the United Nations, “Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred.”

A willingness to confine free speech in the name of social pluralism can be seen at various levels of authority and government. In February, for instance, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin heard a case in which a Muslim man was charged with attacking an atheist marching in a Halloween parade as a “zombie Muhammed.” Martin castigated not the defendant but the victim, Ernie Perce, lecturing him that “our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures — which is what you did.”

Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people — challenging social taboos or political values…

More…

The Washington Post