Tom Engelhardt has come across what might be the first public glimpse of the $1.3-billion U.S. embassy under construction in Baghdad. At 104 acres, and with 1,000 staffers, it's going to be America's biggest embassy anywhere. It might as well have a giant "kick me" sign on its front gateshence the 15-foot-thick walls and who knows how many Marines and Blackwater guys on duty. Visualizing the fortress-like enclosure has been a bit tough. Until now, thanks to some 3-D renderings Engelhardt found on its architects' website. It almost looks like the next backdrop for Grand Theft Auto, but with tennis courts, a pool, and housing for 380 families. That family housing stat is a new detail. Somehow I doubt that the balmy weather and outdoor pool will convince many embassy dwellers to bring along the kids.
Good news for dancers and copyfighters: the creator of the Electric Slide has just taken a step back and agreed to allow non-commercial use of the disco-era dance which, as Wikipedia helpfully explains, "is still done frequently at social occasions to virtually any music." Ric Silver, the man behind the moves, had been sending legal notices to people who posted videos of the dance, asserting his copyright over it. Now, he's going to license the dance through Creative Commons (which apparently includes letting Spiderman and a Transformer do it, as they do in this image from his website). There's no word, however, on the Funky Chicken patent dispute.
The current population of virtual worlds, also known as "massively multiplayer online role-playing games" (mmorpgs) such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest, and Second Life, is estimated at more than 20 million. The population of Mexico City is 19 million.
20% of mmorpg gamers say that the virtual world is their primary place of residence. The real world, a.k.a. meatspace, is just a place to get food and sleep.
Virtual-world gamers play an average of 22 hours a week. The average American spends around 8 1/2 hours a week eating.
Let's take a short break from the Jerry Falwell posthumous pile-on to remember the one thing we can thank him for. As Hustler publisher and Falwell foe-turned-amicable sparring partner Larry Flynt pointed out yesterday:
The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in.
Flynt's referring to the 1987 libel lawsuit the reverend filed after Hustler ran a spoof ad in which Falwell described having sex with his mother while "drunk off our God-fearing asses." The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of Flynt, upholding our First Amendment right to take the piss out of public figures. Amen to that! Now we return to the blowhard-bashing already in progress.
Trying to calculate the cash value of a human life is a morbid and even impossibly futile endeavor. As we found while researching our Iraq 101 feature, economists estimate that every life lost in the Iraq War is worth around $6 million. The reality, of course, is much different. The families of American soldiers killed in action can expect to receive $500,000 or more; contractors' families can get $100,000 a year; yet Iraqi civilians whose relatives have been killed by, say, an American missile, can expect around $2,500 per person. That may be big money in Baghdad, but it's hard to justify the magnitude of difference between the official valuation of an Iraqi kid and an American GI. And as Tom Engelhardt writes, this official stinginess also extends to Afghanistan, where the Marines recently paid $2,000 in compensation for each of the 19 civilians gunned down in an incident of what the military calls "excessive force." If our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are truly about spreading the ideal of human dignity, you'd think that coughing up a bit more for our blood debts would be an important gesture. Hearts and minds, hearts and minds...
And if you want some heartbreaking reading, see the excerpts of Iraqi civilians' claims filed with the military, collected by Editor and Publisher. Like this one:
Claimant alleges that on the above date at the above mentioned location, the child was outside playing by their gate and a stray bullet from a U.S. soldier hit their son in the head and killed him. The U.S. soldiers went to the boy's funeral and apologized to the family and took their information to get to them, but never did. The child was nine years old and their only son.
I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $4,000.00.
Find me an American who thinks their child is worth a measly $4 grand.