Naked City

“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.” 

Orson Welles (Harry Lime in The Third Man, 1949)

HARD-BOILED: GREAT LINES FROM CLASSIC NOIR FILMS, by Peggy Thompson and Saeko Usukawa

Ways to Go

Freeze it or Reconstruct the Face:
Dressing Dead Bodies With Fungi

The death of Robert Ettinger, founder of cryonics, and Frank Bender, forensic sculptor extraordinaire, within a few days of each other last week, somehow encapsulates two radically different views of our longing for permanence far beyond our natural expiration dates.
Their obits also extrapolate two curious takes on how we should dispose our earthly remains, when that date does come: put a speed on the organic matter that will feed on the body, or simply burn it and stuff its ashes in lethal bullets. Your choice.
THE BIG (COLD) SLEEP
Ettinger, who died on July 23 at 92, a physics teacher, lived his life as a scientist and sci-fi writer. But with his 1962 book, The Prospect of Immortality, he laid down the basic tenets of cryonics, the radical concept of freezing the body after death, so it can be revived by yet unknown medical techniques of the future.
He went on to found and lead the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society, and became the movement’s most visible figure. That did not prevent his ideas, and the ethical debate over the procedures to make it all possible, from taking a life of their own, completely independent from him, and mostly close to public derision.
His scientific training may have been instrumental in insulating him to it Continue reading

You Belong to Me

The Branding of Young
Girls By Sex Traffickers

For millennia, the art of tattoo has served to ritualistic beautify the body, make statements about deeply personal or communally shared beliefs, and as a powerful element of mystical identification.
As purely an art form, the practice of covering the body with tattoos is also a way of wearing a particularly transcendental vision, which can transform the skin into a malleable canvas of abstract or realistic depictions of deities, realities and narratives.
They can be illustrations telling fantastic stories about that person’s inner life, his or her ancestors, places they belong to or aim to reach at the end of their journeys.
But along the years, the practice also became an unmistakable sign of ownership, a synonymous of proprietary rights over that individual, a warning that such body belongs to someone else. Just like animals being branded with the logo of their masters.
Today, tattooing and branding are virtually indistinguishable. Continue reading

Missouri Cipher

The Mysterious Notes
in McCormicks’s Pocket

Here’s a nice, old fashioned murder mystery, to go along with your Sunday toast and coffee.
When the throat-slashed body of Rick McCormick was found in June of 1999, in a cornfield off Highway 367, near St. Louis, very little was known about the man.
The police file says that the high-school dropout was born in Missouri in 1958, was unmarried but had fathered four children, and had a statutory rape conviction in his record. At the time of his death, he was also unemployed, living with his mother off his disability checks.
Coming to think of it, it’s remarkable how a police file can be stuffed with minutia Continue reading

Stone Unturned

Iran Says Now That
Ashtiani Is NOT Free

JUST IN: Iran did it again. Provoking outrage around the world, its state-run TV station announced today that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has not been freed, despite footage made available yesterday, depicting her and son at home. The station said it was all part of a program to be broadcast tonight, that all but endorses the official version portraying her as a murderer. The announcement:
“Contrary to a vast publicity campaign by western media that confessed murderer Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been released, a team of broadcast production team with the Iran-based Press TV has arranged with Iran’s judicial authorities to follow Ashtiani to her house to produce a visual recount of the crime at the murder scene.”
In other words, the international vigil and watch for Sakineh’s life will continue.

The Iranian state-run TV station showed footage last night of Sakineh Muhammad Ashtiani, the 43-year-old mother of two sentenced to death by stoning, apparently free at home with her son Sajad.
Sakineh appears on the undated footage saying that she “planned to kill” her husband, Iran’s main accusation against her.
So far, the state prosecution hasn’t offered any details under which she was released or whether her sentence was commuted or she was pardoned for good.
Human rights activists expressed joy for her freedom but could not offer independent confirmation of her current and future legal status. Her release comes after an intense international campaign against the lack of transparency of her criminal process and death sentencing.
Sakineh was twice condemned to die by separate courts over the murder of her husband. A sentence of hanging was commuted to 10 years in jail by an appeal court in 2007.
But a second sentence, to death by stoning on charges of adultery in several relationships, including the man convicted of her husband’s murder, was upheld by another appeals court the same year.
The news of Ms Ashtiani’s possible reprieve came a day after another woman sentenced to death, Khadijeh Jahed, was hanged at dawn in jail with her son pushing the stool from beneath her feet.

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Read Also:
* Stoning Iran
* Stoning Sentence

Murder Inc.

Drug War in Mexico Breeds
Murder, Art & Acts of Courage

The Mexican government’s catastrophically misguided efforts to curb drug trafficking has won no battle or shown little progress so far. On the contrary, the indiscriminate body count keeps multiplying, entire cities are being ravaged by impunity and corruption, and a once promising youth is trapped in the middle of its lethal crossfire.
While the Calderon administration, with no small help of the U.S., dump obscene amounts of dollars and human resources into sheer repression, growing demand from Continue reading

Bloody Christmas

30 YEARS AGO TODAY

When the World Lost John Lennon

- Where were you when you heard about it?
His family and close ones will always prefer to remember his birthday in October, specially this year, his 70th. But the world will always think about his brutal death, outside the Dakota in New York City, and the crushing end of so many dreams, however unrealistic they may’ve been.
John Lennon’s death, with its profound resonance for millions of fans around the globe, was almost as unexpected as it was deeply unjust. His songs, his music, his art and awareness of Continue reading