Monthly Archive for April, 2008


Kuwait City, May 1…In the aftermath of 9/11 the Arab street was roiled by rumors that the Israeli espionage agency Mossad was responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The Israelis had planned the bombings, it was alleged, to goad the US into declaring genocidal war on the Arab world.

Now Ayman al-Zawahiri, Deputy Commander of Al Qaeda, has come forward to say that was all a lie. The rumor of the Israeli plot was really a Shiite Iranian plot to discredit the Sunni Arabs. In a two hour audio tape posted on the Internet he angrily declares that the “Jews were victims, not perpetrators. Our victims.”

According to the BBC, Zawahiri said that reports of Israeli involvement were broadcast within hours of the attacks on Al-Manar, the Hezbollah television station in Shiite Southern Lebanon.

“The purpose of the lie is clear,” he said. “To suggest that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no one else in history.” Zawahiri accused “Iranian media” of “[snapping] up this lie and repeating it.”

Zawahiri also complained that the “Jews take credit for everything.” He cited the Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt. “Jews say that God parted the Red Sea to give them a miraculous escape, but this is not true. Hebrews were undocumented immigrant workers like Mexicans in the US. They were happy in Egypt. But when they finished building the fortress cities Pithom and Ramses the Pharaoh had no further use for them and expelled them to die in the desert.”

Zawahiri said that Jews claim responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ, but this is just another a lie. The true story is told in the Koran, he said. Jesus was brought to heaven by Allah and Judas Iscariot was crucified in his place, the Koran says.

“The Jews did not escape from Egypt,” he said. “They did not kill Christ. They did not bomb the World Trade Center. It is time to put a stop to these Zionist lies.”


Tampa. Fla, April 28…Twenty members of China’s national cycling team arrived in Miami yesterday on a mission to seek relief for an epidemic that is ravaging the Chinese countryside—bicycle erectile dysfunction.

BED occurs after long rides when the pressure on the perineum inhibits the flow of blood to the penis. It has long been a dirty secret in China, which has over three hundred million men for whom the bicycle is the exclusive means of transportation. Researchers believed that China, with more cyclists than any other country, would logically have more sufferers from BED. Most riders who traveled more than a hundred miles a week admitted they experienced genital numbness, or what they called “dead lichee…”

But China, being a closed society, would not open itself to foreign probes. According to researcher Steven Schrader, there were “endless testimonials about miles of cycling and erections of steel.” Then, after Boston urologist Dr. Irwin Goldstein declared that “there are two kinds of bike riders: those who are impotent and those who will soon be” and urged that “men should never ride bicycles and riding should be banned and outlawed” the Chinese decided to come clean.

A study from the Reproductive Center of Beijing People’s Hospital confirmed that over 52 per cent of Chinese men over 40 suffer from BED. Dr. Wang Yixin, of the Shanghai Andrology Research Centre says that 90 per cent admit that the disease has harmed their sex lives and caused them to hate their bicycles. Streets are littered with mangled bikes, public transportation is strained, pollution has increased and Chinese authorities fear massive unrest as working men lust after automobiles they cannot afford.

Dr. Wang says that Chinese men have traditionally sought refuge in folk remedies for impotence like shark’s fins, bear testicles and giant clams. They have actually had success with a device called the “erection stone,” which is made out of a piece of slate soaked in toad venom. The patient moistens his fingers, rubs them on the stone and then rubs both sides of his penis for about twenty minutes. After three hours the potion starts to have an effect and if your partner is still awake you can have a satisfactory sexual experience.

The cyclists’ search for a more efficient cure took them to the ergonomic bike shops of South Florida. Today they were given wider seats with central cutouts and fitted with bicycle shorts with gel inserts. After a few test rides their broad smiles told the story.

“Now we can truly enjoy the Tour De France,” cyclist Wan Huang Lo said.

Later, they took a long ride through the streets of Miami. At the sight of all the bikinis at South Beach Wan Huang Lo got off his bike.

“I think I’ll take up Ping Pong,” he said.


Sydney, Australia, April 25…The Olympic Games have begun early this year with a new event—Capture the Torch.

The object of this hotly contested competition is to capture the Olympic torch on its so-called “goodwill” journey around the world. If China, the host nation, gets to Beijing with the torch intact then it will garner the gold medal. But if the torch is captured along the way the honor will go to underdog Tibet, a tiny mountainous country between India and China, which is making its Olympic debut.

The Chinese side has put together an elite team of fifty karate-trained Special Forces soldiers to form a lethal human wedge around the volunteer torch bearers. Their opponents have countered with small groups of Buddhist monks, who pursue the procession chanting “Free Tibet.” This strategy has drawn huge crowds of college students who think the monks are giving out samples.

“Get some of this Tibet, dude, it’s trippy” said Brian, a communications major from Chatsworth.

The event has been marred by accusations of unfair play from both sides. The French protested the “thuggish” behavior of the Chinese guards, who took sanctuary in France’s sacred Eiffel Tower, then invoked diplomatic immunity to beat opposing team members. The Chinese condemned the “weeping offense” in which the monks stood by the roadside crying copious tears and were soon joined by huge crowds of college students, tears streaming down their faces.

“Why are we crying?” Rebecca, a cheerleading sciences major asked.

“For Tibet,” she was told.

“Oh, did he die?”

The Chinese fought back with a paraplegic gymnast sobbing in a wheelchair as she brandished the torch and were awarded style points by the judges.

But they faced their most demanding test in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom leaked the details of the torch’s route to their opponents. They responded by sending out five “decoy” torches to different parts of the city, but then forgot which was the real torch. After a quick meeting of the competition committee it was decided that they would have to get all six torches safely out of the city or face disqualification.

Once away from the Western democracies the Chinese side began to pull ahead. In Indonesia the torch was displayed in a stadium to a crowd of invited guests, then quickly spirited away. In Pakistan it was transported through the sewers of Islamabad to the Indian border. The Indians smoothed the torch’s path by arresting every Tibetan in the country.

Now as the torch wends its quiet way through Australia, to New Zealand and Tasmania it looks like the Chinese have built up an insurmountable lead. Oddsmakers in London and Las Vegas have taken the event off the board. It’s a sure thing that the Chinese will bear their torch, sputtering in triumph through the smoggy streets of Beijing on Opening Day.

The Chinese have ruled Tibet since Mao’ Tse Tung’s army invaded it in 1950.



Tokyo, April 8…A 60 year old woman on tiny Kyusuhu Island was found not guilty of murdering her brother and burning down his house last month. The presiding judge criticized police for fabricating evidence and coercing a false confession. Her acquittal made front-page news and caused a national uproar.


Because out of the thousands of criminal trials in Japan that month it was the first of only two acquittals. The other came in a voter fraud prosecution, also on Kyusuhu, of eleven elderly men who were subjected to 700 hours of interrogation and held in solitary confinement for 400 days until one of them died and the another broke down and confessed.

In Japan, if you get arrested you’re going to jail. The conviction rate is 99%. Defense lawyers advise clients to confess as a means of showing remorse and possibly getting a lighter sentence. If they plead innocent they will be denied bail, kept in isolation, will probably be convicted anyway and given a much harsher punishment.

Shizuka Kamei, former chief of the National Police says the high conviction rate is “abnormal.” Police are under pressure to solve a crime as soon as it is reported. They care more about getting a plausible suspect than the actual culprit.

Cases are heard by a three-judge panel. Prosecutors are not obliged to disclose evidence to the defense or release information they do not use in court. Coerced confessions make up for the lack of hard evidence

Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama says that the concept of being innocent until proven guilty is “an idea I want to constrain.” Mr. Hayotama is a vigorous defender of the death penalty as well, having doubled the rate of executions in the last year, even bringing several elderly infirm prisoners to the gallows.

Capital punishment is enforced “in extreme secrecy,” according to the Economist Magazine. Prisoners are held in isolation for decades and are not told of their impending execution until an hour before it occurs. For the first time in modern history the names of those executed were revealed in December of ’07. Many people were surprised to see friends and family members among the dead.

But things are about to change. Judicial reformers are challenging the traditional Japanese belief in authority. Next year a panel of six jurors will now join judges in hearing criminal cases and verdicts will be decided by majority vote.


New York, April 6…In the battle of the sexes chalk up a victory for the men. A worldwide survey of sex therapists has concluded that the “optimal” time for a satisfactory sexual experience is three to thirteen minutes.

The survey to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, challenges what one researcher derided as “the old wives’ tale” that male endurance is necessary to satisfy women.

“We hope to ease the minds of those who believe that more of something good is better, and if you really want to satisfy your partner you should last forever,” researcher Eric Corty said.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, published the results of a four-week study of 1500 couples in which the men were plied with pharmaceutical and nutritional aphrodisiacs, and the women were given stopwatches. The study concluded that the median time for satisfactory intercourse from foreplay to climax was 7.3 minutes. After allowance was made for broken champagne glasses and dropped stopwatches the time was lowered to 6.9 minutes.

Reaction on both sides of the sexual divide was quick and predictable. At a seminar sponsored by the Institute For The Study of Sex in the Cyber Age, the study was hailed as “groundbreaking” by Efraim Durg, founder of Save Our Sanity.

“This confirms our suspicion that women impose impossible performance standards on men as a way of strengthening their power over us,” he said. “Men have been vindicated and no longer need to hang their heads in guilt.”

Leah Schildkraut, gender advocate for the Anarcho-Feminist Coalition, disagreed, calling the survey “fraught with hidden male agendas.” She noted that most of the therapists questioned were either males “or co opted menopausal females.” She condemned the study as “another example of the patriarchal conspiracy” which seeks to blame women for all the problems in heterosexual relationships.

“This study is a giant step backward back to a time when women had to suffer in silence,” she said.

After that the discussion quickly degenerated into an insult fest.

“You’d be lucky to get one minute of sex,” Durg shouted at Schildkraut.

“You’d be lucky to keep it up for a minute,” she replied. “Or should I say get it up.”

“Oh yeah?” Durg said, as his supporters cheered him on. “Oh yeah, bitch?”

Volunteer ushers from the Lesbian Cage Fighting Association quickly escorted him from the room.


Boston, MA, April 2…In a race against the biological clock transgender rights advocates are trying to save convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek’s female identity before she reverts back to Robert Kosilek, her former male self.

According to the Associated Press, Robert Kosilek was convicted of murdering his wife in 1990 when she poured boiling tea on his genitals. While serving a life sentence he changed his name legally to Michelle and began the biological process of becoming a woman. With the help of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute he was granted a court order requiring that he be given hormone therapy. But his request for sex-change surgery to complete the transformation has not been granted. In addition, he has been denied court-approved hair-removal treatment and access to a specialist to monitor his rising testosterone levels.

And now Kosilek is watching with alarm as he slowly becomes a man again.

“My breasts have shrunk, genitals have regained previous size and function,” Kosilek said in a letter submitted to the court. “[I am] dying inside a little bit every day.”

Doctor George Brown, a psychiatrist, who testified at Kosilek’s trial, says he suffers from “gender dysphoria” in which a person identifies with the opposite sex and feels that he or she was born in the wrong body.

This is a condition of extreme mental agony, psychiatrists have said. Kosilek has already attempted suicide twice and once tried to castrate himself. Dr. Brown said he would probably try to kill himself again if denied a sex-change operation.

Kosilek is one of many inmates who have petitioned for sex-change treatment. In Colorado, convicted child molester Christopher, “Kitty” Grey is receiving hormone shots and watching Kosilek’s case closely.

“I am a woman in a man’s prison,” he told the Denver Post. “That’s like putting a cat in a dog kennel.”

As Kosilek testified, two small but vocal counterdemonstrations were taking place outside the courthouse.

Leah Schildkraut, gender advocate for the Anarcho-Feminist coalition, marched in support of Kosilek. “ Michelle Kosilek is a victim of the patriarchal conspiracy against female identity,” she said.

Across the street Efraim Durg, founder of Save Our Sanity, said his organization had supported the “Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act,” which was proposed last year by a Wisconsin State Senator, but never brought to the floor. “The man’s in prison for murdering his wife,” he said. “He forfeited his rights.”

“He is already being punished for his crime,” Ms. Schildkraut said in response. “He has a Constitutional right to medical treatment.”

“Oh yeah?” Durg said. “Should we use taxpayer dollars to finance his sick fantasies?”

“Should we use taxpayer dollars to finance frivolous legislation that never makes it out of committee?” Ms. Schildkraut replied.

“Oh yeah?” Durg shouted. Momentarily at a loss for words he thought for a moment. Then shouted:

“You look like you already had a sex change operation.”

“You look you should have one,” Schildkraut shouted back. “It might be an improvement.”

“Oh yeah?” Durg said, taken aback. “Oh yeah, bitch?” As police moved between them he screamed, “Hey bitch. Oh yeah…?”


It was 1979, the last week in December. We were in the dismal interregnum between the Christmas letdown and the New Year’s meltdown. It happened in a steakhouse called The Sacred Cow on 72nd between Broadway and West End Ave.

The Sacred Cow was a throwback to a time when bars were dark, bartenders were pasty guys named George in white shirts and bowties, stools had red leather seats that stuck to your behind and nobody drank wine. In the ‘50’s it had been a hangout for the thousands of Upper West Siders who worked in the theater trades—actors, musicians, craftspeople. Now only a few hundred survived, just enough to keep it open. Mrs. J, the ancient owner, wore tinted glasses like a poker player who didn’t want to tip her hand. She guarded the door in a black dress with pearl necklace and a huge diamond ring that you knew she would never hock, even if she were starving. She bit hard on an ebony cigarette holder with a sour look like she never would have let you past the checkroom in the old days and walked you through the empty dining room to a table right across from the Men’s Room. The bar belonged to the “gypsies,” former chorus boys, who had made a living in national companies, regional theaters, bus and truck tours and summer stock until the years had caught up with them and they couldn’t hit the high notes or do the combinations—and the stage makeup actually made them look older. Now they prowled among their souvenirs in residential hotel rooms. Who had been a sailor in “South Pacific,” and could still do a chorus of “There is nothing like a dame?” Who had escorted “Julie” down the stairs in “…Lady,” or lifted “Channing” in “…Dolly?” Every dropped name came with an epithet. “Jerry” Robbins was “Insatiable.” Barbra Streisand…”Oh God, Miss Pastrami breath…” They drank Old Fashioneds and Perfect Manhattans, smoked Pall Malls and laughed a lot. But their lips were pursed like disapproving prelates and their bright-eyed stares could burn your skin off.

The mark of an elite showbiz hangout was defiantly bad food. You could get ptomaine in Elaine’s or Sardis, but at least you got snubbed by celebrities. The Sacred Cow had the ptomaine, but not the population. You got attitude from a guy who’d been the fourth bell ringer on the left in the Ashtabula Dinner Theatre production of “Sound of Music.” The martinis were warm. The steaks were cold and marbled with hard fat. You got a raised eyebrow and a “really?” if you ordered the “catch of the day.” The baked potatoes looked like they had been flown in from Hiroshima.

The East Side had piano bars. People played plenty to see Bobby Cole, Ellis Marsalis, Bobby Short. At The Sacred Cow the help did the entertaining. Mrs. J would grab a mike and introduce them: “Here, fresh off the national tour of “Mack and Mabel” is…” And a waiter with a shrieking tenor that sounded like the dentist had hit a nerve would come up and assault a standard. These people had a special vendetta against show tunes. If they couldn’t get a part in the show they sure as hell weren’t going to make the score sound good. The pianist was Skip. “He’s played in the pits for some of Broadway’s biggest,” Mrs. J would say. And Skip would add archly: “the pits is right…” Skip was a .500 hitter. Every second note was a clinker. He couldn’t get his pinkie to work. But the customers cheered and gathered around the piano like he was George Gershwin at a Hollywood party.

So why did we go? Because even they couldn’t kill the great songs.

It was a Sunday night. An icy drizzle fell on the empty streets. The bar was quiet. There was only one other party in the dining room—an old man getting grumpily drunk between two women.

I was about to bet Skip he couldn’t play “Chopsticks” when Mrs. J grabbed the mike. “We’ve been waiting for months for Freddie to come off the “Fantasticks” tour and we finally got her. Let’s welcome… Freddie LeBlanc.”

Our waitress slammed our plates on the table and ran to the piano. She was forty and fizzy. You could look at her and guess her story. She was the bright little girl whose mom had run the local storefront school of Voice, Ballet and Tap. She had starred in all the school plays, majored in Speech and Theatre and come to the big city to conquer Broadway. She had a history of disappointment, frustration, exploitation and abuse that would have killed most women. But except for a permanent headache wince around the eyes she was forever young. She grabbed the mike and waved to the boys at the bar.

“Here’s a great old standard Skip and I have been working on,” she said. “My Funny Valentine, which was introduced on Broadway in… Skip…?”

“Pal Joey,” Skip said.

There was a commotion in the dark corner. A grunt, some urgent whispers. Freddie waited for silence with a long-suffering smile.

Skip’s intro sounded like he was playing with his elbows. Then he stopped and in the dramatic silence, Freddie sent out a doomed search party to find the first note.

It was chalk-on-the-blackboard time. The better the song the harder it is to sing and Freddie didn’t have the chops for “Happy Birthday. By the time she got to the second verse: “Is your figure less than Greek/ Is your mouth a little weak/” she had lost the melody and was trying to stylize.

“Sing the goddamn song right!”

It came from the table in the corner. Freddie smiled bravely and continued.

“You stink, lady!”

There was the crash of falling cutlery as a table went down. A soup bowl rolled onto the floor followed by an angry old man.

“You know who sang this song?” he shouted. “Ella Fitzgerald …Sinatra, Nat Cole…You got some nerve…”

He had a distinguished look. Dark suit, white shirt, pocket-handkerchief; the way people had dressed to go out in the ‘50’s. He was chased by a thin elderly woman with a mink around her shoulders and a younger woman in jeans. They tried to restrain him, but he broke away and screamed in Freddie’s face.

“You think you’re a singer you tone-deaf bitch? “

Freddie was stoic. She had gotten this review before.

But it was too much for Skip. He rose to defend her. “Get him out of here. What do you know, old man?”

The old man turned on Skip. “I know the show was Babes in Arms, not Pal Joey, you idiot!”

They got him up the stairs where Mrs. J was waiting with his overcoat. There were some mutterings at the bar.

“You should be ashamed…”

“Shut up you’ pansies,” he shouted. “You always got everything wrong.”

Then, he turned with an anguished cry to the old woman.

“For God’s sake why did you bring me here? Why did you do this to me?”

The old guy was still screaming as they took him out. One of the “pansies” went to the window as they bundled him into a taxi. Then turned with a shocked look.

“Oh my God, that’s Richard Rodgers. He wrote the song…”

Skip rushed to reassure Freddie. “Composers can’t stand interpretation. That’s why Porter loved Merman. She sang it straight.”

And the ever-practical Mrs. J came up waving a bill. “Look Freddie, they left you a hundred…”

Freddie tried to smile, but she was inconsolable. The money didn’t mean anything to her. She just wanted to be good. At this point she would have settled for mediocre.

On New Year’s Eve, I picked up a paper and saw that the great composer Richard Rodgers had died the next night after a long struggle with cancer.