This Makes PETA’s Freezer Of Dead Animals Look Good

My first response to reading this story was to think, “I didn’t know anti-abortionists were this depraved.”  My second response was, “Actually, they likely all are.  Just look at all the clinic bombers and those who murder doctors.”

What’s really galling is the white privilege and selective enforcement on display.  There are pictures of cops entering Handy’s house that show her casually sitting on the sidewalk, not in handcuffs.  She had five foetuses in the house from a break in at an abortion clinic in 2020.

Her name may be Lauren Handy, but I’m already nicknaming her Edith Gein.

Five fetuses found at home of anti-abortion activist, DC Police say

Police discovered five fetuses at the home of an anti-abortion activist in Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the department has confirmed to WUSA9.

Officers responded shortly after noon to a home on the 400 block of 6th Street SE to investigate a tip about potential bio-hazard material in the residence. Once inside, they located the fetuses. The remains were collected by the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The home was occupied by Lauren Handy, an anti-abortion activist who was indicted along with nine others Wednesday by a federal grand jury. Handy is accused of felony conspiracy against rights for a blockade inside a D.C. abortion clinic in October 2020.

WUSA9’s camera was outside as DC Police homicide and forensic services detectives took evidence out in red biohazard bags and coolers from the rowhouse’s basement.

Handy declined to speak on camera Wednesday, but told WUSA9 she expected the raid to happen “sooner or later.” She also declined to say what was in the coolers, saying only that “people would freak out when they heard.”

Now We Know: It was all a distraction

Greg Abattoir, Texas governor, has been trying to criminalize the existence of Transgender people and criminalize medical care that will save lives.  As it turns out, those hired by his regime have been caught for a second time involved in the sexual abuse of children: making child pornography, abusing children in the foster care system who had been taken out of abusive homes.

How interesting that this appears the day before Transgender Day of Visibility.  Found via Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters:

Judge calls for federal investigation of child porn allegations at Refuge facility in Bastrop County

A federal judge, expressing disappointment with Texas law enforcement, is now seeking a federal investigation into allegations of child pornography at a Bastrop County foster care facility for victims of sex trafficking.

During a virtual court hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack raised concerns about the allegations, which involve staff at the Refuge Ranch residential facility for minors. Court monitors, who are tasked with overseeing the improvements in the Texas foster care system, this week said they found holes in the investigation undertaken by Texas Rangers into the allegations.

Earlier this month, the Department of Family and Protective Services had alerted the court monitors of an urgent situation concerning the safety of children at the Refuge. The department reported that it had received several reports since Jan. 24 to the statewide intake hotline alleging sexual and physical abuse; sexual exploitation; neglectful supervision; and medical neglect at the facility.

It also reported that the incidents could also potentially involve sex trafficking of the children by staff members, including selling nude photos of the girls and providing them with drugs.

Texas also holds concentration camps where migrant children suffered systematic sexual abuse by ICE agents, the US government not bothering to do background checks.  It makes you wonder if they were intentionally hiring pedophiles.  Naturally, the US government says it’s not responsible for the actions of people it employs.

Well Said: The Insufferably Intolerant Science Nerd’s latest post deserves a read and applause

Earlier today (depending on your time zone), the Insufferably Intolerant Science Nerd posted a follow up to events of the previous twenty four hours, two posts about bigots and those pretending they “protect women”.  (IISN’s first post, and her second post.)  Predictably, none of the attacks were about acting in women’s interests, they were cis heteros attacking LGBTQIA people, or worse, individuals within LGBTQIA peopleattacking Trans people.

Below the fold is IISN’s most recent post, complete and unedited with permission.  If anything is altered, that was an accident on my part during formatting (e.g. wordpress’s handling of paragraph breaks) that I will amend if pointed out.

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So It Is: March 23 is Atheist Day

Seen on reddit, in regard to Atheists’ Day:

Chef_Fats: Pineapple on pizza?

2skgody: That’s a religious question.

I still say Atheist Day should be Labour Day (September 1st), since it requires education and effort.  And easter should always be on April 1st, as it was in 2018.

I couldn’t think of anything special to say, so I borrowed a “ten questions for atheists” list and answered it.  I’m sure everyone will disagree with my answers below.

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A New Policy Drafted: Will Taiwan resume conscription?

For decades, Taiwan had mandatory conscription with a year’s service, and mandatory annual exercises for the reserves.  The public’s dislike of the draft, combined with the (then) perceived lack of threat from China, led in 2019 to a reduction in service length, and no conscription at all for some.  Taiwan’s government is now rethinking that policy.

Changes to conscription not imminent: Taiwan defense minister

Extension of mandatory military service unlikely before next year

The government will study proposals to lengthen the conscription period from four months to one year, but any changes will not take effect this year, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said Wednesday (March 23).

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, experts pondering China’s designs on Taiwan have recommended that the country’s compulsory four months of military service is too short to build an effective defense force. The most common suggestion is for the period to be increased to one year.

Asked for his opinion by legislators Wednesday, Chiu said no precise length has been decided but that a report on the issue would be completed this year. However, any changes will not be implemented until at least one year after they are agreed upon by the government, CNA reported.

This potential change follows warnings that the mass murdering regime in Beijing was mulling over whether to invade later this year, a followup to all the posturing and illegal incursions into Taiwan’s airspace.  Ukraine’s defence of its land, combined with more countries aligning with Taiwan over China has likely made the regime hesitant.

Xi considered invading Taiwan this fall: FSB whistleblower

Document believed to be leaked from Russian FSB claims Xi considered invading Taiwan in fall for ‘little victory to get re-elected’

A whistleblower from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) had considered launching an invasion of Taiwan in the fall of this year before the “window of opportunity” closed with the disastrous Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The head of the Russian human rights group Gulagu Net, Vladimir Osechkin, recently on Facebook began releasing documents containing Russian intelligence concerning the war in Ukraine. One document, which Osechkin claimed was written by an intelligence officer from an analytical unit of the FSB, apparently revealed China’s original timeline for attacking Taiwan before Russia began its invasion.

Whether this is true or not, it is a wakeup call, and some younger people are changing their attitudes toward military service.

Two opinion pieces were posted on Taiwan News, “The Taiwan Territorial Defense Force needs you”, and “It’s time to open up Taiwan’s reserves to foreign workers”.  I doubt Taiwan’s military would take in recruits, even if they had military training, but volunteers for logistics and medical care would likely be welcome.

I really should get back in shape, just in case.

Wake Up: Six of one, a dozen of the other

That was quite the night yesterday.

Around 1:41am local time (UTC+8), there was a 6.6 earthquake north of Taitung, Taiwan, one of the small cities on the east coast.  Fortunately this is a sparsely populated area (barely 100,000 people).  This far other than collapse of a bridge under construction and a few minor injuries (e.g. an 88 year old man cut by glass), this has been remarkably uneventful.

What has people worried was the seventy two aftershocks within a 50 km radius over the next forty minutes, according to the Central Weather Bureau’s Seismology Centre.  This one kept going and going.  As of now, twenty-seven hours later, there have been 150 aftershocks around the island, a few dozen on the west side of the island near the inland city of Chiayi.  There is no risk of tsunami because the subduction zone is under the island, not offshore.

Normally I wouldn’t quote “Taiwan News” due to its low quality, but when feet on the ground are closest to the event…

Magnitude 6.6 earthquake strikes southeast Taiwan

Taiwan sees 150 aftershocks, another magnitude 6 possible

Giant boulder falls on southeast Taiwan highway after magnitude 6.6 earthquake

It’s like something out of Wile E. Coyote:


There are several collections of surveillance video already on youtube.  This was the best of the lot:



I doubt we can blame China for this one.

Dog Races: TERFs won’t like this one

Anti-Trans bigots and media have been promoting fictionalized accounts Lia Thomas’s results in NCAA swimming, falsely claiming she has been “dominating” and “breaking records”.  I don’t see how an eighth place and fifth place finish are “dominating”.  Will the TERF trash start calling Gretchen Walsh a “man” for winning the national title?

Lia Thomas finishes 8th in 100-yard freestyle, final race of collegiate swimming career

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas’ collegiate swimming career ended with an eighth place finish in the 100-yard freestyle on Saturday. Thomas, a transgender woman, posted a time of 48.18 seconds, 0.81 seconds slower than her qualifying time of 47.37 seconds.

Virginia freshman Gretchen Walsh won the title in 46.05 seconds to land her first individual NCAA championship. It was a familiar spot for Virginia swimmers, who won seven individual titles and four relays to propel the Cavaliers to their second straight national championship in dominant fashion.

Three other Transgender athletes (one retired, one a current competitor and one from last year) have gotten less notice because of their sport: the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska.  I’ll bet the TERFs and other anti-Trans bigots will ignorantly call it “unfair competition!” for a Transgender woman to compete against cis women there.

Except that the Iditarod does not have separate male and female divisions.  It’s an open event, women and men compete directly against one another.

First up, NBC’s item on Quince Mountain, from June 2021:

Iditarod’s 1st transgender dog musher races to beat anti-trans sports bills

Quince Mountain, the Iditarod’s first openly transgender dog musher, is using his popularity on social media to combat anti-trans sports bills in his home state, Wisconsin, as well as a slew of similar bills introduced in dozens of states. The two Republican-backed measures being debated in the Wisconsin Legislature seek to ban trans students from participating on sports teams that match their gender identities.

“I don’t think I’ve been angrier about an issue than I am about this sports thing,” said Mountain, 41.

Mountain became the first out transgender musher to compete in the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race through Alaska in March 2020 (he was forced to stop about 250 miles shy of the finish line because of the Covid-19 pandemic). Now, Mountain, who has garnered a sizable following on social media, is racing to educate the public and state lawmakers about the potential dangers of anti-trans sports bills.

“It sends a message to trans kids that they’re a problem to be dealt with, and that message, I think, is lethal,” he said. “This is so punitive. It’s using kids as a political cudgel.”

Second, two items on Apayauq Reitan (a link to her twitter page), a Transgender Inupiaq woman who competed in the 2022 Iditarod race:

Inupiaq musher set to make history in Iditarod

An Indigenous musher is set to make history Saturday, March 5, by becoming the first transgender woman to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the premier sled dog race in the world.

Apayauq Reitan, Inupiaq, one of four Alaska Natives competing this year, said she hopes to inspire other transgender people.

“Part of why I’m entering the race again is because I want trans people to be able to see themselves, to see that you can be any kind of person you want to be,” she told Indian Country Today. “No matter what your interests are, you can transition and keep doing the things that you want to do. You don’t have to change your whole, entire life if you don’t want to.”

It’s the third consecutive year in which a transgender athlete has competed in the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile trail from Anchorage to Nome through flatland tundra, treacherous inclines, blizzard-prone summit passes, steep gorge descents and frigid river overflow.

Quince Mountain, a veteran of several mid-distance sled dog races, was the first trans man to compete in the Iditarod, making it about 714 miles into the 2020 race before race officials withdrew him, citing a rule related to competitiveness.

Will Francis Troshynski was the first transgender athlete to complete the Iditarod, finishing 34th of 36 in 2021. Nine mushers — including a former champion — scratched that year and one musher was withdrawn.

Reitan, Mountain and Troshynski say that the mushing community has been supportive of them as human beings and as athletes. Mushing is a socially isolated sport — when she’s not in Norway, Reitan is in Kaktovik, a village of 283 on Alaska’s Northern Slope — so a lot of support comes via social media.

Reitan won the Red Lantern Award for last place finisher.  That award is not an insult, because the Iditarod is like the Dakar Rally or the Tour de France.  Just finishing the 1600km race is a massive achievement in and of itself.  From Alaska News Source:

Iditarod live blog: Iditarod 2022 complete, musher’s banquet tonight

By Alaska’s News Source Digital Team

Published: Mar. 6, 2022 at 1:26 AM UTC|Updated: 22 hours ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – This live blog is where the Alaska’s News Source team will post breaking updates, race standings and more throughout the 50th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

March 20 – 2:10 p.m.

Reitan takes home Red Lantern Award as final musher to arrive in Nome

Apayauq Reitan of Kaktovik has won the Red Lantern award, as the last musher to finish the Iditarod this year. Yuka Honda of Healy was not far in front of her, finishing just 11 minutes ahead of Reitan.

Reitan finished with seven dogs in 13 days, 8 hours, 39 minutes, and 13 seconds, crossing the finish line at 11:39 p.m. Saturday night.

“There was a part where it was blowing pretty hard from the side and we were going like almost at a 45 degree angle with the sled forward,” Reitan told at the finish line. “It’s very nice to be here and for so many people to have shown up. It’s nice to see.”

As the final finisher, Reitan extinguished both the Widow’s Lamp and the Red Lantern to signify that each musher had safely gotten off the trail.

In total, 37 mushers finished the Iditarod and 12 mushers scratched.

Finally, a screenshot from the reddit group, r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns.  I love these two comments:

DragonOfTartarus: Don’t you know? Dogs prefer trans women over cis women, so they work harder for them! Clearly trans women need to be banned from mushing!

SlayerOfDerp: Actually it’s that dogs can smell evil like in movies and that’s why they don’t like terfs specifically.

Music Rules: How timely

Two albums hit their fortieth anniversaries this week, and considering world events, this borders on strange coincidence.

Men Without Hats released their debut album “Rhythm Of Youth” on March 20, 1982 (link to youtube playlist).  Two of the band members are (were) brothers Ivan Doroschuk and Stefan Doroschuk, their younger brother Colin Doroschuk also playing on the album.  They are Canadians of Ukrainian descent.  While I can’t find any interviews or items with him, I’m sure Ivan Doroschuk has something to say about the invasion.  Men Without Hats were always a political band.

Iron Maiden released their third album “The Number Of The Beast” on March 25, 1982, playlist seen below.  This album is the epitome of “All killer, no filler”.  The album’s opening track “Invaders” tells the story of the 9th century Viking invasion of England, of murderers, rapists, and plunderers, and the people arming themselves to fight back.  Gee, that doesn’t sound anything like current events, does it?  The album’s first single (of two) was “Run To The Hills”, about the 19th century genocide of First Nations people in North America.

And while not on the original album release, the song “Total Eclipse” (youtube link) is included on CD reissues.  The song is about environmental collapse, how having all the wealth of the world means nothing if the planet is unlivable, something oligarchs of every country have failed to grasp.

Great Ideas Never Die: They just get improved upon

On Pi Day this week, Ars Technica published an item on the PDP-11 Minicomputer, arguably the most influential minicomputer in history (or most influential computer, period), as well as longest in production (more than 20 years), outliving the Apple II (1977-1993).  The PDP-11 cost US$20,000 in 1970, which is US$146,000 today.

The PDP-11 sales numbers of 600,000 look unimpressive only if you think in terms of microcomputers that sold millions.  This was a minicomputer used by universities, governments, businesses, militaries, etc. As with the Apple II and ZX Spectrum, the Soviets and East Bloc countries tried to clone or steal the PDP-11.  There’s an apocryphal tale from the 1970s/1980s of a VAX headed for Berlin going missing on the Autobahn, but I can’t find a confirmed source for the story.

The AT item talks not just about the history of the PDP-11, how it led to the Unix operating system (and its descendants) and the C programming language, it provides the basics of its architecture, programming in assembler.  I never used a PDP-11, but its assembly language looks near identical to its descendant, the VAX 11/780 and 4500 that I used in college.  Reading this was like hearing a dialect that you understand enough to pick out many phrases, but not a whole conversation.

A brief tour of the PDP-11, the most influential minicomputer of all time

The history of computing could arguably be divided into three eras: that of mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers. Minicomputers provided an important bridge between the first mainframes and the ubiquitous micros of today. This is the story of the PDP-11, the most influential and successful minicomputer ever.

In their moment, minicomputers were used in a variety of applications. They served as communications controllers, instrument controllers, large system pre-processors, desk calculators, and real-time data acquisition handlers. But they also laid the foundation for significant hardware architecture advances and contributed greatly to modern operating systems, programming languages, and interactive computing as we know them today.

[. . .]

The PDP-11 was introduced in 1970, a time when most computing was done on expensive GE, CDC, and IBM mainframes that few people had access to. There were no laptops, desktops, or personal computers. Programming was done by only a few companies, mostly in assembly, COBOL, and FORTRAN. Input was done on punched cards, and programs ran in non-interactive batch runs.

Although the first PDP-11 was modest, it laid the groundwork for an invasion of minicomputers that would make a new generation of computers more readily available, essentially creating a revolution in computing. The PDP-11 helped birth the UNIX operating system and the C programming language. It would also greatly influence the next generation of computer architectures. During the 22-year lifespan of the PDP-11—a tenure unheard of by today’s standards—more than 600,000 PDP-11s were sold.

[. . .]

The UNIX operating system started life on a PDP-7 but was perfected on a PDP-11. The first version of UNIX was written in PDP-11 assembler; it had 34 system calls, it was written in 4,200 lines of code, and it ran on 12KB of main memory. Files were limited to 64K in size. It provided a hierarchical file system, the roff text formatter, the ed editor, system administration tools for dealing with disks, magnetic tape, and paper tape, and it included Blackjack, Chess, and tic-tac-toe.

Most importantly, UNIX provided an interactive, time-shared system that was accessible from inexpensive terminals. PDP-11 with UNIX opened the floodgates for inexpensive interactive computing, which then led to an explosion of office productivity. People finally had a means of editing, storing, and printing office documents. This was big in the corporate world, obviously, but things were just getting started.

According to History Computer, many PDP-11s are still in use today (US Navy, Airbus, et al) because they are so robust and reliable.  Now defunct Irish company Mintec continued to service hardware and software after Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) went out of business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get help for the PDP-11.  Multiple vendors (ComWareTech, StromaSys, StrobeData) provide migration to emulation on Intel hardware.  User and service manuals for the PDP-11 (in PDF form) can be found easily.

There’s also a PDP-11 emulator for the Raspberry Pi called the PiDP-11.  This writer explains his assembly of the kit, plus there are others talking about it (e.g. Hackaday).

There is (was?) a clone called the PDPii in mini-ITX form factor.

He Was Easily Caught: Talk about a smoking gun

Some people think or claim that I exaggerate in what I say about smokers, or accuse all smokers of being guilty by asphyxiation . . . I mean, association.  But that doesn’t mean things that appear in the news aren’t true.  It’s not proven that smoking directly makes people violent, but its addictive effects change the brain and negative changes to people’s personalities can’t be ignored.

From the US, January 2022:

Man upset over smoking fee shoots up Idaho motel with assault-style rifle

A man upset with being charged a $150 fee for smoking in his motel room fired multiple rounds from an assault-style rifle into the building before driving away, authorities in eastern Idaho said.

The shooting occurred Friday morning at the Motel 6 in Rexburg, Idaho, and no one was injured, Rexburg Police Assistant Chief Gary Hagen said.

Hagen said the man was taken into custody later that day in Alpine, Wyoming. His name hasn’t been released. Police said he was traveling with a female companion.

The mind boggles at the willingness of some to perpetrate violence because they don’t get their way (re: the rise in violence at prisons after smoking bans).  The willingness of a few to be violent doesn’t justify giving smokers their way.  Rather, it justfies more smoking bans, or actions like Denmark making it illegal for anyone born after 2010 to smoke and raising the prices to US$9 per pack.  Denmark’s goal is a smoke-free generation by 2030. , justified by a 2018 Nordic study linking aggressive behaviour in childhood and adolescence with maternal smoking during pregnancy. More below.

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Math Fascinates: But differential equations sucked

Why couldn’t I have one of these when I was in college?

I ran across this video by chance, made in August last year.  The narrator shows how differential equations and integrals were solved before digital computers were invented.

If all mathematics and calculus (and other sciences) were explained as clearly and simply as this young man does it, there would be more people in STEM.


Don’t Travel There: But book a room in Ukraine anyway

People have been trying to find ways to help Ukraine and Ukrainians, to get money to them directly, and have come up with a brilliant way to do it: book an Airbnb.

Only Russia is facing sanctions, not Ukraine.  The cell phone, SWIFT and credit card networks in Ukraine still work, which means they can access money sent to them.  So people around the world have started booking rooms in Ukraine (homes, not hotels) to get money to people immediately.  Those booking the rooms have no intention of travelling to Ukraine, but the money gets to people who need it.  It’s brilliant.

People are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine — not to stay, but to lend their support

Some people have found a novel way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is under attack from Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays they don’t intend to use.

Sarah Brown, who lives in Salt Lake City, is one of those who got the ball rolling in a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts. She booked a stay in Kyiv.

Someone in the Facebook group noted that it was important to support Ukrainians in places other than Kyiv, so Brown booked two more stays in smaller cities, with plans for more.

Ekaterina Martiusheva is the host of the first apartment Brown booked in Ukraine.

Speaking to NPR from Kyiv, Martiusheva says the bookings mean a lot: “These days we do not have any income. We do not have any right to ask our country to help us, because all the country’s resources are for the war and for the victory.”

Airbnb hosts are paid 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people abroad are booking stays and letting hosts know that it’s a gesture of solidarity, and they don’t plan to appear.

The idea spread over the last few days, and Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees in Ukraine for now.

Normally I wouldn’t praise a company, but this small gesture says and does a lot.  Kudos.

Continue from the item:

Martiusheva says the donations via Airbnb bookings have been valuable because of human connections. “It’s not just money, it’s the support and encouragement. We get these notes of people who are calling us brave, and it does feel great,” she says. “It’s just amazing, really.”

She has also been directing donors on Airbnb to contribute to a fund for the Ukrainian army as well.

It gets money to people who need it, and just as importantly, it lets people show support on an individual basis, not like the Red Cross which can feel impersonal.

Radio Waves: When high tech fails, go low tech

Ras-Putin enacted full media censorship as part of his power grab.  Independent news sources inside of Russia were either taken over by military force or chose to not talk about the invasion as the only way to stay open.  And news media from every other country has been forced to leave Russia.  There is no way from inside of Russia to report the facts to their people.

So, don’t do it from inside the country.  Do it from outside, in a way that Ras-Putin can’t prevent you from doing it.

The BBC has turned on their radio towers again, broadcasting into Russia on shortwave, just like they used to do during the cold war.  Russians with shortwave radios can listen for four hours a day, and Ras-Putin can’t do anything about it.

When high tech fails, go low tech.  Good thing the BBC never tore down the towers and transmitters.

BBC website blocked in Russia as shortwave radio brought back to cover Ukraine war

Access to BBC websites has been restricted in Russia, hours after the corporation brought back its shortwave radio service in Ukraine and Russia to ensure civilians in both countries can access news during the invasion.

State communications watchdog Roskomnadzor restricted access to BBC Russia’s online presence, as well as Radio Liberty and the Meduza media outlet, the state-owned Russian RIA news agency reported on Friday.

[. . .]

The BBC’s shortwave radio broadcast can be found on 15735 kHz from 4pm to 6pm and on 5875 kHz from 10pm to midnight, Ukraine time.

The BBC’s move to bring back shortwave came days after Russia launched two missiles on Kyiv’s TV tower, killing five people and knocking out some access to news and broadcasts.

Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, wrote on Twitter that the Kremlin was preparing to cut off communications and spread “massive fake messages that the country’s leadership has given up”.

Russia has clamped down on public dissent at home, while Kremlin-backed media organisations such as RT have been pulled internationally. The Kremlin has complained about the BBC’s coverage of the invasion, with Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claiming without evidence that the BBC “plays a determined role in undermining the Russian stability and security”.

And from CNet:

BBC Brings Back Shortwave Radio Broadcasts in Russia

The move comes as Russia restricts access to the BBC’s websites.

The BBC’s shortwave radio broadcasts are back in parts of Russia and Ukraine, as Russia moves to block the British media outlet’s websites within its borders.

The two new shortwave frequencies are broadcasting four hours of news in English each day and can be picked up clearly in Kyiv and parts of Russia.

“It’s often said truth is the first casualty of war,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement. “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda is rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust — and in a significant development, millions more Russians are turning to the BBC.”

“We will continue giving the Russian people access to the truth, however we can,” Davie said.

The truth, from the British Biscuit Company?  Compared to Ras-Putin’s propaganda machine, yes.  But it’s better than nothing.

Time Passes: And yet the movie still bites deep

The film Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Horror debuted in Germany on March 4, 1922, one hundred years ago, starring silent film actor Max Schreck, and directed by F. W. Murnau.  While not the first film featuring a vampire as a character, it is the oldest surviving vampire horror film.

I wasn’t planning to talk about the film here, but a few things I recently learnt about the film made it worth mentioning.



Nosferatu was plagiarized from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, which was published on May 26, 1897.  Other than changes of character names and inventing the idea of the sun killing vampires, it is essentially the same story.  Bram Stoker’s wife Florence Stoker (née Balcombe) was the executor of his estate and sued the studio, demanding all copies of the film be destroyed.  All the originals were, but some of the copies sent out to theatres survived.  Those copies have been edited and altered in some way (e.g. colouring, editing of scenes), but it is essentially the same film.  The original release, however, has been lost to time and their is no true original anymore.  The legal action sent the studio into bankruptcy.

Claims have been made that the title character Count Orlok is an anti-semetic caricature.  If it is, the film was made three years (and released two years) before Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was published in 1924.  It’s unlikely his own rabid ideas has much influence on the film; if any anti-semetism were in the film, it reflected general societal attitudes.  Jacinda Kumar: Murnau’s “Nosferatu” (1922) within the wider context of Weimar Cinema (PDF).

But an event of that era may have been an influence on the story: the Spanish flu pandemic of 1917-1918.  (The link below mentions March 15 as the release date; I have seen multiple dates, I’m going with the earliest, March 4.)  If this is true, the film makers’ willingness to make social commentary was impressive.  From, emphasis mine:

100 years ago, Nosferatu made vampire movie history out of a global catastrophe

Directed by F.W. Murnau and written by Henrik Galeen, the German Expressionist landmark turns 100 years old on March 15. Due to a legal battle with Stoker’s estate — after producers failed to purchase the rights to the novel, even though they credited it in the opening titles — Nosferatu spent its early life on the brink of erasure. But its narrative and visual language have echoed through the decades. These hallmarks grew out of a historical theme that has found renewed relevance in recent years: At its heart, Nosferatu is about fears of illness and plague. The silent-era classic opens with title cards describing a fictitious scourge, but its story was crafted in the shadow of the 1918 Spanish Flu, a pandemic that affected roughly a third of the world’s population. Like so much of modern horror, Nosferatu is a film where darkness consumes, light liberates, and color — yes, color — foreshadows both hope and doom.

[. . .]

The film makes a key historical association during Orlok’s voyage from Transylvania: The crew of the vessel he’s traveling on die off one by one, each with mysterious bite marks on their neck. While the audience isn’t made privy to their suffering, the specter of death looms over them beforehand — or rather, under them, in the rat-infested hull of their ship, where Orlok has stored several coffins filled with the cursed earth he needs to survive. It’s especially notable that rodents, the animals which once spread The Black Death on trade ships, can be seen burrowing through the very dirt that gives Orlok his power. Even Orlok himself has a rat-like appearance. (Many over the years have suggested the design could be an antisemitic caricature, and perhaps an inadvertent one. Galeen himself was Jewish, but the film certainly presaged more overt propaganda comparing Jewish people to plague rats in later years.)


Fortress of Solitude has a positive review, primarily of the film’s historical value, as does Horror Film History.  It is rated 97% on Rotten Tomatoes,  Roger Ebert rated it highly, as do reviewers on the IMDB.  Grunge goes into great detail about the film, its production and its messages.



Since the film is a hundred years old, it is obviously out of copyright and free to download and watch if you can find it.  There are multiple versions available on youtube, the Internet Archive, and elsewhere.  It’s worth two hours of your time.  Yes, overacting was the norm in the silent film era, but that was out of necessity, having to express ideas through body language (and the accompanying music) without voiced dialogue.