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Wikileaks Cablegate on 2008 Olympics: US rats on Dutch radio avoiding IOC & Chinese censors via complex intertubes

Aftenposten's monopoly on unleaked-by-Wikileaks-leaks went comparatively stale this weekend for American readers at least, but there was this nugget in a Beijing Olympics "Situation Report." The last item of an August 21, 2008 diplomatic cable told how a Dutch pirate radio operation was able to circumvent Chinese censors and an International Olympic Committee exclusivity contract. By reporting "Radio 538 is using a complex system of ISDN telephone lines," the US embassy was less ratting out the Dutch than revealing its own misunderestimation of Chinese internets and/or intertubes. 22. (U) Dutch Radio Station Evades Censors: The Dutch commercial broadcaster Radio 538 on 08/19/2008 continued to defy both the Chinese censors and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by broadcasting live from Beijing during the Olympic Games, according to a Dutch radio report. Officially, the only Dutch broadcaster registered to broadcast from Beijing during the Olympics is public broadcaster NOS. Unlike officially registered broadcasters, Radio 538 is not required to send its feed through the Olympics Broadcast Center, where Chinese authorities could theoretically censor its output. Instead, Radio 538 is using a complex system of integrated service digital networks (ISDN) telephone lines to transmit its broadcasts out of Beijing and to foil authorities´ attempts to block its transmissions. Radio 538´s connection with its Beijing studio has been down for only 20 minutes on one day since the beginning of the Olympics, according to the Dutch radio report. For the regularly appended list of USG cables released exclusively in Norway, check this Aftenposten link. For a daily summary written for an English audience, check Views and News from Norway.

Tiki Barber is my hero

Beware. This is going to be a rant.   Today, I met with great misfortune. I watched MSNBC's unbelievably sub-par coverage of the Olympics. Jenna Wolfe, know-nothing sports commentator extraordinaire, was recounting her favorite moments of the Games. To her, the most poignant moment was American swimmer, Dara Torres, being wonderfully gracious in defeat. Torres didn't win, but the moment was inspiring nonetheless. Wolfe's asswipe co-commentator back home, tight-pants Tamryn someone-or-another, chimed in "if you're not first, you're last." You have got to be fucking kidding me. Dara Torres, 41-year-old mother of two children, is competing in her FIFTH Olympic Games. She's medaled in each and every one. In Beijing, she took silver in the women's 50-meter freestyle race, .01 seconds behind the 22-year-old winner, Britta Steffen. About 35 minutes later, she won another silver medal as part of the American 4x100-meter medley relay team. Her 12 Olympic medals tie the all-time medal record for a female Olympian. What a loser. When Jenna Wolfe wasn't supplying us with completely asinine commentary, she was mocking co-host and NFL phenom, Tiki Barber, for not having a Superbowl Ring. My favorite moment of the Games? I'd say it was when Tiki Barber called Jenna Wolfe a cunt on-air for all the world to hear. He's taking all the heat for the "lack of chemistry." But for those of us who understand and revere sport, Tiki's words are pure gold.

If it sounds too good to be true

...it probably is.   Jamaica's Usain Bolt won both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints in world record time, something that hasn't been done in 32 years. The Jamaican women, led by Shelly-Ann Fraser, swept the 100-meter race. Today another Jamaican woman, Veronica Campbell-Brown won the 200 meter sprint. A single country winning gold in all four sprints hasn't happened since the USA did it in 1988. All this metal begs the question, what the hell is going on with the Jamaican runners? I'm much too sweet to have a taste for sour grapes, but it seems likely that the Jamaican sprinters are doping. Their current coach's association with Trevor Graham -- a Jamaican silver medalist in 1988 and coach of Beijing silver medalist Shawn Crawford -- who recently received a lifetime ban from the sport for helping athletes obtain performance enhancing drugs, further fuels suspicion. Of course, the Jamaican Track Federation vehemently denies the doping charges pointing out that the athletes have been tested and retested and, according to team doctor, Herb Elliott, remain "ready at any time at any hour to be tested." Sounds convincing...NOT. The dopers are always body lengths ahead of the U.S. Anti-Doping agency. It makes no difference how many times you test if you're not looking for what they're taking. There is a Jamaican saying likkle likkle mek nuff nuff. Loosely translated it means "a whole lot of a little bit amounts to a whole lot." Or, more simply, it all adds up. Yep, to a whole lot of gold.

Thank you Mr. President for all you do

Isn't it vaguely jarring when someone is asked publicly what would be their fondest wish, and they don't say "world peace?" I feel that way about athletes and celebrities in these times of great conflict. They could say Impeach Bush, Stop Torture, the Media Is Lying, or at the very least, the Emperor Has No Clothes! Instead they feed the media narrative fretting about their quest for a medal, about which we know already. Not to say the reporters aren't eager to run with whatever revelation they get. When Usain Bolt revealed that he fuels his running by eating "nuggets," the press was quick to announce the Fastest Man on Earth eats McDonalds. It's an easy conclusion. Where else are nuggets on a menu but the Mc variety? A convenient conclusion too, as McDonalds is a chief sponsor of the Olympics. They're running adds featuring ex-athletes, in athletic settings, pitching McPhood. Although no Olympic athlete could jeopard his/her health to a McDonalds meal depth-charge. Sports reporters know that too. Shame on them for perpetrating the McNuggets disinfo until Bolt's father could be reached for an explanation. Usain's "nuggets" are a concoction of yams, and no doubt something Jamaican that will soon be ruled out as doping. Reporters did interview an Olympic competitor who's eating plenty at the Beijing McD's. He's an archer, who has no need to move around. Probably his weight stabilizes his aim. Probably too he's got no aspirations for the Pentathlon. The convenient unofficial unsolicited McEndorser weighs 215 pounds. I've heard Olympic athletes are oblivious to real world concerns. Perhaps I can forgive them for not making political statements, even though they have the forum. They're forbidden, but as attention hounds, you'd think they'd notice that the athletes now most honored for the 1968 Mexico City Games were the ones who raised their fists. Instead the 2008 Beijing Olympics has this: heralded to be the best Beach Volleyball duo of all time (The TV announcer kept asking "Can I say it? Can I say this is the best beach volleyball team of all time?!" -even though this sport/spectacle pandering to the NASCAR fans has been part of the Olympics only THREE TIMES BEFORE), the winners had this statement to make, after clearing it with their interviewer. Said Kerri Walsh: "Can I say something? Thank you Mr. President, for your support. And thank you for all that you do!"

Mozambique by AK-47, book and hoe

This is a detail from the national flag of Mozambique. What a refreshing update on the tools of people power. Lenin's workers of the world needed hammer and sickle. In Mozambique it takes book, hoe and Kalashnikov. Education, agriculture, and the means to secure them from Capitalism. I looked for Mozambique at the Beijing opening ceremonies. The AK-47 is the antithetical symbol of the Olympics, patronized by heads of state, not coup leaders at the crest of popular uprisings.

Artemev head shoulders and legs above

Did you miss this spectacular moment in men's gymnastics? It was the last round on the pommel horse. Team USA was going for silver, the Japanese were already looking dejected about being left the bronze. The three Americans sent to cleanup were --ironically said the announcers-- each of them alternate team members. And then the unthinkable happened. Well it wasn't unthinkable, I was thinking it. I was rooting against team USA with my blackest might, for being the ass-backward patriotic pawns the US athletes are. I was amused to see Raj trip up, and thrilled when the same thing happened to the Taiwanese-American. Yeeeee! But next up was Sasha Artemev, whose erratic record, we were told, was what disqualified him from the original team. He failed 3/4 of the time. But the 1/4 performance ranked him as world champion on the pommel horse. So as the diminutive boy contemplated his mount, under all the pressure I'd wished upon team USA, it became impossible not to have a change of heart. I'd barely ever watched gymnastics before, but Artemev's performance went from dazzling to miraculous. As a teammate of his told reporters later, for a moment it looked like Artemev might have launched himself skyward from the horse, but he defied antigravity and hung on. Who has ever fought being earthbound except race cars? I doubt even Michael Jordan has to temper his air flight. Never the less, Sasha Artemev whirled like a helicopter tugging against a leash and landed as solid as you hope every time that every gymnast could, beaming, and it was Seabiscuit, Rocky and the Little Engine That Could! But the tension now mounted because Team USA's score had slipped so badly that now the German team was in contention to reach the bronze. Would the Americans medal at all? Everything was up to the German pommel horse numbers. As each German performed his routine, Artemev's act looked all the more luminous. The German routines were executed well, but were completely earthbound by comparison. What could the poor Germans do to compete in such a fix, short of improvise Artemev's leap to the heavens and court probably an infinitely greater than 3/4 chance of failure? Here's a video of an Artemev performance at an earlier gymnastic meet. In this minute and a half, you get to see what the coaches feared would happen in Beijing, then you'll see a preview of what ultimately did.

102 Olympic medals for white swimmers

Michael Phelps his poised to beat Mark Spitz's record for medals won in a single Olympics. Does it say something that both are swimmers? Maybe there are too many swimming events? You don't find 1/2 length, or 1/4 length fencing matches. You certainly don't have shooting medley relays. I can understand the merit of 50, 100, 200 and 400 meter distinctions. Relays also make team sorting events out of pretty plainly singular physical efforts. But do we need those variants at the international level which is often dominated by athlete superstars? If you want to have feel-good team events, perhaps relays could exclude the soloists. How do you account for 34 swimming medal events out of a total of only 302 Olympic events. While baseball as an Olympic sport is being dropped? That's two dozen athletes per team being offered no medal, while one swimmer gets a shot at eight. No to mention that baseball has become dominated by athletes of color, while swimming as yet has not. It's easier for our world neighbors to afford a bat and ball than swimming pools. Not to mention the leisure time necessary for the training. Whereas baseball is a social sport. Is it amazing that America, home of the baseball World Series, played only among North American teams, doesn't medal in the real world series? And how about our loss to Cuba? Even as both countries hold baseball to be the national sport, err, pastime, the match-up is still akin to a class AA school set upon single-room schoolhouse classification. We draw our athletes from a population 303 million, including the Cuban players who defect. Cuba's talent comes from a pool of 11 million.

On the tea-horse road to Tibet

Lady, lady, I take you today. No ticket! No tourist! I'm standing in the town square reviewing my inventory of polite rejections when, lo and behold, my rogue sense of intuition wrests its way to the forefront and I hear myself saying, "Okay, so where are we going?" An abnormally large Naxi woman emerges from the shadows and sizes me up. "You ride horse?" she asks rather skeptically. "Sure, I ride horse," I respond indignantly, at once calling to mind a favorite movie, True Grit. Rooster Cogburn: Mr. Rat, I have a writ here says you're to stop eating Chin Lee's cornmeal forthwith. Now it's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of the same. See, doesn't pay any attention to me. [shoots the rat] Chin Lee: [Runs into the room] Outside is place for shooting! Rooster Cogburn: I'm servin' some papers! Okay, I know that had nothing to do with anything, but I liked it. Anyway, thanks to trusty intuition, and the kind attention of my guides Richard and Li, I had a most magical day. I rode a shaggy little horse four hours up a steep mountain trail -- the very path that for hundreds of years has linked southwest China to Tibet. At the summit were views of the Yangtze River and the breathtaking Snow Mountains, known to us as the Himalaya. When the blue haze lifted, I could see all the way to everywhere. TO THE LEFT OF THE CENTER PEAK IS THE MOUNTAIN VILLAGE ALPINE FLOWERS AND CROPS MARIJUANA MAKES A PRETTY CONTRAST THE NAXI VILLAGE VIEW OF LASHI LAKE ME LIVING LARGE ON A TEENY TINY HORSE PEPPER BERRIES NAXI WOMEN PICKING PEPPER BERRIES A BOY HIDING BEHIND HIS CABBAGE AFTER TEN MINUTES OF CAJOLING HE'S READY TO POSE ALPINE DOGHOUSE THE MASTER'S CAMPSITE FIRST BEND of the YANGTZE RIVER LOOKING TOWARD TIBET MY TRAIL GUIDE OUR TRUSTY LITTLE STEEDS MARIE AND RICHARD INCONSEQUENTIAL THE NAXI MEN AFTER I BLEW THEM A KISS!

A fan of McDonald’s

BEIJING- Could there be a more offensive marketing campaign than this one? McDonald's has taken a revered Chinese symbol and turned it into a corporate billboard. Beijing 2008 brought to you by an American fast food chain. In the "open-24/7!" store in the Athlete's Village, McDonald's touts one or two "healthy" menu options buried deep beneath the grease-laden, e-Coli-infected, allegedly-edible garbage they offer. Message to young people: you, too, can bring home Olympic gold if you shove this shit in your mouth and work real real hard. Just don't forget that you must also pay constant homage to Nike, the goddess of victory, except when honoring Ralph Lauren, the lord of the Great Gatsby set. Remember, too, that you mustn't offer up your MasterCard, for that is a grave offense. These gods only accept Visa, your ticket to the world.

Is Bush problem drinking still a secret?

We learned only after Roosevelt's presidency that he had to be propped-up for photo-ops because FDR was otherwise confined to a wheelchair. The American public learned only after Ronald Reagan retired that he suffered from Alzhemers for most of his second term. Once our decider idiot's joyride is over, is there something it will then be safe then to tell us that Vladimir Putin already knows about George Bush Jr? We know he's incurious, uneducated and inappropriate. We know he was an alcoholic and cocaine addict into his 40s, until he found religion before the campaign trail. Is it possible some of his down-home stupidity could be drink-fueled? In the alter-universe of the blogosphere, it's being surmised that George W. was blotto at the Beijing Olympics. Here's one of the pics floating that thesis.

Tibet activist manually ejected in HK

With Marie's focus South in Yunnan Province, we redirect your attention to the Olympic equestrian venues, held in Hong Kong for reasons of disease control. This photograph of Chinese security ejecting Tibet activist Christina Chan may be gratuitous.

Finding respite in Beijing’s hutongs

BEIJING- Since I arrived in China I've made it my mission to avoid Westerners. Hitting the Beijing historical sites a week before the Games, then traveling by overnight train to Xi'an (three Chinese and me in a tiny cubicle with four bunks -- now that was fun), I've found myself immersed in a sea of Asian faces. An odd feeling, but not as odd as being surrounded by only Chinese voices. The Chinese are a garrulous people, speaking in monosyllabic singsong nasal tones, downright noisy by my standards. Interestingly, though, the sounds don't bother me at all. The voices seem to blend with the screeching of the cicadas or the chirping of the birds. I hear them, but since I don't understand the language, or even the intonation, the noise becomes like background music to me. Less intrusive than listening to my iPod because I don't feel compelled to fast forward, contemplate lyrics, or sing along. I think it's like being deaf, only with sound. Avoiding Westerners has become more difficult now that the Games are underway. Yesterday, I found a safe haven in the hutongs of old Beijing. For several hundred years, the majority of Beijing residents lived in siheyuan, which are housing compounds with rooms arranged around a central courtyard. The hutongs, or narrow alleyways, run between rows of siheyuan. Hutong has come to refer to neighborhoods set up this way. Life in the hutongs is a slow and simple affair. Elderly women sit side-by-side on stools barely six inches off the ground. The old men squat around wooden game boards, occasionally laughing at one thing or another. Middle-aged women sew or cook in tiny rooms with open doors, always facing the street so as not to miss any of the goings-on. Little children do as little children do everywhere. I didn’t see many young men and women in the hutongs. I imagine they were somewhere in the city, straddling the divide between the old and new China. Wherever I walked, the people stared at me with undisguised curiosity. They didn’t appear friendly, nor unfriendly. They simply watched. I would return their gaze for a moment, bow my head slightly and smile. “Nin hao,” I’d say, hoping that my attempt to singsong the syllables didn’t pain them too much. Without fail, they smiled and returned the greeting enthusiastically. Often they offered me whatever they had in their hands—a piece of fruit, a paper fan, a plastic-beaded bracelet. I would point to my camera, asking permission to take a picture. They would laugh and blush and hide behind each other in protest. I wasn’t sure how to interpret their apparent reticence, but I thought it was best to accept it at face value and photograph the laundry or the bicycles instead. With the modernization of Beijing, many residents have moved from the hutong to the high-rise. But I found that a few traditional hutongs, home to lovely people who can remember when, may still be found by a girl on

Opening ceremonies of Beijing Olympics star humanity in his own flea circus

Can you remember an Olympic Games opening ceremony that was not spectacular? Suffice it to say Beijing was the biggest, befitting the world's most populous nation. "Awesome" provides perfectly qualified praise. I have to say this spectacle invoked colossal horror as it drew a full-color digital smiley face over Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Automatons I thought the drumming performance was the most impressive. Two thousand (and eight) drummers beating their hands on antique-style drums set in mobile tables. The bare skinned drummers beat hard, seemingly to illuminate the square table surfaces, like fireflies assigned coordinates in an array, or a spider's web. We've admired marching ceremonies before, and synchronized flags. We marvel at the precision ensembles of Rockettes, Busby Berkley choreography, and, for want of an example further afield, the Chinese circus. What made the Bird Nest Stadium extreme so horrific was the miniaturization of man's role. If it had been a Seurat painting, one man, one dot, we might have been comforted to see ourselves woven into a tapestry which created an artistic expression. Instead, long shots showed the full effect to be an LED board, each pixel either on or off, flickering based on whether that person was activated or not. Man as electron, charged or uncharged. I wondered what was the stadium perspective. Did the audience of 91,000 see the large electronic panel or the matrix of individuals sweating to power it? An aerial view gave the TV audience the full effect, while other cameras zoomed in as if to provide a microscopic perspective of the human termites working frenetically in the machine. Putting people in the role of insect automatons would seem to me a phobia of a humanitarian society. But the mechanized human component of the 2008 opening ceremonies was not disharmonious with the way we already see China. Everywhere performers were tethered, playing tiny roles in gargantuan schemes. Some provided the piston power to undulating cubes. They revealed themselves only at the end, and emerged only partially, free but to give a smile and wave. These giant light-board shows were switched by computers, their human components alerted by electric signal, be it light, or tone, or sensor, to synchronize their positions. A TV commentator who remarked about the amazing lack of wires, would be overlooking how his personal computing devices communicate these days. Human labor The human element was required for the spectacle, otherwise we've seen more complex LEDs on old ballpark scoreboards. Technically the chain-link of humans was superfluous, but doesn't it represent China, where labor costs are negligible? And so we cheered the 2008 drummers, who worked drums mounted into tables that could pass for work desks. Indeed the drummers were bent over them like bent people, galley slaves exerting themselves to the rhythm of the whip. It was a sea of modern slaves, the sweatshop laborers. Actually, two thousand and eight impressed the crowd, but that number is probably small for a factory workforce. Probably there are scenes like this many times as big

Who should cast stones at the Chinese?

Activist hung this FREE TIBET banner in Beijing. To whom is it addressed? It's in English.   I'll say it again. I would leave criticism of the Chinese over Darfur, Burma and Tibet, to advocates with some moral authority. Perhaps activists from countries not actively engaged in genocide. How unbecoming really, of Americans, Canadian and Brits to point the finger at China for its links to the deaths of Sudanese, Burmese and Tibetans, while we have the blood of over a million Iraqis and Afghans on our hands! Our OWN hands! Westerners also have the blood of countless millions of African AIDS victims to whom we refuse our medicines. How ever in the world IS IT OUR PLACE to admonish China, when we are not stepping up to arrest our own governments?! Do you know who is behind the FREE TIBET and SAVE DARFUR efforts? The Western governments! Those "grass-roots" efforts are fully funded. They are media endorsed. Look at this Canadian TV coverage. They offer up the protest group website! Since when have you known mainstream media to publicize activist websites?! The Tibet/Darfur campaigns are aimed at US/UK audiences, to mobilize English speaking populations against China, our chief rival to Western empire.

Before China’s 8-8-8 was Burma’s 8888

The superlatives were flying at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Hyperbowl: it was China's defining moment of the modern age, on, the newscasters said, "eight eight of o' eight." But before 888 in Beijing was August 8 of 1988 in Rangoon, known as the 8888 Uprising. This movement for democratic reform in Burma was brutally suppressed by General Ne Win who directed that his soldiers' "Guns were not to shoot upwards." This resulted in the massacre of 3,000 students and priests and a military coup which survives today, supported by the Chinese government.

China on display!

BEIJING--Turn on the television and watch the Opening Ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics! By all accounts, it was the most elegant and artistic opening ever. With 5000 years of recorded history, China had a lot more to showcase than most countries have. They did it up beautifully. The parade of countries took forever and, with little idea when the US team would appear, I watched the entire time. I'll pass on some recently-acquired information that may spare you a similar fate. Historically, Greece marches into the stadium first, in recognition of the origin of the Olympic Games. The host country marches last. The other countries parade in alphabetical order. But, since China doesn't have an alphabet, the countries march according to the number of strokes in the Chinese characters that make up their names. Now, you can easily figure out when the USA will appear. Ha! If you skip the procession, make sure you return to watch the lighting of the torch. Definite goosebumps. And, for me, the usual tears of awe and inspiration. Now, go!

Let the Games begin!

BEIJING- I've run myself ragged over the past five days trying to get a sense of China as she gears up for the Debutante Ball, and so far I have a pocket full of threads awaiting a tapestry. I must say, China is a country of great contrasts. A communist country with in-your-face capitalism everywhere. A landscape of unbelievable beauty made hazy by poisoned and polluted air. Oppressive heat and humidity and noisy throngs of people outside; feng shui, gentle music, and cool crisp air inside. I'm staying at the Beijing Hilton, temporary home of the United States Olympic Committee. As you can imagine, the level of service is over the top. Since the Bush family's arrival at the hotel next door, security has been tightened and my perfect oasis is now tainted by the presence of wand-wielding uniformed guards. Worse still, the trophy wives of important men have invaded, and they are putting the staff through their paces. The upside is that they are fun to watch and secretly mock. Regal lionesses to my happy little mountain goat. Ha! Today the torch arrives in Beijing. The city is electric. I don't have a ticket to the Opening Ceremonies -- no surprise since they run about $3,000 each. But my friend with Olympic connections tells me that we may meet with some last-minute luck, so I'm dressed and ready to go. For now, I leave you with some pictures of the mountain goat on location!

Beijing extracurricular Olympic schedule

I have a last-minute, refocused interest in a safe and not-too-disrupted Beijing Olympics. It's already been unofficially eventful. Here's a time line of the counter-Olympics leading-up to the Opening Ceremonies. The Gazette is in Beijing. So are we! OC -5: Marie arrives in Beijing! OC -4: Sixteen Chinese policemen killed in Kashgar by Uighur separatists. Two Japanese journalists beaten by police for covering story. OC -3: Earthquake hits Sichuan Province hours after Olympic torch passes. OC -2: Four US-UK protesters unfurl TIBET banner as torch arrives at Beijing Bird's Nest Stadium. / Four US cyclists cause furor by stepping off the plane wearing US-issued breathing masks. / Visa revoked for TEAM DARFUR Olympian alumni. Yay! OC -0: FREE TIBET demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. American Tourists stabbed. Assailant jumps to death. Official account. Chinese witnesses not at liberty to tell what they actually saw. OC +1: Tibet activists ejected from Honk Kong equestrian arena. Protester sets himself on fire in Ankara.

China’s Olympic image makeover redux

I replaced the dancing figure in China's Olympic emblem with the red motorcycle crushed by tanks at the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The heavy red outline around the figure above the official Beijing 2008 logo resembles a Chinese written character, but it could also be blood pooled around the chalk outline of a body. Here's what some activist artists conceived for an Olympic logo to commemorate the Chinese repression of Tibet. They placed massacred Buddhist monks around the red seal. They could just as easily be referring to the monks killed in Burma by the authoritarian military junta which is supported by China.

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