"And the award for the worst year ever goes to..." Lucy Mangan doles out her annual awards (The Guardian)
WORST NEWS: We are sorry to announce that this prize has collapsed under the weight of possibilities and has been withdrawn until next year.
Deborah Orr: Michel Roux Jr, here's a recipe for tipping (The Guardian)
His Le Gavroche restaurant has criminally underpaid staff and holds on to service charges. We need more naming and shaming to root out other employers.
Suzanne Moore: Zsa Zsa Gabor knew femininity was a performance. She played it perfectly (The Guardian)
Flamboyantly glamorous, arch and acerbic about both money and love, the actor's most fabulous role was as herself.
Henry Rollins: Why I Don't Hang Out After the Show (LA Weekly)
Next day. 1341 hrs. My body is reminding me of its many limitations. Without a show waiting, the vigor of the last several weeks has caught up. Body ache and a thickening of the voice as the vocal cords start to heal are par for the course. I always take it as getting beaten up for leaving the gang. All great efforts risk some pain upon completion, but clear the deck for the next one.
Jonathan Jones: Look closer at nativity paintings - and see visions of apocalypse (The Guardian)
Christmas cards are full of cutesy depictions of nativity scenes, but Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Caravaggio remind us of the death in Jesus's story.
Suzanne Moore: The Grinch's guide to Christmas - moan early and often (The Guardian)
Moan about the presents; moan about what's on the telly; moan about how ridiculous it all is. Just remember: the bad Christmases are the most memorable.
Garrison Keillor: Christmas lives on (Washington Post)
Even after she moved to Florida, she flew back for a proper Minnesota Christmas with frost on the windows and wind in the chimney. What you do for children is never wasted: This Christmas will live on and nourish them long after you have faded away.
Deborah Orr: Christmas Day? Groundhog Day? I can't tell the difference (The Guardian)
Just because your children have left home doesn't mean they don't want a traditional Christmas - just like the ones they used to know.
David Bruce's Amazon Author Page
David Bruce's Smashwords Page
David Bruce's Blog
David Bruce's Lulu Storefront
David Bruce's Apple iBookstore
David Bruce has over 80 Kindle books on Amazon.com.
Michelle in AZ
the second is nothing political; I just thought it was lovely.
We are all only temporarily able bodied.
Jeannie the Teed-Off Temp
from Marc Perkel
from that Mad Cat, JD
EEK! A SNAKE!
WHAT A CREEPY CRAWLY CREATURE!
FEEL THE WARM!
"A BASKET OF DEPLORABLES."
THE PIG OINKS!
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE GOP.
Visit JD's site - Kitty Litter Music
In The Chaos Household
Wettest December in 6 years!
What Tech Companies Should Do to Protect
The international nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling on tech companies to brace for increased internet surveillance and censorship under president-elect Donald Trump's administration.
The EEF pointed out comments by Trump and his advisors on internet restriction, net neutrality, and freedom of speech and the press. The nonprofit also noted Trump's call for increased surveillance on specific communities, including Muslims. The president-elect has previously said he supports surveillance of mosques and that he "would certainly implement" a database for Muslims in the country.
In a full-page ad on Wired magazine, the EEF asked tech companies to take action to protect Americans from increased surveillance under Trump's administration.
"Incoming President Donald Trump and many of his advisors have promised to ratchet up surveillance and censorship, while threatening the future of net neutrality, privacy and encryption," the EEF said. "The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling on technology companies to unite with us in defending Internet users. By working together, we can ensure that technology created to connect and uplift people worldwide is not conscripted into a tool of oppression."
Lighting Up Women's Businesses in Africa
Elizabeth Julius worked sunrise to sunset to make ends meet as a seamstress. Supporting her husband and two kids in a village in Tanzania, Julius was forced to put down her needle and thread each day once darkness fell.
That all changed three years ago when she was introduced to Energy 4 Impact, a London-based organization that works in Africa to ensure energy access and foster entrepreneurship for impoverished women.
With guidance from Energy 4 Impact, Julius took out a $500 bank loan and purchased a lamplight. But that was only the beginning.
Now able to continue working past daylight hours and increase her income, Julius went one step further and took out a loan to expand her tailoring business. Today, she operates a barbershop, mobile phone charging facility, and general store-all powered with solar energy.
Energy 4 Impact, in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, hopes to help 400 women like Julius become solar entrepreneurs by 2020 with training and finance. They also aim to provide 360,000 people in Kenya and Tanzania with access to solar-powered cooking and lighting instruments.
Reservoir Reborn As Public Space
Houston's first underground drinking water reservoir - a decades-old collection of more than 200 concrete columns inside a cavernous space near downtown - had been unused for years and was set for demolition when a nonprofit group reimagined it as something new: a public space.
The 87,500-square-foot-space, dubbed the "Cistern" and reminiscent of ancient European water reservoirs, opened its doors to visitors in May. Then earlier this month, the structure's darkened pillars and walls became the canvas for a piece of modern art.
"Repurposing it for a contemporary audience is the perfect solution," said Judy Nyquist, a board member with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which incorporated the reservoir as part of a $58 million park renovation project.
In Houston, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership saw the preservation of the Cistern, first built in 1926 and decommissioned in 2007, as a way to save a piece of history and educate visitors about Houston's relationship with its bayous, which have provided both drinking water and drainage. The group also saw the Cistern as a good fit for its plans to display art throughout the renovated Buffalo Bayou Park, 160 acres that the reservoir sits next to.
The first exhibition is an abstract-video installation called "Rain" by Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández. The nearly two-minute video, accompanied by a soundtrack of snapping fingers and stomping heels that mimics falling rain, projects a series of white geometric shapes onto the darkened concrete columns and the shallow pool of water on the Cistern floor to evoke the atmosphere of a stormy night. It can be seen until June through scheduled tours.
World's Last Wild Forests
In a tradition dating to Biblical times, men rise at dawn in the rugged Cal Madow mountains of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa to scale rocky outcrops in search of the prized sap of wild frankincense trees.
Bracing against high winds, Musse Ismail Hassan climbs with his feet wrapped in cloth to protect against the sticky resin. With a metal scraper, he chips off bark and the tree's white sap bleeds into the salty air. "My father and grandfather were both doing this job," said Hassan, who like all around here is Muslim. "We heard that it was with Jesus."
When dried and burned, the sap produces a fragrant smoke which perfumes churches and mosques around the world. Frankincense, along with gold and myrrh, was brought by the Three Kings as gifts in the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus.
But now these last intact wild frankincense forests on Earth are under threat as prices have shot up in recent years with the global appetite for essential oils. Overharvesting has led to the trees dying off faster than they can replenish, putting the ancient resin trade at risk. (AP)
Uncertainty Illustrates Broader Concerns
For hundreds of protesters, it was cause to cheer when the Obama administration this month declined to issue an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline's final segment. But that elation was dampened by the uncertainty of what comes next: a Donald Trump-led White House that might be far less attuned to issues affecting Native Americans.
"With Trump coming into office, you just can't celebrate," said Laundi Germaine Keepseagle, who is 28 and from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where the demonstrators have been camped out near the North Dakota-South Dakota border.
Anxiety over the 1,200-mile pipeline illustrates a broader uncertainty over how tribes will fare under Trump following what many in Indian Country consider a landmark eight years.
Some tribal members say they're unsure how much Trump understands or cares about their unique relationship with the federal government.
"I think there was a great hope that we had here in Indian Country with the direct dialogue that President Obama had established with tribal nations," said Duane "Chili" Yazzie, president of the Navajo Nation's Shiprock Chapter. "If a similar effort to communicate with us were carried on by the Trump administration, I would be surprised."
To Target Unions
Republicans are poised to use their newly attained capitol dominance to make Missouri the 27th right-to-work state prohibiting mandatory union fees. That is unless Kentucky's recently crowned GOP majorities can beat them to it.
The race to expand right-to-work laws is just one of several ways that Republicans, who strengthened their grip on power in the November elections, are preparing to reshape state laws affecting workplaces, classrooms, courtrooms and more during 2017.
As President-elect Donald Trump (R-Charlatan) leads an attempted makeover in Washington, Republican governors and state lawmakers will be simultaneously pushing an aggressive agenda that limits abortion, lawsuits and unions, cuts business taxes and regulations, and expands gun rights and school choice.
Republicans will hold 33 governors' offices, have majorities in 33 legislatures and control both the governor's office and legislature in 25 states - their most since 1952. Democrats will control both the governor's office and legislature in only about a half-dozen states; the rest will have politically divided governments.
"Really, the sky's kind of the limit," said Sean Lansing, chief operating officer at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group bankrolled partly by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. "It's really the best opportunity in quite some time to accomplish a lot of big ticket items - not just in one or two states, but in five, 10 or 15."
Settles Class Action Suit
Petroleum service giant Halliburton said it has reached a $54 million settlement in a class action lawsuit related to asbestos liability disclosures.
The Houston-based company said in a statement that without admitting guilt, it reached an agreement to settle the Erica P. John Fund class action lawsuit that has been pending in Texas courts for over 14 years.
The class action lawsuit was originally filed in 2002 asserting claims in connection with accounting for long-term construction projects, and was amended in 2003 to include claims related to asbestos liability disclosures.
The case was brought by a group of investors who claimed they lost money when Halliburton's shares plunged, accusing the company of erroneous earnings reports.
"Halliburton will fund approximately $54 million of the $100 million settlement fund, and its insurer will fund the balance," the company said in a statement late Friday.
Ally Sparks Outrage
A Donald Trump (R-Grifter) ally has ignited widespread outrage after wishing for US President Barack Obama's death and making racially charged comments about the first lady.
Carl Paladino (R-Racist) -- a businessman who served as a co-chairman of the president-elect's New York State election campaign -- made the incendiary jabs in a year-end feature published on Friday in Artvoice, a weekly newspaper in upstate New York.
Asked what he would "most like to see happen" in 2017, the former Republican candidate for governor of New York state said he hoped Obama "catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations" with a type of beef cattle and "dies before his trial."
When questioned what he would "most like to see go" next year, Paladino replied "Michelle Obama."
"I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."
Tourists & Tipping
Servers and dealers on the Las Vegas Strip say they're worried that as more foreign visitors hit the restaurants and casinos, they'll receive smaller tips because the tourists are coming from countries like China, where American-style, 20 percent gratuities are uncommon.
"It's very difficult when you're serving or relying on tips and the majority of your guests are foreign. They don't tip you, or they may have a $200 meal and tip you a dollar per person," said Cheryl Holt, who has been a food server on the Strip since 2011.
With a $200 dinner check, Holt said as a server, she'd typically have to pass on about $10 to the rest of the service staff, including a bartender, busser and food runner. If she receives a small tip, Holt said she's paying for those customers to eat at her table.
Holt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that in her experience, visitors from Canada tend to tip about 10 percent. European tourists give smaller tips and Chinese visitors give about $1 per person.
Dealers in the casinos, who receive about 80 percent of their income in gratuities, worry about stingy tips too, according to Joseph Carbon, who represents dealers at Caesars Palace, Harrah's Las Vegas, Bally's, Paris Las Vegas, and Wynn Las Vegas as the head of the Transport Workers Union of America's gaming division.
Vesna Vulovic, a Serbian stewardess who miraculously survived a plunge from 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) after her plane exploded in mid-air in 1972, has died. She was 66.
Vulovic was working as a Yugoslav Airlines flight attendant on Jan. 26, 1972, when the Douglas DC-9 airliner she was aboard blew up high above the snowy mountain ranges of Czechoslovakia. All 27 other passengers and crew aboard perished.
Vulovic entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 for "the highest fall survived without a parachute."
It was suspected that a bomb was planted inside the jet during a scheduled stopover in Copenhagen, Denmark, but no arrests were ever made.
Trapped in the plane's tail cone, she plummeted to earth in sub-freezing temperatures and landed on a steep, heavily wooded slope near a village. The fuselage tumbled through pine branches and into a thick coating of snow, softening the impact and cushioning its descent down the hill, crash investigators said at the time.
Vulovic was rescued by a woodsman who followed her screams in the dark forest. She was rushed to a hospital, where she fell into a coma for 10 days. She had a fractured skull, two crushed vertebrae and a broken pelvis, ribs and legs.
Initially paralyzed from the waist down, Vulovic eventually made a near-full recovery and even returned to work for the airline in a desk job.
She never regained memory of the accident or her rescue. She told the AP in an interview in 2008 that she could only recall greeting passengers before takeoff from the airport in Denmark - and then waking up in the hospital with her mother at her side.
An instant national heroine, she went on to put her celebrity at the service of political causes, protesting against Slobodan Milosevic's rule in the 1990s and later campaigning for liberal forces in elections.
British pop singer George Michael, who shot to fame in the 1980s with Wham! and continued as a solo artist, died on Sunday at his home in England. He was 53.
"It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period," his publicist said in a statement.
"The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage," the statement said.
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, he once played music on the London underground train system before forming Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. He died peacefully at his home in Oxfordshire, England, on Christmas Day.