MidTMike

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  1. MidTMike

    In Rayong

    http://bangkokbikehash.org/ This is the url for the group. They organize a monthly ride and they have members from not to far from you that attendance at a few of their events you would get to know.
  2. MidTMike

    In Rayong

    Have you done any of the Bike Hash rides?
  3. Stop 1: Duke's Express Stop 2: Bully's Pub Stop 3: Bangkok Burger Company Stop 4: Iron Fairies Stop 5: Roadhouse Stop 6: Home Run Bar and Grill Tonight the boys and I tested Home Run Bar and Grill. That is all off of Sukhumvit 31 (best to call them on your way and let taxi be guided by staff) and you need to check out their website in order to find the map. 1st off, the interior of the place looked wonderful. They had very nice floors, very nice tables, a pool table, and plenty of light. The place was lit very well, comfortable to be in, and an enjoyable experience. My only discomfort of the evening were the bar stools. They were regular cheap bar stools and not comfortable enough to sit down and have a meal. Other than that, there was really very little I could complain about. I had a friend in town from Washington DC, and he and I took the boys there to try the burgers. 2 of us gave the burgers a 3.5 and 2 of us gave them a 4.0. For total score of 3.75 out of 5. I thought the burger tasted very good. The beef was good, the bread was good, and they had plenty of toppings. The burger was a very nice portion for a foreigner to eat, and it came with enough fries to fill you up. I had a bacon cheddar cheeseburger which cost 320. All the burgers were around the same price range. The boys had beer and soda, and I had a smoothie and Diet Coke. They do include a service charge with the bill. The total of dinner and drinks came to approximately 600 baht per person. I thought the place was very comfortable and the boys loved playing pool while we were waiting on the food. It is a sports bar so they have very large TVs with sporting events in every direction. The waiters and the service staff were attentive, cordial and efficient. All in all, I had a very nice meal and enjoyed not only the company but the atmosphere and the food. It is a place that I would go back to again. If there were a sporting event that I wanted to watch on a very large television, I would consider taking the boys there to watch the event. From my understanding, the owner is from Chicago, Illinois. He did a great job decorating the place, training the staff, and putting out a menu that had very tasty food. If you are in Bangkok and you want a decent cheeseburger, I would recommend even this place a test run. Sukhumvit 31 (best to see map on website), Tel: 02-258-6250, Website: www.homerunbangkok.com
  4. Stop 1: Duke's Express Stop 2: Bully's Pub Stop 3: Bangkok Burger Company Stop 4: Iron Fairies Stop 5: Roadhouse Roadhouse BBQ: I have eaten at the Roadhouse many times over the years and always have a good time there. The prices are a bit high but the food is good and it is close to the gay bars. Corner of Surawong & Rama 4, Tel. 02-236-8010, Website: www.roadhousebarbecue.com The boys and I went today to test their burgers. We all tried a burger with different cheese and different toppings. We also had beer and soda. The burgers are made of Australian beef and they taste pretty good. The bacon is cooked great and not raw like a lot of places in Thailand serve them. The fries are tasty but full of grease. So much grease in fact, the boys put a napkin on one and it was drenched with grease. The burgers are 345 each and IMHO, that is too much for what you get. Both the burgers at Iron Fairies and BBC are better burgers and we left with a much better feeling. All three of us gave the burgers 3 out of 5. And we gave the place a few marks down for prices and fries. So, we give it a 2.5 out of 5 total. If you are in the area, the burgers are good. They are just not the quality of Bully's, Iron Fairies or Bangkok Burger Company. However, if you have a craving for a burger in the area, drop by and I'm sure you will not be disappointed. I have had their ribs on several occasions and they were good. Most of the time.
  5. Stop 4: Iron Fairies The boys and I tried Iron Fairies tonight. I had been there before with a friend a few years back and had a good time but we sat at the bar. I didn't go upstairs. Tonight, we were upstairs. There is no place in Bangkok like Iron Fairies. It is unique. It is interesting. There was live music tonight which had a jazzy sound. The tables are not comfortable and neither are the stools but the place is alive with sound and people. It is a very small place and every-time I have been there, it has been packed. Tonight was no exception. It was packed and we waited a bit for the table. The place is right around the corner from Bangkok Burger Company in Thong Lor area. Once again, I really like this area and the vibe of the entire place. Iron Fairies is a restaurant, bar, music place, blacksmith shop, art gallery and trinket place. Yes, it has a lot going on. It is hard to explain other than it is lit by candles at night and fun. See the photos on the website as they are very realistic of the place. I have also attached a few we took. The burgers are great. Real Australian Beef Burgers. They are the biggest we have eaten to date and all 3 of us gave them a 4 our of 5. We loved the fries and they are the best fries (really potato wedges). We tried 3 different burgers and all three were great. The cost for fries are extra. We also had beer and soft drinks. There were 3 of us and the bill came out to just over 1800 baht. We give Iron Fairies 4 our of 5 for burgers and a 5 out of 5 for uniqueness and ambiance. http://theironfairies.com/ Iron Fairies 394 Thonglor Road (Sukhumvit Soi 55), opposite Ton Krueng Thai Restaurant, Bangkok tel +66 (0)84 425 8080 Open Monday-Saturday, 6pm to 2am Stop 1: Duke's Express Stop 2: Bully's Pub Stop 3: Bangkok Burger Company Stop 4: Iron Fairies
  6. Stop 3: Bangkok Burger Company Thonglor Soi 10 Thonglor, Bangkok I have been watching Bangkok Burger Company on Facebook and I liked their attention to detail and I wanted to try this out. Tonight was opening night. They had a few practice runs in the last 4 or 5 days and I was invited to them but couldn't attend. So, we went to check this place out. First, if you turn onto Thonglor from Sukhumvit Road and then turn onto Soi 10, you are right at the place. It is about 10 stores into the soi and on the 2nd floor of one of the buildings. The place is very well decorated and once again, attention was paid to detail. The menus were great and had one side English and one side Thai. The tables were comfortable and the place was very cozy. It is not a huge place and I would think about 50 people could sit inside. The have an extensive menu of burgers and many variations. They also change the specials from week to week. There was a group of 4 of us and we all had different burgers. They have regular size which is 100 grams and large which is 160 grams of beef. I suggest the larger one. They also have real milkshakes made from Ice Cream. They were tasty. The hamburgers were delicious. The boys loved them and so did the falangs. The fries were very good as well. The meat was seasoned very well and the buns were hot and fresh. The 2 Thai boys gave the place a 5 out of 5. The two falangs gave it a 4.5 our of 5. So, overall, we give it a 4.75 out of 5. That is pretty damn good considering it was opening night and they are new. I could not complain about the food at all. It was great tasting and reasonably priced. We spent about 500 baht each for food and drinks but we also had desert and milkshakes and beer. The owner is a very nice man who came over and ask our opinions and really seemed interested in knowing what we thought of the place. As I told him, it was fantastic. I would gladly recommend this place to anyone to visit. It was one of the best burgers I have had in Thailand. Bangkok Burger Company is on my list of visits every time I visit Bangkok! YUMMY!
  7. Stop 2: Bully's Pub When trying to find Bangkok's Best Burger, we will have to go to about 10 or more places. I have been to a few but never wrote a proper review. So, I'll try some old favorites again. We have heard great things about Bully's and I have been there before as it is next to the J.W. Marriott and I ate there several times over the years. Nighttime gets crazy so we decided to check out Bully's during the day. Bully's is a sports pub and it has 3 pool tables which my boys loved. They played 5 or 6 games while we were there. The tables were well kept and clean and the ladies racked the balls for them. I had the Bully's Burger with Egg and Cheese and mushrooms. (170 basic but 20 for each additional ingredient) The BF had the Cowboy Burger (180) and our friend had a BBQ Burger (201). We all agreed that the burgers were excellent. I gave my burger a 4.5 out of 5 and the BF gave his a 5 our of 5 and our friend gave it a 4.5. So, overall, we would say this place is a 4.7 our of 5. The fries were good and the cold slaw was good as well. The burger prices were very reasonable at 190 - 220 baht each. The drinks were high with cokes at 75 baht, and beer up to 190 baht for Corona (my BF's choice). All in all, the place is very comfortable to eat and hang out. We all had a very nice time there and all want to return. The service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty. http://www.bullysbangkok.com/ Sukhumvit Road, Between Soi 2 & 4 Next to the J.W. Marriott Tel: 66 02 656-4609 Fax: 66 02 656-4605 (Bangkok, Thailand)
  8. The boys and I have set out to find the best Hamburger joints in Bangkok. I know of some we are going to test, but if you have others to recommend, please let me know and I'll try to go. Stop 1: Duke's Express Emporium Shopping Mall, 5th Fl., Tel: 087-002-9214, Website: www.dukesbangkok.com This place is tucked away at the back of the 5th floor food court. I have been to Emporium many times and never seen it. You need to walk all the way to the back of the court to find it. It has only 7 tables and it small, but it is worth trying. The group: it was me and my two boys that live with me but 2 Thai friends from Pattaya. I ordered Joe's Famous Burger. It has Blue Cheese, Bacon, Grilled Onion, Lettuce, Tomato and Horseradish Mayonnaise 245 Baht. My side item was Onion Rings. The burger was very good. The meat was tasty but a bit overcooked for me. I like to see some pink and I told the lady that but it was well-done. Still, I loved the taste of the Blue Cheese on the burger. I gave my burger a 3.5 our of 5. The boys had another burger, the Fish and Chips, Lasagna and Ribs. They all gave their meals a 4 our of 5. They all had fries with their drinks and they gave a separate 1 our of 5 to the fries. The fries were not cooked well, soggy and just not tasty. Not one person finished the fries. We all ordered drinks and the boys got Heineken's. The total cost for 5 was 2,000. I tasted the BF's burger (he loves burgers as much as I do) and it was good as well. He got the Va Va Va Boom Burger with Chili, Cheese, Chili Mayonnaise, Onion and Pickles 215 Baht. I liked it as well. We all like our main course and I really liked the onion rings buttermilk battered. None of the boys like the fries. We all agree, we gave Duke's Express a 3.5 out of 5.
  9. My suggestion would be to get a 1 year multiple entry visa. You can do this for one year while you are establishing a business. That would in essence give you 1 year and 3 months. You would need to leave the country every 90 days on a visa run and then you get 90 days upon return. I also have done the double entry visa from USA many times. There are many you can mail the passport to and they will return to you. You will then get 180 days with one visa run in between. I hope this helps.
  10. I am always happy with Hero and have reviewed it here before. I was there again 2 yesterday and had a fantastic time. On the weekends, Hero has a slew of handsome guys. On this last visit, there were over 45 guys waiting for work. They were all handsome and full of muscle. I chose a smaller guy named Lek. I had met him many years ago and was happy to see him again. He has a great body and gives a great massage. The mamasan there always finds me a good guy and I have never been disappointed there. Ask them what the boys do and they will tell you what they know or go and talk to the guy to find out. The cost of the massage is 600 baht and the minimum tip to the boy is 1000 baht. So, you can't walk out for less than 1600 baht. This is a bit expensive for many but it is totally worth it. The rooms are clean but basic. They have a shower in the room and you can get either oil or creme massage. IMHO, Hero is fabulous! Hero 65 Sukhumvit Soi 11 Phone: (02) 251 – 1033
  11. Does anyone know of any reliable acupuncturists in Bangkok? I would appreciate any information available. Thanks.
  12. From SFgate.com: Folks at the beautifulpeople.com will tell you that hanging with the beautiful crowd has its perks - until an angry ex-employee crashes the pretty-people party with 30,000 of his or her ugliest friends. The exclusive dating site reports it was targeted by a virus aptly called "Shrek" last month, allowing thousands of so-called "ugly people" to set up profiles on the site without approval. Usually, the site's members vote on whether applicants are worthy of a beautifulpeople.com profile. "We got suspicious when tens of thousands of new members were accepted over a six-week period, many of whom were no oil painting," site director Greg Hodge said in a prepared statement. (If you think that's a little odd, read on.) About 30,000 users reportedly got a not-so-polite rejection email informing them their profiles would be shuttered. "Sorry to inform you, you're not beautiful enough," the email stated, according to one report. "We have sincere regret for the unfortunate people who were wrongly admitted to the site and who believed, albeit for a short while, that they were beautiful," Hodge said. "It must be a bitter pill to swallow, but better to have had a slice of heaven then never to have tasted it at all." The flippant tone of the statement - and beautifulpeople.com's history of publicity stunts - has some calling the site out for faking the virus. After all, this is the same site that once falsely reported it was making users reapply for membership after the holiday season because too many "let themselves go." Graham Cluley, a blogger for Naked Security, wrote: It's a fantastic piece of chicanery, of course, designed to boost awareness of the dating website, get them many thousands of pounds of free publicity with little risk of damage to their reputation. But beautifulpeople.com managers maintain that's not the case. They're blaming a disgruntled ex-employee for the "Shrek" virus. From the site's statement: The origin of the 'Shrek Virus' is still being investigated internally. It was initially thought to be one of the 5.5 million BeautifulPeople.com rejects, but further investigations point to a former employee who placed the virus before leaving the team in May. Despite wreaking havoc with the application process, member privacy and security was never breached. And that's just convenient enough to make the world skeptical. Beautifulpeople.com proudly claims to have rejected about 5.5 million applicants. But now: "BeautifulPeople.com has set up a hotline on 1 (800) 791-0662 to help recently rejected applicants deal with the hard news and can give tips for those wishing to re-apply. " I'm guessing tip No. 1 goes a little something like this: "Become prettier." Posted By: Amy Rolph (Email) | June 20 2011 at 03:21 PM Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/hottopics/detail?entry_id=91399#ixzz1PrMJepMe
  13. I have been strung out on the beach in a hammock and I sleep like a baby. I always just thought it was the comfort of being on the beach, sun blazing and the wind rocking me. Peace. Scientists have now said that the gentle sway of the hammock kick starts our brain and induces us to better sleep. I am sure new swaying beds are coming soon. I just hope they are better than the vibrating bed I once got in a cheap hotel when I was 16 looking to hook up with another guy. That night I slept good as well, but for different reasons. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/20/137300311/why-hammocks-make-sleep-easier-deeper?ps=cprs
  14. It was really very simple to do as mine expired a few months back an I had to have it renewed in Bangkok. I had only 6 months left and I have to make some trips to South America soon so I went to the Embassy in Bangkok to renew the passport. First, if you book online and show up at the appointed time there is no wait. They take your paperwork, make sure all if filled out correctly and send you to the cashier. Once finished, you take the receipt over to the window and they take the information. They tell you to have a seat. In less than 5 minutes, I was called over to the window and said I would get an e-mail when the new passport was ready in 2 weeks or so. Seven business days after, they sent an e-mail. I showed up and they took my old passport and changed it for a new one. The gave me the old passport back with holes in it as well as a letter to go to the immigration in Thailand to have the Visa moved over. The pick up was less than 10 minutes. There are certain posted hours for the service and if you show up on time, it is very fast and painless. I would think Cambodia would be the same. It is faster than in the USA and it is done in diplomatic pouches. The cost was a bit over 100US for the renewal. They are also now charging for added pages and you are only allowed 3 additions to your passport. There were several I met who were very upset at this as they still have years remaining on the passport but they have had 3 additions and they are not allowed to add more. The officers did tell them they can get a temporary passport but not more pages.
  15. I am currently headed that way. I'll be in Tokyo early morning. I know there is widespread devastation there, and I hope the entire world jumps in and helps out quick.
  16. I love the weather in Chiang Mai. I am in Pattaya right now and it is HOT. It is going to get worse I know but today was a scorcher for me. I drove down to the beach and went to ATM for about 2 minutes and got back on my motorcycle and it was VERY hot!
  17. The same thing happened to me in Phnom Phen. I was told once the Visas were no longer free, this would change. I have always used the guys outside for the single 60 day and I asked them about the double and they said no. I was shocked so I went inside and it was the same thing. They would not budge at all.
  18. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide's Four Points by Sheraton brand has debuted in Thailand with the opening of the Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15. Located in Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s prime entertainment and commercial district, the 268-room property will offer great convenience to both leisure and business travellers. The hotel features four food and beverage outlets, including The Beer Vault, which serves local and international hand-crafted brews from Four Points by Sheraton’s Best Brews® programme. In addition, the hotel offers 350 square metres of event space, which can be divided into two rooms, each accommodating up to 130 people. http://www.4hoteliers.com/4hots_nshw.php?mwi=8129
  19. Pattaya city is putting the final touches on its tourism-development master plan, which will need a budget of about Bt15 billion for 132 projects designed to turn the beach resort into a "world-class greenovative tourism city". Thiti Chantangphol, director of planning and coordination for the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta), a public organisation, said yesterday that the master plan was being revised to respond to local preferences. After a survey, which led to the scrapping of plans for a monorail and an above-sea building, a working committee will be set up to monitor the development, which will be carried out by the administrations of Pattaya and nearby areas. Regarding Pattaya's annual plan, during the first stage Dasta will mainly conduct a study on zoning for the city, with areas for entertainment, seminars, natural tourism and other uses, which should take about six months. Next Dasta will work on wastewater management and beach recovery to create a sustainable travel destination, giving Pattaya a new all-around image instead of the present one as a nightlife paradise. Mayor Ittipol Khunpluem said the takeover by Dasta would change the image of Pattaya as well as the cooperation between public and private sectors. Mega-projects will be completed sooner and be more faithful to the blueprint, he added. Thiti said the results of Pattaya's repositioning as a tourist destination should be visible by 2017. By then, tourism will be contributing Bt300 billion a year to Pattaya's economy, up from Bt60 million, as visitor arrivals increase from 7 million to 30 million and the average stay stretches out. Pattaya is considered to attract 10 per cent of the country's tourism revenue. In 15-20 years, 320 rai (about 51 hectares) of Koh Lan, off the coast of Pattaya, will be open to bidding for building and managing three hotels. The hotel concessions will run 30 years. Dasta will also look to launch Koh Phai, between Koh Lan and Pattaya, as another island attraction. In 10 years' time, if nothing were done, Pattaya would face many problems such as tap-water shortages, mafia control and traffic congestion, analysts say. During the past five years, the number of tourists has dropped by 9 per cent, which led to lost revenue for both the country and the tourism industry. The withdrawal of the monorail plan will not affect the Thailand World Expo in 10 years, Thiti said. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2010/12/29/business/Plan-to-make-Pattaya-World-Class-30145410.html
  20. A Thai prosecutor's office has dropped a child molestation charge against acclaimed Russian pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev, Pletnev's lawyer said on Tuesday. "No charges will be brought against Pletnev anymore. All the legal procedures are finished towards him. I have received a Thai prosecutor's office's decree," the lawyer said, citing the prosecutor's office of Thai Chon Buri Province as saying. "I am absolutely convinced of my innocence that is why I did not hesitate for a minute about the result of the investigation. Now, when everything is over, I can only say that money was behind the attempts to trump up a case against me," Pletnev said. Pletnev, the Russian National Orchestra (RNO) conductor, was charged with sodomizing a 14-year-old boy in July and could have faced up to 20 years behind bars if he had been found guilty. He persistently denied all charges. During the investigation, the musician had to return to the resort town of Pattaya every 12 days to renew his $9,000 bail. The bail restrictions, which prohibited him from traveling abroad, have been lifted. The Russian musician, who established the RNO in 1990, owns a small piece of property in Pattaya and spends several weeks there each year. BANGKOK, December 28 (RIA Novosti) http://en.rian.ru/russia/20101228/161967788.html
  21. Went back to get my Visa today and it was a mess. People were told 3:00 PM and I was told 4:00 PM. They post their closing hours as 4:30. I was there at 4 and was told not ready yet. The only ones that were getting passports were those that were agents. No one that was a single person waiting for one Visa and Passport was getting them. I waited and waited. The workers there were rude to anyone that approached the window that does not have a daily interaction with them and they were brushed aside. After 1 1/2 hours another man came in and started doing the same thing. I went to him and he said no. I showed him the passport was in front of him. He looked at it and threw it in the window. No consideration at all. Not a place I recommend to get a Visa.
  22. I went to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh today to get a double entry visa. They said it was not allowed at this embassy at this point in time. I have done this here many times and never had an issue. They said that in order to get a double entry, you must have an airline ticket going into Thailand, out of Thailand and then back in again. That is the only way they would give you a double entry. I have always used the guys outside for same day Visa. But, they said they would only be able to do same day for one entry as well. I have always given then 20 US for a Single and 25 US for a double but they could no longer do the double entry. The visa to Thailand is still free. I showed up on a Thursday and they wanted me to come back on Tuesday. I explained to there I was only here for the weekend and he let me get my visa the next day but it is not a guarantee. There were 3 others in front of me and he would not do next day for them and he would not do double entry for anyone. So, if you are looking for a Double Entry Visa to Thailand, Phnom Penh is NOT the place to go at this point.
  23. BANGKOK — A Thai court on Friday ordered the extradition to the United States of Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman suspected of running a massive arms trafficking organization that provided weapons to governments, rebels and insurgents across the globe. The decision, which overturns a lower court’s ruling in August 2009, is a victory for the Obama administration, which this week summoned the Thai ambassador in Washington to the State Department to “emphasize that this is of the highest priority to the United States,” a spokesman said. U.S. prosecutors say Mr. Bout, 43, commanded a fleet of aircraft to send weapons to rebel groups and warring countries around the world. He was arrested in Bangkok in a sting operation two years ago. Mr. Bout stood after the ruling was announced and embraced his wife and daughter, who wept. He said nothing to reporters in the courtroom as he was being led out in leg irons and an orange prison uniform. The court ordered his extradition within three months. Mr. Bout’s lawyers had argued that the request to extradite Mr. Bout was part of a pattern of the United States reaching beyond its borders to punish its enemies. Chamroen Panompakakorn, Mr. Bout’s principal lawyer, alluded to the rendition of suspected terrorists by the U.S. government and argued that the overall credibility of the United States government had been tarnished following the failed search for weapons of mass destruction Iraq. A panel of judges in August 2009 sided with the defense and wrote in their decision that Mr. Bout’s “guilt cannot be determined in Thailand.” The court on Friday did not contradict this but said there was enough evidence to extradite Mr. Bout to the United States. “This case has to be further pursued in a court in the United States that has jurisdiction,” said Siripan Kobkaew, one of three judges who read parts of the decision on Friday. Mr. Bout’s notoriety helped spawn the 2005 film, “Lord of War,” and his arms dealings are detailed in “Merchant of Death,” a book by two American journalists who describe Mr. Bout’s dealings as falling into a “legal gray area that global jurisprudence has simply failed to proscribe.” Mr. Bout has delivered weapons into Africa and Afghanistan, among other places, but has also flown missions for the U.S. Pentagon in Iraq and the United Nations. Sometimes Mr. Bout was hired to fly in arms to a particular group, the authors note, and then was paid by the U.N. to deliver humanitarian aid to the same area. Mr. Bout was arrested in March 2008 at a hotel in Bangkok after agreeing to sell millions of dollars worth of arms to undercover agents for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration posing as rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. It remains unclear why Mr. Bout traveled to Thailand. Initially Mr. Bout’s lawyers submitted a list of witnesses that included advisers to Thailand’s royal family suggesting his visit had something to do with the country’s powerful monarchy. Many witnesses were never called. Mr. Chamroen, the lawyer, also submitted copies of speeches in which members of the royal family called for closer military cooperation with Russia. Thai intelligence officials say that Russia was in talks with Thailand to provide a small but sophisticated diesel-powered submarine in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his more than six decades on the throne. If Mr. Bout traveled to Thailand to take part in a royal-related project his arrest, organized and mainly carried out by U.S. officials, would have been highly embarrassing to the government and the royal family. This might help explain Thailand’s initial reluctance to extradite Mr. Bout and the unusually lengthy hearing process. A Thai naval officer, Capt. Anurak Phromngam, testified during the hearing that he had been told to expect a Russian expert to assess whether a particular Thai port was suitable for docking submarines. The Russian expert was not explicitly identified in court but Capt. Anurak testified that he “found out that the person who was supposed to do the survey had been arrested.” It remains uncertain whether Mr. Bout was the Russian expert or whether the evidence was a ruse by the defense to elevate Mr. Bout’s status in the eyes of the court. Mr. Chamroen, the defense lawyer, shook his head when asked during an interview whether Mr. Bout traveled here as part of the submarine mission. “He came to do business,” Mr. Chamroen said. The case has put Thailand in the awkward position of referee between Russia and the United States. Thailand is one of the United States’ closest allies in Asia but Bangkok’s relations with Russia have warmed considerably since the end of the Cold War. The country’s beach resorts have become a major draw for Russian tourists looking to escape the long winters. The case has offered a window into the scale of arms trafficking. During the meeting in March 2008, Mr. Bout told the undercover U.S. agents that he could deliver 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition, land mines, C-4 explosives and unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the U.S. indictment. United States prosecutors filed fresh charges against Mr. Bout in February alleging that he and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli, sought to purchase two aircraft from U.S. companies in 2007 using front companies. The sale was in violation of U.S. and United Nations sanctions and was blocked. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/world/asia/21thai.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
  24. (CNN) -- In signing Argentina's same-sex marriage law, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said debate over the issue would be "absolutely anachronistic" -- archaic, out of date -- within a few years. Striking down California's Proposition 8 two weeks later, Judge Vaughn Walker was more specific, saying there was no evidence for old-fashioned stereotypes that painted gays "as disease vectors or as child molesters who recruit young children into homosexuality." Banning people from marrying based on sexual orientation, the President Reagan appointee explained, is "irrational." "Often courts will make decisions that are predictors of what public opinion is going to be a few years from now," said Brian Powell, an Indiana University sociology professor and co-author of the upcoming book, "Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family." As Walker indicated, attitudes are changing, and waning are concepts that homosexuality harms children, defies biblical teachings or destroys the fabric of society. "Public attitudes don't change really quickly, but this is one that's changing really, really quickly," Powell said. The trend is similar abroad, especially among younger people, said Suzanne Goldberg, a Columbia University law professor who heads the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. The center has handled asylum cases for gay people fleeing persecution in countries including Jamaica, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Ivory Coast. Research indicates younger people are beginning to see sexual orientation as "benign variation, so that the differences between gay and nongay couples are simply not so interesting," Goldberg said in an e-mail. "Once that happens, societies have less interest in distinguishing between relationships of gay and nongay couples," she added. Before 2008, Massachusetts (via a court ruling) was the only U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa were the only countries. Since then, four U.S. states, five countries, Washington, D.C., and Mexico City have legalized same-sex marriage. While some of these entities have track records of defending civil rights, some may appear more curious. South Africa resides on a continent particularly hostile to gay rights, and in some African countries same-sex relationships are punishable by penal labor, flogging, imprisonment or death, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association. Mexico City, Portugal and Argentina, all of which legalized same-sex marriage this year -- and Spain, which OK'd it in 2005 -- are staunchly Catholic, and the church has made clear its aversion to same-sex relationships. Goldberg said she believes, in the Catholic countries, the emphasis on religion is trumped by a drive to ensure equality. "My sense is that the shift in the Catholic countries to recognize same sex-couples marriages stems from a complex set of political and social reasons and has been, in some nations, an indication of the church's shrinking political clout," she said. Argentina may fit the bill, as the country is 92 percent Roman Catholic, yet only 20 percent of the population is practicing. Watch couple comment on Argentina's first same-sex marriage A recent CNN poll said Americans were split 51 percent to 49 percent against granting gay and lesbian couples the right to wed. Proposition 8 was approved by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, but Powell noted referendums "do not necessarily reflect the will of the people." Older people tend to cast more ballots than younger folks, he said, and heated issues draw special interests into elections, which can skew demographics. Powell has been collecting data on American attitudes since 2003. While the full data will be released in his book in September, his research adds a layer of nuance to the poll numbers: Though many Americans simply do or do not recognize gay couples as families, 80 percent of Americans consider gay partners a family if they have children. His research shows American definitions of family are becoming flexible, he said, likening the same-sex marriage debate to the rumblings preceding the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing interracial marriages. Before the miscegenation ruling, researchers found younger people, those with liberal religious views and voters with higher education levels had fewer qualms with interracial marriages. Similar lines hold true in today's same-sex marriage debate. Powell added another variable: gender. Women have a "more inclusive" definition of family, he said. Goldberg said demographics were also at play in other nations, "reaching a tipping point" on same-sex couples. These societies have had long-standing commitments to end discrimination against gays at work, in courts and elsewhere, she said. There is also "an increased demand by same-sex couples together with an increased recognition that there really are not nonreligion-based reasons to exclude same-sex couples from marriage," she said. The more open discourse on a topic, the more acceptance it garners, Goldberg and Powell concurred. Look to the tube. When Ellen DeGeneres kissed Laura Dern on her sitcom, "Ellen," in 1997, there was enormous backlash. Today, same-sex smooches are ratings grabs and shows with prominent gay characters, such as "Modern Family" and "Glee," are up for Emmys this month. "Once there is more discussion about it as a result of court cases, as a result of media representations, people become more comfortable," Powell said. Added Goldberg, "It's also true that as gay people live openly and as same-sex couples' relationships are recognized more broadly, fears that the sky will fall because of same-sex couples' marriages tend to fade away from the mainstream." Change is not swift everywhere, as the degree of acceptance around the world presently runs the gamut. Read Time.com's history of international gay marriage In 2008, the U.N. General Assembly saw 66 countries declare they would support rights for gays and lesbians, yet a 2010 International Lesbian and Gay Association report said 76 countries punish people based on sexual orientation. The number last year was 77. India dropped off the list when its court changed the penal code in July 2009. For the entire article: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/08/19/same.sex.marriage.global.fight/#fbid=gYq-G8MH7vH&wom=false
  25. Breaking News... http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/08/04/california.same.sex.ruling/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1 (CNN) -- A federal judge in California has knocked down the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, ruling Wednesday that the state's controversial Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker found in his ruling that the ban violated the Constitution's equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment. The closely watched case came some two years after Californians voted to pass Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Neither opponents nor supporters of same-sex marriage said before the ruling that it would likely be the last. Both sides said the decision will be appealed and eventually wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.