Tuesday, August 03, 2004

*Ø* It's so dry in Sydney that ...

Globalization: these went from Sydney to Ireland, where Nora read them and sent them on to me back in Oz. Now I pass them on to you.

ABC Sydney Radio held a competition to finish the sentence, "It's so dry in Sydney that ..."

1. HIH insurance has come out of liquidation
2. If the England cricket team wasn't touring we'd never see ducks.
3. The Red Cross has launched a wet blanket appeal.
4. We're actually drinking the new vanilla Coke.
5. You're only permitted to eat watermelon between 8.00 pm and 8.00am
6. The Government has introduced a water-pistol buy-back scheme.
7. Thieves are siphoning off radiators instead of petrol tanks.
8. I'm enouraging the kids to wee in the pool.
9. We have to hand feed the rocking horse.
10. All the bottom-of-the-harbour tax schemes are resurfacing.
11. I saw two trees fighting over a dog.
12. All the Baptists have become Anglicans.
13. When my daughter fainted, it took three buckets of sand to bring her round.
14. I've sent my indoor plants out on agistment.
15. All the dogs are marking their territory with chalk.
16. Some of the 4WDs in Double Bay have actually got dust on them.

[I don't know about Sydney, but it's so dry in Sandy Beach the trees are chasing the dogs around.]

*Ø* Gagged 9/11 FBI Whistleblower Naming Names

From truthout.org:

Open Letter To Thomas Kean
- Chairman Of The 9/11 Commission -
From FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds

August 1, 2004

Excerpt:

"I, Sibel Edmonds, a concerned American Citizen, a former FBI translator, a whistleblower, a witness for a United States Congressional investigation, a witness and a plaintiff for the Department of Justice Inspector General investigation, and a witness for your own 9/11 Commission investigation, request your answers to, and your public acknowledgement of, the following questions and issues:

"After the terrorist attacks of September 11 we, the translators at the FBI's largest and most important translation unit, were told to slow down, even stop, translation of critical information related to terrorist activities so that the FBI could present the United States Congress with a record of 'extensive backlog of untranslated documents', and justify its request for budget and staff increases. While FBI agents from various field offices were desperately seeking leads and suspects, and completely depending on FBI HQ and its language units to provide them with needed translated information, hundreds of translators were being told by their administrative supervisors not to translate and to let the work pile up" ...

Read the full letter here

*Ø* Sniffer overdoses

"LONDON (Reuters) - A police sniffer dog died of a suspected overdose while out hunting for drugs, British police said on Monday.

"Todd, a 7-year-old Springer spaniel, had been looking for drugs in a field and car in Preston, northern England, when his handler noticed he was looking unwell." Full text

[Note: dogs pictured are not related to the deceased]

*Ø* World 'must double food aid to Sudan'

"Thousands of Sudanese villagers who have fled militia attacks will die if the world does not double the amount of food sent to the region, the head of aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières warned today.

"The UN security council has given Sudan a 30-day deadline for disarming the Arab Janjaweed militias largely blamed for the crisis, but Rowan Gillies, the international president of MSF, said refugees were so weakened by hunger that epidemics could sweep through their camps if food aid was not sent immediately." Source

Please Donate at the ICRC

Monday, August 02, 2004

*Ø* Those darn pagans

August 2, 1100 England’s King William Rufus (b. c. 1056) was killed when shot through the chest by an arrow while hunting.

Was William a pagan sacrifice?
The Celts celebrate the main part of the festival of Lughnasadh from sunset on August 1 until sunset on August 2. On August 2, 1100 English King William Rufus was killed when shot through the chest by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest.

Rufus (‘the Red’) was a son of William the Conqueror, and his elder brother, Richard, had also died in the New Forest. Rumours probably abounded that Richard and Rufus were victims of heathen ill will, for William the Conqueror had expelled the dwellers of the New Forest. These were the pagans, for that is what the word pagan originally meant.

Pagans were thus the dwellers in the forest/countryside, whose old religions were at odds with, and ruthlessly suppressed by, monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam, the hegemonies of which led to the longstanding pejorative connotations of the term.

The legend says that on the night of August 1, Rufus dreamt of his blood reaching to heaven, darkening the sky. The same night, an English monk dreamt that King William Rufus entered a church and picked up a crucifix; he gnawed at Christ’s arm, then the figure kicked him, making him fall backwards, and smoke and flames came out of his mouth. The monk told his abbot, Serlo, of the dreams and Serlo sent a warning to William, who had many enemies for he was known as an oppressor of England, taxing the people heavily. However, the haughty king dismissed the abbot’s prescient warning ...

Sacrificial kingship
It’s widely believed amongst neo-Pagans that William and other kings who died violent deaths on or near Celtic cross-quarter days, such as this one, were actually victims of sacrificial kingship. This ritual of pre-Christian times in Europe was related to giving thanks to the sun for a good harvest. Such sacrifice was also practised in ancient Greece, and the Celts might have acquired the practice from there.

Lughnasadh would be the time for the king to reaffirm his sacred ‘marriage’ to the prosperity of the kingdom ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date (or your birthday) when you're there.

*Ø* WANTED: hackers for freedom

Trung Doan says that he isn't as Net-savvy as he'd like to be, so he's asking others who are: how about using your talents to help defeat the Internet censors in Communist and other dictatorships? The people there really could use your help.

I was so impressed with Trung's innovative solution to the problem of Internet censorship that I asked him to be part of our essay series, Essays for a New World, and I'm grateful that he has obliged. I hope readers will spread the message to freedom-loving people, especially those with the skills needed.

Over to you, Trung:


Hackers: C'mon, hit the censors

By Trung Doan

The Internet is impossible to censor, right? Not if you are a despotic regime throwing all your resources into it. You won't stop everyone and everything, but if the aim is to prevent enough citizens from getting free speech to topple your regime, then you can succeed (unless, that is, Internet hacks and geniuses turn their talent to fighting you).

For a start, people can't access the Internet using just brainwaves. They need a computer connected to a wired or wireless phone line. Stopping someone getting access to that, and you stop their Internet.

Most countries ruled by authoritarian regimes are poor and have low telephone penetration. There are fewer than nine phone lines per thousand people in China, and three in Vietnam. It is pretty obvious that unlike people in democratic nations, few Vietnamese or Chinese can walk into their study room and log on. Some office workers might have access at work, but someone will likely walk past as they are surfing. The majority of the population must go to Internet cafés.

It was at an Internet café in Hanoi that Vietnamese Internet dissident Le Chi Quang was caught by the secret police in February 2002, after the state-owned Internet backbone company FTP spotted Quang, who had posted an article criticising Hanoi's secret donating of land near the border to appease the Chinese regime. In June that year, the regime told all Internet café owners to report on customers accessing blocked sites.

The same thing happened in the South. In Saigon in March 2003, democracy activist Dr Nguyen Dan Que, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was caught, again at an Internet café. Both Quang and Que are presently in prison.

Even if every household had a telephone and everyone had a computer, free speech could still be blocked. Because the Internet backbones in these countries are controlled by the Communist Parties, it is quite easy for them to block sites. As the Net's secret police put on more and more filters, Net-literate dissidents find more and more ways to work around them. But as all this goes on, it gets harder and harder for less Net-literate people to play the game ...

Read the rest of Trung's essay at Essays for a New World

Saturday, July 31, 2004

*Ø* Is Bush hiding bin Laden?

The article from a prestigious British journal that had everyone (well, some people) talking last August seems to have been widely forgotten.

It's here at The Guardian but because people keep asking me for it, here are parts of it:

Inside story of the hunt for Bin Laden
"The al-Qaida leader is said to be hiding in northern Pakistan guarded by a 120-mile ring of tribesmen whose job it is to warn of the approach of any troops. Rory McCarthy reports

Saturday August 23, 2003

"Experts who have been following the attempts of the Pakistanis and the US to find the al-Qaida leader have suggested that:

· The Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, struck a deal with the US not to seize Bin Laden after the Afghan war for fear of inciting trouble in his own country;

· The al-Qaida leader is being protected by a three elaborate security rings which stretch 120 miles in diameter; and

· The Pakistani special forces looking for him are no closer than they were a year ago ...
[emphasis mine]

"Some argue that the Pakistani authorities saw the difficulties from the start and, although they publicly stressed their commitment to the hunt for Bin Laden, in private they had a different strategy.

"Mr Ijaz believes an agreement was reached between Gen Musharraf and the American authorities shortly after Bin Laden's flight from Tora Bora.

"The Pakistanis feared that to capture or kill Bin Laden so soon after a deeply unpopular war in Afghanistan would incite civil unrest in Pakistan and would trigger a spate of revenge al-Qaida attacks on western targets across the world.

"'There was a judgment made that it would be more destabilising in the longer term,' he said. 'There would still be the ability to get him at a later date when it was more appropriate.'

"The Americans, according to Mr Ijaz, accepted the argument, not least because of the shift in focus to the impending war in Iraq. So the months that followed were centred on taking down not Bin Laden, but the 'retaliation infrastructure' of al-Qaida.

"It meant that Gen Musharraf frequently put out remarkably conflicting accounts of the status of Bin Laden, while the US administration barely mentioned his name."


This site claims to have a story 'Al-Qaida leader getting dialysis treament at Peshawar hospital' but they want money to read it. Then there's this from The Times of India, another credible journal, of July 24, 2004:

"WASHINGTON: Pakistan's intelligence officials knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, a well-known American analyst has said, based on a 'stunning document' that he claims was given by a Pakistani source to the 9/11 Commission on the eve of the publication of its report.

"The document, from a high-level, but anonymous Pakistani source, also claims that Osama bin Laden has been receiving periodic dialysis in a military hospital in Peshawar, says Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-at-large of the news agency UPI."
Osama being treated by Pak Army

*Ø* Is Bush losing it?

Three stimulating articles sent by Almaniac Mary Ann from California, with thanks.

"Angry Bush walked away from reporter's questions. Tubb prescribed the anti-depressants after a clearly-upset Bush stormed off stage on July 8, refusing to answer reporters' questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth J. Lay.

"'Keep those motherfuckers away from me,' he screamed at an aide backstage."
Bush Using Drugs to Control Depression, Erratic Behavior


"'Too many make the mistake of thinking Dick Cheney is the real power in the Bush administration,' says one senior Homeland Security aide. 'They're wrong. It's Ashcroft and that is reason enough for all of us to be very, very afraid.'

"While Vice President Cheney remains part of Bush's tight, inner circle, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has fallen out of favor and tells his staff that 'no matter what happens in November, I'm outta here.'

"White House aides say the West Wing has been overtaken by a 'siege mentality,' where phone calls and emails are monitored and everyone is under suspicion for 'disloyalty to the crown.'"
Sullen, Depressed President Retreats Into Private, Paranoid World


"The story the Pentagon put out, and was published by the Washington Post, was that the hole in the Pentagon was five stories high and 200 feet wide. If you look at the photographs taken by Tom Horan of the Associated Press – that's just not the size of the hole.

"But if the hole was only 18 feet wide, it had to have been created by something other than a Boeing. Whatever went into the Pentagon pierced six reinforced walls. This was the west wing, the part of the Pentagon being refurbished and reinforced. These walls were extra strong, and yet whatever it was went through six walls creating a hole about seven feet in diameter in the sixth wall. This had to have been something with a very powerful head on it. A Boeing 757 has a very fragile nose, and would not have pierced through all those walls; it would have been crushed by hitting the Pentagon. And given that it only penetrated these three rings, the rest of the aircraft would have been sitting outside on the yard. And yet the photographs taken just as the fire trucks got there – very shortly after the crash – show no plane whatsoever."
Thinking Unthinkable Thoughts: Theologian Charges White House Complicity in 9/11 Attack

*Ø* Loki the Trickster

Feast day of Loki and Sigyn (Norse tradition)
Norse trickster god Loki (Loke) and his consort Sigyn are honoured today.

Loki Laufeyiarson, in Norse mythology, is the ‘god’ of mischief (actually, not a god at all but a Jotun (the Titans and Gigantes of Norse mythology) ...

The trickster god is a complex character, a master of guile and deception. He is also conceived of as a fire spirit, with all the potential for good and ill associated with fire. Loki is also an adept shape-shifter, with the ability to change both form (examples include transmogrification to a salmon, horse, bird, flea, etc.) and sex.

On at least one occasion Loki gave birth to a horse – none other than Odin's eight-legged steed, Sleipnir ... Loki's other offspring are the Fenris wolf, the Jormungander, ie, the Midgard serpent, and Hel, the queen of Nifelheim, the world of the dead.

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

Friday, July 30, 2004

*Ø* The Sloganator - in memoriam

"Earlier this month, the website for the Bush-Cheney campaign -- the real one -- featured a 'create your own banner' tool, where you could enter your own slogan and print out your own poster, with the Bush-Cheney logo, and a note at the bottom 'paid for by Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.' Democrats, of course, couldn't get enough of this. The original sloganator accepted everything. Then it started censoring profanity and words like 'Hitler','dictator', and 'evil'.

"Nevertheless, many clever folk exploited the sloganator to their own ends before its sad demise only a couple of weeks after its birth, and its mourners assembled some of the best for the slide show."

Thanks to Rob Carey, via Polo, for this one.

*Ø* Beijing Olympics: Never too early to think 'boycott'

It's not too early to start planning to boycott the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Many will scoff, as competition is a modern mythology with few agnostics or atheists, but it's worth remembering that the USA boycott of Moscow in 1980 had many positive effects, even though it didn't stop the communists killing 1.5 million Afghans in the following decade. (Australian sportsmen and women, to their shame, put narcissism and "gold, gold, gold" before international solidarity, and competition before cooperation and did not follow Jimmy Carter's boycott.)

The Olympic movement is a discredited beast and agency of chauvinism and nationalist propaganda whether it is at Sydney, Beijing, Athens, or Berlin, where Hitler was early to recognise its PsyOps value. It was run from 1980 till 2001 by Juan Antonio Samaranch, national councillor under the fascist dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and the man who presided over the Olympics' descent into the corrupt, drug-riddled spectacle that they are today.

Let's keep our countries out of Beijing in 2008 on behalf of a quarter of the world's population still living under dictatorship.

A New Wave of Repression Justified by the Olympics
"While a wide majority of International Olympic Committee (IOC) members were voting, on July 13, 2001, to attribute the 2008 Summer Olympics to Beijing, Chinese police received an order to step up their executions of delinquents and intensify repression against 'subversive Internet users'. IOC members, encouraged by their president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who personally supported China's bid, paid no attention to the repeated calls against the Beijing bid ...

"The Olympic movement was discredited in 1936, when it allowed the Nazis to make the Games a spectacle to glorify the Third Reich. In 1980, in Moscow, the IOC suffered a terrible defeat when more than 50 countries boycotted the Olympics. The Netherlands, Germany, the United States, Egypt and so many others refused to countenance the Soviet regime. In 2008, the international sporting movement must refuse to tolerate one of the world's bloodiest dictatorships.

Sign the petition
Boycott Beijing

New Lords of the Rings
"The world of modern Olympic sport is a secretive, elite domain where decisions are taken behind closed doors, where money is spent on creating a fabulous life-style for a tiny circle of officials and funds destined for sport are siphoned away to offshore bank accounts. This investigation of the hidden corruption behind the Olympic ideal reveals: how Princess Anne's attempt to unseat the unpopular athletics supremo Primo Nibiolo was sabotaged by secret deals from within, how bribes were paid to win gold medals for Korean boxers in the Seoul Olympics, that Berlin's bid for the 2000 Olympics was so corrupt that the State parliament set up an enquiry, that millions of dollars are spent by bidding cities to woo those who decide where the games will be held, when in fact often the decision has already been made, and that the Olympic number two, Korea's Dr Kim Un Yung, is a trained killer and a former spy."
The New Lords of the Rings: Olympic Corruption and How to Buy Gold Medals (from Cafe Diem, our store)

Highly recommended
*Ø* Terrorism "as American as apple pie"

The following are just a few grabs from 'Homegrown terrorists', a fascinating online documentary. What I found particularly interesting is the assertion that the potential for domestic terrorism in the USA is so great but the administration works hard to keep the focus on foreign Muslims.

I also learned that after right-wing Americans did the Oklahoma bombing, vigilantes started attacking Middle Easterners, whom they apparently blamed.


Steve Rendall: G. Gordon Liddy has a national show in the United States. He’s heard on I believe more than 200 stations across the country, and at this time he was instructing his listeners on how to shoot federal agents. He said, ‘Don’t shoot for the letters across the chest, they’ve got bulletproof vests on, head shots, head shots, kill the sons of bitches’. And he did it not once, but several times. He was instructing his listeners on how to kill federal agents.

* Ø * Ø * Ø *


In April 2003, John Ashcroft’s Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Texas, FBI agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully-automatic machine guns, remote controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs, and the chemical weapon for a cyanide bomb big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000 square foot building. Strangely though, the Attorney-General didn’t call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, it’s owner. He didn’t even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. José Padilla, the accused Dirty Bomber, didn’t have any bomb-making material, or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr Ashcroft put him on the front pages around the world. Mr Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

Incidentally, if Mr Ashcroft’s intention was to keep the case low profile, the media have been highly co-operative. To this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national coverage. Yet, it’s hard to believe that William Krar wouldn’t have become a household name if he had been a Muslim, or even a Leftist.

* Ø * Ø * Ø *


Chip Berlet: The fact is that domestic terrorism is as American as apple pie. You could argue that the revolution was a form of domestic terrorism which was victorious, and it rewrote history to make us the revolutionaries who threw off the burden of Britain ...

Helen Thomas: Even if that balance isn’t a prime concern for George W. Bush, the Oklahoma City bombing casts a long, awful shadow.

Mark Potok: I was in Oklahoma, I got there about an hour-and-a-half after the building was bombed, and it was still on fire. And I was a reporter for 20 years, and I never covered a story that was so really awful. It did completely change the landscape, because of course it’s worth remembering that the immediate reaction of Americans from so-called ‘experts’ to law enforcement, to radio commentators and news people, was that this had to be Islamic. And I remember very clearly that on the very first day there was a mob in northern Oklahoma that gathered around the home and apartment where an Iranian woman was living, and started stoning the apartment. The woman was I think about 7 and a half months pregnant, and miscarried.
Source: Background Briefing
Streaming audio

*Ø* Mr Eternity

July 30, 1967 The death of Mr Eternity

Every morning for 37 years, Sydneysiders, as we who live in Sydney are called, awoke to a word that helped in unknown ways to give a focus on the deep meanings of life, death, and meaning itself.  

Arthur Stace died on July 30, 1967, aged 83. He had been ‘born again’ at St Barnabas's Church of England, Broadway, Sydney, in August 1930, and his friends described him as a very colourful character. He had been a methylated spirits-drinking, hopeless alcoholic and derelict in the streets of Sydney, when he was converted to Christianity at about 46 years of age. He had returned from World War One shell-shocked and soon became a scout for brothels, a petty criminal, and a ‘cockatoo’ (lookout) for two-up schools (illegal gambling rooms where the Australian game of two-up is played).

Just after his conversion to Christianity, Stace heard the evangelist John Ridley at the Burton Street Baptist Church preach about a man who was converted in Scotland through ‘Eternity’ being written on a footpath. Ridley cried out ‘Oh for someone to write Eternity on the footpaths of Sydney!’ Arthur Stace said to himself, ‘Here is something I can do for God.’ He did so, writing the word half a million times over nearly four decades ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

*Ø* Oops!!

"BERLIN (Reuters) - A German woman became so furious after a fight with her husband she stormed out of the house armed with a hammer and smashed up his car -- before realizing she had vandalized the wrong vehicle, police said Wednesday.

"The 43-year-old from Essen, western Germany, told police she shattered the windshield, broke the headlights and wrenched off the wing mirrors, causing more than $1,200 in damage, because she was filled with rage after a telephone quarrel.

"After going back indoors she realized she had battered the wrong car. Only noticing the color, she had attacked her neighbor's blue Opel Corsa and not the blue Ford Fiesta belonging to her spouse." Source

*Ø* 'Deep Throat' Suspect Found Dead

"Frederick Cheney LaRue, 75, the shadowy Nixon White House aide and 'bagman' who delivered more than $300,000 in payoffs to Watergate conspirators, died of coronary artery disease in a Biloxi, Miss. motel room, where he lived ...

"He was one of many Nixon-era figures rumored over the years to be 'Deep Throat', the undercover source of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Mr. LaRue denied that he was Deep Throat, and Woodward said he will not reveal the source's name until after Deep Throat dies."

Source: truthout.org

*Ø* "A frontier too far"

It survived Soviet occupation, civil war, the Taliban and US-led invasion. But after 24 years of aid work, Médecins sans Frontières has been forced by the American military to flee Afghanistan


"Aid workers who remained in Afghanistan throughout the years of Soviet occupation, tribal anarchy and Taliban rule are preparing to flee the country because US military tactics have made it too dangerous to operate there.

"A grim shadow was cast over the future of all aid missions to Afghanistan when the French organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) said independent humanitarian work could no longer be carried out safely. MSF claimed the American military had endangered the lives of humanitarian volunteers by blurring the distinction between soldiers and aid workers. Five MSF workers were killed last month.

"The announcement came as the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was preparing to put on record its fears about a rise in heroin production since the fall of the Taliban as part of a report to be published today into the war on terrorism. The Foreign Office has admitted that the opium harvest this year will be one of the biggest on record ...

"Kenny Gluck, MSF's operations director, denounced US military programmes in southern Afghanistan, which have sometimes promised aid only to villages which provide intelligence on Taliban fighters."

Continue at The Independent

Thursday, July 29, 2004

*Ø* Another Aussie literary 'hoax'

It was very difficult to tell the story, because I relived the story while I was writing it, but at the same time, I relive it on a daily basis. I mean, it's not something that I forget. It's something that I live with.
Norma Khouri, Viewpoint, 2003

There have been some splendid Australian literary hoaxes.

Best known among them is probably the Ern Malley affair in which two prominent poets managed to take the mickey out of modern poetry when their invented 'Ern Malley' became, briefly, an accepted, even popular, poet. Poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart threw words together at random to great effect. (Today some say the nonsense 'Malley' wrote is pretty good even though it was exposed as a gag much to the laughter of the Oz public.) Nevertheless, Max Harris, the Angry Penguins journal publisher who was taken in by the joke, went on to become perhaps the country's most successful bookman.

Then there was Helen Demidenko (pictured at left), who won two prestigious awards, the Vogel and the Miles Franklin, for her first novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper. Naturally enough, the book was a best seller ... especially when it turned out that Ms Demidenko was not who she claimed to be. She was "the daughter not, as she claim[ed], of an illiterate Ukrainian taxi driver from Cairns but of a Brisbane couple, Harry and Grace Darville, who arrived on our shores from nowhere more exotic that Scunthorpe [England]". Largely because her book offended some sensibilities of the politically correct, the pretence was turned into a national scandal and talking point of Monica Lewinski proportions.

In 1980, Paul Radley won the Vogel Award (it's for writers aged under 35). Truth was, his middle-aged uncle had written it. In another celebrated case, a white male author had himself published as a black female author, just to prove that the literary establishment wouldn't know the difference.

Now we have Norma Khouri.

Khouri's Forbidden Love was published two years ago in at least 15 countries and has sold more than 200,000 copies in Australia alone, pretty amazing when you consider the population of Australia is only 20 million. It was flavour of the month, in fact, of the year, around the time Oz co-pre-emptively invaded Iraq. I confess haven't read it (the title alone is enough to put anyone off, I would have thought), but from all accounts it contains very disturbing anti-Muslim passages, which would have fitted quite nicely the dominant paradigm as purveyed by Australia's government. One thing's certain, if it had attacked some other religions it wouldn't have got past the Australian Literazis.

Ms Khouri did the usual celeb author tours and had them sobbing in the aisles with her tale of her miserable life in Jordan.

Trouble is, before living in Australia, she spent all but the first three years of her life living in the USA. Her publisher has apparently withdrawn the book, while on the way to the bank, and meanwhile booksellers are frantically shifting Forbidden Love off the Non Fic shelves and onto the Fic (I guess (((shudder)))) Mills & Boon) shelves.

Khouri, who lives in an expensive estate in Queensland, has denied her book was a hoax and has said that she is gathering documentation to back up her claims.

The plot thickens:

"An investigation by The Australian has revealed that a US court has been told the 34-year-old besieged author was forced to flee Chicago, where she lived from the age of 3 until four years ago, after being pursued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which claims she and her husband were being investigated for fraud.

"She was also once accused of beating her mother-in-law and threatening to kill her, but the case was dropped.

"An affidavit in 2001 with the Circuit Court of Cook County filed by a Chicago attorney in one of numerous court cases involving Khouri - known here by either her maiden name, Bagain, or Toliopoulos, her married name - states that an FBI agent had alleged she had, in 1999, 'fled the country in an effort to avoid prosecution'."
'Hoax' author fled US pursued by FBI

*Ø* Martha, virgin and dragon charmer



Feast day of St Martha
(Red chironia, Chironia centaureum, is today’s plant, dedicated to this saint.)

Many cultures have dragonslaying heroes and heroines, and Martha is a European one with a good lineage, as she first appears in the Bible.


Martha was sister to St Lazarus and St Mary Magdalen and is matron saint of good housewives. According to one legend, she left Palestine after Jesus's death, around 48, and went to Provence with her sister Mary (possibly Mary Magdalen) and her brother Lazarus. Martha first settled in Avignon (now in France), then went to Tarascon, France. In art she is depicted in homely costume, often with a bunch of keys on a girdle, and holding a ladle of water. She is accompanied by a bound dragon, as she destroyed Tarasque (pictured), a female dragon, which she did by praising the monster for its goodness.

Tarasque inhabited the area of Tarascon (near Marseilles) in Provence, and devastated the landscape far and wide. The tarasque was a sort of dragon with six short legs like a bear's, an ox-like body covered with a turtle shell, and a scaly tail that ended in a scorpion sting. She had a lion's head, horse's ears, and the face of a bitter old man.

Martha is Matron of Tarascon which was named after the dragon, as was the herb tarragon. After the townsfolk killed Tarasque, Martha wept for the dragon but forgave the people for they had suffered so long. Or, so it is said.

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

*Ø* Clouds over the Amazon

"BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Burning of the Amazon jungle is changing weather patterns by raising temperatures and reducing rainfall, accelerating the rate at which the forest is disappearing and turning into grassland, scientists said on Tuesday.

"Wide-scale burning by loggers and farmers of the Amazon has risen sharply over the past two decades, changing the region's cloud cover and reducing the amount of rain in some deforested areas that are turning into grassland or savanna ...

"Destruction of the Amazon, home to up to 30 percent of the globe's animal and plant species, reached its second-highest level last year. An area of 5.9 million acres, bigger than the state of New Jersey, was destroyed as loggers and farmers hacked and burned the forest in 2003..."

Full story

*Ø* "We cannot save Darfur at the point of a gun"

Simon Jenkins, The Times:

"So what do we do about Sudan? I mean really do, not just pose. Do we scold it? Or do we condemn it, sanction it, threaten it, bomb and invade it? Do we impose 'democracy and prosperity' on Sudan, given that it badly needs both?

"The trouble with interventionists is they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. A year ago I wrote wondering why we were invading Iraq when Sudan might reasonably claim our prior attention. Everyone, except Tony Blair, knew that Iraq was no immediate threat. It just offered an opportune target for a belligerent desire on his part to topple someone nasty. Since all other reasons have evaporated, Mr Blair has virtually admitted as such.

"Yet nothing was as nasty as the regime in Khartoum. Eighteen months ago my e-mails were already buzzing with chatter about religious massacres, ethnic expulsions, starvation, rape and pillage in Sudan. Refugee camps were growing in neighbouring Chad. So what was urgent about one murderous Muslim desert state, Iraq, that was not urgent about another?

"The answer, of course, was that there were no television cameras in Sudan. There was no oil, the regime in Khartoum was being 'helpful' over al-Qaeda and its dying were, quite frankly, black."

Continue here

*Ø* Taking the Ultimate Penalty Off the Table

John Kerry's stand on the death penalty – that there shouldn't be one – is now the Democratic Party's platform.

"The Democratic party platform that will be adopted this week includes one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment. Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program ...

"Polls show a majority of Americans support the death penalty in at least some instances. But since the late 1980s, enthusiasm for capital punishment has been slipping. Many Americans, including some political leaders such as former Illinois Governor George Ryan, have come to question the morality of state-sponsored executions, as the use of DNA analysis has led to the exoneration of dozens of death-row inmates." [my emphasis - N]

Full text: Alternet

*Ø* Mystery Lottery Winner Donates $1.8 Million

"TOKYO (Reuters) - Officials in western Japan were marveling on Sunday at the generosity of a mystery philanthropist who donated a $1.8 million lottery ticket to help victims of recent torrential rainstorms.

"In an extremely rare display of charity, a winning lottery ticket good for a 200 million yen ($1.82 million) grand prize was mailed to the governor of Fukui prefecture on Friday with a note saying it was intended as a donation for rain victims."

Source

*Ø* Family begs for Anwar surgery

USA support enlisted for struggle

"WASHINGTON: As Malaysia's ex-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim grimaces in pain in prison, his daughter Nurul Izzah is in the US lobbying for support to have him travel to Germany for critical back surgery.

"The determined 23-year-old has met officials at the White House, the State Department and Congress as well as human rights groups, asking them to persuade Kuala Lumpur to allow Anwar to seek treatment abroad.

"Anwar, regarded by the US as a political prisoner and as a 'prisoner of conscience' by rights group Amnesty International, was rushed to hospital from prison this month due to complications from a damaged spinal disc, which he said was caused by a police beating after his arrest in 1998.

"The charismatic Anwar was heir apparent to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad but fell out of favour and was sacked in 1998 and later jailed on charges he says were trumped up to prevent him from making a challenge.

"Anwar has already spent more than five years in jail, having completed a sentence for corruption and begun serving a nine-year term for sodomy, a criminal offence in predominantly Muslim Malaysia."
Source: The Australian

Background

"Anwar has described both charges as fabrications intended to remove him as a political rival to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose administration is alleged by him to be riddled with corruption."
Source: BBC News

Anwar Ibrahim and Other Detainees Tortured by Police
Official Site of International Free Anwar Ibrahim Campaign
Free Anwar Ibrahim Google links
Anwar Ibrahim at Wikipedia

Anwar Ibrahim has been held in solitary confinement for most of the past 2,138 days of imprisonment.

*Ø* BOB, LOL

You gotta hand it to Dubya, he really has got some people scared. It's really quite sad. But this is just too funny:

Bomb Threat Forces United Flight to Return to Australia
"A suspected bomb threat forced a United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles to make an emergency return to Australia. Officials say the written threat appears to have been a hoax."
Source: Voice of America

And what was this "written threat" that had the UA crew scared out of their brains and caused Sydney's airport to be closed?

Someone went into the plane's dunny and found a barf bag with 'BOB' written on it.

This, naturally, was interpreted by the crew as "bomb on board".

The idea now is to write BOB on every chunder bag in the world and the bad guys will lose for sure! Write it in DUCT TAPE to be certain.

Me, Dubya and JR 'Bob' Dobbs got this whole e-vil game sewn up, yessirree.

Monday, July 26, 2004

*Ø* Bali victim's father to run against Downer

South Australian magistrate Brian Deegan, whose son was killed in the Bali bombings, 'Australia's 9-11' in which 202 people were killed and 209 injured, will run against Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer at the next Australian federal election.

The election is expected to take place within the next four months (the Prime Minister has the prerogative of setting the date).

"Mr Deegan has formally confirmed he plans to contest the seat of Mayo as an Independent.

"He has been an outspoken advocate for the families who lost relatives in the Bali attacks and has today expressed frustration over possible legal problems with the convictions of the Bali bombers ..

"'The Government in my opinion have been quite deliberately, and I don't under-emphasise that word, deliberately running from the truth on that score. I have decided that enough is enough.'"
Source: ABC (Oz) news

*Ø* The man who gave away his house

This bloke's a true hero who proves that idealism, self-sacrifice and generosity are alive and well.

Bill Paine, an IT consultant from Melbourne, Australia, decided that he really was not enjoying his new home and ended up donating it to the Australian Conservation Foundation. It was recently auctioned, realising $610,000. He handed the whole lot over to ACF.

Although he is now in a position in which he will have to rent a home, Bill is sure that he made the right decision. Speaking on Australian radio today, he said that ACF met originally met with him earlier this year and suggested he think it over for a few months, which he did. When he went back to see them, Bill said, they decided that he wasn't "barking mad" and accepted his generous contribution.

"I've always been very passionate about the environment in Australia and I have been getting more and more infuriated by the way the Government is mismanaging the environment here," he said.

"It's got to the point where I've had enough and decided to take some very drastic action by selling my house and giving the proceeds to the ACF because these are the people who are constantly lobbying the politicians."

Bill is shown (at left) with former ACF chief (and one-time Midnight Oil lead singer) Peter Garrett.

More and more

Sunday, July 25, 2004

*Ø* Abu Ghraib, Whitewashed

NYTimes:

"A week ago, John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was satisfied that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was keeping his promise to leave no stone unturned to investigate the atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison. A newly released report by the Army's inspector general shows that Mr. Rumsfeld's team may be turning over stones, but it's not looking under them.

"The authors of this 300-page whitewash say they found no 'systemic' problem - even though there were 94 documented cases of prisoner abuse, including some 40 deaths, 20 of them homicides; even though only four prisons of the 16 they visited had copies of the Geneva Conventions; even though Abu Ghraib was a cesspool with one shower for every 50 inmates; even though the military police were improperly involved in interrogations ..."

Continue here

*Ø* How USA OK'd Saddam's invasion of Kuwait

July 25, 1990 American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie gave Saddam Hussein America's go-ahead to invade Kuwait, and Hussein smiled.

The exchange was reported in the New York Times of September 23, 1990.

US Ambassador Glaspie: I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. (pause) As you know, I lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. (pause) We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threat s against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship – not confrontation – regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?

Saddam Hussein: As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. (pause) When we (the Iraqis) meet (with the Kuwaitis) and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death.

Glaspie: What solutions would be acceptable?

Hussein: If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab – our strategic goal in our war with Iran – we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (i.e., in Saddam s view, including Kuwait ) then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?

Glaspie: We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

*Ø* 1984 Olympics: Looking for pic

I'm looking for an image from the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, if anyone can help.

The image I'm after is quite specific: the UFO descending on the big 'XXIII' which signified the 23rd Olympics. This occurred in the main stadium at either the opening or closing ceremony. Do you know of such a picture? Thanks a lot.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

*Ø* Eyeglasses Double as Chopsticks

(But ... but ... how do you see your sushi?)

"BERLIN (Reuters) - A German firm has begun offering sunglasses and prescription spectacles with detachable frame arms that double as chopsticks or forks.

"The glasses designer says there is growing demand from time-pressured sushi fans eating their favorite food on the go."

Source



Kill the President

Part 1

The First Lady sleeps, President Lumwedder creeps
to the fridge for a snack at midnight.
Froot Loops in a bowl, a banana, bread roll,
so ... down the mouth hole with little control,
and everything’s feelin' … all right!

That amiable grin, that milk on his chin,
his customary ease with bananas,
the President's proud, "I ain't one of the crowd" –
he says it aloud – "I ain't one of the crowd,
and no one can fill these pajamas.

"I'm Irving Lumwedder, ain't nobody better.
Man, I'm smokin'!! That's nuthin! I'm bitchin!
I'm loaded with sass, I'm the toppest of brass!
I'm the greatest, I'm gas, I'm jumpin' Jack Flash,
I'm the Chief of the damn Oval Kitchen!

Continued at fishpond


*Ø* Russia's ice spectacular

Thanks, Mary Ann for sending this link to great photos of ice sculptures in Russia.

*Ø* Beware bin Laden email virus hoax

"Emails purporting to contain evidence of Osama bin Laden's suicide contain a 'Trojan horse' that can allow hackers to take over infected computers, security experts warned.

"'Computer users who fall for the bin Laden hoax may be hit by a Trojan horse,' the antivirus firm Sophos warned, naming the new scheme the Hackarmy Trojan horse.

"'Thousands of messages have been posted onto internet message boards and usenet newsgroups claiming that journalists from CNN found the terrorist leader's hanged body earlier this week,' the security firm said.

"The messages point to a website where a file can be downloaded, purporting to contain photographs. In reality, Sophos said, the file contains a Trojan horse which can allow hackers to gain remote control of an infected computer."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Friday, July 23, 2004

*Ø* Occupation watch

[Good to see that the highly experienced and esteemed Australian journalist Paul McGeough's important story about Allawi is getting some coverage at last in the USA (but nowhere near enough). Golly, even the Kansas City Star has the story, albeit a week late. I'd almost given up hope. If Allawi is a murderer, some reassessment is called for.]

Iraq rumors reflect debate over need for a strongman

"Is there any truth to these tales that Allawi has shot suspects? The stories have been denied by Allawi and dismissed by members of his interim government, the U.S. Embassy and a State Department spokesman. The Iraqi press has refrained from making any mention of the story. On the other hand, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook urged the Red Cross to investigate the allegations.


"The most complete version of the story appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper. Two anonymous sources claimed that they had witnessed Allawi executing six handcuffed and blindfolded prisoners in a Baghdad jail."
Source: SFGate.com

Also of interest
Iraq's transition to dictatorship
Red Cross urged to investigate Allawi
Occupation Watch website

*Ø* New torture allegations from Iraq

[Nora's comment to me: Can you just imagine the Red Cross reporting Allawi to himself?]

Red Cross named jail before alleged killings by PM
By Paul McGeough in Amman

"The International Committee of the Red Cross had urged an investigation of the brutal treatment of prisoners at the Baghdad prison where Iraq's new Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, is alleged to have executed as many as six suspected insurgents.

"The Red Cross request was made six months before the killings were said to have taken place at the maximum security Al-Amariyah police station prison.

"Almost a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a report by the Red Cross to the US occupation forces named the station as one of six run by Iraqi authorities in Baghdad at which detainees were subjected to the same coercive interrogation tactics used on prisoners by the fallen regime.

"The report says that one group of prisoners 'allegedly had water poured on their legs and [then] had electrical shocks administered to them with stripped tips of electrical wires'. Others had shown scars that they said were from burns inflicted by cigarettes.

"Two informants who said they had witnessed the alleged executions last month confirmed that the practices – including the use of electrical shocks – were still used on detainees at Al-Amariyah.

"The Red Cross report, dated February this year, states: 'During interrogation, the detaining authorities allegedly whipped [them] with cables on the back; kicked them in the lower parts of the body, including in the testicles; handcuffed and left them hanging from the iron bars of the cell windows or doors, in painful positions for several hours at a time.'"
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

*Ø* Giving the fox a henhouse 

From Working Families E-Activist: 

The Bush administration's overtime pay take-away will be a huge windfall to Big Business and employers—and a pay cut for millions of working families. In fact, a new study from the Economic Policy Institute predicts that 6 million workers stand to lose their right to overtime pay beginning Aug. 23, when the Bush Fair Labor Standards Act changes are scheduled to take effect.

The Bush Administration went forward with the new rules despite widespread concern over its impact from Republicans as well as Democrats. This shouldn't surprise anybody. The fox is in the henhouse at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Bush Labor Department's top spokesperson on overtime pay, Ed Frank, previously worked as the top spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business—the main special interest representing businesses that want to take away workers' overtime pay.

This is why it is so important that people take action today. Please click on the link below to send a message to your senators and representatives urging them to block the overtime pay take-away. Congress is going home until September on Friday. It is important to urge them to act today.

http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/fax4otpay/

It isn't surprising that businesses are going all out to take away overtime pay. The math on this is pretty stunning. If, for example, the average worker earns $4,000 a year in overtime pay, for every 1 million workers who lose overtime pay this would be a $4 billion windfall for employers—right out of the pockets of working people. (The $4,000 figure is only used as an illustration. Actual overtime pay may be greater or less.)  [Emphasis added. -v]

The Bush administration's overtime pay take-away is wholesale looting of the paychecks of working families by an administration beholden to its special interest donors.

Please click below to act and then forward this message to your friends, family and co-workers, urging them to act as well.

http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/fax4otpay/

 
News story from http://www.aflcio.org on new studies of the Bush overtime pay take-away. http://www.aflcio.org/yourjobeconomy/overtimepay/ns07132004.cfm

Explanation of the Bush overtime pay take-away. http://www.saveovertimepay.org/bushproposal.htm
   

*Ø* Mass Destruction in Small Packages

Alternet:

"Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the specter of mobile chemical labs, dirty nuclear bombs, anthrax spores, sarin gas, and other weapons of mass destruction has fueled popular fears and inspired countless anti-terrorism initiatives.

"While the fear of bombing and attacks is real, here is a surprising fact: The most deadly weapon in the world today is legal, accessible and dirt cheap.


"The AK-47, the M-16 and other so-called 'small arms' are responsible for the deaths of half a million people each year. About 300,000 people – mostly civilians – are killed in wars, coups d'etat and other armed conflicts each year by small arms. Another 200,000 people are killed each year in homicides, suicides, unintentional shootings and shootings by law enforcement officers using these weapons. In addition to those killed, an estimated 1.5 million people are wounded by small arms annually. If we take into account their cumulative impact, small arms are truly weapons of mass destruction ...

"While small arms are deadly and dangerous, they are also profitable - which makes them difficult to regulate and control. According to data collected by the Small Arms Survey in Geneva, they account for more than $4 billion in profits each year. The United States has the dubious honor of being the largest exporter, with $741.4 million in sales in 2003, which accounts for 18 percent of the market. The U.S. also purchased $602.5 million in small arms and munitions in 2003, making it the largest importer of small arms, as well.

"The failure of nations like the United States to curb the manufacture of these deadly weapons has a devastating impact on human rights, development and the war against terrorism."

Full text

Amnesty International: "Shattered Lives: The Case For Tough International Arms Control"

Thursday, July 22, 2004

*Ø* Unfair and Unbalanced

Alternet:

"The Independent Media Institute (IMI), parent organization of AlterNet, has filed a legal challenge to Fox that seeks to strip Fox of its 'Fair and Balanced' trademark registration. Your financial support will help us to counteract the bias of corporate media represented by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Fox News. For a limited time, if you donate $30 or more, we'll send you a copy of Robert Greenwald's powerful new 'Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism' DVD.
We appreciate your support."

*Ø* Hawking resolves black hole dilemma

[Or does he?]

From the Irish Times:

"The information paradox on black holes was resolved by Prof Stephen Hawking when he rejected his earlier theory that they irretrievably swallow up everything, writes Daniel McConnell

"Internationally renowned scientist Prof Stephen Hawking announced in Dublin yesterday that he had solved one of the 'major problems in theoretical physics'.

"His new theory, however, which states that information can actually be recovered from black holes, is unlikely to end the long-standing debate within the science community that has been running for over 30 years ...

"Black holes were often thought of as being void areas of space into which energy and matter can fall and disappear forever. In 1974 Prof Hawking discovered that, in fact, they are not completely 'black' but that they emit radiation, now known as Hawking radiation. This discovery led to what has been known as the information paradox on black holes which has puzzled the international science community ever since ...

"Prof Hawking conceded that his previous theory that all information was lost was incorrect and the assembled crowd witnessed the conclusion of a long-standing bet between him, Prof Kip Thorne and Prof John Preskill."

Source (subscription)

*Ø* Shark deaths: perspective please

The recent death by shark attack of a surfer in Western Australia roused a great deal of emotional debate, as it always does when such a tragedy happens.

Sharks were in the news, and certainly not in a good light. Last week there were tough guys on boats with rifles, and the federal government is talking drum lines and shark nets at huge expense. Memo to non-target species, such as dolphins, whales and dugongs: Watch out!

Now, I'm the first person to shudder at the thought of sharks. I confess that when I swim in salt water I have sharks somewhere in the back of my mind. I find them extremely scary, and I think most people do. And I am in favour of placement of shark nets at popular beaches, which is a practice we have had in Australia for perhaps 70 or 80 years.

But let's get this in perspective:

The chances of being killed by a shark in Australia are less than being killed by lightning strike, dog bite, or bee sting. Far less than death by gun shot, plane crash or industrial accident.

It has become a political issue because of the big bucks and big corporations involved in the very large tourism industry. Caught in the middle are numerous species of animal that are either endangered or vulnerable to species extinction. Let's not forget the huge role large creatures play in any ecosystem.

"Contrary to their reputation, sharks are an increasingly threatened group of animals. Sitting at the top of the food chain, many shark species are not used to being the victim of other predators. Over the millions of years they have swum the oceans, sharks have evolved reproductive strategies that suit animals that would naturally only ever die of old age. ... they reach sexual maturity late in life, produce few young and only after long gestation periods. This means they are not easily able to replenish their numbers when their mortality rate increases and are extremely vulnerable to over-fishing.

"Shark over-fishing is a serious global problem, as species struggle to cope with the increasing demands, for example for fish and chips in the west and for shark fin soup in Asian cuisine. Many shark species are suffering population crashes and local extinctions are becoming common."
Endangered Australian sharks


Endangered sharks, elsewhere

*Ø* Who was the Pied Piper?

July 22, 1376 The Pied Piper came to Hamelin (Hameln), a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, and led the children out of town.

The story of the Pied Piper (Rattenfänger) of Hamelin was popularised in German by the Brothers Grimm and in English by the poet Robert Browning in his narrative poem of that name.

It comes from an old German legend translated into English in 1605 by Richard Verstegan, who gave this as the date. (A 14th-century account gives the date as June 26, 1284.) The oldest remaining source is a note in Latin prose, made one and a half centuries later (1430 - 1450) as an addition to a 14th-century manuscript from Lüneburg.

We do know that something remarkable happened in medieval Hamelin that changed the town forever. Somehow, 130 of the town's children were taken away, and the grief imprinted itself on the village’s soul such that even the town church had a stained-glass window installed that showed the children being led away by this stranger. The stranger, dressed in pied, or multicoloured, clothing, offered to rid the town of Hamelin of its plague of rats, for an agreed price. He played his pipe and the rats followed his beguiling tune down to the Weser River, all drowning. The burghers of Hamelin refused to pay the piper, so he began piping his charming song and the town's children, entranced, followed him to a mountain cave, which as if by magic sealed itself shut.

Many people have proposed explanations for the famous legend. Perhaps the most likely is that the Bishop Bruno of Olmütz (now Olomouc) went on a Crusade recruitment drive for his diocese ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

*Ø* Australia, US, support Apartheid Wall

[It's not a fence, as the media insist on calling it. It is taller and thicker than the Berlin Wall and much longer by far. And it's not a security barrier. It's an old-fashioned land grab.]

"The Federal Government says Australia has good reasons for voting against a United Nations resolution demanding Israel comply with a ruling to dismantle its West Bank barrier.

"The vote was passed with the support of 150 nations but Australia was one of six countries to oppose the resolution, along with Israel and the United States."
Source: ABC (Oz) News

Know about Israel's Apartheid Wall


Flash-animated presentation (must-see)

Did you know?
The West Bank will lose an area the size of Rhode Island due to the path of the Wall.

Those 600,000 acres are equivalent to all of the crop land in Pennsylvania!
Source: American Task Force on Palestine

"The construction of the Israeli separation wall began on the 16th June 2002. For the most part the barrier, which could eventually extend over 750km, consists of a series of 25 foot high concrete walls, trenches, barbed wire and electrified fencing with numerous watch towers, electronic sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper towers, and roads for patrol vehicles.

"The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign’s most recent map of the Wall’s path, finalized November 2003, reveals that if completed in its entirety, nearly 50% of the West Bank population will be affected by the Wall through loss of land, imprisonment into ghettos, or isolation into Israeli de facto annexed areas."
Palestine Monitor Fact Sheet

In total the Wall will run over 650 km (400 miles) inside the West Bank.
FAQs about The Apartheid Wall

The Wall Must Fall
Stop the Wall campaign
Oxford Uni wall protest (pix)
More about the Wall

*Ø* What did Armstrong really say?

1969 Apollo Program: Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin became the first humans to walk on its surface.

[From the vantage point of Australia, Apollo 11 landed on this day, July 21, although it was still July 20 in some other parts of the world. In fact, in UT (Universal Time), it was July 21, at 0256 hours. This raises the conundrum: If we in Australia saw it on the 21st, did we see it before the Americans, Africans and Europeans, who saw it on the 20th, or after them? I’ll leave you to figure that one out, as it’s way too hard for your almanackist.]

What did Armstrong really say?

"That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

These are some of the most famous, and most eloquent, words ever uttered, indelibly engraved on the global consciousness by Neil Armstrong on that day in July 1969. And yet, if he said "… one small step for man", leaving out the indefinite article, the sentence doesn't make much sense. What did he really say, and were his words scripted for him by PR suits at NASA?

In an article in the December 1983 Esquire, author George Plimpton revealed all. The words were all of Armstrong's own composition, according to the publicity-shy astronaut himself, as well as his colleagues and NASA officials. Armstrong didn't even consider what he might say until after he and Buzz Aldrin landed on the lunar surface, because, he wasn’t sure he would get a chance to speak on the moon at all.

"I thought the chances of a successful touchdown on the moon's surface were about even money – fifty-fifty," Armstrong told Plimpton, "An awful lot of the puzzle had not been filled in; so much had not even been tried. Most people don’t realise how difficult the mission was. So it didn’t seem to me there was much point in thinking up something to say if we’d have to abort the landing."

As for the words: it sounded like he said "That’s one small step for man", rather than "for a man", which would have made more sense. In fact, Armstrong claims that he did say "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" (the way it appears in every book of quotable quotes issued since 1969). He told Esquire that the 'a' went missing in the transmission, which was through a voice-activated system called VOX. "Vox can lose you a syllable every so often," Armstrong explained – thus ending another of life’s little mysteries.

Do you think Armstrong's version is true? Play the 133kb .wav file ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

*Ø* Creeque Alley: Ohhh, now I get it!

One for the oldtimers and retro-hippies:

One of the songs of the sixties that endures because it's just so bloody good is Creeque Alley by the Mamas and Papas, from good ol' 1967.

With uplifting beat, singalong tune and very clever lyrics ("Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can't be trusted", it was definitely one of the best by this US band. Matter of fact, their work was very uneven, with some brilliant highs and woeful lows, no doubt influenced by the tons of smack and oceans of booze Papa John Phillips consumed.

Then there was the band's own version of musical chairs: "Musical Mama Michelle", also known as Mmmmmm; she was shtooping band member Denny Doherty and sort of forgot to mention it for a while to hubby John. (Some other Olympics-class players of Mmmmmm include Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Lou Adler, Denny Doherty, Roman Polanski, Mick Jagger, Rudolph Nureyev, and Gene Clark, the mail man and the visiting Pakistani cricket team.) Both the band and Michelle's water bed collapsed under all the pressure.

In an era of abstruse lyrics, Creeque Alley was particularly hard to grok because the lyrics were about the band itself. Now there's a site that explains or guesses what it's all about.

I've been on a 37-year journey to enlightenment and now I can rest; I have arrived at the mountain top.

Cool and right on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

*Ø* Major Darfur appeal launched

"LONDON (AlertNet) - An umbrella organisation of Britain's largest aid agencies appeals to the public for money to help thousands of people forced to flee their homes in Darfur, western Sudan.

"The appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) will go towards providing shelter, clean water and basic necessities for displaced people in Sudan and across the border in Chad.

"Fighting in Darfur has driven more than one million people from their homes.

"After years of conflict between Arab nomads and African farmers, rebels took up arms last year, accusing Khartoum of arming Janjaweed to loot and burn African villages in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

"A DEC statement said thousands of people were arriving every day at camps in Darfur with nothing but the clothes they stood up in ...

"'Floodwaters from recent rains are washing human and animal waste into water sources, raising fears of outbreaks of disease such as cholera and diarrhoea,' said the statement."
Source and full text

Khartoum 'backs Darfur militias'

"A human rights group says it has proof that Sudan's government has been supporting Arab militias accused of killing thousands in Darfur.

"New York-based Human Rights Watch says it has government documents showing that officials directed recruitment, arming and support of the Janjaweed.

"The government in Khartoum has denied any involvement with the militia."
Source and full text: BBC

*Ø* Blue moon: folklore or fakelore?



Soooo ... there's gonna be a second full moon for the month of July, and it happens on July 31.

All the newspapers will say it's a 'Blue Moon', and that's because folklore tells us so.

OK, but whose folklore?




Monday, July 19, 2004

*Ø* U2 Album Goes Missing

Turns Up on P2P Networks

"U2 have called in the police after a CD featuring unfinished tracks from their forthcoming album was stolen at a photo shoot in France. The new album, their first since 2000, is likely to be called Vertigo, and the tracks on the CD have already started appearing on P2P networks such as Overnet.

"Edge said on the U2.com website: 'A large slice of two years' work lifted via a piece of round plastic. It doesn't seem credible but that's what's just happened to us... and it was my CD.'
Should have kept an eye on it then."

Source and full text

*Ø* Brazil Internet Craze Angers English Speakers

[Excerpt from Reuters]

"Thousands of Brazilians have become devotees of Orkut (http://www.orkut.com), a popular new social-networking site from Web search leader Google Inc.

"Orkut allows members to organize themselves into online communities of friends, and friends of friends, to discuss everything from chess to sandwiches.

"But the rush of Brazilians to join Orkut and rival social networking sites has upset some online users, who complain of a proliferation of messages posted in Portuguese, Brazil's native tongue.

"Some users have even started communities specifically for people to air their gripes on this issue. [My emphasis. Are my eyes deceiving me? Who said the net was only there for English-speakers? - N]

"The United States has at least 153 million Internet users, compared with Brazil's 20 million. Still, Orkut said Brazilians dominated its membership roster in June, outnumbering Americans for the first time."

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*Ø* "Boring old fart"

July 19, 1971 British comic Marty Feldman appeared for the defence in the Oz Trial at the sombre London criminal court, the Old Bailey, calling the judge "a boring old fart".

The Oz case was the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. The original sentences of up to 15 months for Richard Neville and the other defendants sparked a wave of protest from many, including John Lennon. With Yoko Ono, Lennon joined the protest march against the prosecution and organised the recording of 'God Save Oz' by the Elastic Oz Band, released on Apple Records.

At the time in Britain, conspiracy to pervert the course of public morals carried a life sentence and the defence of the Oz magazine defendants was an important libertarian cause. The fuss and hilarious court case were all about Issue 28, 'The Schoolkids Issue', which was worked on by school students as well as the staff.

Oz magazine was an underground magazine launched on April 1, 1963, in Sydney, Australia, where its editors – Richard Neville, Richard Walsh, and Martin Sharp – were charged under obscenity laws. In 1971, after the magazine shifted to England in 1966, Neville, Felix Dennis, and Jim Anderson were put on trial for corrupting public morals. Oz finally ceased publication in 1973.

Where did they go from there?
Felix Dennis, who was given a lesser sentence, because the court viewed him as "very much less intelligent" than Neville and Anderson, went on to become one of Britain's wealthiest and most prominent publishers. OZ co-founder Richard Walsh became one of Australia's most prominent conservative publishers. Richard Neville is one of Australia's best selling authors and a prominent media figure. Martin Sharp is one of Australia’s best-known visual artists.

The lawyers
The Oz defence barrister, John Mortimer, is one of Britain's best-selling authors and creator of the acclaimed Rumpole of the Bailey books and TV series, and Brideshead Revisited. His assisting counsel, Geoffrey Robertson, is a prominent Queen's Counsel as well as a well-known Australian media identity. He has argued many landmark cases in the European Court of Human Rights, the House of Lords, the Privy Council and Commonwealth courts. He has conducted a number of missions on behalf of Amnesty International. He is the author of numerous books, and a play, The Trials of Oz, which won a BAFTA 'Best Play' nomination, and was the recipient of a 1993 Freedom of Information Award. He was recently appointed to the Appeals Chamber of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, and is a Visiting Professor in Law at several universities.

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with many more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

*Ø*  Two hundred

Well, it's the 200th day of the year, and it's been 1035 days since Bush said he'd catch Osama bin Laden dead or alive, pardner!
 
Are we taking bets on whether bin Laden will be caught before the US election? I can't quite get out of my head the prestigious British journal, The Guardian, reporting credible anecdotal evidence months ago that the Pakistanis and Americans have had him surrounded for a long time now.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

*Ø* The Summer of Truth
 
The Summer of Truth Campaign of http://911truth.org intends to build a powerful grassroots movement for full 9/11 truth disclosure and legal-political redress based on existing proof of this government's misrepresentations, exploitation and investigative obstruction of the events of September 11, 2001. Given  the enormous body of evidence refuting the "official 9/11 story," we can now lay out a prima facie case for foreknowledge, complicity and/or obstruction of justice that can then feed grand jury proceedings, impeachment hearings, or a People's 9/11 Truth Commission.
 
"Rethinking 9/11 as a yet unsolved crime and marshaling the known facts in terms of Motive, Means and Opportunity will greatly clarify public understanding of our leaders' role in this tragedy and empower millions now fed up with the fear, wars and fiscal ruin it has engendered. The campaign will employ collaborative networks, high-profile events, and a grassroots media campaign to publicize this evidence, debate its legal and political implications, and decide whether the next step should be indictments, impeachments, or a fresh independent inquiry." When you look at the strategy outline, you will see how the following campaigns fit into this scenario and maybe even think of deft new tactics of your own.
 
CONTINUE

SOURCE   

*Ø* My First (and Last) Time With Bill O'Reilly

From AlterNet:

A guest on 'The O'Reilly Factor' violates the rules of Fox News 'spin-free zone.'

A good read!

*Ø* Smile Awhile

Mothers in Law! Tsk tsk

"MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian taxi driver got a rude shock when he discovered his blind ex-wife, who thought he had died in an explosion, had him buried in a Moscow cemetery, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

"Oleg Lunkov learned of his apparent death when he applied for a passport and was told he died in a bomb blast on Moscow's metro on February 6. His ex-wife thought he was on the train, but being blind, she got her mother to identify the remains."
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*Ø* Murdoch stands accused

From the Guardian:

"Its slogan is: 'We report, you decide'. But according to one former employee, interviewed in a new documentary, a more accurate motto for Rupert Murdoch's US television channel Fox News might be: 'We opine, you recline'.

The comment is one of many included in Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, a documentary that aims to expose what it sees as the bias behind Fox News. Its director, Robert Greenwald, says his aim is that 'everybody in America turns off Fox News' ...

"The documentary, a fast-paced montage of clips from the channel and interviews with former employees and media experts, portrays a television news station where editorial positions are handed down from on high in a daily briefing note and presenters are encouraged to accentuate points that might be helpful to the Bush administration.

"According to a former Fox contributor, one such note concerning presentation of the latest news from Iraq said: 'Remember when you're writing about this, it's all good. Don't write about the number of dead ... Keep it positive. Emphasise all the good we're doing.'
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* Ø * Ø * Ø *


"Media Matters for America has analyzed 33 such internal FOX memos, issued by FOX News Senior Vice President, News Editorial John Moody and Los Angeles Bureau Chief Ken LaCoste between May 9 and June 3, 2003 and March 12 and May 5, 2004 ...

"The following is a sample of reporting instructions issued by Moody to the FOX News staff." Click here to read the examples

*Ø* Allawi shot inmates in cold blood, say witnesses

[Posting this at Pip's request as he's having major tech problems]

Sydney Morning Herald:

"Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

"They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

"They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they 'deserved worse than death'.

"The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.
 
"But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence." 
 
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* Ø * Ø * Ø *


Lateline: Iraqi PM accused of executions

Paul McGeough tells ABC TV's Lateline about witnesses' claims to have seen the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, kill six prisoners.


 

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