Tuesday, August 17, 2004

*Ø* Hospitals received payment for organs

From the Irish Times:

"Pathologists and hospitals were paid by a pharmaceutical company for removing and storing pituitary glands taken from dead patients during postmortem examinations and which were later used in the production of a growth hormone.

"In a statement last night, Pharmacia Ireland said that one of its predecessor companies Kabi Vitrum Ltd had, in the 1980s, obtained pituitary glands from a number of hospitals to manufacture Crescormon, a human growth hormone.

"'Kabi provided reimbursement to pathologists and hospitals for the work involved. The sum was intended solely to defray any additional costs required to remove and store the pituitary glands,' the statement said ...

"The new developments in the pituitary gland controversy arose from a second statement issued by Pharmacia Ireland to the Dunne Inquiry last May.

"Based on this new information Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin last week told around 20 parents that organs taken from their children had been given to the pharmaceutical company. [my emphasis]

"The Irish Times revealed on Saturday that two former Dublin hospitals, the Richmond and Jervis Street, had also provided pituitary glands 'for research' to the company. Over the weekend it emerged that pituitary glands were taken from patients at Cork University Hospital and the Coombe Hospital in Dublin. Last night, the Southern Health Board said that the practice had also occurred at Tralee General Hospital."
Full text

*Ø* Outfoxed

Outfoxed examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. This film provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know.

The film explores Murdoch's burgeoning kingdom and the impact on society when a broad swath of media is controlled by one person.

Media experts, including Jeff Cohen (FAIR) Bob McChesney (Free Press), Chellie Pingree (Common Cause), Jeff Chester (Center for Digital Democracy) and David Brock (Media Matters) provide context and guidance for the story of Fox News and its effect on society.

This documentary also reveals the secrets of Former Fox news producers, reporters, bookers and writers who expose what it's like to work for Fox News. These former Fox employees talk about how they were forced to push a "right-wing" point of view or risk their jobs. Some have even chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect their current livelihoods. As one employee said "There's no sense of integrity as far as having a line that can't be crossed."

Director/Producer Robert Greenwald has produced and/or directed 53 television movies, miniseries and features. He is the director of Uncovered and the Executive Producer of the UN series - Unprecedented, Uncovered and the soon to be released Unconstitutional.

Source: Outfoxed website, Outfoxed.org

Outfoxed Breaks Opening Weekend Record While Top Fox News Execs. Fight Back
Outfoxed DVD is available
through Cafe Diem/Amazon here for only $9.95.

*Ø* US assault on Najaf "a war crime"

"The US assault on Najaf is a war crime. The spectacle of the world’s foremost imperialist power unleashing its overwhelmingly superior military might against poorly armed opponents of foreign occupation recalls the most notorious crimes of the twentieth century, including the fascist bombardment of Guernica in Spain, Mussolini’s rape of Ethiopia, and the Nazi blitzkrieg against Germany’s European neighbors in World War II.

"The US military, in the name of Washington’s puppet government under Iyad Allawi, is carrying out the slaughter of supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who have taken up arms against the attempt to turn Iraq into a de-facto American colony.

"The coverage by US television networks and the American press conveys none of the true horror of what is being perpetrated by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Force and First Cavalry Division in Najaf. US bombers, helicopter gunships, field artillery and tanks are being unleashed against Iraqi fighters armed only with small arms and grenade launchers that are next to useless against American armored vehicles ...

"No estimate is being given by the US attackers of civilian casualties, but given the massive firepower being thrown against urban centers—including the Shiite slum of Sadr City in Baghdad and other southern Iraqi cities besides Najaf—they must number in the thousands ..."

*Ø* More copyright-free stuff

Ooh, these public domain tarot images from Sacred Texts are nice. And check out Art Images for College Teaching which is a goldmine if your use is non-commercial.

*Ø* Iran's transsexuals

Capital, which is so heavily invested in the military-industrial complex, requires the existence of combatants, and traditionally generates discourses of "the enemy" and "the other".

To this end, capital's meme machine borrows heavily from racial stereotypes, and in fact sometimes creates those stereotypes.

Thus we shouldn't be surprised when a middle manager of capital, such as George W Bush or almost any news media editor, police chief or defence officer in the Western world, propagates a Crusade mentality when there are impediments to investment. In our time, Islam is the enemy, for many reasons, not the least of which is its resistance to some of the mainstays of US trade, such as alcohol and the Hollywood sex-death culture.

The portrayal of Muslims as the enemy usually relies on the stereotypes of violence and puritanism. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and a different picture emerges. If the same standards were applied to Western cultures, it would be very easy to portray Western cultures as incredibly violent and ruthlessly puritanical. Give me five minutes and I can paint a picture of Australia or the USA that would make Hieronymus Bosch's inferno pale by comparison. As a matter of fact, this method is used by Islamist ideologues of the bin Laden variety, and by Leninist memeticists in Cuba and China. Whichever "side" the propaganda is on, it is still propaganda.

Understanding why our "enemies" change like the fashion season, it's important to keep undermining the stereotypes, and I do so at every opportunity. I delight in telling people that I have lived for years with Afghan Muslims, and I make a point of conveying my experience of certain qualities that I find superior in Afghan Muslim culture to my own. As just one example, without doubt Afghans are on the whole far more hospitable than Australians, who pride themselves on being welcoming. The difference is like chalk and cheese.

Of course, we all know that Muslim countries are incredibly sexually repressive, unlike our own enlightened states. So it must be a lie that Iran, the worst of the worst as far as Muslim states goes, supports transsexuals more compassionately than many states in the enlightened West.

Caption to image above: Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon, was an early campaigner for the rights of transsexuals in Iran. Photograph by S. Reza for the New York Times.

Monday, August 16, 2004

*Ø* Woodstock bash: Townsend wallops Hoffman

August 16, 1969 Woodstock Day Two: Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman, slightly out of his gourd, attended Woodstock and attempted to take over the stage during The Who’s set.

He did his Abbie best to exhort the crowd with Yippie rants, but was roundly booed for interrupting the music. Guitarist Pete Townsend (who didn’t know Hoffman was a celeb) bashed Hoffman’s head with a guitar and Abbie was thrown off the stage. At a later time, and perhaps in a different mind, Hoffman wrote one of his his bestselling books, Woodstock Nation.

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* Tiger stats

From Baz le Tuff:

"Went to the doctor this morning.

"While waiting I read a Time magazine, from last year, that stated that there were more tigers owned by private individuals, in America, than there were left in the wild. ie 10,000 vs 5,000."

*Ø* Truth overboard – again

The credibility of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, is on the line once again over the 'Children Overboard' scandal of three years ago.

Immediately before the last federal election, Howard and several of his senior ministers whipped up racist sentiments in Australia by alleging that boat people in the waters off the coast of Australia were holding their babies over the edge of their boats and threatening to drown them if they were not granted asylum.

'Honest John' Howard and Co. even went as far as to show photos of children in the water as evidence of how wicked these asylum seekers are. Howard was re-elected, with the biggest issue being 'protection of Australia's borders'. Meanwhile, thousands of people fleeing regimes such as those of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were rounded up and put in Aussie concentration camps that have drawn international condemnation. I do not use the term 'concentration camps' flippantly. I have spoken to people that have been inside them, and there is a wealth of info on the Net, such as here, here and here.

When a tardy media finally deigned to investigate the allegations, it turned out that no such incident had occurred, and the photos were phony. Of course, this alone should have prompted a media campaign sufficient to do a Watergate on Howard and have him kicked out of office, but the Oz media has more important things on its mind, such as the Rugby finals and who Russell Crowe is punching out lately.

They put Howard and his cronies on the back burner, and Howard, a slick politician, got away with saying that he had no idea that Children Overboard was dodgy. Peter Reith, one of the ministers at the centre of the lie, quietly slipped out of Parliament. The other main player, Philip Ruddock, still wields considerable influence in the mismanagement of Australia.

The occasional story slips through the media net, however, and this one challenges the veracity of the Prime Minister:

Aide reveals children overboard advice
"A former federal ministerial adviser has revealed that he told Prime Minister John Howard before the 2001 federal election that no children had been thrown overboard from a boat carrying asylum seekers in Australian waters.

"Mike Scrafton, an adviser to then-defence minister Peter Reith, has written a letter to The Australian newspaper saying he had three telephone conversations with Mr Howard on November 7, 2001.

"Mr Scrafton says he told the Prime Minister that a tape of the incident 'certainly didn't support the proposition that the event had occurred'.

"He says he told Mr Howard 'that no-one in defence that I had dealt with on the matter still believed any children were thrown overboard'.

The adviser says he also told the PM that photographs released during the debate were not of children thrown into the water.

"Mr Scrafton says he passed on the advice in three conversations with Mr Howard on the evening of November 7.

"'During the last conversation, the Prime Minister asked me how it was that he had a report from the Office of National Assessments (ONA) confirming the children overboard incident,' he said.

"'I replied that I had gained the impression that the report had as its source the public statements of the then minister for immigration, Philip Ruddock.'"

What next for the whistleblower?
A little birdie just whispered something in my ear. I'm not in the business of making predictions, but I will say that I expect whistleblower Mike Scrafton to be the target of a major smear campaign immediately if not sooner. It's likely that the only way the government can salvage any lost face and votes will be by character assassination. I hope Mr Scrafton is prepared. These guys play for keeps.

Children Overboard: so what really happened?
So, who were those people filmed floating in the ocean, if not the children of filthy towelheads? Well ... they were asylum seekers trying desperately to stay alive after their leaky boat had sunk, no thanks to the Howard tripartite policy of dealing with tinted people, namely: push them back to sea; throw them into a desert camp; ship them over to the Pacific island of Nauru.

Australia's spooks, the ONA, had given advice to the government not from their own spooking, but from media releases put out by none other than Peter Reith, John Howard and Philip Ruddock! This CIA-like advice, the government then used to support its own deceits. Richard Nixon, eat your heart out.

[In another notorious case full of government disinformation, a refugee boat sarcastically named by the government 'SIEVX' (as in, leaky sieve; it means 'Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel'), capsized and 353 men, women and children drowned. This weblog is dedicated to their memory, and casualties of poverty and authority all around the planet.]

You can help defeat Howard, and Bush
Please read up on this and other nasties the Australian Government has been up to and tell your friends. An election is due before November, and Australian and overseas support is needed to help bring down this extreme right-wing government. George W Bush does not want to read headlines in the Washington Post that his Deputy Sheriff in Australia has been defeated just before the 2nd Tuesday in November.

Sydney Indymedia and Wilson's Blogmanac are two pretty good ways to stay informed.

SIEVX Memorial

Get the latest news on refugees Australia with Google News Alerts

* Ø * Ø * Ø *

View Long Journey, Young Lives: A Flash online documentary about child refugees

Sunday, August 15, 2004

*Ø* New 911 fillum raises new questions

Thank you Almaniac Star Light (USA) for alerting the Almanac to 911 In Plane Site. I haven't seen the fillum but it does sound interesting. It certainly has been troubling me that an airliner should crash into the Pentagon, leave only a hole the size of my toilet, then vaporise into the atmosphere over the Eastern Seabord.

The fillum does sound a bit too conspiratorial for my taste, but if I get a chance, I'll watch it. Here are some quotes from its website.

"Why weren't America and the world shown the video and photographs of the Pentagon, before the outer wall had collapsed? The Pentagon's outer wall did not collapse for a full 35 minutes after the initial impact. See these astounding photographs for the first time.

"Given that the outer wall of the Pentagon had not yet collapsed, how does a plane over 44 feet tall and 125 ft. wide, fit into a hole which is only 16 ft. in diameter, as shown in the crystal-clear photographic evidence from the Pentagon? Can physics explain this?

"In the aftermath, it was reported by media sources that a giant 100 ft. crater was plowed into the front lawn of the Pentagon as the result of a powerful airliner crash. Why does photographic evidence overwhelmingly show that this was not the case?

"How does a Boeing 757, constructed from lightweight aluminum, penetrate over 9 ft. of steel reinforced concrete? Recently discovered photographs shed light on this unexplained feat of physics.

"Contrary to the pictures shown to the American public, why does photographic evidence taken only a few moments after the Pentagon event, show no wreckage on the lawn of the Pentagon? Where is the plane? What happened to the passengers? Examine this new evidence for yourself.

"At the World Trade Center, why did firefighters, reporters and other on the scene eyewitnesses describe a demolition-like, pancake collapse of buildings One, Two & Seven? Outrageous admissions by the building lease owner recorded on video, plus shocking new video evidence helps to answer important questions.

"What is the bright flash on the right side of the Boeing 767, seen just before impact on both the North Tower & the South Tower, captured on video by 5 separate cameramen including CNN and ABC? Slow motion analysis reveals startling verification of this extraordinary event and begs the question [sic], 'What is it?'
Find out what former military personnel think this could be.

"Why were there numerous reports of bombs & explosions going off in and around the WTC before any buildings had collapsed? Hear & see the testimony of the reporters, rescue teams and eyewitnesses who tell a different story than what we have all been lead to believe.

"Why did a FOX News employee, who witnessed the second tower attack, report seeing no windows on “Flight 175” a commercial United Airlines jetliner?"
911 In Plane Site website

One reviewer writes:

"One particular interview that brought gasps from the audience and many looking around with shock etched on their faces was an interview conducted – live at the time – by FOX News. This intense interview with Mark Burnback, an employee of FOX News, contains the following narrative, paraphrased: Burnback was close to the path of the second plane and had a good long look at what he describes was not a commercial airliner. The plane that hit the second tower had no windows, Burnback was very clear about that. The plane had some kind of blue logo on the front near the nose and looked like a cargo plane."

And more
Varied views

Submit your reviews of this film for publication in Wilson's Almanac.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

*Ø* Super ant colony hits Australia

"A giant colony of ants stretching 100km (62 miles) has been discovered in the Australian city of Melbourne, threatening local insect species.

"The ants, which were imported from Argentina, are ranked among the world's 100 worst animal invaders.

"Although they exist in their usual smaller group size in their homeland, the colonies have merged in Australia to create one massive super colony.

"Experts fear that the invasion poses a threat to biodiversity in the area ...

"Australian scientists are studying colonies in Perth and Adelaide to see if they share the same genetic structure and behaviour as the Melbourne ants.

"If they do, a super colony several thousand miles wide could spread across southern Australia."

Have you been affected by the ant invasion? You can add your comments on the page at the BBC, where you can also read the full text.

*Ø* More Bushisms

Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a – you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.
George W Bush, Washington, DC, August 6, 2004

Remember Bushisms? They're still coming. Here's a page of recent ones.

*Ø* Public domain: some links

Just a few cool Public Domain (copyright free) sources I've been using lately, and a drop in the ocean of PD material online. I include US government agencies because, according to Wikipedia, all images published by the USA government are public domain. I presume this means unless otherwise noted. I've been finding plenty of great space shots at NASA.

Sorry, I'm too sleepy to categorise them. Use the following at your own risk:



Friday, August 13, 2004

*Ø* Moore footage shows new CIA boss ruling himself out

I saw this clip last night. It's remarkable.

"Michael Moore yesterday released unseen footage of the new CIA boss explaining his own unsuitability for the role. The scene, which didn't make the cut for Fahrenheit 9/11, shows Porter Goss pointing out that his lack of language and computer skills means he 'wouldn't get a job' with the CIA ...

"Goss, who served in army intelligence and the CIA 30 years ago, said: 'I couldn't get a job with the CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills'.

"Porter Goss is set to take over from George Tenet, who resigned before the 9/11 commission delivered its damning verdict on the state of the US intelligence community.

"He explained, 'My language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably.

"'And I certainly don't have the technical skills, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad, you got to get better on your computer.' So, the things that you need to have, I don't have.'

The White House dismissed the footage as 'hearsay'. Goss was described as the 'right man' by the president on Tuesday. [Hearsay?? He's on film! - N]

Source and full text: The Guardian

*Ø* Olympic slave labour connection

Olympic bosses were branded hypocrites today over sports firms using the famous five ring logo on clothes made in sweatshops.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was criticised in Athens for talking of the 'Olympic spirit' of fairness and human values while thousands of workers are slaving away in Far East factories.

"Campaigners say the IOC and the Olympic movement should be true to their principles to stop the famous five rings being used on sportswear made by firms who abuse workers ..."
Campaign Against Slave Labour Lobbies Olympic Bosses

Play Fair at the Olympics homepage

* Ø * Ø * Ø *

"Athens, August 10, 2004: The Play Fair at the Olympics campaign staged an action in Athens on the eve of the opening of the Olympic games in solidarity with sportswear workers worldwide.

"Twenty women gathered on an Athens rooftop to mark a silent protest staged by the Play Fair at the Olympics campaign. Play Fair held a 'sew-in', featuring 'faceless' activists, operating sewing machines against the backdrop of the Acropolis.

"The action was staged in order to highlight the appalling working conditions experienced by hundreds of thousands of workers in the sportswear industry. They face punishing work schedules, poverty wages, harassment and discrimination on a daily basis.

"Spokespersons from the campaign commented that improvements had been seen in the sportswear sector, but serious problems still exist, and much more needs to be done to ensure workers' right are respected in this global industry. They also announced that the IOC had declined to accept over half a million signatures from campaign supporters in Athens."
Source: Indymedia Sydney
Google up some sweatshop campaign info

Thursday, August 12, 2004

*Ø* Judges in row over torture ruling

Courts can hear evidence if abusers are not British

"Appeal court judges yesterday defied human rights campaigners by ruling that British courts could use evidence extracted under torture, as long as British agents were not complicit in the abuse.

"In a highly controversial judgment, the second highest court in the land rejected the appeals of 10 men suspected of having links to international terrorism and currently held without charge in what activists call 'Britain's Guantánamo Bay' ...

"The judgment was immediately condemned as leaving the door open for torture evidence to be used in British courts - and the detainees plan to take their appeal to the House of Lords.

"Last night Amnesty International criticised the judges for giving a 'green light for torture'. It said: 'The rule of law and human rights have become casualties of the measures taken in the aftermath of September 11. This judgment is an aberration, morally and legally.'"
Full text at The Guardian

*Ø* Thank Goodness

The hierarchy can write to Bertie as often as they like but I'm glad the pressure (which was probably going on in other European countries too) came to nothing.

"The Catholic hierarchy wrote to the Taoiseach in June to express its disappointment at the absence of a reference to Christianity in the draft EU constitutional treaty, wrties Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter.

"The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Seán Brady, and the retired Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, raised the absence of such a reference in separate letters to Mr Ahern after the Government brokered an EU agreement on the draft constitution in June.

"Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show the Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) and individual priests lobbied the Taoiseach to push for such a reference in the run-up to final negotiation of the treaty. The preamble to the draft cites the 'cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe', but it does not refer to any specific tradition." [My emphasis}
Continue at The Irish Times

*Ø* Former Guantanamo detainees release report

CCR Submits Their Detailed Account of Abuse to Senate Armed Services Committee

"In a detailed report, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed provide a graphic first-hand account of life at Guantanamo Bay. On August 4, 2004, attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent the report detailing the former Guantánamo detainees' experiences to Senators Warner, Levin and Leahy and called for an independent commission to investigate the allegations of abuse.

"The 115-page report is testimony by the three young men from Tipton, a poor neighborhood in the West Midlands of England with a small community of Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. All three were detained in Northern Afghanistan on November 28, 2001. In March of 2004, after 2 ½ years in extreme conditions, they were released to the U.K. They were never charged with any crime and were released shortly after they returned. The men completed this report solely to let the world know the truth about what is happening to the prisoners at Guantánamo and in the hope that their testimony might help improve conditions for those still there. The document was compiled by the Tipton men and their attorney, noted British civil rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

"The report details the several weeks that Rasul and Iqbal were held in open cages at Camp X-Ray, allowed out for only a few minutes each week for one shower, and otherwise left to swelter in the Cuban heat. Scorpions and snakes were allowed to roam the cells, and many prisoners were bitten. According the report, the US marines who ran the camp were “very brutal,” and the abusive treatment was focused in a carefully planned and sophisticated manner to have maximum impact on the individual prisoner:

"• The report discusses the sexual humiliation of the prisoners that first began when General Geoffrey Miller, later of Abu Ghraib notoriety, came to Guantánamo. For example, the prisoners would be stripped naked and forced to watch videotapes of other prisoners who, in turn, had been ordered to sodomize each other. The sexual humiliation was reserved for those who would be most impacted by it, those who had been brought up strictly in their Muslim faith ..."
Source: CCR (where you can download the report in PDF)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

*Ø* Springsteen's Chords for Change

Chords for Change
By Bruce Springsteen
The New York Times

A nation's artists and musicians have a particular place in its social and political life. Over the years I've tried to think long and hard about what it means to be American: about the distinctive identity and position we have in the world, and how that position is best carried. I've tried to write songs that speak to our pride and criticize our failures.

These questions are at the heart of this election: who we are, what we stand for, why we fight. Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics. Instead, I have been partisan about a set of ideals: economic justice, civil rights, a humane foreign policy, freedom and a decent life for all of our citizens. This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out.

Through my work, I've always tried to ask hard questions. Why is it that the wealthiest nation in the world finds it so hard to keep its promise and faith with its weakest citizens? Why do we continue to find it so difficult to see beyond the veil of race? How do we conduct ourselves during difficult times without killing the things we hold dear? Why does the fulfillment of our promise as a people always seem to be just within grasp yet forever out of reach?

I don't think John Kerry and John Edwards have all the answers. I do believe they are sincerely interested in asking the right questions and working their way toward honest solutions. They understand that we need an administration that places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America's citizens, courage and faith.

People have different notions of these values, and they live them out in different ways. I've tried to sing about some of them in my songs. But I have my own ideas about what they mean, too. That is why I plan to join with many fellow artists, including the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, in touring the country this October. We will be performing under the umbrella of a new group called Vote for Change. Our goal is to change the direction of the government and change the current administration come November.

Like many others, in the aftermath of 9/11, I felt the country's unity. I don't remember anything quite like it. I supported the decision to enter Afghanistan and I hoped that the seriousness of the times would bring forth strength, humility and wisdom in our leaders. Instead, we dived headlong into an unnecessary war in Iraq, offering up the lives of our young men and women under circumstances that are now discredited. We ran record deficits, while simultaneously cutting and squeezing services like afterschool programs. We granted tax cuts to the richest 1 percent (corporate bigwigs, well-to-do guitar players), increasing the division of wealth that threatens to destroy our social contract with one another and render mute the promise of "one nation indivisible."

It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

Bruce Springsteen is a writer and performer.


See also, Bruce Springsteen's Incredible Legacy and the Vote for Change Tour.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

*Ø* Jump Start Ford

JumpStartFord.com, pressuring Ford to make cleaner cars. I found it via In These Times.

*Ø* Kerry victim of war record hoax

I recommend pagans4peace.

It's an excellent Yahoo! Group for anyone with an interest in Nature-oriented spirituality and progressive activism, and a sense of humour. I like the group because it's grounded – not 'off with the pixies' – and because so much very interesting info is shared. It's not a neo-pagan group pushing a religious point of view, and no doctrinal arguments as far as I've ever seen – it's against the rules. It's also extremely welcoming.

For example, this was posted in p4p today, by jonipinkney:

"An email making the rounds has quotes from veterans who supposedly
served with Kerry, and saying bad things about him. Although the
quotes are real, only one of those quoted actually served with Kerry."
See Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is a hoax

More at the Urban Legends Reference Pages

*Ø* Spaced-out saint

Feast day of St Lawrence
St Lawrence was a 3rd-century archdeacon of Rome under Pope Sixtus I, and looked after the poor, orphans and widows. He was a ‘keeper of the treasures of the church’ in a time when Christianity was outlawed. Lawrence suffered martyrdom under Valerian – the emperor, not the herb, which would have just made him laid back rather than dead ... he was killed by being roasted on a gridiron, on August 10 ...

Lawrence's tears and the Perseid meteor showers
The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, and very bright at this time of year (generally visible between July 23 and August 22, peaking around August 13). Thus, in England the meteors in medieval times were called 'the fiery tears of St Lawrence' as they were visible on his day, and also related symbolically to the torments of the martyr ...

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.

From Space Weather News:

The Perseid meteor shower peaks this week. Look for rare but lovely Perseid Earthgrazers when the sun goes down on Wednesday, August 11th. Then, before dawn on Thursday, August 12th, go outside for the main event: as many as 60 meteors per hour. Getting away from city lights is a good idea: dark skies reveal more meteors.

*Ø* UK: Prozac found in drinking water

LONDON (Reuters) - "Traces of the anti-depressant Prozac have been found in the drinking water supply, setting off alarm bells with environmentalists concerned about potentially toxic effects.

"The Observer said that a report by the government's environment watchdog found Prozac was building up in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies."
Continue here

Monday, August 09, 2004

Pinocchio Watch
Highly recommended

*Ø* Bliar, Bliar, pants on fire!

Tony Blair's Incredible Shrinking Mass Graves

How many people have been found in Hussein's mass graves? Blair said 400,000, but finally admits it is one-eightieth that number, ie, 5,000. Just a tad less.

The transnational oil corporations really, really, really wanted that black stuff, didn't they? If you go to places like this article in the red-white-n-blue American Daily you'll read puke-making stuff like this:
We went to war because Saddam himself is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. The mass graves we have discovered in Iraq prove that. Three hundred thousand bodies have been discovered in these graves – so far.

This inflates 5,000 bodies to 300,000. OK, so the guy's a redneck nutter, so we can wear it. The American right has been lying about the Middle East for three years – in fact, all our lives.

But when a Labor Prime Minister of Britain says 400,000 bodies have been found in mass graves since the end of the war in Iraq, why isn't there an uproar in the media, in Parliament and in Congress? Check this out:

"In an account that might be more aptly titled The Incredible Shrinking Mass Graves, the Observer revealed that a claim by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' was false and that o­nly 5,000 bodies have been discovered so far. Tony Blair's claim was prominently featured in a report entitled Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves that was published by USAID and remains unchanged o­n its website.

"According to an article by the Guardian:
On December 14 Blair repeated the claim in a statement issued by Downing Street in response to the arrest of Saddam Hussein and posted o­n the Labour party website that: 'The remains of 400,000 human beings [have] already [been] found in mass graves.'

"The admission that the figure has been hugely inflated follows a week in which Blair accepted responsibility for charges in the Butler report over the way in which Downing Street pushed intelligence reports 'to the outer limits' in the case for the threat posed by Iraq ...

"It comes amid inflation from an estimate by Human Rights Watch in May 2003 of 290,000 'missing' to the latest claims by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, that o­ne million are missing.

"At the heart of the questions are the numbers so far identified in Iraq's graves. Of 270 suspected grave sites identified in the last year, 55 have now been examined, revealing – according to the best estimates that The Observer has been able to obtain – about 5 000 bodies.

"The numbers of mass graves in Iraq continues to inflate (from 400,000 to 500,000) ..." [emphasis mine]
Source: US Foreign Aid Watch

See also Phillip Adams, Where are the bodies of evidence? ... quite a good article. Then there's Iraq War Lies, a good compendium worth saving as a whole webpage, and the Almanac's own Myths of the War on Terror and Iraq, with more info and resources than you can pole-vault over.

*Ø* Japanese nuclear plant accident kills four

"A non-radioactive steam leak killed four people and injured seven others Monday in the worst-ever accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant, officials said. One other worker was reportedly in critical condition."
Source: Canada.com

*Ø* Morocco S. Yanking and other spammers' names

Are you getting any good spammers' names in your in-tray? Here are some recent ones received in this neck of the woods. I'd love to hear yours.

Pocahontas E. Maharajas
Pacifically T. Gloss
Morse K. Commencement
Annihilation J. Silliness
Eridanus H. Sweatier
Exorcized H. Scuttle
Ambiguities U. Magnetos
Emulsified U. Carrier
Stress F. Obelisks
Morocco S. Yanking
Hohenstaufen V. Sicking
Abhorrence P. Versifying
Harebrained L. Ramrodded
Steers Q. Bloodhound
Leaching K. Criming

and last but not least

Propitiate F. Mockingly

(who writes: Hello, I'm 5"1', 100-105lbs,hazel e y e s but wear bleu contacts, and have long natural brown hair. I l0ve t o have boom boom and will try almost anything at least once)

*Ø* Build a Better Bush

If you feel like fooling around, I made the pic here.
[Thanks for the link, Dug]

*Ø* A bit of a milestone for the Almanac

Most days, I go to Atomz.com and get it to update the indexing for the Search page of the whole Almanac (including the Scriptorium, the Book of Days and this blog).

Today was a milestone for the Book of Days part of the project; two million words was passed today:

"The last index of your web site index completed 14 seconds ago. It took 1 minute to crawl 383 pages and index 383 pages containing 2012601 words for a total of 43593917 bytes. 48633 word endings, 0 synonyms, 97607 sound-alike words, and 15 excluded words were included in the index."

So it should be about three million words by November 22 when I finish it (touch wood).

Sunday, August 08, 2004

*Ø* Light pollution getting worse, not better

Losing the Southern Cross

"Light pollution is not just a waste of energy, it's taking the stars away from us – the Southern Cross included. Light pollution shows how the effect of pollution can increase even when per capita wealth is increasing. Light pollution is an important, but not generally known issue.

"We are losing the Southern Cross as Sydney's light pollution increases. Much of Sydney cannot see the fifth star of the Southern Cross. The fourth star will be the next to go, as more and more waste light blots out the faint detail of the night sky.

"Light pollution robs us all of our common heritage : the sky. Anyone who has been to the country knows what we miss. It is not an inescapable result of modern life; it is a consequence of careless, selfish and ignorant lighting practices. It is a cause fought by The Sydney Outdoor Lighting Improvement Society (SOLIS) ..."
Source: Indymedia Sydney

*Ø* Peace Pilgrimage arrives in Hiroshima

After eight months and 4,500 km of walking since leaving Roxby Downs Uranium Mine in South Australia, the International Peace Pilgrimage (IPP) arrived at Hiroshima Peace Park on August 6.

The walk joined the commemorations at the Atomic Dome, to remember the hundreds of thousands of people who were killed by the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, and acknowledge the millions of others who continue to be affected by the nuclear industry globally. Australian Aboriginal Elders spoke at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  
Source: Indymedia

Pinocchio Watch
*Ø* Aussie defence bosses call Howard's Iraq bluff

"A number of serving defence force officers shared the concerns of a group of 43 former defence chiefs and diplomats who wanted a return to truth in government, retired defence chief General Peter Gration said today.

"Mr Gration, who headed the Australian Defence Force from 1987 to 1993, said he and the other signatories believed Australia joined the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and deception of the Australian people ...

"The signatories to the statement include former defence force chief Alan Beaumont, former defence department secretary Paul Barratt, former prime minister's department secretaries Alan Renouf and Richard Woolcott, plus and former ambassadors including Rawdon Dalrymple, Stephen Fitzgerald and Ross Garnaut."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

*Ø* Tattoo kicks off amid protests

"The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has begun its three-week sell-out run amid protests in the Scottish capital ...

"However, a number of organisations are angry at the inclusion of the PLA [Chinese People's Liberation Army] in the 55th Tattoo.

"Despite claims from the organisers that their appearance is a musical and not a political decision, protesters say the PLA's human rights record means their presence is inappropriate and offensive.

"The Free Tibet Campaign and Scottish followers of the Falun Gong movement - banned in China - both intend to protest outside the event throughout the run."
Full text: BBC

*Ø* American admits to hoax beheading video

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - "A tech-savvy young San Francisco man who staged his own mock beheading on the Internet duped international media today into believing Islamist kidnappers had executed an American hostage in Iraq.

"The video, which appeared on a Web site used by Islamic militants, showed a man who identified himself as Benjamin Vanderford appealing to the United States to leave Iraq. The Web format was that used by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was introduced by a headline that said it showed Zarqawi killing an American.

"'If we don't (leave Iraq), everyone is gonna be killed in this way ... I have been offered for exchange for prisoners here in Iraq,' the terrified-looking man said, rocking back and forth in his chair, his hands tied behind his back.

"The video showed a hand with a large knife apparently slicing through the neck of a limp body.

"But it was all a hoax.

"The blood was dye, the setting was a friend's garage, the Koran reading was a tape and the knife was held by a friend. Mutilated bodies and sound effects were edited in from photos on Web sites and the video was purposefully blurred to make it seem even more amateur, Vanderford said.

"A major motivation for his action, an unrepentant Vanderford told Reuters, was to see how the world media would react and to see if they would be fooled. 'It really illustrates the potential that this kind of thing would happen,' he said."
Full text

Saturday, August 07, 2004

*Ø* Eats shoots and leaves

If you'd like to see some great punctuation outside a pub in central Dublin, click here

*Ø* LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin hoax

Ask any Australian how many people died in Vietnam and you'll be likely to get the answer "about 500". Ask an American and chances are they'll say "About 60,000".

That's because of the strictly military losses on the side of the non-Communist allies, virtually all of them adult combatants. But the fact is, well over three million mostly civilian men, women and children were killed. The numbers are confirmed by none other than former US Secretary of Defense, Robert S McNamara, and he said it to the former military commander of the North Vietnamese, General Giap:

"You lost ... 3,200,000 people," McNamara told Giap. "We lost 58,000."
McNamara asks Giap: What happened in Tonkin Gulf?

Which brings us to an unseemly anniversary today:

August 7, 1964 Vietnam War: The United States Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving US President Lyndon B Johnson broad war powers to deal with North Vietnamese attacks on American forces.

Johnson had told Congress and the American people that North Vietnam had launched an unprovoked attack on the American destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. Later evidence, including words from Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara in his memoirs, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, indicate that the facts were not as the Administration 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 (or your birthday) when you're there.

*Ø* Atlantis: Was it Ireland?

New book identifies Ireland as Atlantis

"A new book investigating the myth of Atlantis says that the mythical land was actually the island of Ireland.

"The claim is made by geologist Ulf Erlingsson in his book 'Atlantis from a Geographer’s Perspective: Mapping the Fairy Land', who [sic] is to visit Ireland on August 11 to 13.

"In his book Erlingsson bases his evidence on Plato's desription of Atlantis which, according to Erlinsson, matches Ireland perfectly. Statistically, the scientist claims, the probability is over 99.98% that Plato was describing Ireland.

"Erlingsson says: 'Just like Atlantis, Ireland is 300 miles long, 200 miles wide, and widest over the middle. They both feature a central plain that is open to the sea, but fringed by mountains. No other island on earth even comes close to this description.'

"'What has led most students astray is that Atlantis sank in the sea', says Dr Erlingsson.

"'It is an "Atlantic myth" all right – but a myth from, not about, Atlantis'.

"'The island that sank was Dogger Bank. It was struck by a disastrous flood-wave around 6,100 BC, and now rests deep under the waves of the North Sea.'

"In the book, Dr Erlingsson shows how the Atlantic Empire probably can be associated with the megalithic monuments of Europe and Northern Africa. Their geographic distribution matches the extent of the Atlantic Empire as Plato described it."
Source: BreakingNews.ie (Thanks Baz le Tuff)
More on Atlantis in the Scriptorium

*Ø* Malapropisms and silly faces

GW told a roomful of military brass on Thursday that he'd never stop looking for ways to harm America. I saw him on TV. He didn't even realise what he'd said - just carried on blathering. The Texymoron, perhaps?

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," Bush said.

Friday, August 06, 2004

*Ø* Hiroshima mayor lashes Bush on nukes

Hiroshima, August 6, 2004

"The Mayor of Hiroshima marked the anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack today by lashing out at the United States for its pursuit of next-generation nuclear weapons, and called on a global ban on all nuclear arms by 2020.

"Denouncing US President George W Bush's administration for its 'egocentric' view of the world, Tadatoshi Akiba said Washington had turned its back on other nations.

"'Ignoring the United Nations and international law, the United States has resumed research to make nuclear weapons smaller and more "usable,"' he said at the 59th annual ceremony in the western city's Peace Memorial Park.

"In June, the US Senate approved spending for the Bush administration's research into – but not development of – new nuclear 'bunker buster' and 'mini-nuke' warheads.

"The nuclear bunker buster would be designed to hit targets deep underground, such as subterranean military command centres that are beyond the reach of conventional arms. The mini-nukes would have the explosive power of less than 5,000 tons of TNT - one-fourth the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima."
Source: Hindustan Times

*Ø* Stop smoking! if only for the parrot's sake

LONDON (Reuters) - "A British couple booked themselves into a clinic to quit smoking after the vet said it was the only way to save their beloved sick parrot.

"Kevin Barclay and Sharon Wood gave up a 50-cigarette-a-day habit to save their Amazon orange-winged parrot J.J., said the vet, Glen Cousquer of the South Beech Veterinary Surgery in Essex, southeastern England." Source

[I'm sure the parrot's air quality woulda been fine if it had been left in the Amazon in the first place ...]

*Ø* US abuse could be war crime

Red Cross says Tipton Three may have case

"Repeated abuses allegedly suffered by three British prisoners at the hands of US interrogators and guards in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba could amount to war crimes, the Red Cross said yesterday.

"The organisation, which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees, known as the Tipton Three, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody.

"Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to their lawyers and published for the first time in yesterday's Guardian, has reignited the debate about the treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their questioning and detention.

"Last night the Red Cross was joined by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture." Continue at The Guardian

*Ø* Oxymorons

This guy Ethan Winer has a cool page of oxymorons. Two just popped into my head since I saw Ethan's list, 'legitimate ruler' and 'reality television', and he kindly added them. He even replied. So he must be a nice bloke as so few webmasters ever take the time ... check him out and maybe add to the list.

We have in Australia a very right-wing politician named Pauline Hanson who was formerly the parliamentary Member for Oxley (and famously bad with words as well as policies) – she was popularly known as, you picked it like a nose ... the Oxleymoron.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

*Ø* Did Hitler snub Jesse Owens?

August 5, 1936 "Adolf Hitler walked out of the 1936 Summer Olympics stadium in Berlin, Germany after African-American athlete Jesse Owens won gold in the 200 metre race. Owens's four gold medals were an eloquent refutation of Hitler’s theory of the inferiority of the black races."

So says the story, repeated in many places. However, it isn’t so. Hitler wasn’t at the Olympics that day, and it was probably a story invented by journalists at the time.

As the Congressional Gold Medal website says,
In fact Hitler was absent on the days in question and the German athletes and German public welcomed and praised Owens, just like everyone else."

At first, Owens denied the tale to interviewers at Berlin and to reporters on his return home. However, he must have found that the constant denial was a bother and that to claim the ‘snub’ occurred would work to his advantage.

However, Jesse Owens himself throws some confusion into an already confused question. In his 1970 autobiography, The Jesse Owens Story, Owens himself recounted an opposite but also historically inaccurate variation on the myth – that Hitler had stood up and waved to him:
"When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany."

Owens was later to remark that it was Roosevelt, not Hitler, who snubbed him ...

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.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

*Ø* Woohoo! My new wizard's hat

An Almaniac called Star Light, from Washington State, USA, blissed me out today when s/he sent me a beautifully hand-made wizard's hat and a special, heart-warming letter.

I'm not the world's best model, but if you want you can see Wilson in his new hat, and read Star Light's touching letter, here on my begging page.

Star Light isn't the only one who has done such kind things. I don't always publicly acknowledge the fruits of my mailbox, but you know who you are. I'm eternally grateful for the generous support for the Almanac and almanackist and feel exceedingly blessed.

*Ø* Ghost king and his second coming

When will King Sebastian return?
On this day in 1578, Don (or Dom) Sebastian (King Sebastião I of Portugal; b. January 20, 1554), aged 22, was fighting (invading) the Moors in Morocco, at the Battle of Ksar el Kebir. His army was so defeated that scarcely 50 of his men made it out alive. A reckless youth, he had convinced himself that he was to be Christ’s captain in a crusade against the Muslims of Africa.

Don Sebastian invaded Morocco in support of a pretender to the Moroccan throne. Abu Marwan Abdalmalik I, ruler of Morocco, King Sebastian, and the Moroccan pretender, Muhammad, all died in the fighting.

The Moors said that they had his body and buried it at Belem, but Sebastian’s countrymen believed he had escaped and would return to lead them, a notion that developed into a long-lived cult named 'Sebastianism' ...

Despite the passage of many years, the conviction that Sebastian was still alive grew into a kind of messianic cult that persisted into the early 20th century, or at least the late 19th, passing on from one Portuguese generation to another. Its devotees believed that the rei encuberto, or ‘hidden king’, was either absent on a pilgrimage, or, like King Arthur in Avalon, was waiting on some enchanted island until the hour of his second advent ...

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* Sydneysiders: Benefit do for peace doods

Look, it wasn't my favourite protest, painting "NO WAR" on the 64th Wonder of the World. It was bound to get people's backs up, like the well-meaning Critical Mass cyclists who cycle through Sydney at peak hour and set back the environment movement by a decade or two with each traffic jam they cause.

But decorating the Shmopera House is a fuckuvalot more innocent than what's done every day by contractors to departments of defence, and $150,000 is an outrageous fine for damage to property. These guys slapped some paint around, they didn't kill tens of thousands of Middle Eastern men, women and children.

John Seed FWD'd me this email so please pass it on (only of interest to Sydneysiders, really):

On March 18th 2003, Dr Will Saunders and Dave Burgess painted a large No War banner on the Sydney Opera House. They were protesting the government's decision to send troops to Iraq. They were hit with a fine of $150,000 and a 12 month weekend detention term. To assist them in paying this outlandish fine designed to make an example of them as a deterrent to other activists, October Sun will be holding a benefit at the Vic on the Park Hotel, Saturday 14th of August, Cnr of Addison Rd and Enmore Rd in Enmore [Sydney]. Playing on the night will be some fantastic acts including Greenpeace's own Tore Pedulla now supported by full band, the funky Kiko, the amazing rocking blue grass sound of the Redundant Outhouse Band, Tracy Redhead, Comedian Alan Glover and the quirky Shannon O'Connor with flutist Kirsten Whalley. Dave and Will will be speaking. Other artists to be announced throughout the week. Cost is $10 entry and it will run from 7pm to 12pm. Please circulate this email if you know of anyone who might be interested in attending.

*Ø* More Terror Baloney

From The Dreyfuss Report:

"So now we know that the exciting new terrorism breakthrough that our intrepid CIA discovered was years old. Some of the 'images' discovered in that Pakistani raid were taken before 9/11. Reports the New York Times :
Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said on Monday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently collected by Qaeda operatives had been 'gathered in 2000 and 2001.' But she added that information may have been updated as recently as January.

"Oh, right. They 'may have been.' Meanwhile, the Bush administration, after issuing its (latest) dire warnings about Al Qaeda and raising the alert level to Orange around five supposedly targeted buildings, says that it has more 'images' of targets that it won’t release just yet, giving it the option of timing the release of new targets at any moment — presumably one particularly convenient for Bush.

"And I’m wondering if one of those images might be that of the World Trade Center. That, after all, must have been surveilled by Osama bin Laden around that time, too.

"What utter nonsense! More on this soon, including the growing opposition to the Big Brother Commission — oops, I mean, the 9/11 Commission — and its recommendations on how to fight terror. (Hint to the Intelligence Community: Start with current threats, not ones from four years ago. Anyone got pictures of those Japanese planes heading toward Hawaii?)" [My emphasis - N]

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


"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

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