Tuesday, August 31, 2004

*Ø* Reclaiming Islam from the Radicals

"With two French journalists facing execution in Iraq by Islamic radicals unless France scraps an imminent headscarf ban in schools, Muslims are protesting against the hijacking of their religion by terror groups.

"It is not only the government in Paris and numerous colleagues who demand the release of the two kidnapped French journalists in Iraq who have been threatened with death: There are also many voices from the Islamic world, including Amr Mussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League.

"The calls for the release of Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper have stressed that from the very beginning, France was opposed to the war in Iraq. Therefore any French reporters on the ground would be operating in a neutral capacity.

"But this latest case of westerners being held captive under a death threat in Iraq has little to do with the contentious conflict in that land.

"It is claimed that their detention and possible execution in fact has its roots in a situation within France, their own country. The kidnappers from the so-called 'Islamic Army of Iraq' are not concerned with France's political involvement in the Iraq war but with the headscarf ban in French schools which comes into effect at the beginning of September.

"The kidnapping case has revealed a level of public protest more notable and with more supporters than the amount of Islamic federations who stand against the headscarf ban. The protest is against the kidnapping itself and it is coming from a large contingent of French Muslims.

An insult to all Muslims

"Those who have joined to protest are angry about the use of the word 'Islamic' in the title of the group responsible and in the justification of its actions. They see this as an insult to Muslims all around the world, and reject the claim made by the group that the actions are dictated by the Koran, Islam's holy teachings."
Continue here

*Ø* Republican National Convention Schedule

Revised, August 2004

6:00pm - Opening prayer

6:15pm - Supplementary opening prayer

6:30pm - Prayer in thanks of first two prayers

6:45pm - New energy policy presented by Exxon

7:00pm - Canonization of Reagan

7:15pm - Additional prayers

7:30pm - Opening remarks by Halliburton

8:00pm - Prayer for the safety and well-being of Ken "Kenny-boy" Lay

8:15pm - Additional remarks by Halliburton

8:30pm - Stoning of the first homosexual

8:45pm - New healthcare polices presented by HMO leader, Kaiser Permanente

9:00pm - Invasion of Iran or North Korea (TBA)

9:15pm - Halliburton contributes 1.4 billion to Republican party

9:30pm - Reagan elevated to savior, Holy Trinity now referred to as "the quads"

9:45pm - Bush undergoes plast! ic surgery to look more like Reagan

10:00pm - Cheney runs into Ron Reagan, Jr. Tells him to go fuck himself

10:15pm - Recall of troops from accidental invasion of South Korea (Bush: "Damn, the SOUTH is our ally. My bad.")

10:30pm - Burning at the stake of 16 year-old Jenny Williams, who had an illegal abortion after being raped by her cousin

10:45pm - Dancing around the golden calf

11:00pm - Stoning of the partner of the first homosexual

11:15pm - New forestry policy presented by Weyerhaeuser

11:45pm - Thanking God for his wisdom in choosing Bush as president

12:00pm - Closing prayers (lasting until 2:00am)

2:00 am - Hookers arrive for all delegates

[Thanks to Almaniac Tom Hogan for sending this.]

*Ø* Lesson in rational thought from Giuliani

"Giuliani recalled standing below the north tower on Sept. 11 and seeing a man jump to his death from the 101st or 102nd floor.

"'At the time, we believed that we would be attacked many more times that day and in the days that followed,' he said. 'Without really thinking, based on just emotion, spontaneous, I grabbed the arm of then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to him, "Bernie, thank God George Bush is our president." I say it again tonight, "Thank God George Bush is our president."'"

See what happens when you don't really think?

*Ø* UK Seeks Global Support for Stem Cell Research

"LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's leading scientific institution said Monday it is urging countries to back a campaign to stop a possible ban on stem cell research as part of a global treaty banning human cloning.

"The London-based Royal Society is stepping up its drive to push the United Nations to ban the cloning of babies, but to make no ruling on using the technology for medical research, or therapeutic cloning, at its 59th General Session in October."
Continue here

Monday, August 30, 2004

*Ø* Cleopatra the beautiful

August 30, 30 BCE Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) committed suicide at the court of Cleopatra VII of Egypt of Egypt when he wrongly heard that his queen was dead.

Cleopatra later committed suicide (legend has it she clasped an asp, the royal snake of Egypt, to her bosom) when she thought she would be exhibited by Octavian in his triumph at Rome.

I've never been very fond of Elizabeth Taylor, but if I had to choose ...

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* Oz elections: lesser of two evils?

As in the USA, electors will choose between two conservatives

Well, it's official. Australia goes to the polls on October 9, to choose between Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.

The right-wing Prime Minister John Howard refuses to divulge whether he plans to retire during the term if he is re-elected, and thus hand over the reins of power (unbridled?) to right-wing Treasurer Peter Costello. Costello refuses to promise not to challenge Johnny Howard's leadership after the election, if they win. The Government is running on a platform of "trust". Leader of the Opposition, the right-wing Mark Latham, missed his golden opportunity today by responding to that announcement with politician weasel words instead of one long, cackling laugh.

Meanwhile, someone said today "A vote for Howard is a vote for Costello". Someone replied, "Yeah, but a vote for Latham is a vote for Latham".

Latham's Labor Party, one of the very first social democrat parties in the world, and written about by VI Lenin, has moved inexorably closer to the middle. If that wasn't bad enough, because the right, represented by Howard's misnamed "Liberal Party", has moved so extremely right, the middle has shifted, making middle-of-the-road Laborite Latham just slightly to the left of Goebbels. However, many feel that Australia has an "anyone but Howard" situation.

Much of the above, we can be sure, will all have the ring of familiarity to our American readers.

Australian PM calls October poll

"CANBERRA, Australia -- Prime Minister John Howard says Australians will head to the ballot boxes on October 9, in a race that is seen as being the closest in 30 years.

"The 65-year-old leader will be pitted against maverick Labor leader Mark Latham in his bid to win a fourth consecutive term of government.

"Howard's eight-and-a-half-year-old conservative coalition has trailed the main center-left opposition Labor in recent opinion polls after months of unofficial campaigning ...

"Earlier this month, 43 eminent Australians – including two former chiefs of defense, three former intelligence chiefs and 30 former ambassadors – issued a scathing public statement accusing the government of deceit, and of rubber-stamping foreign policies decided by Washington.

"'We are concerned that Australia was committed to join the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and the deception of the Australian people,' the statement said.

"The group said Howard told Australians in March 2003 that his reason for supporting the U.S.-led coalition was disarming Iraq, not removing Saddam Hussein.

"Two Australian inquiries have found the government did not misrepresent intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs and had not pressured spy agencies into bolstering a case for war.

"Australia still has nearly 900 troops in and around Iraq, and their deployment is likely to become a key election issue, with Howard saying they must remain there as long as they are needed ..."
Source: CNN

*Ø* Blog spammers

What a shame that bloglinker is being spammed. About 6,000 blogs are using what has been till now an excellent link exchange (it's in our right-hand column, down low), but now the owner of bloglinker has had enough and sounds like he wants to sell.

At time of writing, the following dubious-sounding "blogs" are gaining valuable free reciprocal links from bloglinker members:

The Best Online Pharmacy for Women 30 Aug
Orchid Care 30 Aug
emarketingprofit - powerlinking smartpages and blogbooks 30 Aug
PartnersManager 30 Aug
Cover for Ebook - Ecover Software 30 Aug
phone sex 30 Aug
CashWayz Links 30 Aug
GrowingWealthOnline 30 Aug
Jack Humphrey's Website Promotion Log 30 Aug
Profitbuz 30 Aug
BizOppCity - Get Rich Before You Get Old. 30 Aug
A Home Business That Makes Perfect Sense 30 Aug
BreakTrue Impact Newzine 30 Aug
Profitbuz 30 Aug
Net Affiliate Programs - Work at Home Ideas and Opportunities 30 Aug
new infoproducts 30 Aug
Smart Designer Consultants 30 Aug
Downline Builder 30 Aug
Free IQ Test 30 Aug
Russian Brides 30 Aug
Your Thai Bride is waiting to meet you... 30 Aug
Popinadvertising 30 Aug
Online Dating 30 Aug
BPJC Enterprises.biz

And that's just today's list. My apologies if any of these is a genuine blog.

In fact, not one of the recently updated blogs looks genuine. How do these people sleep at night? They probably don't, they sleep by day, hanging upside down.

Protesters against President George W. Bush march in front of Madison Square Garden, site of the Republican National Convention in New York. The marchers were estimated by the United for Peace and Justice coalition to reach more than 200,000. Source

*Ø* Geek or serial killer?

If you (like me) tend to think you can tell a lot about someone just from his face, try out this test.

Turn off your speakers if you don't want to hear the (fake) screams. :)

*Ø* More about bananas - and 400 massive spiders

Tropical spiders give family the creeps

"A Staffordshire family home has been plagued by an infestation of tropical spiders for almost two months after they were brought in on a bunch of bananas.

"The Huntsman spiders, more commonly found in the US and the Caribbean, began breeding in the home of Emma Bradbury, of Salters Lane, Werrington, eight weeks ago.

"One adult can give birth to up to 400 offspring - and now her home is overrun with the creatures, which can grow as large as four inches." [And the family is still in the house. Yikes!]
Full text

Bananas could power Aussie homes [?]

"Australian engineers have created an electricity generator fuelled by decomposing bananas, and hope to build a full size fruit-fired power station.

"At present, much of Australia's annual banana crop goes to waste, because the fruit are too bruised or small ...

"However Dr Clarke admits this technology has a flaw: it takes an awful lot of bananas to generate a small amount of power.

"He said: '60kg of bananas are needed to power a household appliance such as a fan heater for 30 hours.'" [Hmmm ...]
Full text

Sunday, August 29, 2004

*Ø* Thucydides, war and peace

In a Neopagan e-list to which I subscribe, came this message (my reply is below)
Please ponder this.

War is and evil thing, but to submit to the dictation of other states is worse. Freedom if we hold fast to it, will ultimately restore our losses, but submission will mean permanent loss of all we value. To you who call yourselves men of peace, I say: You are not safe unless you have men of action on your side.


* Ø * Ø * Ø *

Dear Gyllias,

I've pondered the quotation as requested, and thank you for it.

Thucydides was a remarkable man and a fine historian for his day, but his views on freedom and the necessity of war must be taken with a grain of salt. We only know his name because he wrote the history of the Peloponnesian War. He might, in fact, be considered to have had a vested interest in human slaughter. As a general of Athens, he most certainly had a vested interest in war, and no doubt was surrounded by a culture too wrapped up in war to think outside the square. His family background is heavily aristocratic and military, which must have coloured his thinking.

Thucydides was largely able to write his famous history because his inherited wealth afforded him luxuries such as education.The money for this came from the suffering of his family's slaves who worked in their gold mines. Thucydides, I feel, has little to share with us about freedom. Like many readers, I also find his writings to reveal an incredibly pessimistic man, so I'm not surprised if he doesn't have the brightness of mind to consider imaginative alternatives to war. Not everyone can do it.

He's been dead for 2,400 years and despite his wisdom (and I really do love the old coot), the challenges of the 21st century are way beyond his experience and understanding. He knows nothing of globalization nor the manipulation of public consent. The past has much to offer us, but very little of the arts and sciences of conflict resolution and creative alternatives to violence, as these are on the whole new disciplines. Thucydides could never have imagined the writings of people like Gene Sharp. Sharp is one of many who remind us that war, which was horrible in 5th-century BCE Greece, is even worse today and completely unnecessary as we've developed techniques that render it obsolete. National self defence needs no weapons.

So, thank you for stimulating me with this quotation. It reminded me of cranky old Thucydides, his wonderful writing, and most importantly, that there is much work to be done by peace-loving pagans to spread the word in the Neopagan community, which is still confused on this pressing issue. I'm sure most of us believe that there is absolutely no point to any religion if it is not about peace.

Bright blessings,



* Ø * Ø * Ø *

[pagans4peace Yahoo! Group is another great group.]

*Ø* No Olympics level playing field

How much longer will these dreary Olympics be on?

It will be so nice when the news tells us what's really going on in the world instead of playing another interview with some puffing athlete. Most galling of all, of course, is the constantly repeated myth that when a rich country like Australia wins "gold, gold gold", there is some sporting fairness in the achievement. It's a lie as big as the obvious canard that says that competition between people and nations engenders brotherhood.

There is, of course, no level playing field in international sport. Australian athletes are supported by huge taxpayer-funded institutions; most countries have no chance of matching that largesse. And when people with full bellies beat hungry people, what is the cause of national pride? Two thirds of the world's population don't stand a chance, and hungry people have other things on their minds. That makes international sport sound like a cheating game to me.

A radio station in Senegal is offering listeners a 50 kg sack of rice if they can catch and kill 50 kg of locusts (source). Maybe the Olympics corporation could consider adding events like that.

Friday, August 27, 2004

*Ø* Kiss your rights goodbye

From a scathing assessment of Ashcroft and the US Administration:

"Ashcroft is, not to mince words, a lunatic. This would have been universally recognized at almost any other moment in American history. In the looking-glass world of 'the war on terror,' however, Ashcroft's religious manias haven't excited even mild censure from anyone in government. By all reports, Ashcroft runs the Department of Justice like a Pentecostal revival meeting, enjoining his staff to raise their voices in righteous hymns of his own composition ...

"What should have been a disaster for G.W. Bush's presidency, then, has instead served as a pretext for conducting it like a dictatorship, with John Ashcroft's Justice Department as its secret police."
Source: Village Voice

*Ø* Physics 911

Physics911.org: Applying Science to Uncover the Truth. I could spend hours there, but haven't gottem.

Click for more info

*Ø* Aussie denied USA's kangaroo court

Bush's 'justice': three years solitary, no charge, no lawyer

"ELEANOR HALL: While David Hicks has been able to see his family, however briefly, the other Australian inmate in the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is yet to enjoy similar privileges.

"After being in detention for almost three years, Sydney man, Mamdouh Habib, still has no idea when he might be brought to trial before the military commission system.

"And despite a US court ordering that Mr Habib should be allowed access to a lawyer, his Australian solicitor has again been refused permission by US authorities to visit his client."
Source: The World Today

*Ø* Watchdog's Big Brother UK warning

"The UK could 'sleepwalk into a surveillance society' as a result of ID cards and other plans, UK information commissioner Richard Thomas has warned.

"He told The Times he had concerns about how much information would be collected and shared under the ID card plans.

"Mr Thomas also suggested he was uneasy about plans for a population register and a database of every child.

"He used General Franco's Spain as an example of what can happen when a state knows too much about its citizens."
Source: BBC News

UK ID Card Webpage
Privacy International
Privacy issues in Australia (if you have more info, please send in, because reports are slipping through the net saying that some disturbing legislation is being drafted, but I'm finding it hard to locate)

Pinocchio Watch
*Ø* 9/11: What did Goss and Graham know?

This kinda throws some interesting questions at Senator Bob Graham and Rep. Porter Goss, chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Intelligence and the investigation into 9/11.

"The chairmen of the Joint Inquiry have dubious links to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which is known to have actively supported Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"Moreover, according to intelligence sources, including the FBI, Pakistan's ISI played a role in financing the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"The two Joint Inquiry chairmen Sen Bob Graham and Rep Porter Goss were fully cognizant of the "Pakistani ISI connection" and the role played by its former head, General Mahmoud Ahmad.

"Why then did they choose to exclude an examination of the role of the ISI from the Joint Inquiry's 858 page Report? ...

"In late August 2001, barely a couple of weeks before September 11, Senator Bob Graham, Representative Porter Goss and Senator Jon Kyl were on a top level mission in Islamabad, which was barely mentioned by the US media.

"Meetings were held with President Pervez Musharraf and with Pakistan's military and intelligence brass including the head of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) General Mahmoud Ahmad. Amply documented, the ISI is known to support a number of Islamic terrorist organizations. (See Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) here)

"According to the FBI, Indian Intelligence and several press reports, the ISI Head was instrumental in providing financial support to the 9/11 terrorists. General Mahmoud Ahmad had allegedly ordered the transfer of $100.000 to the presumed 9/11 ring-leader Mohamed Atta."
Source: Sydney Indymedia
More on this
And more
What Really Happened

*Ø* Vale Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

For years, I have been stalked by a bad reputation. Actually, I have been pursued by people who have regarded me as the Death and Dying Lady. They believe that having spent more than three decades in research into death and life after death qualifies me as an expert on the subject. I think they miss the point. The only incontrovertible fact of my work is the importance of life.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying (her autobiography), 1997

I can't let Tuesday's passing of the remarkable Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (b. July 8, 1926) go unmentioned here. I've placed a brief obit at August 24 in the Book of Days.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Click for more info

*Ø* No USA justice for Aussie hicks

[Whenever you see the image above, you can click for updates on Australians being denied natural justice by the Bush Administration.]

"ELEANOR HALL: Today, after three years of detention at Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held by the United States as an enemy combatant, Australian David Hicks finally faced the military commission which will try him on charges including conspiracy and attempted murder.

"Having spent the majority of the last three years in solitary confinement, Hicks was put in the now unfamiliar position of confronting a large group of people when he appeared unshackled and wearing civilian clothes to plead not guilty to all charges.

"David Hicks was also allowed to see his father, Terry, for the first time in five years.

"The ABC's North America Correspondent, Leigh Sales, was in the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay for today's hearing.

"LEIGH SALES: Many of the observers made two comments after today's court hearing. The first was how totally composed and inscrutable David Hicks was. The Adelaide man showed no reaction at all to proceedings, nor did he attempt to make eye contact with his family, except for one occasion when he first walked in.

"The second observation was how impressive the lead defence counsel, Josh Dratel, was. Mr Dratel is a New York based civilian lawyer who works alongside Steve Kenny and Major Michael Mori on the Hicks case ...

"Outside, Major Mori repeated his assertion that the military commission process will not deliver a fair trial.

"MICHAEL MORI: The process, I don't think, myself, Josh, Steve or any of us, have ever hidden from David that he is facing an unfair system that has been resurrected from the 1940s and he's been thrust into it and his life and freedom is being put in jeopardy.

"It's being placed in a system that the United States would not tolerate for its citizens, that Britain will not tolerate for its citizens. And I can't understand why David Hicks' life has to be placed in this position. I think we've never hidden that from him and he knows it ...

"LEX LASRY: My main concern, or my main area of surprise is this combination of judge and jury in the panel, the way that process… how that process will practically work seems to me to be a bit of a mystery. But I haven't seen it functioning so it's perhaps a bit early to tell.

"LEIGH SALES: David Hicks is back in his orange jumpsuit in solitary confinement in Camp Echo tonight, his flash charcoal suit in mothballs until his next appearance before the Commission in November. His full trial will start on the 10th of January next year.

"This is Leigh Sales in Guantanamo Bay for The World Today."

Fair Go for David
Charge John Howard website
Aussie activist harrassed in USA by FBI

*Ø* Krakatoa Scream

Munch painted in volcano's sunsets

August 26, 1883

On the Indonesian island of Rakata, the volcano Krakatoa (real name, Krakatau) erupted with one of the biggest volcanic explosions ever in human history (some say Santorini’s eruption in 1628 BCE was three times as forceful. Krakatoa was heard over 7.5 per cent of the earth’s surface).

The sound of the eruption was heard as far as 3,540 km away, in Australia. By way of comparison, an equivalent phenomenon in Australia would be an explosion in Perth being heard in Sydney, or in the USA, a New York explosion being heard in San Francisco. Tidal waves caused by the great blast killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra.

‘Modern’ communications helped the world know about Krakatoa in a short time and helped changed the world view of the day. Whereas news of Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 assassination did not reach London for 12 days, Europeans and Americans knew about the explosion of Krakatoa in four hours. The difference: in the years between 1865 and 1883 there had been three great developments: the invention of Morse Code; the global spread of the telegraph, and the establishment of Reuter’s news agency. No longer could the world be seen as vast and unknowable.

The eruption is also the subject of a 1969 Hollywood film entitled Krakatoa, East of Java starring Maximilian Schell – which is notable chiefly for getting the volcano’s location embarrassingly wrong; Krakatoa is in fact west of Java.

It has been discovered that Edvard Munch painted The Scream when Norway was experiencing brilliant sunsets following the great explosion, no doubt influencing his depiction of the sky in the famous painting ...

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* Teleportation goes long distance

"Physicists have carried out successful teleportation with particles of light over a distance of 600m across the River Danube in Austria.

"Long distance teleportation is crucial if dreams of superfast quantum computing are to be realised.

"When physicists say 'teleportation', they are describing the transfer of key properties from one particle to another without a physical link.

"The team has published its findings in the academic journal Nature."
Source: BBC News via Almaniac Star Light (USA)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

*Ø* Last sacrifice of the Celts

August 25, 1778

The last pagan sacrifice of a bull to be conducted publicly in the Celtic world, was performed on the island of Eilean Maree (Maelrubha, formerly Eilean a Mhor Righ – Island of the Great King), in Loch Maree, a lake in the Ross and Cromarty region of the Scottish Highlands. The sacrifice was to ensure the healing of mental disorders.

Libations of milk were also poured out on the hills, ruined chapels were perambulated, wells and stones worshipped, and divination practised each year on this date, the alternative feast day of St Malrubius, known locally as St Mourie. 

It's likely that Maol Rubha (pronounced mull-roo-ah) supplanted Mourie, a pagan Moon god of earlier times. The crescent moon is shaped like a bull’s horn, and this might be why the bull was associated with the ancient rites and festivities – at Eilean Maree and elsewhere.

The island was formerly known as and its festival is closely connected to the Irish Lughnasad, which also featured animal sacrifice. On the island there is a spring known as St Maelrubha’s Well, long considered to have healing properties, especially for the mentally ill. A visitor who witnessed these rites in 1772 told how a sufferer was forced to kneel before an ancient altar and then drink water from the well before being dipped three times in the loch.
And whoso bathes therein his brow
With care or madness burning,
Feels once again his healthful thought
And sense of peace returning.

John Greenleaf Whittier

In 1656, the Scottish Presbytery had condemned the “abominable and heathenish” practices that took place on this day – practices that included ceremonial well dressing. As late as 1911 in Ireland, the peasantry still killed a sheep or heifer for St Martin on his festival, and ill-luck was thought to follow the non-observance of the rite ...

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* Poor man's PR

Mindful of the fact that, just as a crazy rich man is eccentric but a crazy poor man is a nutter, a rich man has PR and a poor man has shameless self-promotion, your almanackist is pleased to report we have passed the mark of three quarters of the Book of Days.

That is, 276 days out of the 366 days are done online – more than 2,130,000 words of folklore, calendar customs, alternative history and oddities.

With your support, which is very welcome, we'll continue to go round the whole Wheel of the Year. I invite readers to see how our system of support operates.

I'm always delighted when members write, and I enjoy replying. Susan, an Almaniac from California who formerly unsubscribed to Wilson's Almanac ezine but has now returned, wrote this week:

"Pip, I enjoy your ezine very much. It is so much fun and educational!! I quit you for a while – 9/11 and your anti-Bush opinions – but I have changed my mind about the whole thing now – a lot of Americans have."
That was such a nice email to receive and it warmed my heart.

Way back on August 2, 2002 in the Almanac, were the words:

"The government of my country, Australia, and several others apparently, are planning an invasion of Iraq ... Wilson's Almanac will oppose this war ..."

You can read the whole statement in the Yahoo! Groups archives, message number 650.

At that time there was almost no discussion of an invasion, and certainly little opposition. Many people at the time thought my words were crazy, and on that day began a mass exit from the Almanac ezine's subscriber base that now seems to be reversing. We have continued with what we believed then to be right and honourable.

To those who stayed, or left and returned, and to all who have just surfed in, a big thanks. There would be no Almy without you. :)

*Ø* Former Oz Libs president's anti-Howard campaign

"A former federal president of the Liberals thinks the party would be better off without John Howard.

"John Valder today helped launch the 'Not Happy John' campaign, designed unseat Mr Howard in his Sydney seat of Bennelong."
Source: ABC Oz

Note: The Liberal Party is the governing party in Australia. Despite its name, it is a conservative party akin to the Republicans in the US and the Tories in the UK.

*Ø* Lots of political toons

Here is a huge page of American political cartoons, some old, some new. A long download, though.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

*Ø* Guantanamo trials 'completely illegal'

Reporter: Eleanor Hall, Radio National, ABC (Australia's taxpayer-funded national broadcaster)

"ELEANOR HALL: As we've been hearing the Australian Government says it’s confident the special military tribunal set up to try David Hicks will be fair.

"But a New York lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainees in the Supreme Court earlier this year is scathing of the military tribunal system.

"Attorney, Michael Ratner, is President of the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York and earlier today I asked him about the pending military tribunals.

"MICHAEL RATNER: It's my view now that these are completely illegal, both under our domestic law as well as under international law. So unusual would be an understatement. They're not just unusual but as many of us have said – they're unfair as well.

"ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Government though says it's been assured that the trial procedures being used for David Hicks are based on fundamental principals of justice like the presumption of innocence and proof beyond reasonable doubt?

"MICHAEL RATNER: Yeah, I find their position really remarkable and completely unjustified. I mean, we have to start with the idea that first the President designates who is going to be tried. The President then appoints the military prosecutors. He then appoints the military judges. There's no appeal from these tribunals and they allow all kinds of evidence in. Even coerced evidence. So there's nothing fair about this. There's nothing that resembles justice. It's really inexcusable to me that any government that would call itself civilised at this point would support these kind of tribunals.

"ELEANOR HALL: Now, you mentioned that there are questions about whether evidence obtained under coercion will be admissible. How does this compare to rules of evidence in say a murder trial?

"MICHAEL RATNER: Well, in murder trials, coerced evidence cannot be used. If the government hasn't given you an attorney, it's assumed that the statement is coerced. If they've obviously been kept in detention for two and a half years and not only subject to very, wildly coercive tactics including possibly torture – whether in David's case or in the people who might be used as witnesses against him. And when I say people as witnesses against him, another real problem with these tribunals is that they can be trials by affidavit. So if there's a witness that says David did something, they can put in his statement, and you can't cross-examine the person, and they then come in and say national security – you can't cross-examine him. So the Bush administration here is not going to even allow David Hicks' lawyers to examine, as far as I know, a number of the witnesses here.

"ELEANOR HALL: So these witnesses will be testifying anonymously will they?

"MICHAEL RATNER: Well, testifying would be an exaggerated word I'm afraid. It may be that a lot of these people come in simply by an affidavit or a paper and there's nothing much you can do. So not only could there be anonymous witnesses – there could be no witnesses at all other than the statements given to army investigators again, without knowing the circumstances that those statements were given – could very well have been coercive, in fact in the case of Guantanamo where the coercion has been rampant.

"ELEANOR HALL: So how will David Hicks' lawyers mount a defence?

"MICHAEL RATNER: Well, for starters, just two things about David Hicks' lawyers. Apart from the overall rules that have made these tribunals very unfair, the actual treatment right now of the lawyers and others who are trying to defend David Hicks and the others, has been completely unfair. They're not getting access to the discovery they need. They're not getting enough money to go travel to Afghanistan and actually interview witnesses. So there's a whole series of motions that have to be decided over the next couple of months of arguments that the lawyers are going to make – that they haven't been provided with the information that they need. So that's one real downer. The second thing is, the US Government doesn't pay anything for the civilian lawyers. His military lawyer, Colonel Michael Mori, is an excellent lawyer – has been objecting to these, and people should understand, this is a colonel – major actually, Major Michael Mori – a major in the US military and he himself has said that these are unfair tribunals, that they have no place in the justice system and that these people should be tried – if at all – by courts martials.

"ELEANOR HALL: Now you also said that there's no appeal process. To what extent is that a concern?

"MICHAEL RATNER: Well it's illegal under the Geneva Convention as well as under our domestic law. The idea that – I mean, they would say, the government might argue, the Bush administration, that there's an appeal process. But it's only an appeal essentially within the military system to a panel, and then to the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld or his designee. There's no court appeal. So what we've done in these cases and what the lawyers have done, is they've immediately tried to take these cases into out federal courts in the United States, much like we took the original habeas corpus or petitions in the early days into US federal courts, to try and challenge these illegal procedures. My prediction is in the end, that none of this will hold up, that these will be thrown out, these will be seen for what they are – an utter and complete sham.

"ELEANOR HALL: What about the argument that special rules are needed in special circumstances like terrorist enemy combatants?

"MICHAEL RATNER: My view is that fundamental human rights and civil rights don't depend on circumstances. In fact, they're made for very difficult situations. They're made for situations like this, and we haven't really insisted – and that was interesting in the Supreme Court opinion – that since 1215, since the Magna Carta which was signed in 1215 and the court sited that in the Supreme Court decision, that you're required to have fair procedures and fair hearings and the rule of law. You're not supposed to set up special ad hoc tribunals that are geared to prosecution, geared to conviction to suit the circumstances. That's very, very unfortunate here. These are just flatly, something I never would have expected to see in my 30 years of law practice.

"ELEANOR HALL: Michael Ratner is President of the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York, and he was speaking to me from there earlier today.
Source: The World Today


The documentary 'The President Versus David Hicks' reviewed in Variety

Get the latest on David Hicks here.

Monday, August 23, 2004

*Ø* The Warlords of America

The Warlords of America
By John Pilger

"The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American 'national security state' in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they install to address the Labour Party conference. The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system which divides humanity as never before and sustains the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect."


*Ø* Bringing Back Saddam (Almost)

Bringing Back Saddam (Almost)
By Ivan Eland

The Saddam-al Qaeda connection has fizzled and no nuclear, biological or chemical weapons have been unearthed in post-invasion Iraq. So the Bush administration’s fallback, ex post facto rationale for invading Iraq is that the country is better off without Saddam. But the U.S.-backed Iraqi government seems to be ruling more like Saddam everyday. [Emphasis added. -v]

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has recently ordered the arrest of political opponents, closed a prominent media outlet reporting stories that were embarrassing to the Iraqi government, and taken up aggressive tactics vis-a-vis the opposition guerrillas, including reinstating the death penalty against them.

After the cosmetic changeover of power from the U.S. occupation to a hand-picked Iraqi Prime Minister, Allawi’s behavior is predictable. With an Iraqi glove now on the fist of U.S. power, Iraqis can get away with much harsher policies toward other Iraqis than could a foreign occupier—especially the leader of the free world, which has billed its invasion as bringing democracy to an autocratic country. Thus, the U.S. government, as it has done so many times during the Cold War and after, is masking with high flying democratic rhetoric the substitution of an unfriendly dictator with a friendly one.

The Iraqi government has ordered the arrest of political opponents Ahmed Chalabi and his nephew Salem, who is leading the prosecution of Saddam. They were originally darlings of the Pentagon and American neo-conservatives but have since fallen out of favor with the Bush administration. The Chalabis did too much consorting with the theocrats in Iran for U.S. authorities to stomach.

In another Saddam-like move, Allawi has closed the Iraq office of Al Jazeera, the pan-Arabic television network, for broadcasting images that embarrassed the Iraqi government. Apparently, the network’s coverage was placing too much emphasis on the rampant kidnappings that have recently paralyzed Iraq.


Dr. Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.

*Ø* Paper magic

A work of origami, or paper folding, is shown on display during the origami convention in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 20, 2004. Showcasing a renaissance in the ancient Japanese art of origami, some of the best paper-folders in the world descended on Tokyo on Friday for a three-day competition and convention to celebrate the artistic possibilities of origami, which is believed to have been used to create sacred ornaments at the Grand Shrines of Ise, the center of Japan's native shinto religion. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa) Source

Sunday, August 22, 2004

*Ø* Exclusive! Da Vinci Code sequel

Sequel to best-seller set in Australia

I'm not sure if I've sold one yet, but I've had on sale Dan Brown's best-seller, The Da Vinci Code, in our store, Cafe Diem, for a few months, so I thought it was about time I actually read it myself. Now that I'm about halfway through this "intellectual thriller" full of twists, turns and intriguing ancient riddles, two burning questions have arisen:

Firstly, was ever such a badly written book such a page-turner? And secondly, was ever a page-turner so badly written?

Dan Brown has written a book of genius, as we are reliably informed by a reviewer (on the back cover of the book). The author of The Da Vinci Code has the distinction of being the first writer to craft an entire best selling novel – nay, to craft an entire career, as his career and continuing celebrity are now assured – out of a deep understanding of the dumbed-down status of his readership.

One must congratulate Mr Brown on identifying the marketing possibilities created for all of us by the failed education systems of the West over the past two or three decades. Formerly, these opportunities were exploited to their maximum potential by media owners and a number of other corporate go-getters, and although certain novelists had made valiant attempts to mimic their success, it took a writer with the heretofore mentioned genius of Dan Brown to "crack the code", as it were. We are all the richer for it. Mr Brown and a great many people at Bantam Press are as well.

The sequel to The Da Vinci Code

So impressed was I with Mr Brown's genius, I shot off an email to him last week and asked him what his next book was going to be about. He replied immediately, thanking me for his free daily Wilson's Almanac ezine, for he is a subscriber and huge fan – as a matter of fact, he said he owes much of his success to "the captivating esoteric information that arrives each day in [my] email in-tray". Dan, you're the man!

Danny, as I fondly call him, told me that the sequel would be set in Australia, and he gave me permission to print a few paragraphs from his manuscript here for the readers. Oh – and he asked me to send his warm greetings to all.

Here for the first time is a snippet from Dan's forthcoming novel ...

The Dundee Code: Exclusive to Wilson's Almanac

Langdon and Sophie peered over the low brick wall toward the famous Sydney Opera House and into the foyer, as 'lobby' is called in Australia – a country in the Southern Hemisphere that many people know from Crocdile Dundee and Crocodile Hunter.

"Can you see into the lobby, Sophie?" asked Robert Langdon.

"The earth is divided into hemispheres, Robert," Sophie Neveu explained. "There is a Northern Hemisphere and a Southern, an Eastern and a Western Hemisphere, like you have an East and West Coast in America, east being on the right and west on the left of the 'map' (a kind of street directory only world-sized). You might have seen maps on Discovery Channel. Unlike people in the USA, Australians live in the Southern, and Eastern Hemispheres. And rather than using the word 'lobby', they use the French-sounding word, 'foy ––'"

"There he is!" interrupted Langdon. "It's the evil Silas, the albino. I can tell, because of his very white skin and hair, as white as Disney's Snow White's hair is black. And I think his eyes might be pink, but from this distance ..."

"Ah yes, monsieur Robert," said Sophie, who often tended to use the famous French word for 'mister' (monsieur) even down there Down Under in Australia, an English-speaking democracy of about 20 million population, and one-time convict colony of the UK, or United Kingdom. Where they drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Sophie continued, "Yes. Albinism: a genetic condition resulting in a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair ... an inherited condition arising from the combination of recessive genes passed from both parents of an individual."

Langdon looked concerned. "He seems to be asking the 'bloke behind the desk' – as they call a 'desk clerk' over here, Down Under – something. Sophie, do you still have that long-range hearing device in your handbag, the one that Inspecteur – or 'Inspector' in English – Fache accidentally dropped back in Paris (Paris, France, about 3,500 miles from Ohio) and you picked up so adroitly?"

That word 'adroit'! The French word 'droit', meaning 'right', certainly finds its way into many nooks and crannies of the English language. It even makes me think of the motto on the British coat of arms, DIEU ET MON DROIT. It took Sophie to see her grandfather's clever anagram here: I'M DUNDEE. ROOT IT. Root! The Australian slang term for sexual intercourse. How could I have missed it?

"Oui, monsieur. Yes, sir," Sophie ventured.

"Sophie, you can call me 'mate'. We're now in Australia (a country located south of Indonesia, which is about 12,000 miles from Oregon). People call each other 'mate' here," Langdon said, "as they are very friendly, and have national characteristics such as anti-authoritarianism, tough individualism and a touch of idleness, just as Asians are just one big lookalike monoculture, and bad people have German accents, and you French are arrogant and smell like garlic. But Aussies are achievers and hosted the famous Olympic Games right here in Sydney in 2000 – you might have seen it on le télévision in your native France, Europe, way east of New York. Australians are a bit like Americans, only with bad accents."

Sophie was obviously impressed. As a university-trained professional, there was so much she already knew, but so much she could learn, and Robert Langdon was the one to teach her. "Here is the dévice d'acouter – listening device in your language – what will you use it for?" she asked, occasionally slipping into the language, French, of her native homeland of origin, which can easily happen when you have some language other than English, as almost all the 60 million or so French people do. French is the language spoken by Pepe le Pew in the old Warner Brothers cartoons.

Langdon was lost in thought. France: A country whose metropolitan territory is located in western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the western Indian Ocean, the northern and southern Pacific Ocean, and the ocean surrounding Antarctica (sovereignty over Antarctica proper is suspended since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty). Langdon was still lost in thought.

"Robert? Robert? You're thinking again. Italics mean thinking, or French. What will you use it for?" Sophie asked.

"Use what? Oh! The listening device?" Langdon, a professor from one of the most famous universities of the East Coast in the USA ('Ivy League'), that two Presidents and a lot of famous people had gone to, hadn't noticed Sophie Neveu was speaking to him. A lot of professors have this absent-minded quality, like they have Father Knows Best leather sleeve patches on their tweed jackets, and polo-necked shirts, and flecks of gray in their hair, like poets, but not necessarily red setter dogs and cottages on wind-swept beaches as poets do – and Dr Robert Langdon, (Ph D, or Doctor of Philosophy, not a medical doctor) was no exception.

Although we might not have seen much evidence of it in Gilligan's Island (which was not completely based on fact), these charming professor characteristics are seen as irresistibly attractive to beautiful and savvy women of 32 or so. Hot young women just like the brave, university-educated redhead, Sophie Neveu, who had a kind of female Heinrich Schliemann feel about her.

Heinrich Schliemann was a famous archeologist (like Indiana Jones), from Germany, Europe. However, Sophie was not an archeologist, but a cryptographer, so a lot of her time had been spent working out what codes meant – the cryptographer's vocation. Yes, working out codes or 'cryptograms' as they're called, rather than digging in the ground to find lost civilizations – the vocation of archeologists.

Huh? Hey! HEINRICH SCHLEIMANN! My gosh, if you let an N be an H, that's an anagram of SHH A CLICHE IN MENHIR. Of course! 'Menhir' – a large, single upright standing stone (monolith or megalith), of prehistoric European origin ... like the Heelstone at Stonehenge, England, Europe! How could I have missed it? HEELSTONE .... ETHEL NOSE!

Now, if we can just find someone called Ethel.

"Oui – yes, Robert. Mais of course. The listening device Inspecteur Fache dropped when I disarmed him of his .44 Magnum by wrapping myself in the Mona Lisa canvas, knowing he wouldn't shootez moi."

"Well Sophie, it's like this ––"

"Robert. Before you continuez, and while Silas is breaking that 'desk bloke's' neck, there is something I must tell you half of."

"What is it, Sophie? You look harried. (Stressed.)"

Langdon took a long puff on his meerschaum pipe. He hadn't noticed before how the bright sun they have down there in Down Under could light up a woman's hair so, while at the same time illuminating those delicate facial hints of doubt, uncertainty, vulnerability, that made the well-built cryptographer seem somehow ... appealing. Appealing? She is becoming suddenly very attractive to me. Me! A middle-aged expert!

"Sophie, you have another surprise secret to reveal to me, don't you?"

"Oui – yes, Robert."

"First half now, and second half tomorrow?"


"Hey, I just guessed that! I have an agile mind but yours is so much sharper, like many women these days. Is it about the sacred feminine in the Delphic Oracle in Greece, Europe, and how that ties in with the famous Olympic Games? And the connection with Sydney, Australia (which successfully hosted the Olympics in 2000)?"

"Un peu. A bit. But more to do with the Knights Templar, the Illuminati and the mysteriously engraved golden lava lamp my grandfather found buried under the south pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (the famous bridge on many Australian postcards)."

Her French accent is making the hairs on my arm stand on end! Golly, I could really fall for this 'babe' ...

"OK, Sophie. Shoot."

... if she'd only lay off the garlic, already.

* Ø * Ø * Ø *

Fact is, I really am enjoying The Da Vinci Code, every hyperreal, ignorant, made-for-TV, page of it. It really is hard to put down.

If you haven't done so already, grab a cheap copy at Cafe Diem. Better still, get it from your library for free, just be prepared to wait six weeks like I did, as it's still very much in demand.

*Ø* Exorcise the White House

Saturday, August 21, 2004

*Ø* Robert Fisk: Iraq is about to explode

George from North Queensland, Australia, sent this one in. It's three weeks old but as it comes from one very brave journalist (and one of the best throughout the war), Robert Fisk, and as I'm too lazy to check our archives to see if we ran it, here goes:

Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

"The war is a fraud. I'm not talking about the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida which didn't exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I'm talking about the new lies.

"For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America's puppet government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month's death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we are not told.

"The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident at Saddam Hussein's 'trial.' Not only did the US military censor the tapes of the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of the 11 other defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to believe - until he reached the courtroom - that he was on his way to his execution. Indeed, when he entered the room he believed that the judge was there to condemn him to death. This, after all, was the way Saddam ran his own state security courts. No wonder he initially looked 'disorientated' – CNN's helpful description - because, of course, he was meant to look that way. We had made sure of that. Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: 'Are you a lawyer? ... Is this a trial?' And swiftly, as he realised that this really was an initial court hearing – not a preliminary to his own hanging - he quickly adopted an attitude of belligerence.

"But don't think were going to learn much more about Saddam's future court appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster Ahmad and the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told the Iraqi press two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from future court hearings [emphasis mine – PW] . And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a Milosevic, he'll want to talk about the real intelligence and military connections of his regime - which were primarily with the United States.

"Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.

"Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn't Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn't Bush realise this? The American-appointed 'government' controls only parts of Baghdad – and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the 'Prime Minister,' is little more than mayor of Baghdad. 'Some journalists,' Blair announces, 'almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq.' He doesn't get it. The disaster exists now.

"When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next January? Even the National Conference to appoint those who will arrange elections has been twice postponed. And looking back through my notebooks over the past five weeks, I find that not a single Iraqi, not a single American soldier I have spoken to, not a single mercenary – be he American, British or South African – believes that there will be elections in January. All said that Iraq is deteriorating by the day. And most asked why we journalists weren't saying so.

"But in Baghdad, I turn on my television and watch Bush telling his Republican supporters that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the 'coalition,' that they support their new US-manufactured government, that the 'war on terror' is being won, that Americans are safer ..."
Read on at Common Dreams

*Ø* An Olympics LOL flash

Thanks, Mary Ann from Californ-I-A, USA, for this Bozzetti Flash animated bit of Olympics fun. It's so corny but I got some good belly laughs.

Friday, August 20, 2004

*Ø* Doctors were part of Abu Ghraib Abuse

By Emma Ross, AP Medical Writer

"LONDON - Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights, a bioethicist charges in The Lancet medical journal.

"In a scathing analysis of the behavior of military doctors, nurses and medics, University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles calls for a reform of military medicine and an official investigation into the role played by physicians and other medical staff in the torture scandal.

"He cites evidence that doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured. No reports of abuses were initiated by medical personnel until the official investigation into Abu Ghraib began, he found.

"'The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations,' Miles said in this week's edition of Lancet. 'Army officials stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib' ...

"'The detaining power's health personnel are the first and often the last line of defense against human rights abuses. Their failure to assume that role emphasizes to the prisoner how utterly beyond humane appeal they are,' Miles said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. [my emphasis - N]

Full text here

*Ø* Happy anniversary Mr Rumsfeld!

Hey Mr Rumsfeld, you said it!

I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on November 14, 2002, speaking on National Public Radio and Infinity Radio, USA.
Source: BBC

The Iraq war had been going for five months by August 20, 2003 as land troops from United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland had invaded Iraq on March 20. That must make today some kind of anniversary! Yayyy!!!!

Jim Lehrer: Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Secretary, I went back and checked the record today, the impression that was given in public statements and all that sort of thing was that when this war ended, this war was going to end, that when Saddam Hussein and his regime, you know, fell, then the rest of it was going to be kind of a mop-up. And I’m just –
Donald Rumsfeld: Not by me.
Amnesiac Donald Rumsfeld, September 10, 2003
Source: PBS News Hour

Mr Rumsfeld, you win the Cakewalk Anniversary Cake!

>More good and useful Iraq quotes

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* Country reports

A good website I just stumbled upon is Human Development Reports, from the UN Development Programme.

Usually when you google up a country, you get the CIA facts pages (and it's not too far-fetched to presume something there). CIA facts sheets are very useful, it's true, and I find Wikipedia's country profiles are becoming a great resource. But anyone who is interested in places from a human rights perspective will like the Human Development Reports. Oxfam, too, has very useful country profiles on the Two Thirds World.

*Ø* US Planes pound Najaf

"NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes pounded areas near a shrine where radical Shi'ite militiamen were holed up early on Friday after their leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, defied a final demand from Iraq's interim prime minister to disarm.

"U.S. AC-130 gunships struck repeatedly at positions held by Sadr's Mehdi Army fighters, who have sheltered in and near the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, sacred to Shi'ites around the world." Source

Iraq's Sistani leaves London hospital

"LONDON (Reuters) - Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, has been discharged from a London hospital after heart surgery, but will stay in Britain for the time-being, says his spokesman ...

"Many Shi'ites regard the reclusive Iranian-born Sistani as their highest religious authority and some experts blame his absence on the latest escalation in violence." Source

*Ø* Bear rejects Bus(c)h!

"SEATTLE (Reuters) - A black bear was found passed out at a campground in Washington state recently after guzzling down three dozen cans of a local beer, a campground worker said on Wednesday ...

"The hard-drinking bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, swilled down the suds.

"It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge."

*Ø* Military Records Debunk Kerry Attacker

Michael Dobbs, Washington Post Staff Writer:

"Newly obtained military records of one of Sen. John F. Kerry's most vocal critics, who has accused the Democratic presidential candidate of lying about his wartime record to win medals, contradict his own version of events.

"In newspaper interviews and a best-selling book, Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry's claim that the Massachusetts Democrat's boat came under fire during a mission in Viet Cong-controlled territory on March 13, 1969. Kerry won a Bronze Star for his actions that day.

"But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to 'enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire' directed at 'all units' of the five boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat 'despite enemy bullets flying about him' ...

"Thurlow, an oil industry worker and former teacher in Kansas, said he was angry with Kerry for his antiwar activities on his return to the United States and particularly Kerry's claim before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. troops in Vietnam had committed war crimes 'with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.'"
Full text at truthout.org

*Ø* Sex spam clogs summer in-boxes

"The temperature is rising in inboxes as spammers attempt to promote a summer of 'love'.

"Pornographic spam has risen by almost 350% since June according to e-mail filter firm Clearswift ...

"The amount of counterfeit Viagra being offered by spammers has prompted manufacturer Pfizer to launch a legal campaign against them.

"Its own research found that a quarter of men believed that the pharmaceutical giant was responsible for sending Viagra spam."

*Ø* I lived to tell the tale

It wasn't last year's bomb but American policy which destroyed the UN's
hopes in Iraq

Salim Lone

"Even before that awful bomb ripped through our Baghdad headquarters on
August 19 2003, taking the lives of 22 of my colleagues, the UN mission
in Iraq had already become marginal to the epic crisis being played out
there. Iraq had become the centre of both the US war on terror and the
war between the extremities of two civilisations. The vicious terrorist
attack a year ago today surprised no one working for Sergio Vieira de
Mello, the UN secretary general's special representative. Indeed, the UN
chiefs of communication in Iraq had met that morning to hammer out a
plan to counter the intensifying perception among Iraqis that our
mission was simply an adjunct of the US occupation.

"Little did the Iraqis know that the reality was quite the opposite: by
August, the UN mission had grown very distant from the Americans. The
intense early relationship that Sergio, the world's most brilliant
negotiator of post-conflict crises, had fashioned with Paul Bremer, the
US proconsul, had already fractured. Contact was intermittent now that
Bremer's coalition provisional authority (CPA) could deal directly with
the Iraqis whom it had appointed, with Sergio's help, to the governing
council. General dismay over occupation tactics aside, Sergio had
already parted company with Bremer over key issues such as the need for
electoral affirmation of a new constitution, and the arrest and
conditions of detention of the thousands imprisoned at Abu Ghraib prison.

"The low point came at the end of July last year, when, astonishingly,
the US blocked the creation of a fully fledged UN mission in Iraq.
Sergio believed that this mission was vital and had thought the CPA also
supported it. Clearly, the Bush administration had eagerly sought a UN
presence in occupied Iraq as a legitimising factor rather than as a
partner that could mediate the occupation's early end, which we knew was
essential to averting a major conflagration ...

"But by mid-August, a restless and discouraged Sergio had begun to breach
the protocol. Two days before the bombing, he told a Brazilian
journalist that Iraqis felt humiliated by the occupation, asking him how
Brazilians would feel if foreign tanks were patrolling Rio de Janeiro's
thoroughfares. And on the day of the bombing, Sergio was going to issue
a statement criticising the killing by US soldiers of the Reuters
cameraman Mazen Dana as he filmed an incident outside Abu Ghraib prison.
That statement saved my life. Sergio asked me to add additional
information about other unlawful killings, which made me miss the 4pm
meeting that was the target of that attack. Six of the seven
participants were killed, and the seventh lost both legs and an arm.

"August 19 2003 is a pivotal moment UN history, not merely because of the
unprecedented viciousness of the attack, but because of the lack of an
Iraqi, Arab and Muslim outcry over the atrocity. This near silence
exposed the depths to which the organisation's standing had sunk in the
Middle East a result of its inability to contain or even condemn the
militaristic excesses of US and Israeli policies in the post-9/11
period. The UN is generally considered to be too willing to do the US's
bidding, and its rare challenge on the Iraq war authorisation was
quickly forgotten once subsequent resolutions pushed the American
project in Iraq. Spectacularly egregious was the security council
approval of a Spanish resolution condemning Eta for the Madrid bombings
when most suspected al-Qaida. This cavalier use of supposedly hallowed
security council resolutions was only possible because of support from
the US, which wished to protect the Aznar government from electoral defeat ..."

· Salim Lone was director of communications for the UN mission in Iraq
headed by the late Sergio Vieira de Mello


Source: The Guardian, Thursday August 19, 2004

Thursday, August 19, 2004

*Ø* Dominionism links

Know how your elected representative might be thinking.

"Dominionism, as defined by S.R. Shearer, is a 'militant post-millennial eschatology ('doctrine of end times') which pictures the seizure of earthly (temporal) power by the church as the only means through which the world can be rescued; only after the world has been thus "rescued" can Christ return to "rule and reign.""
Source: Disinfopedia


These links courtesy of Jade and Luthien, posted at pagans4peace Yahoo! Group.

*Ø* Phoney freedom websites

With the Iraq crisis, it's easy to forget that Russia has its own Iraq, and it's called Chechnya.

The Russian government has a pretty propaganda site (with sweet pictures like the one shown at right) called Chechnya Free, to fool web searchers looking for info on the tragedy.

China pulls the same trick for Googlers of "human rights China"; see this phoney site, humanrights-china.org. Then there is China's cutesy Tibet tourism site, which says that the era of Dalai lama rule: " ... basically ended in 1951 when Tibet was liberated and came to a complete end in 1959 when rebellion led by the Dalai Lama was pacified and the People's Government of the Tibet, Autonomous Region was set up", neglecting to mention that China killed one million people before turning Tibet into its new tourist resort.

On the other hand, if you find a genuine Chechnyan site like this you will read things to make us weep, but which we should all know, like:
"Estimates indicate that during the first and second war in Chechnya, on a Chechen population of 1 million, 150,000 - 200,000 civilians died or disappeared. This amounts to 15% - 20% of the entire population." [References]

One of the happy headlines in the phoney site is: "Builders are in demand in Grosny". Below is a picture from another genuine site, Free Chechnya, that will explain why.

A good site to bookmark is the official website of the Chechen separatist movement.
It is inconceivable that in Europe there hasn't been any movement of rebellion against all this, a rally, not a symbolic one, but a huge and imposing rally that says how all this is intolerable! The tragedy of Chechnya is the tragedy of Russia. Europe is a happy and thoughtless continent. A continent that doesn't think about it. About nothing. When it will be forced to think about it, it risks to pay a very high price. It's better it would begin to think about it.
Adriano Sofri, on Russia's occupation of Chechnya

There is nothing more dangerous in the war of ideas than the “realpolitik” approach which brought us so many disasters in the past. After all, was not Osama bin Laden a by-product of similar “marriage of convenience” at one point? Was it not true also in the case of Saddam Hussein? And is it not true that your new “partners” such as Russia secretly sell military equipment (including nuclear technology) to the Axis of Evil countries even now?
Will the United States ever learn this lesson, or will it continue forever to build up new enemies while fighting present ones?

Yelena Bonner (wife of Andrei Sakharov) and Vladimir Bukovsky; from an open letter on Chechnya to President George W Bush

*Ø* Blix WMD claims 'careful and guarded'

[The plot just keeps thickening, don't it?]

"[Australian] Prime Minister John Howard has refused to confirm he was told by former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix that there was no solid evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Avoiding questions on the revelations yesterday, Mr Howard would only say that Mr Blix was 'careful and guarded' when they met in New York during the lead-up to the Iraq war.

"In an email to a researcher last week, Dr Blix said he told Mr Howard that weapons inspections in Iraq were working ..."
And here's another new one on the SIEVX: Navy gunner breaks silence

*Ø* SIEVX whistleblower book hits the stands

This boat is not SIEVX.
SIEVX was smaller & carried nearly 200 more passengers.

On October 19, 2001, the refugee boat SIEVX sank in Australian waters; 353 men, women and children drowned.

Sign the SIEVX online memorial

Aussie whistleblower and former Ambassador to Poland,Tony Kevin, has written a book, A Certain Maritime Incident, exposing an Australian gov't cover-up. Tony Kevin is virtually unemployed because of the stand he has taken, along with many other SIEVX activists who are still having a hard time getting the story heard. Please spread the word. A federal election is due in Australia about the time of the US one, and George W Bush would like to see the current right-wing Howard government returned, to help his own political fortunes. Remember how upset he was when the Spanish voters threw out his war buddies?

Please pass it on.

Noam Chomsky writes:
"The treatment of refugees is one of the great scandals of the modern age… With impressive courage and determination, Tony Kevin has unearthed the grim and deeply moving story he recounts in this remarkable book – an "always powerfully contested story," and one of "durable national significance" that has "crept into the hearts and consciences of many Australians" and must find its way to the hearts and consciences of many others if these persistent and shocking crimes are to be brought to end."

Tony Kevin writes:

"I retired from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1998, after a thirty year public service career involving posts in DFAT and Prime Minister’s Department. My last postings were as Australia’s ambassador to Poland (1991-94) and Cambodia (1994-97).

"I have been an honorary Visiting Fellow at ANU [Australian National University] Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies since 1998. I have also since 2001 given a seminar course on UN peacekeeping at Melbourne University Institute of Asian Languages and Societies. In the past five years I have written extensively, from a standpoint increasingly critical of the present government, on a range of Australian foreign, national security and refugee policies.

"Since February 2002, assisting in the public investigation of the sinking south of Java on 19 October 2001 of the asylum-seeker boat that took 353 lives, and which I named SIEV X ( i.e., 'Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel, Unknown'), has become my main research activity. I see SIEV X as a major human tragedy that happened on Australia’s border protection military watch, and that raises disturbing unresolved questions about the Australian government’s cover-up of suspected criminality.

"I am now firmly of the view, on the basis of substantial, albeit as yet incomplete, public evidence, that the sinking of SIEV X was the result of planned acts of sabotage in Indonesia, involving use of undercover agents under a people smuggling disruption program that was being conducted by elements of the Indonesian police, who had been trained and funded by Australian police; and that Australian government agencies have much more knowledge of this suspected crime against humanity than they have so far admitted to the Australian Senate or people."
Tony Kevin Source

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

*Ø* Saving the Vote (?)

Paul Krugman, New York Times:

"Everyone knows it, but not many politicians or mainstream journalists are willing to talk about it, for fear of sounding conspiracy-minded: there is a substantial chance that the result of the 2004 presidential election will be suspect.

"When I say that the result will be suspect, I don't mean that the election will, in fact, have been stolen. (We may never know.) I mean that there will be sufficient uncertainty about the honesty of the vote count that much of the world and many Americans will have serious doubts.

"How might the election result be suspect? Well, to take only one of several possibilities, suppose that Florida -- where recent polls give John Kerry the lead -- once again swings the election to George Bush.

"Much of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists who have examined some of these machines' programming code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The public will have to take the result on faith.

"Yet the behavior of Gov. Jeb Bush's officials with regard to other election-related matters offers no justification for such faith. First there was the affair of the felon list. Florida law denies the vote to convicted felons. But in 2000 many innocent people, a great number of them black, couldn't vote because they were erroneously put on a list of felons; these wrongful exclusions may have put Governor Bush's brother in the White House.

"This year, Florida again drew up a felon list, and tried to keep it secret. When a judge forced the list's release, it turned out that it once again wrongly disenfranchised many people -- again, largely African-American -- while including almost no Hispanics.

"Yesterday, my colleague Bob Herbert reported on another highly suspicious Florida initiative: state police officers have gone into the homes of elderly African-American voters -- including participants in get-out-the-vote operations -- and interrogated them as part of what the state says is a fraud investigation. But the state has provided little information about the investigation, and, as Mr. Herbert says, this looks remarkably like an attempt to intimidate voters.

"Given this pattern, there will be skepticism if Florida's paperless voting machines give President Bush an upset, uncheckable victory.

"Congress should have acted long ago to place the coming election above suspicion by requiring a paper trail for votes. But legislation was bottled up in committee, and it may be too late to change the hardware. Yet it is crucial that this election be credible. What can be done?"

Continue here

*Ø* Twins of the world unite

RENNES, France (AFP): "A tiny French village in Brittany -- the self proclaimed capital of twin-dom -- has played host to an international gathering of thousands of identical twins, triplets and quadruplets.

"The 11th annual edition of 'Two and More' in Pleucadeuc on Sunday attracted dynamic duos from as far afield as China, Japan and Benin in Africa."
Continue here

MADRID (AFP) - A white tiger with blue eyes and no stripes, one of only 20 worldwide, was born in captivity at a wild animal refuge in southern Spain, the refuge director, Serafin Domenech, told AFP. Source

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.

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