30 August 2005

Oh, Pardon Me...

Wow, two for the "WTF file" in the same day!

How in the blood hell can a pardon be given for something that hasn't been decided yet? Sounds like somebody has been to the G.W. Bu$h School of Constitution Theory and Procedure. How the f*ck did you think that one up Gov? Arnold will be quite envious that he didn't come up with it first!

Reminds me of the indulgences that the Catholic Church used to sell in the Middle Ages...


Ky. Gov. to Issue Pardons in Hiring Probe

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher Says He Will Issue Pardons in Hiring Probe
Monday, August 29, 2005 07:40:13 PM

Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Monday granted blanket pardons to current and former members of his administration who have been charged in an investigation into alleged improper hiring.

The move came on the eve of Fletcher's appearance before a grand jury investigating his administration's hiring practices.

"I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed by this game of political 'gotcha,' paralyzing our ability to serve you, the people of Kentucky," Fletcher said at the Capitol Rotunda.

Fletcher said he would appear before the grand jury but would not testify. The grand jury was impaneled in June and has charged nine current and former members of Fletcher's administration with misdemeanor violations of the state's personnel law for allegedly basing hirings on political considerations rather than merit.

Some of those charged are senior members of the administration, including deputy chief of staff Richard Murgatroyd and acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert. Fletcher said the senior managers provided "inadequate oversight" of younger people.

Also among the nine is a former Fletcher administration member who has been indicted on 22 felony counts of evidence or witness tampering.

Fletcher said anyone who violated the law could face penalties imposed by two administrative agencies that are also investigating.

Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo said in a statement that Fletcher has "slammed the door on the public's right to know what wrongs his administration has committed."

Fletcher, a Republican, repeated his accusation that Stumbo has been carrying out a political vendetta and compared most of the charges that have been brought to minor violations of fishing laws.

A spokesman said state government paid $1,200 for satellite time to beam the governor's remarks around the state.

Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland has said the grand jury's investigation will continue even if Fletcher issues pardons.

Fletcher's decision was criticized by Democratic state legislators, with Rep. Kathy Stein saying the pardons are grounds for the General Assembly to consider his impeachment.

"He is showing a broad disrespect for the criminal justice system that every other citizen in the commonwealth must live with," Stein said.

Mike Duncan, a Kentuckian and general counsel to the Republican National Committee, said Fletcher should be commended for the pardons.

"I think the governor made the right decision because we need to move the state forward," Duncan said.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said pardons could cut both ways with voters.

"Pardons are risky, absolutely," Gershtenson said. "They inevitably create at least some perception that there's some guilt. Why pardon if somebody isn't going to ultimately get convicted?"

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper (1890-2005)

World's Oldest Person Dies at 115
A Dutch woman officially recognised as the world's oldest person has died at the age of 115.

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper died in her sleep at the care home where she lived, the director of the centre said.

The former needlework teacher was born in 1890, and often said her long life was down to a daily dose of herring.

Mrs van Andel's husband died of cancer in 1959, but she continued to live on her own until she moved into the retirement home at the age of 105.

Commonly known as Hennie, she entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest person in 2004.

Her successor is another 115-year-old woman, Elizabeth Bolden of Tennessee, in the US. The oldest man is Puerto Rican Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 114.

A herring a day

Johan Beijering, director of the care home where Mrs van Andel lived, said she had remained mentally alert right up until she died.

But she was aware of her increasing physical frailty in the days before her death, Mr Beijering said, recalling some of her final words.

"It's been nice, but the man upstairs says it's time to go," she told him.

She felt that being the oldest person in the world for more than a year was long enough
Johan Beijering
Care home director
Mrs van Andel was a passionate football fan, and supported Ajax of Amsterdam, the Netherlands' leading team, for most of her life.

She married a tax inspector in the 1930s and sold her jewellery for cash during the German occupation of Amsterdam in World War Two.

Quizzed about her longevity on her 114th birthday, she told reporters:

"I eat a herring every day and I drink a glass of orange juice every day for the vitamins."

Mr Beijering said she was grateful for all her friends and the way people cared for her over many years.

"She felt that being the oldest person in the world for more than a year was long enough."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 13:30:05 GMT


$26 Billion

We send Smoke and Prayers for the safety of all who fell in the storm's path...


'Up to 80' Dead in US Hurricane
A huge rescue operation is under way along the US Gulf Coast after a hurricane killed up to 80 people in a single county and swamped New Orleans.

Harrison County in Mississippi bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina as it slammed into two coastal towns, Biloxi and Gulfport, before heading inland.

Mississippi media earlier recorded a death toll of 54 for the state.

Thirty people are said to have died in one beachfront apartment complex in Biloxi, drowned or crushed by debris.

Beyond Mississippi, an Alabama road accident killed two and an unknown number of bodies were seen floating in the flood waters of New Orleans.

Large parts of Biloxi, where roads are impassable and telephone lines down, may have been destroyed in what Mayor AJ Holloway described as "our tsunami".

"The flooding is just everywhere... New Orleans, all through Mississippi and Alabama," said Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"All those low-lying areas are just devastated."

Damage estimates of more than $25 billion suggest it could be the US insurance industry's most expensive natural disaster ever.

Forecasters have warned of heavy rain as the storm heads north towards Tennessee and Ohio. Tornado warnings are in force in some areas.

US government workers and aid workers have joined the relief effort:

* the American Red Cross mobilised thousands of volunteers for its biggest-ever natural disaster effort, to be led from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

* the Environmental Protection Agency sent emergency crews to Louisiana and Texas because of concern about oil and chemical spills

* the Coast Guard closed Gulf Coast ports and waterways and positioned craft in the area for search-and-rescue operations

* the agriculture department announced that food and food stamps would be distributed in affected areas

* the Pentagon sent out emergency coordinators to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to provide communications equipment and other help

* the Health and Human Services Department sent 38 doctors and nurses to Jackson, Mississippi, along with 30 pallets of medical supplies

Remote areas

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told reporters the county's death toll could reach 80 as rescuers reached cut-off areas.

"We know that there is a lot of the coast that we have not been able to get to," he said.

The governor also warned that looters would be treated "ruthlessly".

The hurricane brought 105mph (170km/h) winds to Mississippi, where Governor Barbour told reporters it came in "like a ton of bricks".

Katrina was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through the eastern part of the state, with wind speeds of 60mph (97km/h).

The storm swept ashore on Monday after moving across the Gulf of Mexico.

At least two oil rigs were set adrift. One in Mobile Bay, Alabama, broke free of its moorings and struck a bridge.

'Devastated city'

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans said a huge rescue effort was under way in his city, which was 80% under flood water though the historic French Quarter escaped major damage.

"We have just about everyone you can think of out there trying to rescue individuals from their roofs," he said.

"We have an incredible amount of water in this city. Both airports are under water. We have an oil tanker that has run aground and leaking oil. We have houses that have been literally picked up off their foundations and moved."

The mayor added that bodies had been spotted floating in the water.

More than a million people were evacuated from the New Orleans area as the hurricane approached.

Flood waters surged across the western part of the city after a vital flood defence gave way but the storm weakened after making landfall, sparing New Orleans a direct hit.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 15:27:10 GMT


'I Can't Find My Wife's Body'
Witnesses have been speaking of scenes of devastation after Hurricane Katrina tore through the US Gulf coast - in one case sweeping away a woman sheltering with her husband at their family home.

One of the worst affected areas appears to be Mississippi's coastal town of Biloxi, where some 30 people were reported to have died at a beachfront apartment complex.

Biloxi resident Harvey Jackson said his wife, Tonette, was missing after surging waters hit their house.

"The house just split in half. We got up the roof and the water came and just opened up, divided," still visibly shaken Mr Jackson told America's ABC television.

"My wife, I can't find her body, she gone."

"I held her hand tight as I could and she told me 'you can't hold me'. She said, 'take care of the kids and the grandkids'," Mr Jackson said.

"We have nowhere to go. I'm lost, that's all I had, that's all I had. I don't know what I'm going to do."

'In rescue mode'

Emergency crews have been working frantically in the affected states to save hundreds of people trapped by floodwaters.

Bryan Vernon spent three hours on his roof after a levee along a canal on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain gave way.

"I've never encountered anything like it in my life. [The water] just kept rising and rising and rising," Mr Vernon said.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said his worst fear was "that there are a lot of dead people out there".

Biloxi Mayor AJ Holloway described the hurricane as "our tsunami".

"We are still in the search and rescue mode," Mr Holloway told the Biloxi Sun Herald newspaper.

Local rescue crews awaited reinforcements from the federal government and other states to shore up assistance, officials said.

They said it would take days if not weeks before the full impact of the hurricane on the region would be known.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 13:09:07 GMT


New Orleans Awakes To Turmoil
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, New Orleans

As the high winds began to ease, the people who had decided to stay in New Orleans and checked into hotels for safety emerged to see just what Hurricane Katrina had done.

This historic area around the French Quarter and the few blocks of downtown fared quite well.

There is a lot of debris, and many of the fronts of buildings have been ripped off.

Signs and canopies lie tossed by the wayside, windows are blown in, metal signs ripped from brickwork, palm trees and traffic lights are down but on the whole there is not much water.

People here began to think that maybe New Orleans had got away with it. But those who had remained at home had a different story to tell.

Downtown is now an island of slightly higher ground in an area which is mostly below sea level and was flooded by torrential rain which had nowhere to go and breached storm dams.

In some areas the water is a metre, two metres, and in some places as much as three metres deep.

Power problem

Because New Orleans is shaped like a bowl it is going to be very difficult to get that water out quickly.

Many homes are under water, and there are people wading through some of the shallower waters with their belongings on their heads.

The power of the storm was astonishing. It was throwing around heavy items, moving cars and the infrastructural damage to the whole city is huge.

There is no power and the phone lines are down, hampering rescue efforts. The city is lit up by the lights on top of the police cars and the ambulances working to find and help those most in need.

Billions of dollars will have to be spent to clear up after this deadly storm. It will be two months before everyone has electricity again.

Around 200 people had to be rescued from their rooftops and police say a number of people were killed. The number of dead or injured and the damage done will become clearer as the clean-up operation begins.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 14:04:31 GMT


A Christian Disgrace...

And the hits keep rolling in...


Pat Robertson, Christian Disgrace
Article published Aug 28, 2005

Pat Robertson, Christian disgrace All religious leaders should shun him


A few days ago, Pat Robertson, failed GOP presidential candidate, proud proprietor of an evangelical TV show beamed into millions of homes worldwide and founder of the Christian Coalition, declared that it would be good public policy (and cheap, to boot!) to get into the assassination business.

He called for a hit on left wing but legitimately elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Since Chavez regularly frets aloud that the United States is out to kill him, announced Robertson, we just ought to do it. "Take him out," said the spiritual adviser to millions of Christians. It would, he said, be a lot cheaper than going to war against him.

Aha, I thought, the outcry from his fellow evangelicals will be deafening. Christianity is a religion of peace, they'll stress. We preach turning the other cheek, loving our fellow men (if only figuratively). We believe in the rule of law, and we believe that murder is a sin.

Instead, the silence was deafening. In fact, while some liberal religious leaders condemned Robertson, almost all of his conservative buddies were, their various spokespersons declared, "too busy" to comment on their co-religionist's call for state-sponsored murder.

One of the few even willing to discuss Robertson told Hardball's Chris Matthews that, essentially, Pat was being Pat - a little excitable, and anyway, "Take him out" could mean any number of things. Yep, Pat just wanted to treat Hugo to a McDonald's Happy Meal.

Nearly as tight-lipped was the administration. Taking a few minutes out of their uphill mission to savage Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan and to salvage George W. Bush's extended summer vacation, its mouthpieces muttered that Robertson was just a citizen and didn't make U.S. policy.

Never mind that the same band of operatives eagerly makes use of Robertson and his army of shock troops every election day. It was Robertson himself whom God told in 2004 that Bush would win in a "blowout election" later that year. "The Lord has just blessed him,"

Robertson explained.

The truth is that Robertson is a wicked, bitter, nutty man who has made a career of saying things so profoundly outrageous he should be shunned by all but hardcore zealots. Instead, he's simply indulged, like a loony uncle in our national attic.

It's disgusting. We glow with white-hot righteous fury when we denounce, say, some of the dreadful Islamic imams who call for death to Americans. But when Robertson, hiding behind an avuncular smile and a head of white hair, calls for state-sponsored murder, we just shrug.

Gems from Pat

Here's a sampling of Robertson's pithier quotes, thanks to the Internet and the wonderful oddballs whose mission in life is to catalog such things. Notice a decidedly jihadist bent to Robertson's words of wisdom.

On ecumenism, 1991: "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions, but I don't have to be nice to them."

On history, 1992: "When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals - the two things seem to go together."

On feminism, 1993: "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, antifamily political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

On the Constitution, 1981: "The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian and atheistic people, they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society."

On political theory, 1992: "The strategy against the American radical left should be the same as General Douglas MacArthur employed against the Japanese in the Pacific. . . . Bypass their strongholds, then surround them, isolate them, bombard them, then blast the individuals out of their power bunkers with hand-to-hand combat. The battle for Iwo Jima was not pleasant, but our troops won it. The battle to regain the soul of America won't be pleasant either, but we will win it."

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 came about because we "have been consumed by the pursuit of . . . health, wealth, material pleasures and sexuality," Robertson declared. "This is God's power and he sent this thing to warn us. . . . We needed a shock."

In 2003, he beseeched his viewers to join him in a 21-day "prayer offensive" asking God to "remove"- just how he didn't specify - three Supreme Court justices who had ticked him off. And he suggested we could "shake things up" by throwing a "small nuke" on the State Department.

Cynical hearts

Quite a guy, our Pat. Plus, it turns out his call to bump off Chavez is not the first time he has rhetorically put out a contract. In fact, he loves to do it.

In 1986, he called for the "godly fumigation" of the non-Christian "termites" who have taken over American institutions. By 1999, his hit list had gone global, nicely combining bloodlust and thrift. "You could send a squad in to take out somebody like Osama bin Laden, or to take out the head of North Korea, but isn't it better to do something like that, to take out Milosevic, to take out Saddam Hussein, rather than to spend billions of dollars on a war."

Robertson is either a madman or a moral moron. He does incalculable damage to the image of the country abroad, particularly among people who might think a so-called religious man with close ties to our president actually speaks with a degree of authority. He regularly trashes all that is good in Christianity by spewing such hatred.

He even makes Chavez - by all accounts a bullying demagogue and quite possibly as nutty in his own way as Robertson - a sympathetic character.

Robertson's rants should be condemned not only by all religious leaders but also by the politicians who have curried favor with him knowing in their cynical hearts that he's a bigoted hater. My hunch, though, is that before that happens, pigs will be doing magnificent aerial loops over our rooftops.

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Venezuela Warns Washington on Robertson...

Looks like Robertson's mouth wrote a check that Bu$h's ass may have to pay for...


Venezuela May Take Legal Action Against Pat Robertson
Ahora.cu / 30-08-2005

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has warned that Caracas will lodge an official complaint against Washington at the United Nations and other international agencies if the U.S. government fails to act against television evangelist Pat Robertson, who recently called for Chávez's assassination.

Addressing a group gathered on Sunday for talks on a social charter for the Americas, the Venezuelan leader said: "If the U.S. government does not take action that it must take, we will go to the United Nations and the Organization of American States to denounce the U.S. government." Chávez added he believed that by failing to act against Robertson, the United States was "giving protection to a terrorist, who is demanding the assassination of a legitimate president."

Last week on his television program "The 700 Club," transmitted by his Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that if Chávez believed the United States was trying to kill him, "I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." Robertson tried to apologize last Wednesday, but then went on to compare Chávez to Saddam Hussein and to suggest the United States could one day be at war with Venezuela. U.S. officials last week distanced themselves from Robertson's comments, but refused to condemn them.

The Venezuela president said he has already instructed his foreign minister and the country's ambassador to Washington to begin the process in the international bodies. He said Venezuela could use international treaties and conventions to demand the extradition of the right-ring television preacher. Chávez pointed out he believed Robertson "should be sent to prison to serve as an example for the entire world."

Meanwhile, visiting U.S. civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson expressed his solidarity with Chávez, saying Robertson's remarks were "repugnant, immoral and illegal." Addressing the Venezuelan National Assembly, Jackson called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the statement.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, on a three-day visit to Venezuela to meet with Chávez, politicians and community leaders, also called on U.S. President George W. Bush to issue "a swift rejection" of Robertson's statement. Rev. Jackson said: "It must be unequivocally clear that such a heinous act is not desirable nor designed nor planned. We must use power to reduce tensions, reduce the rhetoric of our threats."

(From Radio Habana Cuba)

Yahoo! Mail - ryanwaldon2002@yahoo.com

This was recently posted to one of the groups I belong to...



Sandpaper between two cultures which tear

one another apart

I'm not a means by which you can reach spiritual

understanding or even

learn to do beadwork

I'm only willing to tell you how to make fry bread

1 cup flour, spoon of salt, spoon of baking powder

Stir Add milk or water or beer until it holds together

Slap each piece into rounds

Let rest

Fry in hot grease until golden

This is Indian food

only if you know that Indian is a government word

which has nothing to do with our names for ourselves

I won't chant for you

I admit no spirituality to you

I will not sweat with you or ease your guilt with fine

turtle tales

I will not wear dancing clothes to read poetry or

explain hardly anything at all

I don't think your attempts to understand us are going

to work so

I'd rather you left us in whatever peace we can still

scramble up after all you continue to do

If you send me one more damn flyer about how to heal


for $300 with special feminist counseling

I'll probably set fire to something

If you tell me one more time that I'm wise I'll throw

up on you

Look at me

See my confusion Loneliness fear worrying about all

our struggles to keep what little is left for us

Look at my heart not your fantasies

Please don't ever again tell me about your Cherokee

great-great grandmother

Don't assume I know every other Native Activist

in the world personally

That I even know names of all the tribes

or can pronounce names I've never heard

or that I'm expert at the peyote stitch

If you ever

again tell me

how strong I am

I'll lay down on the ground & moan so you'll see

at last my human weakness like your own

I'm not strong I'm scraped

I'm blessed with life while so many I've known are


I have work to do dishes to wash a house to clean

There is no magic

See my simple cracked hands which have washed the same


you wash See my eyes dark with fear in a house by


late at night See that to pity me or to adore me

are the same

1 cup flour, spoon of salt, spoon of baking powder,

liquid to hold

Remember this is only my recipe There are many others

Let me rest


at least

by Chrystos - from Not Vanishing (Press Gang Publishers, Vancouver, 1988; SBN 0-88974-015-1).

God Punishing G.I.s...?

Here's another one for the "WTF" file.

This ignorent redneck bigot bastard Phelps has come to Lexington a
couple of times in the last few years. Each time we have ran his happy ass the hell out of town! I am quite proud to say that our urban-county government has always assisted us in ushering him out of town.

Those folks obviously do not have very good sense, messing around
with Tennessee good ol' boys at a military funeral?
They are quite likely to turn up dead in a ditch somewhere...


'God Punishing US Soldiers Over Gays' - Sify.com
By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer 58 minutes ago

Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for
defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay
message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in

The church members were met with scorn from local residents. They
chased the church members cars' down a highway, waving flags and
screaming "God bless America."

"My husband is over there, so I'm here to show my support,"
41-year-old Connie Ditmore said as she waved and American flag and as
tears came to her eyes. "To do this at a funeral is disrespectful of a
family, no matter what your beliefs are."

The Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist in Kansas,
that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God
for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not
affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps'
children, grandchildren and in-laws.

The church members carried signs and shouted things such as "God
fags" and "God hates you."

About 10 church members protested near Smyrna United Methodist
and nearly 20 stood outside the National Guard Armory in Ashland City.
Members have demonstrated at other soldier funerals across the nation.

The funerals were for Staff Sgt. Asbury Fred Hawn II, 35, in Smyrna
and Spc. Gary Reese Jr., 22, in Ashland City. Both were members of the
Tennessee National Guard.

Hundreds of Smyrna and Ashland City residents and families of other
soldiers turned out at both sites to counter the message the Westboro
Baptist members brought.

So many counterdemonstrators were gathered in Ashland City that
police, sheriff's deputies and state troopers were brought in to
control traffic and protect the protesters.

The church members held protesting permits, and counterprotesters in
Smyrna turned their backs to Westboro Baptist members until time
expired on the protest permits.

"If they were protesting the government, I might even join them,"
Danny Cotton, 56, said amid cries of "get out of our town" and "get out
of our country."

"But for them to come during the worst time for this family - it's
just wrong."

28 August 2005

"Unity and Diversity"

This looks like some real good fun!


Hundreds of Thousands at Carnival
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to enjoy the first day of the 41st Notting Hill Carnival.

It began on Sunday with Children's Day, which saw colourfully dressed youngsters performing on the streets of west London.

Police described atmosphere as "good-natured". They said there had been nine arrests so far.

The famous parade of floats and performers takes place on bank holiday Monday.

The theme of the 41st carnival is "unity and diversity".

But the event has been hit by controversy - London mayor Ken Livingstone wanted to see the carnival move to Hyde Park, with only a procession to its spiritual home of Notting Hill.

Organisers said they would not change the route without properly consulting the many community-based groups who take part in the carnival.

Hyde Park will host the mayor's Caribbean Showcase, a new free event for families, on Monday.

It will be made up of several zones featuring music, business, arts, food and fashion and will run from noon until 1900 BST.

Police said they had reviewed carnival security following the London bombings.

While there is no intelligence of any terror threat, 10,000 officers and 500 transport police are being deployed.

Also, about 80 CCTV cameras are in operation over the carnival area.

Commander Chris Allison said: "Carnival is an important annual event in London's calendar - this importance has only increased since the tragedy that struck London on 7 July.

"My colleagues will be working very hard over the weekend to make sure that everyone coming to carnival has a great time and is as safe as they can be."

'Bigger, better and safer'

But Professor Chris Mullard, chair of the Notting Hill Carnival, said: "This morning saw the spiritual awakening of carnival with people rising with the sun.

"This year is going to be an extraordinary festival. It's going to be bigger, better and safer than any other."

The London Ambulance Service said they had treated 48 people on Sunday.

Two had to be taken to hospital as a precaution and one was said to be in a serious condition after suffering an asthma attack.

Police are advising visitors to plan journeys in advance, have a set meeting place in case people are separated from family or friends as mobile phone networks are expected to be jammed and to not bring anything valuable to the festival.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/28 16:30:01 GMT


27 August 2005

The Human Zoo

Too bad it's too far away for a quick peek...


Humans Strip Bare for Zoo Exhibit
Eight people have been chosen to spend the August Bank Holiday weekend almost naked and on display at London Zoo.

Visitors will see the humans, who will be treated like animals, kept amused with games, music and art.

But after each day in the open Bear Mountain enclosure the bunch - naked except for well-placed fig leaves - will be allowed home for the night.

The Human Zoo hopes to demonstrate the basic nature of man and examine the impact they have on the animal Kingdom.

Cambridge University veterinary student Simon Spiro, 19, from New Malden in Surrey, was selected from among 30 hopefuls to take part in the project.

Pocket Scrabble

"I'm a veterinary student so the idea of working for a zoo was something that appealed to me," he said.

"I'm not even worried by the fact it might be cold and rainy. I've brought Pocket Scrabble in case we're bored."

"The only problem is I won't have any pockets to put it in."

Brendan Carr, 25, from Aylesbury, Bucks, said his motto was to "dream like you'll live forever, live like you'll die today".

The actor, model, musician, martial arts expert and fitness fanatic entered the competition by writing a poem.

It read: "I'm funky like a monkey and as cool as a cat, talk more than a parrot, up all night like a bat.

"I got a laugh like a hyena but get the hump like a camel, so cover me in fig leaves as I'm the ultimate mammal."

Other volunteers on display are Anna Westbury, 27, from London, who described herself as "zoo obsessed" and Thomas Mahoney, 26, from Cambridge, who wanted to "get back to nature".

Human Zoo runs from Friday until Monday.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/25 13:29:02 GMT


Bishop Xie Shinguang (1916-2005)

Underground Chinese Bishop Dies
Xie Shinguang, a bishop of China's underground Roman Catholic Church who spent 28 years in prison because of his faith, has died.

The bishop of Mingdong was 88 when he succumbed to leukaemia on Thursday.

Vatican Radio said that Monsignor Xie was first arrested in 1955 because of his loyalty and obedience to the Pope.

In China, there is a state-sanctioned church for Roman Catholics, but there is also a bigger, unofficial church that is loyal to the Pope.

Under pressure

Monsignor Xie served four separate prison terms and according to the Vatican was kept under surveillance by the authorities until his death.

The Vatican praised him as a "courageous witness to Christ".

Monsignor Xie was ordained in 1949 and became a bishop 1984.

He is reported to have rejected contact pressure to join the official Chinese Church.

However, as a result he was jailed first in 1955, again from 1958-1980, from 1984-1987 and finally from 1990-1992.

Taiwan issue

China broke off ties with the Holy See in 1951 shortly after the Communist Party took power, forcing congregants to chose between attending state-sanctioned churches, acknowledging Beijing as their ultimate authority, or worshipping in secret.

Monsignor Xie's diocese in Fujian province is reported to have numbered around 75,000 followers.

According to China's authorities the state-sanctioned church has about four million members, while the Vatican says the Roman Catholic Church there has some 10 million worshippers.

Pope John Paul II had dearly hoped to bring China's Catholics under the Vatican's wings, but now that challenge has been taken up by his successor Pope Benedict XVI.

China has said it would like better relations with the Vatican, but insists that first the Holy See must cut its diplomatic links with Taiwan.

The Vatican is one of only 25 states that still have links with Taiwan rather than China, and it is the island's only ally in Europe.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/27 21:47:52 GMT


'Ripper' Obsession...?

File this one under WTF...


Author Denies 'Ripper' Obsession
Crime author Patricia Cornwell has taken out full-page ads in two national newspapers to deny she is obsessed with Jack the Ripper.

Cornwell claimed artist Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper in a book in 2002. Ripper experts rejected that theory.

In Saturday's Guardian and Independent, Cornwell stands by her claim and calls on others to disprove it.

The ads are thought to have cost more than £10,000 each. An updated edition of her book will appear next year.

Cornwell wrote in the advert: "My ongoing investigation is far from an obsession but an excellent opportunity to provide a platform for applying modern science to a very old, highly visible case."

Cornwell has spent as much as $6m (£3.3m) financing her investigation into the Ripper case, including employing forensic scientists to work with her.

Her book Portrait of a Killer, Jack the Ripper: Case Closed named Sickert, a British Impressionist artist, as the infamous killer who terrorised London's East End between 1888.

Sickert, a pupil of Whistler, lived in London at the time. He died in 1942, aged 82.

Cornwell's main evidence was the discovery of the same watermarks on the artist's personal letters as on letters sent by Jack the Ripper, taunting the police.

But experts point out that many supposed "Ripper" letters were fakes and that Scotland Yard received such correspondence well into the 20th century.

They said Cornwell's evidence only showed a link between Sickert and these letters, not the murders themselves.

The author also put forward DNA evidence connecting Sickert to the crimes, but this was viewed as inconclusive.

While she has acknowledged she cannot prove Sickert was in London at the times of all the murders, she says it cannot be proved that he was elsewhere.

In Saturday's adverts, Cornwell called the case "far from closed" and challenged her critics to come up with concrete evidence of another suspect's guilt.

"I welcome everyone to investigate this case and perhaps find new evidence that factually argues for or against anything I have discovered," she wrote.

"If it turns out that something indisputably proved that this notorious killer was someone other than Walter Richard Sickert, I would be the first to offer congratulations and retract my accusations."

She adds that a revised edition of Portrait of a Killer, with her "latest" evidence, will be released early in 2006.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/27 10:41:57 GMT


Is the Tide Turning?

It seems as though people are finally starting to wake up and smell the napalm...


Bush Calls for US Resolve on Iraq
US President George W Bush has called on Americans to be patient with the situation in Iraq and warned that there will be further sacrifice ahead.

"Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," he said in his weekly radio address.

He made the appeal as pro and anti-war campaigners gathered in Crawford, Texas for a day of demonstrations.

The small town houses the president's ranch where he is currently on holiday.

Waning support

With almost 1,900 US soldiers dead in Iraq, pressure is mounting on Mr Bush to end the war and bring troops home.

Recent opinion polls suggest more than 50% of Americans think the Iraq conflict is going badly.

Most also believe some or all US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.

The problem of sliding support has been compounded by the protest outside Mr Bush's ranch being staged by Cindy Sheehan, a mother whose son died while serving in Iraq.

Ms Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed in action in 2004, has vowed to stay put throughout Mr Bush's month-long holiday and hopes he will meet her.

On Saturday hundreds of anti-war campaigners joined Mrs Sheehan in the small Texas town for a rally on the final weekend of the protest.

Constitution concerns

However, their efforts are being matched by pro-Bush campaigners who have taken up positions on the opposite side of the town.

The protesters calling themselves the "You don't speak for me Cindy!" group, began their cross-country rally in California last week.

They include other parents whose sons have been killed in Iraq but who oppose Mrs Sheehan and US veterans from other conflicts.

"I'm here to support the president and the troops and honour the fallen hero, Specialist Casey Sheehan, since his mother is disgracing his memory," said former US soldier Brad Ward.

Iraq has been holding difficult and prolonged negotiations on a constitution, seen by the US as crucial if stability is to be restored in the country and troops ultimately brought home.

The country's Sunni minority is deeply unhappy with efforts by the other groups to move towards federalism, fearing it will lead to the break up of Iraq, and has so far refused to endorse a draft text of the document.

"Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun," Mr Bush said.

He pledged that the US would continue to support Iraq throughout this period.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/27 20:15:48 GMT


Teach Your Children...

...not to talk to recruiters!

Can you say "Hitler-Jugend" (Hitler Youth)?

t r u t h o u t - Army Recruiters' Sly Tactics: Who's Next?

Who's Next?
By Karen Houppert
The Nation

12 September 2005 Issue

The US Army Recruiting Command has a motto: "First to contact, first to contract." In the school recruiting handbook the Army gives to the 7,500 recruiters it has trawling the nation these days, the motto crops up so often it serves as a stuttering paean to aggressive new tactics - tactics that target increasingly younger students.

To make sure they are the first folks to contact students about their future plans, Army recruiters are ordered to approach tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders - repeatedly. Army officials spell out the rules of engagement: Recruiters are told to dig in deep at their assigned high schools, to offer their services as assistant football coaches - or basketball coaches or track coaches or wrestling coaches or baseball coaches (interestingly, not softball coaches or volleyball coaches) - to "offer to be a chaperon [sic] or escort for homecoming activities and coronations" (though not thespian ones), to "Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month," to participate visibly in Hispanic Heritage and Black History Month activities, to "get involved with local Boy Scout troops" (Girl Scouts aren't mentioned), to "offer to be a timekeeper at football games," to "serve as test proctors," to "eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times each month" and to "always remember secretary's week with a card or flowers." They should befriend student leaders and school staff: "Know your student influencers," they are told. "Identify these individuals and develop them as COIs" (centers of influence). After all, "some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist." Cast a wide net, recruiters are told. Go for the Jocks, but don't ignore the Brains. "Encourage college-capable individuals to defer their college until they have served in the Army."

Army brass urge recruiters to use a "trimester system of senior contacts," reaching out to high school seniors at three vulnerable points. In the spring, when students' futures loom largest, the handbook advises: "For some it is clear that college is not an option, at least for now. Let them know that the Army can fulfill their college aspirations later on."

Finally, recruiters must follow the vulnerable to college: "Focus on the freshman class [there] because they will have the highest dropout rate. They often lack both the direction and funds to fully pursue their education." (Thus do decreasing federal funds for college complement recruiters' goals.)

"The good [high school] program is a proactive one," the sloganeering commanders remind. "The early bird gets the worm."

Junior ROTC - A Vital Feeder Stream

The Army, which missed its recruiting quotas in four out of the six months ending in July for active-duty troops - and nine out of the past nine months for the Army National Guard - is getting desperate. Still more than 16,000 recruits shy of its 2005 goal, and with disaffected teens plentiful but skeptical, the Army brass has added 1,000 new recruiters to pound the pavement - or linoleum hallways - in the past year. New Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs are being introduced in high schools across the country, and lately kids as young as 11 are being invited to join pre-JROTC at their elementary and middle schools. The Army has increased its recruitment campaign budget by $500 million this year, and it is slated to introduce a new ad campaign in September emphasizing "patriotism." (In the past, it has focused on job opportunities and personal growth.) The Army hopes Congress will agree to a slew of new signing benefits designed to raise average enlistment bonuses from $14,000 to $17,000 (with some recruits getting as much as $30,000 for hard-to-fill specialties and some re-enlistment bonuses spiking as high as $75,000).

Sometimes the Army gets even more creative. On the sly, recruiters have helped high schoolers cheat on entrance exams, fudge their drug tests and hide police records, as the New York Times reported in May. The Times exposé revealed that the Army investigated 1,118 "recruiting improprieties" last year, ranging from coercing young people to lying to them. It substantiated 320 of these.

That such tactics are deemed necessary says a lot about the recruiters' desperation despite their extensive opportunities to engage students at both the college and high school levels. Recruiters' access to college campuses has been protected since 1996 under the Solomon Amendment, which ties federal funding to schools' willingness to permit recruiters on campus. And the military is taking full advantage, especially at community colleges, where students with fewer choices are more likely to consider a military career. Now the military has gained free access to high schools as well, under a little-known clause in the No Child Left Behind Act. Nestled among florid tributes to education reform and clunky legalese is a brief passage stating that all public schools are required to share students' names, addresses and telephone numbers with recruiters. "They have unrestricted access to kids in the schools, cafeterias and classrooms," says Hany Khalil, an organizing coordinator at United for Peace and Justice, a national antiwar coalition. "They've even brought Humvees onto campuses to make the prospect of going to war seem sexy and exciting."

And it works. Not necessarily for the white doctor's son in the suburbs, who can see both Princeton and a Porsche in his future, but for low-income urban youth. In fact, the fewer alternatives a young person has, the better. "The military recruiters are especially targeting working-class youth and communities of color," says Khalil. "These are the communities that don't have access to good schools or good jobs, so it's easier to take advantage of them." Khalil's comments are substantiated by Defense Department population studies showing that most recruits are drawn from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, that 43 percent come from the South (while only 15 percent come from the more populous Northeast) and that only 8 percent of new recruits come from families with a father or mother in the "professions."

On college campuses a different set of tactics is employed - not always with enough care about the truth of financial claims. "My son's recruiter told us that his student loans would be paid in full if he joined the Army," says Kathy Allwein, an administrative assistant in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, whose 21-year-old son was in his third year of college and constantly worried about the $19,000 student loan he carried when recruiters approached him in 2003. Relieved by the promise of financial help, he immediately signed on the dotted line. After serving ten months in Iraq, he learned the Army would not be paying his loans, because although they were procured through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, they were not technically government loans. "We didn't even realize the difference, to be honest," says Allwein. "For a long time the recruiter just told us to be patient and the loans would be paid for. We've been very patient, but when the bill collectors start knocking on the door, it gets a little scary."

Deceived and disillusioned, the Allweins are now getting mail from recruiters trying to sign up their 16-year-old daughter. Fortunately, Allwein, who opposes the Iraq War, has yet to answer the phone and find a recruiter on the other end of the line: "I would tear them from limb to limb," she says.

Seeking to further push recruitment among target populations, the military is expanding its Junior ROTC - a longtime recruitment tool particularly popular in the South and in urban minority communities. Describing JROTC as "adventure training," the military is bringing it to ninety-one new high schools next year. But JROTCs are already an integral part of the formal curriculum in 1,555 high schools, in every state. Taught by retired military - who may or may not have college degrees - the instructors bring what the Army describes as "discipline, leadership training, military history, marksmanship and rifle safety" to 273,000 high school JROTC "cadets" today, up from 231,000 in 1999. Forty-five percent typically enlist after the experience. With the cost of the JROTC teachers' salaries shared by the military and the school district, it's a win-win situation: Cash-strapped schools get bargain-rate teachers for a slew of additional elective courses; the military gets inside the schools for one-on-one contact with potential recruits. In some overburdened public school systems, students are involuntarily placed in the program. Teachers and students in Los Angeles, for example, have complained that high school administrators are enrolling reluctant students in JROTC as an alternative to overcrowded gym classes.

ASVAB - No Child Left Untested

To help high school students find "their rightful place," the Army's standard recruiting tool is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). High school juniors and seniors are encouraged to take this test to "identify and explore potentially satisfying occupations." The Army, which encourages high school career counselors to administer the test - ideally, making it mandatory for all juniors or seniors - has stopped spelling out the acronym in the past few years. Many parents and students don't know what it stands for. Carefully described in literature and on websites simply as a "career exploration program," the ASVAB, according to the Army, is "specifically designed to provide recruiters with a source of pre-qualified leads." Further, "It gives the recruiter the students' Armed Forces Qualification Test scores, military aptitude composites, and career goals. It identifies the best potential prospects for recruitment that allows recruiters to work smarter." It also provides the recruiter with "concrete and personal information about the student" - the better to contact him or her repeatedly.

"My son scored in the top 1 percent of the ASVAB," says Lou Plummer of Fayetteville, North Carolina. "When the recruiters got the scores we got almost nightly calls for a while from the Air Force, the Marines, the Army and the Navy." Plummer, an Army vet himself, encouraged his 17-year-old son, Drew, to heed the recruiters' call and become the fourth generation in their family to serve in the armed forces. "He was an obviously very bright kid, but a slacker who was never into school," Plummer says. "I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to learn a lot." Plummer co-signed, since Drew was under age, and just weeks before the terrorist attacks of September 11, Drew joined the Navy. (Drew has since been "discharged other than honorably," after publicly protesting the US involvement in Iraq, being disciplined for disloyalty as a result and eventually going AWOL.) Lou Plummer has become an outspoken antiwar activist, and he bristles when he continues to get calls from recruiters for his 18-year-old daughter. His advice to similarly harassed parents? "Tell recruiters your child is gay or lesbian," Plummer says. "I've heard that works pretty well."

Meanwhile, confusion swirls around the rules for recruiters. Though parents can sign an "opt out" form that prevents schools from giving out information about their kids to recruiters, and students can decline to take the ASVAB, few families know their rights. According to Arlene Inouye, a speech and language specialist in the Los Angeles Unified School District and a co-founder of Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools, it's not unusual for students to be strong-armed into taking the test. "It's a voluntary test, but students don't know that," she says, describing a situation in which students at Fremont High in South Central Los Angeles didn't realize it was a military test until they walked into the room and saw the uniformed proctors. Nine students refused and were suspended. Later, under pressure, administrators reconsidered and reinstated the students. "A lot of people here are concerned about the issue," Inouye says, "but don't know what to do about it."

Even those inside the military are worried about such tactics, with critics suggesting that in the Army's rush to fill its ranks, it is recruiting those who are ill qualified to serve. (And weeding out poor-performing recruits just got a whole lot harder; in the spring, Army brass moved the decision for discharge up the chain of command - a transparent effort to stop the costly hemorrhaging of marginal recruits.) The Army insists, however, that this is not the case. "No, we haven't lowered the enlistment standards in any way," says Army spokesperson Douglas Smith. According to Army figures for 1999, 90 percent of active-duty recruits were high school grads and 63 percent scored in the top half of the ASVAB; thus far in 2005, 90 percent are still high school grads and 71 percent scored in the top half of the ASVAB.

Playgrounds and Parade Grounds

Today Chicago is the military's rising star. Cementing its reputation as the public school system with the largest military program, it grew last year to include 10,000 teen "cadets" in its elementary, middle and high schools. Chicago has joined Florida and Texas in offering military-run after-school programs to sixth, seventh and eighth graders; the city's youngsters drill with wooden rifles and chant time-honored marching cadences ("I used to date a high school queen/Now I lug an M-16," etc.).

But in Chicago, as in other cities and towns across the country, a coalition of indignant parents, concerned teachers and savvy activists has formed in order to draw attention to the issue. "The local school council was asleep at the switch when the military after-school program was proposed at Goethe Elementary School," says current Goethe school council member Jim Rhodes, who successfully spearheaded a drive to eliminate the program this year. "It didn't raise any red flags until one of the teachers wrote an impassioned letter about how they were marching with wooden guns and showing how attractive and fun the military could be, to influence these kids to go into JROTC when they got to high school, and then hopefully enlist after that." Even beyond its efforts to seduce kids into the military, Rhodes worried about its educational value. "It was sold to the parents in a presentation as a citizen and leadership program," he said. "But it ended up just being about obedience."

Undaunted by opposition to the military's presence in the schools, Chicago, which already has two military academies and a separate naval academy for high school students, intends to add a second naval academy in September. The new, 600-student Senn High Naval Academy will be jointly run by the Navy and the city. In such schools students are typically uniformed, and military bearing and discipline are required. Designed to promote discipline, citizenship and values among troubled students, they are seen as a solution to a problem for school districts and a pool of potential recruits for the armed services.

JROTC spokesperson Paul Kotakis is quick to clarify that the initiative to create such academies does not come from the military. "In some instances, some academic institutions have decided that JROTC is so worthwhile that they have made it mandatory," he explains. "So when all the students attending the school are required to attend JROTC, the 'academies' are created - and that is a decision made by the individual school, not the Army."

But while school administrators, school boards and politicians may be drawn to the discipline of the JROTC academies, some parents make it a hard sell. When parents in Chicago got wind last year of school board plans to open Senn, they mounted a campaign to stop it. Troubled by press reports indicating that 18 percent of students in Chicago's three military academies join the armed services upon graduation, hundreds of parents and high school students crammed into a school board meeting to protest. But the school board held firm. The members had the support of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. "I don't know why people are so upset about this idea of discipline and this idea of military service," Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times in December. "I believe in military academies all over this city."

Recruiting Parents - The New Headache

Meanwhile, whether the Army solicits 17-year-old recruits, who require their parents' signature before enlisting, or those who've reached the age of majority, parents - or "adult influencers," in Army parlance - are proving a serious obstacle to recruiting goals. According to a November 2004 Defense Department poll, only 25 percent of parents said they'd encourage their teens to enlist, compared with 42 percent two years ago.

"For the first time, our recruiters are having to really work not only with the applicant but with their family members to explain why enlisting is important not only for the applicant but for the country," says Army Recruiting Command spokesperson Douglas Smith. When pressed by parents about the issue of safety, Smith says, recruiters are forthright. "What they can say is, the young man or woman enlisting is going to receive very good basic and advanced training from the Army. And that Army basic training is designed to prepare every soldier with basic combat skills so they are trained to protect themselves and their fellow soldiers if they're called upon." Recruiters reassure parents that even though the nation is at war, the Army hasn't shortened training or taken any shortcuts with gear or weaponry. "But it's an emotional issue," Smith acknowledges. "And we can't give any guarantees of safety. And we can't say anything to lead someone to think there is such a thing as a truly safe occupation in the Army." In the end, a plea to patriotism seems best. "Ultimately, there is no answer to parents but 'service to country,'" says Smith.

Thus the Army Recruiting Command both tiptoes around the issue of a dangerous war in Iraq and simultaneously insists that American parents need to face the facts and to ante up their children. "What I think we've got to do is articulate to the nation that we're at war, and this is a global struggle, this is a generational struggle," Defense Department spokesperson Col. Gary Keck told the Army Times in June. "It's not going to be over in two years. It's going to be with us for many years."

Of course, this message is the opposite of the one the Bush Administration has been sending. Until his June speech at Fort Bragg - in which for the first time he pleaded for recruits by reminding "those watching tonight who are considering a military career [that] there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces" - Bush spent a lot of time downplaying the sacrifices this war would exact from Americans.

The conflict between the military, which would like Bush to turn up the volume by regularly reminding Americans that we are at war and that war requires sacrifice, and the Administration, which is concerned with the political need to minimize the war's costs, is reflected in the recent linguistic debate over whether to continuing calling the current state of affairs a "war on terror" (President Bush) or to shift to broader, less militaristic terms like the "global struggle against violent extremism" (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld). Though the latter was clunky, it reflected Rumsfeld's response to the Iraq War's decreasing popularity: to recast it as one aspect of an international "struggle" against not just Al Qaeda but all "Islamic extremists." The use of the term "struggle" has the bonus of sounding less violent and more inclusive of nonmilitary tactics. But just as Rumsfeld hopes to fudge things - we're not "at war" per se, just "struggling" - a casualty rate of 18,745 dead and wounded makes it harder to bury the cost of this "struggle."

Historically, what has made Americans willing to sacrifice their lives - or let their children do so - has been the certainty that military action is both unavoidable and necessary to achieve some greater good. Bush tried to make this point in his Fort Bragg speech. "We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves," he said. But the current "struggle" in Iraq is a hard sell; and the current struggle to meet recruiting goals reflects that.

Worm Writers Busted

Windows users can relax... until next time, that is.

Think Different!

Two Detained for US Computer Worm
Two men, one in Morocco and one in Turkey, have been arrested over the unleashing of a computer worm that affected US firms earlier this month.

Moroccan authorities detained Farid Essebar, 18, while Atilla Ekici, 21, was arrested by Turkish authorities on Thursday, the FBI said.

They are believed to be responsible for the Zotob worm that targeted computers using Microsoft Corp operating systems.

More than 100 firms were affected including CNN and The New York Times.

FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Louis Reigel said there had been close teamwork between the FBI, Microsoft Corp and the Moroccan and Turkish authorities.

"This case happened very quickly," he told Reuters news agency. "Had we not had those entities involved in this investigation, I suspect it would still be ongoing today."

He said the two men would face prosecution in their native countries with FBI officials providing evidence.

Investigating team

The Zotob worm emerged just a week after Microsoft Corp warned of a security flaw in the Plug and Play feature of Windows 2000.

It caused computer outages at several large US news organisations as well as to heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc and aircraft-maker Boeing.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said many consumers had kept their software up-to-date so the impact of the worm was limited.

The computer giant's team of 50 investigators had analysed the Zotob worm and its variants to discover where it was coming from, he said.

The software industry was working hard to improve computer security and had made significant gains in a short time, he said.

"The fact that we were able to see these arrests in less than two weeks and see them halfway around the world really drives that point home," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/26 23:57:52 GMT


24 August 2005

Pat Robertson: Jihadist

If so called extremist Islamic mullahs and clerics risk deportation or detention in Camp X-Ray for preaching jihadist retoric, the SAME should hold true for so called Christians who do the same. Hate is hate. A turd is still a turd, even if it wears a suit and hosts the 700 Club...

Viva Chavez! All Power to the People!


Chavez Assassination Row Erupts
A row has erupted over a call by US religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for the US to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Visiting Cuba, Mr Chavez would not be drawn but his deputy said Mr Robertson had made "terrorist" remarks and the country was studying its legal options.

The US State Department said the comments were "inappropriate" and did not reflect the policy of the US.

Mr Robertson's remarks come amid tense relations between the two countries.

President Chavez is a regular critic of the US, which regards Venezuela as a possible source of instability in the region.

Mr Chavez has accused Washington of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. US officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

'Criminal statement'

Mr Robertson, 75, said on Monday's edition of the 700 Club: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

"We don't need another $200bn war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.

"It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

When asked in Havana what he made of the call, the Venezuelan president said: "I haven't read anything. We haven't heard anything about him.

"I don't even know who that person is."

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said this was a "criminal statement" and the way Washington responded to the remarks would put its anti-terrorism policy to the test.

"It's huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country there are entirely terrorist statements like those."

The vice-president also said the Organization of American States could take up the case, saying an inter-American anti-terrorism accord includes provisions against inciting others to kill.

State department spokesman San McCormack said Mr Robertson was speaking as a private citizen and that the US administration did not share his views.

"Any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless," Mr McCormack said.

"We have been very clear that this is not the policy of the United States."

Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/23 21:51:58 GMT


The Law of the Jungle...

No racial profiling here! However, dietary prefrences are a completely different matter...


Lions to Take on Indian Bandits

Lions to take on Indian bandits
By Sutapa Mukerjee
BBC News, Lucknow

Lions may soon be unleashed in the badlands of central India to restore law and order.

The government in Uttar Pradesh state has decided to set up a 371-acre lion safari park with five cats in the Chambal ravines to scare away its fabled sharp-shooting bandits.

There have been about 4,000 kidnappings and 180 murders in the bandit-infested area in the past five years.

Now the police feels setting up a lion park in the area is the only way to keep the bandits away.

It is the most absurd plan we have ever come across because the lions will be used for target practice by Chambal's not-so-nice residents
Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India

"Not that the lions will be chasing the bandits, but the area will soon have a lot of movement by tourists and officials and will be lit up brightly. This will force the dacoits to flee to safer hideouts," says a senior police official Daljit Singh Chaudhary.

Uttar Pradesh's chief wildlife official Mohammed Hasan says they have already contacted Indian zoological parks for the first five Asiatic lions between four and five years of age to launch the park.

'Target practice'

The park will be fenced and the lions will be fed with 10 to 14 kg of buffalo meat once a day.

"Though there is good forest cover in the area, there are no animals which the lions can hunt for food,", says Mr Hasan.

Environmentalists say the scheme may backfire badly with the lions themselves becoming targets of the bandits.

"It is the most absurd, the most ridiculous plan we have ever come across because the lions will be used for target practice by Chambal's not-so-nice residents," Belinda Wright, founder of the privately-run Wildlife Protection Society of India told the AFP news agency.

"It will be a waste of money... It will never take off," she said.

"Forget chasing away dacoits. The dacoits will kill these cats," says Qamar Qureshi, a scientist with The Wildlife Institute of India.

Rough terrain

The police dismiss such concerns.

A previous attempt to establish such a sanctuary in Chandraprabha in eastern Uttar Pradesh initially appeared to succeed.

The lion population grew from three to 11 animals, but then the cats disappeared, presumably shot or poisoned by poachers.

The police say it is difficult to nab the bandits in a valley with unfriendly terrain.

"The landscape is so uneven and bushy that sometimes we find it difficult to even trace our own men," says Mr Chaudary.

At present there are two main gangs operating in the area after a number of them have surrendered or been killed.

The Chambal ravines have been a haven for bandits for centuries.

One of India's most famous outlaws - Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi - dominated the area in the 1980s before being jailed.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/24 12:25:39 GMT


Quest for Shoes...?

I don't think these early people were related to my wife, or her family, they all HATE wearing shoes and avoid doing so whenever possible ;-)


Bones Reveal First Shoe-Wearers
By Olivia Johnson
BBC News

Sturdy shoes first came into widespread use between 40,000 and 26,000 years ago, according to a US scientist.

Humans' small toes became weaker during this time, says physical anthropologist Erik Trinkaus, who has studied scores of early human foot bones.

He attributes this anatomical change to the invention of rugged shoes, that reduced our need for strong, flexible toes to grip and balance.

The research is presented in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The development of footwear appears to have affected the four so-called "lesser" toes - excepting the big toe.

Ancient footwear

While early humans living in cold northern climates may have begun covering up their feet to insulate them as early as 500,000 years ago, protective footwear comparable to modern-day shoes is thought to be a much later innovation.

It has been difficult for archaeologists to determine exactly when humans stopped going barefoot, however, because the plant and animal materials used to make prehistoric shoes is highly perishable.

"The oldest shoes in the world are about 9,000 years old, and they're from California," said Professor Trinkaus, of Washington University in St Louis, US.

But by examining the foot bones of early modern human ( Homo sapiens ) and Neaderthal ( Homo neanderthalensis ) dating from 10,000 to 100,000 years ago, Professer Trinkaus says he has determined the period in which footwear became the norm.

Anatomical evidence

He found Neanderthals and early moderns living in Middle Palaeolithic times (100,000 to 40,000 years ago) had thicker, and therefore stronger, lesser toes than those of Upper Palaeolithic people living 26,000 years ago.

A shoe-less lifestyle promotes stronger little toes, says Professor Trinkaus, because "when you walk barefoot, you grip the ground with your toes as a natural reflex". Because hard-soled shoes improve both grip and balance, regularly shod people develop weaker little toes.

To test the theory that the more delicate toes resulted from shoe use, the Washington University researcher compared the foot bones of early Native Americans, who regularly went barefoot, and contemporary Alaskan Inuits, who sported heavy sealskin boots.

Again, he identified chunkier toes in the population that routinely went without shoes. The research suggests shoe-wearers developed weaker toes simply because of the reduced stresses on them during their lifetime; it was not an evolutionary change.

The comparison proves his hypothesis, he says: "It has been suggested in the past that thicker toes and fingers are related to greater blood supply in colder climates, but it just doesn't hold up."

Cultural "explosion"

The advent of footwear occurred during a period Professor Trinkaus describes as "a well-documented archaeological explosion" which also produced a number of other notable human advances.

Paul Mellars, professor of prehistory and human evolution at the University of Cambridge, agrees there were "dramatic changes" in human behaviour at this time. "From 35,000 years ago onward, you see the first art, the first stone tools, and the first personal decorations and jewellery."

More advanced shoe-making skills could have been a product of this overall increase in technological ingenuity.

"There is a strong hint that people were doing more complicated things with ...skins, with special stone tools for cleaning and awls for piercing. In view of all these changes, it wouldn't be at all surprising if we saw better shoes," Professor Mellars explained.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/24 10:11:23 GMT


"It's OK To Be Ghetto...?"

Actually, I think it's probably more Rez' than Ghetto...

I really think that FedEx should remove that shipping tube that's gotten wedged up their arse and lighten up! After all, they are a bloody shipping company, what more compelling endorsement of the strength and durabilty of their packing materials could possible ask for? Dude, it don't get any better than this!



23 August 2005

Pat Robertson: "Kill President Hugo Chavez..."

Okay Pat, place the hookah down on the deck and back slowly away from it!

Dictator? The last time I checked, Hugo Chavez was lawfully elected into office...twice! Which is, by my count, two more times than Curious George Bu$h.

By the way, isn't threatening to murder a head of state basically a provocation of war?


U.S. Preacher Pat Robertson Calls Upon the USA to Kill President Hugo Chavez - PRAVDA.Ru

U.S. preacher Pat Robertson calls upon the USA to kill President Hugo Chavez
08/23/2005 12:16

Cuba and Venezuela to unit Latin American states to confront the growing imperial aggression of the USA

While the USA exports freedom in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), its neighbors create the center of active resistance near US coasts. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the key irritant in the Western hemisphere, arrived in Cuba to meet the unsinkable Fidel Castro. The two leaders appeared together on the air of the Cuban television and declared the American imperialism the prime danger to the whole world. It became their response to the US Defense Secretary, who previously stated that the Cuban and the Venezuelan regimes jeopardized the stability in the Western hemisphere.

Another stage of the conflict between the USA on the one hand and Cuba and Venezuela on the other hand started last week, when Donald Rumsfeld visited Paraguay and Peru. The head of the Pentagon affirmed that Cuba and Venezuela were going to spread revolutionary sentiments in Latin America, pushing South American states towards a wrong direction in their development. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere, Roger Pardo-Maurer, specified Rumsfeld's remarks and said that Chavez and Castro were working on a revolution in Bolivia. Supposedly, the revolution is to sweep across the entire region, and Marxists are to come to power as a result of it.

Spokespeople for the Venezuelan government originally explained the activity of US officials with Washington's suggestion to establish a free trade zone in Central America, CAFTA. Hugo Chavez characterized the initiative as the continuation of the imperialistic and neocolonial policy of the States. CAFTA's fate is supposed to be determined this week when six largest Latin American states vote for it. It is noteworthy that Chavez's current visit to Cuba has become the fifth during the recent nine months.

In Havana, Chavez enjoyed a huge diplomatic victory, which would let the Venezuelan president obtain stronger reputation of a leading politician in Latin America. Fidel Castro and the President of Panama, Martin Torrijos, signed a decree about the resumption of diplomatic relations, which Panama ceased over 40 years ago on account of the USA's pressure. The news report about it was followed with a televised show of Castro and Chavez, in which the latter exercised remarkable oratorical abilities.

In his speech Chavez described his attitude to Fidel Castro and Cuba: "People have asked me how I can support Fidel if he's a dictator," Castro said. "But Cuba doesn't have a dictatorship - it's a revolutionary democracy." After that the Venezuelan leader cracked down on the USA: "The grand destroyer of the world, and the greatest threat ... is represented by U.S. imperialism," Chavez said. "If the world continues on the road being imposed by imperialism, the world will head straight for destruction." Castro and Chavez were receiving phone calls from other states during the TV and radio broadcast of their speech. The President of Nicaragua and the leader of local revolution, Daniel Ortega, was one of the people, who called the two leaders. Ortega emotionally praised Castro and Chavez for their policies.

It is noteworthy that Hugo Chavez backed his statements with quite concrete actions. The president of Venezuela threatened to cease deliveries of oil to the USA and tried to smooth out the aggressive tune of his previous statements. Chavez said that he did not want to break relations with the US administration. However, the president added, the growing aggression of US authorities may endanger relations between the two states. "Two tankers filled with Venezuelan oil, which arrive in the USA every day, may travel in a different direction," said he.

On June 30, members of the Energy summit of governments and states of the Caribbean region, save Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados, supported Venezuela's suggestion to set up the US-independent oil company, Petrocaribe, with the participation of Latin American state capitals. According to Chavez, it would give an opportunity to set fair oil prices, which would be different from the current level of world prices, which burden the economies of underdeveloped countries.

The USA, which definitely tries to guarantee deliveries of cheap oil from the Caribbean region, is prepared to discredit Hugo Chavez at all costs. The US administration feels that a new leader has appeared to replace the aging Fidel Castro. In addition, the new leader heads the state, from which the USA acquires 13 percent of its overall oil consumption. However, other states of the region do not welcome the wish of the US administration. Lula da Silva, the President of Brazil, ascertained during the talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Chavez could count on Brazil in their solidarity. Fidel Castro, who obviously paid attention to the growing authority and popularity of the Venezuelan president, said on May 1 that Cuba was invulnerable from the military point of view. Castro said that Cuba would be able to withstand the possible US aggression and cause huge damage to the aggressor, which could only be comparable to the war in Vietnam.

Venezuela's significance pales in comparison with the leading states of Latin America, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina - their economic potential and up-to-date industrial development. If Chavez and Castro do not go too far with their bellicose public speeches, the USA will have to face a union of Latin states, which would not be willing dance to the USA's tune.

In the meantime, an American religious preacher, the founder of the Christian Coalition organization, a former presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, has called upon the United States to assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Robertson called Chaves "a terrific danger" for the USA. "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," AP quoted Robertson as saying. Robertson told viewers of his "The 700 Club" show that the USA should take efforts not to let Hugo Chavez turn Venezuela into a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.I don't think any oil shipments will stop," said Robertson.

Vadim Trukhachev

But, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others...

Some Stories Count More Than Others


How do you believe the world was created? Well, I love these stories, the creation stories, and I have heard many told. The world was created with the help of a turtle, a coyote or a raven. People were formed from dust, crawled out from under the earth or dropped from the heavens above. The world was formed in an instant, seven days or millions of years.

The explanations of who we are and how we came to be vary from clan to clan, from language to language, from people to people.

President Bush last week told reporters from Texas that the notion of "intelligent design" should be taught side by side with the theory of evolution. Education, he said, is all about exposing people to ideas. But Bush's side-by-side comparison divides the world into only two camps. There's science and the Judeo-Christian tradition incorporated into what they're calling "intelligent design."

It's too simple to claim this division is only about science versus religion because there are too many variations. Is it all science, even all evolution theory, that's in question? Or just parts? And, at the other end of the spectrum, is it all religion? Or just the creation stories from the literal truth of the Bible? To be blunt: Do we as a country value only Christian stories?

There are practical applications to these questions. Congress enacted the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990. This law gave specific rights to lineal descendants, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians to human remains, sacred objects buried next to those remains and other culturally significant material. The reason for the law was gruesome science: Army doctors collected Indian "specimens" shortly after battles and the bodies were sent to museums for study. We even had a president -- Thomas Jefferson -- who participated in grave robbing. All told, the federal government, museums and other educational institutions had amassed between 100,000 and 200,000 American Indian remains for study.

The 1990 law was the country concluding that its past behavior was immoral.

"In the past 15 years, museums and federal agencies have announced their willingness to repatriate the remains of 31,093 individuals," Paul Hoffman, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Department, said at a Senate hearing last week. "Another 111,000 human remains were listed as 'culturally unidentifiable.' "

That brings us to the skeletal remains found near Kennewick. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there must be a "significant relationship" to an existing tribe and the relationship must go "beyond features common to all humanity."

That ruling led Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to sponsor legislation that would clarify in law the assumption that the human remains were ancient tribal people (unless it was proven not to be the case).

"If you pass the proposed amendment, you will forever block the study of ancient people who have no relationship to living Amerindians," according to testimony of Paula Barran and Alan Schneider of the Portland-based, "Friends of America's Past."

"Please do not steal the past. It belongs to the scholars of today and the scholars of tomorrow, and to all people everywhere," Barran and Schneider said.

That's it. This is the essence, the legend that scholars own the past. It belongs to them.

This time the Bush administration sided with the scientists -- tribal creation stories aren't equal with the ones from the Bible.

But in a funny way: The science-versus-religion argument takes on a new dimension in this particular case because science has its own theology, a fundamental, literal interpretation of the world. The scientists and lawyers who argue for complete control over ancient human remains assume that tribal people have nothing to add to scientific discourse.

Remember the 111,000 "unidentifiable" human remains?

Those unknown American Indian dead likely could be identified if museums, scientists and tribes would work together, said Walter Echo-Hawk of the Native American Rights Fund. "However, that opportunity may never arise if those dead are excluded from consultation ... " because the law does not directly apply to them.

Without McCain's proposed amendment, museums would be free to make "unilateral determinations" about a culturally unidentifiable human remain.

It's important to remember that the record of science is awful. I remember interviewing a Northern Cheyenne historian some years ago who told me about walking into a museum warehouse looking for a sacred object from his clan. He described what it was like when he realized that he was surrounded by thousands of boxes of human remains, people buried in a government warehouse. His relatives were there, too.

The repatriation of ancestoral remains is not about science versus religion to me. It's about respect for living people who have the right to determine that their relations are treated with human dignity. But respect remains an illusion when even now the government and museums warehouse tens of thousands of human remains.

How do you believe the world was created? Your answer might not matter, because in America some stories count more than others.

Mark Trahant is editor of the editorial page. E-mail: marktrahant@seattlepi.com.

It's Not Over Yet...

It's interesting, how Israel ignored and defied multiple U.N. directives against their occupation, annexation and settlement of Gaza and the West Bank for decades, and yet we never sought to raise an army and use force to bring about their compliance?

No, we chose to write them checks instead...


AlterNet: Personal Voices: The Occupation is Not Over
By Laila El-Haddad, AlterNet
Posted on August 23, 2005, Printed on August 23, 2005

In the breezy, far northwestern corner of the Gaza Strip, where the Mediterranean collides with golden sands and an in-sea barrier marking the border with Israel, there is a small Palestinian village.

Al-Siyafa, according to the residents of this area, was once a paradise with lush strawberry patches as far as the eye could see, guava and avocado trees that were the envy of every farmer, and citrus orchards that masked the salty coast humidity.

Now, it is a scorched, barren landscape that accommodates little more than the occasional wildflower.

For days, we have been bombarded with images of weeping settlers on our television stations. How hard it must be, we are told, for these settlers to give up the only homes many of them have ever known. How cruel and inhumane that they are being "forcefully evicted," children clutching dolls and mothers sobbing by their side.

But we do not hear of the village of al-Siyafa, sandwiched between the settlements of Dugit and Eli Sinai, their red-roofed, sea-front villas visible in the distance, safely set apart from their neighboring Palestinian village with barbed wire and acres of cleared earth.

It is for their sake, for their safety and pleasure, that this once flourishing land was cleared of its trees, and the Palestinians of their livelihoods.

In their name, millions of Palestinians' lives have been crippled, roads torn apart and sealed off, homes destroyed and Palestinians made homeless, hundreds of innocent lives lost, and acres of fertile farmland razed and annexed.

We do not hear of Um Ahmed al-Ghul, who lost her only son to the sniper tower that once overlooked this village, as he was picking mint leaves from their small garden.

Al-Siyafa has been turned into an open-air prison in recent years, sealed off from the rest of Gaza with barbed-wire fences, an Israeli sniper tower, tanks, and a complicated and arbitary permit-entry system for residents, all in the name of security for the settlements.

Residents have no access to health care inside their fenced-in village, no electricity, and no schools. In order to reach these facilities, they must pass through an Israel-imposed checkpoint, which opens at particular hours of the day, and often not at all.

But soon, the settlers will be gone. The red-roofs, the sniper towers, and the fences will gradually disappear. Gaza, we are told, will finally have the opportunity to thrive and prosper as an independent and free territory.

Or will it?

Just because the visible markers of occupation will be gone, it does not mean the occupation itself will end. Instead of controlling our lives from within, Israel will control our lives from without in a convenient, secure manner.

That is, after all, what disengagement was about: tactical maneuvering; isolating the Gaza Strip that Rabin hoped to wake up one morning and find swallowed by the sea; rendering a contiguous Palestinian state impossible and stopping a negotiated peace dead in its tracks.

In a few weeks, the Israeli army will simply be redeploying to outside of the Gaza border, taking control of Gaza's Palestinians like a prison warden in charge of his inmates.

Israel will also maintain its troop presence along the Philedelphi corridor in Rafah, where some 20,000 Palestinian lost their homes in a systemic policy of demolition to make way for this border buffer zone. Where young children, like Iman al-Hims and Noran Deeb, lost their lives to an indiscriminate Israeli sniper.

Even the latest round of talks on the status of the Rafah crossing -- Gaza's only route to the outside world -- have been inconclusive.

Likewise, Palestinians will be unable to move freely to and from the West Bank. And without such a territorial link, a viable Palestinian economy, or state, is impossible.

Gazans' freedom of movement will continue, then, to be ultimately and arbitrarily controlled by the Israeli government.

But the story does not end there.

Two years ago, I wrote a long piece about al-Siyafa. In it were stern warnings from human rights experts that the neglected village was a model for what was to come in the West Bank. Al-Siyafa, and the Gaza Strip in it entirety for that matter, was a testing ground for Israel -- rather than getting your hands dirty, isolate Palestinian villages in the name of "security."

Now, weeks away from the end of disengagement, and two months away from the completion of the wall in the West Bank, we are closer to that reality than ever before.

The Wall, whose route was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice last July, is annexing some 52% of Palestinian land, much of it slated for settlement expansion for the 420, 000-some Israeli settlers who continue to reside there illegally.

Once completed, experts warn that unemployment and poverty will surge in the West Bank, just as it did in Gaza.

The barrier will also complete the isolation of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital, from 3.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, like those in al-Siyafa, will be forced to endure the uncertainty of checkpoints on a daily basis to attend school or work or receive medical care.

Last week, I was interviewed by several radio stations on my thoughts on the withdrawal. Over and over I was asked, as a Palestinian mother and journalist, was I hopeful about what was to come? The optimist -- and mother in me -- prompted me to say, "One must always be hopeful even in the face of fences and walls."

But I fear the reality may be otherwise.

My parents grew up with Israeli foot soldiers patrolling their streets and neighborhoods, barging into their homes, detaining and beating young boys arbitrarily in the middle of the night; but they could travel freely to the West Bank, Jerusalem, and even Israel.

I grew up with soldiers cocooned in tanks and Apache helicopters that wreaked havoc upon refugee camps and residential neighborhoods; in armored bulldozers that turned my grandfather's farm into a wasteland; in sniper towers bellowing orders through loudspeakers, controlling my every move in and out of Gaza.

I do not want my son growing up in another phase of this occupation; I do not want him to have to describe how his life and his childhood was hijacked by an occupier he could not see.

Rather, I want him to grow up with the freedom to move; with freedom from fear; and ultimately, with the freedom to live.

Laila El-Haddad is a Palestinian journalist whose work has appeared on AlJareeza.net and the Washington Post.