31 December 2005

Curious George Gets His Report Card...

I love this Op-Ed! However, the fact is that not a whole lot about the Bu$h Administration and their idea of SOP has changed much in the last 12 months. He was shifty lying shit-bag on 31.December 2004 and he's still one now. What's different now is that a signficant number of American citizens, as well as the American media, have begun to wake up and smell the decomp. And what righteous stench it is!

Once again, I hate to say it folks, but I told you so...


Heck of a Job, Bushie

December 30, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist


A year ago, everyone expected President Bush to get his way on Social
Security. Pundits warned Democrats that they were making a big political
mistake by opposing plans to divert payroll taxes into private accounts.

A year ago, everyone thought Congress would make Mr. Bush's tax cuts
permanent, in spite of projections showing that doing so would lead to
budget deficits as far as the eye can see. But Congress hasn't acted, and
most of the cuts are still scheduled to expire by the end of 2010.
A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they believed
that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But Mr. Bush was
apparently oblivious to the first major domestic emergency since 9/11.
According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush finally decided, days after
Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had to show him a DVD of TV newscasts
to get him to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
A year ago, before "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" became a
national punch line, the rising tide of cronyism in government agencies and
the rapid replacement of competent professionals with unqualified political
appointees attracted hardly any national attention.
A year ago, hardly anyone outside Washington had heard of Jack Abramoff,
and Tom DeLay's position as House majority leader seemed unassailable.
A year ago, Dick Cheney, who repeatedly cited discredited evidence linking
Saddam to 9/11, and promised that invading Americans would be welcomed as
liberators - although he hadn't yet declared that the Iraq insurgency was
in its "last throes" - was widely admired for his "gravitas."
A year ago, Howard Dean - who was among the very few prominent figures to
question Colin Powell's prewar presentation to the United Nations, and who
warned, while hawks were still celebrating the fall of Baghdad, that the
occupation of Iraq would be much more difficult than the initial invasion -
was considered flaky and unsound.
A year ago, it was clear that before the Iraq war, the administration
suppressed information suggesting that Iraq was not, in fact, trying to
build nuclear weapons. Yet few people in Washington or in the news media
were willing to say that the nation was deliberately misled into war until
polls showed that most Americans already believed it.
A year ago, the Washington establishment treated Ayad Allawi as if he were
Nelson Mandela. Mr. Allawi's triumphant tour of Washington, back in
September 2004, provided a crucial boost to the Bush-Cheney campaign. So
did his claim that the insurgents were "desperate." But Mr. Allawi turned
out to be another Ahmad Chalabi, a hero of Washington conference rooms and
cocktail parties who had few supporters where it mattered, in Iraq.
A year ago, when everyone respectable agreed that we must "stay the
course," only a handful of war critics suggested that the U.S. presence in
Iraq might be making the violence worse, not better. It would have been
hard to imagine the top U.S. commander in Iraq saying, as Gen. George Casey
recently did, that a smaller foreign force is better "because it doesn't
feed the notion of occupation."
A year ago, Mr. Bush hadn't yet openly reneged on Scott McClellan's 2003
pledge that "if anyone in this administration was involved" in the leaking
of Valerie Plame's identity, that person "would no longer be in this
administration." Of course, some suspect that Mr. Bush has always known who
was involved.
A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being
deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act
that "a wiretap requires a court order. ...When we're talking about chasing
down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.
It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think
Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing
what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the
A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.
A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and
pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president
isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes
to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.


Timekeeping Controversy...?

Count on the current U.S. Government to make an embarassing mess out of the most simple things. Bu$h and the Neo-Con$ probably hate the Leap Second-System because the Paris Observatory (as in France) is in charge of it...


Timekeeping Proposal Sparks Row
By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter

A proposal to scrap leap seconds - small adjustments made to clock time - could create chaos for astronomers and satellite operators, it is claimed.

Every six months, the Paris Observatory tells the world whether to add or subtract a second from atomic clocks.

This synchronises clock time with the solar time used by astronomers.

The US plan to abolish leap seconds would force astronomers to look for new ways to make sure their telescopes are pointed in the right part of the sky.

The row highlights the tug of war between two distinct forms of timekeeping: absolute timekeeping, based on atomic frequencies; and everyday timekeeping, based on the rotation of the Earth (solar time).

The latter has a tendency to drift. For this reason, the standard for everyday timekeeping, known as Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, must be adjusted every so often.

This takes the form of individual seconds being added or subtracted from the length of a day, either a 30 June or a 31 December.

In this way, clock time is kept in step with solar time, which is used to precisely point telescopes and to find satellites.

Problem Export

In a statement, the UK's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) said it "strongly recommends" that the proposal be shelved.

"The present proposal seeks to solve [one] problem by exporting problems to those who use clock time as a measure of mean solar time," it said.

"These include astronomers, satellite operators and potentially all who study environmental phenomena related to the rising and setting of the Sun."

If UTC lost its relationship with the Earth's rotation, the error could increase to several seconds within a few years. It would also very quickly make software and possibly hardware used by astronomers obsolete.

Though this would probably require an expensive one-off change, the astronomers would no longer be able to rely on UTC and would most likely have to use a novel server or program to correct for the changes in Earth's rotation.

Drifting Apart

"The Earth isn't a very good timekeeper, it tends to slow down over the centuries due to tidal friction," Peter Whibberley, of the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL), told the BBC News website.

"When you compare UTC and the Earth's rotation, the two slowly drift apart."

But the RAS points out that the idea of clock time following solar time is also deeply embedded in contemporary technical culture. Researchers estimate that the difference between UTC and Earth time could increase to about an hour within several hundred years.

The US representation to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is proposing to abolish leap seconds from December 2007. The plan will be discussed by the ITU at a meeting in Geneva in November 2005.

"This debate should seek a fair solution that serves both needs for time-keeping," said Mike Hapgood, secretary of the RAS.

Dr Hapgood and the RAS believe the debate on leap seconds has, until now, been a closed shop and that a broader public debate is needed.

"There are a lot of skilled people already involved in the debate; we need them to work together to improve current time-keeping for everyone's benefit and not just for one group," he said.

Software Issues

The RAS secretary says he believes that software issues with the US global positioning system (GPS) sat-nav network are driving the proposal.

"GPS is not just about satellite positioning, it's also about providing a time signal. My understanding is that some of the software systems used for GPS find it hard to cope with leap seconds. But it is very much specific to the vendor," he told the BBC News website.

Mr Whibberley said he thought more general software considerations were behind the proposal. "A lot of [software] systems need leap seconds to be programmed in manually," he explained.

"It's a problem for telecommunications network operators - who have a large number of atomic clocks dotted around in their network - and for the military," Mr Whibberley added.

There have been 21 leap seconds since 1972 (all additions) and the next is planned at the end of 2005. Notification of one usually comes about six months in advance of it being added.

The UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is co-ordinating its own response to the American proposal.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/27 21:31:20 GMT


2006 Will Commence Aftrer This Brief Delay...

A very interesting 'problem' with an even more interesting 'solution'.


New Year 'Delayed' By Leap Second
Scientists are delaying the start of the New Year by adding the first "leap second" in seven years.

The Paris Observatory said an extra second would be added to clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight on 31 December.

Leap seconds are required every so often to keep our clocks in sync with solar time used by astronomers.

"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," said the researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Tidal friction

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based at the Paris Observatory, tells the world every six months whether to add or subtract a second from atomic clocks, the standard for everyday timekeeping.

A leap second is added to Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep it in step with solar time - based on the Earth's rotation on itself - to within a second.

Tidal friction causes the Earth's rotation to slow down, which means that solar time tends to drift out of sync with atomic clocks.

If this disparity was not corrected, the "error" could increase to several seconds within a few decades; and, claim astronomers, eventually make some of their software and possibly hardware obsolete.

There have been 22 leap seconds added - and no subtractions - since the first one on 30 June, 1972.

The new leap second will be inserted at the end of the final minute of 2005, giving the familiar "six pip" BBC radio time signal an extra pip before the long pip marking the hour.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/27 12:38:43 GMT


Wounded Knee's Medals of (dis)Honor...

Wounded Knee and the Medals of (dis)Honor

Indian Massacre Of Wounded Knee
South Dakota 1890
"Then And Now"


It was the 29th day of The Moon of Popping Trees (December) in 1890. Peace was sleeping within the warm winter wind under the murderous eyes of Gatling and Hotchkiss guns, dug into the ridges surrounding the Lakota encampment. Chief Spotted Elk ("Bigfoot" was the name soldiers gave him), flying the flag of truce within his encampment, was dying from pneumonia.

His people were dying from fear of the white soldiers who had come to take revenge for the defeat of their unit, the 7th Cavalry, at Little Bighorn in The Moon When the Chokecherries are Ripe (June) in 1876. All the soldiers needed was the smallest excuse to begin the massacre.

A single shot, according to a reporter on the scene, was fired from the soldiers, and with that, the smallest excuse was manufactured. When the rain of ammunition ceased, over 300 Lakota people lay dead from gunfire, cannon fire, or manual butchering within the encampment and within adjacent ravines up to two miles away.

The dead were Lakota men who had been disarmed before the weapons fire began, women, many with babes in arms or waiting to be born, and children The soldiers walked away from their crime against humanity and left the dead where they lay. That night, the sky cried snow and the warm winter wind of peace was supplanted by the cold winter wind of grief. For four days, the dead laid where they were, frozen into grotesque shapes of lifelessness.

Finally, the soldiers came and loaded the dead like cordwood in wagons, and hauled their loads to hastily dug mass graves, where the dead were thrown in - the bodies of men, women, and children whose spirits walked the encampment and ravines, wailing.

The mass graves were filled and the soldiers left. Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honor [sic] for "bravery" were awarded to the soldiers who participated in that heinous murder for their parts in fighting the allegedly hostile "war parties" attacking them that day.

The spirits of the slain continue their walking and wailing. Red Willow in great profusion, grown from the blood of all those who fell along the banks of the creek that day, still grows thickly along Wounded Knee Creek. Peace never again slept within the winds that blew along Wounded Knee Creek.

The Massacre of Wounded Knee became a symbol for my people, the Lakota Nation, of the lies and deceit of the "Great White Father in Washington" and the U.S. Government.

Their words of encouragement and promises of help and peace were seen for the malevolent intent hidden behind the facade. As more and more land promised to us forever was taken away on the whims of Congress, our place to live became smaller and our pain and confusion grew.

The mass graves at Wounded Knee became a symbol to us to never forget and never to trust again. The voices of our slain relatives can still be heard, crying out from soil, the waters, the air, and we vow time and time again to never forget, to be strong, to help our nation heal and live well again.

Now the U.S. Government wants to take from us 1,800 acres (including "lands, and all mineral rights, water rights, easements, permanent structures, and fixtures on such land") to turn our sacred site, the burial grounds, and "the historic landscape of Wounded Knee" into a national park. The government claims that it wants to do this so that it can "express its commitment to acknowledge and learn from our history, including the Wounded Knee Massacre.

In order to provide a proper foundation for building an ever more humane, enlightened, and just society for the future (quoted from the enabling legislation). " To do so, the U.S. Government wants to remove and relocate any individuals and families living within that 1,800 acres and restore the landscape to the government's vision of 1890 historical conditions. Any buildings and fixtures currently within the 1,800 acres that are not found to coincide with that vision will be destroyed.

The government also wants to build a visitors' center, an amphitheater, roads, and trails, and to relocate the three main roads that intersect at the current Wounded Knee memorial and one mass grave site. These activities are wholly inappropriate for a cemetery and burial site and will disturb the spirits of the people buried there.

The enabling legislation to create the national park was introduced simultaneously to both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on February 9, 1995, by the Congressional Delegation from South Dakota. On February 15, 1995, HR877 was referred to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Lands, where it remains at this time. The Senate bill, S382, was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the House bill, HR877, was referred to the House Committee on Resources, where it remains at this time.

The opinions of the residents of Wounded Knee and the members of the Wounded Knee Landowners Association were not solicited prior to this bill being written or submitted, nor were we invited to or notified of the one Congressional hearing that occurred on this issue.

We stand opposed to the creation of this national park for all of the reasons given here and many others. We are asking you to help us in our fight to save this sacred site from development. Please join your voice with ours in opposing the creation of this national park. Write your representatives and senators. Write the members of the Congressional committee and subcommittee currently reviewing the bills.

It is most effective to generate a large number of brief e-mail postings or postal service letters that simply state little more than the following: "Please vote NO to HR877/S382. Signed, (your name, postal address, telephone number)." Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers.

For more information, please contact Gerald Ice, P.O. Box 199, Wounded Knee, SD, 57794, (605) 867-1591. 

The Medal of Honor, is the highest award of the military, for uncommon valor and bravery in battle with an armed enemy, NOT FOR A MASSACRE of unarmed people who had surrendered and were under a white flag of truce. There can be no healing until these medals are recalled. As long as they are still being honored by the government, there is the shame and disgrace of it, for all of us to bear.

Please look over the web site below and offer your support

30 December 2005

29.December 1890, Wounded Knee...

As always, we remember the brave Sitanka and his band of Lakota men, women and children with Prayer and Smoke...

Mitakuye Oyasin

Spirit Of Wounded Knee Lives On

By: By Mark Anthony Rolo
Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services

The anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee is a sober reminder of our nation's bloody past.

On Dec. 29, 1890, the U.S. government finally laid total claim to all lands west of the Mississippi with a show of horrific firepower against a band of Lakota Indians along the banks of a creek known as Wounded Knee.

The subduing of the Indian resisters at Wounded Knee was like target practice. When a Lakota man refused to give up his arms after a shot was fired, U.S. soldiers began to gun down more than 150 Lakota women and children as they attempted to flee the camp.

Wounded Knee became a celebrated victory across the rest of the nation. Twenty-five soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their part in it. By all accounts, it was clear that the "Indian problem" was finally solved. The West was truly won.

For American Indians, however, that snowy South Dakota morning proved to be one of the most significant days in their history. The deadly events at Wounded Knee brought to an end what was once known as the Indian Wars Period, in which Indian tribes resisted efforts by the U.S. military to force their people into prison-like land parcels in order to clear the way for white settlers.

Wounded Knee also brought an end to a proud era in which great warriors such as Geronimo, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull fought to defend their lands and to protect their women and children.

Today, the massacre at Wounded Knee is mythologized and memorialized as just one of a number of tragic, ugly stories of how this country was formed. But for generations of American Indians, Wounded Knee has meant more than mere history.

The massacre has passed down scars of suspicion and badges of bitterness toward the white man.

In 1973, a band of Indian activists seized the site of Wounded Knee in order to call attention to continued racist federal policies against Indian people -- policies that fueled poverty and the alienating reality that goes with it.

One hundred and fifteen years after the massacre of Lakota women and children by the hands of the U.S. Cavalry, the spirit of Wounded Knee has lived on. Perhaps it is a source of strength.

For more than a century, the will to survive, to hold on to a sense of history and identity, has remained strong among Indian people.

That is one legacy of Wounded Knee that no one can take away from us.

Mark Anthony Rolo is a member of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe. The writer wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

Readers may write to the author at:

Progressive Media Project
409 East Main Street
Madison, WI 53703

e-mail: pmproj@progressive.org
Web site: www.progressive.org.

For information on PMP's funding, please visit http://www.progressive.org/pmpabout.htmlanchorsupport.

21 December 2005

NDNs 'Retake' Bolivia...

Hokahey! Viva Morales!
The tide is changing, the pedulum is reversing direction...


Morales 'Certain of Bolivia Win'
Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales has won enough votes in the country's presidential election to be installed as leader, electoral officials say.

The country's electoral court confirmed that with almost two-thirds of the votes counted, Mr Morales' share was enough for him to win.

Mr Morales, an indigenous Aymara coca farmer, has called for an alliance with the US against drug trafficking.

In a BBC interview, though, Mr Morales defended traditional uses of coca.

Mr Morales' win has raised eyebrows in the US, after he expressed his admiration for the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

He has also pledged to fight to remove the coca plant from the United Nations list of poisonous plants, and stressed his keenness to increase state control over Bolivia's lucrative natural gas industry.


Officials within Bolivia's interim administration are reportedly preparing to hand over power to Mr Morales.

Electoral officials suggested that Mr Morales' margin of victory over his rival, Jorge Quiroga, would be large enough for him to be declared winner by Congress even if his eventual total dipped below the 50% threshold.

At a news conference in La Paz, Mr Morales insisted that he would not deliberately seek confrontation on key policies.


"It's not about conquering, it's about convincing, persuading about our concrete proposals with transparency and honesty," he said.

Mr Morales' policy on coca production and drug trafficking is likely to be keenly watched by the US.

Previously, Mr Morales claimed that Washington had used drug-trafficking as a pretext for installing military bases in the region.

The US said future relations with Bolivia would depend on Mr Morales's behaviour in office.

"The issue for us is: Will the new Bolivian government govern democratically? Are they open to co-operation that, in economic terms, will undoubtedly help the Bolivian people?" US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters.

Political upheaval

Bolivia's indigenous people, who make up more than half the population, generally support the man who pledges to legalise the production of the coca leaf, but who repeatedly stresses that: "Coca is not cocaine".

Mr Morales also vowed to join what he called the anti-imperialist struggle of Mr Castro, the Cuban leader.

Mr Morales has promised to make foreign oil and gas investors pay what he says is a fairer share to Bolivians, but he made clear that his political party, the Movement towards Socialism (Mas), would never "extort" foreign investors.

Washington has said it expects any future Bolivian government to honour previous commitments to fight the production of illegal drugs.

Bolivia, South America's poorest state, has had five presidents in four years.

Bolivians also voted for a new parliament, or Congress, and regional governors on Sunday.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/21 00:17:41 GMT


John-Furnish Wedding

Our sincere congrats to the lucky couple. May they live long and prosper...


Sir Elton 'Wedding' Takes Place
Sir Elton John and David Furnish's civil partnership ceremony has taken place at the Guildhall in Windsor.

The singer, 58, emerged with his partner, 43, to pose for photos and wave to hundreds of well-wishers.

Arm-in-arm, they blew kisses at the throng and accepted gifts before leaving in a black Rolls-Royce.

The ceremony - to be followed by a party at the singer's nearby mansion - came on the first day same-sex unions become legal in England and Wales.

Sir Elton and Mr Furnish are among 700 gay couples joining in a civil partnership on Wednesday.

Similar ceremonies took place first in Northern Ireland on Monday, then in Scotland on Tuesday.

The couples will be granted new rights in areas such as employment, pension and inheritance. But the partnerships are not officially regarded as marriages under UK law.

The couple arrived seven minutes early for the 1100 GMT service in a black saloon car with tinted windows.

They were preceded by a small number of guests, including the British video artist Sam Taylor-Wood.

Ms Taylor-Wood - who arrived with Jay Joplin, owner of the White Cube Gallery in London - entered the Guildhall with Arthur, Mr Furnish's black-and-white dog, on a lead.

After the service the happy couple were showered with rice on the steps of the Guildhall. Two young women managed to break through the police cordon to present them with an apple ice-cream cake.

Asked how the ceremony went, Sir Elton said: "Great, thanks."

"It was a very emotional service," Ms Taylor-Wood told the BBC News website.

"Everyone clapped, and of course they kissed at the end," added Mr Joplin.

Actor Sir Antony Sher is also celebrating after he and his long-term partner, theatre director Greg Doran, had their own civil partnership ceremony at Islington Town Hall in north London.

"It's wonderful," Sir Antony said. "It's a little bit of history being made.

"I feel very proud this is happening in this country and that we can be part of the very first group to have it done," he continued.

"It means an enormous amount to be legal together after 18 and a half years."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/21 13:19:24 GMT


19 December 2005

John Spencer (1946 - 2005)

West Wing's Leo Dies at Age of 58
John Spencer, the actor who plays politician Leo McGarry in NBC television's The West Wing, has died of a heart attack at 58.

The actor died in hospital in Los Angeles on Friday, his publicist said in a brief statement.

The seventh series of the political drama is currently being shown in the United States.

Spencer previously starred in NBC's LA Law series while big screen roles included Green Card and Copland.

The Associated Press notes that, in a sad parallel to life, the Leo McGarry character also suffers a heart attack that forces him to give up his White House job as chief of staff.

However, in the TV series, he recovers and returns to politics.

Spencer, who also starred in LA Law as attorney Tommy Mullaney, received an Emmy Award for his performance in The West Wing in 2002 and was nominated four other times for the drama.

Like his West Wing character, he was a recovering alcoholic and he once told AP:

"Like Leo, I've always been a workaholic, too. Through good times and bad, acting has been my escape, my joy, my nourishment. The drug for me, even better than alcohol, was acting."

John Spencer grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of working-class parents, and he studied at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan.

His big break came in 1990 when he played Harrison Ford's detective sidekick in the 1990 courtroom thriller Presumed Innocent.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/17 13:05:02 GMT


Tributes Paid to West Wing Actor
West Wing colleagues have paid tribute to actor John Spencer, who died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, just four days ahead of his 59th birthday.

Spencer was best known for his role as Leo McGarry, chief of staff to the US president on hit series The West Wing.

He was "one of those rare combinations of divinely gifted and incredibly generous," said co-star Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler on the show.

Aaron Sorkin, creator of the political series called Spencer "brilliant".

"John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor," said Mr Sorkin, in a joint statement with Tommy Schlamme, one of the original executive producers on the NBC show.

"We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends."

Executive producer John Wells added his own tribute: "John was a wonderful actor, a pleasure to work with and a true gentleman, but most important, a generous and gracious friend," he said in a statement.

The seventh series of the political drama is currently being shown in the United States.

"There are very few personal treasures that you put in your knapsack to carry with you for the rest of your life, and he's one of those," said Schiff, of his co-star Spencer.

Actress Allison Janney, who plays CJ Cregg on the series, described Spencer as a consummate professional actor. "Everyone adored him," she said.

"We have all lost a dear, dear brother," added co-star Bradley Whitford, who plays long-running character Josh Lynam.

Spencer, 58, one of the principal actors in the West Wing ensemble, was nominated as best supporting actor at the Emmy awards each year from 1999 to 2004, winning the award in 2002.

Admired for a string of performances on the big and small screen playing no-nonsense bureaucrats, he was Mr Sorkin's first choice to play Leo McGarry.

"I said to the casting director, 'We need someone like John Spencer'," Mr Sorkin recalled. "And the casting director said, 'What about John Spencer?' And I said, 'We will never get John Spencer'. "

Spencer accepted the role and made it his own.

Both the character and the actor were recovering alcoholics with a passion for hard work.

Like Spencer, his on-screen persona suffered a heart attack in the fifth season of the show.

But in a cruel twist of fate Leo McGarry was to recover sufficiently to appear in the new series.

Health issues

Schiff said Spencer had been struggling with health issues, but appeared to have recovered. The actor died less than a day after he checked into a Los Angeles hospital with a bad cold, according to his publicist.

Spencer had already appeared in half of the 14 episodes of the current season. Filming was halted for the holidays, but the remaining episodes were scheduled to be shot in January.

Writers and producers for the series are expected to gather this week to decide how to continue, a studio spokeswoman said.

At its peak The West Wing - currently showing on More Four - was one of the US TV's most popular series, but the much-praised drama has struggled to maintain its place in the ratings.

It is already thought the current seventh season could be the show's finale.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/19 12:37:24 GMT


Der Amerikan Reich...

Apparently, the "G" in "GW" stands for "Gestapo"...


Bush Defends Phone-Tapping Policy
US President George W Bush has again defended his decision to allow eavesdropping on Americans in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Bush also repeated that he would continue to authorise the secret monitoring.

He also urged Congress to renew the Patriot Act, the top US anti-terror law, saying it provided officials with the tools to protect Americans.

"We cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," he said.

It was not in the best interests of the country for people to "play politics" with the Patriot Act, he said, while answering reporters' questions.

The legislation has cleared the House of Representatives, but the Senate has rejected an attempt to reauthorize several sections of the bill. The legislation is due to expire at the end of the month.

'Helping the enemy'

Mr Bush also said he expected a "full investigation" into who leaked information about the wiretap programme.

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war," he said.

"The fact that we're discussing this programme is helping the enemy," he added.

The New York Times reported last Friday that Mr Bush had signed a secret presidential order following the 11 September 2001 attacks, allowing the National Security Agency to track the international telephone calls and e-mails of hundreds of people without referral to the courts.

Previously, surveillance on American soil was generally limited to foreign embassies.

Mr Bush emphasized that only international calls were monitored without court order - those originating in the US, or those placed from overseas to individuals living in the US.

He reminded reporters that calls placed and received within the US could be monitored under orders granted by a secret court under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The president, struggling with low approval ratings and public discontent with the US death toll in Iraq, also defended his decision to invade the country, saying "it wasn't a mistake" and that "history will judge".

On Sunday, in his fifth speech on Iraq in the past few weeks, Mr Bush appealed to Americans not to give in to despair over the war.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/19 17:20:04 GMT


Words from Our Brother Leonard...

A statement by Leonard Peltier
December 17, 2005

Aho my relations,

I again write to you on this day of mourning as I approach the end of 3O-years of deprived freedom. I am here to appease a vengeful government that has come onto our lands, committed genocide and continues to rob us of our history and culture while giving away our land, murdering, and torturing our people. I am held here because of the corruption of two countries (Canada and the United States) which illegally extradited me, and which led to an illegal conviction and imprisonment. Despite the incessant claims of this being a country of laws and an example to the world of justice, freedom, and democracy, it is obvious that this Government protects whoever it wants, and imprisons and kills whoever it wants. My imprisonment is one key example of what lengths this Government will go to in order to achieve its goal of repressing indigenous dissent. The United States Government continually seeks to imprison all indigenous peoples on our land. The US Government has been increasing its oppressive and tyrannical tactics. All peoples rights are being eroded and fears are heightened as a tool to keep the war machine alive and increase the destruction of Mother Earth. Innocent people are dying, not only in this country, but all over the world in the name of democracy and freedom. My elders before me said, and I tell you now, The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. And I want to say, this earth belongs to Tunkashala, the creator of all that is. There has already started a time of great cleansing upon the earth and this Government has begun to crumble. The fabric of the constitution is soiled and torn.

We as human beings can give thanks or mourn, but if all that happens is no more than lip service, very little will happen to correct things. In the traditions of my native people we barely had words of thanks. It was something that was shown by action of giving or doing. We all breath the same air, are made of the same earth, and drink of the same water. We are all more relative than we sometimes acknowledge. We need to do more than just what is right. We need to join together and right what is wrong. It is time we all unite to stop the madness threatening the whole planet, and stand together with those who go beyond words and deliver on the promise of freedom and justice, and against those guided by greed, arrogance, and prejudice.

Stay true, work in unity, confront the traitors, don't be afraid, and don't let our struggle die.

And finally, I mourn the loss of so many of our relatives over the past year and especially my brother Steve Robideau. I appreciate you each and every one. Now, please organize and set out to correct the wrongs so that this day of mourning will become a relic of the past.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier
Mitakuye Oyasin

11 December 2005

Richard Pryor (1940 - 2005)

Obituary: Richard Pryor
At the height of his celebrity, Richard Pryor was a controversial, talented but self-destructive giant of stand-up comedy

One of Pryor's arsenal of comic weapons was his impoverished childhood in Peoria, Illinois. His family was a broken one, but his home was "affluent ... we had the biggest whorehouse in the neighbourhood".

Thrown out of school and expelled from the Army, Pryor had a series of menial jobs, but started to develop his "comedy on the corner".

His journey on the stand-up club circuit led him to Las Vegas, where he made $3,000 a show, until he was sacked for hurling insults at the almost all-white audience.


Nevertheless, Pryor's mobile face, wide-zapping eyes and arched eyebrows continued to bring him success both on stage and in a series of "blaxploitation" films in the late 1960s.

Flying high with Christopher Reeve And as the civil rights movement gathered momentum, Pryor's material became more political. He spoke "for the black voices that could not be heard" and his first live comedy album, That Nigger's Crazy, sold more than a million copies.

Pryor's huge success went straight to his nose, as he developed a cocaine habit that would fuel his performances. He said: "God made me funny, but the drugs kept me up in my imagination."
His personal life, littered with drugs, divorces and court convictions, all provided fresh fodder for the comic. Audiences were shocked but enthralled by the rage and vulnerability of Pryor's characters.

Record fee

Pryor's anti-establishment credentials were weakened by his foray into more mainstream films in the mid-1970s. After appearing with Diana Ross in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, he appeared in the lively Car Wash (1976), California Suite and The Wiz (both 1978). He also helped Mel Brooks write Blazing Saddles (1974).

Pryor was the comic voice of black AmericaIn 1976, he began an on-screen partnership with Gene Wilder in the box-office hit Silver Streak, following this up with Stir Crazy in 1980, and See no Evil, Hear no Evil.

He made more than 30 films in all, and his $4m fee for Superman III in 1983 was then a record for a black actor. The 1985 film Brewster's Millions was another hit.


Despite his success, Pryor's own recklessness always threatened to get the better of him. In 1980, in what he later admitted was a suicide attempt, he set his own house on fire, engulfing himself in flames and suffering 30% burns.

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and, in typical fashion, described aspects of his condition to comic effect.

Pryor received the first Mark Twain prize in 1998In 1998, the Kennedy Center in Washington presented him with the first Mark Twain prize for American humour, allying him with the white Southern writer, who said, "Profanity is better than flattery."

Richard Pryor used profanity to break through cultural barriers and promote understanding. And this most celebrated victim of racism, drugs, fame and finally illness, ultimately recognised the authority provided by his own suffering.

To be authentic, he said, "you have to have lived some life. You've got to have paid some dues."

Please visit JohnnaRyry's Broomwagon!

02 December 2005

Nguyen Tuong Van...

It was a big day for government sanctioned murder. North Carolina is probably jealous that Singapore still gets to hang theirs. After all, where's all the gory fun in 'lethal injection'...?


Australian Warning Over Hanging
Australian PM John Howard has warned Singapore that its execution of Nguyen Tuong Van may harm links between the peoples of their two countries.

The 25-year-old Melbourne man, of Vietnamese descent, was hanged at Changi prison before dawn as hundreds held vigils in Australia and Singapore.

Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong said his country had decided that "the law should take its course".

Canberra said mitigating factors should have been taken into account.

One of Nguyen's lawyers, Julian McMahon, said his client prayed until he was required to walk the 50m to the execution chamber.

He died "optimistically and with strength and died a very courageous death," Mr McMahon said.

"And I understand that as he did so other death row prisoners sang hymns and other things in various languages to support him," he added.

Nguyen's body, wrapped in a white shroud, was taken to a funeral home for embalming. His family is flying the body back to Melbourne for burial.

'Clinical response'

Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told the BBC he was "terribly disappointed" by the news of the execution.

He said Nguyen always maintained he had smuggled the drugs to earn enough money to pay off legal bills of A$30,000 (£13,000) incurred by his twin brother, a former heroin addict.

Mr Ruddock reiterated his earlier comments that death by hanging was "barbaric".

John Howard said he told his Singaporean counterpart "that I believe it will have an effect on the relationship on a people-to-people, population-to-population basis."

He said he felt sympathy for Nguyen's mother, and had been disappointed by Singapore's "clinical response" to Australia's request that she be allowed to hug her son before his death. The Singapore authorities had only allowed them to hold hands.

But Mr Howard rejected calls for trade and military boycotts against Singapore, one of Australia's strongest allies in Asia.

He added that the execution should serve as a warning to other young Australians.

"Don't imagine for a moment that you can risk carrying drugs anywhere in Asia without suffering the most severe consequences," he said.

Silent vigils

Nguyen Tuong Van was convicted three years ago of carrying nearly 400g (14 ounces) of heroin at Singapore airport while travelling from Cambodia to Australia.

Singapore has some of the strictest drug trafficking laws in the world, and anyone found with 15g of heroin faces a mandatory death penalty.

Prime Minister Lee said Nguyen's case had been through the full legal process, and pleas for clemency by the Australian government had been considered.

But he said the case involved "an enormous amount" of drugs - the equivalent of 26,000 doses.

"We take a very serious view of drug trafficking, and the penalty is death," he said in Berlin.

A vigil by anti-death penalty campaigners took place outside the prison overnight before the dawn execution.

And hundreds of supporters gathered in Nguyen's home city of Melbourne at a church to mark the moment of his execution. A large church bell rang 25 times - once for every year of his life.

At the same time, dozens of people held a silent vigil outside the Singapore High Commission in the capital Canberra.

Nguyen was the first Australian to be executed overseas in more than a decade.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/02 10:39:22 GMT


A Grim Milestone...

And to think that the wasichu called us 'savages'! What wonderful and esteemed company we share our bizarre compulsion for bloody retribution with.

Call me a cynical bastard if you wish, but I find it most interesting that a good ol' southern white boy was picked to be #1,000. Why? Because they knew the World would be watching and they the needed to avoid placing one of the most damning indictments against the American Death Penalty blatantly under the spotlight. I wouldn't be suprised if #1,001 is also white as well.

I would like to ask Curious George Bu$h if this is the American Democracy he wish to export to the world...?


US Carries Out 1,000th Execution
The US has carried out its 1,000th execution since capital punishment was reintroduced in 1976.

Kenneth Boyd, a convicted killer, was put to death by lethal injection in North Carolina for the murder of his estranged wife and her father in 1988.

He was given three drugs - one to put him to sleep, another to paralyse him, and a third to stop his heart.

Though a majority of people in the US back the death penalty, polls indicate support is starting to wane.

"This 1,000th execution is a milestone. It's a milestone we should all be ashamed of," Boyd's lawyer Thomas Maher said after watching the execution.

Amnesty International's Kate Allen said that the landmark death "puts the US in the same company as countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam".

Last words

Boyd, 57, was pronounced dead at 0215 (0715 GMT), state Department of Correction spokeswoman Pam Walker said.

He had spent his last hours with visiting friends and family, including one of his sons, 35-year-old Kenneth Smith and his wife Kathy and two children.

It was to Kathy Smith that Boyd addressed his last words saying:

"Look after my son and my grandchildren. God bless everybody in here."

A group of about 150 death penalty opponents had gathered outside the Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina where the execution took place. Sixteen were reportedly arrested when they tried to enter the facility.

Any hope of a reprieve ended when the Supreme Court rejected Boyd's final appeal and the North Carolina Governor, Mike Easley, said he could find "no compelling reason to grant clemency".

"Tonight justice has been served," Sheriff Sam Page said outside the prison.

Support dwindling

Boyd spent 11 years on death row after being convicted of stalking and shooting his estranged wife, Julie, and her father, Thomas.

One of the couple's sons was pinned under his mother's body as she died. Another son grabbed the gun.

Boyd never denied his guilt, though he has claimed that his experiences in Vietnam contributed to his state of mind on the day of the killings.

Boyd said that the death penalty was "nothing but revenge".

Relatives of his victims said he deserved to die.

In a prison interview with the Associated Press this week, Boyd said he did not want to be connected to the 1000th execution tag: "I'd hate to be remembered as that," he said. "I don't like the idea of being picked as a number."

Capital punishment in the US was banned for 10 years, before the Supreme Court overturned the ban in 1976.

A year later, Gary Gilmore became the first to die - by firing squad in the state of Utah.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says that in recent years, enthusiasm for the punishment has dwindled in the US.

Although a majority still approve of it, public support for the death penalty has dropped and the courts have been less inclined to use it.

Texas - 355
Virginia - 94
Oklahoma - 79
Missouri - 66
Florida - 60
Georgia - 39
North Carolina - 38
South Carolina, Alabama - 34 each
Louisiana, Arkansas - 27 each
Arizona - 22
Ohio - 19
Indiana - 16
Delaware - 14
Illinois - 12
Nevada, California - 11 each
Mississippi, Utah - 6 each
Maryland, Washington - 4 each
Nebraska, Pennsylvania - 3 each
Kentucky, Montana, Oregon - 2 each
Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, New Mexico, Tennessee, Wyoming - 1 each
US government - 3
Source: US Death Penalty Information Center

Story from BBC NE

Published: 2005/12/02 14:24:24 GMT