Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sitting out the 'Star-Spangled Banner'

Ralph DiGia, lifelong war resister, dead at 93

Ralph DiGia, lifelong war resister and pacifist, died Feb. 1 in New York City, days after breaking his hip in a fall. Ralph, 93, was a leading figure in the War Resisters League, one of the United States' oldest anti-war groups, for more than two generations. He joined the organization shortly after the end of World War II and his release from federal prison, where he had served a term for refusing military service as a conscientious objector.

An associate of AJ Muste, Bayard Rustin, Dave Dellinger, Barbara Deming and other anti-war voices of his generation, Ralph held key posts over the years with both WRL and Liberation magazine. A statement on the WRL website says, "While Ralph was not a public speaker or a writer, he played a key a role within the radical pacifist movement, and was central to many of the major antiwar actions of the past six decades."

He is survived by his wife, Karin DiGia, his children, and his two brothers. (WRL statement, Feb. 2)

A profile of Ralph DiGia in the New York Times of March 22, 2003 read:

Mr. DiGia grew up on the Upper West Side, the son of an immigrant barber. In 1927, when Mr. DiGia was 12, his father took him to a rally protesting the imminent execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, whose murder trial centered on their radical political beliefs.

"My first demonstration," Mr. DiGia said, smiling.

In 1941, Mr. DiGia received his draft notice, but reported instead to the United States attorney's office to announce that he was a conscientious objector. After being convicted of failure to report for induction in 1943, he was sent to a federal penitentiary in Danbury, Conn., where he helped lead a successful effort to integrate the prison dining hall.

Mr. DiGia served 28 months in prison and returned to New York, where he got a job with a small accounting firm and started volunteering at the War Resisters League. A decade later, in 1955, the league hired him to keep the books and he has been a part of the organization ever since...

Through the decades, he has participated in hundreds of demonstrations against American wars and policies. He vaguely recalled that the last of his many arrests was at the United Nations, but he vividly remembered the 30-day sentence he got for protesting the country's civil defense drills in the mid-1950's. He can talk about the FBI files ("Stuff like, 'Ralph DiGia drove up in a Chevrolet and started passing out leaflets'"), as well as about the time the office was ransacked.

"It's almost like being selfish," he said finally. "It makes me feel good. It's meaningful to me. Otherwise, what would I be doing? Supporting these terrible things?"

Among the many antiwar stickers adorning the office, there is one for the Mets. Ralph DiGia, pacifist, is also Ralph DiGia, baseball fan, who has learned to combine passions when attending Mets games at Shea Stadium: cheer for the home team, but do not stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"We sit, the others stand, and the game goes on," he said.

~ Link ~

What cut cables can teach

" ... This leaves sabotage or an act of war as the only other option. The fact that there were no immediate American condemnations of this as a terrorist act indicates that it had the tacit approval of the United States, a theory further supported by the fact that Israel and Iraq remained unaffected since their internet traffic is carried via a different route. Without wanting to speculate, however, a number of interesting lessons emerge from these events.

Firstly, the internet has proven surprisingly resilient, managing to compensate for the lost traffic routes without collapsing altogether. It also demonstrated the complicated nature of the worldwide web, with India most heavily affected by a break in communications located in the Middle East, which in turn affected Britain in particular, since most large British companies have outsourced their call centres to India. There is, therefore, no way to disrupt the internet selectively without a knock-on effect elsewhere.

Secondly, the public appears to happily buy any story it is fed by mainstream media. Tell them a ship's anchor cut through the cables and they believe it. They won't ask why after such an "unforeseen" event no measures were put in place to prevent the same thing from happening again, or why suddenly so many lethal ship's anchors are floating around the ocean when previously they never caused a problem. This public lethargy does not bode well for the future.

Thirdly, today's wars are increasingly related to technology and communications. In a report to Congress, US National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell listed amongst his major concerns besides "Al-Qaeda" that Russia, China and oil producing countries were using their wealth to advance political goals (let's guess that the USA could never possibly be accused of such a heinous crime!) and that the threats faced by the US were global, complex and dangerous, including the vulnerability of computer systems.

The truth is, that Iran's nuclear capability has never really worried the White House as they know too well Iran would not be stupid enough to use such destructive technology even if they had it. It is a smoke screen for allowing interference on account of much more conventional capabilities Iran has developed like, for example, the recently announced ability to launch its own rocket and soon send its own satellites into orbit.

In this context, there have been speculations that the cutting of the internet cables was intended to cut off Arab oil producing states from vital communication routes prior to another weapon in Iran's armoury, the long-awaited and heavily speculated about Iranian oil bourse which, by trading in Euro, would send the already free-falling dollar to depths from which it could never recover. ... "
 
 

Thousands throng Allahabad for Mahesh Yogi's funeral

" ... This quiet Uttar Pradesh town at the confluence of the holy Ganga, the historic Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati is suddenly hot on the global map as thousands of devotees from across 100 countries have gathered here to see the place from where Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began his journey as a physics student to become a world famous spiritual leader.

The guru of transcendental meditation (TM) passed away at his retreat in the Netherlands on February 5, 2008. His body was brought to Allahabad and kept in an embalmed state at the Maharishi Vidyapeeth, a Vedic school that the seer founded at Arail, a quiet neighbourhood on the outer banks of the Ganga at Prayag, nearly 15 km from Allahabad.

It is perhaps one of the most unlikely funerals that a world leader can have. On Sunday evening, Guru Deva, as the seer was known to his devotees, sat in calm repose on a podium bedecked with heaps of roses, night queens and marigolds as nearly 20,000 devotees filed past him with folded hands.

[ ... ]

The seer had apparently drawn up a map for his foundation for the next 100 years almost a year before his death, when he announced his retirement. He had appointed a 48-member governing council and a five-member governing body led by the Maharajadhiraja (his royal highness, king of kings) Ram aka Tony Nader, a neuroscientist from Lebanon, to steer the TM movement globally and expand the ambit of the organisation's activity.

Nader or the Maharaja, as the Mahesh Yogi had crowned him a year ago, had retreated into silence two years ago.

"That was the way the Maharishi wanted him to oversee the matters of the organisation. He will conduct the affairs in silence, transmitting his thoughts in transcendence to the five-member governing council," said Yugantar Saxena, the publicity head of TM's India chapter and the operational head of the Maharishi Television channel in the country.

The Maharishi had also formed the Brahmanand Swaraswati Trust before his death to fund the movement of the organisation. The seer, who believed in Vedic monarchy of ancient India, had formed a hierarchy of maharaja (the chief kings), 35 country rajas (kings or the nation heads) and global ministers to lead the movement.

He named his transcendent kingdom the Global Country of World Peace. All the 35 kings, attired in their white silk ceremonial robes and golden crowns, assembled at Arail over the weekend and mingled freely with the devotees in a rather "democratic spirit".

India figured high in the Maharishi's scheme of things. Led by the king, Harris Kaplan, in-charge of India operations and the principal donor to the seer's peace and Vedic revival programmes across the country, the Maharishi planned to form a permanent group 7,000 to 8,000 Vedic priests who would be trained in advance meditation techniques.

This group would act as a buffer in times of crisis, mitigate tension and promote communal harmony and global peace through yagnas (ancient rituals) and group meditation sessions.

The project, said a senior member of the movement, was gaining momentum with Kaplan giving it a definite shape. ... "

~ Full story ~

 

John Giorno: Warhol muse and father of Dial-A-Prayer

From John Linnell, They Might Be Giants

...Do you have a weird New York story to share? Flansburgh and I were driving our new van around Manhattan and we came around a corner and almost ran over this guy who not only looked like he was homeless but apparently wouldn’t have minded if we’d run him over, he just had this incredibly nonchalant look to him. And then we realized it was the famous poet John Giorno we had almost killed in our van...


From Fest starts off with a classic Beat

...Spoken word is nothing new. Witness the work of Beat Generation poet John Giorno, 72, who opens the Festival Voix d'Amériques today.
"I wanted to invite him because we tend to talk about performance poetry like it's something new, but it's not," festival director D. Kimm said. "We are part of a long tradition. They were very brave to do it back then."
Giorno was a stockbroker in New York City at the end of the 1950s when he met pop-art icon Andy Warhol. Warhol was so entranced by Giorno he made him the star of the film Sleep - during which Giorno slept for eight hours.
After meeting Warhol, Giorno quit his day job to concentrate on his poetry and spent the 1960s hanging out with a revolutionary gang of artists, including Warhol, Lou Reed, William S. Burroughs, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jasper Johns.
Giorno's main preoccupation at the time was finding ways to harness technology to disseminate poetry to a broader audience. In 1968, he created Dial-A-Poem. It was an enormous success and is credited with inspiring a wave of consequent Dial-A initiatives, including Dial-A-Joke and Dial-A-Prayer...


From John Giorno: Everyone Gets Lighter

John Giorno, one of the leading lights of the New York beat generation, devised the legendary event at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970, during which different poems could be listened to every day on answering machines. The LP produced later entitled The DIAL-A-POEM Poets features the highlights from among 700 poems by 55 poets. The Giorno Poetry System label he founded in 1965 focused on the innovative use of new technologies. The label published over 40 LPs and CDs, videos and films by authors working with music and/or performance, such as Laurie Anderson's You're The Guy I Want To Share My Money With [1981]. In his performance Everyone Gets Lighter the founder of performance poetry will use true-to-life neologisms to transform his personal relations with Andy Warhol [Giorno was the 'sleeper' in Warhol’s first film Sleep in 1963], Keith Haring and William Burroughs into a first-rate audio-visual experience.


From Live and reciting

One time stockbroker and Warhol muse, John Giorno has spent the last 40 years changing the face of contemporary poetry and spoken word. In 1965 he founded Giorno Poetry Systems, a record label and artist collective that released the work of some of the most important voices in American poetry, including Allen Ginsberg, Jim Carroll, Laurie Anderson, William S. Burroughs and Patti Smith. Giorno’s performances and recordings have been instrumental in popularizing the form and some of its greatest creators. Giorno spoke with the Mirror from his loft on Bowery Street in New York, where he’s lived since 1962.
Mirror: Can you tell me about your recent performances?
John Giorno: Well, I perform all the time. I went to Europe nine times this past year, and those are two- and three-week tours. It’s always a collection of countries, France, Italy, Spain.
M: I was wondering if you had any involvement with the slam poetry circuits in the United States?
JG: Very much. That’s an amazing phenomenon for poets and for kids. Mark Smith, who invented the whole thing, and Bob Holman—they’re very good friends of mine. I’m on the Bowery just a block away from Bob and the Bowery Poetry Club. What’s particularly good is when these kids are 14, 15—they get up, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they get a blissful experience or connect to their nature in some way. They’re poets, they’re really young poets. And even though the work could be terrible, they’re connecting to something inside themselves, and what they say is, “Well, I’m gonna do that again, as just a thing that I like to do.”
They’re just like me, that’s happened to me—in a completely different way. When I was 14, at school, this English teacher gave a poetry class. This was 1949 (laughs) or ’47, this teacher says, “Go home and write a poem as homework.” And I did, and I got this really great feeling. When I handed it in two days later, she read mine. It was the third poem that she liked, you know, and I said, “I’m gonna do that again!”
M: Do you remember the first time you performed in front of an audience, and what that was like?
JG: I do, actually. By 1962 I started using found images, and that was the influence of Andy Warhol, Bob Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns. I met all these artists in 1961, ’62—they became the focus of my life. In 1962 they were quite young themselves, and not famous at all. After the first year, I was published in Ted Berrigan’s magazine, called C Magazine. Ted Berrigan, a great New York poet, was organizing poetry readings, and he said, “John, you should read your poem.”
The following text is an excerpt from "Wisdom is his voice" by John Giorno. This text appears in "The Best of William Burroughs" Box Set. This text is not intended to be a complete history of GPS, but perhaps is intended to relate to you GPS' conception, where it came from and why it shaped modern pop-culture and brought forth the age of telecommunications and information.

"In 1961 I was a young poet who hung out with young artists like Andy Warhol, Bob Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, as well as with members of the Judson Dance Theatre. The use of modern mass media and technologies by these artists made me realize that poetry was 75 years behind painting and sculpture, dance and music. And I thought, if they can do it, why can't I do it for poetry. Why not try to connect with an audience using all the entertainments of ordinary life: television, the telephone, record albums, etc? It was the poet's job to invent new venues and make fresh contact with the audience.

"This inspiration gave rise to Giorno Poetry Systems, a non-profit foundation under which many projects were born. The record label called Giorno Poetry Systems eventually built up a catalog of 40 titles, ushering poetry onto the radio alongside rock, jazz, etc. for the first time. The Dial-A-Poem service, begun, in 1968, was a huge success. Not only did we ourselves get millions of calls, we inspired the creation of dial-for-stock market info and dial for sports-info services, etc. We also foreshadowed by a generation the explosion of 1-900 telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone lines. we produced poetry videos, videopaks and films. We formed bands and toured like the rock'n' rollers. We displayed poetry on the surface of ordinary objects, producing silk-screen and lithograph Poem Prints. We established the AIDS Treatment Project in 1984.

"But in 1965, even before founding Giorno Poetry Systems, I began recording my friend William Burroughs, starting with tape experiments at his Centre Street loft and with Brion Gysin at the Hotel Chelsea. Before the year was out, with my earlier inspirations turning into tangible performances, electronic events and sound pieces at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, I began Giorno Poetry Systems.

"We taped the riotous Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1968, and presented the results that September at New York's Central Park Bandshell. Three months later I featured William in the inaugural installation of Dial-A-Poem at the Architectural League of New York.

"In 1975 William moved into The Bunker at 222 Bowery, where I'd lived on the third floor since 1966.

"In 1976 Giorno Poetry Systems released a double-record set, one LP featuring William's live recordings, the other my sound poems.

"In 1978 in New York there was the Nova Convention, a three-day tribute to William that crowned him patriarch of heroin and wisdom, and featured performances by Patti Smith, Frank Zappa and many others, including Laurie Anderson, who was making her debut public performance.

New Delhi vacancies for 'condom testers' announced

New Delhi: If you are above the age of 18, a male and seeking a job that combines work with pleasure, here is an unusual opening that promises a combination of both.

The post of a 'condom tester' is up for grabs as Durex, one of the world's largest condom manufacturer has announced plans to recruit Indian males above the age of 18 to test their products.

The chosen 1,000 men would be given a supply of select condoms, with which they can get to work right away, according to company officials.

As the firm itself says, "After you have done full justice to the job, you have to provide Durex with feedback about product performance."

In 2007, a two-year study by Indian Council of Medical Research had concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men.

This led to a call for condoms of varying sizes to be made more widely available in India.

"Durex wants to ensure that its condoms are best meeting the needs of Indians and what better way to know this than to ask Indians first hand," R Srinivasan, Vice President, TTK-LIG Ltd, marketer of Durex brand in India told PTI. ...

~ Full article ~

Berkeley braced against freedom-loving warmongers

" ... Under the image of a stern serviceman in uniform, the sign in the window of the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station extols the traits of America's armed forces: "Smart. Tough. Elite."

This famously liberal town recently added its own descriptor: Unwanted.
In a move reminiscent of Berkeley's 1960s antiwar protests, the City Council ignited a national firestorm last month by issuing a strongly worded declaration that blasted military recruiting techniques and labeled the Marine Corps as "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." One council member said U.S. troops were responsible for "horrible karma," and Mayor Tom Bates offered to help the Marines evacuate.

The return fire was swift. Several Republican senators sponsored a bill to reroute $2.3 million in federal funding from Berkeley to the Marines. In the last 10 days, city officials have received 26,000 e-mails, mostly from irate people who called the declaration irresponsible. Several council members have received death threats.

" ... Many critics said that although they were opposed to the war in Iraq, they believed the council had crossed the line, going beyond protesting the nation's foreign policy to demonizing men and women in uniform.

"The e-mails are running 15 to 1 in favor of the Marines," said Councilman Gordon Wozniak, one of the dissenters in the 6-3 vote on the declaration. "They've run the gamut from being very thoughtful to dismissing Berkeley citizens as liberal scum."

In recent days, Berkeley officials have backpedaled and Bates issued a public apology. Tonight, the council will consider a motion to remove the criticism about recruiting and express the community's support for U.S. troops fighting abroad.

Though the council's newest resolution is expected to pass, the city is bracing for a showdown between antiwar activists and pro-military groups who plan to picket at City Hall.
 
[ ... ]
 
Berkeley's declaration, introduced before the city's Peace and Justice Commission, accused the United States of repeatedly "launching illegal, immoral and unprovoked wars of aggression" and said "the Bush administration launched the most recent of those wars in Iraq and is threatening the possibility of war in Iran."

"Military recruiters are salespeople known to lie to and seduce minors and young adults into contracting themselves into military service with false promises regarding jobs, job training, education and other benefits," it added.
 
[ ... ]
 
In retaliation for the declaration, however, seven Republican members of Congress are moving forward with their bill to strip Berkeley of $2.3 million in federal funds earmarked for school lunches, ferry service, local disability organizations and public safety.

In Washington, one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), fumed on the House floor recently that the city had a " '60s peacenik, hippie mentality that world peace can occur by sitting around smoking dope and banging on the tambourine." ... "
 
 

Independent Scots army would lead global peace effort - Salmond

" ... Scotland will become a "hugely influential" global peacemaker if it wins independence, First Minister Alex Salmond said last night.

Closer ties with Europe and deeper trading links with emerging superpowers like China and India were also on the agenda as the SNP leader outlined his ambitions for an independent Scotland.

Speaking as he launched an Aberdeen University series of events debating the future north of the border, Mr Salmond said Scotland would be influential in bringing peace to some of the world's most war-torn regions.

"An independent Scotland would not have its foreign policy defined by involvement in the invasion of Iraq," he said.

"Rather, an independent Scotland would seek to exercise our responsibilities in a different way.

"I want Scotland to be a leader in international conflict resolution.

"I want to build on the tremendous sense of goodwill towards our nation across the globe.

"Real leadership is not just about winning conflict - it is about having strategy to defuse it. Resolution of conflict is harder, more subtle, more difficult, but much, much more rewarding.

"But it is an area where Scotland can excel." ... "
 
 

China and India may rise in "a radical realignment of the global economy"

" ... Stock market turmoil triggered by fears of a US recession in the wake of a wide-scale mortgage crisis has ignited debate over whether Asia’s two rising economic stars are strong enough to power the world economy.

“What is occurring is the rise of other economies to balance out those of the US -- and that has to be a good thing”, said Chris Devonshire, a business consultant specializing on China and India trade.

China saw scorching expansion of 11.4 percent last year, closely followed by India’s 9.4 percent, and the prospects for both economies remain strong.
“We expect China and India to support regional growth in the event of a significant slowdown in the US”, said ING Barings Asia economist Prakash Sakpal.
Such a shakeup is significant because jobs and livelihoods are at stake, but also because, as financier George Soros wrote in London’s Financial Times, it could signal a major shift in economic power.
“The current financial crisis is less likely to cause a global recession than a radical realignment of the global economy, with a relative decline of the US and the rise of China and other countries in the developing world”.
But Zhang Ming, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, dismisses the notion that the Chinese and Indian economies are independent of US consumption.
“If you want to look at who is going to be the motor of global growth then you have to look at who provides the biggest market for the world’s production of goods. In the short run America is still strongest. China still has a long way to go.”
China, whose 3.4-trillion-dollar economy is about one-third derived from exports, could easily face economic difficulties if it were to lose the 2.5 growth percentage points garnered from trade, said Stephen Green, a Standard Chartered economist.
However, Indian exports represent only about 17 percent of its 1.1 trillion dollar gross domestic product, allowing it greater resiliency in the face of a US recession, analysts said. ... "
 
 

Recession - then and now

" ... Spend too much time with CNBC or The Wall Street Journal these mornings and you'll be dreaming about breadlines and "The Grapes of Wrath" at night. Time for some perspective.

For the most part, the U.S. economy bounces back from hard times quickly. The downturn in the early 1990s is instructive. It had a similar starting point to the rocky period we're in. Then, as now, a financial shock related to the housing market caused problems. Then it was the collapse of the savings and loan industry.

Today it's the subprime crisis. The 1990-91 recession lasted eight months, and unemployment eventually peaked at 7.8% - not a staggering number but still more than 50% higher than the current rate. Home prices in the top 10 metropolitan areas fell 8.3% during the downturn and its aftermath. Today they're off 5% from their 2006 peak. Recovery in the 1990s was slow: It took until 1996 for housing to start rising again.

The stock market moved faster. It dropped 21% but bottomed out in three months. If we did enter a recession this past December, as many economists think, a replay of 1990-91 would mean further market declines now followed by a rebound later in the year. Not a terrible scenario. Unfortunately, it's not the only possibility.

At times a confluence of events sets a trap from which the economy can't easily escape. Pessimists see that possibility in a subprime-induced credit crunch. In the 1970s, the trap was stagflation, a combination of high inflation and low growth. The U.S. was already burdened by Vietnam War-related inflation when the Arab oil embargo sprung the snare. The economy jerked to a stop, but energy costs kept the inflation rate up and made recovery painfully hard to come by.

The 1973-75 recession lasted 16 months, about double the typical one. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 40% from its pre-recession high, or more than triple the decline we've seen since October's top. Unemployment peaked after the recession ended, at 9.1%.

Before you reach for the medicine cabinet, take comfort in some important then-vs.-now differences. The Fed, and the feds, today act earlier in a downturn. The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates 2.25 percentage points since August. And Congress is putting money in consumers' pockets through tax rebates. Even more important, notes David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's, is the absence of high inflation, the real standard-of-living killer. Energy prices notwithstanding, inflation remains mild. It ran at 11% in 1974 vs. 3% last year. ... "

~ Read more... ~

 

From 'Anschluss' to 'Zyklon B'

" ... As if German weren't hard enough. Three genders, endlessly long words, verbs coming at the end of impossibly rambling sentences.

But there is another, more subtle, linguistic trap which both Germans and non-Germans can easily fall into -- and which is far worse a faux pas than a mere slip of the article. Mention that you've found the "Endlösung" ("final solution") to a problem you've been grappling with, or that you've made a "Selektion" ("selection") from a number of possible alternatives, and you will quickly find yourself the target of disapproving stares.

The reason is simple -- the aforementioned words are so tainted by their use by the Nazis that they are now completely taboo. To modern German ears, "Endlösung" will forever be associated with Hitler's genocidal "Final Solution to the Jewish Question," while "Selektion" is now verbum non grata due to its use to refer to the death camp practice of "selecting" inmates to be executed.

Now a new dictionary examines just what roles such terms play in the collective German psyche. The "Wörterbuch der 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'" ("Dictionary of 'Coming to Terms with the Past'") examines around 1,000 words and phrases -- everything from "Anschluss," used to refer to the 1938 "annexation" of Austria, to "Wehrmacht," the name of the Nazi-era armed forces -- looking at how the meaning and usage of the terms have developed since the end of World War II. ... "

~ From New Dictionary Highlights Nazi Words to Avoid ~

16 gallons of oil per day per U.S. soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan

" ... Sixteen gallons of oil. That’s how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis — either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That’s greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million — and yet it’s a gross underestimate of the Pentagon’s wartime consumption.

Such numbers cannot do full justice to the extraordinary gas-guzzling expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, for every soldier stationed “in theater,” there are two more in transit, in training, or otherwise in line for eventual deployment to the war zone — soldiers who also consume enormous amounts of oil, even if less than their compatriots overseas. Moreover, to sustain an “expeditionary” army located halfway around the world, the Department of Defense must move millions of tons of arms, ammunition, food, fuel, and equipment every year by plane or ship, consuming additional tanker-loads of petroleum. Add this to the tally and the Pentagon’s war-related oil budget jumps appreciably, though exactly how much we have no real way of knowing.

And foreign wars, sad to say, account for but a small fraction of the Pentagon’s total petroleum consumption. Possessing the world’s largest fleet of modern aircraft, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, and support systems — virtually all powered by oil — the Department of Defense (DoD) is, in fact, the world’s leading consumer of petroleum. It can be difficult to obtain precise details on the DoD’s daily oil hit, but an April 2007 report by a defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting, suggests that the Pentagon might consume as much as 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day. This is greater than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland. ... "
 
~ From War and Oil ~
 

A Positive, Liberal Vision of The Future

37 Ways Democrats Will Make the USA Better
 
" ... My experience of the political left is that it is full of  visionaries who are creative, who not only see positive futures but they are actively engaged in creating them. The liberals and progressives are the people in this world who are envisioning the positive stories of America's and the world's future. It is the conservative right that is mired in the past, in maintaining the status quo, in building further walls on the castles to protect the wealthy and the aristocracy.

So I decided to start jotting down some positive visions. It's just a first pass, and it represents some of my personal biases, but it is a positive vision and it is about the future ... "

~ Read more... ~

 

Venezuela moves bank accounts after Exxon freeze

" ... Venezuela has moved oil revenue into Swiss banks to avoid a possible seizure of funds by Exxon Mobil in a legal battle that pits leftist anti-U.S. President Hugo Chavez against America's biggest company.

The Texas energy giant won court rulings that froze assets belonging to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in a hardball maneuver meant to ensure the OPEC nation pays compensation for taking over a multibillion-dollar oil project last year.

Chavez vowed to fight back, threatening to stop oil sales to the United States -- Venezuela's biggest oil customer -- if it kept up its "economic war" through proxies such as Exxon.

On Monday, the administration of President George W. Bush, which clashes with Chavez over everything from oil prices to democracy, dismissed the warning as "something that we've heard before" from its No. 4 supplier. ... "

~ Read on... ~

 

UK mothers question legality of Iraq invasion

" ... Tony Blair's government exposed soldiers to the risk of death by failing to take sufficient steps to ensure that its proposed invasion of Iraq was lawful, Britain's highest court was told yesterday.

The nine-judge panel of law lords, convened instead of the usual five judges because of the constitutional importance of the case, is being asked to order a public inquiry into the death of two 19-year-old soldiers in Iraq.

The state's duty to safeguard life was owed to soldiers, "who are under the unique compulsory control of the state and have to obey orders", said Rabinder Singh QC, for Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke, mothers of the two soldiers. "They have to put their lives in harm's way if necessary, because their country demands it. There is what some people call a military covenant between the state and those who are literally prepared to put their lives at risk for the sake of their country."

The case marks the first time in 45 years that the House of Lords has been asked to decide whether judges have the power to rule on essentially "political" issues of national defence, or whether such matters are purely for the government of the day. Clarke and Gentle are appealing against a court of appeal ruling in December 2006 that the government is not obliged to hold an independent inquiry into their sons' deaths under article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which protects the right to life. Trooper David Clarke, from Littleworth, Staffordshire, was one of two soldiers who died in March 2003 in a "friendly fire" incident west of Basra. Fusilier Gordon Gentle, from Pollock, Glasgow, died in June 2004 in a bomb attack on British vehicles in Basra.

Singh said the mothers had "come to court with reluctance". He added: "They are proud of their sons, who died with honour serving their country."

Lord Bingham, the senior law lord, sitting with Lords Hoffmann, Hope, Scott, Rodger, Carswell, Brown and Mance and Lady Hale, said the judges did not want the mothers to think they were "unmindful of the human loss which underlies these proceedings".

Singh said the mothers were grieving parents who had doubts about the legality of the invasion of Iraq, and the process that led to it, including advice from the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith.

The families wanted an explanation as to how 13 pages of "equivocal" advice from the attorney general were reduced within 10 days to one page of completely unequivocal advice that an invasion would be legal. As the resignation letter of the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, made clear, the attorney general changed his mind "not once but twice" in relation to the legality of the war, the QC said. The overwhelming body of advice the government had received, including from the Foreign Office itself, was that the war would not be lawful without a second UN resolution.

Mrs Gentle said yesterday: "Tony Blair sent our boys to war on a lie. He just agreed with George Bush right away. They didn't even give it a second thought." She said the inquiry should have been held when Blair was still in office. "It's been five years now - what have they got to hide?"

Phil Shiner, the solicitor representing the mothers, said: "If we get our inquiry ... we would have to hear evidence from Tony Blair, Lord Goldsmith, Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw." ... "

~ From Mothers ask Lords to order Iraq inquiry ~

One of the weirdest reports on the Web today

'Updated: Embargo sanctions took effect noon EST'
 
'President erupted into an outburst of Hitlerian fury'
 
" ... SANCTIONS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES ARE ALREADY TAKING EFFECT
That NONE OF THIS IS BLUFF can now be asserted with complete confidence, because:

Two US Naval vessels attempting to berth in Japan were turned away and ordered to leave Japanese waters on Sunday 10th February.

Four oil tankers which are located half a day out from Saudi Arabia have received instructions to stay there until further notice. They will be ordered to return to Saudi Arabia if the release has not taken place by 6.00pm EST TODAY.

President Chavez of Venezuela stated over the weekend that Venezuela may suspend its oil deliveries to the United States. The ostensible context of this threat is legal action by ExxonMobil in US, Dutch and British Courts aimed at the freezing of the assets of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDV) in order to obtain compensation from Venezuela following the earlier nationalisation by the Chavez Government of a large oil project. Chavez explicitly stated that ‘if Bush wants to harm us, we’ll harm him back’. This matter needs to be considered in the overall embargo/sanctions context described here and in the two preceding reports. In other words, if those 4 Saudi tankers turn back to Saudi Arabia, Venezuelan oil deliveries will not be available to the United States either.

To elaborate further:

All American commercial and military aircraft will be ordered to leave foreign locations and to return to their United States hubs in the event of the settlements being aborted today [see above]. This information has leaked because all US airlines have been so advised. This affects all foreign airlines that fly in and out of the United States as well.

International banking transactions will be completely collapsed by Wednesday in the event that the releases have not been implemented by 6.00pm today.

The US border with Canada may have to be closed.

It follows that the standard of living of all Americans will suffer a blow without precedent, and Americans will not know what has hit them. They will soon find out, when the entire Government is arrested: see here:

BUSH, CHENEY, ENTIRE CABINET, SUPREME COURT AND CONGRESS WILL BE ARRESTED
We further understand that the Group of Eight countries minus the United States (Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Italy) signed the necessary paperwork with the World Court TODAY which provides for the prompt implementation of the already threatened arrests on treason charges of the following:

President George W. Bush Jr.
Vice President Richard Cheney
The entire Bush II Cabinet
All Members of Congress, including presidential candidates
The entire membership of the United States Supreme Court

In the light of special information about the US military being ‘fully up to speed with’ and on top of the rapidly developing situation, it stands to reason that the military will perform these arrests on behalf of the agents/agencies acting for the World Court, namely Interpol, MI6 and possibly other unnamed agencies. That is our working assumption.

It should be pointed out that all the above are themselves, without exception, also vulnerable to prosecution not least for breach of the Misprision of Felony Statute (as indeed is every reader of these reports who, knowing the facts of these criminal actions, fails to report them as specified in the Statute). It will be recalled from our list of Clinton Presidential Pardons that some of those who were pardoned by former President Clinton had been jailed on Misprision of Felony charges. It therefore follows that this is BY NO MEANS A DEAD STATUTE. On the contrary:

U.S. CODE, TITLE 18, PART 1, CHAPTER 1, SECTION 4: MISPRISION OF FELONY:
‘Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some Judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both’.

HELLISH KNOCK-ON CONSEQUENCES COULD BE IMMINENT: LINES AT GAS STATIONS
The knock-on consequences if the Wanta and other settlements are aborted today will be quite horrific. Given the idiotic ‘just-in-time’ globalisation procurement system, supplies of everything under the sun will suddenly dwindle to near-nothing. Prices and costs will go through the roof as shortages of everything, including food, intensify at once. Supplies of oil taken from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will alleviate the immediate impact of the oil embargo, but gasoline will have to be rationed, and lines will suddenly erupt at gas stations around the United States – which is the most politically sensitive of all developments for any US Government. ... "
 
~ Link ~
 

Activist sees GMO-free world in two years

" ... Jeffrey M. Smith is a leading spokesperson on the health dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). An international bestselling author, his research and magnetic communication style captured public attention in 2003 with his first book, Seeds of Deception, which detailed the serious and questionable side effects of genetically engineered foods. In his second book, Genetic Roulette, Jeffrey exposes insider documents regarding GMO safety trials that have blown open the case against biotechnology. Jeffrey has consulted with world leaders from every conti- nent, helped to influence the first state laws regulating GMOs, and has unified leaders to support The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, an industry and consumer movement to remove GMOs from the natural foods market- place.
 
[ ... ]
 
PN:Where do you see it heading in the future?
JS:I believe we will end genetic engineering of the food supply in two years. The whole basis which allows GMOs to survive is the general ignorance of the people. I believe that eliminating GMOs from the food supply is actually one of the easiest campaigns, it is simply a matter of expressing factual data about the health risks of GMO's to consumers and giving them alternative choices. I think the next step will then be to address GMO biofuels and other non-food crops.

PN:What is the one thing the public should know about GMOs?
JS: When the FDA scientists first reviewed GMOs in the early 90s, the overwhelming consensus was that these foods could create allergies, diseases, new toxins, and nutrition problems. The scientists urged their superiors to require long term studies. The person in charge of policy at the time was Monsanto's former attorney and later become Monsanto's Vice President. As a result, the FDA's policy falsely claimed that the agency was not aware of any information showing GMO's were significantly different and on that basis required absolutely no safety studies whatsoever.  It is nowup to individuals to protect themselves because the [US] government is not going to do it for us.
... "
 
 

The Kiri Tree Revolution

" ... A magnificent tree from Japan, the Kiri Tree, also referred to as the Japanese Empress Tree or the Paulownia, is being pioneered in Texas. Chris Sanders and Brittany Turner have started a ‘Kiri Tree Revolution’. Their goal is to plant one million of these trees across the United States as a way to purify the soil and make it ‘green’ again.

Not only does the Kiri Tree absorb ten times more carbon dioxide than any other tree in the world, it also expels a massive amount of oxygen. Texas suffers from extremely contaminated soil, air and water, the harmful effects of which are a constant threat to the health of its state residents. However, The Kiri Tree actually flourishes in toxic soil and water, purifying the land as it matures. It is also the fastest growing tree on Earth. When planted from seed, after eight years, it will be the same size as a 40-year-old oak tree and in one year alone it can grow up to 15 feet!

Since no one has planted Kiri Trees in Texas yet, Chris and Brittany have been experimenting with seedlings, trying to find the toughest strains that will survive the Texas climate. They are documenting their project on MySpace in the hope that this knowledge will enable the variety to be planted not just throughout Texas but all over the United States too.

The name Kiri came from the Japanese word to cut, as it was believed that the tree would grow better and quicker if it was cut down frequently. Left to grow it can reach over 30 feet in height, bearing fragrant blossoms in April or May, turning the air sweet with perfume. The leaves make great tea – high in protein and nitrogen – and the flowers are a tasty addition to any salad. Bees love the blossom too: the honey is sweet and light and there is, apparently, no other honey quite like it.

Japanese farmers once planted Kiri Trees upon the birth of a daughter because it was so fast growing that by the time she was ready to marry, the tree could be cut down and made into a tansu or chest. The Chinese have been planting Kiri Trees for many centuries around their dwellings, in order to bring good luck and to attract the mythical Phoenix. According to Chinese legend, the bird – a symbol of immortality that sets itself on fire to rejuvenate – is said to ‘alight only in the branches of the Kiri Tree’ and that its immortality is gained from ‘sipping the dew of its flowers’. ... "
 
 

Indian activist presses for government accountability

" ... The Right To Information (RTI) Act seemed to become the topic in focus at the Youth Leadership Conclave organised jointly by Times Foundation and National Book Trust at the World Book Fair on Monday. The event gave members of the largely young audience the chance to meet and interact with several influential figures who shape society today.

Those addressing the audience included well-known social activist Arvind Kejriwal who has campaigned extensively for transparency in the government and was instrumental in bringing about the reforms in the RTI Act of 2005, Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury, a former officer in the Air Force and a representative of the Indian Mountaineering Society, and Sanjiv Kaura, Lead India winner from Delhi.

Urging people to exercise their right to information, Kejriwal said, ‘‘It is our right to demand accountability from the government. However, before this, we have never asked for accountability and there was no method to exercise this right. Now, it has the power to change our day to day lives as well as affect the highest levels of policy.’’ Among other things, Kejriwal exhorted people to use the RTI Act to avoid paying bribes to get legitimate work done and to use it in case of any lapse in services to be provided by government authorities. ... "
 

The Ancient Tree Hunt (UK)

Ancient trees are living relics of incredible age that inspire in us feelings of awe and mystery. They have helped shape our history, and will help shape our future if we let them. Can you help us to reveal their secrets, discover the wildlife they sustain and unlock their stories gathered over centuries?

The Ancient Tree Hunt (ATH) involves thousands of people in finding and mapping all the fat, old trees across the UK and is right at the heart of the Woodland Trust’s ancient tree conservation work. It will create a comprehensive living database of ancient trees and it’s the first step towards cherishing and caring for them.

The ATH began in 2004, as a joint venture with the Tree Register of the British Isles and the Ancient Tree Forum, and has already collected more than 6,000 records. Now, thanks to additional funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, it is stepping up a gear and, with your help and the assistance of many partner organisations, we aim to record at least 100,000 ancient trees throughout the UK by 2011.

This will give us a much better understanding of the number and size of ancient trees across the UK. You can also find details of ancient trees near where you live or places that you visit frequently.

http://www.ancient-tree-hunt.org.uk

The Age of Stupid

Franny Armstrong, director of McLibel, recently listed as one of the ‘Ten Documentaries Which Changed The World’, is looking for backers for her latest film, The Age of Stupid. The producer is John Battsek, who produced the Oscar-winning One Day In September, the 1999 documentary film about the hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Set in the runaway climate change world of 2055, this fast, furious and very funny film follows two animated teenagers as they look back at archive documentary footage from 2007. They ask: “Why didn’t they stop climate change while they had the chance?”

Spanner Films producer, Lizzie Gillett explains: “The film is utterly independent – mostly to give it the best chance of reaching a mainstream cinema audience. If the Age of Stupid is the ‘smash hit’ that we are dreaming of, the people who will benefit money-wise, are those who made it, those who star in it and those who financed it.”  

Website: www.crudemovie.net 
 

Food sovereignty and resistance to GM seeds in South America

" ... As genetically modified soybeans take over vast tracts in Brazil and all over South America and reports flow in of genetic contamination of local corn in Mesoamerica, grassroots resistance to biotech crops has also grown.

The protests form part of people's movements across the hemisphere that tie together a rejection of neoliberalism and agribusiness, and call for land reform, food sovereignty, and sustainable agriculture.

[ ... ]

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.

It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral, and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users.

Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution, and consumption based on environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock, and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes, and generations.

[ ... ]
 
Brazil's Landless People's Movement, the world's biggest land squatters' movement, is in the vanguard of GM-free ecological agriculture in the Americas. Its Bionatur seeds network develops and distributes diverse GM-free seeds and runs community seed banks that preserve agricultural biodiversity and keep germplasm out of the hands of agribusiness corporations. In the words of MST spokesman João Pedro Stédile, "If we lose our seed heritage, conquering land and capital will not serve us in any way."
 
[ ... ]

The network was born in 1997 as an outgrowth of COOPERAL, one of the MST's many farming co-operatives, which was seeking alternatives to the corporate-controlled and environmentally unsound industrial agriculture model favored by large "latifundista" landowners.

In its two decades of existence, the MST has provided over 22 million hectares of land to two million poor Brazilians. There they have established 5,000 settlements. The movement's land seizures cannot be properly termed civil disobedience or law-breaking, since Brazil's constitution obligates the government to distribute land to the poor. There are currently approximately 150,000 landless Brazilians affiliated with the MST that are living in temporary roadside barracks waiting to get land. ... "

~ From GM Soy in Brazil Will Kill the Amazon and Boost Global Warming by 50% ~

 

'Foibe' massacres "one of the barbaric acts of the last century"

The notorious 'foibe' massacres of several thousand Italians by Yugoslav partisans in and around the northeastern city of Trieste towards the end of World War II were "ethnic cleansing," Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano reaffirmed on Sunday.

"Those from outside Italy who reacted rashly to my speech of one year ago should calm down. This is my advice, " Napolitano, a former communist said in his annual remembrance day address to commemorate the victims of the 'foibe'.

Some 70 relations collected medals on behalf of the 'foibe' victims. Remembrance ceremonies were held in more than 200 ceremonies around Italy.

"If unity does not prevail over dissent, if dialogue does not prevail over prejudice, nothing that we have laboriously built may be considered a permanent gain," Napolitano stated.

Napolitano's message was clearly aimed at Croatia's president Stjepan Mesic who criticised remarks he made during his 2007 remembrance day speech in which Napolitano described the 'foibe' killings as a "tragedy" and "one of the barbaric acts of the last century."

In the 2007 remembrance day speech, Napolitano said of the 'foibe': "We should not remain silent, assuming the responsibility for having denied or ignored the truth owing to ideological prejudices."

Mesic said at the time that he was "unpleasantly surprised by the contents and the tone," used lately by the Italian leaders in describing the events of the past, which "also affect present relations."

"These statements, in which one cannot overlook the hints of open racism, historical revisionism and political revenge, are hardly in line with the declared wish for enhancing bilateral relations between our two countries,” said Mesic.

He claimed Italy was trying to revise the peace accord it signed in 1947 and the Osimo agreement of 1975 in which it renounced territories on the eastern Adriatic coast, such as Istria and Dalmatia, a move that would be "absolutely unacceptable" to Croatia.

Mesic's remarks sparked a diplomatic row between Italy and Croatia. Foreign minister Massimo D'Alema last February cancelled an official visit to the Balkan country by his undersecretary Vittorio Craxi and summoned Croatia's ambassador for an explanation. Mesic's remarks were slammed by Italian politicians from across the political spectrum.

'Foibe' is the Italian word for deep chasms into which several thousand Italians were thrown in 1943 after Italy's capitulation - sometimes alive - by Croatian and Slovenian partisans loyal to General Josip Broz Tito.

The 'foibe' killings occurred in Trieste, modern-day Slovenia and along the Istrian peninsula, which Italy lost to Croatia at the end of World War II.

The estimated number of people killed varies between 1,500 and 5,000. In addition, up to 400,000 Italians were expelled or emigrated from Dalmatia, Istria and the area bordering Slovenia. The ''foibe' have remained a painful historical burden in Italy.
 
 

"We have no problem in destroying property, the instruments of death"

" ... in a bizarre development, a founding member of Greenpeace has embraced the tactics of the French secret service. Canadian Paul Watson is a sinker of ships.

Captain Watson left Greenpeace in 1977 and formed the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society -- a vigilante environmentalist group that has sunk 10 ships since 1979. Sea Shepherd's actions have split the green movement between those advocating direct action and those espousing persuasion and engagement.

Battling whalers in the Southern Ocean, the crew of Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin yesterday welcomed the return of two fellow crew members from a Japanese whaler where they had been held since Wednesday, and where they attracted worldwide attention since boarding the Yushin Maru No2 in what many experts say was a breach of international maritime law.

Mr Watson is now pondering the next phase of his campaign.

Ship sinking was warranted in the battle to halt whaling, said Sea Shepherd executive director Kim McCoy.

Speaking from on board the Steve Irwin, Ms McCoy said the group had never hurt anyone.

"They were all sunk when nobody was on board," she said via satellite phone.

"All precautions were taken not to take life. No one has ever been injured in our 30-year history. But we have no problem in destroying property, the instruments of death."

Sea Shepherd has scuttled ships in Norway, Iceland, South Africa, Spain and Portugal as part of its unrelenting battle against whaling.

Ms McCoy confirmed that another of the Sea Shepherd ships, the Farley Mowat, had a reinforced hull to give it the capacity to ram whalers.

"Anybody who criticises what we do here, I would encourage them to encourage their governments to come out and enforce their laws," she said.

"We are in a whale sanctuary, it's designated as a whale sanctuary, and they are hunting whales."

[ ... ]

The reasons why Mr Watson left Greenpeace in 1977 are explained on the Sea Shepherd website.

"Paul left Greenpeace because he felt the original goals of the organisation were being compromised, and because he saw a global need to continue direct action conservation activities on the high seas by an organisation that would enforce laws protecting marine wildlife," the website says.

Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle said she supported the actions of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd in the Southern Ocean. "People are trying to achieve the same thing using different tactics," she said. "The support for Sea Shepherd in the community is very strong, particularly at the moment." ... "


~ From Sinker of ships once a rainbow warrior ~

 

FYROM passes lustration law

" ... [FYROM]'s parliament passed a bill on January 22nd requiring all candidates for official positions be investigated to determine whether they co-operated with -- or were members of -- the secret services during the communist era.

This kind of vetting process is referred to as lustration, a term that historically referred to purification rituals practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans. After the fall of communism, the term came to mean limiting former communists -- and especially spies of the communist secret police -- from participation in governments and all other public functions.

[FYROM]'s bill finally passed after the government agreed that it should apply from 1944 to the present. In May 2007, the government suggested that the vetting process apply only until July 2000. Proponents of the bill criticised that idea, saying it was evidence that the government sought to exempt agents and informers who are currently in power.

Those who want to work in the civil service, judiciary, academia, media and NGOs and religious organisations are now required to sign affidavits saying they did not collaborate with the secret services. Their record will then be verified by a nine-member parliamentary commission. The law will be in effect for five years. ... "

~ Full article ~

 

9/11 Commission- an uncensored look

" ... "Senior investigators on the 9/11 Commission believed their work was
being manipulated by the executive director to minimize criticism of
the Bush Administration," according to a new book on the Commission.

"Investigative staffers at the Commission believe [executive director]
Philip Zelikow repeatedly sought to minimize the administration's
intelligence failures in the months leading up to 9/11, which had the
effect of helping to ensure President Bush's re-election in 2004," no
less.

That is the sensational thesis of "The Commission: The Uncensored
History of the 9/11 Investigation" by New York Times reporter Philip
Shenon:

     http://www.thecommissionbook.com

The claim was immediately disputed by the former Commissioners and by
former staff.

[ ... ]

Mr. Shenon's engaging book provides new details on the efforts of
former national security adviser Sandy Berger to destroy documents at
the National Archive; the discovery of a highly classified Memorandum
of Notification authorizing the killing of Osama bin Laden that was
signed by President Clinton on December 24, 1998 then modified a few
months later for reasons that remain obscure; John Ashcroft's attempt
to embarrass Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, which had the unintended
effect of unifying the Commission;  and lots of interesting, gossipy
details about the internal dynamics of the Commission, some of which,
as noted, have been disputed.

[ ... ]

"One of the most neglected observations in the report was in our
section comparing the Millenium period (end 1999) with the 'summer of
threat' in 2001," Mr. Zelikow wrote to Mr. Shenon on September 20, 2007
in a passage that was not included in the book.

"We made the point there that the main driver in all the attention in
the earlier period was the massive publicity surrounding the Ressam
arrest.  [Ahmed Ressam was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles
International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999.]  We contrasted that with
the muffling secrecy of Summer 2001."

"Imagine what might have happened if the Moussaoui arrest had gotten
the kind of publicity and extended coverage that accompanied the Ressam
arrest. We had evidence from [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] that, had he known
of the Moussaoui arrest, he might have cancelled the operation," Mr.
Zelikow wrote. ... "
 

Vardarska's claim to Alexander's legacy - a brief expo

" ... An excellent example of what can occur with someone rewrites history can be seen in Germany during the 20's and 30's. When Hitler came to power, he rewrote history to say that Germany lost the World War I because they were betrayed by the Jewish people. Throughout the world, no one mounted a vigorous defense of the truth and the result was the Holocaust. We must always be on-guard against those who would rewrite history for their own selfish gains and opposition should not wait until after the fact.
In recent years, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) decided to drop the first three words in their name and call themselves, Macedonia (for further background see the editorial shown below). At first glance it seemed rather innocent until you realize there is already a region known as Macedonia. What further alarms one is that they are not only trying to steal the name of another people, they are claiming that from the first, only they are the true Macedonians and that all the lands of ancient Macedonia belong to them. Sound familiar?
At present there are two bills before the Congress of the United States. SB300 is before the U. S. Senate and in the U. S. House of Representative, it is HB356. They are designed to formally declare that the name Macedonia belongs to the descendents of Aristotle and Alexander, who were Greeks, and can not be used or taken by any other people. Please contact your Representative and Senators and voice your support for this ideal and the two bills.
In America, we do not tolerate personal identity theft, nor should we condone the theft of an entire peoples' history and culture.


Historical Background: EDITORIAL – WHAT'S IN A NAME?

In 1936, Hitler rewrote history and claimed that part of Czechoslovakia belonged to Germany. England and France accepted his claim and allowed him to eventually conquer all of Czechoslovakia. This act led to World War II.

Near the end of that war, in 1944, as part of his long-range plans, in Yugoslavia, Tito took a page out of Hitler's book. He renamed the province of Vardarska Banovina, Macedonia. His ultimate goal was to use this as a pretext to seize the Greek province of Macedonia.

Unfortunately for Tito and the present leadership of that province, that didn't happen. Instead, the United States under President Truman provided military equipment and the Greeks provided the blood to stop Tito's plans and rescued the Greek Macedonian province and all of Greece from possible Communist rule. Thus Greece and her Macedonia province remained on the western side of the Iron Curtain.

So that should have been the end of the story Right? – Wrong! The reason is that as part of his preparation to annex Macedonia, Tito had begun telling everyone that the people of Vardarska Banovina were the true descendants of Alexander (the Great) and thus the true Macedonians. Everyone in the world either ignored this falsehood or simply laughed it off. Unfortunately, for over fifty years, the people of Vardarska Banovina were taught this lie by their communist masters. So it should have come as no surprise when Yugoslavia collapsed, that those still in power in Vardarska Banovina, now called the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) would carry on the lie. After all, that's what they had taught their people for over 50 years.

Additionally, experience should have taught us that people who have lived under and trained to follow a communist mentality, have great difficulty with facts that do not fit their plans. They ignore the truth and fabricate illogical reasons for why we should go along. Case in point: the misleading claims made by the foreign minister of FYROM, Antonio Milososki, to The Washington Times in the article Name Game Blame (Embassy Row, July 11). He stated that his country should be designated Macedonia, not FYROM, because it will promote stronger trade relations with the United States, and, help with its transition to an independent nation – How? He also failed to mention that his government continues to teach its children and future military officers that only they are the true Macedonia. All this does is continue to poison new generations with falsehoods and plant the seeds of hatred. These actions clearly violate the U.N.-brokered "Intermediate Agreement" signed by his country and Greece – thus demonstrating contempt for the rule of law. ... "
 
 

Who gets to keep civilization's marbles?

" ... In many cases the nations asserting rights to artifacts have little in common, culturally, religiously, artistically, or even ethnically, with the civilizations buried beneath them. Modern Peru, for example, was built in the vacuum left by the systematic destruction of the Inca civilization, whose legacy the country now claims. "It is a stretch of the imagination," says Cuno, "to link modern Egypt to ancient Egypt, modern Greece to ancient Greece, modern Rome to ancient Rome, communist China to ancient China." Nonetheless, countries like Italy, Greece, Turkey, China, and many others have laws that make any antiquity found on their soil automatically the property of the state.

The demands of this nationalistic system, its critics say, can sometimes overrule the best interests of the artifacts. In a 2006 essay in the New York Review of Books, the philosopher and Princeton professor Kwame Anthony Appiah argued that such laws have even destroyed antiquities. Soon after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, Appiah pointed out, it was a UNESCO treaty prohibiting the removal of antiquities from their country of origin that prevented concerned scholars from rescuing pre-Islamic artifacts before the Taliban, branding them idolatrous objects, destroyed them.

"Would the ideologues of cultural nativism...find solace in the fact that these works were destroyed by Afghan hands, on Afghan soil?" Appiah wrote.

[ ... ]

For archeologists, the problem with looting is not simply that it is stealing, but that it destroys archeological sites, erasing irreplaceable information. A funerary jug scrubbed clean and presented for sale to a museum has far less to offer an archeologist than one found in the ground, where everything from its location and positioning to its contents and the composition of the soil around it - in short, its context - can offer clues to the sort of culture that made and preserved it.

To illustrate the point, Brian Rose, president of the Archaeological Institute of America and an archeology professor at the University of Pennsylvania (and a curator at the university museum), gives the example of a site called Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey. Under excavation since 1994, it is the oldest known temple complex in the world, predating Stonehenge by 7,000 years. If it had been looted, and its pillars and carvings brought onto the market with no context, Rose argues, "they probably would have been branded as forgeries" because their existence so fundamentally challenged archeologists' understanding of the earliest eras of human history.

The value of the current system to archeologists is that source countries like Italy and Greece, whatever their motivation, have proven better protectors of dig sites than museums have. "I think the nation-states are trying to do a good job of maintaining and protecting their antiquities," says Malcolm Bell, an archeology professor at the University of Virginia ... "

~ Read more... ~

 

Dark forces united in new cosmic theory

" ... The two biggest mysteries in cosmology may be one. A new theory says
that dark matter and dark energy could arise from a single dark fluid
that permeates the whole universe. And this could mean Earth-based
dark matter searches will come up empty.

Dark matter, as originally hypothesized, is extra hidden mass that
astrophysicists calculate is necessary for holding together fast-
turning galaxies. The most popular notion is that this matter is made
of some yet-to-be-identified particle that has almost no interactions
with light or ordinary matter. Yet it seems to be everywhere, acting
as a scaffolding for galaxy clusters and the whole structure of the
universe.

On the other hand, dark energy is needed to explain the more recently-
discovered acceleration of the universe's expansion. It supposedly
exists all throughout space, delivering a pressure that counteracts
gravity.

It's counterintuitive that one substance could be both a gravitational
anchor for galaxies and anti-gravity force for the universe. However,
HongSheng Zhao of the University of St Andrews in Scotland claims that
a fluid-like dark energy can act like dark matter when its density
becomes high enough.

"Dark energy is a property of the vacuum -- of fields that we do not
easily see," Zhao told Space.com. "From it, we can derive the dark
matter effect."

Zhao compares this dark fluid to Earth's atmosphere. Atmospheric
pressure causes air to expand, but part of the air can collapse to
form clouds. In the same way, the dark fluid might generally expand,
but it also could collect around galaxies to help hold them together. ... "
 

 

Apology for stolen generations to Australian Aborigines

Federal parliament will say sorry for the "profound grief, suffering and loss" inflicted on the stolen generations and will vow to never let it happen again.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday tabled in parliament the text of the national apology, giving notice it would be moved on Wednesday.

The apology honours Australia's indigenous people as, "the oldest continuing cultures in human history".

"We reflect on their past mistreatment," the apology reads.

"We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations, this blemished chapter in our nation's history."

Hundreds of indigenous Australians have descended on Canberra to witness the historic apology which comes more than a decade after the Bringing Them Home report.

The report documented the stories of tens of thousands of Aboriginal children taken from their families by governments between 1910 to the early 1970s.

The former Howard government, which lost last year's election, refused to issue a formal apology claiming it would leave the commonwealth liable to a flood of compensation claims.

The parliament will apologise for breaking up families and for the pain, degradation and suffering inflicted on the Aboriginal people.

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