Saturday, April 09, 2005
Irony is not dead
The Internationale is the hymn of the Fourth International Communist Party. My parents, being good reds, used to sing it every New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, with all the comrades at the socialist New Year's gathered round the record player to sing along with the soundtrack from Reds. It is quite a stirring anthem, and has been translated into dozens of languages, and is sung the world 'round.
Weirdly, this 19th century song is still in copyright in France, and a French filmmaker has just been fined about $1300 for letting a character in one of his films whistle the tune (you can hear a very modern synth-pop take on the tune courtesy of Maxx Klaxon here).
The irony factor here is much deeper than, say, the irony surrounded JibJab's appropriationof Woody Guthrie's This Land. Guthrie was a socialist, sure, but the Internationale is a call to arms to abolish private property, eliminate international borders, and throw off your chains and rise up to smash the state. Hard to imagine that the long-dead creator of that song is having his wishes honored by French collecting societies shaking down people who make use of it for cash. (Link)
The 19th-century revolutionary hymn was written by Eugene Pottier in 1871 and set to music by another Frenchman, Pierre Degeyter, in 1888...
Under French law, "The Internationale" won't fall into the public domain until 2014 — 70 years of post-mortem protection plus extra time to cover the world war. Degeyter died in 1932....
Taking hostages helps you win hearts and minds
Batawi, who farms at Taji just north of Baghdad, told Reuters on Tuesday that the women had been arrested to try to pressure him and his brothers Muhammad and Saddam to surrender themselves to U.S. troops who suspect them of insurgent attacks. Batawi, who spoke to Reuters on Tuesday at the offices of a leading organisation for Sunni Muslim clerics, said he was released in August after more than a year in Abu Ghraib jail following the U.S. invasion. He denies helping the insurgents. "We call for the immediate release of these women to avoid any consequences that could take place."BAGHDAD, April 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Baghdad confirmed on Wednesday it was holding two Iraqi women and was investigating accusations that they were being held hostage to pressure their fugitive male relatives to surrender. A spokesman said the women were detained as insurgent suspects, not hostages. The latter would be a breach of international law, human rights experts say; it could, however, be legitimate to hold relatives as suspects in their own right. "The U.S. army and Iraqi police did detain two females suspected of collaboration with anti-Iraqi forces," Major Donn Latimer of the 3rd Infantry Division told Reuters, using a term employed by U.S. troops to describe guerrilla insurgents. "Evidence was found at the residence that indicates clear knowledge of an intent to harm coalition forces," Latimer said. "Currently their disposition is under review." The women's names were not available but details of their detention indicated they were relatives of Arkan Mukhlif al-Batawi, who has accused U.S. troops of taking his mother and sister hostage after raiding the family home on Saturday. A handwritten note in Arabic at the house read: "Be a man Muhammad Mukhlif and give yourself up and then we will release your sisters. Otherwise they will spend a long time in detention." It was signed "Bandit 6", apparently U.S. army code, possibly designating a company commander. Several neighbours corroborated Batawi's account of events. When Reuters called a mobile phone number left on the note, an American who said he was a soldier appeared to be aware of Batawi's accusation but declined further comment. "THOROUGH INVESTIGATION" Latimer said the U.S. military was investigating accusations that the women had been detained to pressure the brothers. "We will conduct a thorough investigation into this matter," Latimer said. "As such we cannot comment further." Neighbours interviewed around Batawi's villa in the capital's Sunni Arab suburb of Taji corroborated his account. They said U.S. troops accompanied by Iraqi police had arrested Batawi's 65-year-old mother and a sister who is 35, and had told locals through an interpreter that the women would be freed only once the brothers surrendered themselves. On several occasions, Iraqis have accused U.S. troops of arresting women to pressure fugitive male relatives into giving themselves up. Amnesty International says such arrests would be in breach of international law. The U.S. military says it only detains those suspected of crimes or involvement in attacks. The detention of women in any circumstance angers many Iraqis who say it violates their culture. Sunni clerics have demanded the two women arrested in Taji be freed immediately. "We condemn this act, taking women hostage to pressure families to hand over relatives," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of Iraq's Sunni Endowment, which supervises shrines and mosques. Batawi said he was not sure why the troops wanted to arrest him and his brothers but believed they might suspect them of involvement in insurgent attacks on U.S. forces. (Link)
Gitmo court cases leaked
PETE YOST AND MATT KELLEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS - In a development the Bush administration had hoped to avoid, the stories of about 60 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base have spilled out in court papers. A U.S. college-educated detainee asks plaintively in one: "Is it possible to see the evidence in order to refute it?" In another transcript, the unidentified president of a U.S. military tribunal bursts out: "I don't care about international law. I don't want to hear the words 'international law' again. We are not concerned with international law." . . .
Feroz Ali Abbasi was ejected from his September hearing because he repeatedly challenged the legality of his detention. "I have the right to speak," Abbasi said.
"No, you don't," the tribunal president replied. The tribunal found Abbasi to have been "deeply involved" in the al-Qaida terror network. Yet four months later, the government released him, saying his home country of Britain would keep an eye on him. (Link)
John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, can quote chapter and verse about his latest drilling venture in Israel, where his company has an oil and gas exploration license covering 96,000 acres.
“Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favored by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil,” Brown quotes from Moses’s blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.
Standing next to a 177-foot derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brown said the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher, where the agricultural community is located.
Geological surveys and an attempt by an Israeli-based company to find oil at the same site 10 years ago, a venture he said was abandoned for lack of funds, led Brown to pick the spot where new drilling will begin this week.
Brown said he raised money for “Project Joseph” from fellow evangelical Christians in the United States.
“From the investment standpoint, they certainly hope to have a return of the money,” he said. “But the basis of it is Genesis, chapter 12.”
In that passage, God promises to shower blessings on those who bless the “great nation” sired by the Hebrew patriarch Abraham.
Friday, April 08, 2005
And the Tories are any better?
We have the liberal adscam, but the Tories have managed to be corrupt without even being in power. Makes me think that the conservatives would make Adscam look like a church bake sale in the fifties.
PS I lean towards the Greens. Might get my act together an actually joins soon.
VANCOUVER, OTTAWA -- Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal continued to come under fire yesterday for asking constituents to post bonds of up to $100,000 for his help in obtaining visitor visas.
Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, who has asked the federal Ethics Commissioner to investigate, accused Mr. Grewal of "a practice that is borderline legal."
Mr. Grewal said at a meeting of the standing committee on citizenship and immigration last month that he has been asking for bonds to ensure that visitors he helps will leave the country when they should.
The British Columbia MP has put forward a private member's bill that would make bonds standard practice when someone who has been turned down for a visitor's visa wants to reapply.
"It's clearly unacceptable," Mr. Volpe said.
"The Immigration Department and the immigration program was not designed to be a cash cow for members of Parliament or for political organizations. I'm absolutely disgusted by it," Mr. Volpe said.
"This is obviously not something that we tolerate. . . . It's something that I would find not only unacceptable but abhorrent."
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper defended Mr. Grewal, however, saying the MP from the B.C. riding of Newton-North Delta has been wrongly accused.
"I have spoken to Mr. Grewal, and my understanding from those conversations is that this story is simply not correct. All Mr. Grewal has done is attempt to build support for his private member's bill, which obviously advocates a bonding process," Mr. Harper said.
"Mr. Grewal assures me that the suggestion that he has obtained money or sought money from anybody is completely false. And I would say to the Immigration Minister and anyone else, with the kind of cloud they're under, they should be very careful about making any kinds of accusations because we will not hesitate to have them in court as fast as you can say Gomery, if they are not correct in those kinds of accusations."
Mr. Grewal's office said he would comment on the controversy in the future. A transcript of the committee meeting, where he defended the private member's bill, shows that Mr. Grewal said constituents were posting bonds.
"People have come to my office and signed papers for up to $100,000 bond. I'm not advocating that it should be $100,000, but on the other hand, I said if there is a percentage of income or savings or something like that, it would be proportionally the same for everyone. For some people, $25,000 or $50,000 is too much, and it is too little for other people," Mr. Grewal said.
"It's very fascinating, Mr. Grewal," said Lui Temelkovski, a Liberal member of the committee. "You just said that in your office you've had people come in and sign up to $100,000? For what? Who is taking the money?" (Link)
An idea as a quote
What do you think?
And America ends.
Wow, these people are well on their way to destroy America. Ah well....
PS Do I have to rant about how bullshit the idea of "activist" judges is again?
Christian conservatives and a core group of congressional supporters are launching a significant new push to restructure the federal judicial system to reflect a more explicitly biblical world view, in the hopes that these changes will pave the way for broader social and political changes, leaders of the movement said. Some of the most prominent conservative leaders in the country -- including Vision America's Rick Scarborough, Coral Ridge Ministry's James Kennedy and the Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich -- launched the effort Thursday in Washington.Members of the new coalition said they would immediately focus on bringing an end to Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees before pushing Senate Majority Leader Frist to enact sweeping changes in the judiciary.They also warned that Frist and other politicians who have thus far been reluctant to force a confrontation with Senate Minority Leader Reid over the nominations would be held accountable if Democrats continue to block conservative judges.Participants at this week's Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration meeting said the group also will focus on forcing Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against any judge who does not conform with their biblically based interpretation of the Constitution, as well as permanently curb judicial authority over matters of church and state, marriage and governmental acknowledgement of a Christian deity."What it is time to do is impeach justices," Texas Justice Foundation President Allan Parker extolled a crowd of a hundred or so conservative lobbyists, attorneys and activists. "The standard should be any judge who believes in the 'living constitution' should be impeached."
Afganistan's lost forests
I am most of the way though Jared Diamond's Collapse (Not as good as Guns, Germs, and Steel, but very much worth reading. Actually let me rephrase that, I strongly recommend it, and it should be required reading for any interested in the impact of the environment on human civillization.
Because I have been reading it I have been sensitized to deforestation.
Before the outbreak of war in 1979, Afghanistan was famous for its unspoiled woodlands filled with wildlife. An unbroken belt of natural pistachio forest stretched across the north, giant 300-year-old cedars filled the mountain valleys of the east, and even the arid hills of the south were well-timbered. Twenty-five years of war later, the extent of the country's environmental disaster is becoming frighteningly clear. In 1977 satellite imaging found 55 per cent of Badghis Province was covered with woodlands. Now almost nothing shows up. Desperate villagers stripped the mountainsides bare of trees to survive and, with no government authority to stop them, warlords found lumbering high-value trees such as walnut and cedar almost as profitable as the drugs trade. Forestry experts believe the country has suffered an environmental disaster that has hardly been noticed by the outside world but is grimly apparent to villagers who are increasingly seeing their livelihoods destroyed by desertification. The forests of the north - once famous throughout Asia for the pistachios they produced for export - have almost disappeared. Sayed Bahram Saeedi, director of forestry at the agricultural ministry, estimates that half of Afghanistan's forestlands have been destroyed during the last 25 years of war and drought. In the east the figure may be higher than 70 per cent. With government authority non-existent in many areas, the rape of the forests continues unchecked, and may even have been stepped up in the past three years as the end of fighting made it easier for timber mafias to operate. Along the Pakistan border, huge areas of forest have been levelled. High-quality wood is exported to Pakistan's carpenters, who turn it into furniture for export to the Gulf. The rest is sold as firewood in Afghanistan - the dusty road from the border town of Khost to Kabul is constantly choked with convoys of trucks filled with wood.(Link)
PS here is the blog where I found out about this topic.
KUALA LUMPUR - Pirates are making a mockery of the half-hearted efforts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to make the Malacca Strait safe for shipping. When the three littoral states launched a plan last July to coordinate patrols of the strait, they were determined to make two points. One, the waterway through which a third of the world's trade and half its oil passes was not vulnerable to terrorist and pirate attacks. And two, the littoral states themselves were up to the task of securing the strait and assistance by foreign militaries was unnecessary. But four brazen pirate attacks in the strait in the past month alone have put paid to the littoral states' pretensions. One saw 35 armed pirates hijack a gas tanker, something that it has long been feared might be converted by terrorists into a floating bomb and spearheaded into a port, severely disrupting world trade. Another attack saw three crewmen of a Japanese tugboat kidnapped, marking an incident in which a non-littoral state became a victim of a pirate attack. In a race to allay fears and defend its sovereignty, the Malaysian government announced on April 1 that it would place armed police officers on board selected tugboats and barges traversing the strait. Singaporean officials say they are setting up a 24-hour information center that will begin operations next year. "The [littoral state] authorities realize the importance of beefing up patrol," said Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). "Indonesia and Malaysia don't want foreign intervention, but if this keeps going on, they will have a harder time resisting it." Those two states are betting that better coordinating patrols will do the trick - such patrols, in Choong's words, being in essence a matter of "you control your waters, we control ours". But many observers have their doubts as to the effectiveness of this method. (Link)
Amid all the criticism of the US's faulty intelligence-gathering, a new concern is surfacing about America's premier national-security agencies - their vulnerability to counterespionage.
Because the US has reached such lone, superpower status, government officials say, at least 90 countries - in addition to Al Qaeda - are attempting to steal some of the nation's most sacred secrets.It's not only foes, like members of terror groups or nations that are adversaries of the US, but friends as well. The top five countries trying to snoop on US plans and cutting-edge technology, according to an official who works closely with the FBI on this issue, are China, Russia, Israel, France, and North Korea. Others running close behind: Cuba, Pakistan, and India.
"With the end of the Soviet Union, people stopped taking counterintelligence seriously," says Patrick Lang, former head of Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Not enough attention has been devoted to keeping people from getting into our secret store of knowledge."
The issue is getting more attention now. The Silberman-Robb commission, the latest to scrutinize the intelligence capabilities of the US, harshly criticized the US's counterintelligence efforts across the 15 agencies and recommended major changes. During the same week, the Bush administration released its National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States. And top counterintelligence officials participated in a conference at Texas A&M University earlier in March.
A chief concern, officials say, is that Al Qaeda or other terror groups may try to infiltrate US national security agencies. Paul Redmond, a former CIA counterintelligence official who spoke at the conference last month, said it is an "actuarial certainty" that foreign spies have again infiltrated US national-security agencies.
The CIA, according to a recruiter at the conference, has already flagged about 40 applicants who they think may have tried to be double agents. This would fit Al Qaeda's pattern, according to Michael Scheuer, a former top CIA counterterrorism official. Al Qaeda operatives, he says, have already penetrated several security agencies in Middle Eastern countries.
The US has long had trouble with double agents. During the cold war, essentially every component of the US's national- security apparatus - with maybe the exception of the Coast Guard - was penetrated, experts say. Moles working for adversaries of the US stole closely guarded secrets, including details on nuclear weapons programs, cryptographic codes, and information on how the US spies on its adversaries.
Moreover, intelligence officials and experts say, this is an area where the US has never gained an advantage overseas, and it's becoming more difficult to operate in an ever-changing world.
For one thing, all 15 US intelligence agencies have ramped up their recruiting efforts - possibly opening the door to infiltrators - to support the government's policies in the war on terror. At the same time, the US has engaged in more information-sharing activities with allies - the coalition in Iraq, for example, and several other arrangements with foreign governments for strategic reasons.
The US shares critical technology and weapons programs with allies, like Israel. But in the past, and again more recently, the US has censured Israel for selling that technology to US adversaries, like China. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, and reportedly made it clear that Israel was to stop selling US-originated weapons systems, like the HARPY unmanned aerial vehicle, to China.
"We continue to raise these concerns with allies, friends, and partners and look for them to take a responsible approach to arms sales to China," says Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
But it is also difficult for Americans to become double agents and counter foreign spies because of cultural sensitivities. "We're never going to be as good at developing techniques and strategies [as] ... countries in opposition to us," says Peter Crooks, a 20-year veteran of the FBI's counterintelligence program.
He explains that countries like Cuba, former Soviet bloc countries, and several in the Middle East don't hesitate to use such tactics. But in the US, people find it distasteful, even dishonorable, to spy on neighbors or to try to turn them into informants.
Indeed, Mr. Lang tells the story of speaking on intelligence gathering at a recent conclave at Penn State. A South Korean in the audience, a member of that country's equivalent of the FBI, asked why the US is so bad at espionage.
Lang replied: "Well, we've got you here for two years, right? Wouldn't it be logical for us to put a couple of our guys next to you, recruit you, so that when you return home, you can provide us information from inside your government?"
The South Korean responded that would be perfectly appropriate: It's what other countries routinely do.
Lang says he paused a moment, smiled, then pointed out how uncomfortable the audience had become - most, he says, were squirming in their seats.
Yet experts like Lang and Crooks say that's exactly what needs to be done. The US needs to recruit members of the large immigrant communities in the US who travel back and forth to home countries and know the cultures.
The Silberman-Robb report called for more aggressive tactics, too. "Even as our adversaries - and many of our 'friends' - ramp up their intelligence activities against the United States, our counterintelligence efforts remain fractured, myopic, and marginally effective," the report states. "Our counterintelligence philosophy and practices need dramatic change, starting with centralizing counterintelligence leadership ... and taking our counterintelligence fight overseas to adversaries currently safe from scrutiny."
Yes, I am posting an article about Indian naval strategy. Trust me.
The author is one of the grand strategy guys in the US navy. He wrote a book called the Pentagon's New Map. This books is interesting both in what it means to say and what it says unintentionally. The strategy put forward in that book has considerable potential, thought the tactics suggested to get to is done are probably counterproductive.
In February of this year, I had the pleasure of attending the Indian Navy's first-ever International Fleet Review in Mumbai, where I made a presentation to a symposium audience of 16 Chiefs of Naval Staff and dozens of flag officers from an additional 13 Navies. This fleet review, which went by the motto "Bridges of Friendship," essentially was the Indian Navy's "coming out" party after many years of building up and modernizing its force structure, mostly through foreign purchases.
You may ask, "Coming out for what?" Frankly, that was the real theme of the high-powered symposium, as well as of numerous discussions I had with Indian flag officers, both active and retired. In many ways, this grand celebration was the swan song for a generation of Indian admirals who propelled this once humble coastal force to its current heights as the world's fourth-largest navy. Not only do they want the international community to take note and show some respect, but they also are looking for some clear sense of where their Navy fits in this messy post-Cold War security environment.
Future Pathways of the Indian Navy
It is fair to say that every Indian admiral I spoke with represented his own school of thought, but I sensed two broad strategic factions, which I dub the Soviet School and the British School. This division recalls not only the perceived operational disparity between the Eastern and Western fleets (the former long considered the "Russian half" of the Indian Navy; the latter the "British half") but also the difference between a land-oriented great power's strategic employment of naval force and that of a sea-oriented one.
Not surprisingly, most of the British School admirals I met had studied at the U.S. Naval War College. Conversely, I could discuss my love for Russian poetry - in the original - with those of the Soviet School. I further subdivide each school into two wings: those admirals who believe the Indian Ocean "belongs" to the Indian Navy (and not to any "meddlesome outsiders," including the U.S. Navy) and those who believe the Indian Navy "belongs" to something larger - typically, the collective good of global maritime security.
Putting those two axes together, I see four future pathways for the Indian Navy;
1. Minimum-Deterrent Navy (Soviet School / Regional Focus). This is the weakest long-term outcome because it relegates the Navy to an adjunct to the Army and Air Force in India's continuing nuclear arms race with Pakistan. This tendency most recently is demonstrated in New Delhi's declaration to remain "equal" to any Pakistani move to put nuclear missiles on its submarines (1). Recalling the Soviet Navy's bastion strategy, this is a go-nowhere, do-little navy.
2. Sea-Denial Navy (Soviet School / Global Ambition). This is an anti-China navy that seeks to export an anti-access strategy to the South China Sea. Like the old Soviet fleet, it focuses on anti-ship capabilities with an emphasis on attack submarines. In its most aggressive form, it might be construed by some as an anti-U.S. navy in terms of its modest capacity for power projection toward the Persian Gulf. During the fleet review's finale, Indian naval commandos demonstrated their quick-strike skills by planting explosive charges on three mock oil rigs in Mumbai's Back Bay. They demolished the platforms to the delight of the huge crowds lining the shore, providing the VIP audience of foreign admirals a none too subtle reminder of where India resides, namely, right along the sea route that carries the majority of the world's energy traffic from the Middle East to developing Asia.
3. Sea Lines of Communication-Stability Navy (British School / Regional Focus). This is the polar opposite of the sea-denial navy, for it takes as its prime task the preservation of the Indian Ocean as a safe transit for global commerce. This Indian Navy seeks to supplant the U.S. Navy as the region's sea-based Leviathan, not so much because it wants the United States out, but because India believes this is an appropriate regional security role for it to fill as its economy emerges. Another way to describe this navy is the "Mini-Me Navy," or the Indian Navy's regionalized version of the U.S. Navy - same rough spread of capabilities, just one-eighth the size.
4. International Coalition Navy (British School / Global Ambition). This is the most ambitious navy, for it assumes two key developments: (1) a lessening of the land-based rivalries with Pakistan and China; and (2) a far bigger share of the Indian defense budget going to the navy, which now receives around 15%. In a practical sense, this is a "niche navy," or India's version of the current Royal Navy: a pro-international norms force that can deploy with some genuine reach when combined with the U.S. Navy in a multinational naval coalition. On the face of it, some nations might instinctively fear an Indian Navy of such capability, but such a long-term development would signal a secure and confident New Delhi looking to do its part for global security maintenance. As a rule, dangerous powers field large armies and air forces, not large navies.
Which navy India will end up with is anyone's guess. Based on everything I heard in Mumbai, strong rationales exist within the Indian Navy for each outcome. But clearly, for India to achieve a world-class navy, its leaders have to move beyond viewing the fleet as a supplemental tool in New Delhi's long-standing rivalries with its neighbors, toward an expansive security vision that takes into account the nation's global economic status as an emerging information-technology superpower.
Why India Matters
As noted diplomat Sashi Tharoor argues, India is probably "the most important country for the future of the world."(5) If globalization succeeds in the United States or the European Union, no one will be too surprised. After all, globalization demands less change of these countries than it does of the world around them. And if globalization fails in China or Russia, many likewise will be unsurprised, for it requires much change from both societies - perhaps too much too quickly. But whether globalization succeeds in India should interest just about everyone around the world, for if globalization can succeed in a democratic society where half the population is illiterate and terribly impoverished, then it can succeed just about anywhere. Conversely, if it cannot succeed in a free-market economy that features the world's largest pool of information technology workers, there is little hope for much of the world's population.
Not too long ago, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld characterized India as a country "threatening other people, including the U.S., Western Europe and countries in West Asia." (6) In my dealings with Wall Street as part of a Naval War College project on globalization, I have spoken with a number of financial executives about India and its role in the global economy, and I have found quite a different appreciation there (7). In fact, besides China, there is no country in the world about which there is such a huge gap between how the U.S. security establishment and the U.S. financial establishment view - respectively - the security "threat" and the economic "opportunity."
India suffers some profound military insecurities - the sort that often derail a society's best attempts to open itself to the outside world. The Indian Navy is the country's best near- and long-term instrument for positively asserting itself as a force for regional and global stability. The Bush administration needs to think seriously about what sort of security relationship it wants with India in the coming years. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's May trip to New Delhi was a huge step in the right direction, signaling an easing of the restrictions on military contacts imposed by the Clinton administration following Indian nuclear weapons tests in 1998. Let's hope it jump starts a far broader menu of strategic cooperation. (Link)
Wait! I saw a movie about this....
DAN KLEPAL, CINCINATI ENQUIRER - The eight-month undercover investigation at Milford High School by a private detective, hired to pose as a student and infiltrate the school's drug scene, was so secret that school board members didn't even know of the $60,000 expenditure to the Dayton security firm that provided the detective. Only Superintendent John Frye, who came up with the idea, and school board president Carol Ball, who gave her approval, knew of the investigation in which the detective in her 20s posed as an 18-year-old student who went to classes, took exams, and went to after-school parties without anyone - including teachers - knowing her identity. . . The investigation culminated Friday with the arrest of 16 students on drug-trafficking charges. Twelve are juveniles. (Link)
Patents on sanwiches??? ?
SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ, WALL ST JOURNAL - Smucker obtained patent rights on the [Uncrustable] sandwich in 1999, and set out to expand them with new applications before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But a patent examiner handling the case rejected the company's requests. The Patent Office's appeals board upheld the decision, declaring the sealed sandwich wasn't new, and citing, among other things, a pastry cookbook that shows how to seal the edges of tarts and stuffed pasta. Yesterday, Smucker lawyer, Robert Vickers of Fay, Sharpe, Fagan, Minnich & McKee LLP of Cleveland, argued that the sandwich's edge isn't made like the tarts or raviolis shown in the cookbook. Instead, he said, the bread retains its original characteristics but its edges are compressed."So it's smushed!" Judge Raymond Clevenger III declared,"It is sealed by compression, but it is not smushed," Mr. Vickers explained.Mr. Vickers also said the sandwich is novel because the filling "encapsulates" jelly between two larger layers of peanut butter. But the judges weren't sure how the "encapsulated" filling makes the Smucker sandwich different from other versions.At one point, another judge, Arthur Gajarsa, said his wife often squeezes together the sides of their child's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to keep the filling form oozing out. "I'm afraid she might be infringing on your patent." (Link)
Is Google nuts?
Thursday, April 07, 2005
India-US axis to check China
NEW DELHI - It is the kind of statement unexpected just prior to the arrival of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in India on Saturday. Addressing India's top army brass, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday that India must keep an eye on China's modernization of its armed forces. Mukherjee's assertions are a clear reflection of the kind of geopolitical turns that politics of the Asian region may take in the near future, with the US egging on India to rein in the growing influence of China. "A watch has to be kept on Chinese infrastructure in Tibet and its technological and military modernization program and the growth of its navy," the defense minister said. He observed that India had been keeping an eye on the rapid growth of the Chinese navy, and its expected entry into the Indian Ocean region within a decade will introduce a new military factor into the Indian neighborhood. "The Chinese growth is being watched by various powers ... We must be alive to these changes and their implications on our strategy," Mukherjee said. It has not been lost to observers that Mukherjee, in his same speech, was happy about India's relations with the US. "With the US, we have made progress in expanding the space for understanding of our security concerns and for defense cooperation. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit has opened new perspectives," he said. Significantly, Mukherjee's statements came when Wen was in Pakistan meeting with President General Pervez Musharraf. The two signed a treaty of friendship. Though there is not much new to say, the treaty for the first time defines the strong five-decade-old relationship between the two countries, including military exchange. Coinciding with the Wen visit, Pakistan launched its joint production with China of the JF-17 fighter aircraft, a project that was initiated because of the hitherto ban on F-16 fighters by the US. Wen also spoke of joint nuclear energy production, making it apparent that China would do unto Pakistan what the US is seeking with India. This is, however, not to rule out the importance of Sino-Indian relations, which have grown in leaps and bounds on the back of trade. It is another matter that business relations between the two countries have happened pretty much independent of government intervention. While the two sides have been pragmatic enough to set aside important differences, such as boundary issues, in order to promote business, it goes without saying that India will always keep a keen eye on China, even if to keep the US happy. As Wen said in an address in Pakistan, the economic and trade relations between China and Pakistan did not match their political and strategic relationship. The situation is the opposite in the case of India and China. US-India in the Chinese context Indeed, there has been considerable rethinking within the Indian establishment about developments in Indo-US relations consequent to the visit of Rice, as well as the offer by President George W Bush to deepen strategic relations with India. Over the past weeks, as the import of the US offer has sunk in, experts and well as those in the establishment have been talking a different tune, even as India has ordered a cache of arms from countries other than US, to signal its irritation. The engagement that the US is seeking from India goes much beyond just arms supplies: that offer has also been made to Pakistan. The US is looking to India to deepen economic relations, nuclear-energy cooperation, arms production as well as procure contracts for the estimated arms purchases by India to the tune of US$12 billion over the next few years that will include fighter jets, submarines, tanks and technological advancements. The US has opened arms supplies to India, including the much-talked-about F-16 fighter jets that have been offered to Pakistan as well. India has been miffed at the US for removing a 15-year ban on the supply of fighter jets to Pakistan. It is clear now that India missed the wood for the trees, a phrase used by Shekhar Gupta, editor of the Indian Express, in his column recently. Gupta argues that the US wants to engage India and move beyond the traditional hyphenation of US-India-Pakistan relations, and is looking at India as a strategic partner to fend off China. The US is seeking India beyond the axis of Cold War nations wherein India was seen to be allied closely with the former Soviet Union. This point is further emphasized by the fact that the US is strongly opposing the lifting of the arms embargo on China by the European Union, especially in light of the rising tensions between Taiwan and China. Indeed, after an initial reaction of "disappointment", there has been a perceptible turnaround by India to the offer by US that includes cooperation in nuclear energy and joint production of military hardware. Mukherjee's clear enunciation of the thinking of the Indian establishment re-emphasized the perceptible turnaround made by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the US offered arms to Pakistan. After his initial reaction of "disappointment", Manmohan said, "We have said publicly about the F-16s issue at a time when we are engaged in peace talks [with Pakistan]. I am disappointed but we have to move forward and resolve outstanding issues." However, he added, "India needs the strong support of the world community, including the US, to emerge as a major world power." India and Pakistan must devote more time and money for the betterment of their people, he said, making it apparent that it would not be wise for India to take a stand that completely counters the US. "Our common enemy is poverty, ignorance and disease. We should devote all our resources to fighting poverty. Our generation has an obligation to the future," he said. In the past, the US has required Pakistan, whether it be to take on Soviet ambitions in Afghanistan or the post-September 11, 2001, "war on terror". It still does need Pakistan for support against Iran, as well as to nab cadres of al-Qaeda and the elusive big fish, Osama bin Laden. However, there is a growing feeling of disenchantment with Pakistan as well, given its record in buttressing terror and peddling nuclear secrets. Importantly, Pakistan's strong military dealings with China are quite well known, a facet that the US can never be comfortable with. The reaffirmation of US interest in India being independent of Pakistan is further buttressed by the fact that the peace process between the two countries is firmly in place and has built a momentum independent of the overtures that the US is making. Musharra
PQ spins Adscam and gets caught
As we reported yesterday, Alain Renaud, a senior executive who worked for the ad firm Groupaction during the Adscam years, claims that while the company was getting $43 million in sponsorship funds, it was slipping thousands of dollars to the PQ.
In one deal, Renaud says, Groupaction paid about $90,000 to the PQ in return for a $4.5-million advertising contract with the Quebec liquor board, the SAQ.
The PQ, of course, went berserk over the story, denying it with separatist vigour. Groupaction had actually lost the bid for the liquor board contract in late 1998, the party insisted. Too bad Renaud was talking about Groupaction's contract from 1996-97. (Link)
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Contrasting courts on same-sex marriage
Miscegenation and same-sex marriage
We are in the midst of an attempt to ground a category of discrimination in the fundamental social bedrock of marriage law. I would argue that it is virtually impossible to understand the current debate over same-sex marriage without first understanding the history of American miscegenation laws and the long legal fight against them, if only because both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage come to this debate, knowing or unknowingly, wielding rhetorical tools forged during the history of miscegenation law. The arguments white supremacists used to justify for miscegenation laws--that interracial marriages were contrary to God's will or somehow unnatural--are echoed today by the most conservative opponents of same-sex marriage. And supporters of same-sex marriage base their cases on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, echoing the position the U.S. Supreme Court took when it declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the case of Loving v. Virginia. Both sides confront the structures of marriage law exclusion that were also forged during the history of miscegenation, including, as I show below, the legal maneuvering over the seemingly minor bureaucratic practice of issuing marriage licenses.
(The rest of the story)
What the f**k? What do they think reporters do?
If you read this article you will notice an implicit understanding that Journalist exist to serve the interest of the establishment. This journalist should not have developed contacts with one of the warring sides in a conflict. Should not because the establishment is fighting a war against these people, and the wrong sort of information will undermine the support for war.
On the other hand I believe that journalist should serve the publics need for information. Information that allows the public, the people to make decisions about their nation. Democracy can only function if the public makes something that resembles an informed decision. Hinderaker is obviously not interested in having an informed public. What the public sees is must controlled if the powerline boys are going to get/keep power. If the public gets a good look at the war then well they might just do what all decent people do when confronted by barbarism, be repulsed by it. Not more support for military adventures. no more empire.
We have written a couple of times about the accusations of complicity with terrorists in Iraq which were made recently by Belmont Club and others. The issue relates to the shocking photo, recently published by the AP, showing three terrorists in the act of murdering two Iraqi election workers on a street during daylight. The photographer was obviously within a few yards of the scene of the murder, which raises obvious questions, such as 1) what was the photographer doing there; did he have advance knowledge of the crime, or was he even accompanying the terrorists? and 2) why did the photographer apparently have no fear of the terrorists, or conversely, why were the terrorists evidently unconcerned about being photographed in the commission of a murder?
Salon printed a defense of the AP (and an attack on conservative bloggers) that included this anonymous comment from an AP spokesman:
A source at the Associated Press knowledgeable about the events covered in Baghdad on Sunday told Salon that accusations that the photographer was aware of the militants' plans are "ridiculous." The photographer, whose identity the AP is withholding due to safety concerns, was likely "tipped off to a demonstration that was supposed to take place on Haifa Street," said the AP source, who was not at liberty to comment by name. But the photographer "definitely would not have had foreknowledge" of a violent event like an execution, the source said.
So the AP admitted that its photographer was "tipped off" by the terrorists. The only quibble asserted by the AP was that the photographer expected only a "demonstration," not a murder. So the terrorists wanted to be photographed carrying out the murder, to sow more terror in Iraq and to demoralize American voters. That's why they tipped off the photographer, and that's why they dragged the two election workers from their car, so they could be shot in front of the AP's obliging camera. And the AP was happy to cooperate with the terrorists in all respects. We'd like to ask some more questions of the photographer, of course, but that's impossible since the AP won't identify him because of "safety concerns." Really? Who would endanger his safety?
The terrorists? They could have shot him on Sunday if they were unhappy about having their picture taken. But they weren't, which is why they "tipped off" the photographer. Belmont Club responded to the Salon defense here, in a post we linked to a day or two ago.
Now there's more: Jim Romanesko got an email from another AP spokesman, this time Jack Stokes, the AP's director of media relations. Here it is:
Several brave Iraqi photographers work for The Associated Press in places that only Iraqis can cover. Many are covering the communities they live in where family and tribal relations give them access that would not be available to Western photographers, or even Iraqi photographers who are not from the area.
Insurgents want their stories told as much as other people and some are willing to let Iraqi photographers take their pictures. It's important to note, though, that the photographers are not "embedded" with the insurgents. They do not have to swear allegiance or otherwise join up philosophically with them just to take their pictures.
That makes the admission pretty well complete, I think. The AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists; this is for the purpose of helping to tell the terrorists' "stories." The photographers don't have to swear allegiance to the terrorists--gosh, that's reassuring--but they have "family and tribal relations" with them. And they aren't embedded--I'm not sure I believe that--but they don't need to be either, since the terrorists tip them off when they are about to commit an act that they want filmed.
Am I missing something, or has the AP now admitted everything it was charged with by Wretchard?
Judge murder apologist senator speaks
Federal judges are appointed subject to advice and consent provisions of the Constitution for a lifetime. They do not run for election. They do not have to raise money as do other politicians. I know those who do envy them that.
It is there. The big grey elephant of western democracy, the politicians face a system of a dual accountability. One democratic and the other plutocratic. This is not a surprise to most people but the nonchalanceness (this this a word?) of this statement and the equality implicit in the statement is refreshingly honest. The strings are visible here for a second.
But the idea is they are supposed to use that independence in order to be impartial umpires of the law -- it is called balls and strikes -- and they should use that independence that has been given to them in order to resist politics, in order to resist those who would suggest that in order to be popular you must subscribe to a particular way of thinking or a particular social or political or ideological agenda.
And attacking judges for "activism" is not an attempt to force them to subscribe to a particular way of thinking.
I guess he hasn't read the decision in New York on gay marriage. There was no activism there, just good lawyering on the part of the plainiffs. A simple analogy combined with rights given in the state constitution made the decision. The american marriage laws had seen a massive overhaul before when the antimiscegenation laws where struck down (banning interraccial marriage). The world was going to end then, judeo-christian society was going to end. Has it? Guess not.
Gay districts as canaries in the gentrification mine
Gay activists in Spokane, Wash., are at the forefront of this question. They want to create a “gay district” filled with gay homes and businesses to attract some of the 38 million people economist Richard Florida calls the “creative class” — people like doctors and software engineers who think for a living and prefer places that index high on innovation and diversity.Well, guess what? The folks in Spokane are casting a “Queer Eye Down the Wrong Drive.” Creating “gay districts” won’t draw in business, residents and tourists. In fact, it’ll do the opposite. The creative class Florida talks about is repelled by artifice. And building what amounts to a Gay Epcott Center is the epitome of pretense.Gay activists and straight city planners are misinterpreting the influential economist’s findings. He never said, “Build it and they will come.” He said something more like, “Let them come and they’ll build it.”Look at the success stories that Florida points to — and that Spokane wants to copy: Minneapolis’ Lorin Park, Boston’s Jamaica Plain, Chicago’s Boystown, Atlanta’s Midtown, Washington’s Logan Circle.All have a high “Gay Index.” But these cities didn’t create gay districts. They created incentives to rebuild neglected neighborhoods.They made it easier for urban pioneers to stake out their territory. Gay men tend to be the first to gentrify a neighborhood not because we’re born with a re-decorating gene, but because we’re more willing to risk the dangers of living in marginal areas.Most of us don’t have kids so we’re not worried about living in areas with good schools. And we certainly don’t have girlfriends or wives who’d feel threatened about living in sketchy neighborhoods.Once these neighborhoods are restored to their former grandeur, the danger recedes, good schools approach and the creative class moves in.Sure, there are successful ethnic enclaves. The Latin Quarter in New Orleans, Chinatown in New York, and Little Cuba in Miami are all physical “districts” with shared cultural, linguistic and religious practices.But a gay district would never work because sexual orientation cuts across ethnic, religious and racial lines. What do gays and lesbians have in common other than that they’re romantically attracted to the same sex?The creative class is not interested in gay districts; they’re not even interested in gay people, per se. What they’re interested in are the things that gays value— walkable neighborhoods, mixed-use spaces, the arts, architectural design, variety and eccentricity.Birds of a feather might flock together, but ironicallythe first ones to fly the coop in a gay district will be gay residents themselves. That’s because if you want to see how tacky gay people can be, take a look at what happens when we do things for each other.Ever been to the Castro in San Francisco? Go. You’ll never say “gay districts” and “creative” in the same sentence again. Ever been to a Pride parade? Go. You’ll see better floats at high school homecoming parades.There’s nothing gay about the things gays like in their neighborhoods. What’s gay about wanting racially diverse neighbors? What’s gay about wanting to walk to work?This whole issue reminds me of the old story about miners taking canaries into mine shafts. Florida once described gay urban pioneers as the “canaries” of the creative economy. In other words, the creative class Spokane and other cities want to attract doesn’t care about the canaries as much as they care about what they sniff out.That’s why, instead of “gay districts,” cities should build arts districts. Instead of sexual ghettos, they should build sturdy sidewalks. The laws of attraction don’t include division. Separate But Equal didn’t work and neither will Separate But Fabulous.Artificially constructed “gay districts?” This is one canary that just sniffed the air and keeled over. (Link)
Liberals given standing at the Gomery commission.
Interestingly, Gomery had given Liberals standing in the inquiry, which allows them to cross-examine witnesses such as Brault. Today he denied standing to Conservatives and BQ, stating that their parties have not been directly affected by the testimony. In a subtle way, Canadians should understand from that decision that the witnesses have testified to significant wrongdoing by Liberal politicians and bureaucrats, but have not implicated anyone else.
A clever observation, and a potential bad sign for the liberals. On the other hand, it might just mean that the liberals have a bunch of really good lawyers. If I were the liberals, I would can Martin this summer, he is too close to this, even if he wasn't involved the perception is there. It would be a chance for a much cleaner slate.
Adscam expends to touch the PQ
A MONTREAL advertising firm that received more than $40 million in AdScam sponsorship contracts paid huge kickbacks to both the federal Liberal party and the Quebec separatists, senior executives of the company have told Sun Media. "I remember seeing the cheques," one former Groupaction executive said of payments to the federal Liberal party in Quebec.
The man spoke on condition that he not be identified until he testifies at the Gomery inquiry sometime over the coming weeks.
The exec said the president of Groupaction, Jean Brault, made no secret around the company about where the kickback cash was going and for what.
"He spoke to me about it ... having to pay money back to the Liberal Party" in return for contracts.
The $250 million in sponsorships that the previous Liberal government pumped into Quebec was supposed to help fight the separatists after the near-miss referendum in 1995.
But another former Groupaction executive, Alain Renaud, said that while the firm was getting millions of dollars in federal sponsorship money, it was secretly cutting cheques to the separatist Parti Quebecois.
Renaud said that in one transaction, a total of about $90,000 was given to the PQ as part of Groupaction's getting a $4.5-million advertising contract for the Quebec liquor board, called the SAQ.
Groupaction apparently won the contract in a competition when a bagman for the Parti Quebecois had a meeting with the firm's top executives.
One of those executives told Sun Media: "The bagman came by and said: 'Well, you won the bid, and all that's needed now is a signature, and the documents are on the minister's desk to be signed, and it's going to cost you fifty grand.' "
Renaud recalled about $45,000 a year in donations were to be paid to the PQ for two years.
The money was funnelled through individual Groupaction employees to circumvent Quebec law, which prohibits corporate political contributions.
Renaud said Groupaction president Brault was personally involved in the tollgating deal. "I was there when he (Brault) was negotiating with the people of the PQ," he said.
Brault's testimony at the Gomery inquiry over the past week is under a publication ban and cannot be reported.
Pop music in India
Few western acts perform in India: pop is still a minor cultural concern here. The best-known stars - Norah Jones is currently the biggest - sell only around 70,000 albums, although bootlegging means many more are listening. These audience numbers, however, are dwarfed by those of the omnipresent Bollywood. A guy from Sean's label - EMI India - sums up pop's position here when he says: "The Rolling Stones played here last year. I was amazed they pulled 20,000. I mean, who's heard of the Rolling Stones?" (Link)
Sell your name and make rent
US software engineer Matthew Jean Rouse faces an uncertain future as he waits to discover what his new name will be.
After years of hating the middle name Jean, given to him in honour of a grandfather he did not like, the 31-year-old decided to take action.
He used the auction site eBay to sell his middle name, vowing to replace it with any name the highest bidder chose.
On Monday a company that hosts web sites placed a winning bid of $8,000 for the chance to rename Mr Rouse.
But he will have to wait to find out what LucaHost.com want to call him.
"I'm guessing it will be LucaHost.com,'' Mr Rouse told the Associated Press news agency.
Also trying to win the auction had been Mr Rouse's brother Bill, who offered $1,500 to keep the name Jean in the family.
"Basically, he's trying to dump our grandfather's name, and I'm trying to buy it and make it stay as it is," his brother said.
The middle name was taken from his late grandfather, Jean Stelter.
Just short of 40 bids were made before the bidding was cut off by the web host company agreeing to pay the full "Buy it now" asking price.
"I guess I'm just surprised that this would generate that much interest,'' Mr Rouse told AP news agency. (Link)
Quotes: Adscam Inspired
John Williams - Chairman, Public Accounts Committee
It starts with small-c corruption. Small-c corruption is lack of management, lack of attention to detail, poor supervision
and, if it is allowed to grow, then it's the perfect atmosphere for large-C corruption. So let's nip it in the bud by having
Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.
Alan K. Simpson
If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.
Robert Louis Stevenson
We all know what Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it.
Few men are sufficiently discerning to appreciate all the evil they do.
We understand that there Nixons and Kissingers and Clintons who don't like to tell the truth. And we don't expect them to. And that is wrong. That's where we make a mistake.
PS POGGE has the best blog tagline ever, "Who promised you that democracy would be easy?"
Edit: This post was damaged. Sorry about that. Fixed it.
If you're cruising the Canadian blogs looking for reactions on the big story of the weekend, you can cruise on over to Bound by Gravity where Andrew had a post with links to comments from a wide variety of bloggers. All I have to add is this:
What people are reacting to is hearsay and anonymous second-hand reporting on testimony from someone who's facing criminal charges and apparently decided to sing like a bird. He may have told the truth and he may have tried to spread the blame as widely as possible. I'm inclined to reserve judgement until things settle down and we get some decent, sourced reporting on what's going on
That should in no way be taken as a defence of the Liberals. When the sponsorship story first broke I made a strong statement in favour of a public inquiry and despite Gomery's occasional missteps, my opinion hasn't changed. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and if the corruption in the governing party goes as deep as it appears to it wouldn't surprise me too much
But I've also seen how the grapevine can work. Everyone loves a nice, juicy scandal and when a story like this spreads by word of mouth, details have a tendency to get either overlooked or embellished depending on who's doing the talking. (Link)
Adscam and seperatism
Quebecers were angry enough last spring about the idea that they could be bribed into continued loyalty to confederation by a few garden show sponsorships.
Thus, 50 seats for the Bloc last June.
But now its even worse.
The Toronto Star notes that there is no real secret about what the Gomery inquiry is hearing, publication ban or not. Since 2002 the Star has been publishing stories about the story behind the story of the sponsorship scandal ". . . Liberals took a system they inherited from Brian Mulroney's Tories and fine tuned it until federal advertising, polling and communications contracts worth millions were being used to pay the party's bills in Quebec and beyond."
So let me get this straight -- the Liberals have been saying for the last year that they secretly spent millions in sponsorships because they were trying to keep the country together. But actually there was a secret inside the secret. They were actually secretly spending the money to help the Liberals continue to get elected.
Oh, Quebec will hit the roof. And the rest of us should too.
I suppose Chretien and Galiano could have talked themselves into seeing this as "keeping the country together" by preventing the Bloc from getting elected.
Sorry, folks, that ain't gonna cut it.
The Star writes "Should Gomery find that Liberals were breaking the law as well as the rules not to rescue the country but to hide the costs of campaigns before passing the bills to taxpayers, the already diminished brand will be in the dumpster. For those who care more about the country than the party, the consequences are ominous. Strategists are already connecting the dots that lead from another strong Bloc Quebecois election result to leader Gilles Duceppe's expected defection to the Parti Quebecois, then to the anticipated defeat of Premier Jean Charest's unpopular Liberal government and, finally, to another referendum. Instead of crushing separatism, the Chicago tough-guy tactics used on Chretien's watch have given new life to a cause prematurely judged to be on life support . . . Nor is the rubbery asymmetrical federalism preached by Stephen Harper and practised by Paul Martin reassuring. Facing a strong, impressively deft Duceppe, a weak prime minister would have trouble resisting the transformation of an already loose federation into one worth considerably less than the sum of its parts; or worse. That's the opposite of what Chrétien wanted, intended and spent his long life in politics trying to achieve. But once unleashed, dark forces are hard to control and the genie of the Quebec sponsorship scandal is now wandering free, wreaking havoc. By the time its evil work is done, Jean Chrétien, the life-long separatist-fighter, may find his place in history rewritten as the movement's misguided secret weapon." (Link)
Search for your bribe
The dangers of tourism
The saying "don't let the bed bugs bite" has taken on new significance for Australia's burgeoning backpacker industry, which is facing an epidemic of the bloodsucking insects.
The bugs, which can survive for months without feeding and are renowned as hitchhikers, travelling the world hidden in luggage, shoes and clothing, could cost the country's tourism industry tens of millions of pounds after they were found to have infested eight out of 10 backpacker hostels in Sydney's eastern suburbs alone. Many bedsits, particularly at Bondi Beach and Kings Cross, rely almost exclusively on British and Irish customers.
So widespread is the problem that the Whitsunday shire council and the north Queensland charter boat industry are developing a strategy to combat the pests at popular resorts. Stephen Doggett, an entomologist at the institute of clinical pathology and medical research at Westmead hospital in Sydney, estimates that the number of bed-bug infestations treated in Sydney has increased by 800 % in the past four years. Mr Doggett says international travellers have been unwittingly carrying them into Australia for the past two decades and they are now proving impervious to pest control measures.
Despite bringing in pest controllers to eradicate the bugs, more than half the hostels have reported a fresh outbreak during the recent summer months.
So widespread is the problem that the Whitsunday shire council and the north Queensland charter boat industry are developing a strategy to combat the pests at popular resorts.
Stephen Doggett, an entomologist at the institute of clinical pathology and medical research at Westmead hospital in Sydney, estimates that the number of bed-bug infestations treated in Sydney has increased by 800 % in the past four years.
Mr Doggett says international travellers have been unwittingly carrying them into Australia for the past two decades and they are now proving impervious to pest control measures.While hostel beds remain the most common place for infestations, residential homes are now also under attack. Mr Doggett said he recently found 5,000 bugs in one woman's bed. (Link)
The Polish Pilgrimage
Two million people from poland alone are going to the pope's funeral. Add in the italians who will coming in large numbers because they are close and then everyone else. We are talking about massive numbers of people on next to no notice without central organization (which may be over rated in most cases). This may be the biggest sponateous gathering of humans ever, or at least in the west (how many came to Mao's funeral).
JaxA mass exodus of Poles from cities, towns, and villages all over the country began yesterday, with up to 2 million determined to get to Rome to witness the funeral of the only Polish pope.
Their arrival in Rome over the next 48 hours will place the city, its police, transport and accommodation systems under even more strain in hosting the largest event in its long history. As many as 2 million Italians are also expected, as are representatives from many other nationalities.
Achille Serra, the prefect of Rome, said last night: "The funeral of the Pope is the greatest event ever to have taken place in Rome - multiplied by 10. The biggest difficulty comes from not knowing who will be arriving, when, and where."
Last night an estimated 600,000 people were queuing up to 12 hours to see the body of Pope John Paul II, lying in state in St Peter's Basilica for a second day.
In the first day more than 500,000 people are thought to have filed past the body, hustled at a brisk pace by officious stewards allowing no time to pause or say more than the briefest prayer.
Outside in St Peter's Square, impromptu shrines have been established.
With 200 world leaders expected to gather for Friday's funeral, Italy instituted stringent security precautions. The skies over the city will be closed from today for all but military and official traffic, and Nato Awacs planes will provide security radar cover over a 250 mile radius to deter a terrorist attack.
But the Polish pilgrimage is the most extraordinary. Tour companies have laid on special buses from all corners of the country. Four special trains have been ordered from Warsaw to Rome and another two from the southern city of Krakow, where John Paul spent most of his life.
Pilgrims have been queuing at Warsaw's central station all week hoping to land a coveted seat on the trains leaving today. LOT, the national airline, is struggling to cope with the demand and Poles are said to be buying tickets for any destinations heading south that may get them closer to Rome.
Polish media reported yesterday that up to 5 million people - nearly a seventh of the country's 38 million inhabitants - might try to attend the funeral.
The Polish foreign ministry, basing its guesswork on a less than scientific survey of Polish travel agents and tour operators, said yesterday it thought 2 million Poles could be on the move.
Newspapers published copious how-to guides in an attempt to forestall some of the chaos and disappointment that looks inevitable in the mad scramble. Where to park in the city; where to find a bed; how to get to St Peter's; and advice on the fastest routes and best maps of the 1,119-mile trip from Warsaw to Rome, passing through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria.
The train trip, costing around £100 - a week's wages for many Poles - takes up to 25 hours. The special trains will leave today and arrive in Rome late tomorrow or early on Friday morning. LOT has scheduled five planes to the city today, four more than usual. Regional low-cost airlines such as Wizz Air, Centralwings and Skyeurope in neighbouring Slovakia are also laying on charters from southern Poland. (Link)
Abu Gharib torture common practise in regular jails
DEBORAH DAVIES, BBC CHANNEL FOUR - It's terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you're not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying. The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. 'Crawl, motherf- - - - - s, crawl.'
If a prisoner doesn't drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There's a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.
Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can't crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.
Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.
Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.
These were exactly the kind of pictures from inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad that shocked the world this time last year. And they are similar, too, to the images of brutality against Iraqi prisoners that this week led to the conviction of three British soldiers.
But there is a difference. These prisoners are not caught up in a war zone. They are Americans, and the video comes from inside a prison in Texas
They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for Channel 4.
Our findings were not based on rumour or suspicion. They were based on solid evidence, chiefly videotapes that we collected from all over the U.S.
In many American states, prison regulations demand that any 'use of force operation', such as searching cells for drugs, must be filmed by a guard. The theory is that the tapes will show proper procedure was followed and that no excessive force was used. In fact, many of them record the exact opposite.
Each tape provides a shocking insight into the reality of life inside the U.S. prison system - a reality that sits very uncomfortably with President Bush's commitment to the battle for freedom and democracy against the forces of tyranny and oppression. (Much much more)
School content filter falls
So on a vague related topic
ROB MCDONALD, SPOKANE SPOKESMAN REVIEW - A Lewis and Clark High School sophomore brought Internet freedom to his peers for two months with a Web site he called Bad Dog. Then the school put his dog in the pound, and his computer programming teacher was disciplined.
Conrad Sykes, 16, created a Web site that bypassed the district's Internet content filter, which was hampering student research, the student said. Sykes said he did this so students could access research sites - but it also allowed students to visit adult sites or others that the school district intends to screen out. Sykes' site was so successful that many Spokane Public School students - and people from as far away as Alabama and Pennsylvania - used it thousands of times between Dec. 14 and Feb. 22. Sykes was even asked by his computer teacher, Wes Marburger, to make a presentation to other classes on the number of visitors to his Web site. The district filter is called Bess, and a dog is in the logo. In the end, Sykes was suspended for two days in February for violating school computer use policies. His teacher was given a written reprimand and removed from teaching computer classes. The state Office of Professional Practices is now investigating and could potentially take away Marburger's teaching certificate.
Brown said the Web site used a domain name from the Turks and Caicos Islands nation, which probably sold its domain to Internet companies. District investigators read in great detail on Sykes' blog how he built the site. They're also watching for similar proxy sites. "Our primary goal is to protect the students as best we can and protect the computer environment of the district," Brown said.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Commerical cryptography falls to Chinese scientist
Wang, aged 40, graduated from the mathematics department of Shandong University and currently serves as a director of the Information Safety Institute in Shandong University.
Professor Wang first declared her research results on MD5 at an international cryptography conference held in the United States in August 2004. Then, in February, she made a breakthrough in spotting loopholes in SHA-1.
The two systems are widely used for digital signatures in E-commerce.
Wang's latest research found that when a user signs a contract with a digital signature, another contract is created with the same signature but totally different content, which could result in "pseudo" collisions that in turn could spawn lawsuits for users.
Her research suggests that the digital signature system should be upgraded or replaced to ensure E-commerce safety.
MD5 was developed by American mathematician Ron Rivest and SHA-1 was developed for the US government but is now the industry standard.
The research results have shocked academic circles worldwide. Most experts believe the practical consequences of the loopholes on such applications is limited, but for the research community, Wang's new findings provide much food for thought. (Link)
Shoot yar judges here!!!
While I am incoherent ranting (wipes spittle from face) this guy goes and sums it up pretty good. Gees, I should beat him up for stealling my words.
I can't really say what game John Cornyn thinks he's playing by speculating out loud on the floor of the U.S. Senate that maybe judges wouldn't get killed so often by demented rapists if they were more willing to bow to conservative theories of constitutional exegesis. It's clear, though, that whatever his subjective understanding of his actions is, this is one of those situations where the existence of violent extremists can be a very useful thing to more moderate people. The best example, I think, is the case of the anti-abortion terrorists. There aren't really all that many people out there who've shot doctors or bombed clinics. But there are a few. And there's a much larger group of people who like to protest outside clinics, as is their right as Americans. But the exercise of this right wouldn't do much to actually advance the anti-choice agenda were it not for the existence of your terrorist handful. It's clear if you've ever been to a perpetually-protested clinic that the people who work there and the women who avail themselves of the services under offer operate under a non-trivial climate of fear. Fear because the people outside protesting obviously feel very strongly about their views. Fear because we know that some of the protestors cohorts feel so strongly about the issue that they're willing to kill for it. You never know who standing in that little knot of protesters might be the one with a screw loose.
This stuff makes a difference. I don't say that most pro-lifers approve of anti-abortion terrorism. Clearly, they don't. Nevertheless, their cause benefits from it. In the wake of a killing there may be a backlash of some sort, but such things fade among the general public. They don't fade among the set of medical professionals who, at the margin, decide they'd rather not spend their lives dealing with might-be-terrorist activists harrassing them constantly. It makes a difference.
Does Senator Cornyn want more people to go about murdering judges? One doubts it. But it seems that he's happy to try and use such incidents to advance his own agenda. Happy to use them, one notes, even though the recent high-profile cases don't seem to actually have a political agenda. His hope -- along, it seems, though less clearly -- with Tom DeLay's is that judges will begin to operate under a cloud of intimidation. They may not like the idea of buckling under to whatever it is Cornyn wants them to do, but Cornyn is making it clear that he's the judges' friends. He doesn't want to see them killed, or maimed, or assaulted. He's trying to save them. Trying to warn them. Warning them that unless they change their ways someone -- someone who has nothing to do with John Cornyn or the Texas cabal running the country, mind you -- just might decide to do something crazy. But here's Cornyn offering a safe harbor. Confirm all of Bush's nominees, no matter how incompetent, corrupt, or inept they are, no matter how unsound their view of the constitution. And for the others, try to conform your views to those of Bush's new appointees. Do it and you'll be safe. If you don't do it, well, then, certainly John Cornyn wouldn't advocate killing you, he's just pointing out that it will happen.
It's the same, though more grotesque, as the prediction/threat the White House is trying to pull with Social Security. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to that Trust Fund, wouldn't it? A fate you can easily enough avoid by agreeing to private the system, no?
What it reminds me most of in recent times in Samuel Huntington's "warning" in Who We Are which "warns" that unless we curb immigration (or the immigration of Latin Americans, or the immigration of Mexicans, Huntington never quite seems sure which he means) we risk a white nativist backlash. Not from Huntington, of course. He's no racist. But others are. And they might lash back if we don't close the borders. He's just offering a warning. Just pointing out an empirical relationship. Not threatening anybody. Of course not, that would be wrong.
Back to Cornyn -- who's kidding whom here? I've already seen some folks on the right try to explain this away. He was just offering an analytic point, noting the existence of anger about some judicial decisions, some anti-judge violence, and offering some speculations. Sure he was. Nevermind that he and his ilk are the ones whipping up the anger. It wouldn't cross his mind to tone down and suggest that his colleagues do likewise. Suggest that in the wake of some murders and some controversial court cases that we all agree that we are a country under law and that despite disagreements we should respect judicial offices and their holders. No. Far better to note that there may be a connection between non-Cornyn-approved court rulings and the murder of judges. He's just trying to be helpful. (Link)
An apologist for murdering judges
Bush is a loser
PS It is usually wise to largely ignore polls, but this one only confirms what I have been hearing ever since the Shiavo affair started.
It's not uncommon to hear or read pundits referring to President George W. Bush as a "popular" leader or even a "very popular" one. Even some of his critics in the press refer to him this way. Perhaps they need to check the latest polls.
President Bush's approval rating has plunged to the lowest level of any president since World War II at this point in his second term, the Gallup Organization reported today.
"All other presidents who were re-elected to a second term had approval ratings well above 50% in the March following their re-election," Gallup reported.
Bush's current rating is 45%. The next lowest was Reagan with 56% in March 1985.
More bad signs for the president: Gallup's survey now finds only 38% expressing satisfaction with the "state of the country" while 59% are "dissatisfied." One in three Americans feel the economy is excellent or good, while the rest find it "only fair" or poor.
Gallup noted that more challenges lie ahead for Bush, including public doubts about his Social Security plan and Iraq policies.
Here are the approval ratings for presidents as recorded by Gallup in the March following their re-election:
Truman, 1949: 57%.
Eisenhower, 1957: 65%.
Johnson, 1965: 69%.
Nixon, 1973: 57%.
Reagan, 1985: 56%.
Clinton, 1997: 59% .
Bush, 2005: 45% .