Thursday, May 8, 2008

'May Day was never the same after Allen Ginsberg's 1965 visit to Prague'

By Darrell Jónsson
For The Prague Post
7 May, 2008
May Day may have been relatively quiet in Prague this year, but during the Cold War it was a political flash point. In 1947, the U.S. Congress decreed May 1 Loyalty Day, hoping to stave off its growing international communist overtones. This did nothing to stop the celebration of the Marxist revolution in communist countries, where over the next couple of decades the date threatened to become as big as Christmas.
This set the stage for one of the most memorable May Days ever in Prague. In 1965, when American beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg was crowned King of May and paraded through the streets, it was clear to the Czechoslovak secret police that the celebration had drifted way off-message and far out of state control.

Yet, for a generation of Czechs who took inspiration from the beats, including Václav Klaus and Václav Havel, the day became a key link in the chain of events leading to the Velvet Revolution. Its symbolism in modern Czech culture ranks with Louis Armstrong's performance a few months earlier at Lucerna, the 1968 Soviet invasion and Charter 77.

According to cultural archivist and Jazz Section founder Karel Srp, Prague's literary connection with Ginsberg and the beats started in the mid-'50s with Světová literatura, a journal that translated and presented postwar American writing in the best possible light.

"It greatly enlarged people's knowledge of contemporary literature and thought," Srp says. "It dealt with the existentialism of Sartre and Camus, but also with the new movement called the beat generation. The editors were the first to publish Ginsberg's Howl in Czechoslovakia, as well as stories by Kerouac and Ferlinghetti. As these authors sometimes illustrated the dark side of the United States, communist censorship tolerated them."

The communists were always looking for high-profile sympathizers — Srp cites actor Paul Robeson, activist Angela Davis and musician Dean Read as examples. Ginsberg was no fan of the U.S. government, but his acerbic wit hardly qualified him to be a propaganda puppet. As he wrote on the airplane that removed him from Prague in the poem "Král Majáles" (King of May), "And the Communists have nothing to offer but fat cheeks and eyeglasses and lying policemen / and the Capitalists proffer Napalm and money in green suitcases to the Naked."

Corrupter of youth
As Srp describes 1965, the country was opening up a bit, with the communists allowing a jazz festival (on the premise that jazz was the music of the oppressed) featuring Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and exhibits of abstract art. Ginsberg arrived in this atmosphere after being kicked out of Cuba, where he had been protesting the treatment of homosexuals. After a brief stay, he headed off for a quick tour of Russia, returning to Prague on the evening of April 30.

On May 1, Ginsberg was taken to Výstaviště and crowned King of May before an enthusiastic crowd. The ensuing parade was aborted when six bulky men (presumably undercover police) grabbed the float and declared Ginsberg uncrowned. Shaken, he spent the next few days with students and musicians, trying to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble.

"I assumed that since 100,000 people saw me as the King of May, there wasn't any problem no matter what the government wanted to do," Ginsberg said in an interview years later. "But I also realized I was now in a very dangerous position. … I'd already had the experience of being grabbed and isolated in Havana, so I was really quite apprehensive and knew what was possible."

The situation became complicated when Ginsberg's diary somehow "got lost" and allegedly recovered by a loyal worker who turned it over to the police. They were horrified by the political anecdotes and jokes that Ginsberg had collected, and also by a list of his male lovers. After being followed and grilled by the police, Ginsberg was declared a corrupter of youth and put on a plane for London.

Aftershocks
Years later, in the catalog of Prague's 1998 Beat Generation Festival, Srp would publish the shocking police files documenting Ginsberg's stay. By then, the poet had had a shock of his own, when in the early '90s he used a Freedom of Information Act request to retrieve his FBI files.

According to those documents, word of Ginsberg's May Day romp in Prague had reached the FBI, further inflaming the agency's desire to nail him on a marijuana charge and get him off the map. As Ginsberg said in a 1996 interview, "I found that the FBI had translated a denunciation of me by Prague's Mladá fronta, saying that I was a corrupter of youth and alcoholic — which I'm not — and not to be trusted. They sent it to the Narcotics Bureau and to my congressman. … So I realized that in certain areas, the Western police and the communist police, by 1965, were one international mucous membrane network. There was hardly any difference between them."

In Prague, there were also some rumored negative consequences. The suicide of one young poet was attributed to the aftershock of Ginsberg's visit, perhaps by parents who did not take well to this scruffy 39-year-old Pied Piper keeping their kids out all night. For the most part, though, the event served as a positive reminder of Czechoslovakia's longing for freedom.

Michael March, editor of Child of Europe: The Penguin Anthology of East European Poetry and president of the annual Prague Writers Festival, finds analogous calls for freedom in the work of Bohumil Hrabal and Vladimír Holan. The history of the region, he notes, includes "vast disappointments of going through cycles of being liberated and then disappointed again. The Czechs are cautious, and this is a caution that goes back 300 years via the domination and insolence of the Habsburg monarchy, and even in a religious sense the position of Catholicism here. So historically, freedom is subtly modified, sometimes suppressed and sometimes flowing.

"Poetry," he adds, "is a way of resisting, of saying no to the demons of society and a great yes to freedom of life and thought. Ginsberg symbolized that in 1965."

Ginsberg's memory lingers on, though perhaps less in May Day activities than in the Jazz Section's Internet radio station, RadioHortus.cz, which mixes the poetry of Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg with vintage jazz daily, and cultural activists like March carrying on the country's proud literary tradition.

They help maintain the lasting hope that the magic and freedom of the beat era will continue to be part of the rhythm of Prague.

Crown Research Institute Fails Its Science Test Big Time

Scion's GE Tree Field Trial Research Result Claims Unsubstantiated.
 
Crown Research Institute Scion's claim that its research shows that GE trees are environmentally safe is seriously misleading, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
 
Soil & Health also believes that aspects of the GE pine tree field trial at Rotorua were continuously in breach of consent conditions and international obligations, for the trial's entire life.
 
Scion has issued a media report stating that its research based on its field trial shows no gene transference into insects and micro-organisms by GE trees and consequently genetically engineered trees are safe.
 
"Scion's prematurely terminated research is incomplete in design, unfinished, and unpublished in a peer reviewed journal," said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning. "Without good design and an appropriate research period, followed by publication in a peer reviewed journal, how can a CRI make credible claims?"
In respect of concerns that modified genes could be inadvertently transferred from transgenic plants, into the wider environment, Scion chief executive Dr Tom Richardson had said, "In the case of this trial, our results show that this did not occur. The trial has been monitored for nearly five years and there is no evidence of gene transfer into other organisms, or negative impact in the soil environment or insect population in and around the trial site."
Monitoring at the site is intended for another two years following removal of the trees in the next few weeks, aimed at detecting any potential gene transfer.
 
"For Scion to say that there was no horizontal gene transfer (HGT) following a primitive and short term study of only 5 years so far, is naïve or even duplicitous, certainly misleading" said Mr Browning.
 
Canterbury University School of Biological Sciences Professor Jack Heinemann (1), has asked, "Given that it would take all 6 billion people on earth, working in parallel, 30 thousand years to properly demonstrate no transgene transfer from those trees to just soil bacteria (much less all the other organisms in the environment) how did this independent research achieve a previously impossible detection capacity?"
 
 

Gary Snyder awarded $100,000 poetry prize

Pulitzer-prize winning poet Gary Snyder, of the San Juan Ridge, Wednesday won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize - one of the nation's most prestigious and largest literary awards.

Snyder, 77, who began writing in the '50s as a member of the beat movement along with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, essays and translations.

"His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation," said Christian Wiman, chair of the selection committee.

The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize honors a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition, according to the award committee. During the past 20 years, the Lilly Prize has awarded more than $1 million.
 

War themes pervade posthumous Vonnegut collection

Never one for elaborate descriptions, Vonnegut wrote simply and camouflaged astute observations in oddball vignettes. It's like that here: Starving POWs swap elaborate recipes of meals they will eat one day; a young English boy in 1067 snares the local despot in a unicorn trap; the devil goes down to Schenectady and is trapped.

A speech Vonnegut wrote, but died before he could deliver and included here, shows he was full of vinegar until the end. "If Jesus were alive today," he wrote, "we would kill him with lethal injection. I call that progress."

Maybe the most interesting find in this book is the shortest piece: a 1945 letter Army Pfc. Vonnegut wrote to his family after his liberation. The artist as a young soldier wrote something like he did later on. He breezily describes capture, forced marches, starvation, labor, beatings, the destruction of Dresden and his unlikely survival through all of it. "I've too damned much to say," he concludes, "the rest will have to wait."

~ more... ~

International sex tourism for the speciously disinterested

Still, Avery agrees to go only after he has arranged a book deal based on the tour and can thereby justify it as an assignment, an expose. Apparently uninfluenced by gonzo journalism, he even tells himself he won't have sex.

"I'm here just to talk to you," he says to his first prostitute, a young Icelandic woman name Sigrid who likes money. "Okay? No sex. I want to get to know you; I just want to talk."

Sigrid understandably thinks she's dealing with a freak. Spencer, a top-drawer professional, does not seem to fully inhabit his less-talented hero. He does, however, provide Avery with several great lines, including this topical doozy: "Being in bed with a whore is like being press secretary for a president. You believe his story even when you know it's not true, and you also believe in his right to lie."

Eliot Spitzer, the famously fallen former governor of New York, naturally comes to mind as Avery attempts to explain the thought process and rationalizations of highly successful men procuring sex.

"You gentlemen have worked hard all your lives. You deserve these things. There is no judgment, no punishment, no harm. It is something that has always been. Napoleon, who I learned last week was unable to have sex for more than a minute, he would wait in his tent, and his lieutenants would bring him a woman."

Fellow travelers with Avery include a former pro basketball player, a business tycoon, an Iraq war veteran and a lottery winner. Spencer may have thought it would be too obvious to add in a politician?

~ more... ~

 

Resisting war taxation

Peace Activists Protest War by Refusing Taxes
On Sat., May 3, in Birmingham, AL, $93,000 of unpaid "war taxes" - federal income taxes - will be publicly redirected away from the Internal Revenue Service to a New Orleans health clinic and to a group in the Middle East aiding Iraqi refugees. This redirection ceremony will take place during a meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.
For reasons of conscience, over 520 people from 44 states have "boycotted" $325,000 of their 2007 federal taxes. Of that total, $50,000 has been designated for the Common Ground Health Clinic in New Orleans and the Direct Aid Initiative will receive $43,000. The remaining $232,000 has been designated for scores of other humanitarian projects in the United States and around the world. These taxpayers are committing civil disobedience to demonstrate to Congress how to cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of people.
The money will provide healthcare to survivors of Katrina and refugees from the Iraq war, living in Jordan and Syria. (For details on each project, see www.cghc.org or www.directaidiraq.org.).
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is a 25-year-old coalition of groups who support war tax resisters.


Man denies IRS, saying he won't support war effort
Joshua Klein was one of millions of procrastinators who flocked to post offices around the nation to file their tax returns mere hours before the deadline.

Holding his 15-month-old daughter Finnegan Rose in one arm, Klein walked up to the U.S. post office on Spring Street on Tuesday afternoon and dropped a small envelope into the mailbox.

The envelope, addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, contained Klein's 1040 form.

But in lieu of a check to Uncle Sam, Klein submitted a letter explaining why he is refusing to pay his federal income taxes this year.

Klein, a 31-year-old city retail manager, said he could not "in good conscience" pay his income taxes, knowing some of the money would be used to fund the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the country's other "violent military ambitions." "I may be facing potential jail time, but I cannot look my daughter in the eye and know that I'm paying for others to suffer," said Klein of Nashua.

Klein said he was also driven to take this admittedly "drastic step" because of the Bush administration's approval of using harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects.

"I cannot stand for my hard-earned labor and dollars to pay for torture," he said. "It's not something I believe in."

Klein, who declined to reveal his faith, said he's refusing to pay his taxes because his "chosen religion requires nonviolence and compassion."

Klein would not reveal how much he owed but said he's donating the money to America's Second Harvest, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the country, and the American Civil Liberties Union, although he's not affiliated with either group.

Klein is joining a war tax resistance movement that has gained interest among peace activists upset over the Iraq war.

According to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, between 8,000 and 10,000 Americans have refused to pay some or all of their federal taxes because they object to the Iraq war.

The IRS says it doesn't have figures for that specific category, but last year it reported an overall noncompliance rate of 16.3 percent and estimated the annual tax gap at about $345 billion.

The IRS considers it a "frivolous argument" when a taxpayer cites disagreement with the government's use of tax money as the reason for not paying taxes. The penalty for filing frivolous tax returns is $5,000.


Weary of War? Don't Collaborate.
In light of reports that rising oil prices will endow Iraqis with a large surplus of funds, it's helpful to consult commentary by seasoned analysts regarding energy issues.  On April 11, UPI's Energy Editor Ben Lando clarified that "Iraq would not make $100 billion in oil sales this year ... unless the price of oil went substantially higher, like nearing $200 per barrel. And the 'surplus' would be anything beyond the $50 billion 2008 budget, which at current oil prices will give it just about a $10 billion surplus." 

In February, Iraq produced 2.4 million barrels per day of oil, of which about 1.6 million barrels per day are exported from the south (the rest being for domestic consumption).  Assume a price of $100 per barrel of oil; multiply it by 1.6 million barrels; and multiply again by 365 days and you get $58.4 billion in annual revenue from oil.  Iraq's budget for 2008 is about $54.3 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund.  Any decline in oil prices, damage to Iraq's oil infrastructure, or other shock to production and Iraq's "surplus" vanishes into thin air.

Before U.S. lawmakers imagine ways to spend Iraq's possible "surplus", they should be asked about the "rights" of an aggressor nation that illegally invades another country. The U.S. waged an unprovoked war of choice against Iraq, a country which posed no threat whatsoever to U.S. people.  Did Iraq have any "rights" after it invaded Kuwait?  An aggressor nation has no rights. Period.  Indeed, the international community--via the U.N. Security Council--continues to punish the Iraqi people for the crimes of Saddam Hussein's regime by requiring Iraq to pay five percent of its oil revenues as "war reparations" for the prior regime's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91 (with virtually all of the remaining payments going to the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia or those country's state owned oil enterprises).

Commenting on suggestions that the U.S. impose financial obligations on Iraq, Lando writes:

"This begs the question as to whether a country can invade another country - which inherently destroys the capital, political and societal infrastructure - poorly spend both occupying and occupied funds, unilaterally create conditions of chaos requiring ongoing security and reconstruction funds, and then bind the occupied country to make reparations and take out loans from the occupying country?"

What are some of the "conditions of chaos requiring ongoing security and reconstruction funds" in Iraq?  In 1991, the United States deliberately targeted, bombed and destroyed Iraq's infrastructure--in particular its water treatment plants, its electrical plants, and its electrical power grid.  This damage was exacerbated over the next thirteen years as the U.S. and UK insisted that the UN maintain brutally punitive economic sanctions that prevented Iraq from substantively rebuilding and caused further decay and debilitation in every sector of Iraq's infrastructure. The sanctions also caused widespread disease, starvation and impoverishment--directly contributing toward the deaths of over one half million children under age five. 

Today, available statistics about the consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq speak of misery and chaos nearly unimaginable to most U.S. people. One out of six Iraqis has been displaced from their homes.  A March 2007 report from Save the Children, a US based NGO, stated that 122,000 Iraqi children didn't reach their fifth birthdays in the year 2005 alone.  UNAMI, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, in its most recently issued report on humanitarian conditions in Iraq, stated that 54% of Iraqis live on less than $1 per day, including 15% who are forced to live on less than fifty cents per day. 70% of Iraq's people lack access to potable water.  43 % of Iraqi children under age five suffer a form of malnourishment, with 23% suffering from chronic malnourishment and 8% suffering acute malnourishment.  40% of Iraq's population are children under 15 years of age.  Should these children be deprived of food and clean water so that their country is instead forced to pay U.S. forces to drop bombs on them, shoot at them, and exacerbate any or all of the three civil wars which analyst Juan Cole says are now well underway in Iraq?   

In the past year, U.S. aerial bombardments of Iraqi neighborhoods increased five fold while the number of Iraqis incarcerated in U.S. prisons in Iraq has doubled.  (Some 24,000 Iraqis are now imprisoned by U.S. forces, approximately 650 of whom are juveniles).  If a foreign country were bombing U.S. cities and imprisoning U.S. civilians, would we ever agree to pay the invaders' military expenses?   Would we agree that the aggressor nation had no fiscal responsibilities to pay for reparations?

Perhaps news of U.S. lawmakers' weariness over Iraq's "free ride" will prompt some Iraqis currently aligned with U.S. forces to stop aiming their weapons against other Iraqis and to instead find common cause, using all means of nonviolent resistance, to defy the U.S. occupation. 
 

Guantánamo judge rules Omar Khadr, arrested at 15, can be tried as war criminal

Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was shot and detained by US Special Forces troops in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was 15 years old, goes before a drumhead military tribunal at the US detention camp in Guantánamo, Cuba today. Arrested as a child, he is now charged as a war criminal and faces a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted by the US military officers who are to decide his fate.

Of all the many violations of international law committed by Washington in its "global war on terrorism" the prolonged detention and now prosecution of this youth is undoubtedly one of the most repugnant.

Thursday's hearing follows a decision last week by a US military judge to reject a motion by defense attorneys that, because Omar was a child when captured by US forces, he is entitled under international law to protection and assistance, rather than being subjected to prosecution.

Colonel Peter Brownback issued a brief ruling in which he described the international statutes dealing with the protection of children involved in armed conflict as "interesting as a matter of policy," but made it clear that they would have no impact on the kangaroo court proceedings organized by the White House and the Pentagon at Guant·namo.

The upcoming trial represents the continuation of the vicious persecution of Omar Khadr that has gone on for nearly six years. Now 21, he has spent more than a quarter of his life in US detention, much of it while being subjected to solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, abusive interrogations and outright torture. Throughout this time, he has been denied education or any regular access to his family.

While other minors incarcerated at Guantánamo were held in a separate camp, Omar was imprisoned together with adults.

He is charged under the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress in 2006 that essentially abrogates habeas corpus rights, while affirming the president's assumed power to designate anyone an enemy combatant and ignore laws against torture.

He is accused of murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying.

The charges stem from a July 27, 2002 firefight in Afghanistan in which US Army Sergeant Christopher Speer was killed and Omar himself was seriously wounded, shot twice in the back by American soldiers. Thus, the only "crime" of which he stands accused is defending himself in an unequal battle with heavily armed US soldiers. Even this allegation, however, is apparently a fabrication.

~ read on... ~

Israel vs. South Africa: Reflecting on cultural boycott

 If one were to replace "Republic of South Africa" with the "State of Israel," the rest should apply just as strongly. Israel today -- 60 years after its establishment through a deliberate and systemic process of ethnic cleansing of a large majority of the indigenous Palestinian population (for an authoritative historical account of the "birth" of Israel, refer to Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) -- still practices racial discrimination against its own "non-Jewish" citizens; it still maintains the longest military occupation in modern history; it still denies Palestinian refugees -- uprooted, dispossessed and expelled by Zionists over the last six decades -- their internationally-recognized right to return to their homes and properties; and it still commits war crimes and violates basic human rights and tenets of international humanitarian law with utter impunity.

Israel at 60 is a more sophisticated, evolved and brutal form of apartheid than its South African predecessor, according to authoritative statements by South African anti-apartheid leaders, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the country's current government minister Ronnie Kasrils, who is Jewish. It therefore deserves from all people of conscience around the world, particularly those who opposed South African apartheid, the same measures of solidarity and human compassion, through an effective application of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights.

However, some may argue that, to them, art should transcend political division, unifying people in their common humanity. They forget, it seems, that masters and slaves do not quite share anything in common, least of all any notion of humanity. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I recall the wise words of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Center Against Apartheid, who in 1984 responded to criticism that the cultural boycott of South Africa infringed the freedom of expression, saying: "It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms ... to the African majority ... should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime."
 
 

The African Dachau – Gabooye Ethnic Cleansing in Neo-Nazi Somaliland

The entire country is being transformed – according to the directives given by the Neo-Nazi Abyssinian dictator Meles Zenawi to his puppet, Somaliland´s murderous tyrant Riyale – to a vast concentration camp whereby minorities are mercilessly tyrannized and terrorized.

The ruling gang around the illegitimate ´president´ of the illegal country Somaliland belongs to the Isaaq tribe, and they intend to impose a subservient to Abyssinia, treacherous, and totalitarian regime, canceling (´postponing´ according to their shameful lies) the presidential elections whereby the most loathed high traitor Riyale would be rebuffed by a whopping 80% majority (composed by most of the Isaaq patriotic Somalis, and the various minorities).

Ethnic Cleansing

I find the treatment of the Gabooye people in Hargeysa as particularly appalling, and definitely reminiscent of Nazi practices or terror. Because of its racist nature, the Riyale regime in Somaliland is absolutely unable to prevent social decomposition, rise of tribal rivalries, and severe socio-economic deterioration to which Riyale´s response is ethnic cleansing.

This is the Chaos ´Somaliland´ that paid agitators, like Ali Sabeyse and Abdulazez Al Motairi, dare depict as ´achievement´!

The entire world should revolt against the criminal, uncontrolled and inhuman pseudo-president of Somaliland, and do all it takes to remove the incredulous butcher Riyale from his stronghold in Hargeisa, the pseudo-capital that is being renamed as the African Dachau.
 
 

Dnevnik: EU erases “ Macedonian” from documents

 
The European Union changes under Greece's pressure documents already adopted for Macedonia to replace the word "Macedonian" with FYROM /Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/, Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik reports today, quoting diplomatic sources.
The position of the European Economic and Social Committee adopted on the 12th of March is now being revised. The explanation is that the version published on the Committee's web page is not final. According to the paper's sources the revise is exactly about changing the expressions as "Macedonian civil society" into "civil society of FYROM."

The Causes of the Current Ethiopian Soaring Inflation Rate - by Seid Hassan

Thursday 8 May 2008
 
The Causes of the Current Ethiopian Soaring Inflation Rate: A Non-Technical Analysis

May 7, 2008 — The most significant and daunting problem facing Ethiopia today is the rampant inflation rate. As reported by bloomberg.com, the Ethiopian Statistical Agency has reported that inflation for March 2008 has risen to 29.6%, food price inflation being even higher (39.4%). Some reports indicate the inflation rate in January 2008 to be in the range of 36%. According to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the causes of this rampant inflation rate are a growing economy, greedy merchants, and/or farmers who happen to demand higher prices for their products or an increase in demand.

Let us use both economic theory and the facts on the ground to scrutinize the statements made by the Prime Minister. According to many reports, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has suggested to the Ethiopian parliamentarians that the current rampant inflation rate can in part be associated with the current rise in the Ethiopian economy. By this, he probably meant to suggest that the rising inflation rate is partially caused by an increase in demand- a concept related to the so-called demand-pull inflation1. If that is what he meant, the explanation he tried to give is either mechanical or a result of a misunderstanding of the concept of demand-pull inflation or due to a disingenuous misrepresentation of the facts. His statements could be construed as being mechanical and a lack of an understanding of the concept of demand-pull inflation because he might has been just shifting the demand curve without knowing the factors that shift it. To begin with, a demand-pull inflation is gradual in nature and it is mainly caused by continuous government spending. Government spending might indeed has played a role in the rising Ethiopian inflation rate but, as I will show below, it is not the main cause of this fast and rampant inflation rate. If the Prime Minister is to tell us that the rampant inflation rate is caused by a growing economy and an increased demand, we should observe reductions in the unemployment rate in the country. Unfortunately, not only we do not see any reduction of the unemployment rate, but the unemployment rate must be embarrassingly so high that the government does not even want to tell us what it is! Moreover, if the increased demand is caused by higher demand for the goods and services produced by individual firms, the same firms, faced with such higher prices, must be paying higher wage rates to attract more workers. Of course, what one observes in Ethiopia is not increasing wages, but hungry people running around the major cities trying to make for the day! If firms were indeed paying higher wage rates, the same higher wage rates would have increased the cost of production (decrease supply) thereby offsetting the increase in demand. A rise in the cost of production (decrease in supply) exacerbate the inflation rate and may even play a role for the economy to contract! In any case, the rampant inflation rate- being caused by a rising demand – which necessitates a rise in real wages, is ruled out since the facts on the ground suggests otherwise.

It is also reported that Mr. Zenawi told the Ethiopian parliamentarians that the now "free and independent Ethiopian peasantry", which is asking higher prices for its produce is to blame for the rampant inflation rate that is taking place in the country. If, indeed, the Ethiopian peasants are asking higher prices for their outputs, these same higher prices must induce them to produce more and bring more to the market. The higher outputs should increase supply and reduce the price of agricultural outputs. In short, the increase in demand should be completely offset by the increase in supply; hence, there should not be any significant changes in prices. This, of course, is not the case as far as Ethiopia is concerned.

In fact, this is not the first time that Mr. Zenawi deceptively used the millions of destitute Ethiopian peasants to his political advantage. As Ato Kahsay Berhe in his 2005 book aptly put it, all that Meles Zenawi has done, beginning in the 1970s, is control the socioeconomic life of the peasantry (see pp. 74-76). Not only is Meles Zenwi controlling the life of the peasantry, but his party has also been extorting the peasantry by levying its exorbitant and exploitative fees on fertilizers. By doing so, his party has been acting like leeches, bed bugs, lice, and the mujelie – all of them combined- shamelessly sucking up the bloods of the poor peasants from top to bottom! To add insult to all of these injuries, Mr. Zenawi now tell us that the Ethiopian peasants are now free enough to demand higher prices for their produce! The fact of the matter is that, by not privatizing land, the Meles government is committing despicable crimes against humanity. By not privatizing land, the government is using land to continue terrorizing the peasantry and holding them hostage in their own country. By not privatizing land, the government has denied the peasants from creating capital using their own land as collateral. By not privatizing land, the government has pushed the peasants to be less careful about, the impact of overgrazing, soil and wind erosion that has engulfed the country. The current land tenure system falsely guaranteed land to every peasant. Such false guarantees encourage increased fertility. The fact of the matter is that these ridiculous policies have condemned nearly 85% of the population to be more destitute, forget about them being so rich and free! The fact of the matter is that, as the weekly Addis Fortune magazine on its May 20, 2007 edition aptly put it, farm productivity has declined leading the Ethiopian peasants into increased poverty! Sadly, when some parliamentarians kindly tried to indicate to the Prime Minister that the Ethiopian peasants are faced with increased hardships and even starvation, and not getting really richer than before, he followed it up with the usual deflection and his threats.

~ more... ~

 

'Largely unnoticed...is the darker side of Indian development'

 
Over the last decade, an unstable economic situation has resulted in the influx of revolutionaries, known as Naxalites, who defend the rights of marginalized communities to their land and resources. Increasingly, they are met in these rural communities by Salwa Judum, government-supported militias sent to counter revolutionary violence.

Salwa Judum has unclear origins. Some allege it is a government creation to drive rural communities off their land; government officials claim it is a spontaneous movement of people to defend themselves against the excesses of Naxalite violence. In either event, one certain point is that Salwa Judum has increased violence in the state to unprecedented levels, forcing communities out of their forest dwellings and into crude, and by most reports sub-human, camps. Moving back is often not a choice for these communities, kept off their traditional land by the government in the name of public safety.

Amidst this conflict and suffering, the government is signing agreements with mining companies for access to the mineral deposits that lie in the land of indigenous communities. Advocates are attempting to expose the connections between Salwa Judum, widescale displacement, but, many people in positions of power seem to be ignoring the situation altogether.

Meanwhile, the state of Chhattisgarh has imposed one of the most stringent anti-terrorism laws in India. Passed in 2005, this law defines terrorist activity to encompass even tendencies toward interference with public order or administration of law, though how this tendency is defined or proven is unclear. It also prohibits encouragement of civil disobedience, which makes free speech and political dissent tricky. In addition, national anti-terrorism legislation expands police powers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism and allows for extended preventative detention without charge.

Latest on opium

NATO "indifferent" to Afghan drugs problem: Iran
Iran accused NATO on Wednesday of being indifferent towards Afghanistan's growing drugs problem and called on European states to help Tehran fight smuggling of heroin and other narcotics from its neighbor.
Iran is on a heroin smuggling route to the West from the opium fields of Afghanistan, the world's number one producer of the opium poppy, which is processed to make heroin.


Location of opium poppy fields to remain secret
The Government has insisted that the location of dozens of Hampshire fields used to grow the raw materials for heroin must stay secret - to stop people stealing the controversial crop.

The Home Office rejected a Freedom of Information request lodged by the Daily Echo to find out the precise locations of 26 sites in the county used to cultivate opium poppies for medicinal use last year.

The poppies, from which the illegal Class A drug heroin is derived, are used to produce legal morphine, which is used by the NHS to relieve pain.
In February, the Daily Echo revealed that Hampshire was the UK's capital for opium production, with the county's 2007 crop, taking up 1,238 hectares, almost as large as the rest of the UK's put together.


'Medicinal opium' calls rejected
A Foreign Office minister has rejected calls for opium production for medicinal use to be legalised in Afghanistan.
Lord Malloch-Brown said such a plan would be unworkable and fuel the illegal drugs industry because Afghanistan lacked the infrastructure and resources to control crops.
He told the British Medical Journal legalising such crops could drive up prices and lead even more farmers to grow opium.
The Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations warned opium production in the country "fuels corruption and undermines the rule of law".
And he added: "The Afghan government lacks the necessary resources, institutional capacity and control mechanisms to guarantee that opium is only purchased legally.
"Those cultivating and purchasing opium for medical usage would be in direct competition with illegal traffickers, which could drive up the price of opium and encourage increased cultivation.
"Farmers who do not currently grow poppies would abandon legal crops to meet the market's demand. Ultimately, the area of land under poppy cultivation could increase.
Quite simply, farmers would grow more to supply an additional purchaser."
He added that countries such as Turkey and Australia, which were already established sources of legalised opium production, were best placed to meet demand.
 
 
AUSTRALIA will fund wheat trials in Afghanistan aimed at weaning struggling farmers off illegal opium poppy crops.

Authorities hope the $1.5 million project will also help the war-torn country feed itself.

NATO and allied forces -- including Australian troops -- are trying to stamp out Afghanistan's lucrative trade in opium, largely controlled by extremist groups.

 

'They took an oath when they signed up to follow the dope no matter where he sends them'

 
The U.S. Marines are ignoring Afghanistan's booming poppy crop so as not to upset locals. Troops say they are there to fight the Taliban, not opium. They took an oath when they signed up to follow the dope no matter where he sends them.
 
Barbara Walters reveals in her new book she had affairs with Sens. Edward Brooke and John Warner back in the '70s. She's a great American. There was a time when you slept with a senator for your country and not for $500.
 

China's view of Tibet

The lions of human rights, particularly in European capitals, behave like poodles in Beijing. Virtually all of them spend their time trying to sell products to China. Then, in passing, they will whisper that they have to mention human rights issues because when they return home they have to say that these issues were raised. That sends an unmistakable message: This is a Western ritual; please do not pay too much attention to it. Given this record, it is not surprising that Chinese leaders have little respect for European leaders when they make grand gestures on human rights in front of their domestic audiences.
 
 

How Network News Was Out-Psyop’d

The Times reported that to drum up support for the Iraq war, the government cultivated former military men to speak on the issue as analysts. The military gave the veterans access to officials and special briefings. The catch is that many of the analysts had side businesses that benefited from the access they got, giving them a disincentive to criticize the war.

The story also documented the TV networks' processes for vetting analysts. TV networks for the most part declined to comment in detail, saying the onus was on analysts to disclose any connections that could color their commentary.

They couldn't be more wrong. The burden was on the networks to ask; for the most part, they did not. The most basic journalistic precepts require news outlets to question experts on whether they might have interests that lend a bias to their analysis.

So far, most of the broadcast and cable networks haven't responded in a meaningful way. CNN, in the Times story, said it did require analysts to divulge all sources of outside income, but didn't know that one of its military analysts had outside businesses related to the Pentagon. To CNN's credit, the network did acknowledge it failed to ask that analyst the relevant question.

In the end, the cadre of military analysts who had a relationship with the Pentagon and gave on-air opinions helped shape the public's opinion of the war. And the networks failed to provide their viewers with information that would have let the audience judge how much weight to give those voices.

~ more... ~

 

The March to War: Israel Prepares for War against Lebanon and Syria

By the start of 2007, reports about major upgrades to the Syrian military, including advances in missile technology, with Iranian help were widespread in Israel. The impression of an imminent war existed across much of the Middle East. Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran were reported in Israel to be preparing for a war to spark in the Levant.
 
It was also claimed in Israel that Damascus had sent secret messages to Tel Aviv that should Israel continue to reject Syria's peace overtures, a war would breakout in the Golan Heights and that Syrian reservists were forbidden from leaving Syria because of the possibility of combat.

In June, 2007, an inner circle of the Israeli government that would form a "war cabinet" in a Middle Eastern war scenario was categorically informed that a war with Syria would absolutely involve Iranian military intervention.
 
It is now 2008 and the spectre of war has remerged in the Middle East. Syrian President Basher Al-Assad revealed that his country is uneasy and prepared for the worst once again. Despite Tehran's position that the U.S. would not dare launch a war against Iran, the Iranian military is on standby. The Lebanese military and Hezbollah have also been placed on alert.
 
 "While war is not a preferable option, if Israel declares war on Syria and Lebanon or if America declares war on Iran, Syria would be prepared," the Syrian President told a gathering of Arab intellectuals according to Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, on April 16, 2008. "We should analyze the situation from the perspective of American interests, because the last war in Lebanon has shown that at some point Israel wanted to stop the fighting, but was forced by the [Bush Jr. Administration] to pursue it further," Basher Al-Assad continued. Thus the threat of war lives on in the Middle East in 2008…
 
"Miscalculations" in the Levant: Setting the Stage for War?
 
Hereto, Tel Aviv has been deliberately promoting tensions with Syria and Lebanon. In 2007, Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, the former deputy chief of staff for the Israeli military, stated during a press briefing that war between Syria and Israel was unlikely as an answer to growing rumours of war that started since late-2006 and the commencement of 2007. The Israeli flag officer however did not rule out an eventual Israeli-Syrian conflict. Major-General Kaplinsky along with many other Israeli commanders and officials repeatedly stressed that a "miscalculation on the border" could spark a conflict between Syria and Israel sometime in the future.
 
Not long after the 2006 Israeli defeat in Lebanon, Tel Aviv started crafting the "justifications" for more wars in its surrounding neighbourhood, the Levant. The Israeli definitions of "miscalculation" have been extremely vague and ominous.

Tel Aviv has been involved in the process of creating a military carte blanche, allowing for "flexibility" in its regional approach towards Lebanon and Syria.
 
"Miscalculations" in the eyes of Tel Aviv range from the domestic affairs of the Lebanese and the events in the occupied Palestinian Territories to the most audacious and bellicose of definitions, such as the reaction of the Syrians to Israeli hostilities.
 
The secretive air assault, later revealed by the codename Operation Orchard, made by the 69th Squadron of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) against an unheard of facility in Deir ez-Zoir Governorate of Syria on September 6, 2007 could have become a "miscalculation" on the part of Syria had it responded to Israeli provocations.
 
The Israeli definition of a "miscalculation" also means any arbitrary fire into Israel. The Jerusalem Post defined a "miscalculation" that could spark a war with Syria as an incident "along the border, in the form of a terrorist attack that escalates into a larger conflict." Such an incident could easily be sparked through conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
 
A false flag operation could also bring such an incident about. On July 18, 2007 there was rocket fire from South Lebanon into Israel by an unknown group, something that could have been used as a pretext for war. In Syria, Lebanon, and the Arab World the incident was believed to be the work of the Israelis and their allies in an effort to justify a future war.
 
Tel Aviv's Orwellian talk of Peace
 
In May, 2008 the head of the Mossad, the intelligence service of Israeli, said that talks of peace with Syria would lead to war. [10] Le Nouvel Observateur reported in July 2007 that the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, ruled out the resumption of peace talks with Syria while stressing that she believed Damascus posed a problem that must be tackled on a regional scale. When asked about the prospects of peace with Syria, Tzipi Livni responded, "Absolutely not. Syria is pursuing the dangerous game it plays in the region [Middle East]," and added that Syria "remains a threat" to Israel. These statements reveal the conduct of Tel Aviv and its hidden agenda. Within the context of a public declaration of peace during the summer of 2007, they also reveal Tel Aviv's duplicity.
 
While Tzipi Livni stated that there would be no peace between Israel and Syria, Ehud Olmert stated in a televised interview with the Al-Arabiya News Channel, that he personally wanted peace with Syria. Prime Minister Olmert addressed President Basher Al-Assad, the head of Syria, directly, saying "you know that I am ready for direct talks with you" and added that "I am ready to sit with you and talk about peace, not war." Several days later, Ehud Olmert also stated in Orwellian fashion that he wanted peace with the Syrians, but that peace did not equate to immediate peace negotiations between Syria and Israel and could mean a continuation of the "status quo."

Olmert's statement is doublespeak. Hereto, according to the Israelis, the threat of war exists as a result of the status quo between Syria and Israel. This statement is very important to keep in mind because it indicates that Israel did not want to return the Golan Heights, but wanted something else from Syria as the condition of peace. This is where Tehran comes into the picture.
 
 

Hunger for Steel Causes Scrap Iron Price to Soar

The price of scrap iron has been soaring, turning the once humble material into a treasured and protected commodity. The international price of scrap iron rose by 36 percent last year, and in just the first four months of this year it has leaped by 73 percent. Over the past three years the price has increased 2.5 times.

The skyrocketing price is the result of surging demand for less costly metal in the wake of price hikes for iron ore. Another reason is the growing use of scrap by steelmakers in Europe and Japan looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as scrap emits much less carbon dioxide than iron ore when making steel.

With prices rising, "resource nationalism" is kicking in, with Russia and Taiwan imposing controls on scrap exports. Meanwhile countries around the world have been plagued by metal thieves who steal any kind of iron they can get away with, from manhole covers to gates, guardrails and even bridges.

~ read on... ~

 

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party

London's Mayoral Race: No Joke
If nobody is laughing, then it's probably not a British election. Since the launch a quarter of a century ago of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, contenders sporting ridiculous names and deliberately nonsensical manifestos have taken part in many of the country's parliamentary, municipal and mayoral polls, and sometimes even won them. In the 2002 mayoral race in the port city of Hartlepool, for instance, a man dressed as a monkey and promising free bananas decisively beat Labour and Britain's two other leading parties, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. So it's not surprising that Ken Livingstone, the Labour politician aiming to win a third consecutive four-year term as London's mayor, hopes humor will help him to defeat his main challenger, Conservative Boris Johnson, when Britain's capital goes to the polls on May 1.

There's a twist. Livingstone, who is known for a sharp turn of phrase and once quipped that "if voting changed anything, they'd abolish it," is trying to scare Londoners off voting for Johnson by suggesting that the Conservative is the funnier man, perhaps even the ultimate joke candidate. Billboard posters and 4.2 million postcards being distributed by Livingstone's campaign urge voters to imagine Johnson, despite more than six years as a member of parliament still best known for his many comically chaotic appearances on British TV game shows, in charge of London. "Suddenly he's not so funny," warns Livingstone's campaign literature.


Official Monster Raving Loony Party
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party (OMRLP) is a registered political party established in the United Kingdom in 1983 by musician and politician David Sutch, also known as Screaming Lord Sutch (1940-1999).

Sutch's early political activity

Beginning in 1964, Sutch, of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages, stood under a range of party names, mainly as the National Teenage Party candidate. At that time the voting age was set at 21. The name "National Teenage Party" was intended to highlight what Sutch and others saw as hypocrisy on a national scale: while teenagers were denied the right to vote on the basis of their supposed immaturity, the "adults" running the country were involved in such shenanigans as the Profumo Affair.

Formation of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party

Sutch, who had been shot during a mugging attempt in the 1980s while he lived in the United States, left the USA thoroughly disillusioned with what he saw as an increasingly violent country.
He then returned to the UK and to politics, and it was at this time that the "Raving Loony" tag first appeared.

A similar concept appeared in the "Election Night Special" sketch by Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1970 in which the "Silly Party" and the "Sensible Party" competed against each other, and The Goodies did a similar skit with Graeme Garden as a "Science Loony". Monty Python and The Goodies also popularised the word "loony" in the sense that Sutch was using in the name of the OMRLP, but it is equally possible that Sutch inspired the two comedy shows by managing to stand against Harold Wilson in 1966 and in the City of London election in 1970. There had also been a "Science Fiction and Loony" candidate in the 1976 Cambridge by-election.

There were two other individuals important in the formation of the future OMRLP. The first was John Dougrez-Lewis, who stood at the Crosby by-election of 1981 (which was won by the Social Democratic Party's co-founder Shirley Williams). Dougrez-Lewis stood at the by-election as Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel (a name taken from the aforementioned Monty Python sketch), having changed his name by deed poll from the somewhat plainer John Desmond Lewis, on the behalf of the Cambridge University Raving Loony Society (CURLS) despite a legal challenge to stop him from standing by a far-right candidate wishing to highlight his suspension from Middlesex Polytechnic for his views. CURLS were an "anti-political party" and charity fund raising group formed largely to be a fun counter response to increasingly polarised student politics on campus and responsible for a number of fun-stunts (their Oxford University equivalents were the "Oxford Raving Lunatics")

Dougrez-Lewis was to become Sutch's agent at the notorious Bermondsey by-election of 1983 where the OMRLP banner was first officially unfurled.

The second person who helped found the party was Commander Bill Boaks, a retired World War II hero involved in the sinking of the Bismarck, who had campaigned and stood for election for over 30 years on limited funds, always on the issue of road safety (he had been prosecuted several times as a result of his campaigns against several prominent figures who had mysteriously managed to escape prosecution for drunk-driving offences). Boaks foresaw the problems that increased traffic and more roads would cause the country, but by the time his predictions of unnecessary child deaths, pollution and congestion were proved correct, he had died as a result of head injuries received three years earlier from a motorcycle collision. Boaks acted as one of Sutch's counting agents at Bermondsey and also proved influential on Sutch's direction as the leading anti-politician: "it's the ones who don't vote you really want, because they're the ones who think". Boaks subsequently retired from standing at elections due to his injuries, content that someone else was now taking up the anti-Establishment baton he had held for three decades.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party website
" I have come to change the government, not to praise it."
"There is nothing more monstrous than politicians".
"If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving isn't for you "
-- Screaming Lord Sutch


The United States Official Monster Raving Loony Party
First started by rocker Screaming Lord Sutch in England in 1963, we issue daft manifestos with a laugh and propose even dafter laws with a serious intent: to make people take action. If you ever watch C-Span during its public policy blocks, there might be the British General Election. In one of the districts, there will bound to be someone with the audacity to wear a top hat, crazy ties, and a big honkin' button that says "VOTE LORD SUTCH" and he'd be smiling along. That's us.

Now, we are here in America with even more enlightenment than you can shake a stick at.


Screaming Lord Sutch found dead
Thursday, June 17, 1999

A spokesman for the prime minister said Lord Sutch, "will be much missed. For many years he made a unique contribution to British politics.

"Our elections will never be quite the same without him."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said Lord Sutch, whose real name was David Sutch had been found hanged.

A post-mortem has yet to take place and initially the death is being treated as suspicious.

[ ... ]

Mr Hope, who became the first Loony mayor, at Ashburton Town Council in Devon, said: "I'm absolutely devastated - the whole party is going to be. The Monster Raving Loony Party is Screaming Lord Sutch."

The maverick politician became Britain's longest serving party leader after launching the Monster Raving Loonies in 1963.

Mr Hope has now taken over the leadership of the party temporarily until a new leader can be endorsed by the party at its conference in September.

Mr Hope is leading calls for a statue to be erected to Lord Sutch outside Parliament next to the statue of Sir Winston Churchill - one of the Loony leader's heroes.

Mr Hope, who runs the party headquarters from the Golden Lion pub in Devon, said his friend had been in good spirits when they spoke on the telephone 10 days ago.

Earthquake Visions Of Tammy Faye

Coincident to an earthquake felt here in Illinois on Friday, April 18th, appearances of a mysterious lady are being reported. According to some reports, the visionary phantom resembles the late Tammy Faye Bakker. It has been almost a year now since Ms. Bakker passed on to the other world.

The mysterious lady, whoever she is, has conveyed messages to witnesses, such as "The Zadokite Temple is the True Temple" and "Pray for Zimbabwe." But some sneer at Illinoisans and call them half-baked. These do not credit as factual the appearance of any "mysterious lady," be she Tammy Faye Bakker or otherwise.

~ more... ~

North Korea and the Supernote Enigma

Counterfeit currency attributed to North Korea raises deep concern due to its extremely high quality. Dubbed supernotes, their production process closely matches that of the genuine article, and the engraving is so fine it rivals that of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Unlike most of the world's counterfeit currency, which is printed on offset presses or through digital processes, supernotes are printed on an intaglio press. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses Giori intaglio presses for the engraved portions of its bank notes, and an offset press for the background colors. Supernotes use the same technology. An intaglio press operates by applying ink on its plates and then wiping them clean, leaving ink only in the engraved lines. The plate is then pressed against the paper, depositing the ink in ridges. The result is raised printing that ordinary counterfeits can't duplicate. Supernotes have the same look and feel as U.S. currency.

North Korea purchased an intaglio press from the Swiss firm Giori in the mid-1970s. This fact is regarded as an indication that the nation has the technology available to print supernotes. Yet there have been significant advances in the field since the time of its purchase. Because certain auxiliary equipment is lacking, the model owned by the DPRK is considered by experts to be incapable of achieving the level of quality seen on supernotes. Not long after purchasing the Giori, North Korea defaulted on its loan after having made just two payments. For that reason, as well as due to U.S. pressure, Giori ceased shipping spare parts to North Korea many years ago, and according to one expert the North Korean printing press now stands idle.

~ more... ~

 

Documentary 'The Israel lobby - The influence of AIPAC on US Foreign Policy'



An episode of the Dutch documentary program "Tegenlicht" about the Israel lobby in the USA. This documentary (April 2007) was created as a result of the controversy created by Mearsheimer and Walt's "The Israel Lobby" article. Featuring interviews with Mearsheimer, geostrategist Lawrence Wikerson, Richard Perle, historian and critic Tony Judt, John Hagee, former Congressman Earl Hilliard, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, Michael Massing and Daniel Levy. 'Tegenlicht' ('Backlight') is a program from the Dutch VPRO public television.

Some oil companies reportedly settling MTBE suits

ConocoPhillips, Shell, Marathon, Chevron and BP  are among about a dozen oil companies that will pay $423 million to settle lawsuits brought by water suppliers in 17 states over contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE.

The suits claim the oil companies contaminated wells and underground aquifers across the country by adding methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, to gasoline as a way to reduce air pollution. They claim the oil companies hid information showing MTBE would cause "massive" contamination.

The settlement was filed Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York, who is presiding over the 153 settled lawsuits brought by municipalities. The six oil companies and refineries that didn't settle include Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest publicly traded oil company, according to Robert Gordon, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

~ read on... ~

 

Officials Testify on Disaster Plans

Two Bush administration Cabinet members yesterday acknowledged gaps in the capability of U.S. hospitals to deal with a mass-casualty terrorist attack or other disaster, but they said a congressional effort to block pending Medicaid cuts will not fix the problem.

Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said lawmakers could target funds at the shortcomings more directly, such as by financing the stockpiling of hospital beds, ventilator units or medicines, if needed.

[ ... ]

Leavitt and Chertoff spoke two days after the committee's chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), released a survey showing that hospitals in seven major U.S. cities would be overwhelmed in case of a Madrid-scale attack. In that incident, 191 people were killed and as many as 270 patients were sent to a single hospital within hours.
President Bush has threatened to veto House legislation that would impose a one-year moratorium on changes sought by HHS to Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor. Congressional budget analysts say the reimbursement changes would lower federal spending by $17.8 billion over five years. State officials said the impact would be greater, including cuts to physicians at teaching hospitals and to urban public hospitals whose emergency rooms are already strained.
Waxman said Chertoff's and Leavitt's departments were "irresponsible" because they had not analyzed the impact of cuts on emergency rooms.
 
 

The Great Tao flows everywhere

 
"The new form of insight can perhaps best be called Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement. This view implies that flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the 'things' that can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow" - Physicist David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order

This, I submit, is the real nature of "globalisation" todayIt is a conversation across both time and space which effectively  synchronises and coordinates the shared insights of different traditions (histories) and localities (peoples) revealing them as belonging to one universal history of human experience, albeit refracted like light into different idioms and languages. In the "other" we now begin to recognise ourselves.
 

Mark Thomas:My Life In Serious Organised Crime

Part 1


Policeman: "You want a demonstration to defend Surrealism."
M. Thomas: "Yeah...I do. Yeah...I do. I can have a demonstration about anything I like."
Policeman: "Indeed, you can. I just didn't know Surrealism was under threat."
I said: 'It is!"
He said: "How so?"
I said: "Because we have a government of paradox. We have a government that seeks peace through war and protects civil liberties by eroding them. This is a paradox. This is Absurdism. Absurdism is the enemy of Surrealism, ergo, Surrealism is under attack."
He said: "I wish I'd never asked."

The Truth about Oil

A recent survey on the environment found that seventy percent of people worldwide think that the planet is running out oil. Only less than one quarter believe that there is enough of it to keep it as a primary source of energy. Petro pessimism runs especially high in the United States where a full two thirds think that the point of depletion is within sight.

Here are some hard facts.

According the Energy Information Administration as of January 2007 there was more than 1.3 trillion barrels of proved crude oil on earth. Even if this were all the oil on the planet there would be no immediate danger of shortages, because at the current rate of consumption – roughly 85 million barrels a day – this supply would last for more than 40 years.

But the 1.3 trillion in these so-called proved reserves refers only to a tiny fraction of earth's oil, designating only that portion which can be extracted under current 'economic and operating conditions.' As it happens, this figure grows with each decade and usually dramatically so.

In 1882, for instance, there were 95 million barrels of proved petroleum reserves. This number jumped to 4.5 billion in 1926 and then to 10 billion in 1932. In 1944 the quantity stood at 20 billion. In 1950 it leaped to 100 billion and in 1980 it was 648 billion. In 1993 the world's proved reserves grew to 999 billion, and today they stand at 1.3 trillion barrels.

These figures show that our ever-increasing consumption has not over the years reduced the pool of available oil. In fact, the exact opposite is the case – each successive year we have more of it than ever before. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, mankind's oil supplies are not getting depleted, but they keep continually expanding.

There are several reasons for this. New exploration and advancements in surveying techniques in particular result in fresh finds almost every year.

We have seen a dramatic instance of this at the end of last year when a massive reservoir was discovered in the Tupi sector off the coast of Brazil. Estimated to hold some 8 billion barrels of recoverable crude it was the second largest find in the last 20 years. Two months later an even greater deposit was located nearby which may hold as much as 30 billion barrels. If confirmed, the field would be the third biggest on the planet, behind only the Ghawar in Saudi Arabia and the Burgan in Kuwait. Many scientists are now convinced that intense exploration fuelled by high prices will yield comparable discoveries in other places of the globe.

~ read on... ~

 

Dispatches: Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola

Part 1 of 5

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