2006/04/30

PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When GI Joe Says No

Christian Parenti

A young former US Army sniper wearing a desert camo uniform, an Iraqi kaffiyeh and mirrored sunglasses scans a ruined urban landscape of smashed homes, empty streets and garbage heaps. His sand-colored hat bears a small regulation-style military patch, or tab, that instead of reading "Airborne" or "Ranger" or "Special Forces" says "Shitbag"--common military parlance for bad soldier.

This isn't Baghdad or Kabul. It's the Gulf Coast, and the column of young men and women in desert uniforms carrying American flags are with Iraq Veterans Against the War. They are part of a larger peace march that is making its way from Mobile to New Orleans. This is just one of IVAW's ongoing series of actions.

In all, about thirty-five Iraq vets cycled through this weeklong procession of 250. For the young, often very broke, very busy veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, this represents a fairly strong showing. But many casual observers, influenced by memories of Vietnam-era protesting, when veterans mobilized in the thousands, expected that US soldiers in Iraq would turn against the war faster and in greater numbers than they have. An estimated 1 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but so far IVAW has only about 250 members.

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The Rehabilitation of the Cold-War Liberal

By PETER BEINART
Published: April 30, 2006

This fall, for the third time since 9/11, American voters will choose between Democrats and Republicans while knowing what only one party believes about national security. In 2002, Democratic candidates tried to change the subject, focusing on Social Security and health care instead. In 2004, John Kerry substituted biography for ideology, largely ignoring his own extensive foreign-policy record and stressing his service in Vietnam. In this year's Senate and House races, the party looks set to reprise Michael Dukakis's old theme: competence. Rather than tell Americans what their vision is, Democrats will assure them that they can execute it better than George W. Bush.

George F. Kennan: As architect of America's first cold-war policies, he argued that the U.S. should resist the imperial temptation.

Democrats have no shortage of talented foreign-policy practitioners. Indeed, they have no shortage of worthwhile foreign-policy proposals. Even so, they cannot tell a coherent story about the post-9/11 world. And they cannot do so, in large part, because they have not found their usable past. Such stories, after all, are not born in focus groups; they are less invented than inherited. Before Democrats can conquer their ideological weakness, they must first conquer their ideological amnesia.

Consider George W. Bush's story: America represents good in an epic struggle against evil. Liberals, this story goes, try to undermine that moral clarity, reining in American power and sapping our faith in ourselves. But a visionary president will not be constrained, and he wields American might with relentless force, until the walls of oppression crumble and the darkest region on earth is set free.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It was Ronald Reagan's story as well. To a remarkable degree, the right's post-9/11 vision relies on a grand analogy: Bush is Reagan, Tony Blair is Margaret Thatcher, the "axis of evil" is the "evil empire," the truculent French are the truculent French. The most influential conservative foreign-policy essay of the 1990's, written by the Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment, was titled "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy." And since 9/11, most conservatives have seen Bush as Reaganesque. His adherence to a script conservatives know by heart helps explain their devotion, which held fast through the 2004 election, and has only recently begun to flag, as that script veers more and more disastrously from the real world.
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Afghanistan Releases Man Involved in Private Jail

By CARLOTTA GALL
Published: April 30, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 30 — An American cameraman imprisoned in Afghanistan for his part in running a private jail and torturing hostages, was released under a presidential pardon and whisked out of the country today on a flight home via Dubai.

Edward Caraballo, 44, a filmmaker from the Bronx, was convicted with two United States servicemen, Jack Idema and Brent Bennett, in 2004 after their arrest in a house in Kabul where police found a number of detained Afghans. Mr. Caraballo had served 21 months in jail and was due for release in July. His original sentence of eight years was reduced to two years on appeal last year.

"I am not trusting it until it happens," he said hours before getting on the plane todayon a borrowed mobile phone from the prison. American embassy officials and the Afghan prison chief had informed him he was to be released and to get ready Saturday afternoon and then again this afternoon, he said. "I am ready for it," he said of the shock of going from an Afghan prison straight to the United States. "I just want to get back and see my daughter."

He was driven into the airport in a convoy of United States Embassy vehicles. An Afghan airport official said the embassy had asked that reporters be prevented from speaking to him.
Mr. Caraballo was released under a general pardon by President
Hamid Karzai in celebration of two national holidays, the Muslim Prophet Mohammed's birthday, and Afghanistan's defeat of Communism on April 27, 1992, in which all prisoners with less than a year to serve were granted an early release.

Mr Idema and Mr. Bennett are serving longer sentences, five and three years respectively.
Mr. Caraballo had made a concerted effort since last year to separate himself from Mr. Idema and persuade the Afghan authorities of his innocence in the case, stating that he was a journalist making a film about the war on terror and was filming Mr. Idema's group and was not part of it
.
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Celebrities and Activists Rally for Darfur

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 30, 2006


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thousands of people joined celebrities and lawmakers at a rally Sunday urging the Bush administration to use its political muscle to help end genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

''Not on our watch,'' the crowd began chanting as a parade of speakers lined up for their turn on a stage on the National Mall, the Capitol serving as a backdrop.

''The personal motivation for a lot of us is the Holocaust,'' said Boston-based Rabbi Or Rose of Jewish Seminarians for Justice. ''Given our history and experience, we feel an obligation to stand up and speak out.''

The organizers' permit estimated a turnout of 10,000 to 15,000 for the rally, one of several planned in U.S. cities over the weekend over what the United Nations has termed the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

''It is the socially responsible, good conscience thing to do,'' said Ron Fisher, who took a pre-dawn bus from Cleveland with his 15-year-old daughter Jordyn to attend the demonstration. ''It' an opportunity to show my daughter what people do when they care about something.''
The U.S. Park Police, which does not issue crowd estimates, reported no arrests. ''It's a large crowd. I think they have a really good turnout,'' Sgt. Scott Fear said.


The event attracted high-profile speakers from the worlds of screen, athletics, religion and politics: actor George Clooney, just back from a trip to Africa; Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek, who donated his bonus money to projects in war-torn Darfur; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington.

Refugee Hassan Cober said he was forced to leave his family and flee Sudan four years ago after many were killed and raped in his village. He urged the U.S. and the United Nations to act quickly, saying he had no idea where his family was or if they were OK.

''We need deeds, not words,'' said Cober, who now lives in Portland, Maine. ''They need to come to Darfur today, not tomorrow, because what is going on is a disaster.''
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Maybe the UN will act, but as far as Bush getting off his ass, So sorry. You don't have oil, and well lets just say your most likely going to fall into the list of things to do, when hell freezes over. Right after taking serious steps to help Katrina victims, and right before doing something to reform health care, social security, and education.

LA Times Discontinues Reporter's Column

Sun Apr 30, 11:00 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Times said Sunday it is discontinuing the column and Internet blog of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter because he posted items online using assumed names.

The decision, reported in an editor's note on the Times' Web site, came a week after the paper suspended Michael Hiltzik's Golden State blog.

It said Hiltzik would be reassigned after serving a suspension.
"Hiltzik did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web," the editor's note said. "But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of The Times' ethics guidelines: Staff members must not misrepresent themselves and must not conceal their affiliation with The Times."


Hiltzik did not immediately return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment Sunday morning.

The Times said Hiltzik "has acknowledged using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper."

Hiltzik has been in a blog feud with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, who writes the conservative blog Patterico's Pontifications. That column recently contended that Hiltzik had been posting messages to his blog and other Web sites under assumed names such as Mikekoshi and Nofanofcablecos.

Frey said he did not object to anonymity on the Web but rather to the use of "pseudonyms to pretend to be something or somebody they aren't."

Hiltzik and Times reporter Chuck Philips won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles exposing entertainment industry corruption.
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Powell Forces Rice to Defend Iraq Planning

By LIBBY QUAID,
Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 9 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic — Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department.

For the Bush administration, it was a rare instance of in-house dissenter going public.
On Rice's mind was the political breakthrough that had brought her and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Iraq last week and cleared the way for formation of a national unity government.


Yet Powell sideswiped her by revisiting the question of whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.

He said he advised Bush before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to send more troops to Iraq, but that the administration did not follow his recommendation.

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

"I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission that we went into Iraq," Rice said.

"And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan," she told CNN's "Late Edition."

Powell, in an interview broadcast Sunday in London, said he gave the advice to now retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who developed and executed the Iraq invasion plan, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld while the president was present.

"I made the case to General Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld before the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," Powell said in an interview on Britain's ITV television. "The case was made, it was listened to, it was considered. ... A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate."

Rice said Bush "listened to the advice of his advisers and ultimately, he listened to the advice of his commanders, the people who actually had to execute the war plan. And he listened to them several times," she told ABC's "This Week."

"When the war plan was put together, it was put together, also, with consideration of what would happen after Saddam Hussein was actually overthrown," Rice said.
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Way to Go Powell, way to take a step towards redemtion

Colbert's White House Correspondent Dinner Performance Underscores Irony's Power And Delicacy

by Joe Gandelman

The scene: The White House Correspondent Dinner. The time: right after President George W. Bush put in a boffo performance next to a top-notch Bush impersonator. It was a hard act to follow.But Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert most assuredly followed it in his irony-heavy TV persona of a TV News talk show host that seems reminiscent of a Fox News host with the initials B.O. (or, rather B.O'R.)What followed was a study in contrasting satirical forms — the easier task with one form (the one-liner, the visual, the lines dependent on joke construction and timing)...and the tougher task with the other (heavy irony, which relies on shared assumptions)..The result: Bush & his new performing bud brought down the house with a much "safer"and traditional form of self-effacing political humor, while Colbert's edgier Comedy Central-style humor clearly turned off some members of the audience and — Editor and Publisher suggests — perhaps Bush and his wife Laura. Links to his performance are HERE.
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I am a huge fan of Colbert, watch his show everyday. But this is by far his best work. Comedy is a art form, and this was is masterpiece. This is his "David', or his "mona lisa". Well done Mr. Colbert, well done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2006/04/29

Pollution slowly choking North China's largest lake to death

Fri Apr 28, 2:41 PM ET

ANXIN, China (AFP) - When a slick of pollution in north China's biggest freshwater lake left fish farms decimated in early March, locals and environmentalists were little surprised.

Large-scale fish deaths have occurred regularly since the 1980s as excessive amounts of untreated industrial waste water and raw sewage, coupled with drought and constantly falling water levels, have left Baiyangdian Lake in northern China's Hebei province choking for its life.
"When we were kids we used to drink the water straight from the lake," Liu Zhanbing, 41, a fish farmer who has lived his entire life on the banks of the lake in Dazhangzhuang village, told AFP.
"Now we can't even cook with it. We have to use well water for our drinking water."


This year's fish kill came after upstream reservoirs of waste water in the Baoding city region, home to about 10 million people, emptied their putrid sludge into streams and rivers that run into the lake, state media said.

The pollutants, full of phosphorous and nitrogen, sapped the oxygen out of the blackish green water and when the frozen lake thawed, farmers found their suffocated fish floating to the top.
"Farmers who didn't harvest their fish in October, lost their entire crop," Liu said. "They were hoping that the fish would grow bigger over the winter and then they would be able to get better prices this spring."

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Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela Reject U.S. Trade

By ANITA SNOW,
Associated Press Writer Sat Apr 29, 7:04 PM ET

HAVANA - Bolivia's new left-leaning president signed a pact with Cuba and Venezuela on Saturday rejecting U.S.-backed free trade and promising a socialist version of regional commerce and cooperation.

Cuban authorities did not release copies of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas signed by Bolivia's Evo Morales, so its contents were unclear.
Local media reported that it had the same language as the declaration signed last year by Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, which contained much leftist rhetoric, and few specifics, but was followed by closer economic ties between the two vehemently anti-U.S. leaders.


The agreement was "a clever mixture of politics and economics, weighted toward the politics," said Gary Hufbauer, an economist at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank.

Venezuela-Cuba trade is expected to reach more than $3.5 billion this year — about 40 percent higher than in 2005. Among other measures, the deal signed between Chavez and Castro has Venezuela — the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the United States — selling 90,000 barrels a day of crude to the communist-run island at international market prices, but in exchange for services and agricultural products instead of cash.

Later Saturday, the three presidents signed a second document with more concrete proposals.
Cuba promised to send Bolivia doctors and teachers. Venezuela will send gasoline to the Andean nation and set up a $100 million fund for development programs and a $30 million fund for other social projects.


Cuba and Venezuela also agreed to buy all of Bolivia's soybeans, recently left without a market after Colombia signed a free trade pact with the United States.
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US Now Planning Fourth Attempt To Oust Hugo Chavez

Corporate Media demonizing invective against Hugo Chavez prepping the public for planned US fourth attempt to oust the Venezuelan president.

This essay has a duel purpose. I began it initially to explain how sophisticated and effective the dominant corporate Media is in programming the public mind to believe whatever message they deliver regardless of whether it’s true which it rarely is. I chose the title Reeducation 101 - Defogging and Reversing the Corporate Media’s Programming of the Public Mind which I’m now using as the heading of my introductory section. Along with that discussion, I then planned a detailed case study example of how they’re doing it by demonizing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias with a building and resonating drumbeat of invective in advance of the US government’s fourth attempt to oust him. That discussion follows my introductory section.
REEDUCATION 101 - DEFOGGING AND REVERSING THE CORPORATE
Media‘S PROGRAMMING OF THE PUBLIC MIND

Does any reader of online progressive web sites still watch, listen to or read anything from the corporate Media? If so, how do you stand it without having a good supply of stomach soothers and strong headache relief handy. I thought most everyone with enough smarts and common sense understood that this collective institutional juggernaut’s mission is to sedate and seduce us - a sort of one, two punch. They mostly do it with diverting and distracting entertainment. Is that what it’s called? You ‘coulda fooled me with what’s on all my 300 + cable channels I don’t watch except when I go to bed and need something mind numbing to make me sleepy. The only reason I have them all is I live in a building that subscribes to the cable service, and everyone gets them, like it or not.

Except for three classical music channels without talk or commercials I love, everything in their lineup is a vast wasteland, especially what passes for so-called “news and information” by the on-air names you know well and I needn’t list. They’re all an assault on our sensibilities in their all out effort to fog our minds with round the clock Propaganda, lies, distortion and sanitizing. What they do isn’t journalism, it’s stenography. And what they don’t report is usually more important than what they do. They know, as does our government, that if all or enough of us understood what’s really happening, not the rot and mush they fill our heads with, there’d be a revolution in the streets. How could the public with full knowledge of what our government is up to ever go along since all of it only benefits the rich and powerful and does it at our expense.

The mind manipulation and thought control comes at us from all directions in print and on the airwaves. In the US (and really the world) the newspaper known as the “Gray Lady” and referred to as “the newspaper of record” leads the way - the New York Times. I call them a US “Pravda.” They’re the closest thing we have in this country to an official ministry of information and Propaganda. They’ve been going at it for over 150 years, and nobody does it better or with more influence. Remember Judith Miller and her daily WMD scare reports…..straight from the White House and Pentagon in final copy printable form. The Times calls this “all the news that’s fit to print.” You don’t not want to hear what I call it, but this newspaper has clout around the world. Whatever lead stories they report get picked up and are spread almost everywhere. Especially here on TV where the state of our news, information and trumpeting punditry assault our nerve endings. Those who run it and report on it never met a piece of state Propaganda they didn’t love and want to tell us about ad nauseam - in between frequent 5 minute long commercial breaks trying to sell us everything we don’t need and never knew we wanted until they told us.

A noted US Media critic once said about them “they have everything to sell and nothing to tell.” And I heard noted British journalist Robert Fisk say on air to an interviewer commenting on the dismal state of our corporate Media that “you really have a problem in this country.” He meant the dominant Media is so corrupted and complicit with US policies hostile to the public interest and welfare here and abroad that we have a desperate need for an effective antidote to their poison. Amen.

There’s even a flood of material on TV called “video news releases” or VNRs. Now get this. These are all government agency produced Propaganda releases or corporate commercials disguised as real news - but you’re not supposed to know it. What they all are is “fake news.” There’s a ton of this stuff all over the airwaves. The TV networks and local stations love ‘em because they all come pre-packaged and free of charge, saving all that production time and cost. Then combine that with all the rest of TV news, information and punditry and it’s enough to drive a teetotaler to drink or worse. You have to get away from this stuff, and I’ll tell you how. It’s not that hard - just turn off your TV and cancel your corporate owned newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Call a friend instead, visit a neighbor, talk to your wife or husband, spend time with your kids. You’ll discover a whole new world. You may even get to love it. Also, spend more time online in the right places, like the web site you’re now reading this on, and start to read a little - most important, the right things.

THE RIGHT PATH TO FOLLOW IS STRAIGHT AHEAD
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Bush: the Decider Dictator

Kurt Nimmo

I recall months ago, when folks began first murmuring about booting Donald Rumsfeld, arriving at the obvious conclusion- Donald Rumsfeld is not going anywhere, not anymore than Cheney is (short of a heart attack). Rumsfeld and Cheney are integral to the Straussian neocon hold on both the Pentagon and the Oval Office. Bush may appoint Rob Portman to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Dan Senor (former AIPAC flunky, director of the US-Israel Business Exchange, and associate at the Carlyle Group) may replace Scott McClellan, but Cheney and Rumsfeld are like white on rice.

It’s said Rumsfeld has to go because Iraq is a disaster. I beg to differ—things are going swimmingly for the Straussian neocons in Iraq. Bush never intended to bestow democracy on the Iraqi people, as claimed, and we all know about the weapons of mass destruction that never were (and a few of us said this in late 2002, as the Office of Special Plans began to circulate its Propaganda and lies to the likes of Judith Miller at the New York Times). All of it was and is a smokescreen for the real deal—fomenting “civil War” and eventually breaking Iraq up into three pieces based along ethnic and religious lines (all the better to rule and divide—and steal oil, water, and other natural resources, not to mention turning millions of people into a pool of cheap labor, as the Israelis have done over the years to the Palestinians).

“I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation,” Bush growled at the corporate Media. “But I’m the decider and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.” Translation: Bush is the dictator (”it would be a heck of a lot easier”) decider increasingly unbound by the restraints of law and the Constitution. In ancient Rome, a dictator received absolute power on a temporary basis during times of emergency. It is said our emergency is the War on terror—terror documented to be an engineered fraud—but unlike the Romans before Sulla and Triumvir and the Princeps, Bush’s dictatorial power is arbitrary and unaccountable, not subject to law and justification.


Bush’s emerging dictatorship is the most dangerous kind—unlike the garden variety military dictatorship put in place through a coup d’├ętat, primarily to keep a certain personality (invariably a knuckle-dragging thug) in power (usually representing a particular social or economic class), the Bush (or rather Straussian) dictatorship is extremely dangerous because it represents a totalitarian ideology—and thus akin to the totalitarian dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. Our “decider” (or rather his handlers) have embraced the theology of state power and corporatism—or as Mussolini called it, fascism.

Donald Rumsfeld is crucial to this fascist ideology.
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Donald Rumsfeld and the Tamiflu scam

Donald Rumsfeld has made a killing out of bird flu. The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.

More than 60 countries have so far ordered large stocks of the antiviral medication - the only oral medicine believed to be effective against the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease - to try to protect their people. The United Nations estimates that a pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide.

Britain is about halfway through receiving an order of 14.6 million courses of the drug, which the Government hopes will avert some of the 700,000 deaths that might be expected. Tamiflu does not cure the disease, but if taken soon after symptoms appear it can reduce its severity.

The drug was developed by a Californian biotech company, Gilead Sciences. It is now made and sold by the giant chemical company Roche, which pays it a royalty on every tablet sold, currently about a fifth of its price.

Mr Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding .

The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year. During this time the share price trebled.
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House Republicans manage to delay vote on ethics reform legislation

By James Kuhnhenn
Knight Ridder Newspapers


WASHINGTON - House Republican leaders on Thursday narrowly defused a revolt within their ranks that would have killed lobby and ethics legislation, but then delayed a final vote on the package until next week.

The legislation still faces broad, if not unanimous, opposition from Democrats and a handful of Republican moderates who say the legislation falls far short of what Congress needs to remove the stain of scandal rising from recent criminal convictions for influence-peddling.

The legislative package, which will be voted on Tuesday, restricts some congressional travel, requires more frequent public disclosure of lobbying activity and forces public identification of sponsors of special-interest "earmarks" inserted into spending bills.

The measure's defeat would have been an embarrassing setback for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Both vowed to tackle ethics and lobbying legislation in the wake of guilty pleas for corruption by disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.

Allegations of influence-peddling also have spilled into Democratic ranks. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., had to step down recently as the top Democrat on the House ethics committee after publicity stirred controversy over spending provisions that he'd inserted into legislation benefiting his friends and business associates.

House Republican appropriators, the lawmakers who draft spending bills, had threatened to vote against the legislation because they objected to its restrictions on "earmarks," the special spending items that members of Congress routinely insert into appropriations bills to benefit constituents. The appropriators said it wasn't fair to restrict such items only in appropriations bills and not in tax or policy legislation.
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Hundreds of detainees abused, report finds

By Drew Brown
Knight Ridder Newspapers


WASHINGTON - Three human rights groups said Wednesday that they had found credible evidence that U.S. troops and government civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had abused, tortured or killed at least 460 detainees.

The researchers said they had found 330 cases of abuse and that only about half of them had been fully investigated, and one-third never were investigated or remained unresolved. The findings are in a report by New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch.

At least 600 U.S. service members or civilians have been implicated in the cases of abuse. About 400 of them have been investigated, and only one-third of those who have been investigated have faced punishment of any kind, researchers said.

Also Wednesday, Army officials confirmed that criminal charges were being considered against Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman, said no decision had been made.

Jordan is the former head of the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib. If he's charged, he would be the highest-ranking officer charged in a case of detainee abuse.

The report by the human rights groups is the first full independent accounting of credible allegations of torture and abuse at American detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, according to the researchers.

It shows that detainee abuse has been more widespread that government officials have admitted and the American military and other government agencies have made only limited attempts to investigate and punish those responsible, the rights groups charged.
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In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists

By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: April 30, 2006


Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.

But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.

Such an approach would signal a thorough revision of the informal rules of engagement that have governed the relationship between the press and the government for many decades. Leaking in Washington is commonplace and typically entails tolerable risks for government officials and, at worst, the possibility of subpoenas to journalists seeking the identities of sources.

But the Bush administration is putting pressure on the press as never before, and it is operating in a judicial climate that seems increasingly receptive to constraints on journalists.

In the last year alone, a reporter for The New York Times was jailed for refusing to testify about a confidential source; her source, a White House aide, was prosecuted on charges that he lied about his contacts with reporters; a C.I.A. analyst was dismissed for unauthorized contacts with reporters; and a raft of subpoenas to reporters were largely upheld by the courts.

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Fathoming Tibet's political future


By Tim Luard

Many Tibetans believe that only the Dalai Lama can save Tibet from extinction.

The Dalai Lama is 71 in July

But even a Dalai Lama is mortal. And they are deeply anxious about what will happen when the present one dies.

For Tibetans, he is not just a Buddhist monk, a god and a king - the latest in a centuries'-long line of spiritual and temporal rulers - but a larger-than-life symbol of their unique civilisation.
For the past 50 years, from his sanctuary on the other side of the Himalayas, the 14th Dalai Lama has kept alive their dreams of survival as a separate people.

The Chinese definitely want to see the Dalai Lama die so they can have a Dalai Lama of their own.

Many fear that his death will rob them of their last chance of any genuine self-rule.
Others predict chaos and bloodshed. Tibetan extremists might finally feel free to resort to terrorism, giving Beijing the chance to crack down harder.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, amidst a failed uprising against the Chinese occupation which had begun nine years earlier.

Since then he has been the face of Tibet for the outside world. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the public backing of film stars, and the private support of presidents and prime ministers.

But no country recognises his government-in-exile.

And as China's power grows there are few who even dare question its claims over Tibet.



The Dalai Lama's choice of Panchen Lama has been missing for years
The Dalai Lama has become more important than ever to Tibetans since he left his homeland, according to Phuntsog Wangyal, who also fled in 1959 after taking up arms against the Chinese.
"He not only touches the people's hearts but he is ingrained in their minds. They have total faith in him," he said.

"It is impossible for the Chinese to destroy this image in his lifetime. But it is inevitable that he will die."

As a founding trustee of the London-based Tibet Foundation, Phuntsog Wangyal believes the sheer charisma of the present Dalai Lama will be hard to replace.

"Who will take up his mantle? There is no-one equivalent to him. I don't think anyone will be able to have that kind of authority."

The extent of that authority was graphically displayed recently when thousands of people in Tibet threw their rare animal skins onto huge fires after the Dalai Lama criticised the use of products from endangered species.

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Chinese Internet Writer Charged with Subversion

By REUTERS The New York TimesApril 27, 2006

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese Internet writer has been charged with attempting to ``subvert state power'' for backing a movement by exiled dissidents to hold free elections for a new democratic government, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Yang Tianshui, 45, faces up to 15 years in prison for posting essays on the Internet supporting the ``Velvet Action of China,'' Attorney Li Jianqiang said by telephone.

Named after the ``Velvet Revolution'' that peacefully overthrew communism in the former Czechoslovakia, the movement held an online ballot for government leaders last year. But it attracted scant interest, with just over 500 people casting a vote.

The trial of Yang, who has been in custody since last December, is due to be in Nanjing, capital of the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, in May.

Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment.

If convicted, Yang, a member of the China chapter of International PEN, would be the second writer to be jailed this year.

At least five writers were jailed for up to 10 years last year as part of a government crackdown on free speech, according to the China chapter of International PEN, an association founded in Britain in 1921 to defend freedom of speech.

Yang was also accused of illegally receiving overseas financial assistance and plotting to form the Jiangsu and Anhui provincial chapters of the outlawed China Democracy Party, the lawyer said.
Yang has already served 10 years in prison for ''counter-revolutionary'' crimes, or subversion.


He was released in 2000.

Railway raises fears for Tibet's future


By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes BBC News, Beijing

The completion of the Tibet railway is being hailed in China as one of the world's great engineering marvels.

The longest high-altitude railway in the world, it will ease access to the remote region. Test runs are due to begin on 1 July.

Tibet's extraordinary isolation has kept it poor. Education levels and life expectancy fall well behind the rest of China. But that isolation has also helped to preserve Tibet's unique culture and way of life.

The arrival of the railway will bring tremendous change. China's communist rulers say it will open up Tibet, bringing greater prosperity for its entire people. Detractors say the opening of the railway is the death knell of an independent Tibetan culture.
It doesn't feel like our home any more

Sedeng Tibetan shop owner
Before the railway there were only two ways into Lhasa: an expensive plane ride, followed by a hair-raising touch down; or three days and nights on an overcrowded bus bouncing along back-breaking mountain roads.

Many a bus, and its passengers, has ended up crushed at the bottom of a lonely ravine.
Along the route of the railway, opinions vary about whether it is good or bad. While visiting a remote construction site on my most recent trip to Tibet I came across two Tibetan herders lounging beside the road. They were sitting on top of huge bundles of yak wool.


-continued-

Caring for Veterans on the Cheap

How the Veterans' Administration has been shortchanging soldiers who come back wounded.
By Judith Coburn
April 28, 2006

On the eve of his Marine unit's assault on Falluja in November, 2004, Blake Miller read to his men from the Bible (John 14:2-3): "In my father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you, so that where I may be, you may be also."


A photograph of Miller's blood-smeared, filthy face, so reminiscent of David Douglas Duncan's photos of war-weary Marines in Vietnam, is one of the Iraq War's iconic images. Over a hundred newspapers ran it. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently, Miller, a decorated war hero, has been shattered psychologically by Iraq. Disabled by flashbacks and nightmares, he continues to pay daily and dearly for his service there.

His eloquent commitment to his fellow Marines is the highest value in military life. But the Bush administration, which sent Blake Miller, his fellow Marines, and 1.3 million other Americans (so far) to war in Iraq and Afghanistan apparently does not share this commitment.
-continued-

Caring for Veterans on the Cheap

How the Veterans' Administration has been shortchanging soldiers who come back wounded.
By Judith Coburn
April 28, 2006

On the eve of his Marine unit's assault on Falluja in November, 2004, Blake Miller read to his men from the Bible (John 14:2-3): "In my father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you, so that where I may be, you may be also."


A photograph of Miller's blood-smeared, filthy face, so reminiscent of David Douglas Duncan's photos of war-weary Marines in Vietnam, is one of the Iraq War's iconic images. Over a hundred newspapers ran it. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently, Miller, a decorated war hero, has been shattered psychologically by Iraq. Disabled by flashbacks and nightmares, he continues to pay daily and dearly for his service there.

His eloquent commitment to his fellow Marines is the highest value in military life. But the Bush administration, which sent Blake Miller, his fellow Marines, and 1.3 million other Americans (so far) to war in Iraq and Afghanistan apparently does not share this commitment.
-continued-

The Predator State


Commentary: Enron, Tyco, WorldCom... and the U.S. government?
By James K. Galbraith


WHAT IS THE REAL NATURE of American capitalism today? Is it a grand national adventure, as politicians and textbooks aver, in which markets provide the framework for benign competition, from which emerges the greatest good for the greatest number? Or is it the domain of class struggle, even a “global class war,” as the title of Jeff Faux’s new book would have it, in which the “party of Davos” outmaneuvers the remnants of the organized working class?
The doctrines of the “law and economics” movement, now ascendant in our courts, hold that if people are rational, if markets can be “contested,” if memory is good and information adequate, then firms will adhere on their own to norms of honorable conduct. Any public presence in the economy undermines this. Even insurance—whether deposit insurance or Social Security—is perverse, for it encourages irresponsible risktaking. Banks will lend to bad clients, workers will “live for today,” companies will speculate with their pension funds; the movement has even argued that seat belts foster reckless driving. Insurance, in other words, creates a “moral hazard” for which “market discipline” is the cure; all works for the best when thought and planning do not interfere. It’s a strange vision, and if we weren’t governed by people like John Roberts and Sam Alito, who pretend to believe it, it would scarcely be worth our attention.
The idea of class struggle goes back a long way; perhaps it really is “the history of all hitherto existing society,” as Marx and Engels famously declared. But if the world is ruled by a monied elite, then to what extent do middle-class working Americans compose part of the global proletariat? The honest answer can only be: not much. The political decline of the left surely flows in part from rhetoric that no longer matches experience; for the most part, American voters do not live on the Malthusian margin. Dollars command the world’s goods, rupees do not; membership in the dollar economy makes every working American, to some degree, complicit in the capitalist class.

-continued-

Still no reaction from Yahoo! after fourth case of collaboration with chinese police uncovered

Reporters Without Borders called on Yahoo! to withdraw its Internet servers from China as a fourth case was revealed of the company’s collaboration with Chinese police that led to the jailing of a cyberdissident.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has said that the verdict in the case of Wang Xiaoning, 55, sentenced to ten years in prison in September 2003 for posting “subversive” articles online, referred to collaboration by the US Internet company.

"Chinese journalists and dissidents used to trust Yahoo! more than local companies, to protect the confidentiality of their electronic communications,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“This company has betrayed them by shamefully collaborating with the police. It has said today that it is ‘upset’ by the situation, but the time for lamentation is past. We expect Yahoo! executives, particularly Jerry Yang, to announce that they will withdraw their email servers from China.”

Wang, was arrested on 1st September 2002 and sentenced on 12 September 2003, to 10 years in prison and two years deprivation of civil rights for “incitement to subversion”.
The HRIC said that he had reportedly been maltreated in detention between September 2002 and February 2004 and was believed held in solitary confinement at the No. 2 municipal prison in Beijing.

The press freedom organisation said it was dismayed by the absence of any reaction from Yahoo! executives.

Wang was charged with posting pro-democracy articles in electronic newsletters sent by email between 2000 and 2002. According to the HRIC, several articles were referred to in the verdict, one of which was headlined, “Never forget that China is still a dictatorship.”
The text shows that information provided by the Hong Kong branch of Yahoo! helped establish a link between Wang Xiaoning and messages carried by a discussion forum. It said that the moderators of the discussion forum, hosted by Yahoo!, had decided to ban the cyberdissident from using the forum.

At least 117 journalists injured in pro-democracy demonstrations

Reporters Without Borders condemns reprisals against journalists working for government media

Reporters Without Borders has paid tribute to the courage of Nepalese journalists who braved a targeted onslaught on the press to cover popular demonstrations which led to the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

The press freedom organisation recorded at least 117 cases of journalists suffering physical attacks and injury - including a score from bullet wounds - inflicted on them by the security forces, while they were covering pro-democracy demonstrations.
It said that in the majority of cases reporters, who were clearly identifiable, were deliberately targeted by the police.

”Police brutality which caused the death of at least 15 people and left more than two thousand more injured between the 6 and 17 April 2006, would never have been made known to international public opinion, if Nepalese journalists had not taken considerable risks to do their job,” said the organisation, member of a coalition on Nepal of 11 international press freedom organisations.

“Journalists who were injured or had equipment damaged should be awarded compensation. The police force should also be reformed so that there is no repetition of such violence,” it added.
Among the 117 injury cases were Tilak Koirala and Janak Pandit, reporters for Nepal One television, who were clubbed by police officers, in Kathmandu on 23 April. Five journalists suffered bullet wounds on 19 April in the eastern district of Jhapa. Narayan Khadka of Nepal FM reported live on the demonstrations despite a leg wound.

Deergharaj Thapa of the weekly Budhabar, was left with a broken leg after police clubbed him in Dailekh (West) on the 15 April. On 10 April, a score of police officers beat four journalists working for the privately-owned Kantipur press group while they were covering a demonstration in the capital.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the fact that journalists working for the government press have recently fallen victim to reprisals. “Their coverage of the people’s protest movement was largely favourable to the dictatorial regime of King Gyanendra, but that cannot justify violence against journalists working for state media or close to the government” it said.

Militants set upon journalists on the government press after King Gyanendra announced the restoration of parliament. Demonstrators vandalised the offices of Shankar Thapa, correspondent for Radio Nepal in Dipayal, in the west of the country on 25 April. On the same day, the home of Nawaraj Pahari, who chairs an organisation of royalist journalists, was ransacked in Lamjung.

Finally, more than 220 journalists were questioned or arrested while demonstrating for press freedom or carrying out their jobs. Only two journalists are still being held in custody in Nepal: Rajendra Gautam of the weekly Jeejibisa, and Tej Narayan Sapkota of the weekly Yojana.

Target: Negroponte & Iran

By Robert Parry, http://www.consortiumnews.com

In a replay of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction charade, neoconservative supporters of George W. Bush are pushing the U.S. intelligence community to take a more alarmist view about Iran’s nuclear program – only this time, the nation’s top spy John Negroponte is resisting the pressure unlike former CIA chief George Tenet.

Tenet joined in Bush’s hyping of the WMD evidence about Iraq – famously telling the President that the case was a “slam dunk.” But Negroponte is defying hardliners who want a worst-case scenario on Iran’s capabilities. Instead, he is citing Iran’s limited progress in refining uranium and their use of a cascade of only 164 centrifuges.

“According to the experts that I consult, achieving — getting 164 centrifuges to work is still a long way from having the capacity to manufacture sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” Negroponte said in an interview with NBC News on April 20.

“Our assessment is that the prospects of an Iranian weapon are still a number of years off, and probably into the next decade,” said Negroponte, who was appointed last year as the Director of National Intelligence, a new post that supplanted the traditional primacy of the CIA director as the head of the U.S. intelligence community.

Expressing a similar view about Iran’s nuclear program in a speech at the National Press Club, Negroponte said, “I think it’s important that this issue be kept in perspective.”

In effect, the Director of National Intelligence was splashing cold water on the fevered assessment of Iran’s nuclear progress favored by the neoconservatives. Some Bush supporters are now complaining that Negroponte has shown disloyalty to the President by siding with intelligence analysts who reject the direst predictions on Iran.
-continued-

As Profits Soar, Oil Industry Unapologetic

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE and BRAD FOSS
AP Business Writers © 2006 The Associated Press

— The oil industry's massive first-quarter profits this week triggered another round of election-year outrage from President Bush and members of Congress, who spoke up on behalf of angry constituents feeling pinched at the pump.

There's little that either lawmakers or the industry can do in the short-term about the high oil prices that yielded those profits, however, as long as energy markets stay tense and the global economy is expanding. Instead, it would take a decision by consumers and businesses to consume less fuel, a choice they have yet to make, analysts said.

The country's three largest petroleum companies _ Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips _ posted combined first-quarter income of almost $16 billion, an increase of 17 percent from the year before.


-continued-

Foreclosure nightmare

Rising interest rates, outrageous energy costs and a sputtering housing market are all blamed on a massive 72% increase in home foreclosures compared to the same period last year.

People just can't keep up with their bills, and it takes just 90 days of missing your house payment before most lenders begin the tragic process of taking your house.
The first three months of 2006 have also seen a big increase compared to the last quarter of 2005, with
38% more foreclosures.

Today, there's a new foreclosure for every 358 home mortgages in the United States.
"Foreclosures have now increased in four consecutive quarters and are on track to go
above 1.2 million in 2006," RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said Wednesday.

That would put one out of every hundred American homes in foreclosure.

But rather than being spread equally across the country, foreclosures are clustered in the same states where the housing boom was craziest: states such as Florida, Nevada, California, Georgia, Colorado and Texas.

Outrageous prices led buyers to risky interest-only or negative-equity loans, most of which jumped from an affordable early payment to a free-for-all adjustable rate after a few years -- those who didn't or couldn't refinance to a safe fixed-rate mortgage are currently trampled by monthly payments that are suddenly hundreds or even thousands of dollars higher.

Georgia is the nation's top loser, with a new foreclosure in the first quarter of 2006 for every 127 households. The rate has tripled since the same period last year.

Next is Colorado, with one of every 138 households currently being taken back by the bank -- a 96% increase from early 2005.

Indiana is in third place, with one of every 165 households entering foreclosure.

Not over yet

Meanwhile, lenders in Southern California have introduced a 50-year mortgage as a "more responsible alternative" to the adjustable-rate reverse-equity loans that still dominate the most expensive housing markets. The average American home buyer wouldn't even live long enough to pay off the mortgage.

Regardless of gimmicky new loans, it seems people are finally backing away from a market that looks increasingly dangerous.

New mortgage applications hit a 28-month low this week, even as long-term mortgage rates dropped a bit.

Refinance loans have also drastically dropped as real-estate appreciation has cooled or even started to reverse. Higher rates make it less attractive to try for a new loan.

Some doomsayers claim a catastrophe is already guaranteed because millions of homeowners refinanced when their property appraised at ridiculous bubble prices.

That means millions of homeowners -- even those with "safe" fixed-rate loans -- already owe more on their house than it will ever be worth again.

Bad for everyone

The U.S. economy is on such shaky ground that lenders are doing more than ever before to make deals with people who can't keep up with their house payments.

"Put yourself in the bank's shoes," said Mory Brenner, a foreclosure attorney. "The person has missed one payment or two payments and you know in your state that if the thing goes to foreclosure, you're going to be looking at getting no payments for a year and a half and at the end of the year and a half, now you're going to have to market a distressed property."

In other words, your lender doesn't want your house, doesn't want to lose 18 months of payments and definitely doesn't want a stockpile of houses in a dead real estate market.
More foreclosures lead to more foreclosures, as people who could otherwise sell their way out of debt (or at least break even) find their property in competition with cut-rate foreclosure sales.

Homeowners who start talking to their lenders before that first late payment are in the best position to work something out and keep their house, Brener told BankRate.com.

HANK"S BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!







THE HENRY ROLLINS SHOW PREMIERES THIS SATURDAY NIGHT

Following last year’s monthly television series Henry’s Film Corner, the all new THE HENRY ROLLINS SHOW premieres on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) this Saturday, April 1 at 10pm ET. The expanded half-hour talk show airs every Saturday night at 10 pm ET and 1 am ET with a encore airing the following Thursday night at 11 pm and 1 am ET. The new format incorporates an eclectic selection of musical acts, a wider range of celebrity guests, and new, original field segments. Maverick film director Oliver Stone and musical guests Sleater-Kinney join HENRY for the show’s premiere. Other guests scheduled for the show’s initial 20-episode run include Ozzy Osbourne, Chuck D, and German auteur Werner Herzog, while upcoming musical performers include Jurassic 5, John Doe, and Frank Black. Tune in this Saturday to catch the premiere episode and click to http://www.ifctv.com/henry/ to check out exclusive content (longer interviews, music) not included in the televised version.



2006/04/28

Bush orders Darfur suspects punished

Friday, April 28th, 2006

George Bush has ordered sanctions against four men linked to the troubles in the region of Darfur that the US has labelled as genocide.

The US president followed the example of the UN Security Council on Tuesday and imposed sanctions on four Sudanese accused of abuses in the conflict.

Bush also issued an executive order freezing the assets of anyone deemed to have posed a threat to the peace process or stability in Darfur. The order also prohibited US companies or individuals from dealing with those implicated.

For the past three years militia, backed by the Sudanese government, are alleged to have murdered thousands people from tribes in the region, burning villages and forcing more than two million people into refugee camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad.

The four men subject to sanctions include a leader of the Khartoum-backed Janjawid militia and a commander of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army.

Bush said he was taking the action because the violence in Darfur threatened the national security and foreign policy of the US.

The move comes as peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, mediated by the African Union have until Sunday to reach a deal.
-continued-

“Boycott Da Vinci Code film”: top Vatican official

Friday, April 28th, 2006

ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican stepped up its offensive against “The Da Vinci Code” on Friday when a top official close to Pope Benedict blasted the book as full of anti-Christian lies and urged Catholics to boycott the film.

The latest broadside came from Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.
Amato, addressing a Catholic conference in Rome, called the book “stridently anti-Christian .. full of calumnies, offences and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church.”

He added: “I hope that you all will boycott the film.”

The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks and premieres next month at the Cannes film festival in France. Sony Pictures is the Media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news).

Amato said the book, written by Dan Brown, had been hugely successful around the world thanks in part to what he called “the extreme cultural poverty on the part of a good number of the Christian faithful.”

The book has sold over 40 million copies.

The novel is an international murder mystery centered on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Christ that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.

The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.
In his address to the group, Amato said Christians should be more willing “to reject lies and gratuitous defamation.”

He said that if “such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising.”

He added: “Instead, if they are directed against the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished.”

Amato suggested that Catholics around the world should launch organized protests against the “The Da Vinci Code” film just as some had done in 1988 to protest against Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

LATEST BROADSIDE

Amato’s broadside was just the latest blast against the book and the film.
Just before Easter, another Vatican official railed against it at an event attended by Pope Benedict, branding the book and its film version as just more examples of Jesus being sold out by a wave of what he called “pseudo-historic” art.

Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.

In the novel and film, Opus Dei is characterized as the latest in a series of secretive groups that worked over the centuries to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.

Opus Dei is a controversial conservative Church group whose members are mostly non-clerics and are urged to seek holiness in their everyday professional jobs and lives. It has rejected criticisms that it is secretive and elitist.

With the movie’s opening less than a month away, Opus Dei and other Christian groups have been sponsoring Web sites and events telling people the novel should not be believed.
The book is a thriller in which the main characters must uncover clues they hope will lead them to an important religious relic. Their adversary is an Opus Dei member.

-Thanks Rome, Now I know I will go watch it, just to piss you off!!!!

Congressmen to sue over budget

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives will file a lawsuit tomorrow seeking to block implementation of a budget law as signed by President George W. Bush,
RAW STORY has learned.

In February, the President signed a version of the “Deficit Reduction Act” that never passed the House. The draft signed by Bush omitted provisions from the version that passed the House that required the government pay for 36 months of durable medical equipment rentals for those who qualified. The version Bush signed allows just 13 months–a difference of 23 months rental
and $2 billion in spending.

According to the Constitution of the United States, the same version of a bill must pass both houses of Congress before it can be signed by the President to become law.

The plaintiffs seeking to block the law are all ranking Democratic members of committees affected by the differences.

According to earlier published accounts, House Republican leadership notified the President that it had not passed the House of Representatives before the President went ahead with the Feb 8 signing.

“Anyone who has passed the sixth grade knows that before a bill can become a law, both Houses of Congress must approve it,” blasted John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. “That the Bush Administration is now saying otherwise underscores the Constitutional crisis we are facing in this country.”

Joining Conyers in the suit are: Rep. John Dingell, Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Charles B. Rangel, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee; Rep. George Miller, Ranking Member on the Education and Workforce Committee; Rep. James L. Oberstar, Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Barney Frank, Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee; Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Ranking Member on the Agriculture Committee; Rep. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, Ranking Member on the Rules Committee; Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member on the Commerce Health Subcommittee. The Congressmen are represented by Dykema Gossett PLLC and Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert at Duke Law School.

Neil gives it away


Neil Young couldn't wait for his Bush-smackin' new record to reach stores next week, so he put the whole thing on the Internet today.
You can listen to the entire CD online here.
The recording and mixing was done in a few weeks starting March 29, and Reprise Records got its first listen last week.
"Living With War" is a 10-song album recorded live with a three-piece band, some trumpet and a 100-person choir that was added the week after the sessions,
Young says on his website.
It's got lots of raw distorted "Ragged Glory"-style lead guitar from Young and angry lyrics about being lied to, spied on and ripped off.
Young has also launched a blog and the inevitable MySpace page.
-I listened to about half the album, and it was really good. I actually liked it. A huge compliment coming from me.

The Devil wins again


A thousand-year campaign by Christians to stop musicians from playing the "Devil's Interval" has been a complete failure, the BBC reports today.
The tritone is a spooky-sounding musical interval that medieval Catholics believed was actually evil. Monks weren't allowed to sing the notes and composers couldn't use them.
As the church began to lose its power during the
Reformation and the Enlightenment, composers ignored religious rules and used the Diabolus in Musica with abandon.
The dramatic tritone can be heard everywhere today, from the first notes of "The Simpsons" theme to the opening of "Purple Haze," Wagner operas to the orchestration for almost any suspense movie. Black Sabbath got its signature satanic sound by plodding along on tritones -- a hard-rock trademark even "Christian" metal bands
religiously copy.
"In the Middle Ages when people were ignorant and scared, when they heard something like that and felt that reaction in their body they thought, 'Uh oh, here come the Devil,'" says rock producer Bob Ezrin.
Some musical historians say the tritone just didn't work in medieval music and the "Devil's Interval" was just a figure of speech used to describe something difficult or wrong.
But in the Middle Ages -- just like in the
United States today -- most people literally believed that everything wrong or weird is the work of an actual all-powerful sadistic Devil deliberately created by God just to pointlessly torture humanity.
The only explanation for something being wrong was that
it was demonic. The Devil caused everything from bad luck to mental illness, failed crops to birthmarks.
But even back in the Dark Ages, there were forces working against the church's crusade against the Devil's Interval.
It was
revealed in February that the ceiling of the famous Rossyln Chapel in Scotland, built in the mid-1400s, is encoded with the Devil's Chord.
William Sinclair, the designer of the bizarre chapel, supposedly hated the Roman church because it brutally suppressed the Knights Templar. Popular theories say Sinclair was a member of that ancient order of warriors.

Bush Against Singing National Anthem In Spanish

MIAMI -- The national anthem should be sung in English -- not Spanish -- President George W. Bush declared Friday, amid growing restlessness over whether to grant legal status to immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
"One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul," the president exclaimed.
A Spanish-language version of the national anthem was released Friday by a British music producer, Adam Kidron, who said he wanted to honor America's immigrants.

When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

He made his remarks on the matters during a wide-ranging briefing with reporters.
"I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn English," Bush said.
The president's comments came amid a burgeoning national debate -- and congressional fight -- over legislation pending in Congress, and pushed by Bush, to overhaul U.S. immigration law.
Bush called on lawmakers to move forward on legislation -- now stalled -- that would revamp
immigration laws.

Large numbers of immigrant groups have planned an economic boycott next week to dramatize their call for legislation providing legal status for millions of people in the United States illegally.
"I am not a supporter of boycotts," Bush said. "I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. ... I think that most Americans agree that we've got to enforce our border."
His remarks followed release of the Spanish-language version of the song, called "Nuestro Himno" or "Our Anthem."

The initial version of "Nuestro Himno," or "Our Anthem" comes out Friday and features artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.

Some Internet bloggers and others are infuriated by the thought of "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung in a language other than English, and the version of the song has already been the target of a fierce backlash.

"Would the French accept people singing the 'La Marseillaise' in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not," said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls.
"Nuestro Himno" uses lyrics based closely on the English-language original, said Kidron, who heads the record label Urban Box Office.

Pro-immigration protests are planned around the country for Monday, and the record label is urging Hispanic radio stations nationwide to play the cut at 7 p.m. EDT Friday in a sign of solidarity.

A remix to be released in June will contain several lines in English that condemn U.S. immigration laws. Among them: "These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws ... let's not start a war with all these hard workers, they can't help where they were born."
Bryanna Bevens of Hanford, Calif., who writes for the immigration-focused Web magazine Vdare.com, said the remix particularly upset her.

"It's very whiny. If you want to say all those things, by all means, put them on your poster board, but don't put them on the national anthem," she said.

Kidron, a U.S. resident for 16 years, maintains the changes are fitting. After all, he notes, American immigrants borrowed the melody of the "Star Spangled Banner" from an English drinking song.

"There's no attempt to usurp anything. The intent is to communicate," Kidron said. "I wanted to show my thanks to these people who buy my records and listen to the music we release and do the jobs I don't want to do."

Kidron said the song also will be featured on the album "Somos Americanos," which will sell for $10, with $1 going to the National Capital Immigration Coalition, a Washington group.
James Gardner, an associate director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, said Americans have long enjoyed different interpretations of the "Star-Spangled Bann er," including country or gospel arrangements.

"There are a number of renditions that people aren't happy with, but that's part of it -- that it means enough for people to try to sing," he said.

Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, said this country was built by immigrants, and "the meaning of the American dream is in that record: struggle, freedom, opportunity, everything they are trying to shut down on us."

Trapped inside a Disneyland costume


Imagine standing under a hot California sun all day, while wearing some ridiculous costume as hoards of strange children mill about. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Welcome to Disneyland.
After five years of stuffing herself into a variety of costumes, including Eeyore and Pluto,
Crystal Nettles is finally free to tell the truth.
"Sometimes teenagers will get violent; they'll kick you. It happens all the time, and it can get really bad. I've known people who were on disability because of injuries they got. Certain characters really get kicked around," she told Greg Stacy of the OC Weekly.
According to Nettles, the children are particularly hard on Winnie the Pooh and his friend Eeyore even more so. She can't fathom why.
"He's so depressed already. People are evil."
Not only is Pooh the object of scorn, "being" him is no picnic.
"Winnie the Pooh has a really big, heavy head. Smaller people play him, because of his stature, and that head can hurt after a while."
Sadly, at the Magic Kingdom -- as in life -- when you're not dodging sociopaths, you're ducking perverts.
One co-worker "wore a dog collar, and a tail sometimes," making it known that he was into the
"furry" subculture. Furries derive sexual gratification from dressing up in animal costumes and writhing about with others. For this special flavor of deviant, Disneyland is, well ... Disneyland.
And If your co-workers aren't creeping you out, it's the guests.
"That was mostly just husbands, goofing around. But there are season-pass holders who will basically just come there and stalk you."
When the folks inside those giant suits aren't worrying about their safety, they have to worry about their health. From fungus to fainting, there's little dignity inside those huge costumes.
"The costumes weren't washed every day. So I didn't take any chances. I wore the full under-dressing, padding and gloves. I didn't want any part of the suit touching me," Nettles said. "On a 100-degree day, we're roasting ... once Frollo, the villain from Hunchback of Notre Dame, fainted in front of the guests."
In the end it was costumes ultimately that drove her away.
"I was breaking out all the time anyway. That's why I finally left."

'America loves Santa more than war!'


The US Army's Chief of Staff expressed outrage Wednesday that America spends more money on Christmas decorations than on defense.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker was testifying before a Congressional budget committee, fighting for the Bush administration's $440 billion defense budget.
"Here's what is amazing to me. ... What do you think we spent on plastic Santa Clauses and tinsel and all this stuff for Christmas last year ... the holidays?'' Schoomaker asked during a meeting with reporters. "The answer is $438.5 billion, roughly equivalent to the defense budget.'"
But the general's numbers are a bit off.
The $440 billion the White house is requesting doesn't include the cost of the war in Iraq. As for the $438 billion figure he got from a newspaper clipping quoting the National Retail Association, it's actually $435 and includes the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Despite the inaccuracies, one the the general is right about is that our defense spending is at the "lowest percent ... that we've ever spent in wartime."
The current budget represents less than 4% of GDP. During World War II the number was closer to 33%.
"I've told Congress this,'' he said to a defense writers group.
"I've told everybody this: What's the problem?''
"I mean I don't get it,'' Schoomaker said. "We've got a lot to be thankful for in this country and we've got a lot to lose. And one of the first responsibilities of government is to defend the country. The Constitution says that.''

ASU

Started my first class at ASU, it's pretty amazing to be in the big time.