The pharmaceutical industry demands increased patent power saying this is necessary so it can pay for research for new drugs that will save lives. But that is not really how it uses the money.
The new chairman of the 9/11 commission, replacing Kissinger, has business ties with Osama bin Laden's brother in law.
Ibrahim Issa tells the full story of his arrest by Israeli forces and almost immediate commencement of demolition of his house.
Bush will go as far as war to oust Hussein because he would lose face if Hussein remains in power.
Protect endangered cats by buying bottles with real corks.
The US is using torture to get information from Al Qa'ida suspects. Less extreme forms of torture are being carried out by US government employees directly. More extreme forms are done by proxies in other countries.
I can understand the feeling that torturing terrorists is justified. But what about accused terrorists that aren't real terrorists? What about when someone else decides that torturing you is justified?
A site that hosts many activist organizations is being disconnected by its ISP as a result of pressure from Dow Chemical. One of the organizations posted a hoax Dow press release and a parody of some of its web pages. Dow's first response was to claim this was an accusation of copyright infringement--probably not justified, because the Supreme Court ruled that parody is protected. Dow must then have put some sort of pressure on the ISP to disconnect the whole site.
To publish on the web requires an ISP. If sites are disconnected for trying to criticize powerful corporations, freedom of the press becomes just a fiction.
Homeland security alert: Osanta bin Claus.
Simply participating in a protest is good for your health, independent of the benefits of changing a bad social system.
The Hope Flowers School is looking for donations of funds so it can keep teaching peace to Palestinians.
The Chinese workers who make most of the toys we buy are paid 30 cents an hour--and being poisoned by the substances they use at work.
Sending astronauts to Mars would be cheaper than a war with Iraq, and would contribute far more to advance humanity.
Even if we narrow our consideration to the danger of weapons of mass distruction, space habitats are the only way to make humanity lastingly safer from them. Stamping on Iraq while North Korea flaunts its nuclear weapons and sells ballistic missiles won't even help.
Whoever said "It's impossible to be angry while looking at a penguin" had never met me. I sometimes feel that I can't escape from penguins inappropriately used as symbols of the GNU operating system by well-meaning people who believe the system is "Linux".
But I don't blame real penguins for this, and I'm disturbed to read that they are dying in thousands.
One thing this article does not make clear is whether all the penguins that live in the Falkland Islands are dying, or only some of them. Does anyone know?
The US requires visitors from certain Middle-Eastern countries to register in a special way. I don't think that policy is oppressive in and of itself, but inflexible the way it is being carried out reflects the spirit of Bush and Ashcroft.
Reports of prison guards denying prisoners needed medical care are legion, in the US as well as other countries. This can't be put down to simple mistakes or ill-trained staff. It appears to embody a pervasive attitude of cruelty--the same cruelty expressed by the guard who said, "So many Iranians! I'll go get my shotgun."
This web site presents the campaign against imposition of Chinese censorship in Hong Kong.
Ibrahim Issa works in the Hope Flowers school that promotes peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Recently Israeli forces arrested him, accusing him of being a terrorist. Rather than put him on trial for this (which would require mean checking evidence), they began demolishing his house just a few hours later.
It turned out that there was no evidence, because it was just a case of guilt by association. He had rented a room to the wrong person. The demolition was stopped--the house was only partly destroyed--by an international outcry.
But most Palestinians are not famous and cannot expect so much personal attention. When they are victims of guilt by association and collective punishment, there is nobody to help them.
The US is arresting hundreds or thousands of middle-eastern visitors for minor visa violations, tearing them away from family members and then mistreating them.
Bush and his henchmen have set their bureaucratic machine on systematic dumb useless cruelty.
Several European governments are trying to protect their fishing industries in the short run, even though this could mean wiping them out completely in a few years.
Fishermen live in child's fantasy world: they refuse to recognize that their overfishing has consequences--for them and for everyone. Whenever limits on fishing are imposed to prevent extinction of the fish stocks, the fishermen say, "This must be unnecessary, because it hurts us too much." Wishful thinking, that. If we let them continue, soon they will all be out of work; rational thought says they should accept some pain to day to avoid worse pain tomorrow. But that takes courage, which today's fishermen apparently lack. So they pressure governments to move slowly in protecting the fish stocks. Repeatedly this caution leads to failure.
We must not leave this important decision to childish minds that refuse to recognize where their own actions are leading.
If, as the US accuses, the Iraqi declaration about weapons programs has gaps, the UN resolution is not violated--yet. The weapons inspectors are supposed to fill in the alleged gaps. Iraq may or may not cooperate with them.
Here is a thoughtful analysis of various possibilities for what is happening, which explains how an attack on Iraq could easily hurt the US if Iraq has not had a chance to comply.
According to Human Rights Watch, the new ruler of Herat is just a little better than the Taliban. Women can go to school now, but they are not allowed to drive, talk to the press, or take off their Burqas. If they do, they are savaged. Nonetheless, the US government is quite chummy with the ruler.
Senator Lott resigned as the leader of Senate Republicans after the criticism he received for praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. Thurmond's platform was racial segregation.
Lott is not resigning from his seat in the Senate, so the change in leadership won't really have much effect on the Senate's ability to do harm. The only way this might do some real good is by reminding people what lurks in the heart of many conservatives.
Activists have given Poindexter a taste of his own privacy-intruding medicine.
They asked for your help:
When and if you see Mr. Poindexter purchase something, travel somewhere or do, well, anything -- send us a tip describing your observations. We will display the information received right here on this Web site.
As of Dec 17, the Israeli army had cut off the village of Asira A-Shamalia completely. Soldiers arrested 60 women walking to Nablus where they work as teachers and nurses, and held them at gun point for 24 hours (as of when the report was made), while the rain fell on them.
The major elements of Dubya's "response" to the September 11 attacks really have nothing to do with September 11. They echo the proposals of the Project for a New American Century, to which several of Bush's appointees belonged. September 11 was nothing more than an excuse for what they wanted to do anyway.
Tellingly, Condoleezza Rice is quoted as describing September 11 as an "opportunity" and asking how to "capitalize" on it.
The Pentagon is once again planning a massive propaganda campaign to convince people around the world to support US policies. It might also tell lies and smear and frame opposition figures--it wouldn't be the first time.
The UK is sending troops to the Persian Gulf now, which suggests that Dubya is going to launch a war regardless of what the UN weapons inspectors find.
Dubya is already saying that the Iraqi report contains lies. Maybe it does, but if past experience is any guide, Dubya will not show us any substantial evidence to that effect.
Dubya is planning to spend millions on missile defense.
There's nothing wrong with defense against ballistic missiles in principle--if the system works and is affordable. However, in the light of Newsweek's report that the Soviet Union installed a nuke in its embassy in Washington, it seems ineffective. Even if you imagine it as a defense against hypothetical future North Korean missiles, it would have to be installed in every city to prevent them from being able to do any damage. And that would be so expensive it's ridiculous.
The main effect of Dubya's missile defense program will be to subsidize his cronies in the companies that build the system, and to provide more excuses to cut spending on programs that help most Americans' lives.
Tunisia censors the press and practices torture of political dissidents.
Now an Internet site www.kalimatunisie.com outside Tunisia publishes uncensored Tunisian news (in French).
Bringing education to Tuareg children in Mali.
Yasser Arafat condemned Osama bin Laden for trying to exploit the Palestinian cause as a justification for atrocities.
Since Arafat's Fatah movement has been linked with suicide bombers, I can't take this totally seriously; however, it is a step in the right direction.
A party linked with murderous anti-muslim riots last March has won the election in Gujarat, India, by appealing to religious hatred.
The Surveillance Camera Players have many "resource" pages describing various surveillance systems and how they do or don't actually work.
Union organizers in Turkey have been sentenced to over a year in prison for holding an "illegal demonstration".
They were protesting against a law that prohibits unions from striking.
There have been large protests in Hong Kong against a Chinese plan to impose a law of treason that could be easily stretched to cover opposition to government policies.
The Hong Kong government responded that the protests show Hong Kong has freedom of speech today. That is true, but fails to refute the claim that the proposed laws will reduce that freedom.
Ice in Greenland is melting faster than ever observed before. This contributes directly to sea level rise.
If the sea level rises the amount scientists generally expect, a few feet, it threatens to make millions of poor people homeless in coming decades. But this is not the worst it can get. At the end of the last ice age, sea level rose 150 feet fairly quickly. If the Antarctic and Greenland ice all melts, something like this could happen again. Most of the world's great cities would be drowned.
Professor Ben-Artzi, who handed out leaflets for peace to the audience at a public panel discussion in Israel and then said he wanted a chance to respond to the speakers, was physically attacked by the guards, then accused of trespassing.
A visitor from Britain is threatened with imprisonment in the US, and prevented from returning home, on the excuse that he cut across private property to participate in a protest.
I am not particularly an advocate of animal rights, but even so I find it dangerous when the government seizes on flimsy excuses to attack peaceful protestors.
If things go well, a war against Iraq could be cheap. If not, it could cause economic disaster for the US.
The article notes how the movement of manufacturing out of the US has left US exports dependent on stopping individuals and companies from copying: for instance, on proprietary software, movies, and patented drugs. But it considers this merely as a fact, and does not judge the system from an ethical point of view. Many of the changes that the article warns might follow from increased antiamericanism are changes that should occur anyway. There's no need to have an opinion about the US to believe that people should switch from Windows to GNU/Linux or that South Africa and India should be free to make medicine cheaply so their citizens can afford it.
A study in Africa shows that simply treating syphilis and other curable sexually transmitted diseases cut the rate of AIDS infection by 40%.
North Korea is openly planning to produce nuclear material. It makes no sense for the US to launch a war against Iraq for suspicions of having an underground program to develop weapons of mass distruction while ignoring Korea's far more effective program.
Meanwhile, Colin Powell made a statement recognizing that US support for dictators in the Arab world is part of the cause for hostility towards the US.
European fishermen protested plans to cut fishing quotas by blocking the English Channel with their boats. They want to be allowed to keep fishing, but that is impossible--the fish they catch are being driven to extinction by overfishing already.
China has sentenced two Tibetan monks to death after a secret trial.
Remember when we were told that including China in world trade would lead to democracy and human rights in China? Instead increased world trade has had the opposite effect: it endangers democracy and human rights everywhere else. That's why I support the campaign to boycott goods made in China.
The independent reports on riots in East Timor against the government, but doesn't go into much detail about why.
A local group's report attributes the problem to a mob that was angered by harsh police activity, and then used by opposition politicians while police failed to respond effectively. But it suggests that the underlying causes include unemployment and lack of progress towards democracy and prosperity.
An ETAN announcement made shortly before the protests refers to widespread dissatisfaction with the regime that the multinational institutions have imposed.
The British Library has suspended librarians for using the Internet to look at porn. It's not merely an injustice, it is also stupid.
A peace activist in Iceland was arrested for warning that Iceland's planes might be targets for terrorism if Iceland participates in a war against Iraq. The police chose to interpret this as a threat rather than as a warning.
I would not use this arguments like this against Bush's crusade against Saddam: the danger of retaliation is not a good reason to stand aside from a war if there really is a good enough reason to fight it in the first place. Nonetheless, the readiness to arrest people for making such arguments is dangerous to democracy. Much more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.
Social workers and police are working together in Canada to harass dissidents.
A hoax press release pretending to be from Dow Chemical explains why it simply cannot help the people of Bhopal, much as it would like to do so.
A recent note describes the arrest of local residents for trying to clean up the polluted site themselves.
Economist Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, argues that monopolies on broadband access in the US threaten to cause high prices, and perhaps censorship as well.
The high prices will tend to discourage the growth of broadband access. Meanwhile, Hollywood is claiming that the government should encourage broadband usage by giving it increased power to restrict our computers. Perhaps the government could achieve the job more effectively (and with less cost to our freedom) by breaking up broadband monopolies instead.
An American nurse is in prison in Indonesia for "visa violations" after treating injured people in refugee camps in Aceh as a volunteer. (The idea that a tourist visa prohibits this is rather peculiar.) She has been tortured and is on hunger strike to protest repeated delays in her trial.
Israeli soldiers have repeatedly attacked UN operations and personnel in Palestine.
A new constitution is being drawn up for Europe.
This raises the question: how democratic will this constitution be? Most especially on the question of how to regulate business, and how to negotiate trade treaties.
If Europe is to be democratic, the most important
The US government is publishing insults about UN weapons inspectors that were appointed at the request of the US. Robert Fisk suggests this is part of a propaganda campaign to pave the way for war.
I'm struck by the resemblance between this propaganda campaign and the ones that dictatorships (including that of Saddam Hussein) use.
Several teenagers confessed to raping the "Central Park jogger" in 1989. Now DNA evidence shows that someone else committed the crime.
False confessions are not unusual. Sometimes they result from police pressure that people don't know how to resist. It may not be what we normally call torture, but if it can lead people to confess to something they didn't do, it has the effect of torture.
The International Association Against Psychiatric Assault, which opposes forcing people to undergo psychiatric treatment, practices democracy in a new form: the members vote directly on the Internet.
I agree at least partly with their goals; I would have to study their position more to know whether I agree fully.
Israeli soldiers dynamited a home in Gaza while the deaf grandfather was still in it. They did not bother to check. He was killed.
Israeli soldiers often force a Palestinian family out of their home and dynamite it, so that everything they own is destroyed and they have nowhere to live. They do this because a relative is accused of fighting Israel. Even when nobody is killed, this is collective punishment, which is prohibited by the treaties Israel has signed.
The MPP filed charges against "Drug Czar" John Walters for publishing lies to influence the marijuana legalization vote in Nevada.
Reacting to the disastrous oil spill that has ruined beaches and destroyed fishing near Gallicia, France and Spain have agreed on a policy to keep dangerous tankers away from their shores.
How amazing it is when governments act so intelligently.
Putting Kissinger in charge of the investigation into what really happened on Sep 11 is a blatant way of turning the investigation into a coverup.
A sarcastic column in the Independent, whose topic is the British government's response to the firefighters' strike, gets to the heart of the callous attitude of the Blair government.
The British government issued a report, supposedly relaying information from spies in Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein is ordering large numbers of people to hide documents and weapons components that the UN inspectors will be looking for.
I suspect this information is false, both because it is exactly what Prime Minister Blair wants people to believe, and because the claim that Saddam believes he needs chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to stay in power seems incredible. Saddam surely knows, just as we do, that many repressive regimes stay in power using ordinary guns and bullets. He also knows that a large number of people can't keep a secret. With large numbers of Iraqis involved in hiding these things, it's predictable that the inspectors would find out, giving Dubya exactly the excuse he seeks for the war he wants.
Saddam is not stupid. It is more plausible that someone behind this report is lying than that Saddam is playing so foolishly into Dubya's hands.
A state official in Nigeria, citing Islam, has called for a Nigerian writer to be murdered.
Islamic law is a form of brutality that the world should not tolerate. Nigeria should abolish Islamic law in the states that have pretended to adopt it, and officials who make death threats should be imprisoned.
The prohibition of prostitution is criticized in a thoughtful article from the Independent.
I can't imagine being the client of a prostitute, because the situation would make me feel unwanted. It seems I need mutual tenderness and desire to be part of sex, and the request for money is a sure sign that someone doesn't really want me for myself.
However, for those whose feelings about this are different from mine, prostitution ought to be legal.
Since neither Union Carbide nor its successor, Dow Chemical, has cleaned up the poisoned site of the factory in Bhopal, local people tried to do it--but they were attacked savagely by the local police.
It is interesting that a police inspector told these people falsely that they are Hindu fundamentalists. He might have fooled someone else, but how could he have fooled them? They know what their group stands for. The strange thing is that police often do this. They believe that the concept of truth does not apply to them.
This article explains how the "Homeland Security" bill opens your internet communications to government snooping.
Note that the article refers to "hackers" but uses the word wrongly--the writer really means "crackers", which are people who break computer security. By the way, I don't object to prison sentences for people who break security and endanger people's lives, if it is the truth that they did so and not an exaggeration. What is dangerous to democracy is prison sentences for people who break security for political graffiti or civil disobdience.
Another article explains how far "total information awareness" intends to carry surveillance of everyone in the US that the government wants to watch--the occasional real terrorist, and political dissidents labeled as terrorists.
The choice of Poindexter for this program is ironic. His past experience with America-hating terrorists was to supply them with arms and lie about it.
The Supreme Court is looking at a case about whether police in the US can bully (or in effect torture) people into making statements.
Just a few months ago, the EU abolished the law that required telephone companies and ISPs to destroy customer data once it was not needed for billing. Now they plan to require this data to be kept for a long time. The excuse is terrorism, but there is no rational reason to believe these surveillance measures are really necessary--or that they will only be used against terrorists.
Israeli soldiers shot a British UN worker in Jenin, causing a diplomatic row between Israel and the UK.
What the intifada may be doing to Israel's rule of law
Residents of Hebron have to hide on Holy Days.
Argentina has defaulted on its debt to the World Bank. There may be reprisals, but in the long run it could be helpful.
Many poor countries are trapped in a cycle of increasing debt that is never repaid, only transferred to more debt. In order to keep transferring the debt, they must agree to cruel policies--for instance, making children pay to go to school, which excludes the poor from education. Even if the country can keep transferring the debt and never needs to pay anything, these policies hurt the people. The only escape from the trap is to break the cycle.
If default discourages lenders from continuing the cycle, that is beneficial.
The government of Vancouver, rather than doing anything to help the homeless poor find housing, has obtained an injunction to kick them out of the abandoned building that they were trying to repair.
Dubya attacks the Clean Air Act, weakening requirements for various polluting industries to clean up their pollution.
Perhaps Bush feels uncomfortable in a clean world.
A proposed UK law to abolish many of the rights of those accused of crimes is even worse than was expected.
During the recent protests against the NATO meeting in Prague, the protest headquarters was evicted. (I presume they had paid good money to rent it.) It is clear that this was nothing but a dirty trick to sabotage the protests.
Iraq plans to give the UN arms inspectors such a large amount of information that studying it may take a long time.
This can be seen as a tactic to delay the inspectors' report. It can also be seen as the only rational response to the US threat that withholding anything the US considers relevant would be taken as grounds for war. Should Iraq take the risk of omitting anything?
The bulk of information may delay the final report, and thus impede the job Dubya wants the inspectors to do--get out of the way so he can invade. But it should not impede the job the inspectors have been officially sent to do: finding and destroying any weapons of mass destruction and facilities for making them. They can study the records in whatever order they like, so having more complete records on hand can only help their check for weapons.
A commentator in the Independent (London) reports that cocaine and even heroin are becoming popular in her generation, and she attributes it to the previous practice of using ecstasy.
If the connection is real, I wonder if it results from the fact that the government treats them the same way. A person might think, "The government told me nonsense about ecstasy and was wrong, so why should I believe what they say about cocaine?"
The Onion reports: Muslim Groups In U.S. May Be Developing Nuclear Families.
"Since last Sunday, a question has been running around in my head and troubling my sleep: What induced the young Palestinian, who broke into Kibbutz Metzer, to aim his weapon at a mother and her two little children and kill them?"
The ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana in Nevada and Alaska failed, but got around 40% of the vote, which shows that legalization has substantial support.
Part of the reason for the failure was lies told by Dubya's "drug czar" John Walters about changes in potency of marijuana since the 1970s.
Dubya demonstrates his shallowness and narrowness of mind with his own words.
There are continuing protests against Venezuelan President Chavez; the police in the capital, Caracas, are siding with the protesters, who on previous occasions were described as the wealthier segments of society, typically the people of European ancestry. His supporters are also holding demonstrations, which the police attack.
Whether Chavez is a tyrant or whether his opponents are trying to maintain unjust privilege is hard for me to tell at this distance. The one Chavez policy I can judge for myself is a policy of firm support for both using and developing free software--a clear rejection of corporate domination of one area of life. This suggests that Chavez is at least to some extent trying to do the right thing, and shows he is not merely an opportunist.
An aged oil tanker broke in two and sank near the coast of Spain. Most of the oil went down with the ship, but people expect it to leak out and destroy the shellfish beds of a whole region in Spain.
The tremendous ecological and economic danger from transport of oil underlines the folly of the US policy of keeping gasoline cheap, which encourages rapid consumption of oil and the transport of large amounts of oil.
Turkey has imprisoned Mehmet Bal for objecting on grounds of conscience to military service, and there are fears he will be injured in prison.
Homeless people in Vancouver are squatting in an abandoned building to make the public aware of the dangerous shortage of housing there. The government responded by arresting people and destroying their meager belongings.
Note that "liberal" in Canada is the name of a right-wing party, not like the US.
A general who says he would remove most Israeli settlements and talk peace with Arafat is expected to become the head of Israel's labor party.
If he gets a chance to do this, he will remove the main Israeli obstacle to peace, putting the ball in the Palestinians' court.
As noted here before, most of the Israelis living in the West Bank territories do not want to be there, and would leave immediately if they could only get an apartment in Israel proper. The US could help the cause of peace by buying the settlers' apartments from them and then either knocking them down or handing them to Palestinians.
In Baghdad, as the UN weapons inspectors go to work, US jets are already bombing even though the "war" has not begun. Iraqis expect the US to invade regardless of whether Saddam cooperates with them.
The US war on drugs is causing a lot of harm in Bolivia.
Police in the UK want to be able to lock people up for 36 hours without charging them with a crime. Their behavior towards protestors in the past suggests they are likely to use this as an excuse to lock protestors away even when no crime has occurred.
The New Zealand government is trying to adopt sweeping new surveillance powers. The New Zealand Green Party is leading the opposition to these bills.
Iran's religious rulers, pressured by student protests, are reconsidering the death sentence of Hashem Aghajari, who was convicted of blasphemy for suggesting that the mullahs' interpretation of Islam is not the only possible one.
Since the US army has no trouble meeting its recruiting targets, what is the reason for the proposal to require American men to have military training?
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is asking for support for the participants in a protest march, who were charged with serious crimes after mounted police charged through the crowd attacking people.
Tony Blair is trying again to attack the rights of the accused in the UK. His latest plans would deny many defendants the right to trial by jury and allow multiple trials for the same offense.
A few years ago Blair wanted to limit jury trials to the rich and famous, on the excuse that other people have less to lose if they are unjustly convicted and imprisoned. Contempt for the public in general cannot be more blatant.
Governments in Europe and the US already fabricate charges against political protestors. To give them increased power over ordinary citizens is a step backward. Where governments need increased power is over large corporations like Microsoft that believe, from experience, that they can buy the support of governments.
The evident US and British intention to attack Iraq whether Saddam Hussein disarms or not, all while encouraging the persecution of Muslims in many parts of the world, is feeding Al Qa'ida.
The Pope criticized Berlusconi, the TV magnate who became Italian prime minister by controlling nearly all the private TV in Italy. This may be useful somehow. The Pope also urged civilization to commit suicide by having large families. Well, nobody can be right all the time. Italians will probably ignore the former; let's hope they ignore the latter too.
The famine in Ethiopia is partly caused by drought, and partly by a callous Ethiopian government--but also partly by the world economic system that has allowed coffee prices to fall to the point where the farmers who make your coffee are starving.
Recent pronouncements from the Bush Administration and national security initiatives put in place in the Reagan era could see internment camps and martial law in the United States.
Just as Hamas was meeting to to discuss rejection of suicide bombings, Israeli forces launched a fresh attack which probably destroyed the chances for agreement.
Israeli peace groups point to a pattern of such actions, outbursts of Israeli violence whenever Palestinians are discussing a reduction in their violence. They say Sharon deliberately sabotages any Palestinian initiatives to move towards less violent resistance, so he can continue using their violence as an excuse for brutal policies and theft of land.
Bush is currently sending more troops to the Middle East.
This suggests he has no real intention of allowing arms inspectors to disarm Iraq peacefully.
William Safire, a famous conservative who usually disagrees with me, wrote something every American should take note of:
If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you: Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend--all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
Some parts of northern Nigeria have imposed Islamic law. The Miss World contest in Nigeria was almost canceled by a boycott by the contestants, until the Nigerian government promised that a sentence of death by stoning, imposed on a woman for adultery under Islamic law, would not be carried out.
Yesterday I saw a machine that was reportedly used until 1923 for cutting off the hands of thieves in Yogyakarta, Java. This brutality is practiced today in Saudi Arabia and perhaps Iran and Pakistan.
A Microsoft software license includes terms that prohibit use of the software to criticize Microsoft. The terms are buried in a long license, so you might easily not notice them, criticize Microsoft, and get sued.
Microsoft denies the terms mean what they appear to mean, but that is little basis for relief. This illustrates the fact that shrink-wrap licenses are very dangerous--they give businesses too much power.
Human Rights Watch says that the Attorney General of Colombia is blocking prosecution of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Columbian military.
Research reports that marijuana can cause some serious health problems. Part of the reason is that marijuana today is very potent.
It still seems that the problems will be less than those of tobacco. A large fraction of tobacco users use 40 to 60 cigarettes per day; the addictiveness of tobacco tends to lead to heavier use. Only a few marijuana users use as much as 3 joints per day. Most use it less than once a day, often much less.
If marijuana were legal, it could be sold in various potencies. Perhaps most marijuana users would choose less potent reefers.
I avoided commenting on the DC sniper while the national media were filled with it. Now the lawyers for one suspect are accusing the police of breaking the law and trying to prejudice possible jurors.
When police bully someone into confessing, sometimes the confession is false. We all understand that a person under torture might confess to things he did not do. It may be hard to believe that people can do this even without torture, but it is true, and false confessions are a well-known phenomenon. It seems some people cannot stand up to psychological pressure.
I don't know whether Malvi is guilty, but police practices that go too far will squeeze out false confessions from time to time, even if this confession was true. That can do more harm than the sniper murders did.
Prejudicing the jurors is also dangerous, and unlike the danger of false confessions, having a strong will does not make you safe. I'd rather be shot than falsely convicted of murder.
Ever the enemy of democracy, Bush now plans to make it easier for the government to alter and destroy records that are supposed to be available for the public to study.
How the war on terrorism promotes terrorism--and other issues.
The crime of "driving while Black" exists in the UK as well as the US. British people of Asian (mostly Indian) origin are less likely to commit crimes than whites, but the police suspect them more often.
Republicans in the senate plan further tax cuts for rich people, installing conservative judges, more destruction of wilderness, and fewer restrictions on corrupt accountants like those who audited Enron.
Berlusconi, il ducino of Italy, tried to cancel the European Social Forum in Florence on the excuse that there would be violence. This is absurd, since the European Social Forum is not a protest against any particular event in Florence. The only people who might have started violence were the police.
Islamic parties did well in Pakistan's elections; General Musharraf is trying to block them from taking power.
Pakistan's laws are cruel and theocratic already--people are regularly sentenced to death for blasphemy, and if they hope to be exonerated on appeal, they are often murdered in prison. Anyone who wants to make Pakistan more Islamic must be little different from the Taliban. However, the US strategy of blocking democracy in these countries has the long-run effect of boosting Islamists, because they become the alternative to nondemocratic rulers that serve the US.
The US government is forcing schools to turn over students' names and addresses to military recruiters who then try to contact the students at home.
Under the US Constitution, the Federal government is not supposed to control education. They get around this by putting strings on Federal aid that all schools depend on. We have to recognize that the difference between an explicit legal mandate and a condition attached to aid many people need is just an excuse.
Massachusetts voters adopted a referendum prohibiting bilingual education in public schools. Non-English-speaking children will be given one year to adjust to English, after which they will be required to learn all subjects in English alone. The referendum did not tell voters that this law would mean teachers could be sued for speaking to a child in his or her native language.
The probable result is that many immigrant students, all but the brightest, will fall steadily behind after that one year, because they won't understand English well enough to learn the subject matter. Many of them will feel it is pointless to go to school, and drop out. For lack of any better alternative, some will join gangs and increase the crime rate.
This is bad for all students, not just immigrants, because bilingual education is good for everyone. A Washington DC public school, Escuela BilingŁe Oyster, has a long waiting list for people outside the district who want their children to go there. Most of them are English-speaking speakers who want their kids to grow up knowing Spanish also.
EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has warned colleges not to monitor what files students are transmitting on the Internet.
South Africa has arrested the alleged perpetrators of a rather cracked terrorist plot to expel the majority blacks from the country.
But while people can smile in amusement at the absurdity of this plan, many South African blacks faces real danger from their own government, from its support for business-dominated economic policies and its disregard for AIDS prevention (see previous notes). Ironically, part of what the plotters supposedly planned to do was cut off power supplies. That's just what the government is doing with its privatization policy.
The UK has sentenced former MI5 David Shayler to prison for revealing dirty government secrets to the public.
Unions believe that Bush intends to use an invasion of Iraq as an occasion to employ the Taft-Hartley act to destroy them.
The demand for rare mahogany for making expensive furniture is endangering the species and also the Amazon rain forest as a whole.
An Israeli legislator has proposed to make it a crime to be a witness for the International War Crimes Tribunal, or assist it in any way. Simply keeping a record of war crimes and publishing it would be prosecuted.
Tens of thousands protested at the Quito summit negotiating the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
PBS rejected its own documentary on the misconduct of the Florida election in 2000. Some of these forms of misconduct were used again by Jeb Bush to get reelected as governor.
This article shows examples of several broad patterns of media bias under corporate influence.
Israeli and International protestors who were shielding Palestinians' olive trees with their bodies were attacked and injured by Israeli construction workers.
It is interesting to compare these volunteer human shields with the human shields used by the Israeli army, who were forced at gunpoint.
A documentary unprecedented details the various forms of cheating that Dubya used to steal the election in Florida.
Europe has adopted a ban on animal testing of cosmetics. A scandal has developed because a company planned to move production overseas in order to continue doing animal testing.
I'm not particularly against animal testing of products, though I think it may as well be avoided when there is no special reason for it. The important point in these events is that Europe was going to ban the sale of cosmetics that had been tested on animals, but didn't do so because of WTO rules.
This is one more instance of how the WTO subordinates business to democracy. I am not against world trade, but the WTO as it exists today must be abolished.
A rare case of good news: the Tamil Tigers, which have been fighting for independence for a part of Sri Lanka, say they want to make peace.
In late October PBS was screening a documentary reporting on how Katherine Harris removed some 50,000 voters from the Florida voting lists and thus put the 2000 election in doubt. The dates for most cities are Oct 30-Nov 5. For the schedule, see www.GregPalast.com/events2.cfm#news253.
A related suit brought against Florida by civil rights groups was settled out of court in September, and the election laws passed since the 2000 election remain inadequate
Dubya's brother Jeb Bush is running for reelection as governor of Florida. Just as last year, Florida is excluding tens of thousands of legitimate voters claiming that they are "felons". But that is not enough for Jeb Bush to defeat his Democratic challenger, Bill McBride.
Florida Democratic chairman Bob Poe says someone phoned him, claiming to be speaking for the McBride campaign, and told him to cast an absentee ballot on Nov 10--five days too late. He suspects that someone is systematically telephoning Democrats with this deceptive advice.
The Republicans deny involvement in this, but I don't think their word counts. Democratic politicians are not above lying either; however, if indeed there was a massive campaign to trick democrats, we should soon have plenty of witnesses who can testify they were called.
I don't know anything about Bill McBride except that he is running against Jeb Bush, so I cannot say I endorse him. However, Jeb Bush helped for Dubya to steal the election, and getting rid of Jeb will make it harder for Dubya to do that again.
Yannis Serifis has been accused in Greece of participating in the "November 17" terrorist group, but supporters say he is being framed for his political opposition--and that this isn't the first time he was framed by the government.
State workers in Colombia have gone on strike against president Uribe's austerity program.
Earlier this year I wrote in favor of building a fence to separate the occupied West Bank from Israel, as a way of preventing terror attacks without subjecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to constant oppression.
Since then, Israel has begun building a wall; but rather than building it between the Palestinians and Israel, Israel is putting the wall between Palestinians and their farmland--in effect, stealing their land. The construction workers have threatened to kill Palestinians who protest peacefully.
A joint protest by Israelis and Palestinians was held on Oct 26.
Israelis in the peace movement are staying in Khirbet Yanun, the Palestinian village whose inhabitants were driven out by Israeli settlers, so as to enable the villagers to return home.
Bush continues to use devious twists and turns to prevent a congressional investigation into the events of 9/11.
The Israeli government has begun denying foreigners entry to Israel if they have nonviolently protected Palestinians by acting as witnesses or shields.
ISPs are moving towards new price policies that discourage people from using a lot of bandwidth.
I don't entirely share the attitude of the author of that article; I don't think that charging more for heavy use is necessarily outrageous. But it is interesting to note that these policies discourage use of services such as Internet radio (as well as P2P networks).
The pressure to impose new restrictions on computers and recording and copying devices often cites a desire to "encourage more use of broadband". It is interesting to contrast that with this FCC decision that will tend to discourage use of broadband.
A British court is investigating the former head of the Israeli army for violations of the Geneva convention, including the incursion into Jenin, where Israeli forces destroyed large numbers of houses and used civilians as human shields. The initial accusation that the army also massacred hundreds of civilians in Jenin seems to be false, but the army's tactics kill civilians regularly.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch report calls for prosecution of the leadership of Hamas for ordering suicide bombings.
Russian police used a paralytic gas to disable Chechens who were holding hundreds of hostages in a theater. The gas killed over a hundred of the hostages, and Russia has been criticized for failing to tell doctors how to prevent the deaths.
Most of the perpetrators were killed also--but not, it seems, by the gas. This article in the Independent says they were shot while unconscious.
This should be the larger scandal. Perhaps it is true that the police didn't expect the gas to kill anyone, but the police who shot the Chechens cannot make that excuse. There is no possible excuse for killing suspects who are defeated and unresisting, no matter what crime they are accused of.
International monitors will observe the Florida elections this year.
That such monitors are necessary is a humiliation that the US owes to George Bush and his supporters.
"There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack... Rome [as it expanded its empire] was always [claiming to be] attacked by evil-minded neighbours."
Does that sound like the US under bush?
Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, who controls all the main Italian television stations, is pushing a bill designed to help his friend avoid being convicted of bribery.
Indonesia is adopting anti-terror measures that raise fears they will be used to suppress opposition to the government.
The authoritarian regimes in Singapore and Malaysia can detain terrorist suspects indefinitely--just like the authoritarian regime in the US.
Israeli expansionist settlers are trying to drive Palestinians off their lands by shooting them as they try to harvest their olive trees. Sometimes they steal the olives. Sometimes they also burn the trees.
Israelis who support peace are helping to shield Palestinians so they can harvest their olives.
California has established high standards of fuel efficiency for cars. Bush is having the Federal government sue California to overturn them.
Bush makes his money from the oil business. It seems that he is determined to maximize his short term oil profits no matter what the cost to society.
Why did the head of the New York Stock Exchange meet with a representative of a guerilla army in Colombia?
Starvation is hitting parts of India--the government has food but is failing to distribute food to people who are hungry.
The ACLU is suing the Denver police for keeping records on political dissidents and treating them as potential suspects.
94 protestors were arrested at an anti-McDonalds rally in Mexico City on the excuse that a parasol and a window were damaged.
How policy on Iraq, in the US and other countries, is driven by profit.
French Interior Minister Sarkozy has proposed a ban on street prostitution, claiming that streetwalkers somehow hurt the people in the neighborhood where they operate.
Making prostitutes livelihood illegal is only going to make their lives worse. If Sarkozy wants to "clean up the streets" without hurting the most unfortunate, he should offer them another place to ply their trade--or a way they can live without having to be prostitutes. However, his right-wing party would never dream of doing that.
What chain of decisions led Israeli troops to kill 8 or more Palestinians in Rafah?
Relatives of people killed in the Sep 11 terrorist attacks criticized the White House for trying to block or hamstring Congressional investigation of why the attacks were not stopped.
This article also gives details about the points where Bush and Congress disagree.
The right-wing government of Colombia, which enjoys strong US support, is attacking protesting trade unionists.
A book about Osama bin Laden has been published by a journalist who knew him.
The world has a picture of Mother Teresa as someone kind who helped the downtrodden, but actually she was a fanatical Catholic, interested in performing religious services for sick people, not in their health.
The donations her organization gets do not seem to be reaching the poor in Calcutta.
A previous note explained that the miracle cited by the Vatican as grounds for declaring Mother Teresa a saint is a cure that was actually caused by a straightforward medical operation. One misrepresentation is piled on another.
In Vancouver, Canada, both police and drug dealers are threatening non-violent squatters in an unused building.
Israeli settlers have had a victory--their persistent violent harrassment has chased all the Palestinians out of a village. Ethnic cleansing, which some Israeli government people advocate, has taken a step forward.
Police repression of anarchists in Long Beach, California, continues. Two anarchists have been charged with felonies for having a gas can in their car.
Although the price of a gallon of gas in the US is less than 2 dollars, the International Center for Technology Assessment estimates that a gallon of gas really imposes some $5 to $15 of cost on society.
The US Forest Service is suppressing reports about the health of forests, and a conservation group is suing to demand release of the reports.
A comparison of the Iraq situation with the Cuban missile crisis.
A petition organized in Israel for educators, psychologists, and social workers calls for allowing schools in Palestine to reopen. Non-Israelis appear to be invited to sign. The petition page also explains how bad the situation is, so even if you are not an educator, psychologist or social worker, you should still take a look.
After the attack on the World Trade Center, people were urged to keep on visiting New York, for the sake of its tourist economy. After the recent bombing in Bali, the West had the opposite reaction: "Stay away!"
I have endorsed Green party candidate Jill Stein for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
While the US prepares to go to war against Iraq for developing nuclear weapons, it hesitates even to cut aid to North Korea.
I won't say that trying to make friends with North Korea is absurd. We have much to offer that that country needs. This might have as much chance of keeping the world safe from their possible nuclear weapons as war would. But if so, why not consider such an approach to Iraq?
Intimidation campaigns are being aimed at Western reporters and professors that criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinians, but in the Israeli press there is still criticism of government figures whose plans call for ethnic cleansing and atrocities.
A Spanish judge accused the Basque separatist organization ETA of trying to carry out "ethnic cleansing" by forcing non-nationalist Basques out of the region.
I won't defend ETA, which is clearly a terrorist organization, and I do not sympathize with the goal of separating the Basque region from Spain. However, this accusation is both an evident exaggeration and an evident absurdity. Even if ETA were trying to force all non-nationalist Basques out of the Basque region--a charge that the moderate Basques, the supposed victims of this campaign, reject--that would not be ethnic cleansing, because they are all the same ethnic group.
(I'm told that ETA has run a campaign of violence against Basques who speak out in opposition to its views, and that some of them have fled.)
Terrorist organizations are dangerous, but lying governments are more dangerous.
Iraq may be developing nuclear weapons; North Korea is certainly developing nuclear weapons and is much closer. Under the circumstances, the contrast between US policy towards Iraq and North Korea is amazing.
The NRDC is asking the US government to declare beluga sturgeon (from which beluga caviar is obtained) an endangered species, saying they are in danger of extinction.
Bush is trying to shut down or replace government scientific advisory boards with people that will give the advice he wants.
This resembles what Bush did earlier this year to international bodies. The Bush administration is practicing a systematic campaign to replace science with pro-business lies.
A letter by Abraham Lincoln opposing a plan to let the President decide whether to attack Mexico applies perfectly to the present day situation with Iraq.
The World Bank funds incinerators around the world that are intended to prevent polution but actually make it worse.
The US government paid to write and print textbooks for Afghanistan that promoted Islamic extremism. The Taliban's schools used them. Combining evidence from a number of US statements, it appears that the US is still using the same extremist texts in the books it is donating to Afghan schools.
It is possible that something is being done to correct part of the problem. According to the Washington Post article, Ahmad Fahim Hakim was actually talking about the old textbooks, not the new ones, and some changes are being made:
"UNICEF is left with 500,000 copies of the old "militarized" books, a $200,000 investment that it has decided to destroy, according to U.N. officials."
If the new textbooks are being changed only to remove the parts that encourage fundamentalist violence, they may still teach a extreme religious outlook on life. Should US funds be spent to teach that? Dubya surely thinks so.
(Can anyone who reads Arabic obtain a copy of the new school books that the US is giving to Afghanistan, and report what they say?)
A proposal for the UN to engineer a regime change in the US is clearly a parody of Dubya's arguments for regime change in Iraq, except that in this case the facts are true and the arguments are valid.
A detailed description of what global warming is likely to do to the Bush family ranch in Texas gives an idea of how foolish is his policy of doing nothing to curb global warming.
City and Federal officials, including Mayor Giuliani(*), told people it was safe to go back to work in downtown Manhattan while the fires in the World Trade Center were spewing toxic chemicals into the air. Data and studies showing the danger and reporting on medical problems were covered up or not publicized.
* I wonder, since Giuliani was a night-mayor, who was mayor of New York in the daytime?
The US Green Party calls for an independent truth commission to get to the bottom of what really happened on 9/11, and also calls for repeal of the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. I think that is a good reason to vote Green. (There are other reasons as well.)
I already voted (by absentee ballot) for the Green Party candidates for governor of Massachusetts, state treasurer, and state representative.
Paramilitary murder gangs are carrying out killings in Mexico, while the police do nothing.
The leader of a Ukrainian anti-nuclear group was murdered as Ukraine plans to build more nuclear power plants and ignore a report saying it would be unsafe.
But the issue is not just nuclear power. The funding for these plans would impose a terrible debt burden and the deal requires privatization of electric power in Ukraine. Privatization of utilities in poor countries has often resulted in price increases of 100% or more, which can mean that many people get disconnected.
General Anthony Zinni, who was recently Dubya's own Middle East envoy, opposes unilateral intervention in Iraq, saying it would only help Al Qa'ida.
Speaking of hawks in the administration, Zinni said, "I'm not sure which planet they live on," Zinni said, "because it isn't the one that I travel."
One of those arrested in Washington while not protesting, along with 600 other non-protestors, believes that this illegal police action had a strategic purpose: to make people afraid to participate in further nonviolent protests. According to his report, it succeeded.
He thinks that the reduced agenda of the IMF meeting constitutes a victory, but I am not convinced. The freedom to protest and the readiness to use it are more important in the long run than any IMF meeting, more important than the IMF at all. Unless people respond with outrage and a new readiness to oppose the US government, this will be a victory for Bush, and a defeat for democracy and freedom.
An article in the Independent, of London, argues that the Bali bomb proves the need for a war on terror, not a war on Iraq.
A supposed "miracle healing" attributed to Mother Teresa, and proposed as the basis for a proclamation of sainthood was actually a medical cure.
This error fits in with the reputation of Mother Teresa during her lifetime. According to articles in Free Inquiry, people think that her organization provided medical care for the sick, but all it really did was perform religious services as they died.
Bush continues to repeat that Iraq has ties to terrorism, and that it poses a threat of war to the US, but never offers any proof for either one. He doesn't think that should be necessary.
DOD documents prove that the US knew that the Iraq sanctions would deny safe water to the civilian population and thus spread disease.
Exiled humanist author Taslima Nasrin has been sentenced to a year in prison in Bangladesh for supposedly criticizing Islam. Her book, about persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh, has been banned. She was tried in absentia, a procedure that is considered fundamentally unjust.
Pakistan, which Bangladesh was part of until the 1970s, is even worse, sentencing people to death for "blasphemy" for even mild criticism of Islam. And don't forget the Iranian death sentence against Salman Rushdie.
All this illustrates the lack of respect for basic human freedoms, including religious freedom and freedom of the press, that Islam often leads to. I don't think that Bangladesh has adopted strict Islamic law, but even without that, it has fallen into Islamist injustice.
Christian theocrats in the US, allies of Dubya, have not yet proposed to imprison unbelievers, but persist in trying to use government funds in propagating their religion.
I met Taslima Nasrin at a humanist conference in Mexico a few years ago. The conference had a tour to visit the ancient city of Teotihuacan; there, amidst ancient temples, I showed her a Bulgarian folk dance, and she started to show me some Bengali dancing--but it turned out to be Kathak, a classical performing art form that could be compared to ballet, rather than folk dance. Not the sort of thing one can pick up even slightly in five minutes. I hope she is doing well in exile.
Travelers are likely to overreact to the danger of terrorism in Bali just as they overreacted to the danger of terrorism in New York a year ago.
The European Union is promoting a treaty for "protection of broadcasting organizations" that would give broadcasters the "right" to authorize or prohibit "fixations of broadcasts". Unfortunately, they are not talking about prohibiting people from being obsessed with TV. What they mean is prohibiting you and me from making recordings of broadcasts. And they are not content with merely saying "don't do it"--they envision that radios and recorders will be designed to stop you.
Today you can get a radio and a tape recorder and record whatever you like. Today you can get a TV and a VCR and record whatever you like. The aim of this treaty is to make such equipment unavailable.
A peaceful protest in Ottawa, at a speech by US ambassador, called attention to the fact that the US plans to deport an Ethiopian national back to Ethiopia for probable torture and death, even though Canada has offered to accept him.
Always A Fighter, Always A Terrorist, an article in Haaretz, explains the biased language used to describe Israeli and Palestinian acts of violence.
The American Gulf War Veterans Association demands the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, US secretary of Defense, for lying to the public. He said that the US had never provided biological warfare organisms to Iraq. A senate report in 1994 showed that the US did provide them.
It's not just that Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, has a responsibility to know about these things. He personally played a central role in US relations with Iraq in the 1980s.
Bush says he has agreed to an independent investigation of the Sep 11, but is trying to block it from getting started.
This sounds like what we were concerned Saddam Hussein might try to do with the UN investigation that he faces. I wonder, is Bush taking inspiration from Hussein, or projecting his own attitudes onto Hussein?
What Bush wants us to forget.
The League of Nations was destroyed because the great powers did not respect it. The US risks destroying the UN in the same way.
A CIA report says that Saddam Hussein is unlikely to attack the US, or support terrorists' doing so, unless the US attacks Iraq.
Marwah Barghouti, formerly found in demonstrations for peace and for a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state, is now on trial, accused of being a terrorist.
When Uri Avneri attempted to go to the court to watch the trial, he found that the press and the public were excluded from the courtroom. The government had selected people to attend, from a right-wing extremist group.
One person who could not get in protested outside the courtroom with a sign that simply listed the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths.
Israel is not the only middle-eastern country that interferes with people who stand for peace. The Egyptian government recently abolished the Cairo Association for Peace.
A court in the US imposed multibillion-dollar punitive damages on the tobacco company Philip Morris. The reason was that the company lied (along with the other tobacco companies) to the public about the harmful effects of tobacco.
Currently the US prohibits marijuana while allowing tobacco, a far more dangerous drug, to be sold. Despite the danger of tobacco, it should not be illegal, because we should not tell people how to spend (in two senses of the word) their lives. Rather, we should make active efforts to discourage kids from starting to smoke. At the same time, we should legalize marijuana, and end the system of prohibition that has ruined millions of lives in the US, and many others elsewhere.
MacDonalds workers, angry at the ways MacDonalds has blocked them from unionizing and thus keeps their wages at poverty level, are planning a world-wide day of resistance, 16 Oct 2002.
White House: President's "War Boner" Must Be Satisfied
Police began intimidating protestors in Worthing, England before their protest even got started.
The real purpose of Sharon's policy is to create foreigners.
The UN resolution proposed by the US and UK includes two trick requirements that demand Iraq (1) allow US spies to enter under the guise or weapons inspectors, and (2) allow US armed forces to travel everywhere in Iraq. In effect it demands total surrender while pretending not to. This makes it effectively just a provocation for war.
Arrests of protestors who have done nothing illegal are not limited to Washington DC. 28 people who went to Baltimore to protest against a rally by neo-nazis were arrested just as they arrived. The police then attacked various progressive organizations in the city.
It is scary and strange that police in the US have so much sympathy for right-wing extremists. Don't they remember Oklahoma City? But this is not limited to the US--police in Genoa, Italy, forced arrested protestors to salute pictures of Mussolini. Perhaps police come to admire anyone who uses force against people.
Doug Malkan, a victim of the Sep 27 mass arrest, describes his experiences.
He calls this arrest "pre-emptive", and it is interesting to note that it came shortly after Bush announced plans for "pre-emptive" attacks against countries if they might perhaps someday threaten the US. The same policy apparently applies to dissent: Bush would like to arrest people if they might perhaps someday threaten his policies. His version of the golden rule is, "Do one to others before they do one to you." Alas for the US, that policy is a policy of committing aggression.
Malkan says that some of the ways he and his fellow prisoners were treated violate the Geneva Convention. There was concern in January about whether the US would abide by the Geneva Convention in its treatment of people captured in Afghanistan. I'm sure many Americans read about that issue and thought, "Why should I care whether we respect the rights of those people? They are our enemies, so they have no rights!" The Geneva Convention is concerned with treatment of captured soldiers and civilians in war time. Every side in a war is someone's enemy, so everyone on every side needs the protection protection from barbarism that the Geneva Convention provides.
Citizens protesting cruel government policies need it too.
A lawsuit seeks to block Navy use of a new kind of sonar system that can kill whales and dolphins by damaging their hearing.
The Navy argues that normal peacetime use will only kill a few sea mammals. Wartime use would kill far more. In a justified war, a situation where there killing human beings is legitimate, I would not object to killing some whales too. But how many whales might that be? Sounds propagate a long distance in water. Could this risk the extinction of some whale species?
It is not unusual for sonar to injure whales.
On September 27, police in Washington DC arrested 600 people who were standing or drumming in a park--not particularly protesting--without even giving them a chance to leave. The police attacked and injured some of the victims, then arrested everyone there; they held the arrested parkgoers in handcuffs for 20 hours (others report longer periods), illegally deprived them of food, and did not allow them to contact lawyers.
When you hear police speak of "enforcing the law", think of the policemen who laughed when reminded of the laws governing how arrested people are treated. If anyone says police are heroes, remember their reaction when reminded that democracy includes dissent. And if you ever on a jury listening to a policeman's testimony, remember the lies.
In World War II and Vietnam, US war correspondents used to travel with the troops, but after Vietnam US governments have severely limited press coverage of war. The habitually secretive Bush administration will surely try to restrict the press more than before in Iraq. Since Saddam Hussein won't allow a free press either, neither we nor Congress will be able to tell what's really going on. We will be reduced to wondering what part of Dubya's speeches are true and what part are lies.
If Congress adopts a resolution allowing war with Iraq, that would be an opportunity to solve the problem. Congress could add the condition that US war correspondents must have the same access that war correspondents had in World War II.
The House resolution to authorize an attack on Iraq requires Bush to certify that the US can fight Al-Qa'ida and Iraq at the same time.
The idea that it is useful to require the president, or a department of the administration, to certify something as true as a condition of some activity presupposes that the president or the department has a reputation for honesty and must maintain it. We had plenty of reason to start doubting this in previous administrations, which on various occasions issued dubious certifications in order to be able to do whatever it was that required the certification. But when applied to Bush, who is willing to contradict himself from one day to the next, it reduces to asking him to pronounce a nonsensical magic formula.
In the future, such certification requirements should be designed to impose a penalty for a certification that is false or exaggerates the facts, to replace the penalty of loss of reputation for truth that was implicitly assumed to apply.
The congressional investigation into intelligence failures has found that the CIA had plenty of warnings, including awareness of the possibility that airplanes might be used as weapons. This would seem to imply that Bush was lying when he said nobody in the administration had thought of the idea.
Today Bush said that war with Iraq "may become "unavoidable. By doing this, he is trying to mislead us, pretending he reluctant to have a war when in fact he seeks one. One day he wants to disarm Iraq; the next day, it's "regime change" and never mind if Iraq is disarmed. He must think we have rather short memories.
What the US needs is regime change.
Two opposition MPs in Zimbabwe were arrested for making a video of governing party agents buying votes.
Stepan Mesic, who was president of Yugoslavia when Slobodan Milosevic took power there and is now president if Croatia, testified about Milosevic's plans to attack Croats and divide up Bosnia.
Megacorporate mergers and business-dominated globalization are tantamount to the USSR by the back door.
UN negotiator Hans Blix says there is progress in discussions with Iraq to arrange return of UN weapons inspectors.
A BBC report around 0300 GMT on Oct 2 said that Iraq has completely agreed to inspections, and that Colin Powell says that the US will "not accept" the return of weapons inspectors under past UN resolutions.
Just days ago, Bush was calling for invasion of Iraq on grounds of "violating UN resolutions", and warning the UN it would be "irrelevant" if it fails to enforce them. Now that Iraq has agreed to comply with the resolutions and the UN is apparently having success in enforcing them, the Bush administration position seems to have turned around 180 degrees. Now, according to the BBC report, the US may try to "thwart" UN inspections of Iraq.
Apparently whatever justification Bush offers for an attack on Iraq is not sincere, just verbal manipulation.
(If you can find a URL for a textual form of this BBC report, please email it to me so I can link to it. I will not link to audio files in RealAudio format or any other format that cannot be played using free software exclusively.)
Houston police went on a rampage in August. Sent to look for drag racers but not finding any, they arrested almost 300 customers at a mall instead.
The storm of outrage was so large that the officer in charge of the raid was suspended from his post. The false charges of trespassing, laid against those who were arrested, were dropped by the mayor some 2 weeks after the arrests. (Why did he take so long to act?) However, many of the victims pled guilty immediately so that they could resume their lives. It is not clear whether the charges against them have been cancelled or whether the fees for towing their cars will be refunded to them. Some of them are suing the city.
Political activists in the US are being put on a list of "terrorists" which regularly stops them from boarding airplanes. When lawyers and journalists ask various agencies who is responsible for this, they get a run-around.
An Israeli general argues that there is no reason for the US to attack Iraq, because it is not a real threat.
In 2001, 6,238 people died while waiting for organ transplants in the US because no suitable organs became available. In the same year, 3000 people died in the US because of terrorist attacks.
To prevent more deaths from terrorist attacks, governments hastily passed laws that damage the civil liberties and privacy of living people. There is no evidence that these laws were actually necessary to achieve the goal, but Congress was in too much hurry to think about it.
Meanwhile, deaths due to shortage of organs continue--the number for 2002 will probably be around the same as that for 2001. Why are so few organs available? Because of foolish laws. If you die, even if you have signed an organ donor card (I have, have you?), the medical system will let your superstitious and foolish family members kill several people by refusing to allow your organs to be transplanted into them.
It would be easy to solve this problem, or a large part of it. Just pass a law saying that any dead person's organs can be used for transplantation unless that person explicitly took some action to say no. But while we take away the rights of living people on account of 3000 deaths, we shrink at slightly changing the rights of corpses to save 6000 lives a year. Is that rational?
In the longer term, it may be possible to save some of these people (and maybe many others too) using embryonic stem cells. The US government is trying to prevent that, too.
The Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates for governor of Massachusetts have sued to be included in the debates that have been limited to the Republican and Democratic Party candidates. The debate is, I believe, organized by various media companies; the lawsuit alleges that these companies are giving valuable contributions to the included candidates, which is a violation of state law.
In the UK, a sex toy seller who is also a political candidate criticizes the laws that restrict access to porn, and the prudish attitude of condemnation that it receives from much of society.
Meanwhile, in Australia, extramarital sex is commonplace among the officials of their signals intelligence agency, and unnamed consterned idiots are concerned that these officials might be "compromised by a foreign government" because of their affairs. Yet the fact that these affairs are so widely known and that so little effort is made to hide them suggests that there is nothing to fear. Blackmailing these officials would be like blackmailing a rock star about groupies. "G'day, which of my affairs are you threatening to expose this time?"
Fire-retardant chemicals used in various produts have been found in high concentrations in arctic wildlife, and appear to be killing bear cubs and seabirds. They may be endanging the people who live there, too.
The Bush administration disregarded environmentalist warnings and diverted too much water to agriculture, and killed a large fraction of the salmon in the Klamath River.
Anita Roddick dared to write about how dissent in America is being equated with support for Al Qa'ida--and promptly received hate mail accusing her of supporting Al Qa'ida. It's an excellent example of how a gang of people who are determined to erase an idea try to intimidate others who continue to mention forbidden truths.
I got a taste of this treatment last September, when I asked Americans to write to their "elected representatives and unelected president" in support of civil liberties. It was not a large taste, probably because I was reaching a smaller audience. The place where I've received the treatment with full force is from the people who use my work, but are determined to believe that it was developed by Linus Torvalds.
The public radio station in Boston is having a pledge drive, and this led me to reflect on why I stopped donating. I used to donate regularly, because I appreciated the station, even though the usual NPR commentator on Clinton seemed to have an axe to grind and frequently criticized him for insignificant things (not really bad policies such as NAFTA and GATT). I appreciated a radio station with no commercials.
Then I noticed that I was hearing commercials on the station: the announcers and interviewers were reciting the slogans of various companies. They deny that these are commercials, they call them "enhanced underwriting"; but they sound like commercials, feel like commercials, and smell like commercials, so I say they are commercials.
Some of these commercials are for companies that are doing harmful things. ADM used to pay for positive publicity to offset its conviction for price-fixing. Nowadays, the company that makes Flash advertises itself as "changing what the web can be". They certainly are changing it--for the worse, inviting people to make web pages that can only be viewed with their software.
I told the station why I stopped donating. If you too think business should have less influence on public radio, please tell your station that you will start donating when they stop having commercials.
Supposing it is true that Iraq is on the verge of developing weapons of mass destruction, does it mean that the many half-million deaths caused by UN sanctions were completely pointless?
The UK government has released a list evidence for the claim that Saddam Hussein presents an immediate threat, following a big publicity buildup that said it would really prove the case. However, skeptical legislators said contains little new information.
Bush, too, has shown this pattern: repeatedly saying "When you see this, you'll be convinced," but when we see it, it turns out to be the same old insufficient evidence warmed over. Is he hoping to fatigue our skepticism? It all adds up to reasons to distrust both the Bush regime and the Blair regime.
The US is trying to convince its rather unhappy allies to create a NATO rapid reaction army for use against "rogue states". Would those include the US?
A representative of the Colombian Commission of Jurists speaks about the deteriorating human rights situation in Colombia and its connection to US involvement.
Declassified US documents prove the US was following General Pinochet's atrocities in Chile in great detail as they were being carried out, starting just after the coup. The US supported Pinochet strongly for the whole period, and therefore bears part of the responsibility to those who were murdered or tortured by the Chilean authorities.
Representative Ron Paul poses a number of questions that people ought to think about before supporting a war with Iraq.
A couple of the questions embody assumptions I disagree with. I don't think it is wrong in principle to overthrow a tyrannical regime in another country, for instance. What is often bad about US intervention (both military and commercial) is that it often supports tyrants or opposes the democratic power of the people. And if the US supported Iraq's invasion of Iran, and if we now consider that invasion wrong, the proper conclusion now is not that we should excuse Saddam Hussein but rather that we should blame the US also.
However, overall these are important questions to think about.
Some communities in Columbia are experimenting with new systems of direct democracy.
Nigeria canceled one death sentence for an unmarried mother, only to sentence another unmarried mother in the same way.
A witness describes how protestors prevented Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister of Israel, from giving a speech in Canada.
Netanyahu's policies were designed to create obstacles to peace with the Palestinians, and I would support a protest to express opposition to what he stands for. However, actually stopping him from giving a speech is wrong.
An article in the Sep 2002 issue of Church and State (published by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State) reports that the US is working in the UN with Islamic theocracies to support theocratic positions in international law.
This not only means opposing abortion rights and birth control, as you'd expect; it also includes supporting execution of minors. This peculiar juxtaposition faithfully reflects the insane views of some right-wing Christians, who think it is not so bad to kill people after they are born.
The theocratic governments that the Bush regime joins with include Sudan, which has been carrying out a civil war with Christians and Animists in the south in the attempt to impose uncivilized Islamic law on them. This although Sudan is classified by the US government as a "state sponsor of terrorism". When Dubya says he won't condone terrorism, I guess he makes an exception for countries that will further the religious extremists' agenda. But this is inconsistent: since Sudan's terrorism is motivated by similar religious extremism, shouldn't Bush support that too?
The US appropriated $34 million for the UNFPA (UN Fund for Population Activities) in 2002, but then Bush decided unilaterally to refuse to spend it. The UN estimates this will result in 2 million pregnancies, 77000 more deaths of children, and 1 million more abortions. The religious right-wingers don't mind this, though, as long as people are forced to live in the world they want.
The Irish government is asking its voters for a second time to agree to the Nice Treaty. They rejected it in the first referendum.
The Nice Treaty is extremely dangerous because it permits a majority of EU governments to approve an agreement with the World Trade Organization. The agreement would then be binding on all of the EU, bypassing the European Parliament. The EU is already insufficiently democratic, but this would make it more so.
If Ireland again rejects the Nice treaty, it could save all of Europe.
Global warming is forcing Alaskan Inuit to move their town.
Meanwhile, the US government is still offering flood insurance to people who build on coastal land that is being eroded. This insurance needs to be canceled so that people will be encouraged to move to safer locations--as well as to avoid catastrophic financial blows to the government.
According to NPR on Friday evening, flood insurance is even being offered to new construction in areas near New Orleans that would be flooded for certain if a strong hurricane hits the area. Global warming is probably making hurricanes more numerous and stronger, and causing sea level to rise, both of which increase the danger.
From SF Chronicle, Friday 9/20/02, page A18:
"Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, said that in closed sessions this week, administration officials had been asked several times whether they had evidence of an imminent threat from Hussein against US citizens."
"They said 'no'," she said. "Not 'no, but', or 'maybe', but 'no'. I was stunned. Not shocked. Not surprised. Stunned."
If there were a way to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq without great bloodshed (as easily as the Taliban were removed in Afghanistan, say), and if we could be pretty confident that the result would be a much better government for Iraqis, I would support doing it simply for their sake. I don't believe in national sovereignty as an absolute principle, a shield for tyrants; rather I believe that the people deserve to have sovereignty, and in Iraq they do not.
However, a US invasion of Iraq would not be a walkover, and it would create a lot of hostility that might fuel terrorism. Iraqis hate us as much as they hate Hussein. The US would surely impose another regime that would also be nondemocratic. Given that Iraq is not really a threat to the US, I don't think this is justified. As for the danger that Hussein may get weapons of mass destruction, that is a real issue, but we should try to address it first with UN weapons inspections rather than making war the first resort.
Bush, however, is asking Congress for immediate unconditional authorization for war against Iraq. I hope that the Senate will be smart enough to at least insist on time for weapons inspectors to try to go to work, so we can see whether Iraq cooperates.
Dubya loves to read.
An Iraqi exile strongly denounces Saddam Hussein's regime.
There are many countries whose unelected rulers really deserve a "regime change", but I still hesitate to advocate war against them. Besides which, we ought to start by cleaning our own house, and replacing the unelected ruler of the United States.
A US judge ruled that the Department of the Interior is lying to the court when it reports on the status of the Indian trust fund it administers.
The threat to prosecute Gush Shalom for warning Israeli officers that their actions violate the Geneva Convention has been dropped.
There is a glut of coffee on the world market, but the four global coffee-selling companies have kept the prices up for consumers. As a result, coffee farmers get just half of one percent of what people in the developed world pay for coffee. They are going broke, and switching to making cocaine instead.
Oxfam is asking the public to help pressure the coffee companies to pay the farmers a more. They could pay the farmers twice as much, and not notice.
Due to the ban on CFCs, the annual "ozone hole" is expected to start shrinking. CFC levels are already starting to decline.
Now that Bush cannot use weapons inspections as an excuse to attack Iraq, will he create another?
US newspapers on Sep 19 have had articles about war plans, almost as if Iraq had never agreed to admit the weapons inspectors.
Now that Iraq says it will admit UN weapons inspectors without conditions, a commentary in the Independent argues that US allies will only support a war against Iraq if Saddam Hussein has first been offered a real way to avoid one.
The Crow and the Owl
The Sunday Herald, of Scotland, reports on a secret US plan to attack Iraq, drawn up in 2000 by Dick Cheney, now vice president of the US.
Ten million people in Argentina have joined barter networks as a way to escape the country's financial difficulties.
The UN decided to bury a report about the US bombing of a wedding party in Afghanistan, apparently giving in to US pressure.
A peaceful protest before the World Summit on Sustainable Development was attacked for no reason, and then the protest was turned into a stand-off with police.
The article also explains how the US and Europe tried to turn the agenda into one of privatization.
Google is accessible in China again, and there is no indication that it has pledged to enforce pro-Chinese censorship as Yahoo did.
Bush has appealed to the UN to take steps to enforce its resolutions on Iraq. This approach is more deserving of support than what he has been saying before, and has at least a chance of winning the support of some US allies, partly because it gives Iraq the chance to show it is honest--if indeed it is honest--about renouncing weapons of mass destruction.
Greek judges declared a prosecution under the law that bans computer games to be unconstitutional. I am not sure whether they said that any prosecution under that law would be unconstitutional, or just this specific one.
Yasser Arafat's cabinet resigned in order to avoid a vote of no-confidence. A Palestinian election has been set for Jan 20. Will it be possible to hold a campaign and an election under Israeli lockdown?
In the future it will seem a shame to have all this patriotism floating about and no one to destroy.
A clear explanation of the workings of water privatization, as imposed by the World Bank, shows just why it brings in no real investment in improving water systems and cuts off poor people from water supply.
A commentary in the Independent argues that September 11 didn't really change anything, it just gave the US a reminder of how things already were--and the US doesn't want to look.
I don't entirely agree. The terrorist attacks provided a great excuse for labeling dissidents as "terrorists" to suppress political opposition and civil liberties.
A report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies concludes that Iraq's capabilities for weapons of mass destruction are weaker than they were before the Gulf War.
A newspaper story today reported that Democrats in Congress say that the Bush regime has failed to show them any evidence that Iraq presents a pressing danger. "The same as before, with embellishments" is an approximate quote from one.
Yasser Arafat made a statement condemning violence against Israeli citizens, but this is not good enough for Bush, who still demands the Palestinians choose a new leader.
Arafat is reported to run a corrupt regime. If that is true, probably the only thing that keeps him in power is the external menace his people face. Bush, of course, understands this, which is why he is planning to start another war in Iraq. The best way to enable the Palestinians to choose new leaders would be peace.
Former President Carter criticized the Bush administration for trampling civil liberties and canceling important treaties. He also says there is no pressing need to go to war with Iraq.
Greenwash is defined as "Disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image." British Petroleum is the winner of the 2002 Best Green Actor award for corporate greenwashing. There were several other awards as well.
A subtle form of greenwashing is when a company donates to a small, attention-grabbing worthy cause so as to distract attention from the much larger and more important things they are failing to do. For instance, Conoco donated funds for Jane Goodall's work to protect chimpanzees; now, of course, she praises Conoco.
Goodall's chimpanzee orphanage is a good thing, but is it a substitute for restraining global warming? Conoco probably thinks it is--they figure that by donating mere millions (my guess) to Goodall's organization, they can go on leading our planet to disaster.
The sad irony is that climate change could potentially wipe out chimpanzees in the wild, or thousands of other species, by shifting the zones where various species and ecosystems can exist. A small sanctuary for a species won't preserve it if, due to climate change, the species can no longer live in that particular area.
Climate change can destroy an ecosystem even when all the organisms in it have room to move to, if the various species that depend on each other can't all move to the same place, or if new enemies move to that place too and kill off some of them that others depend on.
Right-wing death squads have been assassinating Zapatista supporters in Chiapas.
One in five Palestinian children are suffering from serious malnutrition, according to the US Agency for International Development. One quarter of West Bank Palestinians have had to sell personal possessions to put food on the table. The cause of this is the Israeli lockdown ("curfew") which prevents people from doing any sort of business or farming, or even going to buy food if they have money.
Combined with other Israeli policies, this amounts to a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
In Thailand, a critique of modern capitalism from a Buddhist perspective.
I think we should distinguish between the existence of a market where people freely buy and sell, and the system of the US today where companies largely dominate society and shape people's thinking through their public relations departments. Some people refer to the latter as "Capitalism", but that term has historically been used for the former, and I think we should keep it that way. Let's call the latter system, today's destructive system, corporatocracy.
In Africa, where many people have AIDS, Coca Cola's policy is to deny AIDS coverage to over 98% of their employees.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa was programmed for failure by its attempt to gain the support of global megacorporations. They insisted on proposing only one road to development: privatization, trickle-down and austerity. Since they have already spread poverty in much of the undeveloped world, the summit was programmed for failure from the outset.
Dubya, whose financial interests are in oil companies, stayed away from the summit, as Exxon-Mobil asked him to, so as to reduce world attention to it. He left it to the US delegation to block it from achieving anything. The summit conclusively failed when the US joined with OPEC to block any target for renewable energy use.
South Africa adopted the corporate agenda in 1996, and since has privatized the water supply and the electricity. As a result, ten million people have been disconnected from water or electricity. A hundred thousand people became sick with cholera, and 250 died. Their gravestones should read, "murdered by privatization". Many others have been evicted from their homes.
The South African government protected the shiny image of the summit by arresting large numbers of protestors.
Yahoo recently volunteered to conduct censorship on behalf of the Chinese government. Another point of connection between Yahoo and China is that they both treat workers like dirt.
Yahoo subcontracts janitorial services to Team Services Inc., which pays workers just $6.50 an hour--much less, adjusted for inflation, than the minimum wage was 25 years ago. Recently those who tried to form a union were fired.
This makes two reasons to reject Yahoo and support its competitors. If you have a Yahoo account, how about telling the company what you think.
The DEA raided a Santa Cruz medical marijuana collective, arresting its founders, and provoking the condemnation of local officials and police.
This raid is part of a series that seems intended for maximum arrogance and cruelty.
Earlier this year, a tribal council in Pakistan sentenced Mukhtaran Bibi to be raped as punishment for her family. Responding to public pressure, the Pakistani government intervened and put the rapists and council on trial. Some of them have been convicted and sentenced to death.
The convictions may help change an old pattern of behavior that treats women as little more than property of their families. However, the death sentences repeat the brutality of the crime itself.
A school in the village is to be named after Mukhtaran Bibi, who has received compensation from the Pakistani government.
However, death threats against her and her family may make it impossible for her to remain there and teach in it.
Google and Altavista are blocked in China, but Yahoo is still accessible there. Why? Because Yahoo has agreed to censor its postings to avoid criticism of the Chinese government.
I suspect that this is a pressure campaign--that China is hoping that Google and Altavista will likewise surrender to censorship of criticism of China in order to regain access to the Chinese market.
If this scandalizes you, push back! Please forward this note to anyone who sends you mail from a Yahoo email account.
Canadian senate committee recommends legalizing possession and use of marijuana.
A month ago, the president of Birzeit University denounced the then-recent bombing at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Now Israeli troops are setting up a military checkpoint at the entrance to Birzeit University, which threatens to effectively shut it down.
Starhawk, watching the destruction caused by the bombing and the suffering caused by the curfew in Jenin, writes about the ethical responsibility for the bomb.
The permanent lockdown in Palestinian cities is making children wonder when they will have a chance to go to school.
The Greek government has banned video games. Even having a copy of a video game on your laptop--and nearly every laptop has some-- is a crime.
If you own a laptop computer, do not go to Greece. Pass the word.
Despite his attacks on freedom of the press and democracy, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe receives considerable support in Africa, because he is trying to do redistribute the land that was given to colonists under the colonial system.
Democratic governments are supposed to do such jobs, but nowadays few of them have the guts to oppose the power of the rich. This creates an unfortunate opportunity into which people like Mugabe can step.
A statement by Colin Powell suggests that Bush plans to decide soon whether to attack Iraq. This would mean allowing no public debate on the question.
Just a few weeks ago, the administration was saying it was too soon to have a debate. It looks like any time before the decision is made is too soon.
However, Iraq is pussyfooting about whether it will allow effective weapons inspection, which makes no sense if it does not seek weapons of mass destruction and wants to avoid a war.
The UK government proposed an "entitlements card" claiming that it was something different from a national ID card. Now they reveal that this is actually an excuse to collect fingerprint database of everyone in the country.
The Israeli government wants to prosecute the peace group Gush Shalom for warning some army officers that certain acts they boast of committing are prohibited by international treaties on the conduct of war. The attorney general of Israel concluded, however, that reporting crimes is not illegal in Israel. So the Israeli government began talking about passing a new law to criminalize this. However, a newer report says the attorney general now claims that Gush Shalom can be prosecuted under existing law. I don't have details yet.
The European Union governments are using secret treaty negotiations with the US to abridge some of the human rights guaranteed by the EU Convention on Human Rights--and bypass all democratic controls.
The US has also tried this approach, using trade treaties such as GATT and NAFTA to impose changes in domestic laws. That is one of many reasons the US should withdraw from these treaties.
China, which has a strict policy of censorship of Internet access, has blocked access to the Google search engine.
Perhaps Police in Wilmington want to "arrest the usual suspects", because they are compiling a list in advance.
Is there a nuclear weapon in the Russian Embassy in Washington DC? A Time Magazine editor reported that President Kennedy told him in 1961 that there was.
If the bomb was still there in the 80s, it would follow that the Star Wars program was a complete sham--the people who promoted it, such as trade-missiles-for-hostages Reagan, surely knew that it was bypassed.
Is the bomb still there today? Citizens of Washington DC would probably like to know, but they lack Congressional representatives to press for information. However, citizens of nearby towns in Virginia and Maryland also have reason to concern. They could start asking their Congressional representatives to press for information about this bomb.
Since Time did not put this story on line, I cannot verify it myself. If anyone can find a physical copy of the 12 Nov 2001 issue of Time Magazine, perhaps in a library, to verify that the text appeared there as stated, I would appreciate it.
The US government is trying an experiment in selective surveillance and restriction of immigrants and visitors from certain countries. The plan poses two threats at once: the surveillance and restrictions may be extended to other visitors and then even to citizens, or government discrimination against certain ethnic backgrounds could be extended to other areas of life.
When Ashcroft refused to tell the ACLU about people who have been secretly detained, the ACLU had a clever idea: ask foreign governments what they know about the matter.
It turns out that our civil servants government regularly tell foreign governments the information that is supposedly too sensitive to be revealed to the American public that they supposedly serve.
A recent paper in Science reports that a certain variant gene predisposes human males to become violent as adults if they are treated violently as children. The majority, who don't have this variant gene, are affected much less by violence they experience as children.
This suggests the possibility of a government program to identify the children who have this gene, and then make special efforts aid their parents in raising them in a calm and gentle environment. (Of course, the program could help other parents do the same thing.)
Why does this seem like such a strange idea? Because it presupposes a government willing to solve problems using a program that benefits disadvantaged individuals. Nowadays this is out of fashion--many people nowadays believe that governments should limit their dealings with individuals to punishment, and that explicit aid should be available only to corporations.
An Indian judge has refused to reduce the homicide charges against the former head of Union Carbide. That companies careless handling of poisonous chemicals caused a disaster in Bhopal that has killed over four times as many people as the September 11 attacks.
Dubya's goons attacked a peaceful protest against his appearance in Portland Oregon in August. Even a TV cameraman was attacked by police.
Swedish courts continue to impose unusually long sentences on Gothenburg protestors, many of whom were framed in the first place.
A Palestinian journalists' syndicate has prohibited its members from photographing armed children at rallies.
Police in South Africa attacked a peaceful march for....freedom of expression. Marchers were injured. Even a journalist filming the events was arrested.
The record companies are grasping at straws to blame Internet music sharing for the small downturn in record sales--as an excuse for the draconian laws to restrict what you can do with your computer.
Even if Internet music sharing did reduce record sales, that wouldn't be a bad thing. Most of the time, the amount of money that the musicians get when you buy a commercially produced record is zero. This is because standard record contracts are extremely exploitative.
A US appeals court ruled against secret deportation hearings, saying that secrecy violates the principles of democracy. Hear, hear!
I've heard claims that Rabih Haddad overstayed his visa. If that is true, it should be easy to present that evidence in a public hearing, and deportation should be straightforward. No secret intelligence sources would be compromised by stating the date on which his visa expired.
Dubya's " wag the puppy" strategy using the possibility of war with Iraq to distract the American public from other issues.
The EU has dropped its plans to push for a world increase in use of renewable energy sources. Even though its definition of "renewable" included problematical sources, and even though the increase proposed was tiny, someone must have found it unacceptable.
The Annals of Mathematics, one of the most prestigious journals in the field, is now cooperating with free online access for all. The journal operates as an "overlay" on the arXiv, a site that provides free access to nearly all scientific papers in Math, Physics and some other fields. All scientific journals ought to work this way.
The head of Israel's army compared the Palestinian threat to a cancer, in a speech that seems to dismiss peace as a possibility.
Bush now has fast track authority, and one of his requirements for every country in the Americas is to sign the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which is a somewhat weaker version of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
The South African government has arrested over a hundred activists to stop them from planning and leading protests on the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is happening there this week.
Their protests would embarrass the South African government because its policies of privatization are anti-development. These policies have cut off water supplies, electricity, and homes from millions of poor people. The water cutoffs caused outbreaks of cholera that affected thousands, some of whom died.
Now the government is defending its policies with attacks on human rights that increasingly resemble those of the apartheid regime.
Shirabe Yamada, an international observer in Bethlehem, reports on what life is like there now that Israeli forces have withdrawn from the city.
Tunisia regularly tortures dissidents, who may be arrested for crimes such as unauthorized use of an Internet connection, spreading false news, and handing out unauthorized leaflets.
US voters, please call your members of Congress to support Rep. Chris Smith's letter opposing military aid to Indonesia.
I was not surprised to see Bush's claim that that "senior" Al Qa'ida agents are hiding in Iraq. Since he wants to invade Iraq, he had to make that accusation sooner or later. I wouldn't put it past Saddam Hussein to cooperate with Al Qa'ida, but we can't take Dubya's word for it that this is actually occurring.
Dubya's refusal to name names is grounds for even greater suspicion. The vagueness of the accusation seems designed to provide weasel-room; no matter how many senior Al Qa'ida leaders turn up elsewhere, Bush can always claim that some other leaders are or were in Iraq. It would be almost impossible to get evidence to show Bush's statement is wrong, which makes it the ideal accusation to fabricate.
I would expect that Saddam Hussein is carefully avoiding any activities with Al Qa'ida these days, if only so that the US can't have anything real to pin on him.
Muslim extremists in the Philippines captured and killed two Christian extremists who were trying to proselytize. It would be funny to see these extremists going at each other, if not for the tragic outcome.
I believe that death is a tragic outcome because I am an Atheist. As far as we can tell from the evidence rationally available to us, death completely ends a person's existence, and therein lies the tragedy. But why would a truly believing Christian or Muslim regard anyone's death as unfortunate? It merely sends the person to heaven, or hell, whichever one is appropriate, and why is that bad? "Kill them all, God will know his own" is a perfectly logical conclusion from the premise of an afterlife. If you don't like the conclusion, you had better reexamine the premise.
The Free Trade Area of the America treaty is described as a "free trade" treaty. What it really does is give businesses power to fine governments for laws businesses don't like.
The Workers' Party in Brazil has a clear policy of support for free software. When I heard that their candidate for president, Lula, seems likely to win the coming elections, I began to hope that Brazil could resist the poverty-spreading privatization and austerity policies that the US pushes on other countries, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
I was therefore very disappointed to read an article arguing that Lula is not likely to change much.
Given this background, another article which paints Lula as a Communist and supporter of terrorism is so absurd that I have to doubt its sincerity. Was that article designed to manipulate US public opinion to prepare for a US destabilization campaign or coup attempt, should Lula make real strides in resisting US pressure or cancel Brazil's debt?
NASA claims to be investigating the idea of using electrical sensors to check brain waves of passengers--to detect for terrorists.
I don't think technology is anywhere near the point where it could make such distinctions, but the idea is still scary, because it shows that government agencies are ready to perform thought control--if only they could.
Pakistan's Supreme Court has reversed one death sentence for blasphemy, but in the meanwhile another man has received a similar sentence. The case of Dr. Younus Shaikh remains to be decided.
Rationalists International asks people to send email to Pakistan's president Musharraf calling for and end to blasphemy prosecution. I sent a letter.
The Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom noted that many actions carried out by Israeli armed forces against Palestinian civilians violate international treaties. The crimes are no secret--the officers who committed or commanded them boasted about them publicly.
Gush Shalom began sending letters to these officers, pointing out what these treaties say, and the soldier's duty to refuse and report illegal orders. They also told the officers that they would collect reports of crimes to present to an Israeli court or the International Criminal Court.
The Israeli government is denouncing them enemies of the state and looking for ways to prosecute them. Is it a crime in Israel to keep records of public confessions of criminal acts and forward them to courts? We will see. Here is a newspaper article about this.
Unfortunately I have not yet found a URL for the statements by Gush Shalom about this.
Israeli forces are withdrawing from Gaza and Bethlehem as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. It is a small step towards peace.
The EU decided in 2002 that countries could force ISPs and telephone companies to retain traffic data for some long period of time, in case the police want to check up on you later. This includes information such as who you phoned, who phoned you, who you sent mail to, who sent mail to you, what web pages you browsed, and more.
The EU authorities who adopted this change said, at the time, that European countries would not be required to impose such data retention laws. Now it is known they were lying--that the governments of Europe were already designing a plan to do precisely that.
Yahoo's janitorial services fired an employee for trying to start a union.
A group of senators including California Senator Feinstein are cynically using wildfires as an excuse to exempt logging from environmental laws whenever "fire protection" is cited as an excuse. Feinstein was formerly mayor of San Francisco; I can imagine what the people of her city will think of this.
Senator Feinstein is also co-sponsor of the CBDTPA (Consume But Don't Try Programming Act), a bill to require special copy-prevention equipment in every computer, CD-player, etc. to restrict your freedom. She appears to be a toady to business interests across the board.
Everywhere that Senator Feinstein speaks, protestors should appear.
July: Occidental Petroleum is building a pipeline in Ecuador which goes through Amazon jungle habitats of endangered species; although they use the principle of private property rights as a shield for their actions, they are building on others' property without permission. Peaceful protestors at the Quito offices of Occidental Petroleum were violently arrested, so protestors shut down the offices--all this to get the company to keep a previously agreed meeting.
One of the arrested protestors was a US citizen. The Ecuadorian government decided to deport her instead of holding a trial.
Toxic mold growing in buildings causes respiratory problems for the people who live and work in them.
I wonder if there are fungicides, nontoxic to humans, that could be put into building materials to prevent toxic mold from growing. If you know, please email me: rms at stallman.org.
Flooding in many areas of central Europe is reaching unprecedented levels, inundating historic city centers. Over 100 people have been killed. Thousands are homeless.
It is hard to tie any specific weather event to long term climate change, but we have to suspect that the greenhouse effect is partly responsible for creating conditions that allowed this to happen.
An article in Science, 19 July 2002 (page 350), reported that the melt rate of Alaskan glaciers is higher than was believed, so that estimates of future sea-level rise must be increased. It also mentioned that over 100 million people live on land within one meter of mean sea level. In a few decades, many of them will be looking for somewhere else to live. Would you prefer to provide land for them in your neighborhood then, or cut back on greenhouse gas emissions now?
A German newspaper article on Sep 14, 2001, reported that the US had had specific warnings of the danger of hijacking planes to use them as weapons--contrary to the claims made by Bush when he admitted that the US government had received warnings of possible terrorist attacks.
Victims of the Sep 11 attacks have sued a number of defendants including Saudi Arabian officials claiming they helped to finance the attacks.
Iraq offers to admit weapons inspectors provided that neutral observers come with them to ensure the honesty of the inspectors. It appears (though is not yet certain) that Iraq is not asking to limit the activities of the inspectors (which would be unacceptable), only to ensure they do their job in an unbiased way.
There is no evidence tying Iraq to recent terrorism, outside the imagination of a few dog-wagging US officials, but the danger of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was real enough in the past. If new weapons inspections can show it is no longer real, that would be much better than a war.
The UK suspended trials of genetically-modified rapeseed after discovering that an unauthorized and potentially indirectly dangerous variety had been mixed with the variety that was supposed to be tested.
One of the dangers of genetic engineering today is the rapacity and arrogance of the large companies that are doing it. You can set standards for safety of genetic engineering trials, just as you can set standards for accounting, but you can't expect companies to follow these standards.
Genetic engineering can only be safe when the power of business has been greatly reduced--when business defers to the government rather than vice versa.
A French newspaper article in October 31 reports that a CIA agent visited Osama bin Laden in July, while he was in a hospital in Dubai. He was also visited by his relatives who are cozy with President Bush.
The page also has a detailed list of documented events that point towards various sorts of US government failure and inattention in dealing with the possibility of terrorist attacks. Each item comes with a reference to newspaper articles from which the information was obtained.
Activists in Karnataka convinced two farmers to destroy their crop of genetically engineered Monsanto cotton.
In principle, genetic engineering carried out in the future on the basis of a full understanding of biology could be a tremendous boon to humanity. However, genetic engineering today is a shot in the dark--scientists don't fully understand the possible effects. At this stage, we should be careful to make sure that genetically engineered organisms remain confined to labs and factories, and cannot interbreed with wild or agricultural organisms.
I have never seen the Donahue TV show --I watch TV only rarely--but I was pleased to learn that it has given national visibility to Jean Charles Brisard, Michael Moore, and Kristen Breitweiser.
Michael Moore criticizes Dubya's economic policies that favor the rich and impoverish most Americans. Brisard and Breitweiser are demanding information from Dubya about the reasons why he protected Al Qa'ida from investigation before September 11.
The Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil has obtained idle farmland for over 250,000 landless rural workers to farm. It has had to overcome the murder of 1500 landless workers since 1988, as well as the framing and imprisonment of one of its leaders.
The movement also operates schools, provides medical care and runs co-op businesses. Some of these organizations use computers; unable to afford legal copies of Windows, some of their activists used unauthorized copies. Their political enemies fingered them for this and had them imprisoned. To protect themselves from such attacks, some activists are now learning to use the
OCAP, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, organized a squat coincident with the Pope's visit to Ontario as a way of calling attention to poverty and homelessness there. The action has been very effective in building public demand for action to provide housing.
Israel is putting Palestinian legislator Marwan Barghouti on trial. Barghouti used to have a reputation as an advocate of peace, but he is accused of being a mastermind for attacks.
US soldiers are stirring up enmity in Afghanistan.
Perhaps we should blame the personnel. It is awfully easy for an army that arrives as liberators to become oppressors, especially when they mostly don't speak the local language and the political situation is complex. However, it might be a good idea for the US army to get out of Afghanistan while the US is still mostly considered a friend.
A few publishers are trying to impose restrictions on the use of books, through shrink-wrap licenses.
There is no reason why a society should allow publishers to impose such restrictions on readers. Governments have long placed limits on the power to use nonnegotiated contracts to impose conditions on the public. Consumer protection law exists for precisely this purpose. It would make perfect sense to have a law saying that a shrink-wrap license on a book is simply legally void.
The article uses the misleading propaganda term intellectual property which leads to confused thinking. Please don't imitate that practice.
Atlantic tuna are threatened with extinction, and so are some fish they eat, because of phony fish farms that catch wild tuna and fatten them up for use as sushi.
The Bush administration is considering a plan to send assassination squads to kill Al Qa`ida operatives and leaders--if it can find them. Many countries will not like having US assassination squads operating on their territory.
Since I am not a pacifist and believe that killing in self defense is legitimate, I would not criticize the US government for killing someone who is trying to kill Americans, if that is the only way to stop him. However, the great power of governments brings with it a responsibility to limit their use of this power.
I fear that the Bush administration, having shown no scruples about imprisoning people without trial, will choose to kill people when they could instead have been arrested and put on trial. It might even choose to kill these people to avoid the trouble of imprisoning them, or to prevent them from testifying.
The US army has killed Afghan civilians by mistake on several occasions. Assassination squads also will run the risk of killing the wrong man by mistake--or killing bystanders.
Saving the world, and ending poverty: which gets priority? Is it possible to do both?
Bush is trying to exclude ocean areas from environmental laws.
Iraq has agreed to accept UN weapons inspectors in accord with the UN resolutions which say they must have unfettered access to search for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
In Nablus, Israeli soldiers shoot even at the kites that Palestinians fly.
A cloud of human-caused pollution hangs over much of Asia, reducing rainfail as well as killing thousands of people outright.
In signing corporate reform legislation on July 30, President Bush said that the new law "says to every American: there will not be a different ethical standard for corporate America than the standard that applies to everyone else."
Since the signing, corporatists are working overtime to prove him wrong.
"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
A disturbing web page presents evidence that fluoride, used to prevent tooth decay, causes gum disease, which causes several other serious medical problems.
I would be interested in seeing how dentists address this issue.
How to bring about a regime change in the world's most dangerous rogue state.
The Northwoods Document is a 1962 US government plan to attack Cuba by staging fake Cuban attacks to serve as an excuse. It was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request. The plan was never carried out, but the fact that it could be seriously considered is a telling accusation.
The page also draws conclusions about the Bush administration's motives for the war in Afghanistan. I don't endorse those conclusions; I'm not convinced.
A warlord in Afghanistan lies to the UN about how prisoners are treated-- passing off police quarters as the prison.
I heard once that Stalin used the same tactic at the Vorkuta prison camp, showing the guards' quarters to visitors and claiming it was the prison.
The International Federation of Iranian Refugees reports on the cruel totalitarianism of the Iranian regime, while pressuring Western governments to admit refugees fleeing the regime.
People are considering legal action in Britain after 50 officers in full riot gear broke up a free dance party, seriously injuring at least nine people.
A group of doctors are encouraging doctors and medical students to reject hand-outs from drug companies. These are used to convince doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs, while also adding to the price of drugs.
The Vatican is being sued for over a billion dollars, in various lawsuits about alleged dishonest financial transactions, return of property looted in Yugoslavia during World War II, and sexual abuse.
A sort of truce has been agreed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
US forces, with Pakistani support, are kidnapping people in Pakistan and taking them to Afghanistan where they are held incommunicado. No one is safe anywhere while Dubya is here.
Just as ministers of the Palestinian Authority were meeting, reporters saw a prisoner executed by firing squad.
Dubya is trying to proceed with the Operation TIPS surveillance program despite the fact that the Homeland Security Bill prohibits it.
But rather than implement it with federal officials, calls are being routed to a television show.
Should reporters be arrested for asking annoying questions? That's not supposed to happen in a free country like the USA, but it did, for a while, on 12 July 2002.
Meanwhile, proposals are being made for new laws to make it a crime to leak classified information to the press.
"Secret" information means something that the government does not want you to know. Why not? There are various possibilities. Sometimes there is a legitimate reason, keeping the secret from enemies. Sometimes the enemies already know the secret, and the only ones being kept in the dark are you and me. Sometimes, as with Bush's relationship with Enron, the "enemy" is you and me.
Leaks are our last line of defense against government deception and abuse of the public trust. The famous Pentagon Papers were classified information but Daniel Ellsberg leaked them to the New York Times anyway. Their publication showed the American public that the government had been lying to them about the War in Vietnam.
Unless we believe that today's government officials would never, ever lie to us, we must not make it harder to tell us what they are really doing.
Do the corporate accounting scandals result from too little shareholder control, or from too much shareholder control?
Cambridge University is planning to claim copyright on all the software written by its professors, and claim the patents on all the ideas they have.
Some professors are up in arms because they want to be the ones to own monopolies on the software or ideas. As far as I am concerned, it makes no difference whether the entity that applies restrictions to you or me is a professor's company or a university--what matters is our freedom. Rather then get sidetracked by a dispute about who will be the master, we should stand firm for our freedom.
Cambridge should follow a few other universities and decide that software written there will be free software.
A group of unarmed women in Nigeria occupied Chevron-Texaco oil facilities. The company had been pumping the oil out of their land, and giving them nothing but violent and brutal treatment.
Meanwhile, Indians in Peru are blocking loggers from cutting down their forest.
A few days ago I wrote that the US must stop dealing with Afghans suspected of aiding the Taliban from fast-moving fighter planes, and be prepared to send ground troops to check out the situation. An article by Robert Fisk shows that just sending ground troops is not in itself sufficient: they have to be prepared to see what's going on, rather than coming in shooting, and they have to be willing to treat Afghan civilians with respect. Otherwise they will kill and brutalize civilians.
At this point, many Afghans probably still feel grateful to the US for kicking out the Taliban. Let's make sure they are still grateful when US forces leave.
Some parts of the US are adopting computerized voting machines which do not make any paper recording of ballots. With these machines, if Bush steals the election of 2004, or if someone else steals the election of 2012, it may be impossible to determine who voters really voted for. "Any programmer can write code that displays one thing on a screen, records something else, and prints yet another result. There is no known way to ensure that this is not happening inside of a voting system." It is even harder to ensure this when the inside of the machine is a trade secret and the election commission has promised not to examine it.
Such machines are a false economy--they should be prohibited.
At a time when most of the world is making a sustained assault on the concept of human rights, Turkey has passed a law extending them. It has abolished the death penalty, and legalized education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language, which has long been prohibited.
A US judge ruled that the government must publish the names of the hundreds of people detained (often without criminal charges) as supposed terrorists since last fall.
Last March, the FBI accused the Saudi-backed Safa trust of supporting terrorism. The Safa trust gives money to the Islamic Institute, which was created to lobby the Republican Party.
There are reports of a high incidence of severe birth defects in Iraq, which are likely to be due to the depleted uranium antitank munitions used by US forces during the Gulf War.
The site also contains photos of deformed babies whose deformities may be due to depleted uranium. I have not seen them, since my usual means of obtaining web pages works only for text files; however, a few cases would not be conclusive proof anyway--statistics are more persuasive. The parts of the page that I find most cogent are the quotations from US government documents, quotations that indicate an awareness before the Gulf War that depleted uranium might harm the health of both civilians and soldiers (including US soldiers).
Also disturbing is the accusation that the sanctions committee is blocking Iraq from importing equipment for decontamination, and from importing cancer treatments.
The Bush administration has found an excuse by which to offer "counter-terrorism training" to the Indonesian military. There is a danger that this will be the same sort of training that the US has done at the School of the Americas: training in assassination, torture, and how to crush democracy.
Such activities are no stranger to the Indonesian military. Just a few years ago, it set up militias to terrorize the people of East Timor. It still refuses to investigate those responsible.
In July, a US court found two former generals from El Salvador responsible for massacres and torture committed under their command. They have been ordered pay over $50 million to three victims who sued them. (If they have this much money, finding it may be difficult, but the verdict will put a big cramp in their lifestyles anyway.) Both generals are graduates of the School of the Americas.
In July, 15 participants in a nonviolent protest against the School of the Americas (whose offical name is now the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation") were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. This amazingly long sentence for mere trespassing suggests that they are being punished for their ideas, rather than for their actions.
What the USA PATRIOT Act means for libraries and how they are responding to it.
Israel did not allow the United Nations team to investigate what happened when the Israeli army invaded Jenin in April, but the UN has issued a report based on what information it could get. The report concludes that there was no massacre of hundreds of people. In aiming to present a picture of equal wrong on both sides, it omits certain documented murders.
Global warming is causing changes in biological patterns in Britain. So far, they are not harmful, but even bigger changes will come.
Around the world, man's activity has wiped out half of the forest and degraded many other habitats. A new atlas takes global stock of the situation.
A year ago, Italian police in Genoa killed one protestor outright, then attacked a school full of sleeping protestors, seriously injuring dozens of them. Now a policeman admits that he planted a supposed molotov cocktail which was used by Berlusconi as an excuse for the attack.
The organization Food Not Bombs does something very subversive: it gives food to whoever wants to eat. Often this means homeless people, but poor people with housing also come.
Feeding the hungry is a subversive act because retail businesses consider homeless people unsightly and try to chase them away. (To where, one must ask--to jail? To the grave?) Under the influence of business, city governments often go out of their way to harrass homeless people. (The city of San Francisco actually detailed police to seize and destroy the possessions of homeless people--I read about this in the local homeless people's newspaper.) Thus, Food Not Bombs often faces opposition.
This July, police in Chattanooga, Tennessee, stopped Food Not Bombs from handing out food in the park, saying that these "few" should not "ruin the investments" of downtown businesses. Community pressure made the city back down and issue a permit for food distribution.
On May 6, Reclaim the Streets (a "terrorist threat" according to former FBI director Freeh) held one of its impromptu street parties in Dublin, followed by a march. Irish police (the Gardai) attacked, arrested, and savaged people arbitrarily--not just participants in the party, but even people who were just passing by. Over 12 victims needed hospital treatment.
Especially disgusting was the reported police tactic of bullying people by pushing people or stealing their drinks, and arrestin anyone who objected. The police behavior was so disgusting to the Irish that the issue of police brutality became the leading news item.
General Galtieri, who led the Argentine military government that tortured and killed many opposition figures, has been arrested for some of these murders, along with 41 other senior former leaders.
A new accoustic cannon may give police additional ability to crush annoying political protests.
The acoustic cannon is probably much less dangerous than bullets, even rubber bullets (which can maim or kill when they hit certain parts of the body). It is certainly better for police to use the acoustic cannon on protestors than to use a more dangerous weapon. The danger is that this will enable them to get away with crushing protests, in situations where doing so with bullets would stimulate public outrage.
Noise can permanently damage hearing. The article does not say whether any tests have been done to see whether the acoustic cannon causes hearing loss. Would it be considered ethical to do the experiment as medical research? I tend to think not--but then, is it ethical to do the experiment by using the cannon on protestors?
An article in The Nation explains how nuclear power lobbyists go to work to influence congressional staffers.
The Israeli government has cut off access to Bir Zeit University, effectively closing it. Israeli academics have a petition to allow the university to reopen.
CNN was removed from cable television in Israel, on the grounds that it is pro-Palestinian. (In my experience it is mainly biased in favor of business.)
The oil company Esso sued Greenpeace in France, and the court ordered them to stop using a symbol which looks like E$$O to describe the company.
Greg Palast reports on the supporters and the opponents of Venezuelan President Chavez, and the reasons for their positions.
President Bush likes to talk about reducing taxes, but he made a Texas city raise taxes in order to subsidize the Texas Rangers ball park which Bush partly owned. Read about how Dubya swindled the taxpayers of Texas and violated all the principles he claims to stand for.
LA policeman Jeremy Morse was videotaped beating up a black youth in handcuffs and helpless.
Officer Morse's lawyer said in court that Morse used a "reasonable" amount of force. That could be just courtroom tactics, but it would not surprise me if that is what Morse actually believes. As a policeman, he may have developed a standard of conduct according to which it is reasonable for him to brutally attack people on the street.
The British goverment has proposed a wide range of measures to reduce the rights of citizens accused of crimes, and even those who are not accused.
The part that scares me most is the idea that police could "impose curfews and other bail conditions on suspects for whom they had insufficient evidence to charge."
A similar tactic is being used frequently in Canada: protestors are accused of a crime, perhaps a fabricated charge that is not intended to stick, and released on bail on condition of not participating in democratic activity such as protests. Of course, they continue to protest anyway, so they are tried for violating the conditions. It is a recipe making effective dissent into a crime. The words I quoted from the Independent's article suggest that the British version of this abuse may not even require fabricating an initial accusation.
The idea of legal rights in the US was dealt a serious blow when Judge Kollar-Kotelly ruled that prisoners being held in Guantanamo have no right to a trial. They have, according to her ruling, no rights whatsoever.
Another court case which was also rejected by the lower court is now being appealed.
One father what it feels like when his child is turned into a sales pitch.
The US is trying to weaken a planned amendment to strengthen the treaty that prohibits torture of prisoners.
The UK is reviewing thousands of convictions for child abuse because there was insufficient evidence.
Experience in the US shows it is easy for repeated interrogation that encourages accusations to convince children that adults had sex with them (or that the things adults did constituted sex, since the boundary is sometimes unclear), when that did not really take place.
On July 11, Judicial Watch sued Vice President Cheney accusing him of swindling investors in his oil company, Halliburton. Cheney made a video 6 years ago praising Arthur Anderson accounting for its "good advice".
On July 26, White House security staff prevented a process server from delivering the summons to Cheney, threatening to arrest him if he dropped the papers there.
In July, the Italian government shut down several private web sites for "blasphemy" against Catholicism.
The US is using humanitarian aid to sneak genetically engineered corn seeds into poor countries in Africa. If the corn is planted there, it would cross-polinate the corn being grown by farmers, and then they could be sued for patent infringement just for growing corn.
The US could remove the problem by milling the corn before it is shipped, which costs $25 per ton, but the US refuses to pay this small cost.
A Polish journalist was attacked by police in New York while photographing a Critical Mass group bicycle ride/protest. The police who attacked him then accused him of assaulting an officer (hitting the policeman's fist with his body?). New York is where the word "testilying" comes from.
On July 29, thousands of people in Nablus, Palestine, defied the Israeli curfew nonviolently by walking on the streets of the town. The Israeli troops did not attack them.
While the US Senate considers a law that establishes a 20-year prison sentence if someone smokes pot on your property, the UK government has stopped arresting anyone for possessing (or smoking) marijuana.
The French police are on a rampage in Strasbourg: they have arbitrarily prohibited peaceful protests, attacked peaceful protestors, attacked journalists, and destroyed films and tapes giving evidence of their violent attacks. Fortunately they were unable to destroy all of the evidence.
The protests are in opposition to border controls and restrictions on immigration. I'm not sure of the precise position they advocate, and I probably don't fully support it--but that is a secondary issue compared with the violence of the police.
A study at Emory University shows that a part of the human brain involved in feelings of reward (i.e. pleasure) are activated when people cooperate with others, but not when they refuse to cooperate. This suggests (though it does not yet prove) that humans have evolved brain circuits that favor cooperation in general. A brain scan experiment offers further evidence that the human brain is structured so as to encourage cooperation.
If that is so, it would give a biological answer to the age-old question of whether human nature is good or bad: namely, that at least part of it is good.
Last week Israeli forces dropped a bomb on a populous area of Gaza, killing a Hamas officer who had commanded attacks on Israel, and quite a few helpless civilians at the same time. Israel said that the civilian deaths were an "accident"--a worthless excuse, since they should have known such an attack would kill civilians--but there was a worse casualty: prospects of peace.
Hamas was just about to declare a cease-fire when this attack came and enraged its supporters. Sharon, who does not want peace, probably launched the attack to ruin the chance for peace. It's not the first time that a comparative lull in fighting was shattered by an Israeli attack. Until the Israeli government wants peace, and tries to bring about peace, Israel must share in the blame for continued fighting.
Gush Shalom reports that Israel is using a new form of collective punishment against terrorist suspects: arrest the men in their families, blow up their homes without letting them take anything out, and then forcibly move them to Gaza not letting them return home.
One of these house bombardments damaged four neighboring buildings so that 62 people are now homeless.
There are charges that the FBI had connections to pre-Sep-11 insider trading.
The house already voted in favor of the investigation of 9-11, which makes that urgent note obsolete. Please take it down and replace it with this pol note:
The US House of Representatives has voted to launch an independent investigation of US government failures to prevent the September 11 attacks. The US Senate is likely to approve it also. Many now accuse Bush of being directly to blame for failure to prevent the attacks; this investigation may determine the truth of these accusations.
Congressman Tim Roemer has called for legislation that would establish an "Independent Commission to Investigate the U.S. Govt. Failures that Allowed 9-11 to Occur." US citizens, please phone his office to express your support: 202-225-3915. It is also useful to contact your own legislators and ask them to support the bill.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to overturn the Digital Millenium Copyright Act as unconstitutional. This is the law that subordinates your freedom to media companies by effectively allowing them to write their own copyright laws.
People in India and the US are on hunger strike demanding that the man in charge of Union Carbide be brought to justice India for the negligence that killed thousands there.
There are reports that police have persistently and brutally attacked protestors in Strasbourg. See http://j12.org/news/ for more information.
Some prominent hackers are planning to offer free software to promote anonymous Web surfing in countries where the Internet is censored, particularly in China and Middle Eastern nations.
In the Bolivian presidential election, the candidate who endorses the growing of coca and opposes US interference in his country came in second.
Listen To the Nonviolent Poor -- By Arundhati Roy
UnansweredQuestions.org proposes citizens commissions to investigate the answers to several basic questions about September 11 that the US government shows no interest in investigating.
Privacy International has a new information resource about the UK government's proposed national identity ("entitlement") card.
Read Mark Twain's views about saluting the flag.
As of July 6, the Israeli Army was holding Jenin hospital under siege.
Italian police are now being investigated officially for faking evidence against Genoa protestors in July 2001.
It feels very good to see that an effort is being made to punish these lawless bullies, but it is too soon to rejoice. Swedish police also fabricated evidence against protestors, and some were investigated for doing so, but most of those investigations were dropped with no prosecution.
The UK government is proposing to introduce national identity cards. The proposal is controversial, and I've seen reports that many members of parliament are opposed to it. Supposedly the information on the cards will remain "confidential", but that surely won't apply to the police.
These id cards will not be very effective for preventing fraud or terrorism. They will, however, increase the possibilities for totalitarian government surveillance.
The US government is developing plans to use psychoactive "calming" drugs to subdue protestors and prisoners. Are the people mad enough to protest your policies? No problem, just drug them so they won't care any more.
The US continues to hold Bosnian peacekeeping hostage for its demands to exempt the US from the International Criminal Court. Only China, that great bastion of freedom, supports the US demands.
Bolivians are angry at US meddling in their country as part of the "war on drugs". A presidential candidate who supports growing coca, and opposes US intervention, gained popularity after US threats and insults.
Bush is now directly connected with an act of apparent financial misconduct. Vice President Cheney is directly connected with a different act of apparent financial misconduct. It seems to be a consistent pattern.
The Republicans in Congress used the Independent Prosecutor law to attack Clinton so persistently that people concluded the law should not be renewed. I warned at the time that this would allow the Republicans to escape prosecution for much larger and more severe forms of corruption.
A week ago I visited Athens, and was told that the ancient Athenian democracy allowed citizens to sue officials for all sorts of misconduct--even for failing to keep their campaign promises. Perhaps we should adopt this system today.
Israel is trying to cut off international food and medical aid to the Palestinians, even as it keeps them from traveling to work or school and thus makes it impossible for them to live on anything except aid. After long experience using what is implicitly collective punishment, Israel is also moving towards explicitly adopting use of collective punishment.
If corporations cheat their stockholders despite multiple layers of laws and organizations designed to supervise their relations with stockholders, how much must they be cheating their employees, their customers, and bystanders?
Clarence Darrow, the famous defense lawyer, gave a speech to prisoners in the Cook County Jail about the causes and significance of crime. Things have changed partly today--some people are in jail now for smoking pot rather than because they were poor--but they are partly the same.
The Israeli army is or was holding two Americans and one Briton captive in inhumane conditions, and denied access to their consulates.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian peace negotiator has been arrested on trying to return to Palestine through Israel (which is the only way to do it). 17 members of Fellowship of Reconciliation, coming from the US, were refused entry into Israel where they were supposed to meet with a member of the Israeli legislature. Sharon must feel these people carry an unacceptable risk of peace.
Starhawk, who grew up as a Zionist and is now staying with Palestinians in Jenin to protect them from the Israeli army, writes about racism against Arabs, racism against Jews, atrocities committed against and by Jews, and how this relates to religion and politics.
A tribal council in Pakistan ordered the rape of a woman as a punishment to her family. Police were reluctant to intervene until public pressure built up.
The official legal system in Pakistan is horrible--there is a pattern of sentencing pregnant rape victims to death for adultery, and meanwhile, Dr. Shaikh has been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam. These unofficial tribal law systems seem to be even worse, based on total incomprehension of the idea of human rights. President Bush, who also has no idea of the meaning of human rights, would feel quite at home.
Global warming is causing grave problems in the US, from melting tundra and spreading mosquitos in Alaska to large fires in the West. Unless we reduce the use of fossil fuels, the damage will accelerate. For more info about possible solutions, see EnvironmentalSustainability.info.
In some places, the problems are even worse--the small nation of Tuvalu is being completely evacuated because rising sea levels have made its islands uninhabitable. New Zealand invited the whole population of Tuvalu to move in, which was relatively painless for them since that population is small. When environmental refugees number in the millions, will wealthier countries (the ones that burned the fuel and caused the problem) accept the refugees whose lands they destroyed, or will they close their borders and tell the refugees to stay put and die?
Dubya opposes any government action to slow down global warning. We know the reason why: he and his family are closely connected with oil companies (not only Enron). But one thing puzzles me: why should they be in such a hurry to sell all the oil so fast? Don't they realize that the oil will probably be more valuable in the future than it is now? Wouldn't even they be better off selling the oil when it becomes rare, to a world that remains prosperous enough to buy it?
It could be that this is a symptom of the same short-sighted attitude that led the executives of Enron and Worldcom to run them into the ground instead of trying to operate as a going concern.
The Bush administration is trying to ignore the problem of global warming even while reporting that it will cause severe damage even in the US:
Cutting down global warming would require an investment of billions of dollars, but the damage it will prevent is even more costly.
The International Criminal Court was established recently to prosecute war crimes when national governments will not try. The US demands absolute special immunity from this Court, and when the UN would not granted it, the US vetoed the UN resolution to continue the peacekeeping and police training forces in Bosnia. Close US allies, including even the UK, condemned this move.
In effect, the Bush administration is holding Bosnia hostage for its demands for special treatment. Can you say "terrorist state"? I hope the UN refuses to make concessions, because giving in to bullying never makes the situation better in the long run. Sad as it will be to end UN peacekeeping aid to Bosnia, it is clearly less important than the long-term progress that the ICC represents.
The Argentine government, trying once again to impose painful austerity measures to please the IMF, has triggered massive protests again, and police there have killed two protestors while injuring many others.
There are reports that police have attacked the offices of an opposition group, the United Left, shooting there too.
With WorldCom crashing and Xerox showing large previously concealed losses, fraudulent accounting is hurting even business.
Over the past decade, leaders and legislators of many countries (including especially the US) have done whatever business executives and lobbyists ask them for, and the public (who they are supposed to represent) be damned. The idea of holding business to any kind of social responsibility has gradually been forgotten. What is now being revealed is that the idea of holding business to a responsibility to its employees or even its shareholders has been equally forgotten. In the absence of government with the strength and the will to resist the demands of business, the business system eats even itself. As management becomes increasingly greedy and callous, they short-sightedly destroy the ground they are standing on.
When it became clear that Andersen, one of the "big five" accounting companies, had participated in the Enron fraud, some expressed concern that criticizing the company could be dangerous for society. Fleeing customers might drive it out of business, and reduce the "big five" to a "big four". Where would that process of concentration end?
It's dangerous to have so few large accounting firms that society hesitates to punish one of them for fraud. Therefore, the US government should break up the remaining "big four" accounting firms into eight or ten. This way, if one of them goes bad, the corruption won't reach such a large portion of the business system; when it is caught, if its punishment effectively drives the deceptive company out of business, there will be nothing scary about that.
Israeli journalist Shimon Shiffer reports on the reaction of Israel's foreign minister to Dubya's speech:
"Shimon Peres' face became more and more weary and angry, the longer Bush went on with his speech. "He is making a fatal mistake" remarked Peres. "Making the creation of a Palestinian state dependant upon a change in the Palestinian leadership is a fatal mistake" he repeated again and again. "Arafat has led the Palestinians for 35 years, kept their head above the water in the international arena. No, no, you can't just brush him aside with one speech."
The rest of the page is also enlightening. Search for "Bush can wait - we can't" and "from Marissa in Balata refugee camp".
A PhD student who documented a massacre of Arabs during Israel's war of independence faced harrassment, and his degree was cancelled.
Israeli extremists will surely respond by pointing out that the Arab nations had announced the intention to exterminate the Jews. That is true--but Israel claims to live by a higher standard than that. To meet that standard, it must seriously address its own atrocities, not cite the low standards of some of its enemies to excuse them.
The world took a step towards 1984-style total surveillance this year, when the European Union adopted a directive allowing countries to pass laws requiring telephone companies and internet service providers to keep permanent records of their customers activities.
Now Germany has passed such a law. (The precise details were intentionally left blank, and could be changed at any time.)
A German elected official told me that they cited "child pornography" as the reason. That's one of the standard excuses given for government surveillance of everyone, but it can hardly justify totalitarian snooping. Nowadays the usual excuse for government surveillance is "terrorism", but that's illogical too; real terrorists know about these rules and are not likely to be caught this way.
Public Housing projects in the US often evict families because someone in the family was arrested for using drugs--even if the person is found innocent, the whole family can still be evicted. The unfairness of this policy is so extreme that residents and even officials cannot bring themselves to believe how it works. One person was evicted after being framed for using drugs. This story also illustrates in detail the unfairness of the system as it operates. This is one of many ways in which the "war on drugs" hurts millions of Americans. Last week, the state of Vermont decided it will distinguish medical use of marijuana from non-medical use and will study how to remove penalties for medical use. It would join several other states which have already done so. Allowing medical use of marijuana is a step in the right direction, but not far enough. Some illegal drugs, like some legal drugs, really are dangerous, but the policies of prohibition do far more harm than drugs do. Even the most dangerous addictive drug, tobacco, should not be illegal. (I say this after tobacco killed my father and his father.) The "war on drugs" is a war against our own people, and it should be ended.
An appeals court in the US ruled that schools cannot have the students recite the Pledge of Allegiance because the words "under god", added to the Pledge in 1954, endorse religion. Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote that these words are just as unacceptable as a statement that "we are a nation `under Jesus,' a nation `under Vishnu,' a nation `under Zeus,' or a nation `under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion."
Christians in the US are determined to impose their religion on the whole population of the country. Our Supreme Court cannot be relied on to uphold the Constitution in a thoughtful way, and may cater to them. Congress surely will. But this courageous judge, and one of his colleagues, did the right thing regardless.
Some states in the US have old laws prohibiting Atheists from testifying in court or holding public office. And, for those who are curious, I don't object to the existence of the song "God Bless America" although I find it insipid, and I love Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame despite its explicitly Catholic text and purpose--but I would take offense at the use of either one in an official context which implies government endorsement of the statements about religion.
The FBI has been searching library records across the nation. 85 libraries reported being searched, but they are not allowed to give any details because the "PATRIOT" act makes it a crime to tell the public what the FBI has done. Libraries report getting calls from frenzied Americans who favor giving up freedom and privacy because they think that will somehow make them safe.
Yasser Arafat has announced plans for the Palestinian elections that Bush demanded--if Israel pulls back and makes it feasible to carry them out. Arafat says he will run for re-election, and the choice will probably be between him and religious extremists. Bush, who got much of his backing from religious extremists, may find he does not like having to negotiate with one.
Esso is suing Greenpeace in France for its "E$$o" publicity campaign that criticizes the oil company for opposing efforts to limit global warming. It demands disconnection of the StopEsso web site.
Esso claims that the campaign "damages Esso's reputation." Of course, pointing out someone's wrongdoing will tend to do that. If such a lawsuit succeeds, it would essentially mean censorship of criticism of corporations' activities. Esso operates in the US under the name "ExxonMobil". Mobil, which Esso merged with a few years ago, was fond of publishing right wing political ads in newspapers. Surely they would not wish to deny their critics the same press freedom that they enjoyed.
Many Americans are uncertain how to pronounce "xx" in "Exxon", and some pronounce it like a single "x". That is incorrect. The correct pronunciation is like gargling; it is the consonant at the end of German "ach", Scottish "loch", and the American expletive of disgust that is sometimes written "yech". Just kidding ;-).
Relatives of people killed in the Sep 11 attacks have filed suit against George Bush and other government officials, accusing them of standing by and allowing the attacks to occur.
The anarchists in Long Beach, the same group that faces constant police harrassment, held a benefit party. The police harrassment continued--police fabricated noise complaints to shut down the party. Police fabrication of minor accusations is a common harrassment technique. In Sevilla, Spain, police last week confiscated water bottles from protestors claiming they were dangerous weapons.
An activist's article about this harrassment is very angry, and I found the tone offputting; you may also. But given how the police treated them, I can't blame him for being angry. I am not an anarchist myself (you can't have a welfare state without a state), but when police interfere with the anarchists' peaceful expression of their views, they attack democracy and our freedom. When police lie and make false accusations, they attack the very idea of justice.
The UK government proposes to force people to take drugs, or even electric shock treatments, or else be kept in prison--even if they have never committed a crime.
I know someone whose brain was messed up by electric shock treatment. It is a form of torture.
Governments and the UN have rejected Bush's idea that the Palestinians should get themselves a new leader that suits the US better.
A rather bitter-toned article by Robert Fisk points out that what Bush offered the Palestinians in exchange is so leaky that it is actually nothing at all.
The US government is trying to sabotage the International Criminal Court by threatening to cut contribution to UN peacekeeping forces.
The US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty cannot be imposed by a judge, only by a jury. This requires new sentencing for at least 168 persons awaiting execution, and perhaps others as well.
This is a good event in that it may prevent some executions. Based on past experience with DNA testing, it is likely that several of those 168 people are innocent. However, the question of whether a judge or a jury makes the decision is really a side issue; the real issue is whether to have a death penalty at all.
Israel is keeping journalists out of the occupied territories, and thus depriving the world of independent information about what is happening there. Excluding journalists, which Bush did in Afghanistan and his father did in Kuwait and Iraq, raises suspicions that something dirty is being covered up. Israelis are not unaware of this.
As usual nowadays, this repressive measure is supplied with an innocent official justification: it's supposed to be for the reporters' own safety. However, reporters travelled with US troops in combat in World War II and Viet Nam; are Hebron and Bethlehem more dangerous than a battlefield with two armies?
The article reveals that Palestinians (in number almost a million) are allowed to leave their houses only for three hours every third day. That regime is harsher than most prisons. How can people live under such circumstances? Work is impossible, schooling is impossible, medical care is impossible, and recreation is almost unthinkable. Sheer boredom must drive people to suicide bombing.
Meanwhile, President Bush demands that the Palestinians hold an election to replace Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian Authority has not been very democratic, and a new election would be a good thing. But there is no way to organize an election when the voters and the election officials are under house arrest. This seems to be an artificial demand that Bush knows the Palestinians cannot meet. (Arafat already said he would hold elections if the Israeli troops withdraw.)
I can only see one way that anyone could beat Arafat in a Palestinian election: Bush could run, and steal the election as he did in the US. I wonder what deals Bush could make with Israel, as President of the Palestinians, saying he is doing it on their behalf. I hope they aren't as bad as the trade treaties he wants to sign on our behalf.
Now that cars contain computers, non-free software is affecting car mechanics and their customers. Independent mechanics don't get access to the information necessary to diagnose and fix certain problems in modern cars, with the result that they cannot do the job any more.
Congress and the EPA are proposing to require automakers to release the software necessary to diagnose car faults. (Unfortunately, these plans do not require release as free software.) The auto companies oppose the plans, making the predictable argument that they want to be able to keep this information secret. There is a simple response to that: there are more important things at stake than what they want.
Businesses keep all sorts of things secret for competitive advantage. Sometimes this practice is harmless; sometimes it hurts the public. When business secrecy hurts the public, we should not hesitate to require them to disclose whatever information seems important for the public to know. Corporations are not important in their own right, as human beings are. Corporations do not deserve a right to privacy when their secrecy hurts human beings.
If all the companies are required to disclose certain information, that is not unfair, it just changes the rules of competition. Change happens all the time.
90% of the Israeli settlers in the occupied territories want to leave, according to an article in Haaretz which they decided not to translate into English. You can find an unofficial translation by searching for the word "important" in that page..
Initially the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were made by expansionists who were eager to create "facts on the ground" in support of annexation, and there are still some of those. But they were expanded by Israeli governments who made them available cheap to immigrants (from Russia, etc.) in order to fill them. Since these settlements are an obstacle to a peaceful solution, it is good news that so many are willing to leave. All it will take is the money to build them other places to live--and the US can certainly afford the cost.
Ten thousand protestors in Arequipa, Peru, led by the city's mayor, celebrated the suspension of plans to privatize the local electric plants. The government of Peru was going to sell them, but massive protests caused it to back down. However, the sale is not cancelled, just put on hold.
A World Health Organization report says that smoking tobacco is even more dangerous than was formerly believed. Half of all adult smokers who don't quit will be killed by it.
My father and his father both died from smoking, so I try very hard to convince people to stop smoking. However, dangerous as tobacco is, prohibiting it would be wrong. People have a right to spend their lives as they wish (in this case the word "spend" applies in a very literal way). Other drugs, now illegal but probably less dangerous than tobacco, should not be prohibited either. When a drug is illegal, that creates additional danger: the danger of imprisonment, and (for addictive drugs) the danger of being robbed by an addict (since prohibition makes the drug more expensive).
Repression hits Cambridge Mass, as a Palestinian organizer for a legal protest was arrested shortly before the protest, then handed to the INS, which tortured and maimed him.
Before the INS got him, the FBI interrogated him, accusing him of being a terrorist. The only basis they could offer for this accusation was protest leaflets found in his car.
Another Palestinian protest organizer was arrested in Chicago on the same day.
Real terrorists aim to go unnoticed until they act, and they know better than to call attention to themselves by participating in public political protest. The FBI knows this, of course.
Police believe they are embattled fighters for a cause that is more important than anything; this can easily lead them to believe that they are justified in using any means whatsoever, including lying and torture. Often they are in denial and do not themselves recognize that their actions fit those words.
There is evidence that British Military Intelligence was directly involved in a 1989 murder in Northern Ireland.
Thousands of penguins are dying of starvation in the Falkland Islands because the fish they normally eat are missing. Human activities, in the form of overfishing and global warming, may be responsible.
Will we pay attention to this warning, or will we wait until millions of people start starving?
More details on the Bari/Cheney trial verdict. Senior FBI agents were found liable for their supervisory roles violating their civil rights.
Last November the US allowed Pakistani army personnel to sneak out of Afghanistan (where they were helping the Taliban), a decision aimed at avoiding embarrassment for Pakistani president Musharraf (who had become a US ally). It appears that lots of Al Qa'ida terrorists snuck out along with them.
A reporter faces criminal charges in Zimbabwe for his articles published in the Guardian, a London newspaper. The charges say that because the article appeared on the Internet and could be downloaded in Zimbabwe, it was published in Zimbabwe (and, by extension, in every country that has Internet access).
By attempting to apply its laws to actions committed outside the country, Zimbabwe follows the example of the US (which often tries to impose its rules on the whole world), and launches an attack on freedom of the press around the world. If the Guardian's publisher travels to China or South Africa, he could be extradited to Zimbabwe.
Various countries have various laws that restrict publication or can punish people for what they publish. Zimbabwe and China forbid criticizing the government. The UK has absurd libel laws under which even truthful criticism of public figures can be prohibited. The US has the DMCA which prohibits publication of useful information such as how to read a DVD. The US also has software patents. The proposed Hague Treaty carries the danger of globalizing some or all of these laws to over 50 countries, unless it is carefully limited to exclude issues of publication.
35 years ago, Padre Pio was condemned even by the Catholic Church as a faker. Now he has been declared a saint, using a new "fast track" procedure. It seems the Pope wants to be able to claim that saints exist today, and thus encourage credulity.
Moral 1: anything called "fast track" means someone is pulling a fast one.
Moral 2: if you're looking for real saints in these times, look in the Church of Emacs.
An article in Business Week shows what life is like for the sweatshop workers in China that produce much of the things we buy in rich countries. They are treated almost like prisoners, and must pay most of their salary back to their employers for daily expenses, so that they end up with next to nothing. These are then sold to big-name Western companies, including those that tell the public that they do not buy from sweatshops.
I am not sure when this article was written; the file name suggests it was in 2000. Nonetheless, I expect that the situation is the same today, because it is not an accident. It is the consequence of the structure of global trade.
This abuse is not unique to China; it is much the same in other poor countries. All these countries have laws about how workers should be treated, but one way or another these laws are broken, or "exceptions" are made so frequently that they become the norm. This is because the various countries' governments are competing to increase their exports. Anything that gets in the way of that, like the rights of their own citizens, has to be eliminated.
Drought in parts Africa results from burning fossil fuels in the North, according to new climate models. The US and Europe have a duty to help, not only for basic humanitarian reasons, but also because they caused the problem.
MIT students protested the appearance of World Bank president Wolfensohn at their graduation, but Massachusetts and Cambridge police blocked them from exercising their legal rights.
Comes the next Cambridge city council election, I am going to ask the candidates to support the exercise of political freedoms in Cambridge and to restrain the police from interfering; I will make it clear that this will be important to my vote. If you are a Cambridge resident, would you like to join me in this?
The College Art Association plans to file an amicus brief when the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the Sonny Bono Copyright Act (aka Mickey Mouse Copyright Act) which retroactively extended the term of copyright in the US by 20 years. They are looking for teachers, writers, scholars, historians, etc. who have a basis to claim that this extension has harmed their work.
If you can help, please read more and then contact the CAA. If you know any teachers, writers, scholars, historians, etc., who might be able to help, please ask them to look at http://www.studiolo.org/CIP/AmicusLetterEldredCAA.htm.
Patents on drugs can make life-saving medicine too expensive for many people, even in rich countries, but often in poor countries. Drug companies claim this is necessary to fund medical research, and that sounds plausible--until you start probing.
When Bush announced plans for detention without trial, he reassured Americans that this would apply only to foreigners. This does not reduce the injustice--if you were arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily in a foreign country, would the fact that it is a foreign country make it any better?
13 Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament have been imprisoned for many years for such things as speaking in Kurdish in favor of peace. Their case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Turkey had violated the basic principles of democracy. However, the court lacks the power to free them from prison.
Police in Long Beach, California, don't seem to understand what democracy means. First they attacked and arrested protestors for no reason. Then they began a campaign to harrass activists--conspicuously following them, stopping and searching them frequently, and punishing them for any trifling excuse.
For these police officers, laws are just tools for intimidating citizens. Nowadays, with September 11 as an excuse, they hardly even deny it. Police spokesman David Marander says that surveillance of dissidents is normal in the US now, and claims that September 11 makes it legitimate. Why one an attack on our country should justify another is something only a policeman could understand.
Sarah Roberts went to a protest in Long Beach to treat protestors who might be injured there. She was arrested and later convicted of crimes for her participation, although she did nothing wrong, or even illegal.
The report says the jury convicted her because she covered her face at the protest. The idea that people who have done nothing wrong "have nothing to hide" from the police is based on the assumption that the police are honest and uphold citizens' rights. This assumption is false all around the world, where political opposition is concerned. It is especially false in Long Beach, California.
Where police gas protestors to suppress democracy, any intelligent protestor would want to have a gas mask. Where police harrass political activists, it is natural for dissidents to conceal their faces. Simply being willing to take action in favor of democracy is something to hide from the police.
Ms Roberts is sentenced to house arrest and required to wear a tracking device on her ankle. The California legislature is considering a bill to put a limit on sentences for nonviolent civil disobedience, but because her sentence exceeds that limit, she may not be allowed to go.
How about if you write to the mayor of Long Beach and say what you think of the behavior of the government of their city? Amnesty International has shown that authoritarian regimes can feel the pressure of public condemnation around the world; maybe it will work on Long Beach too.
Mayor Beverly O'Neill 333 West. Ocean Blvd., 14th Floor Long Beach, California 90802 Tel: (562) 570-6801 Fax: (562) 570-6538 firstname.lastname@example.org
Snail mail takes more effort than email, but is more effective. Sober moral disapproval is more effective than name-calling.
Israel seems to be getting touchy about foreign witnesses to the soldiers' actions in the occupied territories.
DRM Helmets: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
In the 1800s, the opium of the masses was religion. Today, as in the Roman Empire, sports do the job. Millions of people are focusing their attention on a distraction of no real importance: the football world cup. Some, however, are paying the world cup a more intelligent and less welcome kind of attention.
Activists point out that the balls are made by child labor under terrible conditions (typical of products made by global megacorporations today).
Korea has used the world cup as an excuse to suppress unsightly protests, unions and poor citizens who might make the capital less than appealing for the visitors who have come to watch the matches.
Islamic law in Pakistan regularly leads to cruel injustice. Sometimes international pressure can prevent it. Zafran Bi Bi has been freed after a campaign that delivered 3000 protest emails to President Musharraf. Zafran Bi Bi was raped, then sentenced to death for adultery (i.e., being raped by a married man).
However, Dr. Younus Shaikh remains under sentence of death for blasphemy. You can sign an on-line petition, or write a letter to the government of Pakistan.
On May 31, Italian police raided union offices of the COBAS Confederation, seizing computers. They also arrested some of its supporters, who were charged with any specific criminal acts, only with "subversive association". Some of those arrested had made reports about police violence following protests in Genoa last year.
I provide the reference to their site for the sake of those who can read it in Italian, but I myself cannot read it. If anyone sends me updated information in English, I would like to post it here.
New York animal rights activist Andrew Stepanian was recently sentenced to 6 months in prison for asking questions when his friend was beaten and arrested. He too was beaten and arrested, then sentenced to prison for "resisting arrest" and "obstructing government authority".
I don't support the animal rights movement myself, but I do support its right to state views I disagree with. Our police and courts ought to support that right also. And how can the Joint Terrorism Task Force deal with real terrorism, if it spends its time infiltrating political opposition groups who practice nonviolence against all animals (including humans) as a matter of principle?
An FBI agent tapping the email of Al Qa'ida discovered that the Carnivore system was tapping other people's email as well.
Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, forecasts another coup, and says this time they will kill him to make sure he does not return to power.
The US plans to take a large step towards 1984-style total surveillance by fingerprinting thousands of foreign visitors. The regulations allow this to be done to any long-term visitor, but officials acknowledge they plan to single out Arabs. The UN Human Rights Commissioner warns that this endangers civil liberties.
Rather than conducting surveillance on thousands of Arabs in the absence of specific reason to suspect them, it would be more effective to investigate certain Arabs that have known ties to terrorism: the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia. However, they are off limits, because the bin Laden family is too close to the Bush family, so others have to get investigated instead.
Ashcroft speaks of checking the fingerprints against a database, but I suspect that all these visitors' fingerprints will also be recorded permanently in a database.
The UK government is building a special center for spying on internet traffic to enforce the RIP act, which it now agrees is flawed.
Indymedia Israel is facing a number of threats to its ability to operate, which may add up to a campaign of harrassment.
First, a right-wing group has filed charges against Indymedia Israel for not censoring a cartoon which likened Sharon to a Nazi. The accusers call for the people who run Indymedia Israel to be imprisoned for "incitement to violence", and claim that this "incitement" has been linked to an act of "actual violence."
The "actual violence" they cite was a pie throwing. But hey, what's a little exaggeration in order to imprison dissidents? Protestors in many countries, including the US, the UK, and Sweden, are regularly given long sentences for minor offenses.
Meanwhile, police beat up an Indymedia reporter who was making a video of a protest, and destroyed two Indymedia Israel videocameras. They are asking for donations to buy new cameras.
The two great scandals of the Bush administration are its ties with Enron and its failure to act to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Former federal prosecutor John Loftus claims they are directly connected -- that the administration blocked the FBI from investigating Al Qa'ida terrorist threats in order to protect Enron's negotiations with the Taliban.
The State of Maryland has suspended executions; Governor Parris Glendening recognized that it was being applied disproportionally to Black killers rather than White killers.
Even if the death penalty were applied "fairly" to all killers without regard to race, color, creed, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation, it would still be a bad system. A considerable fraction of the "murderers" sentenced to death in the US in the past few decades have been exonerated subsequently by new evidence--but this was possible only because their executions were delayed for many years. With the "streamlined" death penalty that its supporters want, those innocent people would have been executed before their innocence was demonstrated.
FBI director Robert Mueller has now admitted that by responding differently to the available information the FBI might have prevented the September 11 attacks.
The misnamed "USA PATRIOT Act" gave the US government increased surveillance powers, supposedly justified because the FBI would have needed them to detect plots such as that of September 11. This reason was always clearly insufficient to justify such an attack on Americans' freedom, but now we know it was not even true. The preexisting surveillance powers were sufficient; the failure was a failure of attention. The intelligence that was lacking was the kind that capable people have, not the kind that spies gather.
The FBI proposes to turn its attention to prevention of future crimes rather than investigation of crimes past. It is legitimate for the FBI to try to prevent terrorism; however, we must restrain it from investigating legitimate political opposition groups, as it did in the 80s. Why should we have a choice between two extremes, either investigating of dissenters or no investigation of terrorists? Finding a middle way and making sure the FBI follows it may not be easy, but it is important; it makes no sense to give up without trying.
No sense for the US, that is. It makes perfect sense for Ashcroft and Bush. They probably relish the idea of using the FBI against political opposition groups. They don't need a good reason, only half an excuse.
Berlusconi, the right-wing TV mogul who rules Italy, is planning to silence the main public TV show that criticizes his policies. Meanwhile, the Italian government is starting to celebrate Mussolini's fascist regime and the soldiers who fought for it.
VeriSign, the company that operates the DNS registry for the .org, .net and .com domains, is about to be sued for sending deceptive advertising to domain name owners.
VeriSign recently began offering a service of handling wiretaps on behalf of telephone companies. This adds a new danger to an already-threatening situation.
The FBI has long planned to expand the number of wiretaps it uses. A 1994 law required telephone companies to handle simultaneous wiretaps on large numbers of phone lines. Having the tapping operated VeriSign adds a new kind of threat.
"In the old model, you had the FBI and the telecoms seeing the information, so you were not trusting someone who didn't already have access to the information," says Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "You might worry about your telecom, but the fact is they had the information already. But it doesn't necessarily have to be in the hands of a third party."
VeriSign also has a monopoly on selling certificates for secure communication in e-commerce. If the US government still believed in a competitive market, it would use anti-trust law to break up Verisign.
The US legal system tries to punish street criminals, but for white-collar criminals takes a less harsh "restorative" approach, designed to heal the harm done and prevent recurrence. This unfairness surely exists because white-collar criminals, from Enron on down, have more clout.
It's easy to imagine treating corporate criminals as harshly as we now treat street criminals. Actually doing so would be harder, since it would require overcoming the resistance of people with lots of money. But that might be the wrong approach anyway--perhaps it would be more effective (for preventing crime) to treat most street criminals more like the way we now treat corporate criminals.
By legalizing marijuana, and giving cocaine and heroin addicts a legal way to get their fix, we could cut the number of people considered as criminals by half or more. (This would result partly from not labeling mere drug use as a crime, and partly from the fact that addiction would no longer lead people to burglary.) We could therefore afford to spend more to deal with each one in a more effective way (effective for preventing future crime, that is). We could bring back educational programs in prison, as they used to be in the 70s. That would reduce the chances that a released convict would go back to crime. With a combination of all these approaches, it should be possible to reduce crime considerably.
Israeli human rights groups have gone to court asking for an injunction against the army's practice of using civilian hostages as human shields.
A US court decided that mining companies can't dump tons of mining waste into streams. The Bush administration directed the EPA to permit this, but the judge decided the EPA is not allowed to make regulations that go against the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
European governments have changed EU privacy laws so that they can require telecommunications companies to retain customer data for years, in case police would like to check it. This includes who you talk to by telephone, who you send email to, even where you walk while your cell phone is turned on. (The possibility of this tracking is why I do not have a cell phone.) As usual, this was described as an anti-terrorism measure. As often happens, it is a greater danger than terrorism. When the Nazis conquered Europe, they used telephone records to track the associations of dissidents and thus find other dissidents.
Contrasting the ideas on liberty and patriotism of Patrick Henry, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Ashcroft.
Teen pregnancy and teen crime: responses to the same circumstances?
Republican Governor Rowland or Connecticut is a close friend of the Bush family, and may be implicated in handouts to Enron.
Please sign the petition asking European governments not to require telephone companies to retain customer traffic data. If this data is retained, the police will be able to determine at any time who you phoned and who phoned you, who you emailed and who emailed you, what web pages you looked at, even where you walked if you had a cell phone.
As deployed US and Russian nuclear weapons are moved to stockpiles or disassembled, the Russian ones become dangerously vulnerable for terrorists to seize.
The US is spending money to help guard decommissioned Russian warheads and fissionable material, but more is needed. This could be a much more effective way to protect the US from terrorism than taking away our freedom.
On 20 May 2002, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that no one considered the possibility that the Pentagon would be hit by a hijacked plane. In October 2000 the Pentagon held a drill to plan how to handle such a crash. On 21 May 2002, the article describing the drill was removed from the government's web site, in an apparent cover-up attempt.
The cover-up did not succeed, but it shows we need to keep the pressure on Bush and Co until they tell us what really happened. Bush does not want an investigation and refuses to cooperate. Please support the demand for an investigation.
In the latest example of closing the world down against political refugees, the UK government plans to reject some claims for political asylum rapidly, in a period of a day or two, without even allowing an appeal.
A report on NPR says that a federal appeals court has overturned the law that would have required public libraries to install filtering software on Internet terminals.
A new proposal for how to deal with the Bush calamity: declare his election void due to cheating, and roll back all its decisions.
The same article also reports that Jordan was trying to tell the US that it had learned of a plan to use airliners as weapons. I don't have a reference for that; if you know of one, please tell me by email.
An interview with a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber who had second thoughts illustrates the danger posed by monotheistic religion which holds that the triumph of that particular religion is a "mission from god".
After September 11, the Bush administration claimed it needed new powers to spy on Americans, ban organizations, and imprison visitors, in order to fight terrorism--the outrageously misnamed "USA PATRIOT Act". The disclosure that the FBI had received information about the plot but refused to take action shows that this justification was false.
Article by Peter Erlinder, Professor of Constitutional Criminal Law and past President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Just before this year's independence ceremonies in East Timor, the Indonesian Navy sailed several heavily-armed warships into Dili harbor, thus violating agreements with the United Nations and the East Timorese government and rejecting East Timor's independence.
US voters: please contact your representatives in Congress, and urge them to stand by the conditions they have already imposed for a resumption of arms supplies to Indonesia.
In 1975, Leonard Peltier, political activist, was convicted of killing FBI agents. There was no specific evidence tying him to the crime, which occurred after a drawn-out campaign of harrassing and murdering activists. Amnesty International, United Nations officials, and even a federal appeals judge have called for his sentence to be commuted.
Now there is a campaign to demand that Peltier should be considered for parole in the same way as other people convicted of murder.
When you think of "bank robbery", you probably imagine someone robbing a bank. Now 85 small publishers are being robbed by American National Bank (part of Bank One). It decided for no particular reason to call back its loan to their book distributor, LPC--and seized the money that LPC deposited in the bank to pay the the publishers for the books that it had sold.
Common Courage Press, which one of the 85 publishers, published a book called Merchants of Misery which talks about Bank One. Now it is their victim.
The UK plans to place asylum seekers under a form of semi-house-arrest that will require them to spend every night at a camp in a remote part of Britain. To be absent even for one night would lead to rejection of asylum claims.
These people would not be prohibited from meeting with someone London, for instance, but it would take around five or six hours (depending on the site) to get there, and be quite expensive, so practically speaking they would very rarely if ever be able to do this.
Bush complains that the Democrats are "second-guessing" his actions before and on September 11. If so, he has only himself to blame. He has told his aides to resist attempts by Congress to investigate what happened and why. If he would let the investigation proceed, Congress would know what happened--and they would not have to guess.
Yasser Arafat bowed to international pressure and agreed to hold elections--then hours later added a condition, saying that elections will be held only if Israeli forces pull back from the occupied territories.
The Palestinian Authority has not been very democratic, and has been accused of corruption. If the elections and the campaign are free and fair, it may become one of the few democratic governments in the Arab world. (My understanding is that Jordan and Kuwait have free elections for the legislature.)
Having democratic elections does not imply they will elect officials that have much sympathy for the US government.
The condition can be interpreted in various ways. It could be an excuse, made by someone who really would rather not have to face an election. It could also be an attempt to bring about an Israeli withdrawal. I don't know whether he wants Israel to meet this demand or reject it.
The condition could also simply be practical. It is hard to run an election when the election officials are stopped by checkpoints, and hard for people to go to the polls or run campaigns if they are under curfew.
Reporters who criticize Israel's occupation policies are receiving irrational hate mail from overseas defenders of Israel, accusing them of being anti-semites, Nazis and (strange accusation) "Arabs". They are accused of stirring up racism.
These accusations are outrageous, but the truth parodies them in a paradoxical way: some defenders of the Palestinians' rights (but not these reporters) are indeed descending into old-fashioned anti-semitism. The old lies about Jews, such as that they kill babies and drink blood, are being repeated in Arab countries--and by Americans who claim to be defending the rights of Palestinians.
Those who send hate mail to reporters that criticize Israel probably think they are fighting anti-semitic hatred, but actually the effect is to promote hatred. Palestinian supporters will surely retaliate in turn, and the cycle will lead to increased hatred on both sides--all of it evil.
Is it wrong to document Israel's cruel treatment of the Palestinians because that some take that as an inspiration for racism? No, because people are responsible only for what they really do and say, not for others' distortions of it. Reporting of what both sides actually do is the only alternative to blanket demonization.
If you wish to prevent hatred against Palestinians and their supporters, or if you wish to prevent hatred against Israelis and Jews and their supporters, there's only one way to do it: reject and denounce hatred in general. This is everyone's moral duty, but in addition, it is the only way to succeed in protecting anyone from hatred. The cycle of hatred leads to more hatred in all directions. No one can escape hatred unless we reject it on all sides.
Arrogant publishers continue to try to intimidate web sites that make links to internal pages. In a recent instance, the Dallas Morning News was the perpetrator.
A web server outside Singapore is giving Singaporeans an opportunity to express political dissent.
The proposed Hague treaty could enable Singapore to shut down this server.
We often talk on the Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, condemned by Bush to a military court or life in prison without trial. Taliban prisoners held in Afghanistan are facing even worse conditions: starvation rations.
The West is partly responsible, because all of Afghanistan needs aid, and we are too skinflint to provide it. Our intervention could be good for Afghanistan--but now we have to help them survive the effects of crop failure.
A plan is being drawn up to convert the island of Islay, in Scotland, to use wave power for all its energy, including generating hydrogen to run the island's vehicles.
Heresies in Pursuit of Peace: Thoughts on Israel/Palestine
An AAAS report presents evidence indicating that killings of civilians in Kosovo resulted from the actions of Serb forces, not from NATO or KLA actions.
A scandal is developing in the UK as the Labor party is accused of taking money from businesses in exchange for favors.
Tony Blair apes the Tories in every other respect, so why not this one?
Venice is threatened with submergence due to rising sea levels. Some scientists now say that the planned barrier to protect Venice will be obsolete soon after it is built, because the waters are rising too fast.
The Tuvalu islands in Polynesia are already being abandoned because rising seas are making them uninhabitable. Fortunately the inhabitants are few in number, and New Zealand graciously offered to let all of them come. But where will the millions go who live in low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh? As the rising waters displace larger numbers, it will be harder to resettle them.
There is no telling when global warming might cause a catastrophic shift in climate patterns which could melt the Antartic ice cap and raise sea level by hundreds of feet. Catastrophic shifts have happened before. The ice sheet covering much of North America seems to have broken up and melted rather quickly at the end of the Ice Age, perhaps in just a few years. It won't be easy to cope with the submergence of many major cities.
A few years ago I visited Izmir, in Turkey. There is a famous street that runs along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea; from the far side of the pavement down to the waters is just a few feet. There is no fence; I think that was so boats could tie up. Does Izmir have a plan to cope with global warming?
Civilian employees of Dick Cheney's former company are carrying out military missions around the world -- for profit.
The parliamentary followers of Berlusconi, the media tycoon who rules Italy, are proposing to remove from Italian public television certain programs that Berlusconi alleges are biased.
Berlusconi has meanwhile refused to give up his control of all of Italy's private television.
I don't generally root for sports teams, but I might make an exception for the Fighting Whities of the University of Northern Colorado. I am proud that my racial group has finally been recognized in the name of a team.
A defender of Israel's occupation policies sent me a reference to an article published by the Palestinian Authority, saying that it supports terrorism.
Part of it does seem to apologize for terrorism--which I don't like, but is not the same thing as supporting it. However, I have a different interpretation of the overall thrust of the article. It seems to be addressed to Palestinians who do approve of attacking Israeli civilians, saying "Regardless of whether it's justified, it just makes the situation worse, so would you please stop anyway?" In effect, it tries to discourage terrorist attacks.
The article reflects a tremendous hatred felt by the Palestinians to which it appears to be addressed, which is a paradoxical combination of justified resentment for real oppression with religious and ethnic prejudice.
The union that represents the staff of the European Patent Office has denounced the European Patent Office for disregarding laws and rejecting democratic control.
There is hope this will lead to democracy in Burma, but it is too early to end the trade sanctions that Aung San Suu Kyi requested in the past. They are starting to work, so let's keep the pressure on till the job is done.
GATS would continue the failed Reagan/Clinton trickle-down policies, which pretend that removing restraints on business will make everyone better off. Supposedly it will increase the total wealth and everyone will share in the prosperity.
Practical experience now shows that this policy has failed: it does increase the total wealth, but all the benefit goes to the rich. In the US, middle-class and working people gained nothing in the 90s despite the boom, and poor people's wages went down. Only the rich are better off. In other countries, business-dominated globalization has led to lower wages and exploitative working conditions. The book No Logo, by Naomi Klein, explains how this works.
For more information and pictures, see http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2002/05/125609.php.
I recently advocated a fence between Israel and the occupied territories. I heard a report on NPR that Ehud Barak, former prime minister of Israel, advocated such a fence in a speech this week.
I don't mind if these methods help catch thieves; what worries me is that they will be used to determine who is meeting with whom to plan political opposition. Combined with common police tactics documented in previous notes, such as falsely accusing activists of crimes as serious as setting off bombs, sending disguised gangs to seize them on the street, imposing bail conditions that prohibit protest and then imprisoning activists for bail violation, and falsifying and hiding evidence, anything that increases the police power to spy on political opposition is a threat to democracy.
This development also augments the sinister danger of proposals for national DNA data bases.
The Navy would have much greater leeway test systems that could harm whales and other marine mammals. There are indications that low-frequency sound communication systems meant for communication with submarines can hurt whales at distances of hundreds of miles.
This reminds me of the totalitarian regime in the book 1984. One of its slogans was, "War is peace."
I've heard other, more sinister accusations that wealthy companies suing individuals in Texas can make campaign contributions to the judge hearing the case and get favorable treatment.
Appointed judges can also show bias, as we saw when the Supreme Court decided to make Bush president and not to count the votes of the citizens of Florida. But all in all it seems to happen less often.
The Transportation Security Authority refuses to say why any of these people was marked in the list--so when 20 activists in a group of 37 are listed as suspects, we have to suspect they were listed because of their political views.
The policy, supposedly, when a passenger's name appears in the list is to search the person's belongings carefully and then allow the person to board. If this policy is carried out in that form, it should not cause passengers to miss their flights. But this time the TSA decided that the whole group must be searched as a group, and that none of them could board until the whole job was done. This made them all miss the flight.
What justification did the TSA offer for this form of obstruction by association? None at all--they don't believe their actions require justification. This organization has the power to block anyone's activities, but has no accountability to go with that power.
One lesson for political dissidents in the US is not to leave yourself open to obstruction by association. Members of a group should not travel as a group--and, in general, should not tell the US government or its proxies that they are a group.
I believe in religious freedom, but this does not mean freedom to oppress others in the name of religion. Individuals have a right to be Muslims, just as they have the right to be Atheists, Christians, Jews, or Buddhists; but "Islamic law" is a barbarity that the world should not tolerate.
(Islam is not the only religion that tends to impose barbarous laws. The laws advocated by some Christian supporters of George W. Bush are oppressive also, though in different ways.)
Allegations of forcing civilians to act as human shields remain, a practice that has been recorded before.
Meanwhile, Israel refuses to cooperate with a UN fact-finding investigation into these events. A report I heard last weekend said Israel was demanding that the team should only talk with witnesses chosen by Israel--hardly a basis for a proper investigation.
By the way, I think there should be an investigation into the reported shooting of protestors just before the coup. It is important to establish responsibility in this case, just as it is for the protestor who was shot by Italian police at the Genoa protest in 2001. I don't think we should let this slide just because it was associated with someone who resists US domination.
The danger of global warming, like that of terrorism, cannot be known for certain in advance. What we know is that the potential damage from global warming is huge, and the likely damage far exceeds the likely damage from terrorism. Just the rise in sea levels is likely to flood many cities, and leave millions of poor rural people homeless. Preventing even worse harm will require firm and persistent efforts.
The US government (like many others) is ready to trash civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, even though there is no solid evidence that it is necessary. Meanwhile, mild measures to fight global warming, such as increasing taxes on gasoline or SUVs, are ignored. Is a tax really worse than imprisonment without trial or constant government surveillance? Is this a sign of rational thinking, or is it a sign of a president whose family is in the oil business?
In 2000, the DEA promised Congress it would not try to ban hemp products. Late in 2000 it broke that promise and began discussing a rule change that would ban hemp products. But a rule change requires a public comment period, where much opposition would have been expressed. This new "interpretation" avoids offering the public a chance to express its views--and that in itself represents disrespect for the public.
The public is invited to register opposition to this change.
This is a typical example of short-term business thinking. The choice is to fish somewhat less starting now but continue indefinitely, or have fishing collapse entirely in a few years. Business, with its exceedingly short view, prefers the latter. Remember this example next time someone tells you that markets can be relied on to produce an optimal outcome. Firm regulation would be good for everyone in the long term, but servile governments lack the guts to regulate business.
It must be acutely humiliating to be a government minister, supposedly powerful, and yet find oneself obliged to obey someone intent on spoiling his own future. By and by, the government will have a chance to attack and arrest some protestors. Then the ministers can feel manly and brave, for a while.
Even as Bush talks about the danger of weapons of mass destruction in terrorist hands, the Bush administration is trying to remove the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The reason: he tries to examine chemical warfare facilities in the United States just like chemical warfare facilities in other countries.
Earlier in April the Bush administration arranged for the removal of the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Leaked papers released by the NRDC show that ExxonMobil and other businesses were calling the shots. They have campaigned for years to create false doubts about global warming, to provide an aura of false justification for their claim that we need not take any pains to prevent the problem.
But that's what you elect a Republican president for, right? To unleash business so it can dominate and trample everyone and everything that happens to be in its way.
Alas, even when we didn't elect them, they still follow this policy.
Guatemala was the scene in the 1980s of a long guerilla war in which the army and paramilitary groups carried out brutal repression.
The Spanish government mounted a campaign to smear this exercise in democracy as a violent attack against society, and closed the border with France, thus preventing people from other parts of the European Union from protesting a meeting of their own government. Police restrained themselves from attacking the protestors for part of the week, but eventually gave in to their bloody urges
In the April 11 article we read about civilians used as human shields, and sick people who are dying because they are not allowed to go to a hospital. A mother ran out of the house to pull her three-year-old back inside before soldiers could shoot him, but instead both of them were shot.
In the April 12 article we read about people denied access to food and water, and buildings demolished with people inside them.
There are also reports that the Israeli army committed mass murder against helpless civilians in Jenin.
A statement by Lev Grinberg that I have read sums up the situation clearly. It says: "Suicide bombs killing innocent citizens must be unequivocally condemned; they are immoral acts, and their perpetrators should be sent to jail. But they cannot be compared to State terrorism carried out by the Israeli Government. The former are individual acts of despair of a people that sees no future, vastly ignored by an unfair and distorted international public opinion. The latter are cold and "rational" decisions of a State and a military apparatus of occupation, well equipped, financed and backed by the only superpower in the world."
Lev Grinberg is Director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at Ben Gurion University in Israel.
That the US was behind Pinochet's coup in Chile is well known. It is interesting that the connection is being pursued today. European investigators say their intervention is because, among the many people that were "disappeared" in Chile, there were citizens of European countries.
The Prime Minister of Israel, former General Ariel Sharon, is on trial in Belgium for his role in atrocities in Lebanon in the 80s. He has a long history of violence against Arabs--read how he described it himself.
The protest focused on Berlusconi's plans to eliminate a law requiring that workers unjustly fired must be rehired, but it pulled together a broad spectrum of opposition.
What I find most noteworthy here is that Dutch elected leaders still believe in taking responsibility for failures of their policy. That attitude used to be widespread in European democracies, but now they have become brazen--perhaps this is part of obeying corporations rather than the public. As for US Congressmen, they won't resign even when they are convicted of corruption.
I share the KaZaa users' outrage, but I apply it more generally. This is just one aspect of the general problem of non-free software. With free software, you make your computer do what you want. With non-free software, someone else has control over what your computer does.
I read one version of these plans. It would have introduced of a legal class system, giving prominent (and wealthy) people the right to a jury trial while denying it to others.
The "justice system" in the UK, as in the US, is already biased in effect (though not officially) against those who aren't wealthy. The willingness to add explicit bias to the law indicates the low extent of respect today for the idea of "justice for all". From the prevailing business-is-everything ideology, it is a natural step to suppose that trials are not important except for business executives and celebrities.
A burglary committed at the command of President Nixon led him to resign before he could be impeached and removed from office. I don't know whether Bush and Ashcroft ordered this particular burglary threat, but it responds perfectly to the policy directions they have set.
The article is wrong, though, when it says that other methods of doing this have generally failed when tried. High taxes on petrol in Europe have been very effective in promoting conservation, as witness the difference in driving and living patterns between Europe and the US.
When many US drivers switched from automobiles to SUVs, there was an obvious way to preserve the effect of automobile fuel efficiency standards: extend the standards to SUVs. Certain businesses used their political influence to block this. It is not that the policy failed, but that the US government lacked the public spirit and effective sovereignty to continue applying it.
It is a realistic view, and Americans would do well to read the book, but I have to disagree partially. To a certain extent, the Islamic world does hate us because of one specific freedom in our way of life--sexual freedom. The same the freedom that Bush and his right-wing friends hate too.
They can check who you telephone, who you send email to, what you search for, what books you buy, even what you borrow from the library, without ever getting permission from a judge. You don't even have to be a suspect yourself: someone else in the same town is enough for the FBI to collect all your records--and keep them permanently to look at again whenever they like.
The US is thus moving towards a state of totalitarian surveillance that even the Soviet Union never achieved.
I saw a photo in which Quayle was meeting with generals from a US-sponsored regime, holding a gun for a photo op. He held the gun backwards, with the business end pointing at his own shoulder. I've never been a soldier but even I could recognize his mistake. If you know of a URL for this photo, please write to me.
This brief walk on the wild side may shock some Americans but it is not likely to have done the captives any serious harm. The real danger they face is that of imprisonment for life without trial. The Bush administration calls them "combatants", trying to cast them as prisoners of war or something similar, but that concept presupposes a real war which can have a distinct end.
Bush's "war against terrorism" is defined such that no one can ever tell if it has ended. Mere international tension, occasional violent acts such as the world has seen for the past 20 years, and even civil disobedience which fits various countries' new definitions of "terrorism", can all serve as excuses to claim that "the war on terrorism is not over". Therefore it will never end, except through a decision to see the situation in different terms.
How that might happen is not clear, but we can be sure Bush won't do it. He knows what happened when Bush Sr. allowed his war to have an end--he lost the next election--and he won't make the same mistake. To have an end to the war, we need a president who has no stake in it. We need to make sure Dubya loses his second presidential election more clearly than he lost the first one.
A few protestors broke windows in police headquarters or drew graffiti. The police made a big fuss about this: "It is a bit of a paradox to see people denouncing violence using such violent methods", said one policeman. That would be a cogent response, if police violence were limited to minor property damage--but at this very event, police were guilty of violence more severe than that.
A few protestors are accused of violating bail conditions. In Canada nowadays, protestors accused of (real or fictitious) crimes are often released on bail with conditions requiring them not to participate in protests. If they do, they can be charged with violating the conditions. In this way, even a trumped-up accusation for which there is no evidence and which cannot be proved is sufficient to put activists in prison.
Now the government is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the decision on the grounds that if all the Indian tribes demand to be paid what the government owes them, that would be too expensive. Could we possibly apply this same standard to the poor countries that owe money to US banks?
There are several lessons to be drawn from this article.
First, it illustrates how police twist the law to do whatever they want. In the mood to confiscate evidence from you? They just have to order you to hand it over, then arrest you for disobedience. Effectively they have absolute power, unless you can come back with lawyers afterward. Because this power is not openly acknowledged as such, they have to twist laws to exercise it. This teaches police disrespect for truth as well as for the public's legal rights. "You're on pentagon property", the police said, as if that were a valid reason to confiscate the tape--and apparently it was not even true.
Second, the allusion to the September 11 attack on the pentagon illustrates the absurd ways that preventing terrorism is used as an excuse for misconduct. (This was a comparatively mild instance; it gets far worse.)
Third, it shows that their power can be limited in the long term, if you have the money and the standing to get justice. Police have a word for those with the money and the standing to get justice: "citizens". To the police, those who lack these advantages are not really citizens.
Journalists from organizations less powerful than Fox News often have their evidence confiscated by police. They don't often get it back.
Now a business group involved in renting auditoriums in Cincinnati has sued the Coalition on the grounds that the boycott has reduced their income. In their view, you're allowed to criticize business only so long as nobody pays attention.
You might wonder why this is worth mentioning alongside police torture and attacks on civil liberties. Many Americans regard athletics as a tremendously important part of life; I don't agree. Ordinarily I couldn't work up much concern about whether someone can be on a track team, or whether there is a track team at all. But there is something else here that is more important than sports. The reason for kicking her out of the team reflects a more pervasive problem: the idea that sex is disgusting. I was taught that sick attitude as I grew up, and it has hurt me all my life. When a college athletic coach says, "strippers can't be on our team because that isn't a positive image", he is propagating the idea that sex is dirty. And that, in itself, does far more harm than anything else associated with athletics--except, perhaps, the excessive importance society grants to athletics.
Then it told another lie to build public support for a possible new war against Iraq: it claimed that the Iraqi government is providing chemical and biological weapons to al-Qa'ida. Amazingly, the UK military exposed this lie.
False claims such as these put the public into a frenzy where it is more ready to let governments abolish basic civil liberties. The UK has done plenty of that.
A great country does not dispense justice with Bush-league courts.
In the past few months, Hutchinson has directed police to shut down several medical marijuana distribution centers that were authorized by various states.
It might make sense to develop better weapons for attack on these fortified bases, but a nuclear weapon is an absurd way to do it. Such a weapon could be used in only two scenarios: (1) when the enemy that possesses the deep underground bases has launched a nuclear attack on the US, or (2) as a nuclear first strike by the US. The former is possible but rather unlikely; developing a bomb for use only in that situation is a waste of money. The second would encourage nuclear war in general (which might mean an attack on the US), while costing the US all of its overseas support.
It would be far more intelligent to develop a plan for attacking buried bases by putting soldiers on the ground with bulldozers and dynamite. That method could actually be used whenever an enemy has underground bases, without any horrible side effects.
The US frequently attempts to apply its laws people and actions taken outside US borders; on occasion it has sent agents into other countries uninvited, to seize people and bring them to the US for trial. Now the US is on the receiving end instead--but this role-reversal doesn't make it right, it just means the danger to the Internet is increasing. The danger is that the Internet may be transformed from a space of fairly free communication to one where people fear to say anything that is prohibited, or even actionable, anywhere in the world.
The proposed Hague Treaty threatens to exacerbate the effect, by explicitly globalizing the laws various countries have under which you could be sued for publishing something on the Internet. There is a simple solution: to exempt publication from the Hague Treaty. But the media companies, hoping to see harsh US laws such as the DMCA applied to the rest of the world, demand that the treaty apply to publication.
Aftonbladet runs a web site where visitors to the website can post comments and reply to them, much as they do on sites such as GNU-Friends, Slashdot, and Kuro5hin.
In October 2000, Nazi sympathizers posted comments in a discussion about the Middle East. Even though Aftonbladet removed the comments when attention was called to them (which is bad enough, since it represents political censorship), the court ruled that Aftonbladet (and hence Kalle Jungkvist) is guilty of a crime for not censoring them in advance. This ruling, if not overturned on appeal, endangers the existence of unmoderated discussion sites on the Internet. The threat exists not only in Sweden but, because of the new Europe-wide arrest warrant system, everywhere in Europe.
I despise Nazism, but I oppose censorship of Nazi views, or any other political views. I would refuse to censor even George Bush if it were up to me. As this case shows, any kind of political censorship threatens the freedom of everyone. Americans concerned about censorship can contribute to the ACLU or the EFF. In the UK, please support FIPR.
The East Timor Action Network, which brought the Indonesian occupation of East Timor to the world's attention, asks Americans to ask Congress to keep the pressure on the Indonesian military to punish the generals responsible for these crimes of mass murder.
Mandatory minimum sentences compound the injustice caused by criminal prohibition of drugs. For justice's sake, we should correct both problems.
The Agencia de Protección de Datos, which enforces that law, decided that the ACT's web site was a "data base", and therefore that the names of police sued or charged with torture could not be mentioned on the web site without their permission. They fined the ACT $300,000, which the ACT could not pay. The site was shut down.
The ACT's pages are available in mirror sites, but the Agencia de Protección de Datos continues trying to shut them down in countries that have similar "privacy" laws.
Meanwhile, groups that support Spanish government policies publish information on their web site about individuals who support Basque independence, but the APD does not try shut them down. Apparently the Spanish government is taking lessons from Humpty Dumpty: Spanish laws mean what the government wants them to mean, no more, no less.
Amnesty International has criticized Spain for pardoning torturers and giving medals to them. The 2001 Amnesty International report on Spain and the 1999 report provide background information on the practice of torture by Spanish police.
The police attacked other demonstrations the following day without warning. In the weeks before the demonstration, police mounted a campaign of harrassment in a part of the city, stopping people for no reason and demanding to see their papers.
The MAUSS group, in France, takes its name from Marcel Mauss, the anthropologist who wrote about "gift economies". They refute the right-wing ideology of human nature in order to defend the welfare state.
Much more radical is Socialism As It Was Always Meant To Be, by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel. It discusses multilevel systems of participatory decisionmaking, separately for production and for consumption. The plan is designed to protect individual freedom and privacy in personal consumption decisions as well as in seeking jobs. It seems to be an idea worth thinking about.
Berlusconi, the right-wing ruler of Italy, owns most private TV in Italy and controls state TV as well. There are not many places you can hear an alternative view. Since the telecommunications ministry reports to Berlusconi, this looks like an attempt to block off one of the remaining few.
One can hope that after this experience the city police will feel more sympathy for protestors they are ordered to attack. However, experience shows that being on the receiving end of violence more often tends to brutalize people; only a few have the moral vision to consider how they were treated and decide, "I must not treat others that way." So they are more likely to "take it out" on some innocent person than to reform themselves.
This is a good thing--the fewer kangaroo courts, the better--but one has to wonder what point it serves to have just a few of them. Why take the enormous step of rejecting civilized standards of justice, merely to deny a few minor suspects the chance to clear their names?
After reading this report, I don't think the interrogating agent really believed that Clarke knew anything about Osama bin Laden, or that Clarke had anything to do with al-Qa'ida. It is too far fetched. So why would he make that accusation?
It is standard police interrogation strategy to confront suspects with false claims to have evidence they don't really have, and even false accusations. They want the suspect to fear they already have proof of his guilt, or even worse, that they have evidence which points to him for some crime he did not commit. But police normally do that with people they think are really guilty of some crime and may really confess. And part of the method is to make it seem they really believe the falsehoods they are saying. What happened here was different: the agent who interrogated and accused Clarke did not really try to pretend to a serious belief; he expected Clarke to know he was fabricating the accusation out of thin air. This was worse than a lying threat. This was a threat to lie.
The message in that accusation, meant to be visibly insincere, was a message of arrogant power. "Watch me lie! See, I have no scruples. I, and the people I work for, are going to lie about you, and if others dare point out the truth, we will drown them out." The agent knew that protestors are not terrorists, but he participates willingly in the campaign to slander them. He works for the citizens of the US, and his job is to lie to us.
Law enforcement agencies want to increase surveillance of citizens outside prison. I have a counterproposal: to install recording cameras in prisons so that organizations for humane treatment of human beings can monitor the behavior of the guards.
Hasn't New York had enough night-mayors?
Since these are the same Italian police that killed and injured protestors in Genoa, and are attacking Indymedia now, one has to wonder if this plot was a fabrication.
Ferrocyanide is normally used for gardening. Perhaps these Moroccans were going to use it for their garden.
Moral: cops don't always want to find the real terrorists.
It would be more humane to machine-gun these people than to imprison them for life and drive them to suicide. But it would be harder for the Australian government to pretend it is treating them properly and obeying treaties on human rights if it shot them, so it tortures them instead.
The anthrax scare of 2001, although probably committed by Americans, shows the seriousness of the threat that biological weapons could pose in Saddam's hands. It is important to address this problem effectively. That does not necessarily require war.
The US injured its chances of taking peaceful action to end Iraqi biological weapons development when it arranged for UN weapons inspectors to spy for the US "on the side", thus discrediting them. This does not mean the world should back and watch Iraq develop biological weapons, but also does not mean war is the only way. It means that the US will have to distance itself from any future inspection program because of its previous cheating. And the US is hardly in a position to justify an immediate resort to arms after having been insincere in trying a peaceful solution.
It is true that terrorists sometimes get money from selling drugs to the US. But the reason why this works for them is the cruel and ineffective US "war on drugs", which makes the drugs so profitable. Bush's "solution" is actually the source of the problem. But what can you expect from a war that is on drugs? Certainly not that it should know how to shoot straight.
Part of Bush's agenda, to repay his right-wing Christian supporters, is to prohibit abortion and contraception. Will he present this too as an "anti-terrorist" measure? Will Ashcroft label Planned Parenthood as a "terrorist organization", and deport every non-citizen who has ever contributed to it? Stay tuned.
That is enough to justify the policy, but it would have secondary benefits too: by removing addicts from the underground market, it would greatly reduce underground sale of heroin, and reduce the sellers' interest in attempting to get people addicted.
Chris Davies, a member of the European Parliament from Britain, and Marco Cappato, a member of the European Parliament from Italy, each in turn brought a tiny piece of marijuana to the UK authorities as a protest against prohibition. Each was arrested, and both now face criminal charges although they harmed no one.
I admire the courage of these men, and I am sure their example will make a difference.
The interesting part is that this selling of influence is considered news. For Democratic officials, to be bought by business is commonplace. For Republican officials, to be bought by business is a moral obligation--if they refused, they'd be breaking a campaign promise. Republican officials selling influence ought to be as newsworthy as elephants wallowing in mud. But it seems unusual because most days it goes unreported.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Blair's government is also being accused of selling influence to Enron for campaign contributions.
I found a solution to this dilemma: I respond, "As an Atheist, I don't celebrate Christmas, but thanks for the good wishes." This way, I can stand up for my views while still being nice to the person who wanted to be nice to me. Give it a try!
A couple of people have asked why I don't just say "Thank you." The reason is that that would not serve the purpose--it would not help strengthen the right to be an Atheist in the US.
Atheists are discriminated against in the US, both practically and in some cases legally; condemnation by prominent Christians, endorsed more or less by the US government, is not unusual. Many Atheists are afraid to make their views known--they are in the closet. The presumption of Christianity which exists all the time is part of the pressure not to be openly Atheist. By conspicuously denying the presumption, I reduce the pressure on other Atheists.
I want to show Christians that they should not presume everyone is Christian (or has any religion). So I came up with a way to do this which is not hostile to them but still makes the point. My aim is to make the point in a friendly way, not to suppress it.
But more alarming than possible inhumane prison conditions is the idea, being bruited around, that these prisoners may be held permanently without trial if no evidence is found to charge them with crimes. The US would really be sinking low if it does that.
It occurs to me that this horrible idea might not be a serious proposal. It could be a sort of trial balloon, meant to make unjust military courts seem acceptable by comparison.
I cannot say how much I am impressed to see a political leader of any country act courageously in the service of freedom. One can hardly imagine any American politician doing this.
The Independent, of London points out that a double standard of justice is not the best way to win world-wide support against terrorism, or to encourage a higher standard of justice around the world.
Not only book publishers face criminal charges for criticizing Turkey's human rights record. Foreign journalists and human rights observers have been excluded, deported, or indicted. Even members of the Turkish parliament have been imprisoned for speaking about Turkey's human rights record. One former member of parliament, Leyla Zana, has been serving, since 1994, a 15-year sentence for "membership of an illegal organization." In 1998 this was extended by two years for "inciting racial hatred" -- Zana is Kurdish, and struggles for Kurdish rights.
For more information, see the Sunshine Project.
Argentines have responded with general strikes, rioting in many cities, and massive protests on the street. All this forced President de la Rua, who authorized these policies, to resign.
There is now international pressure for devaluation of the Argentine peso, which would effectively reduce the savings and income of working Argentines, but not reduce the debt (which is measured in dollars). Investors are said to be "betting" that the peso will be devalued, which means they will gain if it happens, and lose money if it does not happen. They are therefore pursuing a course directly opposed to the interests of most Argentines.
Any government that obeys the dictates of the IMF will just continue down the path to ruin. Only debt forgiveness or debt default can enable Argentina to recover. BBC Radio said president Adolfo Rodriguez Saa plans to reject devaluation. He is suspending debt payments, and using the money thus saved to create jobs.
This suppression of dissenting views, albeit incomplete, presents a narrow range of possible views to the public, and thus acts to "manage" public opinion. To the extent that some Americans are "united behind Bush", it is partly because they are being cut off from other choices.
Such spreading is not unusual; Science News, 1 Dec, 2001, reported that artificial genes are now commonly found in the traditional varieties of corn grown in Mexico. In remote rural fields, artificially modified genes appeared in a few percent of samples. Near population centers, up to 60% of samples had these genes. Will half of Mexico's farmers be shut down by patent lawsuits, and forced to destroy their crops and their seed lines?
The companies that do the genetic engineering are not always careful about trying to prevent this mixing. Friends of the Earth reported recently that an experimental plant field in Britain was illegally allowed to bloom, and was being visited by bees that were presumably carrying pollen to other populations. It took a week after the problem was reported before the plants were destroyed.
I don't feel a horror of genetic engineering; in principle, it has great potential to benefit humanity. But it also presents risks, which call for careful handling to minimize them. Foolish policies or sloppy handling in the rush to profit can multiply the risks.
The British government says that the imprisoned are eight in number, but without further information it is impossible to check the veracity of that statement.
But I am proud to affirm that I am "eroding national unity", if "unity" means support for Bush and Ashcroft. Those men are against everything that I love in America. They're against civil liberties, against justice, against separation of church and state, against abortion rights and birth control, against the social safety net, and apparently against political dissent as well. Their vision of America's political future looks like a Christian version of the Taliban; their vision of America's economic future looks like Panama. They are trashing my country, and I'm going to do my utmost to erode any "unity" that could help them finish the job.
A study shows that young marijuana users in the UK are often involved in violence--but not because of the effects of marijuana itself. Rather, the violence results from their involvement in the illegal drug market, and would therefore seem to be a consequence of prohibition.
The Act permits non-nationals to be detained without charge or trial for an indefinite period of time, on the simple decision of the Home Secretary. The decision can be based on secret evidence and then confirmed by a secret hearing from which the detainee and his lawyer may be excluded. In other words, the concept of "legal rights" has been abolished.
Police may say that they intend to use tear gas against "violent" protestors, and claim that carrying a gas mask is a sign of "violent" intentions. However, experience since Seattle shows that it is common for police to attack peaceful marchers with tear gas at protests. Even bystanders not infrequently get hit. Carrying a gas mask simply indicates recognition of how police actually behave.
Meanwhile, Canadian author Mike Pearson is not being allowed to receive copies of his own book. It was published in the US, and the author's copies, shipped to him in Canada, keep failing to arrive. The third shipment was returned with a sticker saying "Do not deliver in Canada," which suggests that the unexplained disappearance of the first two shipments was no accident.
The police attacked a news photographer, too, pulling him down from on top of a car where he was taking pictures of the protest. No doubt they will fabricate an accusation to justify this attack--perhaps "attacking an officer" (by taking photos).
Now another man is ready to confess to the murder--and so far, courts have ruled that the system should not listen. A protest campaign demands the reopening of Mumia's case. I don't know whether Mumia is innocent or guilty, but he deserves a fair trial--as does anyone else accused of a crime.
The book Actual Innocence by Scheck et al. describes the work of the Innocence Project, which has used DNA tests to prove the innocence of numerous convicts sentenced to execution in the US. The book's title refers to the view, stated by one judge, that the "actual innocence" of the convict should not derail an execution.
What do you think?
The prosecutors surely understood as well as anyone that this was satire, but they chose to distort their judgment in order to fabricate an accusation. This willingness to make false accusations is not unusual among "law enforcement" personnel--it is found at all levels, and in many countries including the US. For instance, anti-globalization protestors are often accused of resisting arrest because (say) they held their hands in front of their faces while policemen were beating them on the head. All sorts of objects are seized and called "illegal weapons". In the recent protests in Ottawa, says police seized gas masks, knives, cameras, watches, jewelry, medical supplies and other items. (He is in charge of helping protestors recover the seized goods.)
Just threatening to misrepresent reality so as to make trouble for you is also a common bullying tactic--I have seen police, customs agents, and airport security personnel use it.
No system of "justice" will be any good if the people who implement it are dishonest. The prosecutor who misrepresented Brand should be fired, and Sweden should make a systematic effort to insist on honesty in its "law enforcement" system.
200 lawyers from all the EU countries have published an appeal warning of the danger to democracy posed by this measure.
The Bolivian regime is facing widespread protests from all sectors of society, with strikes or threats of strikes by farmers, by bus drivers, and even by businesses. In response, the president of Bolivia and the US ambassador called the protestors "terrorists". That main article on that page is followed by a number of recent news articles and editorials from Bolivia, which help present the situation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government is pushing a pair of "anti-terrorism" bills which, taken together, declare typical anti-globalization protest tactics to be "terrorism".
Meanwhile, there are reports that during or after the suppression of the Taliban prisoners' uprising, some Taliban prisoners were killed while they were in custody--with their hands tied. The legitimacy of fighting enemies who are fighting back can't justify slaughtering those who are no longer able to fight.
Wicked men, ambitious of power, with hatred of liberty and contempt of law, may fill the place once occupied by Washington and Lincoln; and if this right is conceded, and the calamities of war again befall us, the danger to liberty is frightful to contemplate.After past wars, liberties were restored--but since our leaders claim this emergency will continue for decades, they probably don't intend to let that happen again. If we want ever to get our lost liberty back, we have to start soon--before Americans grow to regard pervasive government snooping and threats as normal.
This happens at a time when Canada is using a law meant to prohibit destroying other people's ballots to prosecute people who ate their ballots as a protest, and the US is using minor violations of visa rules to keep immigrants in prison incommunicado. Would you buy a used law from a government today?
There is a danger that the US will next impose other laws, such as laws against pornography, to traffic between sites and individuals in other countries that passes through the US en route.
Please note Note that this article uses the word "hackers" to refer to security breakers, that is to say, "crackers". Hacking means approaching an activity with a spirit of playful cleverness. Around 1980, some journalists misunderstood the word "hacking" and thought it meant security breaking. Since then we hackers have been plagued with the error.
Please don't slander us hackers. When you're talking about breaking security, please say "cracking".
The article mentions similar lying forensic analysts in other states. One such person can send dozens of people wrongfully to prison or even to death.
I fully support the US war effort in Afghanistan; I don't know whether it will protect the US from terrorist attacks, but Afghanis are already celebrating being rid of the Taliban, and that is enough reason to fight. We should not have waited to be attacked ourselves before helping them. This may even be a major setback for world-wide religious extremism, which would be worth celebrating too. (Religious extremists seeking political power are a threat in the US as well; President Bush was their candidate.) My support for this war is possible because it is not being carried out in the bloodthirsty fashion that so many writers have asked for.
Anyone can hate; anyone who has suffered can wish to see someone else suffer. The responsibility of leaders, both official and otherwise, is to resist regressing to that infantile level.
Now the legislators of Massachusetts, fearing they will face real challenges to hold their seats, are refusing to fund the law. They think they can overturn it by ignoring it. Common Cause is suing the state of Massachusetts to demand implementation of the law.
This prosecution forms part of a general recent pattern of government repression in "Western democracies" against political dissent.
It is not clear that this was entirely planned in advance. But it is clear that Oden was marked before her arrival at the airport for special abuse (which included physical assault) because of her political beliefs, and then punished for complaining about it. But that by itself is unjust, and when it is used to obstruct political opposition, it endangers democracy.
To put an end to such repression, Congress should pass a law that requires judicial review of such "you may not fly" orders. This is what "rule of law" means.
Better yet, the practice should be prohibited entirely. When there is real evidence to connect someone with terrorism, that person should be arrested, not just stopped from travelling. Without such evidence, there is no justification for anything beyond searching the person's bags with extra care.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that I endorsed the Green Party candidate for president, Ralph Nader, in the last election.
Perhaps these ideas encourage too much thinking for a school to tolerate. Here is how you can support Katie.
The "anti-terrorism" bill is likely to lead to even worse treatment for unknown thousands of non-terrorist non-citizens in the future.
The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) is trying to help, by raising private funds and by pressing the government of Canada to start caring what happens to its poorest citizens. Thus far it prefers to spend the money on prosecuting ballot-eaters.
I'm sure you can imagine the scandal that would have developed if President Clinton and his family had been involved in similar events. So why no scandal for the shrub?
In the US, Republicans are trying to invoke the "spirit of unity" to bulldoze a path for dangerous trade treaties such as the FTAA. The EFF warns that the FTAA may be used to impose laws like the DMCA on all the countries of the Western Hemisphere.
In the UK, a leaked government memo shows exactly how brazenly this plan was made: a government official proposed, just hours after the September 11 attacks, to look for unpopular actions to announce while the public and the news media were distracted by terrorism.
This secular and democratic feminist organization, now driven underground, documents the Taliban's cruel treatment of women and works to educate and help Afghan women both within Afghanistan and in the refugee camps in Pakistan.
The US plans to spend billions on fighting a war. Even a million dollars could work wonders in RAWA's hands. With several million, they could peacefully build a different kind of Afghan society, one that would no longer fall into the hands of the most vicious.
I can't imagine the mindset of someone who would want the services of a prostitute. For me there is nothing to value in sex with someone who felt no attraction or warmth for me. If a woman I longed for told me, "You'd have to pay me to have sex with you," I'd go drown my feelings of undesirability in work--not ask "How much?" And if someone values money more than tenderness, I find that unattractive regardless of the person's line of work.
If everyone were like me, prostitutes would have no customers, so there would be no prostitutes. But prostitutes do have customers, and there are prostitutes--so their lives should not have to be filled with cruelty and danger. Their illegal status puts them in danger from violence and from disease, and it leaves them helpless against the cruelty of customers and pimps. One indirect consequence is that their customers are also in increased danger from disease. Another is corruption of the police, who are bribed not to arrest the prostitutes outside of special occasions.
The consequent suffering affects millions of Americans, and kills far more people than the terrorist attacks of September 11. We could aleviate most of it simply by following the Dutch example, and legalizing prostitution. And it wouldn't cost a dime to the treasury (though if American prostitutes form a union, that could increase prices for the customer).
Dr. Shaikh faces the death penalty in Pakistan--for blasphemy, supposedly criticizing Islam. Amnesty international has called his trial unfair and labeled him as a prisoner of conscience.
Thus rule by decree replaces rule of law.
This shows that the policy of excluding homosexuals from the forces makes no sense in its own stated terms. If the peacetime armed forces exist to be prepared in case they need to fight, gays should never be excluded.
In response, another group called WIPOUT has launched a counter-contest. They are asking people to respond to the same question, "What does intellectual property mean to you in your daily life?" But they are looking for responses that present the harm done by copyrights, patents, etc. They aim to highlight the side of the issue that WIPO ignores.
Please keep in mind, after you read their site, that "intellectual property" is a propaganda term. Even using it in your own thinking leads to simplistic overgeneralization, because it lumps together copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and various other areas of law, which really have almost nothing in common. To think about these various areas intelligently, you must think about them one by one.
So in order to think clearly about these issues, think about copyrights, or about patents, or about trademarks, but don't think about "intellectual property". And if you want to help others think clearly about them, please say and write "copyrights" or "patents" or "trademarks", not "intellectual property". Your writing will be more informative if you don't lump them all together.
The law being used to charge them was meant to prohibit destroying other people's ballots, but the Canadian government is stretching it to imprison these protestors--and thereby proving just how right the protesters are.
If you wish to ridicule the bizarre actions of Elections Canada, you can write to them at 257 Slater St. Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0M6, or email them through their web page.
The Italian police claimed that the protestors had attacked them; the Greek prosecutor called this a "a distortion of reality."
Readers of this site will know that the excuse is partly false as well as philosophically inadequate--in Montreal and Genoa, some of the worst "troublemakers" among the protestors were actually undercover police.
I wish that our government officials were trying to defend the US Constitution and our freedom of the press. I have no sympathy for neo-Nazis, but if they can be censored, anyone else can be too.
Schily's quest may be thwarted this time by the Bill of Rights, but he may have a better chance of carrying German censorship into the US if the proposed Hague Treaty is adopted. The ACLU and the American Library Association are concerned about the Hague Treaty, and you should be too.
Bush now seeks to exacerbate these problems by extending NAFTA to South America as well (the FTAA).
The latest Public Citizen newsletter also reports on the ways various industries that paid money to the Bush campaign have been rewarded with changes in "inconvenient" Federal regulations that would protect public health or the environment from the actions of these companies. Specific industries listed include oil, coal, electricity, paper and logging, and mining.
One of the regulations that Bush revoked had been established by OHSA to protect computer users like you from repetitive stress injuries at work.
This is an ironic reversal of roles for the two countries. During the cold war, Russia was noted for its efforts to stamp out unauthorized copying and redistribution of information (samizdat). Today the United States is the principal offender.
This illustrates the danger that religion still poses to civil liberties in large parts of the world.
Not all countries approve of it, however. The Supreme Court of Canada recently blocked the extradition of suspects to the US because the prosecutor in the US had threatened them with homosexual rape.
Fiction writers in the US had now better make sure the victims in horror and crime stories are all old enough to give consent to the violence that is done to them. And we had all better demand an end to censorship laws, no matter what they are supposed to "protect" us from.
Reclaim the Streets sets up surprise street parties, where people play music and dance. It is described in the book No Logo as one of the new forms of protest against global brand culture.
On May 10, FBI director Louis Freeh testifying to Congress listed Reclaim the Streets among the "Threats of Terrorism to the United States". Is dancing terrorism?
While we laugh at the absurdity of this, we have to recognize that it might be the start of a persistent and serious "big lie" campaign. And if further lies, such as frame-ups or infiltration of provocateurs, are used to support the big lie, it won't be the first time.
Nike's marketing strategy is to make itself seem cool. You can fight back by attaching a negative attitude to their name. Don't buy from Nike, and if see a person wearing Nikes, express disdain for that choice.
Now his newspaper, the Observer, has been sued for libel by the company that employs George Bush Sr: Barrick Gold Mining of Canada. The accusation in the case is that Palast quoted an Amnesty International report, which alleged that 50 miners might have been buried alive in Tanzania by a company now owned by Barrick. This was a small part of an article that exposes a long history of sleazy connections between George Bush Sr and Barrick, including Bush's actions as President of the US.
The US Senate has passed an Education Bill into which language has been added that essentially calls upon teachers to tell students that evolutionary theory is not science. A Senator from Kansas hailed this amendment as a vindication of the Kansas school board's 1999 decision to eliminate evolution from the curriculum.
Please call or write your Senators and Congressman to oppose this, and alert other people.
See http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution_update0601.html for full information.
"- while this is all going on for about half an hour ( the rally permit runs out around this time) a punk beside me is thrown to the street and put in a headlock by another slightly cleaner dressed punk. people surge forward seemingly trying to help the guy but then it turns out about 20 of them are undercover cops and a few more people start getting grabbed. this part was crazy and was the first time i've ever seen real live 'agents provocateurs'. I'm not sure if they had any 'reason' for grabbing this guy other than that they wanted to start something and as a fully decked out punk, they wouldn't look so bad."
Don't be fooled by the excuse. Censorship laws are more
dangerous to a democratic society than any pornography could ever be.
You can learn more here
Singh promises to appeal that condition to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Thomas has made some of the maps available on his own web site, and has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the rest.
What have they been doing since the world's attention was taken away? They have been acting like Nazis--encouraging racism and police violence. There is a real problem in Austria.
(I joined the ACLU in 1988, when Daddy Bush called Governor Dukakis a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU--in effect saying that upholding the US Constitution was equivalent to being a Communist. Bush showed his real views of freedom, and this convinced me I ought to join the ACLU as a statement of support for them against this vicious calumny. I've heard many other people joined at the same time.)
This case is likely to continue for a long time. Please help Dr. Shaikh by writing to the government of Pakistan to express your concern about the case.
Please visit the site for the campaign to block these regulations, www.SaveHemp.org, and please help and inform others.
(I received an interesting letter in response to this issue.)
Americans United sent Lieberman an open letter asking him to ask voters to consider his record, not his religion.
I've been a member of Americans United for several years.
Strong public opposition blocked that bill, and ``know your customer'' programs did not become mandatory. But over 80 percent of US banks have them voluntarily. That is better than 100 percent, but not good.
I have an idea for how to bring about some change in this. It involves setting up a web site where people can record which banks have these programs and which do not. People can ask their own banks, and then record the answers.
Then people who don't want the extra risk of civil forfeiture, or object to big-brotherism, can use the data base to find a local bank which doesn't squeal on its law-abiding customers--and move their deposits to that bank.
I don't have time to set this up, and I don't know how either. But I hope I can get someone else interested. If you are interested in setting this up, and you know how, please send me mail. (People are working on this now, so if you want to help, please contact me rather than starting on your own.)
If you think a drug is dangerous, you can avoid the risk by not using it. But you cannot avoid the many dangers of the War on Drugs--a million Americans in prison (largely for nonviolent "possession of drugs" crimes), no money for education because prison comes first, our police corrupted, and our civil liberties undermined.
For some 20 years the U.S. has been the target of a crazed War on Drugs. Around a million people are in prison in the U.S. today for drug-related "crimes". Often the crime was simply to sell or use drugs--activities that would not be crimes at all if we end this war. Sometimes the crime was an act of violence--which should be a crime, but typically would not have happened if prohibition did not drive the drug trade into the hands of gangsters. (In the 1920s, the illegal sellers of alcohol committed many notorious violent crimes--but today's brewers, distilleries and liquor stores are law-abiding.) Our civil liberties are constantly threatened by plans to make this war "more effective".
When a war is on drugs, it tends to forget who the enemy is, and attack citizens indiscriminately. Let's get the war off drugs.
RTMark explains the holiday this way:
Mayday commemorates ten Americans who lost their lives fighting for the eight-hour [work] day, and their sacrifice has been celebrated since 1889 nearly everywhere in the world *except* America.
Mayday heralds the approach of summer, a time that still means "vacation" to those in most First-World nations. But substantial vacations, like the eight-hour day, have passed into American leisure history. While the average number of hours worked per year has gone down throughout the First World, it has gone up in America, with Americans now working six weeks more per year than they did in 1973 to achieve the same standard of living. Phoning in sick en masse will function as a "mayday" distress call by increasingly harried Americans. (Visit http://rtmark.com/sickday.html to see Andrei Codrescu explain this most eloquently.)
[rms note: We used to expect technology to provide increased leisure time. I believe it could, if society were not dominated by business and business owners.]
The erosion of leisure is no longer limited to America. As European countries are increasingly forced to dismantle social programs and adopt American-style measures to benefit corporate health, we can be sure that they will all go the way of the United States: two-month vacations will shrink to two weeks, maternity leave will go from six months to five days, etc. Therefore RTMark encourages Europeans, and other First Worlders for whom May 1 is already a holiday, to phone in sick on May 2. (In the Third World, of course, the effects of neoliberalism are unspeakably worse than a mere erosion of leisure; it would be tasteless to suggest that phoning in sick might accomplish anything there.)
The right to criticize, or even ridicule, any religion or religion in general is part of human rights. No religion or church is entitled to suppress criticism--not Islam, not the Church of Scientology, not even the Church of Emacs.
Earlier in April the Bush administration arranged for the removal of the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Leaked papers released by the NRDC show that ExxonMobil and other businesses were calling the shots.
There are also reports that the Israeli army committed mass murder against helpless civilians in Jenin.
Ariel Sharon is on trial in Belgium for his role in atrocities in Lebanon in the 80s. Read how he described his history of violence against Arabs.
The East Timor Action Network, which brought the Indonesian occupation of East Timor to the world's attention, asks Americans to ask Congress to keep the pressure on the Indonesian military to punish the generals responsible for these crimes of mass murder.
Transportation from New York City is available.
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Copyright (C) 2002 Richard Stallman
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