Sunday, November 30
Tristram Hunt @ Ootacamund, The Guardian, December 1, 2003
A couple of days' journey south of Bangalore, the booming hub that has come to symbolise the India of science, technology and aggressive modernity, lies a corner of the old Raj which is forever England. High in the rain-soaked hills of western Tamil Nadu is Ootacamund - or Ooty, or "Snooty Ooty".
It was once the territory of the Toda people, but the British colonisers of the 19th century fell for its temperate climes, stunning scenery, and accessibility from their Madras power base.
Marshalled by the East India Company bureaucrat John Sullivan, they built a microcosm of the Surrey hills complete with a railway, bungalows, a club, botanic gardens (just off Havelock Road) and St Stephen's Church.
To enter the porch of St Stephen's is to re-enter a lost universe of Anglo-India: of duty, militarism, and racial solidarity.
Here the administrators of the Indian civil service, the soldiers of the Bengal Artillery and Light Dragoons, and the missionaries of Anglicanism celebrated their civilisation amid the encircling jungle of the western Ghats.
And here lie their monuments to the fallen - those who gave their lives for a vision of India.
The Rev William Sawyer "who having laboured with diligence and zeal for six years as a missionary to the Heathen at Madras died in the faithful discharge of his duties as chaplain of this station".
Poor Georgiana Grace, "the beloved wife of JC Wroughton Esq, Principal Collector of this Province" who died at the age of 30 "leaving her Husband and seven Children to deplore their Irreparable Loss".
The unfortunate Richard William Preston, a captain in the 1st Bombay Grenadiers, who "drowned in the Kromund River while out hunting with the Ootacamund Hounds. Thy Will Be Done."
The very fabric of St Stephen's was a statement to English imperial hegemony.
Its architect, John James Underwood, a captain in the Madras Engineers, extracted its wooden beams from the remains of Tipu Sultan's palace in Seringapatam, some 100 miles north-east of Ooty.
Tipu Sultan Fath Ali Khan, the Tiger Prince of Mysore, was one of the most persistent obstacles to the expansionist ambitions of the East India Company.
Time and again during the late 18th century, he powered through Britain's "thin red line", capturing thousands of soldiers in the process.
Most would succumb to infection in his disease-ridden dungeons.
But Sultan's palace was also a place of more intimate fears as captive British soldiers were pressured into joining the Mysore army.
As part of their induction, the hapless warriors of empire were, according to an account unearthed by historian Linda Colley, body-shaved, stretched naked over a large bowl and "circumcised by force".
The British army was systematically unmanned.
Seringapatam constituted a site of deep horrors, both physical and psychological, for the British colonial imagination.
It took a Wellesley - Richard Wellesley, governor general of Bengal and brother of the future Duke of Wellington - to crush the Tiger Prince in 1799 and open up southern India for British rule.
Pictures of the killing of a tiger, complete with leather boot atop the skinned animal's head, would become a favourite leitmotif for Victorian rule in and over India.
Underwood's decision to strip Seringapatam for the roof of St Stephen's was the ecclesiastical equivalent of shooting the tiger.
The thick beams which had provided the foundations for the Tiger of Mysore would support the Anglican soul of Ooty. Here the soldiers, tax-collectors and British colonial elite gathered to reaffirm their victory over Tipu Sultan's India.
Today Bangalore, not Ooty, represents India.
Bombay is now Mumbai, Madras is Chennai and Ootacamund trades under a Tamil title, Udhagamandalam.
Meanwhile, we are not allowed to go hiking. A tiger is stalking the hills.
Internet 'mouse' freed in China
By John Taylor in Beijing, ABC Newsonline, December 2, 2003
A Chinese Internet dissident has been released from a Beijing jail, a year after she was arrested and with no charges ever brought against her.
Going under the Internet name the "Stainless Steel Mouse" 23-year-old Beijing university student Liu Di posted articles on the Internet satirising the Government and the Communist Party's commitment to free speech.
She was detained for just over a year but has now been conditionally released.
Ms Liu's case drew widespread attention in China and overseas as an insight into China's attempts to curb political dissent on the Internet.
But her release does not signal a broader policy change.
On Friday another Internet activist was jailed for four years after being convicted of subverting state power by planning to set up a pro-democracy party.
Saturday, November 29
2004 Is Now for Bush's Campaign
Early Advantage in Funds, Voters Sought
Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writers, November 30, 2003
President Bush's reelection team, anticipating another close election, has begun to assemble one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern presidential campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize an early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004.
Bush's campaign Web site already has signed up 6 million supporters, 10 times the number that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has, and the Bush operation is in the middle of an unprecedented drive to register 3 million new Republican voters. The campaign has set county vote targets in some states and has begun training thousands of volunteers who will recruit an army of door-to-door canvassers for the final days of the election next November.
The entire project, which includes complementary efforts by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties, is designed to tip the balance in a dozen-and-a-half states that both sides believe will determine the winner in 2004.
"I've never seen grass roots like this," said a veteran GOP operative in one of the battleground states.
Dean, a former governor of Vermont, has made major strides in organizing a grass roots-based campaign in a bid for his party's nomination. His advisers say it is the largest in the history of presidential politics.
While saying he is not familiar with all the details of Dean's grass-roots and Internet efforts, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said, "Our goal is for the largest grass-roots effort ever."
Organization alone cannot elect Bush to a second term. Given the reality that the president's campaign team cannot control such potentially decisive factors as the economy or events in Iraq, officials are determined to maximize their advantage in areas they can control. Rarely has a reelection committee begun organizing so early or intensively -- or with the kind of determination to hold state party and campaign officials, and their volunteers, accountable for meeting the goals of the Bush team.
Benedict Allen: The Great White Wayfarer
New York Times: November 1. 2003
The child of a test pilot and one of a long line of wanderers, 43-year-old Benedict Allen has spent the last 20 years on a solitary trek across the world's most inhospitable jungles, deserts and Arctic tundra. He thrives on the thin air of high adventure, traveling light, with only a minimum amount of equipment, and almost always alone, with a video camera for companionship. The ''diary'' of his attempt to cross the Bering Strait with a dog team of 10 during one of the coldest Siberian winters in living memory -- ''Ice Dogs'' -- will be shown Nov. 9 on ''National Geographic Ultimate Explorer.'' The noted photographer Bruce Weber has assembled this homage to his eccentric friend.
''Does the loneliness get to you?'' I asked.
''In the desert it's almost like a vacuum -- and suddenly snakes become companions. You feel they're on your side because they're on the side of the living.''
Wednesday, November 26
Investors Fault Dow Chemical for 'Hiroshima of Chemical Industry'
Investors Fault Dow Chemical for 'Hiroshima of Chemical Industry'
Jeffrey Allen, Oneworld.net, November 26, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 20 years after what is considered by many to have been the worst industrial disaster in history, investors are calling on the U.S. corporation they hold responsible to do more to address the considerable remaining environmental, social, and health concerns of survivors.
A shareholder resolution was filed Tuesday with the Dow Chemical Company on behalf of the Brethren Benefit Trust (the financial arm of the Church of the Brethren), which owns $330,000 worth of stock in the company, asking Dow to describe what it has done to address the lingering concerns of the estimated 120,000 to 150,000 people left chronically ill by a gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide factory in India in 1984.
Dow, which now owns Union Carbide, has been admonished by activists for doing little to clean up the contaminated site, failing to release information about the gas that doctors need to better treat patients, and inadequately compensating survivors and their families.
"When Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide two years ago, it inherited not only its assets but the liability and karma attached to Carbide's lack of accountability for the Bhopal chemical disaster," said Gary Cohen of the Environmental Health Fund, in a statement about the shareholder resolution released by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Assassins R Us
Assassins R Us
Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch.com, November 2003
As the Iraqi resistance expands and perfects its attacks, the American military, like so many occupying armies before it, is turning to methods of warfare long outlawed by civilized nations -- assassinations and reprisals against civilians. When it comes to the first, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has long been on record as wanting Saddam Hussein and the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban brought in "dead or alive," with emphasis on the former. Now, according to a November 7th front-page piece in the New York Times, the Pentagon, in conjunction with the CIA, has announced the creation of a new "task force" -- polite language for an assassination squad -- to accomplish these ends.
"The new Special Operations organization," according to reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, "is designed to act with greater speed on intelligence tips about 'high-value targets' and not be contained within the borders where American conventional forces are operating in Iraq and Afghanistan." In other words, this death squad, composed of U.S. Army Special Forces troops, can run down its quarry in countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan but presumably also (if the occasion required it) in France, Germany, or even the United States itself. [...more]
Tuesday, November 25
Fasting fakir flummoxes physicians
Rajeev Khanna. BBC correspondent in Ahmedabad, November 25, 2003
Doctors and experts are baffled by an Indian hermit who claims not to have eaten or drunk anything for several decades - but is still in perfect health.
Prahlad Jani, a holy man, or fakir, who is over 70 years old, has just spent 10 days under constant observation in Sterling Hospital, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
During that time, he did not consume anything and "neither did he pass urine or stool", according to the hospital's deputy superintendent, Dr Dinesh Desai. [...more]
"A series of tests conducted on him show his body mechanism is that of a normal person," said Dr Desai.
Mr Jani spends most of his time in a cave near the Ambaji temple in Gujarat state.
He spent his 10 days in hospital in a specially prepared room, with a sealed-off toilet and constant video surveillance.
... A statement from Ahmedabad's Association of Physicians says that despite no water entering his body, urine nonetheless appeared to form in his bladder - only to be re-absorbed by the bladder walls.
At the end of his confinement, doctors noted no deterioration in his condition, other than a slight drop in his weight.
"I feel no need for food and water," says Mr Jani, who claims he was blessed by a goddess at the age of eight and has lived in caves ever since.
He grew up in Charod village in Mehsana district and wears the dress of a devotee of the goddess Ambaji - a red sari-like garment, nose ring, bangles and crimson flowers in the hair.
Monday, November 24
The Official Press Room: Michael Jackson (website:http://www.mjnews.us/ )
To my fans, friends and family:
As you know, the charges recently directed at me are terribly serious. They are, however, predicated on a big lie. This will be shown in court, and we will be able to put this horrible time behind us.
Because the charges are so serious, I hope you all will understand, on the advice of my attorneys, I will be limited in what I can say about the situation. There will be times when I cannot comment at all. No doubt, this will be frustrating for all of us.
For that reason, I have set up this website to serve as a source of official communications on my case. Any statement that does not appear on this website must be considered unauthorized.
You are right to be skeptical of some of the individuals who are being identified in the mass media as my friends, spokespeople, and attorneys. With few exceptions, most of them are simply filling a desperate void in our culture that equates visibility with insight. We will not engage in speculation. We will not provide running commentary on every new development or allegation du jour. We intend to try our case in the courtroom, not in the public or the media.
I thank you all for your support and understanding.
God bless you,
Sunday, November 23
How Europe Gets Bush Wrong
Michael Elliot, Time Magazine, November 23, 2003
"Why do they hate you, Mr. President?" asked Nick Robinson, the political editor of Britain's ITV News, at a press conference in London last week. "I don't know that they do," the President replied. But I fear he's too optimistic. There is something about Bush that just gets under the skin of Europeans.
But why? Start with the obvious: the dislike of Bush is the repayment, with interest, of an old slight. Bush and his closest advisers were dismissive of Europe from the start. After spats over global warming and the International Criminal Court, the Administration rebuffed NATO members who pledged their support to the U.S. following Sept. 11, 2001. Other slurs followed, like Bush's sneer at the American reporter who dared ask the French President a question in French. None of that made Bush loved. Now many Europeans simply doubt that his commitment to democracy in the Middle East is genuine and cannot fathom why the U.S. does not lean harder on Israel to secure a lasting peace. [...]
Saturday, November 22
Michael Jackson: Lovable eccentric? Persecuted genius? Child-molesting freak?
Commentary by Kurt Loder, MTV.com, November 21, 2003
Take your pick. In fact, it seems that most of us already have.
It's clear that millions of people still love Michael Jackson. Or think they do. Actually, there's no way you can "love" a reclusive multimillionaire you've never met. You may love his music or his videos, but the man himself is more than just the sum of those things. His real thoughts and feelings, and the things he does in private, can't be known at such a distance.
I'd imagine that many of today's younger Michael Jackson fans may respond to his "sensitivity," his cultivated air of limp sweetness: He seems so harmless, only a deeply mean person could suggest he might be capable of inflicting harm. And I wonder if a lot of his older defenders aren't really pledging their allegiance to a Michael Jackson of the past, back when his music mattered and may have played an exciting part in their fondly remembered youth. But that Michael Jackson — especially the handsome, dazzling star of Off the Wall (1979) and Thriller (1982) — is long gone. He's been replaced by somebody else.
There are also those who point to Michael Jackson's undeniable talent as proof of ... well, proof of what? Talent is famously no guarantee of good character.
The Childhood of Michael Jackson
New York Times, Editorial, November 22, 2003
Unless he is proved guilty in a court of law, Michael Jackson is, of course, presumed to be innocent of the charges that led to his arrest on Thursday. But even before his trial begins — a trial that threatens to suck all of civilization into its maw — there is no doubt that Mr. Jackson is guilty of trying too hard to protect his innocence. Not the legal innocence that is vested in each of us, but the childlike innocence that we set aside sooner or later in order to get on with our lives. Most people have given up having slumber parties with prepubescent children by the time they cease being prepubescent themselves. Most people never need to be exiled from the Neverland of childhood. We leave it willingly on our own.
Of course, Michael Jackson is not most people. A case could be made, though not a legal one, that Mr. Jackson's prolonged innocence — if the better word isn't infantilism — is for him a refuge from a career that both deprived him of his childhood and gave him the means to try to reclaim it. His seemingly helpless protestations of his own pure-heartedness clearly betray a distrust, if not a loathing, of adults. Even if Mr. Jackson's strange behavior were just a matter of trying to bring comfort to afflicted children, that behavior has long since ceased to look selfless to the world around him.
Cruel or not, the world reserves a special kind of contempt for adults who choose to see themselves mainly through the eyes of children. Mr. Jackson has earned that contempt as surely as he has earned our respect for his musical talents.
Jackson on brink of suicide
Eddie Fitzmaurice in London, Sydney Morning Herald, November 23, 2003
Michael Jackson's friends and family fear he may try to take his life rather than face court on child abuse charges.
The star's biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, claimed yesterday that Jackson was devastated by the latest allegations - of molesting a 12-year-old boy - and had already warned he lacked the strength to endure a prolonged trial.
Taraborrelli, writing in Britain's Daily Mail, said a member of Jackson's family had told him they were scared Michael "will do himself in".
"The sight of Michael in handcuffs is one the public is not likely to forget," Taraborrelli said. "His police mug shot, in which he stares out blankly with dead eyes, is a chilling sight. It is sure to be a reminder for decades to come - long after Michael is gone - of how wildly his life spun out of control."
Taraborrelli said similar allegations of sexual abuse made against the singer 10 years ago by dentist's son Jordy Chandler, then 13, almost sent Jackson over the brink.
"He became addicted to drugs and were it not for the positive influence of Lisa Marie Presley, to whom he was then married, he might never have recovered," Taraborrelli said.
Jackson, 45, was yesterday reported to be holed up in a Las Vegas hotel as police in California continued to investigate claims of abuse involving cancer patient Gavin Arvizo at Jackson's ranch.
Fox TV claimed that Jackson is accused of plying the youngster with drink and drugs before abusing him.
Jackson surrendered to police in Santa Barbara, California, on Thursday after 70 police swooped on the ranch and spent 14 hours searching for evidence.
He was later released on bail, but is due to face a preliminary hearing on January 9 when his defence team is expected to suggest the allegations were made in the hope of achieving a settlement similar to the $US25 million ($35 million) paid to Jordy Chandler.
Meanwhile, Jackson's case suffered a possible setback yesterday when his former security chief came forward to claim that as many as 300 young children had slept with the singer in his bedroom at Neverland.
Robert Wegner told The Sun the youngsters were "overwhelmingly" boys aged between eight and 12.
Gavin's estranged father, David Arvizo, yesterday revealed he planned to sue for custody, claiming his wife was "crazy" for letting Gavin sleep in Jackson's bedroom.
Sex abuse case will be told about secret rooms
Michael McKenna, The Sunday Times, November 23, 2003
CANCER survivor Gavin Arvizo told the world in February that he shared Michael Jackson's bed and called him "Daddy" after being befriended by the superstar in hospital.
But now the 12-year-old boy, in remission from a kidney tumour, has become Jackson's accuser in a sex-abuse case that could send the entertainer to jail for years.
A day after Jackson surrendered to California police, US newspapers identified Gavin as the boy alleging he was plied with alcohol and sleeping pills before being molested by Jackson. [...more]
It also emerged yesterday that police who raided the 1092ha estate on Wednesday also targeted several hidden rooms said to be located off Jackson's bedroom.
A documentary made in 1994 but never aired includes interviews with alleged abuse victims who spoke of a small anteroom that could be accessed through a closet.
The room, according to the documentary that is now with police, is reported to have contained shelves of videotapes and a picture shrine to former child star Macaulay Culkin.
Jackson has previously admitted to having slept in the same bed as Culkin, who has denied he was ever abused, and his younger brother Kieran.
It was reported also that a narrow staircase led from the anteroom to a windowless children's bedroom with "Peter Pan" sheets on the bed.
Police took a locksmith on the raid, which lasted 13 hours, and swooped on the offices of a video company in Los Angeles that worked for Jackson for years. [...more]
Gavin, who grew up in poverty, told Bashir he and his brother had slept in the same bed with Jackson.
But Jackson said Gavin, who he described as "beautiful", had slept in his bed once – while he slept on the floor.
And he remained unrepentant when Bashir asked about the appropriateness of the behaviour.
"Why can't you share your bed?" Jackson asked. "Whenever kids come here (to Neverland), they always want to stay with me.
"The most loving thing to do is share your bed with someone."
Gavin's mother Janet Arvizo, 34, who is divorced from his father David, said she regularly dropped her son off alone for overnight stays at the ranch.
She said she was unconcerned despite the allegations of child abuse against Jackson.
"Michael is the father Gavin never had. He is a saint to all my children," she said at the time.
"They all stay over with Michael. And they are hoping to spend a lot more time with him in the future."
After the documentary was aired, the boy became a target of taunts from classmates that led to his mother sending him to a therapist.
He is believed to have told the therapist of the alleged abuse and the therapist then, in line with Californian medical regulations for suspected child abuse, told police.
The Arvizo family could not be contacted yesterday. [...more]
Accusing Jackson of sex abuse ruined the life of Jordy Chandler
By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, November 23, 2003
Michael Jackson may be howling about the indignities of being accused of child sexual abuse, but being one of his accusers is no picnic either.
Jordy Chandler made headlines around the world a decade ago when, at the age of 13, he testified in court documents that Mr Jackson had engaged in "sexual offensive contacts". Although Jordy subsequently became the chief beneficiary of a legal settlement worth anywhere from $15m (£8.8m) to $40m, it appears that the money has not resolved the psychological troubles triggered by his family's decision to take legal action against the most visible pop icon on the planet.
Quite apart from the alleged damage done to him by Mr Jackson - something that was never subjected to the scrutiny of a full criminal trial because Jordy agreed not to repeat his testimony in open court following the financial settlement - he has seen his family tear itself apart.
Information on his subsequent life is sketchy, and mostly based on reports in the US tabloid press, but all indications are that he is a lonely, introverted young man, now 23, with a lot of money to his name but little else. [...more]
MY JACKO SEX HELL BY BOY, 13
People.co.uk, November 2003
A BRITISH businessman has spoken full for the first time of his phone sex hell at the hands of Michael Jackson when he was just 13.
Terry George, who believes he was the first-ever child victim of the arrested superstar, told how Jacko...
COAXED him into explicit sex talk during long transatlantic phone calls.
FONDLED himself as he chatted to little Terry.
SORDIDLY discussed details of how he satisfied himself.
URGED the shocked schoolboy to join in.
Terry, now 38, told The People: "I believe I was the first child Jackson used and his only British victim.
"His arrest last week has brought back a lot of bad memories. I should have hung up at the time but he was a superstar and I was a star-struck schoolboy."
Terry's shocking claims - backed up by official documents handed to Scotland Yard and Los Angeles police and seen by The People - reveal Jackson was a threat to child fans nearly 25 YEARS ago.
The singer was a fresh-faced 20-year-old on a UK tour when he befriended Terry.
The young fan from Leeds used to travel round Britain with a tape recorder seeking out stars like Sir Paul McCartney, Omar Sharif, Cilla Black and Boy George for interviews.
In February 1979 he sneaked up to Jackson's room at the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds before a performance.
He knocked on the door and was thrilled when the singer answered and agreed to a 30-minute interview. When he left they exchanged phone numbers.
A few days later Jackson - then living in the US at home with rest of the Jackson family - called Terry and began a long-distance friendship.
But it took a sickening turn when Jackson made a sleazy call to the teenager. Terry said: "He just came straight out with his questions - asking me about sex acts. [...more]
Terry George: BIOGRAPHY
Terry George is a self-made millionaire businessman, with an ever-growing sphere of influence.
He owns several companies but when not working he enjoys spending his spare time taking photographs of crazy clubbers and as you might expect, travelling the world. Terry grew up on the infamous and tough Wyther Park estate in Leeds but even as a schoolboy his ambitious nature was clearly visible. At the age of 12 Terry, never the shrinking violet started interviewing famous people as a hobby. Many of his interviews were not only personal scoops for the star-struck lad but chats thought to be important enough to be broadcast by local radio stations. Amongst those caught on tape by Terry were a selection of ‘superstars’ as diverse as Michael Jackson (with whom he became friends), Omar Sharif, Paul McCartney, Boy George, Les Dawson and over two hundred other big names from show biz.
At the age of 17, Terry got his first professional job as a DJ at the Gemini Bar Leeds, then went on to play regular slots at other venues in the city; Scrumpies, Top Cats, and Staging Post. But the bright lights beckoned - well at least an offer he couldn’t refuse arrived and before long he had packed his espadrills and suntan lotion to work as an entertainer and DJ in Spain for two seasons - 1985 and 1986.
After returning to the UK, Terry was offered a full time job as resident DJ with Rank Leisure at Leeds new £3million nightclub Ritzy, working with General Manager Peter Smith. Terry was offered his own once-a-month gay night called Confettis, which turned out to be a huge success and ran for eight years with big names like Take That, M People, D:Ream and Boy George making special appearances.
This was the beginning of Terry’s embryonic empire, and soon every thing began to fall into place. To promote Confettis a magazine was launched - All Points North, which was aimed at the sadly neglected Northern club and gay scene. [...more]
Jackson makes music as abuse claims leak
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles, The Guardian, November 22, 2003
Boy at centre of case said to be cancer patient whom singer met at children's hospital and invited to Neverland
Michael Jackson was yesterday back in Las Vegas making a music video as details of the allegations against him and the people behind them began to leak from both sides in the case.
Setting the stage for what could be a sensational celebrity trial next year, it was reported yesterday that the boy at the centre of the sex abuse claims is a cancer patient who first met Jackson when the singer was visiting a children's hospital in Los Angeles last year.
The boy and some members of his family were later invited to stay at the singer's Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara county and the boy's medical fees were paid by Jackson.
The family and Jackson became friends, it has emerged. The singer's supporters were suggesting yesterday that there was a dispute between Jackson and the boy's mother which has prompted the current prosecution. The mother is separated from the boy's father. [...more]
It emerged yesterday that Jackson had retained the high-profile defence lawyer Mark Geragos as long ago as last February, indicating that he was aware that there was a possibility of a raid or prosecution. [...more]
His return to Las Vegas prompted a bizarre, two-hour pursuit of the singer's car through the streets by members of the media, with television news helicopters hovering above. Jackson's car stopped on a number of occasions and the singer waved to fans.
The previous day in Santa Barbara a news cameraman covering the events outside the county jail died after suffering a heart attack. Yesterday fans gathered outside Jackson's hotel in Las Vegas to show their support. They carried placards protesting his innocence.
After his release from police custody, Jackson waved to reporters and flashed a V-sign.
"Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court," the entertainer said in a statement issued by spokesman Stuart Backerman.
Nightmare in Neverland
Mark Lawson, The Guardian, November 22, 2003
Insanity caused by celebrity might be Michael Jackson's best defence
The reason people are photographed as soon as they are arrested is that identification is a key issue in most crimes. But, in the case of apprehended celebrities, the numbered mugshot has another significance. Part of fame is the ability to control the way your face is seen. Stars release carefully sanitised publicity shots taken after calibrated applications of make-up and light. So, for them, the police station photo-shoot declares in a particularly vivid way the surrender of their destiny.
Following Hugh Grant, OJ Simpson, Robert Downey Jr and Phil Spector to the California camera-call all performers hope to avoid, Michael Jackson stares out through messy hair with a bathroom-mirror pallor in an image which his publicists would mark a large X through on a magazine contact sheet. His facial reconstructions of recent years had already left a resemblance to a young deer experiencing fear but, in this Santa Barbara sheriff's department snap, the fawn looks only seconds away from headlights and fender.
Which - in legal terms - Jacko now perhaps is. A really sensible middle-aged man would have refrained from ever holding pyjama parties at his compound for 12-year-old boys. A moderately sensible man would have abandoned the practice after paying out millions of dollars to the parents of one of his little room-mates. Only a very stupid or deluded 45-year-old male would have continued to let schoolboys near his duvet, as Jackson admitted was the case in his ITV1 interview with Martin Bashir.
One of the perks of being a celebrity is that your weaknesses are indulged by your staff and admirers. Usually, these predilections involve women, booze, drugs or fast cars, in which case the star is threatening only himself or, at worst, another adult. But Michael Jackson's soft spot was for befriending adolescent boys.
A man who has never seemed psychologically at ease with being black or getting older, he seems to have set himself the task of becoming whiter and younger throughout his middle years. He insists that his need to have boys on his ranch is innocent; others fear paedophilia. The definition of these friendships will now - and not before time - be tested in court. [...more]
Michael Jackson Accuser Was In Bashir Documentary
Paul Cashmere, undercover.com.au, November 23, 2003
The child at the centre of the current Michael Jackson accusations was seen earlier this year in the Martin Bashir special 'Living With Michael Jackson'.
It has become known that 12 year old Gavin Arvizo is the child behind the claim. He was featured in Bashir's special and was with Jackson in the scene where he admits sleeping with children.
The Los Angeles Times were first to name Arvizo as the child behind the allegations that lead to the arrest of Jackson in Santa Barbara on Thursday. Jackson was later released on $US 3 million bail.
After 'Living with Michael Jackson' screened earlier this year a statement was released via Jackson's lawyer stating "Michael is devastated and feels utterly betrayed by the British television programme, Living With Michael Jackson, presented by Martin Bashir and broadcast in the UK on Monday, February 3, 2003, which he regards as a gross distortion of the truth and a tawdry attempt to misrepresent his life and his abilities as a father".
The singer will now face court over the current allegations on January 9, 2004.
Bashir'd, but not beaten
Despite his interviewer, Michael Jackson emerged as engaging, enthusiastic and difficult to demonise
Kathryn Flet, The Observer, February 9, 2003
The media's kneejerk response to Martin Bashir's interview with Michael Jackson
(and, indeed, Bashir's own response) was nothing if not predictable: hey, the man is even more bonkers than we'd imagined and, worse, those peculiarly intense declarations of his love for children must mean he's a paedophile.
But, in many respects, he turned out to be considerably less mad than I'd imagined he might be; I also refuse to accept that just because this particular 44-year-old manchild enjoys the company of kids more than that of adults, it automatically follows that he must be an evil child predator. [...more]
In fact, I was charmed by many aspects of Jackson's personality, the gentle, little sweetnesses and revelations overlooked by the tabloid screamers, his encouraging patience while teaching Bashir to moon walk, for example, and his assertions that, when it comes to writing a song, 'artists get in the way of the music', and that 'thinking is the biggest mistake a dancer could make'. It was good to be reminded (albeit briefly, when, for a few heart-stopping moments, he sang the intro to 'Billie-Jean' and then spun across his studio floor) that this is a man who has created popular music of pretty much incomparable brilliance.
I loved Jackson's enthusiasm as he climbed his 'giving tree' (to Bashir: 'Don't you want to climb it? Aren'tcha coming? You don't climb trees? You're missing out!'), that he admitted being terrified by the teenage Tatum O'Neal's sexual advances ('I was trying to be Mr Bigshot and brave'), his passion for shopping ('It's not so much the buying - and I'm not cheap - but I love seeing how people make things'), and his frankness about that billion-dollar bank balance ('Come on, Martin, I've done really well!').
And bearing in mind that this was Michael Jackson , who is not like any other 44-year-old man on earth (other than, perhaps, in his love of computer games and go-karting), I didn't see anything particularly sinister in his relationship with 12-year-old Gavin.
When asked what was so special about Jackson, Gavin, who claims Jackson's friendship helped him to overcome cancer, said: 'He's really a child at heart. He knows how a child is.' We had already seen so much evidence of this that it was impossible to be surprised by Jackson's assertion that 'whenever kids come [to Neverland] they want to stay with me'.
Of course they do - it's like getting to live at Disneyworld with Mickey as your host.
When confronted by Jackson, is it impossible that children might see beyond the spooky visage to a kindred spirit inside? Something that we ordinary adults, with our ordinary baggage of prejudices and preconceptions, can no longer see?
At the end of the programme, clearly increasingly uneasy with Bashir's questions about whether it was appropriate for a 44-year-old man to share his bedroom with kids, Jackson struggled to share his worldview: 'The world needs more love. The family bond has been broken. We need to bond again. I'm very sensitive to [children's] pain, to the human condition.'
Aside from the incontrovertible fact that he has written large cheques to ensure his own children have no relationship with their mothers, should he really be demonised because he doesn't play the game by our rules? (And what would have happened had Bashir interviewed the children's pretty black nanny and discovered - oh my God! - that they are turning out just fine?) I feel sorry for Jackson's kids in some respects, but consider ably less sorry than I felt for the toddler I recently saw being thumped by his mother for the crime of wanting some of her cheese and onion crisps. Who on earth is a perfect parent anyway?
Clearly, Jackson is far too strange, rich, famous and emotionally isolated to inhabit our world, so he has simply created his own.
For the most part, it appears to make him happy. Since he now claims to have been betrayed by Bashir, he'll doubtless retreat even further, building a water park, buying $275,000 gilded urns for his houses, animals for his zoo and, assuming he is not arrested for loving children too much, surrounding himself with more of those, too. There are worse ways to live a life.
... ... Personally, I think that Jackson gets whatever it is that passes for his sexual kicks by writing and performing, and that otherwise he exists in some sort of suspended pre-adolescent, pre-sexual state. Still, I'm no shrink, and it's not impossible that by the time you read this Neverland will be crawling with California's social services.
[written in February 2003, after the Martin Bashir interview broadcast on ABC]
'Mad Dog' believes he finally has his quarry on the run
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, Saturday November 22, 2003
Michael Jackson has met his nemesis, and it's not the 13-year-old boy who claims he molested him.
The so-called King of Pop is being pursued by Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara district attorney whose colleagues call him Mad Dog.
The feud has been long-running and bitter, and will ultimately destroy one of their careers.
Sneddon has denied there is anything personal in the prosecution of Jackson. But he could barely disguise his glee at the press conference to announce the arrest warrant for the singer this week.
Sneddon has been criticised by legal commentators for the jokey, grandstanding way in which he conducted the event, telling journalists to "stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our office".
The two men could hardly be more different. Sneddon is a pugnacious 61-year-old, a former college boxer who earned his Mad Dog nickname because of his aggressive courtroom manner.
Born into a family who had a bakery in the Compton area of Los Angeles, he became the first member of the family to attend college, going to Notre Dame, where he studied history, and then UCLA, where he studied law.
A Vietnam veteran, he has risen to become what one local paper calls "arguably the most powerful man in Santa Barbara county".
In 1993, he was the DA given the job of investigating claims made by another 13-year-old boy against Jackson. Sneddon clearly believed that he had enough to bring Jackson to trial and was angered when the singer settled with the boy and his parents for sums estimated at between $10m and $25m (£5.9 to £14.7 m).
The fact that Jackson escaped prosecution rankles. The refusal to testify by the boy in that case led to a change in California state law, which now requires alleged victims to give evidence. This time, said Sneddon, it is different because the alleged victim is cooperative and does not have a civil action running in tandem.
At the time, Sneddon had Jackson in for questioning and had a strip-search done to see if the boy's description of him was accurate. The humiliation infuriated Jackson so much that he wrote a thinly-disguised song about Sneddon, called DS. Although the lyrics suggest it is about a fictional character called Dom Sheldon, it was recognised to have been about Sneddon.
In the song, Jackson suggests that "They wanna get my ass/ Dead or alive/ You know he really tried to take me/ Down by surprise". The chorus goes on to say "Dom Sheldon is a cold man" and "I bet he never had a social life anyway ... I bet his mother never taught him right anyway."
The song also suggests "I bet he missioned with the CIA" and links Sneddon, without any evidence, to the Ku Klux Klan. It also says "he want your vote". District attorneys are often accused of taking on high-profile cases as a way of enhancing their chances of re-election. Since his first election in 1982, Sneddon has been re-elected five times in Santa Barbara, one of the wealthiest areas in the country and a popular place for actors to live.
Sneddon is aware that he is the subject of the song, although he claims never to have heard it. "I have not, shall we say, done him the honour of listening to it, but I've been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot," he told the Prosecutor, the magazine of the National District Attorneys' Association.
He is married and is the father of nine children, including two sets of twins. He claims to have a social life, playing golf and softball locally, and having coached a high school football team. [...more]
Malice in Neverland
Iain S Bruce, Sunday Herald, November 23, 2003
There’s talk of conspiracy and racial motivation, but one thing is clear: the end has finally arrived for Michael Jackson.
Santa Barbara County’s Sheriff got his man in the end, leading a manacled King of Pop into ignominy. A moment captured in a startled mug-shot that sent shockwaves around the world, it marked the conclusion of an investigation begun more than a decade ago, but that ultimately only raises more questions than we can ever expect to be answered.
Pursued, paraded and publicly charged with multiple counts of child molestation, Michael Jackson posted his $3 million bail on Thursday and walked out into an international storm. It created a virtual news blockade that pushed even tragedy in Istanbul from the USA’s front pages, but the multi-million-selling star’s arrest is just the beginning of a high-stakes game of billion-dollar deals, conflicting interests with a cast of protagonists ranging from the shadowy to the bizarre.
You could be forgiven for thinking we’ve slipped into a parallel universe – but this is the 21st century, so it must be real. Yet already, one thing is certain: the assured destruction of the wildly eccentric man-boy at its centre.
“Never mind his career; Michael Jackson’s life is effectively over. It’s America’s biggest celebrity scandal since OJ Simpson’s murder trial and the reaction has been so absolutely devastating that guilty or not, he has no hope of a future. There’s no possibility of his leading anything even approaching a normal existence again,” said MSNBC’s New York columnist Jeannette Walls.
“A train wreck that began 10 years ago is finally ending in a global wave of revulsion and anger that will finish him. He’s become a freak show.”
Holed up with a gaggle of family members on a luxury resort near Las Vegas, even a man famously inured to the rigours of reality can hardly have escaped the conclusion that his fate has been sealed. Although details of the charges facing Jackson are scarce, he has been accused of committing “lewd or lascivious acts” with a child under 14 in a case that is reportedly extremely similar to the failed criminal action taken against him by Santa Barbara’s District Attorney in 1993. Then, a 13-year-old California boy provided graphic testimony detailing encounters at the star’s Neverland ranch and various hotels in which he alleged the singer repeatedly initiated sexual contact between them.
The 1993 investigation’s collapse amid rumours of bought-off witnesses meant that nothing has yet been proved against Jackson, but this second set of accusations will leave few willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As he enters a January courtroom for the commencement of preliminary hearings, the singer faces the destruction of his fortune and up to 10 years in prison .
The trial will reap rich rewards for some, however. Already celebrated for representing Winona Ryder in her high-profile shoplifting case, Jackson’s chief legal defender Mark Geragos has stepped onto an international stage. Like OJ Simpson trial attorney Johnny Cochran – whose successful defence of the star led to global recognition and enabled him to build a nationwide chain of personal injury specialists – Geragos now stands on the brink of massive success. [...more]
Invigorated by a $450 hourly rate, nearly all lawyers of this calibre juggle multiple cases and Gergaros insists his 10 qualified staff and a barrage of assistants have the capacity to simultaneously manage Jackson’s defence, a double-murder trial and multitudinous ancillary briefs. Last Tuesday he requested that prosecutors release $15,000 and Peterson’s pickup truck to fund his reputed $100,000 bill and, with a windfall looming, he is in no mood to surrender anything.
“Ultimately, it is not much different than what I normally do except for more media,” 45-year-old Geragos told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If you’re a trial lawyer, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
What prize awaits prosecutor Tom Sneddon is less clear. Taking his second crack at Jackson, Santa Barbara County’s district attorney never disguised his disgust after the 1993 trial collapsed when the singer’s accuser – reportedly accepting a multimillion-dollar settlement – refused to testify. Numerous accounts cite apparent delight and a “grandstanding” performance at Tuesday’s press conference, but the veteran prosecuter denies furthering a personal vendetta by timing his swoop to coincide with Jackson’s greatest hits release.
“I’ve been successful, I have a good career and I’m not worried about getting another notch on my belt. When that 1993 case went to bed it went out of my mind. I haven’t given it a passing thought since,” said Sneddon, who Jackson publicly attacked in his 1995 song DS. “We’re going to handle this like any other case, because I got more important things going on in my life than to listen to a song by a guy everybody calls Wacko Jacko.”
However plausible the grudge theory, other compelling factors must have occurred to Sneddon. In no-holds-barred legal hardball, only one winner can emerge from the battle with Geragos and when public prosecutors face regular ballots, and celebrity wields almost universal power, victory’s potential spoils are tantalising. [...more]
At the centre of the feeding frenzy, meanwhile, will be a 45-year-old man whose conduct cannot be predicted. Much has and will continue to be made of Jackson’s troubled childhood and the bizarre life played out behind the walls of a private fantasia complete with its own fairground and zoo. That is of dubious importance here, but it is clear both from his conduct during a previous court appearance – when he giggled from behind his hands – and his unrepentant protestations that there is nothing sinister in sharing his bed with children that the star could yet throw a few more wildcards into the game.
There is some speculation, indeed, as to whether the star is even fit to stand trial: “I don’t know who’s advising him or if he’s surrounded by reliable people, but his previous behaviour in court and the statements he’s made about this issue have been unwise to say the least. There’s no way to make a reliable judgment here, but he’s certainly given the impression of someone with little understanding of the situation’s realities,” said Steven Berglas, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who’s written books about the stress of success.
Sufficiently rational to face a jury or not, there remain a fair proportion who believe the singer should not be under fire at all. Several members of Jackson’s family have rejected the charges as racially motivated and many fans believe he’s the victim of a long-running conspiracy.
“Even the attorney for the father of the 12 year-old-boy at the centre of the controversy has said he does not believe his son has been victimised or abused by Michael,” said Craig Halstead, co-author of Jackson’s biography. “It’s also curious the police moved in to search Neverland on the very day his new album was released. Many fans believe there is an ongoing campaign to sabotage Michael’s reputation and career and the timing of these allegations certainly supports this theory.”
“The media frenzy is all about Michael Jackson, not the subject of predatory paedophiles,” said campaigning US attorney Andrew Vachss. “I just hope we don’t lose sight of the fact that this is meant to be about the assault of a vulnerable 13-year-old boy.”
Parliament Takeover Prompts Georgia Crisis
The Associated Press, November 22, 2003
TBILISI, Georgia Nov. 22 — The opposition seized Georgia's parliament Saturday, chasing out President Eduard Shevardnadze and declaring an interim government as tens of thousands of supporters thronged the streets of the capital. Shevardnadze, backed by his head of police, declared a state of emergency.
Facing a possible confrontation with the army and security forces, the opposition appealed to its supporters in the streets to defend the parliament building.
Opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, the speaker of the outgoing parliament, proclaimed herself acting president until early elections that the opposition called to take place in 45 days. She warned Shevardnadze's government to avoid bloodshed.
"The fate of our country is being decided now," said protest leader Mikhail Saakashvili. "We give guarantees to Shevardnadze that he will not be harmed, but let him know that if there is at least one shot fired at people, he will face justice."
The parliament takeover was an exuberant moment for protesters who for days have been demanding the president's removal over elections that the opposition says were rigged. Just as Shevardnadze began speaking in parliament, Saakashvili and hundreds of supporters swarmed through the chamber doors, pushing and shoving lawmakers.
Pro-government lawmakers were thrown out of parliament and Shevardnadze was hustled out of the chamber by bodyguards. "I will not resign," he vowed outside the building as he boarded a vehicle and was driven off, escorted by troops in riot gear.
He later went on national television, surrounded by uniformed officers of the internal security forces and declaring a 30-day state of emergency. "Order will be restored and the criminals will be punished," he vowed.
While the interior minister who is in charge of police vowed loyalty, the military did not make clear its stance. [...more]
Friday, November 21
War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in Washington, The Guardian, November 20, 2003
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.
In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."
President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.
[But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.
French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".
Mr Perle, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.
"They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year. "It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it."
Mr Perle's remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war, according to Rabinder Singh QC, who represented CND and also participated in Tuesday's event. [...more]
Douglas Farah and Peter Finn, Washington Post Staff Writers, November 21, 2003
Al Qaeda Franchises Brand of Violence to Groups Across World
Leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network have franchised their organization's brand of synchronized, devastating violence to homegrown terrorist groups across the world, posing a formidable new challenge to counterterrorism forces, according to intelligence analysts and experts in the United States, Europe and the Arab world.
The recent attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iraq show that the smaller organizations, most of whose leaders were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, have fanned out, imbued with radical ideology and the means to create or revitalize local terrorist groups. They also are expanding the horizons of groups that had focused on regional issues.
With most of its senior leadership killed or captured and its financial structure under increasing scrutiny, Osama bin Laden's network, now run largely by midlevel operatives, relies increasingly on these groups to carry out the jihad, or holy war, against the United States and its allies. Al Qaeda has turned to inspiring and instigating such attacks.
One senior U.S. official said al Qaeda's children were "growing up and moving out into the world, loyal to their parents but no longer reliant on them." [...more]
Most terrorism experts, including U.S. and European intelligence analysts, said they also were seeing new similarities in the groups' communication techniques and the use of explosives.
For example, officials said, al Qaeda members have taught individuals from other groups how to use the Internet to send messages and how to encrypt those communications to avoid detection. Bomb and chemical-making techniques have been passed around. Investigators have found the same kind of fuse being used on different continents.
"People noticed a flow of ideas," said one government terrorism expert. "One group will pioneer a certain kind of fuse and transfer it around."
The financial structure of terrorism also has shifted, officials said. "There is no pool of money now that everyone can draw on," said a senior U.S. official. "There is no longer a fairly knowable group of large donors or entities. Now, groups in Indonesia raise money there. Groups in Malaysia raise money there. There are many more targets, and much harder to find."
Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon terrorism consultant, argued that the evolution of the terrorist groups is analogous to a process of corporate merger and acquisition. At a terrorism conference earlier this year at St. Andrews College, Pillsbury said regionally focused terrorism groups with their own particular agendas join with al Qaeda to learn their operational techniques or benefit from their contacts, but are not subordinate to al Qaeda.
For example, he said, Jemaah Islamiah seeks to create a pan-Islamic state in Asia, an agenda that has little to do with driving U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia or other goals of bin Laden's. "They like to get advice and equipment from al Qaeda but still have their own political agenda," Pillsbury argued. [...more]
Thursday, November 20
Protesters cheer as 'Bush' topples
BBC.com, Press Association, November 20, 2003 6:53 PM
Thousands of anti-war protesters cheered as an effigy of President George Bush was toppled as part of a huge demonstration against his controversial visit to the UK.
As Mr Bush was entertained in Buckingham Palace, a few hundred yards away in London's Trafalgar Square a papier-mache statue was dragged to the ground, sending a stark message from people opposed to the war in Iraq.
The Stop The War Coalition (STWC) said up to 200,000 people from across the UK joined the protest, making it the biggest weekday demonstration ever held in this country.
Schoolchildren, students, pensioners and workers were joining the start of the march near Euston Station more than three hours after it set off.
Marchers carried banners accusing President Bush of being a war criminal, while others blew whistles and horns, chanted anti-war slogans or wore unflattering masks of the Prime Minister or the President.
Scotland Yard estimated the numbers on the march at 70,000, although this was hotly disputed by the organisers.
The number of arrests over the past two days grew to 50 by tonight, with offences ranging from criminal damage to theft.
The effigy, which portrayed the President holding a missile and with Tony Blair in his pocket, was paraded at the head of the march before being erected in Trafalgar Square.
A group of protesters pulled down the statue in an echo of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad towards the end of the original bombing campaign.
The President was kept well away from the demonstrators, leaving 10 Downing Street with Tony Blair just minutes before the marchers walked down Whitehall.
A Destiny Linked to Iraq is the Only Thing They Share
Bush and Blair could not be further apart on all aspects of social reform
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, November 19, 2003
The spectacle over the next few days of Tony Blair and George Bush beaming and backslapping remains as puzzling as ever. Is this just realpolitik business-as-usual, putting out more flags in the Mall for another necessary but unsavory foreign leader? If so, Blair plays his part well, his energetically sincere smile never faltering.
Even in private he hotly protests that the Bush he knows is nothing like the one of caricature. No, no, the president is intelligent, thoughtful, well-informed, a good listener and a lot of other entirely incredible adjectives. Look into Blair's face and you see not one flicker: he's a good bluffer. He knows no one believes a word of it, but he will pretend it is so until the last. He has made his fateful bed of nails and now he has to lie on it - and lie through his teeth about it, too. If he has regrets, if ever in the still of night he doubts whether he took the right path, he will never let on. You can bet there will be nothing to suggest doubt about his tragic error in his autobiography. We have yet to see if he is eventually broken by it, as Lyndon Johnson was by Vietnam: it is not impossible.
But it is intellectually impossible to believe Blair and Bush share more than the same brand of toothpaste - as Bush once joked. Only Colgate explains the artificial grin between this most ultra rightwing president and Britain's social democrat prime minister. [...more]
...So what do Bush and Blair talk about over their fireside bottle of mineral water? Where is this fabled meeting of minds? Once they have done whatever is to be done - or not done - on Iraq, Guantanamo and trade tariffs, once they have small-talked wives and children, what then? Here is the leader with the greatest wealth and power on Earth at his command, squandering it, abusing it, misusing it with every step he takes. The two men can hardly compare notes on pet projects and policies. It is astonishingly difficult to talk for long or with any closeness to someone whose politics are obnoxious.
In truth, whatever appearances suggest over the next two days, there is precious little shared between them beyond political destinies so fatefully linked in Iraq.
Wednesday, November 19
Israel now a top defense exporter
By Peter Enav, Associated Press (via Newsday), November 19, 2003
With an arsenal ranging from the Uzi to attack drones and airborne early warning systems, Israel has quietly transformed itself into one of the world's top defense exporters.
Defense News has ranked Israel as No. 3 based on 2002 contracts, and an Israeli expert told The Associated Press the country was now considered to be in the top five. Growing sales to Turkey and India, two major new markets for Israel, have driven the surge.
The country's success as a weapons exporter comes against the backdrop of three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has stifled Israel's economic development and deepened its isolation. [...more]
Short: A 'Kind and Caring' Diplomat
Louisa Nesbitt, PA News
Roger Short, the Consul General feared dead in the Istanbul, was described tonight as a “kind and generous” man who was dedicated to his career as a diplomat.
The 59-year-old, who was educated at Oxford, was posted in Turkey on a number of occasions and spoke the language fluently.
The consulate’s chaplain Ian Sherwood said: “His life was his career in the Foreign Office.”
Earlier this week Mr Short hosted a reception for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who was visiting Turkey.
“It comes as an even deeper shock given that he was such a kind and generous person,” Mr Sherwood said.
“He was one of my best friends.
“He was one of these characters that a lot of people knew.”
Mr Short had an extensive career spanning more than 30 years with the Foreign Office.
After leaving Oxford he joined the Diplomatic Service and had his first overseas posting in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in 1969.
He served in Rio de Janeiro and then returned to become Head of Chancery in Ankara in 1981.
Mr Short was made deputy head of the Permanent Under-Secretary’s office in 1984 and was posted as Head of Chancery in Oslo in 1986.
After becoming head of the Foreign Office’s Personnel Services Department he went on to become UK ambassador to Sofia in 1994.
He was Chief of Staff in Sarajevo from 1999 and in 2000 took up his latest posting as UK Consul General in Istanbul.
Mr Short is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.
Not too late for the U.N.
By Salim Lone, Washington Post, November 19, 2003
F-16s are bombing civilian neighborhoods in pro-resistance cities. U.S. military commanders in Iraq are threatening mayors, tribal chiefs and farmers with stern measures unless they curb the militants attacking coalition troops. And from across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Tony Blair labels all those fighting occupation forces as "fanatics."
Even as the new and potentially laudable strategy of giving primacy to quick Iraqi sovereignty is being embraced, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer reassures the world that the interim Iraqi constitution will embody "American values."
Bush defies critics on UK visit
BBC News.com, November 19, 2003
US President George W Bush has carried out his first day of engagements in Britain despite protesters on the streets and a row over royal security.
The president, the first to be afforded a state visit, met the Queen at Buckingham Palace before giving a keynote speech at Banqueting House.
He used this to mount an impassioned defence of the war on Iraq.
Meanwhile an investigation was launched after a journalist posed as a footman in the palace where Mr Bush is staying.
... Earlier in the day, it emerged that a journalist from the Daily Mirror, Ryan Parry, had applied for and got a job as a servant in Buckingham Palace.
Home Secretary David Blunkett announced a review of security at the palace when it became apparent the undercover reporter had used a false reference.
Mr Blunkett told the House of Commons that the Security Commission would conduct a thorough investigation.
He said employment checks on the man were "insufficient" but appropriate criminal checks were carried out. [...more]
JACKSON TO FACE MULTIPLE CHILD MOLESTATION CHARGES
nme.com, November 19, 2003
The full extent of the Michael Jackson abuse case is beginning to emerge tonight (November 19) as police in California have announced they will file multiple charges of child abuse against the star.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest and at a press conference this evening, police said they are negotiating with Jackson’s lawyers for the singer to hand himself in. He is thought to be in Las Vegas where he has been shooting a video. Bail will be set at $3million and Jackson will have to surrender his passport. None of the charges have been specified yet, though Jackson is suspected of abusing a 12-year-old boy. Each of the charges carries a maximum jail term of eight years.
Jackson’s publicist Stuart Backerman, said in a statement that the singer "could not comment on the investigation because we do not yet know what it is about".
Speaking at the press conference, Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Anderson confirmed that 70 police officers searched Mr Jackson's ranch, Neverland, yesterday, looking for "evidence that would corroborate the victim's statements." And in a further twist, he called on anyone with information on other victims to come forward.
The investigation is being led by Tom Sneddon, the same district attorney who looked into similar allegations 10 years ago. Then, the alleged victim declined to co-operate with the authorities and reached a multi-million dollar out of court settlement with Jackson.
Sneddon said California law had changed as a result of the earlier Jackson investigation, and that this time they had a witness willing to help with a criminal investigation. [...more]