Thursday, March 17
March 19: The World Says End the War!
Global Exchange, March 12th, 2005
Saturday, March 19 marks the two-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and people throughout the world are planning to raise our voices as clearly and powerfully as possible to say that the Iraq war was wrong, and it needs to end NOW.
Two years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the country continues to bleed and suffer. The death toll on all sides is mounting, with some 1,500 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed so far.
The U.S. military, rather than solving Iraq's problems, is, in fact, the source of many of the problems. And, the cost of the war is soaring, with more than $150 billion being spent on war that could otherwise be used to create jobs, relieve poverty, and improve health and education, both in Iraq and the United States.
Meanwhile, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq, nor were there any links discovered between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The Iraqi military clearly did not even have the ability to defend its own capital, much less the strength to attack the U.S. or its neighbors.
American military planners were scandalously unprepared to deal with governing Iraq, and U.S. relations with the rest of the world remain unsteady. This was an unjust and unnecessary war, one that needlessly took the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people.
Tuesday, March 15
Coming soon: the fat-free hot dog
By Maxine Frith. The Independent, 15 March 2005
The healthy-eating message is falling on deaf ears. So one group of scientists has a new goal - to create junk foods that are good for us
It is the new holy grail in the crusade against Britain's bulging waistlines - a low-calorie, vitamin-enriched hot dog that can prevent cancer and reduce cholesterol, and yet tastes exactly like the real thing.
For decades, health experts have pushed the same messages to combat obesity: eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, cut out cakes and take more exercise. Now, they are admitting that these tactics have failed dismally. Obesity rates have trebled in the last 20 years and we are facing the prospect of the next generation of children dying before their parents because of weight-related problems.
Instead, scientists and nutritionists are adopting an "if you can't beat them, join them" approach to the problem. Rather than demonising unhealthy and processed products, they are looking at ways of turning "bad" foods into good, while making the good even better.
The latest techniques involve changing the way in which foods are digested to increase feelings of fullness and suppress appetite, as well as manipulating the composition of fats and oils to reduce their unhealthy effects.
Monday, March 14
Mid-East Photos, AFP: Demonstrators at Martyr's Square, Beirut
Lebanese soldiers keep an eye on hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at Martyrs Square in Beirut's downtown. More than 800,000 people poured into the heart of the city for an opposition demanding an end to nearly three decades of Syrian military domination and to mark the fourth week of the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.(AFP/Anwar Amro)
Biggest anti-Syria protest in 'tit-for-tat' rallies
By Times Online and agencies. March 14, 2005
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese marched through central Beirut today chanting "Syria Out" in the biggest protest yet against the influence of Damascus in Lebanon.
Crowds of men, women and children flooded Martyrs Square, spilling over into nearby streets, while more from across the country packed the roads into Beirut, responding to the opposition call to mark a month since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The protest easily dwarfed the pro-Government rally of some 500,000, held last week by the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah. That show of strength forced the opposition to act to regain its momentum.
Syria's military withdrawal continued today, with about 50 intelligence agents closing two offices in northern Lebanon: in the town of Amyoun and in Deir Ammar on the coastal road linking the port city of Tripoli with the Syrian border, residents said.
Most intelligence offices, the widely resented arm through which Syria has controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, remained in northern and central Lebanon after Syrian troops moved east, closer to the Syrian border.
Terrorist Cells in the US
DEYO NOTE: Terrorists are a very real and growing threat in America and to American interests around the world. It should be assumed these are not the only cell locations within the US and that they are subject to change.
Friday, March 11
Michael Jackson's False Front?
Tina Brown, Washington Post, March 10, 2005
The strange thing about the Michael Jackson trial is that the supporting actors are more interesting than the star. The weirdness of the King of Pop is so overexposed that no new revelation can shock.
Either Jackson is a complete lunatic who slept with young boys and didn't fondle them or he's a complete lunatic who slept with young boys and did.
Better to fixate instead on pass-through characters, like the French-born cooks at Neverland featured in Martin Bashir's "Primetime Live" report "Michael Jackson's Secret World." Who but Michael Jackson would ever hire these two? The wife looks like a war criminal in a blond fright wig.
And how about Bashir himself? Why on earth did Jackson and the Princess of Wales both choose to open up their entire lives to this brooding, charm-free figure? He looks about as well-intentioned as the interrogator you meet when you are rendered by the U.S. military -- and seems to wreak the same havoc on his subjects' lives.
His fawning letters to Jackson -- "Neverland is an extraordinary, a breathtaking, a stupendous, an exhilarating and amazing place. I can't put together words to describe Neverland" -- are classics of the genre. They're even more journalistically embarrassing than some of the gems I've written myself to elusive interview subjects over the years.
When the young accuser took the stand on Wednesday, one hoped for the start of some moral clarity on the unrelenting awfulness of the cast of characters. But in his first appearance, the kid's testimony was all about being a participant in Jackson's media charade for Martin Bashir.[...more]
One thought to consider about Jackson himself is whether he is much less weird than meets the eye. Could it be that, like Saddam Hussein's WMD bluff, the whole freak show is a stunt that's gotten out of hand?
The thought struck me during Bashir's original 2003 documentary for Britain's ITV, the one that got Jackson indicted. In the low, appalled voice one reserves for especially heinous horrors, Bashir asks, "Is it true that your father used to say you had a fat nose?" Jackson theatrically averts his head at the ghastliness of this memory and then says with a half-weeping snicker: "Yeah . . . You want to die. You want to die. . . . God. It's hard."
You could argue, I guess, that the Fat Nose memory is the Rosebud in Jackson's life, inducing him to internalize self-loathing racial stereotypes to the point that he ended up bleaching his skin, straightening his hair like Morticia in "The Addams Family," and hiding the offending proboscis beneath a surgical mask even after its many surgeries had turned it into a pencil point.
But what if Jackson is, in reality, having some sly fun with Bashir and by extension all celebrity journalists hellbent on getting the answers to such piffling questions?
What if the whole persona is a scam under the heading of The Emperor's New Nose?
After all, Jackson has shown plenty of business smarts in his time. The fey Peter Pan who tells Bashir his favorite pastimes are climbing trees and having water balloon fights was still canny enough to buy the Beatles' lucrative song catalogue.
An interview with Jackson's ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley by Chris Heath in Rolling Stone in April 2003 would support the "secretly sane" theory.
"I was always saying [to Jackson] people wouldn't think I was so crazy if they saw who the hell you really are," Presley told Heath. "That you sit around, and you drink and you curse and you're [expletive] funny and you have a bad mouth, and you don't have that high voice all the time. I don't know why you think that works for you, because it doesn't anymore."
Ms. Presley, to be sure, has a reason to portray Jackson as less bizarre than people assume. Marrying someone most people regard as an extraterrestrial freak didn't do a whole lot for her image. ("Ok. Hello," she expounds. "I was delusionary. I got some romantic idea in my head that I could save him and save the world.")
But it might add some genuine dramatic tension if Jackson turned out to be pop music's version of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, the Mafia boss who fooled the justice system for years by shuffling around the streets of Greenwich Village mumbling to himself in his bedroom slippers and bathrobe. If this were true, of course, it would also mean Jackson is just a plain old garden-variety ped, albeit one who instead of hanging around public playgrounds built his own at Neverland.
Harder to figure out is the behavior of the alleged victim's mother, who handed over her sick kid to sleep in the bedroom of a previously accused child molester. Perhaps scientists will discover that celebrity is a virus that can infect the psyche's immune system as pervasively as HIV takes over the body's.
It infected everyone in the Jackson case from the accuser's family to the defendant himself. Jackson started out a little strange, to be sure, but he lost his boundaries altogether only because he got the absolute permission that superstars enjoy to indulge the outer limits of narcissism.
It's hard to know if Jackson will one day be seen as a repellent relic of celebrity culture, or another Oscar Wilde or Vivaldi, an artist persecuted for something or other we can't recall.
Even the people who are absolutely sure he's guilty don't want to stop listening on their iPods to "Thriller" and "Billie Jean." That's a question neither conviction nor acquittal can answer yet -- whether Jackson will be remembered for the shame or for the art.