Friday, November 19, 2004


World's largest holiday card

I received this e-mail today, and had to post it. Please visit the link in the e-mail, or click on it in my sidebar.

Refugee Workers At Risk: Show Your Support
For many Americans the execution of Margaret Hassan, CARE, in Iraq was a shock, a horrifying breach of the invisible shield that has traditionally protected humanitarian workers. To me it was one more reminder of how dangerous relief work is.

Click here to sign the "World's Largest Holiday Card" going to refugee relief workers, and show them we stand behind them every day of the year: <>.

So far we have almost 600 signatures. If you have not had a chance, please add your name and sentiments to the growing list. Then ask your friends to sign also. That way we can send our card before the holiday to those who, everyday, put themselves in harm's way to save refugee lives.

The sad truth is, around the world humanitarian workers are being deliberately targeted by armed combatants. In Afghanistan just a year ago Bettina Goislard, a 29-year old woman working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was killed. Gunmen pulled up to her clearly-marked UNHCR vehicle in the center of a town in Eastern Afghanistan, fatally shooting her in the neck and chest. Like Margaret Hassan, all Bettina wanted to do was help.

To thank refugee workers click here: <>.

In Somaliland 13 months ago, Dr. Annalena Tonelli, a sixty-year old doctor renowned for decades of charity work, was shot dead by an unknown gunman outside her hospital. She had been in danger many times - kidnapped once and several times subjected to beatings. But when asked whether humanitarianism extracted too much sacrifice she said this:"There's no sacrifice. It's pure happiness. Who else on earth has such a beautiful life?"

It is hard to imagine care-givers like these deliberately targeted for death.

Please sign the World's Largest Holiday Card, a card of thanks to all the humanitarians risking their lives right now: <>

Caryl García
Executive Director

P.S. 65 percent of UNHCR's staff now serves in conflict zones. Please pass along this email to friends and family as a way of thanking these unsung heroes, especially now as we mourn the death of Margaret Hassan in Iraq.


Can't get away from Prince C today

I can't help wondering, after reading Charles' comments, if he would approve of these kids--they are, after all, lowly garbage-collectors--or disapprove, because they are trying to save the planet and therefore dreaming rather large.

Thank You For Letting Me...Pick Up Garbage

Imagine kids coming up and thanking you for the opportunity to pick up garbage. Hard to believe? Ask Ritchie Israel, a member of the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels in Rockland County, New York.

Most Water Sentinels more typically wade into creeks with boots on to collect water samples, but Israel decided to help organize a series of cleanups on dry land -- transforming neighborhoods beset by crime and used as dumping grounds for junked cars, tires, and other debris.

More than 100 local residents took part in the first cleanup, in Clarkstown, above, and more than a dozen have followed in neighboring communities.

"Kids tell me how much fun they're having picking up trash," says Israel. "If you ask me, that's miraculous." You can read the full story in The Planet or learn more about Water Sentinels program, which is active in seven other states.


Inciting violence in Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast TV, radio urging mob violence
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — As club-wielding mobs surged through Ivory Coast's largest city hunting for foreigners, national figures urged them on: "Rise up against French imperialism."
"Sever the umbilical cord." "If I find my French man, I will eat him."

The hatred broadcast on television and radio — even cell phone text messages — poured out incendiary viciousness not heard since Rwanda's 1994 genocide, U.N. officials and Western diplomats say.

The hate messages were banned by U.N. Security Council decree this week, but the government defends them as the cries of a people under attack.

"We are at war," President Laurent Gbagbo told The Associated Press. "They want us to behave in the middle of a war as if we were on our way to the opera."

A sudden, still unexplained government airstrike that killed nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker in the rebel-held north set off a bloody showdown between Gbagbo's administration and the country's former colonial ruler.

Within hours of the Nov. 6 attack, French troops destroyed Ivory Coast's tiny air force, seized control of the international airport and took up positions at key points in Abidjan, the southern commercial center of what once was West Africa's most prosperous and peaceful country.

Thousands of Gbagbo supporters, the same "Young Patriots" who swept him to power in a 2000 rebellion against the former junta, spilled into the streets, urged on by state-run Ivorian Radio Television, known as RTI.

Mobs ransacked foreign-owned businesses and homes and several European women reportedly were raped, prompting France and others to evacuate more than 9,000 expatriates.

As the crowds rampaged, RTI broadcast patriotic songs, footage of bloodied demonstrators allegedly killed by French troops and relentless appeals by politicians, preachers and Gbagbo loyalists to defend the nation against "settlers" and "imperialists."

"We must sever the umbilical cord and rise up against the foreign dictate," one Young Patriot said in an often-repeated message on RTI. French President Jacques Chirac is "inhabited by the spirit of Satan," an evangelical preacher told viewers.

Text messages popped up on cell phones urging "Vigilance!" against France and "Unleash the forces."

"At one moment, I really thought I was in Rwanda," said one Western diplomat who was serving in that central African nation a decade ago when Rwandan radio urged ethnic Hutus to "exterminate the cockroaches."

When Rwanda's slaughter was over, more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were dead; a U.N. war crimes tribunal has convicted Rwandan media executives for their part in fueling the killings.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded Ivory Coast authorities last week that they, too, could be held accountable under international law. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council, backed by Gbagbo's fellow African leaders, passed a resolution that included a demand for an immediate end to hate speech in state media.

RTI officials remained defiant Thursday.

"So people want a country that is at war to stifle public opinion?" RTI director Jean Paul Dahily said in an interview. "It is not the journalists who are saying these things, it is the people."

Through a succession of coups, ethnic clashes and rebellions since 1999, Ivory Coast governments — and their opponents — have vigorously used the media to rally support.

On Nov. 5, the day Gbagbo abandoned a year-old cease-fire and unleashed three days of airstrikes on rebels, gangs of Young Patriots trashed four opposition newspaper offices. Two others shut down on their own. British Broadcasting Corp., Radio France International and Voice of America were knocked off the air.

Government soldiers occupied RTI's headquarters and locked out the station's director, who had been appointed by a rebel communications minister in a power-sharing Cabinet formed under the truce accord. Dahily, a Gbagbo ally, took charge.

"Radio and television are a weapon of the state at a time of war," Dahily said at his office in a molding compound where dozens of Gbagbo supporters maintain a round-the-clock guard, spurred on by preachers and musicians who come to entertain them.

As violence subsided this week, RTI's broadcasts gave way to appeals for "love, peace, tolerance and forgiveness."

But the station also continues to warn its viewers: "Remain vigilant."


Prince Charles! I found you a more suitable girlfriend!

Seriously, I did! This teacher and the Prince should really hook up. Of course, then she'd be rising above her station, so maybe not...But then again, it'd be brief, what with the mass extinctions and all, and hey, it'd save those kids from dreaming too big for their boots!

U.K. - AFP
A meteor is coming and we're all going to die: teacher tells pupils

LONDON (AFP) - A schoolteacher, attempting to motivate her pupils into making the most of each day, told them a meteorite was about to smash into the Earth and that they should all return home to say goodbye to their families.

The teacher at the high school in Manchester, only realised her lecture was misjudged when many of the assembled teenagers started crying, The Sun newspaper said Friday.

The unnamed female teacher made the announcement to around 250 pupils at St Matthew's Roman Catholic High School during their regular morning assembly.

Saying she had bad news, the teacher announced that a meteor would strike the Earth in 10 days' time, and that they should return home and say their "final farewells" to their parents.

After the crowd of 13- and 14-year-olds looked on in horror, and many burst into tears, the teacher swiftly explained that she was only trying to encourage them to "seize the day".

"Some of the children were 100 percent convinced they were going to die," the father of one child told the paper.

"God only knows what this teacher thought she was doing."


Peace agreement signed in Sudan

We'll see if this actually holds, which in my experience, peace agreements rarely lead to anything other than bloodier fighting. Still, you have to hope.

Sudan Foes Sign Peace Pledge at Security Council
World - Reuters
By Evelyn Leopold

NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) - Sudan's government and its southern rebel foes signed a pledge at the U.N. Security Council Friday to end Africa's longest running civil war by December 31.

With the council's ambassadors as witnesses, a Sudanese government official and a negotiator from the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed a document pledging to sign a final pact by December 31 to end 21 years of war in the oil-producing south of Africa's biggest country.

After the signing ceremony, the Security Council, meeting away from New York for the first time in 14 years, unanimously adopted a resolution promising political and economic support once Sudan was at peace.

The southern civil war has killed an estimated two million people, mostly from famine and disease, since 1983 when Khartoum tried to imposed Islamic sharia law on the mainly animist and partly Christian south. Oil and ideology have complicated the conflict.

The resolution also said the council would monitor abuses in a separate war in the troubled western Darfur region and take action against any party failing to fulfill its commitments.

The memorandum signed by the government and SPLM said: "The parties declare their commitment to expeditiously complete negotiations... so as to conclude and sign the comprehensive peace agreement no later than 31 December, 2004.

"The parties recommend themselves to finalize and conclude a comprehensive peace agreement in recognition that prompt completion of the peace process is essential for all the people of the Sudan as it will help in resolving all challenges facing the country."

All 15 ambassadors of the world's top security body then signed the document in alphabetical order, starting with Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali and ending with U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, this month's council president, who initiated the meeting in the Kenyan capital.


Sudan faces conflict on many fronts -- mainly in the south where rebels have been fighting the government since 1983, when Khartoum tried to impose Islamic law on the entire country, but also in Darfur in the west, where violence that erupted nearly two years ago has led to a profound humanitarian crisis.

The council's visit to Nairobi was only the fourth time the council had left New York since 1952, the year the United Nations moved into its permanent Manhattan headquarters.

Danforth initiated the trip to the Kenyan capital, arguing that direct talks with northern and southern leaders would send a message that the world is watching and that peace would earn substantial development aid.

The resolution asks the United Nations, the World Bank and others to devise a long-term development plan, including possible debt relief, for the northeast African county, rich in oil but impoverished, once there is peace.

It tells Sudan that preliminary accords negotiated in Kenya in June should be part of the final peace. They call for a coalition government, an integrated military and a sharing of oil revenues. The south can vote on secession in six years.

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and SPLM leader John Garang addressed the first day of the two-day special U.N. session Thursday but had their deputies sign the memorandum, saving their signatures for the final accord.

Taha said long-term plans would require $1.8 billion in aid over three years. Britain, the former colonial power, has pledged some $180 million but diplomats doubted any package would reach $1 billion. Although the council has threatened sanctions against Sudan in previous resolutions, Russia, China, Algeria and Pakistan are wary of imposing them.

On Darfur, the council negotiated language until the last minute, starting in New York, continuing on a U.S. air force flight to Nairobi and arguing while munching hamburgers in a military canteen during a refueling stop in Spain.

More than 1.5 million Darfur people, mainly African villagers, have been left homeless by rampaging Janjaweed Arab militia and Sudanese security forces. Thousands have been killed. Khartoum has denied backing the Janjaweed, but has been slow to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

Yahoo! News - Sudan Foes Sign Peace Pledge at Security Council


Hey, Prince, look out behind you...

I've never really liked this guy much anyway, and I realize this isn't really a political post, but it deserves attention if only to prove what a wanker this man really is, and it makes his wife's death even more tragic somehow. Also, Charles would do well to remember that it's the dreamers in his kingdom who pay the taxes and keep his royal ass encased in silk underwear and keep his Mummy and horse-faced girlfriend in diamonds. I wonder just how much of a shock it would be for him to wake up one morning to a revolution, to a world where he no longer had his posh palaces and cars, to a world where the overtaxed working class of Britain finally decided they'd had just about enough, thank you.

I think the bit that really pissed me off this morning was the line about the schools "encouraging young people to nurture ambitions they are unlikely to fulfill." Yeah, well, Chuckie-baby, thank God your own eldest son doesn't feel that way, and spends his free time instead building schools and bathrooms for disenfranchised kids in Chile--at least Wills believes the youth of the world can become anything they bloody well want to be. Do I believe my oldest daughter will become the astronaut she thinks she can become? Hell yes, but I guess that's why Charles has all the money and I don't--but then again, I'd prefer to have dreams, to encourage my children to have dreams, because it's that kind of spirit that changes the world. It's that kind of spirit that topples crowns.

Prince Charles' Comments Draw Rebukes

LONDON (Nov. 18) - Prince Charles' tirade against people who aspire to lofty goals beyond their natural talent earned him a rare public rebuke from a senior government minister on Thursday - and gasps of disbelief from the British media.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke branded the heir to the throne "old fashioned" after details emerged of a royal memo written in response to an employee's inquiry about promotion prospects.

"People think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability," Charles wrote in the memo, which was read out Wednesday at an employment tribunal.

"Not like you eh, Charles?" countered The Sun, a popular daily that is normally highly supportive of the monarchy. The prince is next in line to the throne by virtue of heredity.

"Don't try to rise above your station," was how The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a pillar of the British establishment, summarized the prince's memo. Another conservative paper, the Daily Mail, devoted its first two pages to the story under the headline: "Don't get above yourself."

In his handwritten note, Charles attacked Britain's education system for encouraging young people to nurture ambitions they are unlikely to fulfill.

"What is wrong with everyone nowadays?" the prince wrote. "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

"This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centered system which admits no failure," Charles said.

"This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history."

Clarke said he thought Charles should "think carefully" before intervening in any debate about education.

"To be quite frank, I think he is very old-fashioned and out of time and he doesn't understand what is going on in the British education system at the moment," the minister told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

It is very rare for government figures to publicly criticize members of the royal family, but Prime Minister Tony Blair's office played down the disagreement.

"I know that Charles Clarke values his relationship with the Prince of Wales and enjoys discussions on education with him," a spokeswoman for Blair's office said.

Charles' memo was read out at an employment tribunal where a former personal assistant in his private office, Elaine Day, claimed unfair dismissal. She also claimed sexual harassment by the prince's assistant private secretary, Paul Kefford.

The prince wrote the memo in reply to Day's suggestion that personal assistants with university degrees should be given the opportunity to train to become private secretaries - a more senior position within the royal household. Day excluded herself from the proposal.

"Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?"-Prince Charles

Charles concluded the note by writing: "What on earth am I to tell Elaine? She is so (politically correct) it frightens me rigid."

Day, 45, who worked at Clarence House for five years before quitting earlier this year, told the tribunal that the royal household was run in "Edwardian" fashion.

"It's hierarchical, elitist, everyone knows their place and if we forget our place the system will punish us," she said.

Asked by her lawyer how she understood Charles' memo, Day replied: "I completely felt that people could not rise above their station."

Day claims she was effectively forced out of her job after complaining to superiors about the sexual harassment. The prince's office contests the claim.

11-18-04 23:00 EST

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Amnesty demands action

In the wake of the shooting in the mosque comes this call-to-action by Amnesty International (an organization, for trivia's sake here, that my youngest daughter demanded to join in second grade. She wrote a note at the time saying that she wanted "to free innocent people." I'm not making that up! She's obviously still a member, and in fact just renewed last week. Not too shabby for a 13-year-old...)

The post below may very well have some errors, as there were major ones in the way it was posted originally, and I'll try to clear them all up a.s.a.p. I will admit right now to having edited the post, and I have inserted the curse word where the original left it in asterisks--much more jarring to read the actual words, I think, much more real and brutal perhaps? My edits are in black where the original post I have colored blue.

Amnesty Calls for ‘Unequivocal Orders’ to Prevent War Crimes in Iraq
Wed Nov 17, 8:06 AM ET

World -
Jim Lobe, OneWorld US

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov 17 (OneWorld) – In the wake of the apparent extrajudicial execution by a U.S. soldier of a wounded Iraqi prisoner in Falluja, caught on video-tape by NBC, Amnesty International is calling on the U.S. authorities to issue “unequivocal orders” for the proper treatment of unarmed or wounded insurgents.

The appeal, issued by Amnesty from its London headquarters Tuesday, followed a statement issued Friday by the world’s best-known human rights organization, in which it said it was “deeply concerned that the rules of war protecting civilians and combatants have been violated in the current fighting between U.S. and Iraqi forces and insurgents” in and around Falluja.

The earlier statement blamed all sides for possible war crimes, noting that 20 Iraqi medical staff and dozens of other citizens were killed when a missile hit a clinic in Falluja during the opening hours of the U.S.-led assault on the city, which had been controlled by insurgents since last April.

Amnesty said the origin of the missile was unknown but that all sides were jeopardizing the lives of civilian non-combatants in the city. It noted at the same time that U.S. military spokespersons had provided estimates of the number of deaths among an estimated 2,000 insurgents who were believed to have been holed up in Falluja as the assault began, but not of civilian casualties.

Reports from the city, virtually all of which had been secured by U.S. and Iraqi government forces by Tuesday, were divided as to whether the estimated 1,000-1,200 insurgents that U.S. commanders claimed had been killed in the fighting included civilians and, if so, how many.

Some sources claimed that hundreds of non-combatants were included in the death toll, despite the fact that as many as 250,000 of the city’s 300,000 inhabitants had fled Falluja in advance.

U.S. forces suffered 37 dead in the week-long assault, as well as another 320 wounded.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the commanding officer of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, announced Tuesday that he had ordered a full investigation into possible war crimes after one of his troops was filmed by an “embedded” NBC camera crew Saturday shooting at close range an apparently injured and unarmed insurgent who was being held inside a mosque that had reportedly been the site of a fierce firefight the day before.

The scene, which has been broadcast here and around the world, depicted Marines approaching several injured men who had apparently been left there from the previous day.

Narrating the video, NBC correspondent Kevin Sites reported that one of the Marines noticed that one of the injured was breathing. “he’s fucking faking he’s dead,” the Marine shouts, raising his rifle and firing a single shot in the man’s direction. At that point, the video as broadcast on US television, goes black, but an unidentified voice is heard saying, “he’s dead now.”

In a report that accompanied the footage, Sites said, “The prisoner did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way.”

Under international law, military forces have an obligation to protect and provide necessary medical attention to wounded insurgents who are “hors de combat” -- or outside of combat – that is, those who no longer pose a threat.

“The deliberate shooting of unarmed and wounded fighters who pose no immediate threat is a war crime under international law,” said Amnesty, who stressed that the U.S. authorities should immediately investigate the case and hold perpetrators responsible.

Under the circumstances, the only defense would be that the Marine had reason to believe that the insurgent was armed and posed a threat, in which case the shooting would constitute an act of self-defense.

For his part, Sattler insisted that “We follow the law of armed conflict and hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability. The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect the rights of all persons involved.”

The military command also announced that the unnamed Marine who fired the shot had been taken off the battlefield and could face a court martial depending on the results of the investigation.

Amnesty stressed that the investigation should be open and transparent and that the findings should be made public.

It noted that it had already called on the U.S. authorities to investigate another November 11 incident, reported on Britain’s Channel Four News, in which a U.S. soldier appeared to have fired one shot in the direction of a wounded insurgent who was off-screen. The soldier then walked away and said, “He’s gone.”

Coincidentally, the Pentagon announced Tuesday that an army lieutenant has been charged with premeditated murder in a similar incident that occurred in August in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Two other soldiers had already been charged with murder over the same incident.

“Unequivocal orders for the proper treatment of unarmed and wounded insurgents must be issued or reinforced to all U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian personnel,” Amnesty said.

An analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said his group was also concerned about the incidents. “If there is a general sense that perhaps these rules can be trampled, whether it is this case, whether at Abu Ghraib (prison) or in a different context at Guantnamo, in all of these places we see the rules being ignored,” Steve Crawshaw of HRW’s London office told the Voice of America.

Yahoo! News - Amnesty Calls for ‘Unequivocal Orders’ to Prevent War Crimes in Iraq

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Get out there and make some noise

This is so flippin' cool! What an awesome idea! Can't you just picture the looks on politicians' faces if such a train ever crossed America?

The Big Noise in Mozambique
Report by Pushpanath Krishnamurthy, Campaigner, Big Noise

"The hopes that have been raised by peace in our country are receding into a feeling of hopelessness. The Big Noise of the make trade fair campaign is rekindling this hope because the farmers have found a voice and we musicians are playing our role." Jeremiah Nguenha, Singer, Mozambique

We woke exhausted, hungry and with stone dry throats to the sound and rhythm of stomping feet. The colours and the dust that enveloped the crowd which had gathered for the concert shook us back to our senses. It felt incredible to have finally arrived in Cuamba - it was bound to feel good after travelling for 8 hours across Mozambique on what was the most memorable train journey of my life.

The train carried 500 people, from farmers and teachers to activists, all of whom laughed sang and danced furiously to the sound of Ali Faque - the singer dubbed the Salief Keita of Mozambique. He was simply unstoppable, walking up and down the carriages with a megaphone keeping up our spirits by entertaining us with songs in the local dialect.

The train stopped off at stations along the route to collect more Big Noise signatures and to get refreshments for the passengers who were beginning to flag in the blistering heat. Tons of sugar cane was chewed and gallons of soft drinks were drunk but nothing seemed to quench the thirst or hunger like the soul stirring songs of Ali Faque.

Our reception in Cuamba was staggering. Alliance partners had organised a human chain of breathtaking colour which we walked along to the football stadium where a large crowd had started to form.

As Massukos, Mozambique's number one band started to tune their instruments the crowd began to swell. Thousands of farmers - some of whom had walked up to 35 kilometres - began pushing to the front to get nearer to the stage. For a moment the stage was threatened by the sea of people who were all dancing frenetically but the indomitable 'Aro-Juvenil' (Youth Network) who were in charge of crowd management did a wonderful job and seemed to cast the crowd under a magical spell.

Finally the music of the Mozambique bush hit the blue African sky and echoed in the hills. The top five bands in the country - all well known for their social awareness and thoughtful songs - thrilled the 6000 crowd who danced along in colourful symmetry to the artists they so love. By this time the volunteers who had been collecting signatures for the petition couldn't collect any more because the atmosphere of the occasion had reached fever pitch and the energy and movement unleashed by the music had become overwhelming.

The event was a tremendous success - 2000 signatures were collected and the media talked about the event for days afterwards. The mayor of Cuamba who spoke from the stage said the event had put this small town on the map. Most important of all we thought as we staggered back exhausted to the train, the African farmers who need a decent price for their crops had been given a voice in a unique and memorable way as never before in Mozambique

Pushpanath Krishnumurthy, Oxfam


New book out on history of Greenpeace

This looks like an interesting book:

Rex Weyler: Greenpeace - An Insider's Account
17.11.2004 Reviewed by PHILIPPA JAMIESON

Hands up who remembers a time before the word “ecology” came into common use? Before protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific? Before Greenpeace became a household name?
Movements for peace and the environment have been around for a long time, yet it was only 30-odd years ago that a radical group sprang up in Vancouver, fused the ideals of the two movements together with the name Greenpeace, and began a series of protest actions that put the world spotlight on nuclear testing, whale and seal hunting, and other campaigns.

Greenpeace took direct action to new levels, using boats to get to out-of-the-way places such as the Aleutian Islands and Mururoa Atoll, where the Americans and French respectively were conducting atmospheric nuclear tests; to the high seas where the Russians and Japanese were whaling; and to the ice floes of Labrador where Norwegians were hiring locals to kill baby harp seals for their fur.

What made their protests successful was the combination of passionate idealism, bravery, and importantly, use of the media. Graphic images were published and broadcast around the world, and people could see for themselves what was really going on, particularly in the whaling industry, including undeniable proof that undersize whales were being caught, flouting international regulations of that time.

Greenpeace’s David and Goliath approach to protest proved immensely popular.

This book documents Greenpeace in the 70s, from the original group in Vancouver, with its Quaker and counter-culture roots, to its metamorphosis into an international organisation with offices worldwide.

Rex Weyler became involved with Greenpeace in the early 70s, and has clearly done an immense amount of research to collate the facts and figures for this somewhat dense book of more than 600 pages.

He seems to be scrupulously even-handed and honest in describing the inevitable personality conflicts and squabbles over money and decision-making.

At times the story gets bogged down with unnecessary or irrelevant detail, but it comes alive during the action scenes, such as the French ramming a boat and beating up its captain, or protesters being tossed precariously about in inflatable boats between a pod of whales and a harpoon boat.

There are heartfelt moments, too, when for example a dying whale glides past the protesters, fixing them with a wise gaze. A strong spiritual thread runs through the book, with the appearance of “miracles” or good omens, and the use of the I Ching as a divination tool.

The book is, as the cover proclaims, an account of “how a group of ecologists, journalists and visionaries changed the world”, and is both an important history of modern times and an inspirational story of a few committed individuals who made such a huge impact and drew so many people to their causes.

Entertainment News - Rex Weyler: Greenpeace - An Insider's Account


Greenpeace issues challenge

The latest press release from Greenpeace:

Greenpeace challenges the United Nations at historic General Assembly address
New York, 16th November 2004:

The international environmental group Greenpeace made an historic address to the United Nations General Assembly today and challenged the world's governments to safeguard the future of the oceans.

On the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Greenpeace, speaking on behalf of a coalition of environmentalists that represent tens of millions of people (1), was invited to address the General Assembly - the first time the environment group has been allowed to speak at such a session.

Environmentalists and scientists have been campaigning to ensure the anniversary was marked with one of the most significant steps to protect the rich life of the deep oceans - a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

High seas bottom trawling literally ploughs up the ocean floor for relatively few fish and the fleets often target seamounts - the least explored mountains on the planet, that rise more than a 1,000 metres from the ocean floor. Seamounts are teeming with deep sea life, some of which is undiscovered by science and much is unique to individual seamounts.However, the world's governments ignored scientific advice and an international call from the Convention on Biological Diversity to the United Nations for urgent action and instead have call for a two year review of the problem.

Greenpeace International policy advisor Karen Sack, who spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, condemned the resolution as falling "far short of the comprehensive and immediate protection that is so sorely needed to protect deep sea biodiversity - it is time to stop calling for urgent consideration and actually take action."

CONTACT:Sara Holden, Greenpeace International in New York: +31 615 007 406
Karen Sack, Greenpeace International Policy Advisor in New York: + 1 202 415 5403

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Interesting view of Iris Chang's suicide

This is an interesting article, and I found myself intrigued because I myself am something of a researcher. Historians are in danger of being "overtaken by the pathos" of the subjects they research, should those subjects prove to be such things as the rape of Nanking, or the Holocaust. This is scary stuff, but on the other hand, it speaks well for humanity--we are, indeed, able to think and to feel deeply, globally.

Reuters Features
Author's Suicide Raises Question of History's Toll
Mon Nov 15,10:28 AM ET
By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - For more than half a century, historian Raul Hilberg has studied the Holocaust, arguably the most savage episode in human history. He has tried to distance his personal life from his work but says on occasion, he has been overtaken by the pathos of his subject.

"When you are done writing the work, bringing it to the public successfully, even being praised, you wake up one morning and say to yourself, 'They're still dead,' and that's really the most profound reaction there is," Hilberg, author of the definitive history "The Destruction of the European Jews," said.

The suicide near San Francisco last week of Iris Chang, 36, author of "The Rape of Nanking," raises questions about the psychological toll of exposure to past tragedy, and experts say reactions differ.

Historian Chang wrote a graphic best-selling account of the brutal Japanese Army invasion of China in 1937 and recently researched the wartime Bataan Death March in the Philippines.

"The accumulation of hearing those stories, year after year after year, may have led to her depression. But that's just speculation," her husband Brett Douglas, was quoted as telling the San Francisco Chronicle.

David Spiegel, associate chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said some researchers believe it is possible that "people can sort of get post-traumatic stress disorder symptom by proxy."

"Rescue workers, therapists, even though they are not themselves physically hurt, will sometimes just by the emphatic connection ... develop symptoms."

"It is an occupational hazard, but I think depression is not the inevitable concomitant of work on depressing topics."


Hilberg said that during his work on the Holocaust starting in 1948 a few small episodes affected him especially strongly. For example, he said he became sickened after researching the fate of a Jew who sued the Nazis for the right to purchase coffee.

"I was nauseated because obviously this Jew was picked up and sent to Auschwitz or wherever they sent him and died," he said. "Why did this particular incident affect me when I could calmly read about mass murder?"

As someone born in Vienna, a city of coffee houses, Hilberg said the subject sparked memories of his childhood. He added he has also dreamed of being a victim sent to Auschwitz.

Robert Conquest, 87, a leading historian of Stalin's terror and famine that left tens of millions of dead, said he too was sometimes hit by smaller episodes amid larger tragedy.

"There are details, not necessarily the most horrible in theory, that somehow make you feel this is somehow a worse world than we thought," Conquest, the author of "The Great Terror" and "Harvest of Sorrow," said in an interview.

He cited for example documents about students during the Stalin era forced to stand in front of their schools and hear abuse after their parents were arrested.

"They are harangued for two or three hours denouncing the parents of one of the kids. Then the kid has to come up and they are all screaming at him," he said. "It shows the awful level they've got to. Horrible."

But both Hilberg and Conquest said their passion to tell the world about those episodes helped shield them from the tragedies in their books. "It is the blindness of the West to the world which is in a way more horrifying than the deeds," Conquest said.

Psychosocial expert Spiegel said that a sense of purpose can help shield historians from their brutal subject matters.

"What many people who adapt resiliently to it do is they find some aspect of what they're doing in which they feel they're taking charge and doing something." he said.

"I would presume that somebody writing a history of the rape of Nanking would try and see it as not merely observing tragedy, but, you know, following Santayana's notion that those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it. The idea is perhaps in some way that this is contributing to something like this not happening again."

But Roger Bell, professor emeritus at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, said those exposed to violence in their job can suffer if they have difficulty leaving work behind in their home life.

"People sometimes begin to identify what they do with what they are," he said. "Especially where you have high-profile people, especially like law enforcement, they have a tendency to carry that over into who they are."

Yahoo! News - Author's Suicide Raises Question of History's Toll


U.N. imposes sanction on Ivory Coast

Yahoo! News - UN Security Council imposes arms embargo against Ivory Coast :

UN Security Council imposes arms embargo against Ivory Coast
Mon Nov 15, 8:48 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS (CP) - The UN Security Council voted unanimously Monday to impose an immediate arms embargo against Ivory Coast and gave the country's warring sides one month to revive a shattered peace process or face more sanctions.

The resolution is the council's attempt to rein in chaos that began Nov. 4 in Ivory Coast when government forces launched a new offensive against rebels in the north.

Three days later, President Laurent Gbagbo's air force bombed a French military post, killing nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker. That touched off violent demonstrations that led to the evacuation of more than 5,000 foreigners, including scores of Canadians.

The resolution, drafted by France, imposes an immediate 13-month arms embargo against Ivory Coast.

It would also give the government and the rebels a month - until Dec. 15 - to get the peace process back on track or face travel bans and asset freezings against those blocking peace, violating human rights and preventing the disarmament of combatants.

Also included in the ban would be anyone who incites public hatred or violence - a reference to hate messages on television and radio that have been whipping up anti-French anger.

Those sanctions would last for a year if the peace process isn't restarted. The council would then review Ivory Coast's progress and decide whether to continue the sanctions.

In particular, the draft resolution seeks enforcement of a July disarmament agreement and demands the government and the rebels return to a French-brokered peace deal from January 2003 that established a unity government.

The resolution had been ready to go Friday, but the Security Council agreed to hold off voting after getting a request for delay from South African President Thabo Mbeki. He wanted to give time for mediation efforts by the African Union.

At a meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday, African leaders backed the embargo and other sanctions.

About 6,000 UN peacekeepers and 4,000 French troops are deployed in Ivory Coast, a former French colony, to try to monitor and promote peace in the wake of a civil war begun in September 2002. Maintaining peace there is seen as vital to regional efforts to recover from civil wars of the 1990s.


Deaths among the elderly on the rise in Scotland

There is a new and alarming statistic out now on the number of deaths from the cold in Scotland. This article is so sad! I don't know if there's any way to actually help, but I have posted a link to the Help the Aged website. Surely, even a small donation would help, I would think.

Winter deaths rise 'shameful'
Elderly people are particularly vulnerable during the winter

The number of winter deaths in Scotland last year were almost 10 times the figure of deaths on the country's roads over the same period, statistics show.

Help the Aged and Scottish Gas have joined forces to highlight the dangers posed to the elderly and vulnerable.

Figures show that 2,900 people died of cold-related illnesses in 2003, an increase of 400 on the previous year.

Richard Meade, Help the Aged policy officer, said the statistics contributed to "the nation's shame".

The partnership is designed to find ways to minimise preventable deaths in Scotland and to tackle issues such as fuel policy.

Old people will receive an information pack entitled The Cold Can Kill which gives advice on how best to keep warm, claim benefits and insulate their homes.

To the nation's shame, these numbers of unnecessary winter deaths are significantly higher than in comparable European countries

Richard MeadeHelp the Aged Mr Meade said: "Last winter more than 2,500 people over the age of 65 died as a result of the cold in Scotland.

"To the nation's shame, these numbers of unnecessary winter deaths are significantly higher than in comparable European countries.

"Fuel poverty has been identified as one of the main contributory factors to winter deaths among older people, and whilst welcoming its successful reduction through the ongoing implementation of the Scottish Executive's central heating programme, we are worried that the number of excess winter deaths has increased this year.

Information pack

"It goes to show there is no room to be complacent and we believe the executive's efforts could benefit from improved levels of research into the other factors responsible for the high number of deaths among older people in the winter."

Scottish Gas director Tom Laidlaw said: "We have led the way with the introduction of innovative schemes such as this to help and would like to see all available resources across the public, private and voluntary sectors effectively targeted at those most in need."

The Cold Can Kill pack can be downloaded from the Help the Aged website.

BBC NEWS Scotland Winter deaths rise 'shameful'


On smuggling people for fun and profit

At first glance, this man seems like he did something out of the goodness of his heart. And then it starts to sink in that he's a modern-day dandy interested solely in the bottom line. Sickening.

Africa music star awaits verdict

Papa Wemba has said he acted out of humanitarian concernThe verdict is expected in the Paris trial of Congolese singer Papa Wemba, one of Africa's biggest music stars.

Dubbed the king of "rumba rock," he was arrested in France last year on charges of aiding an illegal immigration racket in return for millions of dollars.

Prosecutors say nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo entered France during Papa Wemba's concert tours as members of his entourage.

Almost 200 people accompanied him on tour - many of whom never went home.

Papa Wemba is suspected of having received payment to procure visas for Congolese nationals.

A prosecutor has called for a five-year jail sentence for the singer, who also faces a fine of 750,000 euros ($1m).

Papa Wemba, 55, faces similar charges in Belgium, where he holds citizenship.

French prosecutor Nadine Perrin called for jail sentences ranging from between 18 months and four years for eight others appearing on the same charges, including the singer's wife.

The singer, whose real name is Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, was arrested in Paris in February last year.

A court in Bobigny, a northern suburb of Paris, is due to deliver the verdict on Tuesday.

He admitted helping a small number of people enter Europe, but only after his name was used for the scheme by others.

Alleged scam

According to the French authorities, would-be immigrants from DR Congo paid $4,500 in exchange for documents showing that they were members of Papa Wemba's band or road crew.

French officials finally became suspicious when some 200 people showed up at immigration in 2000, claiming to be Papa Wemba's musicians, yet none had any musical instruments with them.

French police say some turned out to be goat herders and others fishermen.

Papa Wemba was already a hugely popular performer in the then Zaire before the fashion for African and world music brought him fame in Europe and the US.

He is also renowned as the moving spirit behind a cult movement known as "the Sapeurs" whose members, young men, spend huge amounts of money on designer clothes.

BBC NEWS World Europe Africa music star awaits verdict

Monday, November 15, 2004


Angelina Jolie

I adore this woman, and it's my considered opinion that she is one of the most underrated talents of our day. However, something most folks don't realize about the ever-tormented soul of Angelina Jolie--she is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. And she takes this role extremely seriously--she isn't just another pretty face playing at saving the planet, she's actually out there digging in her nails and, yes, hopefully, saving the planet. Please visit the website link for the United Nations that I have posted in the sidebar, and while you're there, read Angelina's journals. They'll break your heart.


Deadly year for journalists

This is from the Washington Times' online edition:

World Scene
Combined dispatches and staff reports.

2004 deadly for journalists

BRUSSELS — More than 100 journalists have been killed since January, making 2004 the deadliest year for journalists in a decade, an international media rights group said.

The slayings of three journalists in recent days in Ivory Coast, Nicaragua and the Philippines pushed the total this year to 101, the International Federation of Journalists said Friday.

The organization recorded 83 killings of media staff in 2003 and 70 in 2002. The deadliest year for journalists since the organization began compiling annual reports in 1988 was 1994, when 115 were killed, including 48 during the genocide in Rwanda.


Blogging Band-Aid

In 1984, there was basically no such thing as the Internet (well, for personal home use, anyway) and so a sentence like "blogging Band-Aid" would have been unheard-of.

Blogging the Band Aid recording

The BBC News website's entertainment reporter Ian Youngs was inside the studio where the new Band Aid single was recorded on Sunday.

The Darkness, Busted, Will Young and Jamelia were among those taking part.


Bono has been delayed so I leave the studio. There is a single candlelit table set up in the centre of the hall where those still working on the song, including producer Nigel Godrich and Travis singer Fran Healy, are about to eat sushi.

A helper passes Bob Geldof two things from fans outside - a note from someone claiming to have very early Boomtown Rats tapes and an envelope simply marked "Donation".


Most artists have left and the studio is emptying. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure come back to give us a round-up of how the day has gone.

"It's been fantastic, we could ask for nothing better," Ure says.

"We've had the creme de la creme of what the UK's got to offer. The quality of the singing and the quality of the musicianship is unbelievable."

Geldof adds his tribute to the artists, adding a request for everybody to buy one - or more - copies of the single when it is released on 29 November.

"For some reason, this country throws up people who can play rock music and it's world-beating," he says.

"But the best thing of all is the attitude. What happened in this room today is properly important and memorable and will be remembered."


The artists are starting to drift away, but The Darkness and Sugababes come into the press booth and the naughty children of the school choir cannot resist messing around.

Damon Albarn, still in pink apron, comes back and offers me a cup of tea. He asks if I take sugar.
Midge Ure, the single's executive producer, says the parts they will use from the different artists is still up in the air, and Bono is flying in from Ireland this evening to re-record the line he had in 1984.


The Hard Rock Cafe area is packed with stars getting a late lunch. The donations buckets now have about £100 of notes in them.

The choir reconvenes - this time with proper instruments. Fran Healy is on one of three drum kits as Ms Dynamite and a Sugababe wildly bash another.

Beverley Knight is on keyboards and Daniel Bedingfield grabs a guitar. The celebratory atmosphere has returned and these scenes will be in the single's video and undoubtedly played countless times by Christmas.


The group of about 40 musicians gathers like a school choir to record the finale, each with a pair of headphones playing them the rest of the track.

They spontaneously break into refrains of "Feed the world" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and occasionally a very loud "1-2-3-4".

Then the musicians' resemblance to a school choir gets even more striking as they do it again with childrens' instruments - Rachel Stevens has her maracas, Fran Healy has castanets and Ms Dynamite a wood block.

Healy said the new version would be different to the 1984 original.

"This reflects the sound that's being made by the current artists," he said.

Some, like The Darkness drummer Ed Graham, did not join the chorus and he was pacing the corridor.

Will Young and Natasha Bedingfield rush out before the end, looking like they have other very important places to be.


Bob Geldof sits down to talk to the press. He says he showed the stars a hard-hitting video of the 1984 Ethiopian famine to remind them why they were there.

"If anything, it's of more importance this time, so I just wanted [to show it to them] if there was any doubt or if they were a bit fed up that they had to give up their Sunday.

He wanted to let them know Band Aid works, he says. "It works at every level. I think they got it."

"You can get carried away by the event, especially if you're in a pop group. It is about something other. It's about using art and culture to move something that is a grievous sore. And it works."


Joss Stone enters the press booth, upset and angry at the emotional moment she has just witnessed.

"You can't stop me from crying, it was so embarrassing," she says.

"It's just sad. It's just so horrible and it doesn't have to be like that. I don't know why it is like that.

"We have all the food in the world and we don't even eat all of it. It makes me so mad."

She was not born when the first Band Aid happened and has never seen the 1984 music video. The atmosphere this time was "nice, everyone's working together", she says.

"This isn't about money. It's about people's lives. That's a little bit more important."

After she leaves, Damon Albarn wanders in wearing a pink apron and carrying a tray of cups of tea, which he has been handing out.

He has his photo taken with Bob Geldof, who Joss Stone mistakenly calls Gandalf.


The stars are told to assemble for the "school photo", in which almost all the participating artists line up.

It is indie blokes at the back and pop starlets at the front, with only a few absentees - Dizzee Rascal, Sir Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and Chris Martin are not here.

Despite an order for no other cameras apart from the official photographer's - he has paid a lot of money to be here - Ms Dynamite spots someone on the balcony taking pictures. They are nabbed by security.


Bob Geldof gathers the artists to remind them this is not just another jolly.

"In Band Aid 20, you're not just keeping hundreds of thousands of people going with the proceeds," he tells the huddle.

"This year, when people buy your record, they're making a political statement.

"What you're doing this morning and giving up your Sunday is that you are making that political demand. Next year, we must keep that pressure up."

To press home his point, he played a video of the Ethiopian famine from 20 years ago, bringing many of these stars back down to earth with a bump.

As it ended, he introduced a young Ethiopian woman who was featured on the video as a malnourished child.

"This is proof that Band Aid and Live Aid work. You're part of it now. You're part of the gang."
There were few dry eyes in the hall, with the likes of Joss Stone, Ms Dynamite and Sugababes all overcome by the emotion.


The artists are told the school-style group photo is going to happen soon. Two rows of chairs have been set up in the hall, each with a sticker with a different artist's name on it.

In the hall and foyer, artists are tentatively mingling - The Darkness talking to Travis, Ms Dynamite and Lemar, Natasha Bedingfield sharing a chat with Shaznay Lewis and Estelle.

Everyone seems to be behaving, with numerous children and managers also milling around.
In the Hard Rock Cafe section of the studio, I grab an egg sandwich and put a donation into one of two metal buckets that have been put out to raise more money for the Band Aid Trust.

Despite the presence of so many stars, the buckets - which had been out since about 1200 GMT - are empty except for an orange.


Busted, Keane and Rachel Stevens are the latest to arrive. At one point, the cast list in the press booth includes Keane singer Tom Chaplin, Katie Melua, Busted and Feeder frontman Grant Nicholas.

Chaplin laid down his lines on Saturday - the song's first refrains of "Feed the World", he says. "It's changed a little bit from the original," he tells us.

"It's a slightly different take on it. I'm not even sure it was in the original. I listened to the original single a few times to try and learn how it went."

Busted, meanwhile, say the day feels a bit like the first day at school.

"Everyone's like 'ooh, should I talk to anyone?'" singer Charlie Simpson says. "I'm glad we're here as a band because a lot of people are here on their own I think and we can just talk to each other."

Matt Jay says he thinks the charitable message will reach their young fans.

"I think it will really hit home for some of our fans, and if not, I think us being involved in it will shed some light on it for them."

James Bourne adds: "Charity is a term pretty much everyone understands - whether you're four or five years old, everyone knows it's for a good cause."

Others milling around include Bob Geldof's daughter Pixie, wearing the "Feed the World" T-shirt her dad wore at the original recording session 20 years ago.

Outside, the scores of photographers, fans and police are causing havoc for residents of this leafy Hampstead street. The heavy security has guarded the building, but two gatecrashers did make it in.

Two stray dogs got into the studio without anyone noticing before settling down in the corner of the hall where the finale will be recorded.


The stars are coming thick and fast, with Joss Stone, Travis frontman Fran Healy, Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and the man who started it all, Bob Geldof, all arriving - most wrapped up to protect against the cold.

But The Darkness' Justin Hawkins swans past the TV cameras with shirt open and chest on show plus leather trousers, only stopping to take part in a photogenic embrace with Geldof.
Inside, Jamelia and Will Young emerge from a smaller studio where they have been recording their two lines. "It took 10 minutes, so it was alright," Jamelia says.


Outside, a media circus has sprung up with a line of TV cameras leading up to the studio doors.
Jamelia is the next star to arrive, with her daughter. She comes into the press booth and grabs a nearby box of cookies before hiding it under the table when a photographer starts taking pictures.

She will sing lines with Will Young - she does not know which yet - and says it was "such a huge thing to be involved in".

"Of course, we can't stress any more it's for a fantastic cause and something I truly believe in," she said, revealing she would be travelling to Rwanda in January.

"I'm using my popularity to create awareness for something that's so real, it's still here. It's very sad that we're living in a world where we want for nothing but not too far away, there are people in 100% poverty."

The atmosphere was "a lot more relaxed than I expected", she says, adding she got "the biggest telling off ever" from her mum after referring to Band Aid as "that song".

Rom-com writer Richard Curtis is outside and Rita Gilligan MBE, a waitress from the Hard Rock Café, who are providing the catering, also pops in.

She would serve 200 meals on Sunday, she says. "We'll feed them all. Feed the world, as they say."


Midge Ure, who produced the 1984 record, comes into my booth to remind us why it is all happening again, 20 years later. He recently went back to Ethiopia and said the situation there has improved - but there are still lots of problems in the continent that need solving.

He also hopes that as well as raising money, the new song will put pressure on politicians as the UK hosts the G8 summit next year.

As for the song, he says Dizzee Rascal was "brilliant".

"He came in and did this little rap thing in the middle of the song," he says. "He did two lines - one take each - and when he realised the gap was actually smaller than what he'd written, he went off for 10 minutes and came back with this whole new line.

"He came up with this fantastic line, something about 'help the helpless', which was fabulous."
As for the wrangle over Bono's line, he says lots of people have recorded it but no decisions had been made. They may even use Bono's original vocals.

"It's got to be the one that works the best, the one that's got that hair-standing-on-end factor.
"You've got to stand back and listen to it all and think what's the best one? What's the one that grabs that moment?"


I am called into an office to listen to a rough version of the parts of the song that have already been recorded.

Coldplay's Chris Martin has done the opening verse, originally recorded by Paul Young. That will definitely be in the finished version - but everything else is up for grabs.

In the rough cut, Dido has done Boy George's part, Sugababes have taken Simon Le Bon's place and The Darkness' Justin Hawkins sings Bono's famous line: "Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you," with a typical falsetto flourish at the end.

Bono has also re-recorded this part and sent it down the phone line from Ireland.

Dizzee Rascal's section is startling, and brings the song firmly into the 21st Century. It works fantastically. The Darkness' elaborate guitar work plays over the part where the chorus will come in later.


The great Band Aid bandwagon is already in full motion, with Sir George Martin's recording studio in Hampstead, north London, a hive of activity. There is already a gaggle of fans and photographers outside the impressive converted church.

We are not allowed into the studio because Coldplay's Chris Martin is already in there recording something. Scruffy and blending in with all the beardy studio blokes, he wanders out into the foyer after a while and chats to a few people.

It transpires that quite a lot of the song has already been recorded - the music done on Friday and many of the solo lines done on Saturday.

All the talk is of Dizzee Rascal's contribution - he has written rap lines that act as responses to lines sung by The Darkness' Justin Hawkins.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/14 22:01:30 GMT© BBC MMIV


Band-Aid redux

1984 was an absolutely magical year. Hope was in the air as activism became mainstream rather than fringe. Issues mattered, and starving people in Ethiopia were our neighbors rather than an abstract cause on the nightly news. Band-Aid was born that year, thanks to Bob Geldof, and to this day I cannot hear "Do They Know It's Christmas?" without tears springing to my eyes. Live-Aid was the broader, more label-conscious rip-off of Band-Aid, more associated with Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen than anything else. Yes, Live-Aid was still Geldof, but it was somehow too big, too commercial, with none of the spontaneity and heart that Band-Aid still represents. Give me Band-Aid, with its epic recording session for that Christmas song, the recording session that had U2, Sting, Big Country, Wham, Duran Duran, all of them and more, all in one studio all night long until dawn broke and the song was completed. I have often wondered if we'd ever see another such coming-together, and so this article from BBC NEWS Entertainment Music Pop stars sample Band Aid reality is a comfort, and maybe a small light in the gathering darkness that our world has again become.

Pop stars sample Band Aid reality
By Ian Youngs BBC News entertainment reporter at Air Studios

More than 40 music stars recorded a new version of Band Aid single Do They Know It's Christmas? in London, culminating in a group session on Sunday.

Busted were converted to the Band Aid causeThe recording studio was packed with some of the UK's most popular artists and was a celebration of Britain's musical talent.

But it was not a day of glamour, egos or schmoozing, and they were told in no uncertain terms the day was not about them. Bob Geldof made sure of that.

If any stars had a tenuous grip on reality, Geldof brought them down to earth with a jolt, leaving most - from Joss Stone to The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins - in tears.


Just before they got together for the group photo, Geldof decided to play them a 20-year-old video of the Ethiopian famine.

It was the most moving video from Live Aid, showing dying refugees in 1984, and has lost none of its power.

Stone, the 17-year-old soul sensation, was aghast throughout, mouth gaping and hand helplessly held against her face.

Will Young recorded two lines with JameliaOther superstars who are used to the world revolving around them were also in the huddle, equally rapt and upset.

Geldof, who knows how to tug the heartstrings, then introduced a woman from the wings who was seen as a starving child at the end of the video.

It was too much for some artists and there will be many red eyes in the group photo that followed.

It was a wake-up call to some young singers that their influence and responsibilities stretch beyond the record shops.


And 20 years after the original, it was an overdue reminder to the rest that there is still a world outside their windows.

At the start of the day, Stone - who was not born when the original song came out - mistakenly called Geldof "Gandalf" and James Bourne from Busted did not recognise the man who started it all.

But by the end, the young stars were won over and Busted were saying they wanted to show the Band Aid logo and video on tour.

"Cool or uncool - what does that mean on a Sunday morning when you haven't shaved and your make-up is still dripping from the night before?" Geldof asked.

"If you can sing like a voice from God, who cares, cool or uncool? Spare me. Rock or pop - so? All that goes and it just becomes a bunch of people on a Sunday morning noodling about the place."

Geldof has a certain way of getting his message across, making stars an offer they cannot refuse.
He basically tells them if they do not take part, and help raise money for famine relief, they are directly responsible for the deaths of other people.

His achievement in getting such a stellar line-up together 20 years ago was more impressive because this time, most of the current stars were eager to take part.

But today's singers did not escape his legendary persuasion.


Keisha Buchanan of Sugababes said she knew a bit about Band Aid before this weekend - but did not know how "deep" it was.

"Today, when we saw that video, that's when it hit home about how serious it is," she said.

Bandmate Heidi Range added: "It just brings home what it is all about because everyone can get a bit excited and carried away recording the song. But after seeing that, everyone was really upset."

The Darkness singer Justin Hawkins said he and guitarist brother Dan both cried.

"But then Frankie [Poullain, bassist] goes 'You pansies, you've let the band down. You're men'."

It was a day of mixed emotions and contradictions.

It did not take long during the group photo and following chorus for the mood to lighten - but the original song always had an uplifting element, as well as the darker message, to appeal to the pop kids.

With more stars than the average Brit Awards, the day also had a distinctly unreal edge.
From Blur's Damon Albarn in a pink apron handing out tea - but not singing - to Heidi from Sugababes trying to play drums, the artists were clearly not too precious about their images.

Star encounters

As more than 40 arrived for the photo and chorus at lunchtime, it was impossible to not walk around the building without bumping into a platinum-selling star.

And at times, there was a queue of big names waiting to come into the small press room, which contained four radio reporters, one press and one online journalist.

Squeezing past Busted, Keane, Sugababes and The Darkness is something a few million pop fans would probably sell their grandmothers to do.

Among the artists, there were inevitable friendships between those who already knew each other or shared a style, but all knew they were in it together and were happy to do their bit.

There were as many big stars as 1984, but the number of TV crews, radio reporters, security men and PR people was a sign of the times.

'Political demands'

"It's like watching a Spielberg movie unfold," according to Midge Ure, who produced the original single and was co-producer this time. "It's huge, it's brilliant."

Ure and Geldof want people to buy 50 copies of the single and give them their money again - but there is another, less quantifiable and longer-term objective this time.

"This year, when people buy your record," Geldof told the singers, "they're making a political demand. Next year, we must keep this pressure up."

And the music? The rough version and chorus sounded suitably great. But of course, that did not really matter.


Death penalties at 30-year low

This is from CNN, and gives me some small hope that maybe, just maybe, we're winning at least some of the races...

Death sentences at 30-year low
Sunday, November 14, 2004 Posted: 7:55 PM EST (0055 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people sentenced to death reached a 30-year low in 2003, when the death row population fell for the third year in a row, the government reported Sunday.

Last year, 144 inmates in 25 states were given the death penalty, 24 fewer than in 2002 and less than half the average of 297 between 1994 and 2000, according to the Justice Department.

Death penalty opponents say the report shows how wary the public is of executions, heightened by concerns about whether the punishment is administered fairly and publicity about those wrongly convicted. Illinois emptied its death row in 2003 after several inmates were found to be innocent.

"What we're seeing is hesitation on the death penalty, skepticism, reluctance," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "I do think there is some concern about the death penalty and it's reflected in death sentences from juries."

Opponents also point to other possible reasons, including continuing fallout from Supreme Court decisions requiring that juries be told that life in prison without parole is an alternative to death.

Dieter said 47 states now offer a life-without-parole sentence as an option for at least some convictions, compared with 30 in 1993.

Supporters doubt the decline signifies a major shift in public opinion about the death penalty, which is in effect in 38 states and the federal justice system.

"I don't think the numbers mean a lot quite frankly," said Dianne Clements, president of the victims advocacy group Justice For All. "I don't think it means a change in death penalty attitudes. I think it means the numbers change."

At the end of last year, 3,374 prisoners awaited execution, 188 fewer than in 2002, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Illinois accounted for 91 percent of the decline, the result of then-Gov. George Ryan's decision to commute the death sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison and to pardon four others.

Nationally, 267 people were removed from death row last year. That was the largest drop since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, according to the report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Last year, 65 people, all men, were executed. Texas again was the leader, with 24, followed by Oklahoma with 14 and North Carolina with 7. No other state had more than three.

All but one of those men were killed by lethal injection. The other was electrocuted.

Since 1977, 885 inmates were executed through 2003 by 32 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Two-thirds of them were in five states: Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Missouri and Florida.

The report also found:

--Of death row inmates, 56 percent were white, while 42 percent were black. Hispanics, who can be of any race, accounted for 12 percent of inmates whose ethnicity was known.

--States with the largest number of death row inmates were California with 629, Texas with 453 and Florida with 364.

--Ten people died while awaiting execution in 2003 -- six from natural causes and four from suicide.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Remembrance Day

This article is from the BBC (and I had posted several days ago a fairly long history of the poem "In Flanders Fields" with an explanation of the wearing of poppies. You can find the post at The Sanity Ranch--Musings of a Philosopher Queen: In Flanders Fields )

The Queen led the tributes to Britain's war dead at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.

Following a two-minute silence, the Queen laid a poppy wreath in memory of the dead, including 21 troops killed in Iraq this year.

Her grandson Prince William took part in the National Service of Remembrance for the first time.

Political leaders, including Tony Blair, joined some 9,000 veterans from 20th century conflicts at the event.

Two-minute silence

The Queen, dressed in black, emerged from the old Home Office building in Whitehall just before 11am and took up her position facing the Cenotaph.

At the first stoke of Big Ben at 1100GMT, a single round was fired from a field gun to signal the start of a two-minute silence.

The boom of a second round of cannon fire, from the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery positioned on Horse Guards Parade, broke the silence.

The Prince of Wales, who is 56 on Sunday, laid a poppy wreath, along with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh [Prince Philip, the Queen's husband], the Duke of York [Prince Andrew], the Princess Royal [Princess Anne] and Duke of Kent.

Mr Blair and other political leaders, including for the first time Northern Ireland's Rev Dr Ian Paisley, then laid wreaths, followed by Commonwealth High Commissioners and military top brass.

When all the wreaths had been laid, there was a short religious service conducted by Bishop of London Richard Chartres.

Prince William, with Sophie, Countess of Wessex, was watching the wreath-laying and march past from a first-floor balcony in the Foreign Office, overlooking Whitehall. Across the rest of the UK, cities and towns held their own services. Prince Edward led the laying of the wreaths in Edinburgh.

First Minister Jack McConnell said it was important to honour those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

In Northern Ireland the main service was held in City Hall in Belfast.

Almost 50,000 people from Ireland died in the First World War.

In Llandudno, north Wales, the brother of Llywelyn Evans, the first Welsh solder to die in the Iraq war, laid a wreath.


Acclaimed historian Iris Chang commits suicide

Iris Chang was one of my favorite authors. Her book The Rape of Nanking is a definitive text on the horrors that happened in that city during World War II. She had apparently recently visited Abu Ghraib prison in the hopes of writing a book.

Chinese American author Iris Chang found shot to death
Fri Nov 12, 9:37 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) - Acclaimed Chinese-American historical author Iris Chang has been found dead in her car, apparently after shooting herself, police sources said.

The 36-year-old writer and journalist, who chronicled the rape and massacre of thousands of Chinese civilians at the hands of Japanese troops before World War II, was found in her car on Tuesday near the town of Los Gatos, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of San Francisco.

"The body of Iris Chang was found near Highway 17, south of Los Gatos yesterday," a Santa Clara Country coroner's office official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Police sources said Chang apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after driving herself to an isolated spot near the small town. She was discovered by a motorist who alerted authorities.

Officials stressed however that no official cause of death had yet been established. Chang was seen as a leading US non-fiction author and was widely known here and in Asia for her studies of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the United States.

"The Chinese in America: A Narrative History," was published last year and traces more than 150 years of Asian American history.

But her best-known book was the haunting 1997 book, "The Rape of Nanking," which details the slaughter of Chinese civilians by the Imperial Japanese army that occupied China in the late 1930s.

It was the first major full-length English-language account of the atrocity and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for months.

A former newswire reporter, Chang was born in Princeton in the eastern state of New Jersey and lived in San Jose, California, northeast of Los Gatos.

Yahoo! News - Chinese American author Iris Chang found shot to death

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